The land of extremes. There is no better way to describe Mexico; a vast territory blending a Spanish heritage and indigenous ancestry resulting in a nation with breathtaking landscapes, mouthwatering cuisine, friendly people and a rich culture that triggers dancing, singing, laughter and does not seem to distinguish life from death. Mexico represents pure joy.
Mexico’s capital, Ciudad de Mexico, is the largest city in the world, with little less than nine million habitants agglomerated in a territory of 573 square miles. As cosmopolitan as New York City, as historically rich as Rome, as vibrant as Madrid, Mexico City is a must on every traveler’s bucket list.
Other destinies have become worldwide famous; one cannot utter the word Mexico without hearing praises about Cancun, Los Cabos or Acapulco. The country’s beaches have undeniable beauty, with soft, almost powdery sand and the bluest of waves; it is no surprise why visitors from all around the globe surrender to their charm every year.
And still, there is much more to see. Mexico is filled with endless possibilities for the world trotter; but the list below encompasses the unique, the unknown, the “unpopular” choices for the traveler with a genuine sense of adventure and discovery.
If you really want to see, taste, and feel Mexico, here are your options:
La Huasteca Potosina – Ciudad Valles
Not precisely a city, but a region located in Mexico along the Gulf of Mexico which includes parts of the state of Tamaulipas, Veracruz, Puebla, Hidalgo, San Luis Potosí, and Querétaro. The term was coined to the area in which the Huastec people had influence when their civilization was at its height in the Mesoamerican period. The area represents a delight for nature lovers; it bestows majestically several waterfalls, rivers, sundry vegetation and plenty of ecotourism activities. Ciudad Valles, located at San Luis Potosi, is considering the entrance to the Huasteca. The city itself offers historical and cultural attractions such as El Museo de las Culturas Huastecas that exhibits 1839 archaeological and ethnographic pieces that represent their ancient culture. If you travel a few minutes Northeast, you will encounter the Sierra del Abra Tanchipa Biosphere Reserve Natural Protected Area, with over 230 species of plants, a variety of mammals, reptiles, and birds.
The area most popular attractions include:
The Tamul Waterfall
With a stunning height of 105 meters (345 feet) this is the largest waterfall in the area and visitors can admire it from up close or do rappelling.
The Micos Waterfall
This compound of seven beautiful waterfalls, averaging 20 meters height (65 feet) offers a unique opportunity to visitors to enjoy waterfall jumping, kayaking, and rafting in a breathtaking surrounding.
Puente de Dios or God’s Bridge
This area – an ecotourism heaven – contains “Poza Azul” a beautiful sinkhole surrounded by vegetation, blue waters and an area being bathed by soft sunlight.
The area includes hotels, restaurants, shops and tour agencies that guide, counsel and pampers visitors from around the world. La Huasteca Potosina can be visited at any time of the year, but November offers the unique opportunity to enjoy the Celebration of Xantolo. The famous festivity includes the preparation of amazing gastronomic samples and cherishes life after death.
The brochures often praise this place for its countless natural attractions and for being the entrance to the famous Copper Canyon. Nobody, however, warns you about the adventure you begin once you set foot in the remote Creel. An inevitable smile is brought on those taking a sight at the place for the first time. Creel is a town that belongs to the Sierra Tarahumara –part of the Sierra Madre Occidental- and it is located in the State of Chihuahua. It has only around 5,000 inhabitants, and tourism has become its primary job source for the last 20 years due to its fantastic landscape, and closeness to magnificent natural attractions. This Magical Town leads to the discovery of large rock formation, abundant forests, waterfalls, and fascinating ancient traditions.
If you decide to visit this extraordinary place, be sure to check at least a couple of the following landmarks:
Valle de Los Monjes
One of the area’s most recognized attractions, the valley of Monks is named after these mysterious rock formations that uncannily resemble monks. The place offers a precious site for photographing and to natural-born explorers.
Barrancas del Cobre
“The most beautiful thing I have ever seen,” is the common description of this area that offers 60,000 (over 37,000 miles) kilometers of mountains and canyons larger and deeper than Arizona’s Grand Canyon. This nature’s marvel has one of the longest and largest ecosystems in the world, and it is commonly admired by a train trip in the famous “Chepe.” The canyon surprises locals and foreigners with its deep hidden forests and its contrasting vegetation.
The second-highest waterfall in Mexico, located in the Parque Nacional Basaseachic (Basaseachic Falls National Park) in the Copper Canyon. With an astonishing height of 246 meters (807 feet) the waterfall is the result of the merging of Arroyo del Durazno and Arroyo de Basaseachic.
San Carlos, Sonora
Jacques Cousteau called the Sea of Cortez “the world’s aquarium”; with one of the most biologically diverse bodies of water on the planet, and sunsets named as the most beautiful view by the National Geographic, San Carlos, Mexico represents a paradisiacal dream of leisure for thousands of visitors. This town, belonging to the city of Guaymas, offers numerous activities both onshore and in the water. Soft sand beaches, two world-class marinas, a par 72 championship golf course and delectable seafood lure people who are eager to enjoy the very best of the Pacific Ocean without sacrificing their quiet time and relaxing mood. Juxtaposing striking mountains with deep-blue water San Carlos offers an original proposal that includes water sports, amazing views, and high-spirited nightlife.
These are a few of San Carlos main attractions:
Framing the small beach town and a leading star of many paintings, the Tetakawi (or “Rock Mountain” in the ancient local dialect) erects proudly. The semi-strenuous hike offers a perfect 360 view of San Carlos; in particularly clear days, the Baja can be spotted afar.
A family-friendly hike that takes you through a narrow canyon surrounded by exuberant palm trees and rock walls covered by the town’s quintessential cactus. As one goes more profound, the sight of the rocks becomes even more picturesque, going from pink shades to deep red rust. The Canyon offers a unique opportunity for exploration, bird-watching and the discovery of endemic flora and fauna. The site has rappelling and zip lines for the bold ones.
San Pedro Island
For those in search of water activities, the island, located one hour away from San Carlos, is a snorkeling, scuba diving and nature exploring paradise. This rocky island is the home of countless sea lions, that can be usually spotted sunbathing on the shore. Chances of seeing dolphins nearby are high since they often feed close to the island. Sperm whales also often gather close to the island to feast on the colossal squid found in these waters.
Located at the Center of Mexico, Zacatecas was a constant silver supply source to the Spanish Crown during the conquest and collaborated enormously to its enrichment. Today, the colonial part of the city is a World Heritage Site, due to the Baroque and other structures built during its mining days and has been named “The Best Colonial City” in Mexico for many years. Zacatecas offers beautiful colonial architecture, culturally rich museums, historic landmarks and exquisite cuisine that includes the famous “tacos envenenados” (poisoned tacos filled with beans, chorizo,, and cheese).
The city of Zacatecas has a long list of “must visit,” here are just a few:
Situated over the ruins of pre-Hispanic temples, the 1752 astonishing structure is considered one of the best examples of Mexican Churrigueresque architecture. The church is eighty-six meters high (278 feet), and it is wholly made of pink sandstone. It has three naves, and three leading portals and the historic place is best appreciated in the late afternoon when the sun shines directly at the façade.
Cerro de la Bufa
The iconic site includes a unique attraction, not only from Latin America but the entire continent. This space represents, literally, the interior of a photographic camera, which through mirrors shows in real time an image of the Zacatecas-Guadalupe metropolitan area, projected on a concave fiberglass disc. For those enjoying sights from great heights, the Cerro de la Bufa, also has an aerial tramway that permits the visitor experience the stateliness of the city.
To the side of the Cathedral is Zacatecas’s famous market
Starting in 1889 –and still keeping the same façade- the market was supposed to be a typical Mexican style place but has evolved into a modern mall that sells local crafts and antiques, Huichol needlework, silver, leather, among many things. When visitors want to get a taste of the local cuisine, the market is the place to be as it offers the very best of the regional dishes like green pozole, gorditas, and zacatecans enchiladas.
One of the most creative, colorful places in Mexico is Oaxaca. The converging of indigenous cultures, the richness of its cuisine, the paradisiacal beaches nearby and the architectural gems make this city unique. The city attractions are many for those desiring to immerse deeply in the Mexican culture; witnessing the Guelaguetza dance, taking a weekend trip to nearby beaches, enjoying a meal at the local market and mingling with the friendly, hospitable locals will make anyone’s trip worth it. Among the incredible attractions in the city or nearby:
Hierve el Agua
Not your typical waterfall, but a cascade of natural rock formation that often plays a trick on the eyes of visitors. This astonishing and unique site also includes two freshwater pools popular due to their medicinal properties and springs that are saturated with calcium carbonate and magnesium.
A large pre-Columbian archaeological site twenty minutes away from the City offers a breathtaking view that leaves tourist in awe. Settled over Mixtec and Zapotec ruins the area contains over one hundred and seventy tombs, broad plazas, truncated pyramids, and endless underground passageways. The highest hill is flanked by four platforms, and the view from atop, during Spring season, displays a green dreamlike view like no other.
Santo Domingo Church
This Baroque ecclesiastical building is one of the most famous churches of all Mexico. An extensive system of courtyards, a precious sanctuary, and many cloisters and rooms formerly constituted a monastery and now serve as a Church.
Just a small taste of what “unknown” Mexico has to offer to the world, all of the sites are family-friendly and represent a unique spot for your next vacation. Whether you are a seasoned traveler, or just beginning to explore outside your comfort zone, Mexico will surprise you with its natural beauty, and the friendliness of its people who will ask you only one thing in return: a promise that you will come back.