To celebrate Cinco de Mayo today, now might just be the right time to dream about a holiday to this American slice of paradise.
A destination so rich in diversity that it appeals to couples, families and solo travellers alike, Mexico seems to be an emerging hot spot for Australian travellers.
Virtuoso identified Mexico as a hot spot for family and honeymoon travel scoring #2 Top Family Travel Destination and #5 Top Honeymoon Destination, as revealed in the company’s 2017 Luxe Report.
But apart from the country’s postcard-perfect beaches, crystal clear waters – and margaritas – Mexico offers a plethora of natural, cultural, culinary and historic treasures not to be missed on a trip to this fascinating country.
Chad Carey, co-founder of Latin America specialists Chimu Adventures, said Mexico’s charm goes way beyond its natural beauty and that it was a dream destination for the discerning traveller.
“Long gone are the days when travellers limited Mexico’s drawcards to the beaches and resorts of Cancun and Tulum. Travellers are now seeing the destination for what it truly is: a fascinating melting pot of cultures, flavours and rhythms.
“‘Mexico is really one of those destinations that is larger than life. Mexican cuisine is now considered one of the best in the world, wildlife is abundant and unique, and, of course, there are the country’s timeless icons, the ancient ruins, valleys and sites that go back to the country’s ancient civilisations.”
According to Carey, the top 5 unmissable things to do in Mexico are:
Cultural festivals: Day of the Dead and beyond…
“Dia de los Muertos”, celebrated on 1 and 2 November every year, has become a festival icon attracting worldwide attention every year. Ironically enough, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more colourful and happy festival anywhere on earth.
During this festival, offerings are made to the souls of ancestors. Shrines are built in homes to honour departed relatives and there are often all-night vigils at graves. Market stalls sell pan de muertos and colourfully iced sugar skulls.
Beyond the Day of the Dead, however, there is a range of other inspiring and colourful cultural festivals to be found in Mexico, such as Independence Day (16 September), Guelaguetza Festival (July), and Fiesta de San Cristobal (16 to 25 July).
Tacos, margaritas and more
Often described as the country of spices, colours and flavours, Mexican cuisine is undoubtedly one of the highlights of any Mexico visit. Two Mexico City restaurants, Pujol and Quintonil, were recognised at the World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards held in Melbourne earlier this month and we are not surprised.
Mexico City truly is the ‘foodie capital’. For the best foodie experience, visit one of the city’s numerous food markets. Mercado San Cosme is one of the most traditional markets renowned for its traditional and beautifully decorated candies.
Spot a jaguar
Mexico is rich in wildlife species resulting from its range of ecosystems and habitats that include lowland tropical rainforest, temperate desert, montane forest and alpine tundra.
It boasts over 800 species of reptiles and over 500 species of mammals and the highest number of rodent species in the world.
The jaguar is the national mammal of Mexico but other species you can be prepared to see are spider monkeys, pacas squirrels, beavers, whales and dolphins as well as the Golden Eagle (the National bird of Mexico) and the green turtle (the national reptile of Mexico).
Follow the footsteps of the Mayans
One of the main drawcards of Mexico are its ancient ruins. As Lonely Planet describes it: “Mexico’s ancient civilisations were the most sophisticated and formidable in North and Central America, and the ruins of their cities and sacred precincts are an unforgettable highlight of any trip there.”
Most of Mexico’s ancient ruins can be found around the centre, south and southeast of the country – some are easier, others harder to access. Chichén Itzá on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula is Mexico’s most visited Mayan site. Other favourites include Teotihuacán, Palenque and Uxmal.
Hit the beach!
In the east, Cancun and Tulum will appeal to the sun and beach lovers, being home to some world-famous white beaches and turquoise waters that are just made for sun bathing, snorkelling and water sports.
Playa Norte on Isla Mujeres recently scored #7 on TripAdvisors ‘World’s Best Beaches’ List being a perfect beach for the naturalist with sea turtles and whale sharks making regular appearances.