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Mexico Highlights - The most beautiful places and lots of travel tips
We have been dreaming of a trip to Mexico for a long time and we hope that one day we will get the opportunity to do so or that it will come about. Mexico is an incredibly diverse country with mountains, beaches, deserts, lagoons, caves, ruins, a colorful underwater world and much more. We are impressed by the diversity of the country. Our travel reporter Chiara did a semester abroad in Mexico and reveals her favorites to you and us in today's travel reporter report Mexico highlights and lots of travel tips and insiders. But be careful: wanderlust guaranteed!
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Table of Contents
I have been studying in Stuttgart since 2016 and it was clear to me from the start of my studies that I would do a semester abroad. Why? When else do you get the opportunity to try life in a freely chosen country without much bureaucracy and risk? Probably not that fast anymore. When it came time to apply, I read what felt like a hundred testimonials. From Singapore to Italy to Chile everything was there. Eventually I decided to go to a Spanish-speaking country to brush up on my rusty school Spanish.
I had already spent a few vacations in Spain, which is why I concentrated on Latin America. Mexico wasn't my focus at first, but then I realized - Mexico had everything I wanted! The country is incredibly exciting and multifaceted. The partner university in Cholula near Puebla is a beautiful private university with many suitable courses.
There are many cheap housing options and the climate in Puebla is fantastic. In addition, Mexicans speak Spanish that is easy to understand. All of these ideas also came true. Looking back, I couldn't have made a better choice! The country is full of joie de vivre with varied landscapes, beaches and cities. A Trip to mexico always worth it. In this post I would therefore like to pass on my Mexico highlights, my experiences and tips.
My top Mexico highlights
Mexico is huge and even in five months I haven't been able to visit all the places that I would have liked to visit. Nevertheless, I've been on the road a lot and I'll tell you about some of my highlights here. First of all: The typical holiday region of the Riviera Maya is hardly represented because I think it is really overrated. Everything is expensive, crowded and the beaches are full of seaweed and hotels. Mexico has a lot more to offer! Wherever I remember great accommodations or restaurants, I write them down right away.
1. Puerto Escondido surfers paradise
One of my first trips took me to the Pacific coast, after Puerto Escondido. After a two-hour bus ride, two hours waiting at the airport, an hour's flight and another short taxi ride, we finally left our luggage at the hostel and found ourselves at 7 a.m. on one of the widest sandy beaches I have ever seen. Puerto Escondido is a small surfer's paradise with approx. 25,000 inhabitants and some guest accommodations. Surfers are magically attracted here by the gigantic waves.
The prices in the city are still quite low for a tourist destination and in general the place and beaches are not overcrowded. I am writing beaches here because Puerto is surrounded by many different bays and beaches, so you can visit a new beach every day. Some of them are not particularly bath-friendly due to the waves, others are even suitable for snorkeling. Apart from tanning and water sports, there is the daily opportunity to release cute baby turtles on the beach and watch them close up on their way into the sea.
If that's not enough, you can take part in one of the whale tours or the incredible bioluminescence, the glowing plankton, observe. The nightlife also guarantees a lot of fun! Various bars and clubs, some of them directly on the beach or on the roofs above, open their doors. I had one of my best party nights in Mexico in Puerto. Unfortunately, I only stayed there for a long weekend, but would definitely return to Puerto Escondido.
- Overnight stay: Selina Hostel * (generally I'm not a Selina fan, but it's really a good choice there, nice complex right on the beach and the rooms are clean and big enough).
- Food: Elephant Garden has a particularly delicious breakfast, Lychee is an Asian who eats on cushions in the sand.
2. Dream beaches in Bacalar
On my road trip across the Yucatan Peninsula, the most popular tourist destination in Mexico, was Bacalar surprisingly my favorite place! In contrast to Cancun, Playa del Carmen or Tulum, Bacalar is still pretty calm and authentic. The small town of Bacalar is located directly on the "Laguna de los siete colores", the lagoon of the seven colors. The name comes from the (apparently exactly seven) different shades of blue that run like stripes through the water.
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The lagoon is really a dream! The water is incredibly light blue and with a boat tour you can visit different corners of the lagoon, including various bathing breaks. “Los Rápidos” is particularly cool. A spot right on the canal that flows into the lagoon. The water there is almost even more beautiful than in the lagoon itself, you can go with the flow and snorkel while you go. Don't miss the lagoon!
- Overnight: In the Kulu Tubo Hostel * you can stay overnight in a kind of air-conditioned tube! The owners are very personable (we had a little party with them in the evening) and the pizza was delicious.
- Food: There are many restaurants, tacos and street food around the Zócalo (the main square that forms the center of a Mexican town)
3. Metropolis of Puebla and Cholula
During my semester abroad, I worked in Cholula, on the edge of the City of Puebla used. This is not the only reason why the region has a particularly large place in my heart. Downtown Puebla is beautiful, full of street markets, colorful houses with hidden courtyards and rooftop bars. In about 20 minutes from the center of Puebla you can reach Cholula. Cholula is a colorful student town full of restaurants, cute cafes and most of all bars. With Container City and the “Calle 14” party street, Cholula is a real party paradise.
Clubs do not cost entry and the atmosphere on the street and in the shops cannot be compared to German parties. The many tacoplaces are open until morning, where the party usually continues. Another good reason to visit Cholula is the largest pyramid in the world! Only small parts of it have been exposed, but from the very top, where there is a beautiful cathedral, you have a great view over Puebla and the Popocatépetl volcano. There is something magical about the sunsets on the pyramid.
- Food: Cemitas y Molotes Katy's for the best Cemitas (a kind of huge burger) and Molotes (see Cocina Mexicana) in Mexico - it's extremely cheap too. Saporo y Tokio Ramen has such delicious ramen that even the Asians were permanent guests. At La Berenjena there are not so cheap, but very good pizzas and salads.
4. Hierve El Agua water basin
Hierve El Agua I've probably seen almost everyone on Instagram photos. Different sized pools of water in front of an abyss that flows into a petrified waterfall - and that in the midst of a gigantic mountain panorama. The best way to enjoy the view is with a beer in the cool water. The natural phenomenon is unique and accordingly offers a perfect photo backdrop.
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The next big city from which trips to Hierve El Agua are possible is Oaxaca City, the capital of the state of the same name. A visit to the city is definitely worth it! The architecture is very beautiful and there are also great rooftop restaurants and bars in Oaxaca. In addition, the architectural site “Monte Albán” is located near the city.
5. Palenque ancient Mayan city
The state of Chiapas is located in southern Mexico, on the border with Guatemala. The region is considered poor, but relatively unspoiled and beautiful. in the Chiapas jungle lures the Maya city "Palenque" many visitors. Although I had already visited the wonder of the world Chichen Itzá, I was much more impressed by Palenque. There weren't that many souvenir stands there and everything was more natural.
The temple complexes are partly exposed and built, but partly also in the jungle and in ruins. The atmosphere should be mystical, especially in the morning when there is still a slight mist in the air. I was there in the afternoon, but there were few visitors due to light rain.
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- Overnight: Away from the site, we stayed in a cabaña (small wooden hut) in the middle of the jungle, where we were woken up in the morning by the howler monkeys! There are several such accommodations on Airbnb *.
6. San Cristóbal De Las Casas
Let's stay in Chiapas! One of the Mexico’s prettiest city is San Cristóbal De Las Casas. It is located in the highlands of Chiapas, which is why the climate is nice and pleasant. The city is full of markets where locals sell handcrafted goods. The pretty pedestrian zones create a relaxed atmosphere. All restaurants and bars have outside seating and you feel a bit like in Italy. For sunset we climbed one of the two hills at either end of the city and there is a lot going on in the Zócalo late in the evening.
- Accommodation: The La Puerta Vieja hostel * is one of the coolest hostels I know! Every evening there are varied activities, daily tours to the surrounding waterfalls or the large Canion de Sumidero are offered and the breakfast included exceeds every hostel standard.
7. Paradise Baja California
Beautiful beaches, crystal clear water and lots of Americans. That makes Baja California out. The most popular destinations are at the lowest point of the peninsula, which borders California in the north. This geographical proximity also explains the masses of Americans, who unfortunately drive up prices in the region. Nevertheless, the area with its desert, mountains and surrounding islands is beautiful, which is why a visit is definitely worthwhile.
The City of Los Cabos, where I rented an Airbnb during my weekend trip, is ideal for harbor walks and party nights. What we did not know at the time: After the arrest of the drug lord "El Chapo", various cartels are at war in Los Cabos. The city is even considered to be one of the most dangerous in the world! As a tourist, surprisingly, you don't notice anything at all. Sure, drugs are offered on Partystrasse, but that also happens in Berlin after all.
8. Out and about in Mexico City
Mexico City is Metropolis, Cultural stronghold and is considered a criminal. But there is so much to discover around and in the city. With a healthy dose of caution, the metropolis is definitely part of a trip to Mexico. The known Frida Kahlo Museum "Casa Azul" is located in the former home of the art icon and provides intimate insights into her life. From the Torre Latinoamericano you have a great 360 degree view of the capital.
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The Palacio De Bellas Artes in the historic center is an impressive palace. There are several museums in it, there are regular performances by well-known artists and it is considered the cultural center of Mexico. The huge Chapultepec Park ensures relaxation. The castle of the same name is located in the park on a hill. The beautiful, former royal house can be visited and offers a great view. Another highlight in the capital is the Xochimilco River. It's full of colorful rafts to go down the river, usually drinking, partying, and dancing. Mexicans know how to enjoy life.
Transportation in Mexico
My favorite place to be in Mexican cities Over hazards. Uber is safer than in Mexico official taxes and cheap. The good bus network is ideal for longer journeys. There are luxury coaches in which you are often supplied with snacks and drinks and can travel from city to city in a relaxed manner. Bus trips are therefore a cheap and comfortable way to travel there. If you want to travel even cheaper, you can Collectivos to take.
The Minibuses drive different routes, but only start when all seats are occupied. Sometimes we were there too Rental car on road. For this we have rented cheap cars with all insurances and no excess through the ADAC. We were actually never stopped and apart from the center of Cancun you could drive everywhere. For long distances there are the low-cost airlines VivaAerobus and Volaris low-cost airlines, which are not always on time, but are otherwise a good alternative.
Accommodation in Mexico
All over Mexico there are cool and cheap hostelswhich you can easily find via Hostelworld * or Booking.com *. It is also often worth taking a look at the Airbnb offers *. What is better varies from city to city and of course also depends on whether you prefer privacy or meet other travelers. On my travels in Mexico it was actually a pretty good mix and I never had negative experiences with accommodation.
Costs & Budget - ¿Y… cuánto cuesta?
Mexico is cheap! How cheap, however, depends on the region. The prices in the area around Cancun can hardly be compared with Cholula, for example, everything there seemed outrageously expensive to me. In general, it is always a savings tip to eat or shop where you see a lot of Mexicans. Street food is also a cheap alternative. The prices of activities can often be negotiated.
When it comes to accommodation, it all comes down to personal requirements. On average, you can plan well with 10 € per night and person. I had a daily budget of € 30 for activities, food, transport and accommodation. But I have to say that 30 € is a clear student budget, luxury of any kind is not included.
Security in Mexico
I think my father was really angry that I had to choose Mexico of all places for a semester abroad. After all, the country doesn't have a good reputation for security or crime solving. In all honesty, I've never felt unsafe. Nevertheless, it is advisable to always be on the move with a healthy dose of caution.
This includes, for example, not being out and about alone at night, not having too much cash with you and always carrying your cell phone close to your body. Neighborhoods that are considered dangerous should be avoided and simply more careful than in Germany. There is not much more you can do to have a good feeling. In my opinion, the joy of life and the good mood in Mexico make up for the uncertain situation.
There is so much to try! As a vegetarian it is unfortunately not that easy, because tacos are available everywhere. A good alternative, however, are quesadillas, which you can also fill with vegetables and dip into the delicious salsas. Salsas are served with every meal anyway, so it is good to tolerate a bit of spiciness. My favorite dishes also include molotes, deep-fried dumplings filled with all kinds of things, flautas, a kind of rolled up tortillas, of course also filled, enchiladas and for breakfast you MUST have tried chilaquiles.
Contrary to expectations, the dish of nachos in salsa, with beans and egg is a perfect breakfast! Elotes also take getting used to, but are surprisingly tasty: corn on a skewer that is rolled in mayonnaise and cheese. You should generally like corn when traveling in Mexico, as it is found almost everywhere. Fun fact: the Maya believed that humans were made of corn! An interesting drink is clamato. A type of tomato juice that Mexicans love and even mix with beer (chelado).
My best travel tips
Some experiences are simply part of a trip to Mexico! For example a visit to the Mexican Wrestling "Lucha Libre". The locals get really emotional when the wrestlers in exciting costumes meet in the ring. The event actually takes place in every major city.
Parties (especially reggeaton parties) in Mexico are amazing! Everyone is having fun, dancing together and there are the coolest clubs. Salsa parties are also very fun and those who don't know the steps will learn them at record speed. Anyone who enjoys partying should go to a Mexican party.
Tequila! The Mexican national drink is available in more variations than I could have ever dreamed of. Distilleries across the country offer tequila and mezcal tastings. You not only learn a lot about the history and production of the drinks, but also about how Mexicans love to drink. Tastings are usually cheap or even free, including toasts, songs and rituals!
Packing list - my top 3 must haves
The weather in Mexico is almost always nice. Depending on the region and altitude, it can get fresher, which should be taken into account when planning your trip and packing list. On domestic trips I was always happy to have mosquito protection * (in the form of spray or creams) and snorkeling equipment * with me. A bum bag * (or neck pouch) was also essential. So I always had my money, passport, credit card and cell phone close to my body and in view. In higher and dry areas, a good lip balm is worth its weight in gold!
Medicines are also important, especially those that provide relief from adverse gastrointestinal reactions. This can happen more often. If necessary, there are many well-stocked pharmacies on site. A travel adapter * (flat sockets, 110V) and sun protection * should also be in your luggage. But there is also everything else to buy on site that you might need.
My conclusion on the trip
Today I am indescribably glad that I was not deterred by rumors and warnings and that I set out on my own to get to know Mexico. There are so many other places that I loved, which is why I would advise everyone to plan as much time as possible. Mexico is a country that has many problems, that cannot be glossed over.
Nevertheless, it has at least twice as many positive sides: Mexico combines friendly people, impressive nature, cultural highlights, fascinating history, delicious food, fun party nights and great metropolises. Plus, I've actually achieved my goal and now speak better Spanish than ever!
TRAVEL REPORTER CHIARA
Chiara is a budding journalist and freelance writer. She was born with a passion for travel. Chiara has always been on the road a lot, even working as a flight attendant when she was 18. During her semester abroad in Mexico, it was finally over for her. She has a very special bond with Mexico, but was also totally enthusiastic about Colombia. She would like to travel to Guatemala and Nicaragua as well as the northern regions of Mexico. You can find more about Chiara and her travels here:
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