Advertisement

A grand tour of Mexico

Hospitable, beautiful and awash with fascinating archaeological sites – Mexico has it all.

884_MW_P43_Travel_01
Oaxaca has rich traditions and its people are kind and hospitable

Hospitable, beautiful and awash with fascinating archaeological sites Mexico has it all. Alice Grhns reports.

When friends visiting Mexico for the first time ask me where to begin, I tell them: go to Oaxaca, one of the most scenically beautiful, historically interesting and simply enjoyable cities south of the border," says Francine Prose in The New York Times. There's no better way to counter the stereotypes than "to experience first hand the country's physical beauty, its rich traditions, the hospitality and kindness of its people".

Advertisement - Article continues below

Oaxaca is less than an hour's flight from Mexico City. A colonial city as well as a World Heritage Site, Oaxaca offers "a concentrated education in Mexico's culture and complex heritage [including] brightly coloured houses, pleasant public squares and stately churches, all set in the midst of a gorgeous desert landscape".

Though there are periodic eruptions of political tension several buildings bear the scars of a teachers' strike in 2016 the city "continues to feel friendly, safe and welcoming". The recent earthquakes that damaged Mexico City thankfully failed to shake Oaxaca, as it is home to some of Mexico's most important archaeological sites. Half an hour away by car is the ancient city of Mitla, which functioned as a religious centre for the Zapotec civilisation. Monte Albn, on the outskirts of the city, boasts a vast complex of pyramids as well as a variety of carved bas reliefs. In Oaxaca itself there are churches that exemplify the ways in which the Spanish conquistadors imported their religion and culture. Even for those with a limited interest in history, "Oaxaca is a wonderful place to be to spend time in the food, flower and handicrafts markets, and not insignificantly to eat".

A spontaneous tour guide

884_MW_P43_Travel_02
The Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan:<br />one of Mexico's greatest hits

For a somewhat more riotous time, head to Mexico City. "The first morning in the Mexican capital we left the hotel and stepped into the swirl of pedestrian traffic on the Paseo de la Reforma," recalls Joyce Gregory Wyels in the LA Times. Standing befuddled, a "neatly dressed stranger" called Enrique approached and offered to be the guide for the day. "We fairly leapt at his offer, even though this is not and has never been a recommended method of hiring a guide. We got lucky."

Advertisement - Article continues below
Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below

Soon Wyels and her husband found themselves scaling the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan, 30 miles from Mexico City. By the end of the week, Enrique had taken them through "a list of the capital's greatest hits: the cathedral and National Palace in the Zcalo, Chapultepec Park and its museums, folklrico dancing at the Palacio de Bellas Artes [and] colourful boats plying the canals in Xochimilco".

Enrique also drove to the silver mining town of Taxco, about 110 miles from Mexico City, with a stop in Cuernavaca to admire Diego Rivera's murals. "I had barely settled into my airline seat for the flight home before I vowed to return, and I have to coastal resorts and colonial cities, to Cuernavaca for language lessons, to archaeological sites from Chihuahua to Chiapas."

Magical towns and perfect beaches

884_MW_P43_Travel_Bottom
The Unesco biosphere reserve is scattered with unspoilt beaches

Mexico is perfect for beach holidays too. The state of Baja California "is scattered with unspoilt beaches and enchanting towns that are more affordable than the Americanised resorts at its southernmost tip", says Duncan Tucker in The Guardian. Take a tour to Isla Espiritu Santo, one of 244 desert islands that form a Unesco biosphere reserve. Covered in cacti and set amid turquoise waters, it is "an uninhabited, alien-looking landscape". Also visit the adjacent Isla Partida, home to Playa Ensenada Grande, "a contender for Mexico's most beautiful beach". North of La Paz, between the Sea of Cortez and the Sierra de la Giganta, lies the town of Loreto. It was founded in 1697 and is one of 111 Pueblos Mgicos (magical towns) Mexico has tipped for "natural beauty, cultural value or historical significance".

Advertisement
Advertisement

Recommended

Five of the best alternative camping sites
Travel and holidays

Five of the best alternative camping sites

From an open-air bed in Devon to a peaceful retreat by the coast in Wales.
24 Jul 2020
Six hidden spots around Britain and Ireland
Travel and holidays

Six hidden spots around Britain and Ireland

Find some peace and quiet in some of the UK's most secluded spots. Chris Carter reports.
17 Jul 2020
Four Airbnb bookings as seen on TV
Travel and holidays

Four Airbnb bookings as seen on TV

The small screen has lent added glamour to these luxury apartments. Chris Carter reports.
10 Jul 2020
Three quiet destinations to consider as the rush to the airports begins
Travel and holidays

Three quiet destinations to consider as the rush to the airports begins

As quarantine restrictions are lifted for many destinations, the summer holiday is now back on the agenda, says Chris Carter.
3 Jul 2020

Most Popular

Gold bugs' dreams are coming true – but we could still see a V-shaped recovery
Gold

Gold bugs' dreams are coming true – but we could still see a V-shaped recovery

John and Merryn talk about how it's perfectly reasonable to expect a V-shaped recovery and to continue holding gold as well. Plus, inflation, staycati…
30 Jul 2020
UK banks have had a shocking week – so it’s probably a good time to buy
UK stockmarkets

UK banks have had a shocking week – so it’s probably a good time to buy

Lloyds Bank reported a £676m loss this week. And, with all of the UK's high street banks having a terrible time of things, bank stocks are detested ri…
31 Jul 2020
The charts that matter: gold finally sets a new record high 
Global Economy

The charts that matter: gold finally sets a new record high 

As gold surges past its previous high, John Stepek looks at how it's affected the charts that matter most to the global economy.
1 Aug 2020