Text and photos: Sandra Roussy
Mexico is more than beautiful beach vacations and fantastic cuisine. This vast country has a myriad of activities; from world class surfing in an authentic surf town and touring wineries, to taking a train through a canyon and eating insects. Here are 10 experiences you should consider when visiting Mexico.
1. Take The El Chepe Train in Copper Canyon in The North
El Chepe train will take you from the breathtaking Tarahumara mountains to the beautiful Pacific coast beaches. You can ride the complete 15-hour journey or hop on the train from anywhere on the route. Did you know that Barrancas del Cobre is four times larger than the Grand Canyon in the USA? All aboard!
-->Local Tip: Want the best views? Choose a seat on the right-hand side of the train when you are heading east and the left-hand side when going west.
2. Ride the Channels of Xochimilco, Mexico City
This is a very authentic experience to do just outside of Mexico City. The rainbow coloured, gondola-like boats of the Xochimilco take you through pre-Hispanic channels filled with islands that were initially built for agriculture.
-->Local Tip: Try some traditional elotes (corn on the cob Mexican style) and Micheladas (beer with tomato juice and spices) while you listen to mariachis that help create the party atmosphere on the boats. Fiesta!
3. Surf in Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca
Puerto Escondido is a discreet town on the Pacific coast that doesn’t have any big resorts and still has its local fishing and surfing vibe. It also hosts some international surf competitions every year. This is a great opportunity to learn with professional instructors who will make sure to get you up on that board to catch those waves.
-->Local Tip: Head to Bacocho beach to help release a baby sea turtle with the conservation program by Vive Mar. It costs 100 pesos but it is cuteness overload!
4. Eat Grasshoppers in Oaxaca City, Oaxaca
Oaxaca is renowned for its culinary diversity. People flock there to eat the traditional moles, tlayudas, and tamales. It’s also known for cooking insects in tacos, sauces, or eating them just as snacks. If you can get past the yuck factor, you will find that chapulines are quite flavourful.
You will also find them on menus in many high-end restaurants across the city prepared in various ways.
-->Local Tip: A short 10-minute ride from the centre of the city takes you to Monte Alban, an impressive Mesoamerican archaeological site.
5. Boat Ride Through the Canyon del Sumidero, Chiapas
Riding a boat through two walls of rocks is always a spectacular experience! Get to explore the flora and diverse fauna that includes families of small monkeys living in the canyon trees.
-->Local Tip: Visit Chiapa de Corzo which is a very impressive colonial city with a Moorish style fountain built in 1562. It’s stunning.
6. Go White-Water Rafting in Los Tuxtlas, Veracruz
Adventure is your thing? This dense tropical area has many companies that offer different packages, from 1-day trips down the river to multi-day expeditions.
-->Local Tip: After your great adventure, why not try a natural purification ritual performed in a traditional manner with tobacco and other medicinal plants.
7. Dive the Cenotes in Yucatan
Love diving? Try diving into a huge sinkhole that can take you into a maze of underground tunnels. This area is known for its many cenotes and great diving opportunities. If you don’t have a diver’s certificate, you can also enjoy the experience while snorkeling. Going with a tour operator like Cenote Experience will make things easier for you while providing equipment and ensuring a safe trip.
-->Local Tip: The Yucatan is also home to some of the greatest Mayan archaeological sites, so make sure to schedule some visits to the pyramids while you are there.
8. Tour The Haciendas in Merida, Yucatan
Beautiful colonial estates abound in this area and through one of the local tourist operators, you can get to see some of the most impressive ones. They will expertly explain each hacienda and its original purpose.
-->Local Tip: If you like Mexican food–which no doubt, you do–why not take a class at Los Dos cooking school. Learn the skills to impress your friends and family back home.
9. Wine and Craft Beer Route in Valle de Guadalupe, Baja California
Mexico is usually known for its tequila and mezcal. But did you know that they also produce excellent wine and craft beer? The wineries in the area are also known for their eco-conscious architecture. Make sure to put Casa de Piedra, Clos de Tres Cantos, and Hotel Endemico on your list of wineries to visit.
-->Local Tip: For a unique experience, try sleeping in a bubble at Campera Hotel Burbuja. All of the joys of sleeping under the stars with none of the night chill.
10. Take a Stroll in British Artist Edward James´ Garden in Xilitla, San Luis Potosi
This surrealist garden with its multitude of strange structures is nestled in a semi-tropical area and was designed by the extravagant artist and poet. Walking through the grounds will make you feel like you are in a fairy tale.
-->Local Tip: If you’re in the region, you have to try the traditional enchiladas Potosinas at El México de Frida restaurant. Locals love them; so will you.