Mexico, as a whole the country has been getting some bad press (unjustly I may add). When I told people I would be heading there for six months they were shocked. Quite a few told me how unsafe the country is and how there’s no way I’d survive. But survive I did and I can honestly say Mexico isn’t as dangerous as people think. Even in the lesser touristy areas.
With six months I explored much of the country. Though I will admit, not all of the country. Most people stick to the Yucatan Peninsula, mainly Cancun and Playa del Carmen. Many see only Chichen Itza and explore no other ruins. Some make it to Mexico City or Baja. But as a whole there’s so much more to Mexico and a lot more that is worth exploring.
Here are my five favourite destinations that aren’t as well known in Mexico:
Calakmul was easily my favourite ruins to visit. I was utterly disappointed with Chichen Itza, it was too busy with stalls trying to sell to tourists. It felt like Disneyland. In comparison, Calakmul was quiet and easily explored.
Located in the state of Campeche these ruins are hidden in the jungle near the Guatemalan border. They are literally in the middle of nowhere and so a little difficult to get to. You can either hire a car, stay in Xpujil and get taxis or do a tour from either Chetumal or Campeche.
What makes these ruins so impressive is the sheer size. They are partially restores and are believed to be the largest ruins in Mesoamerica, with nearly 7,000 buildings in the central area alone. There are three pyramids in the central zone that can be climbed and the great pyramid is the largest Mayan construction in existence – it’s base covers almost 5 acres.
This site was definitely thought provoking. The views from the pyramids were spectacular – you can see the other pyramids popping out from the trees. As it is so quiet there’s also plenty of wildlife wandering around the site, from turkeys to howler monkeys.
Xilitla is a very small town located in the Sierra Gorda in San Luis Potosí. The small town is set in a very dramatic location; hemmed in by limestone cliffs there are some incredible views over the surrounding temperate rainforest. However, it is not a very easy place to get to and the journey is not for the fainthearted. If you don’t have your own transport it’s a night bus through the winding mountains. But the journey is worth it.
In Xilitla you will find Las Pozas – or the Surreal Gardens of Edward James. Edward James was an Englishman and an eccentric. He lived in Xilitla from 1947 until his death in 1984. During his life here he created the jungle fantasy of Las Pozas. Surrounding nine pools of a cascading jungle river he planted flowers, made surreal sculptures and statues. Here you can find the “House With Three Stories That Might Be Five” for instance. It is a beautiful garden to explore that makes the long journey worth it.
On the Pacific Coast of Nayarit you will find the small town of San Blas. In January and February this town is very popular with bird watchers, but is otherwise generally overlooked.
Here there is a lovely beach which is good for surfing. There are also jungle boat trips available to see wildlife. The lagoons and creeks behind San Blas are teaming with wildlife Plus the ruins of a fort that over looks the town, which are said to have inspired the Poem “The Bells of San Blas” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, even though he never visited here.
Generally it is a nice small town to come and relax, enjoy the beach and learn to surf. But for me the best part about San Blas was the food. The seafood here was some of the best I had in Mexico, especially the camarón. Chili rellenos con camarón was a great foodie discovery for me here and the tacos con camarón were incredible.
This volcano is the youngest in the world and the only volcano that humankind have witnessed the full lifecycle of. One of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World it is an awe inspiring place to visit. The volcano appeared in 1943 and was active for just 8 years.
Located in the state of Michoacán, the easiest way to visit is as a day trip from Uruapan. To visit you must get to the town of Angahuan, where there are plenty of guides waiting to take you to the volcano. From the town it is a few hours ride on horseback to the base of the volcano, where you then dismount and scramble up to the crater. The ride takes you through fields of lava that are other worldly. Once at the cone itself there are still hotspots and if you pick up some stones you can hear them sizzling.
Another incredible sight here is the church of San Juan Parangaricutiro – which is all that remains of this buried hamlet. The church is in ruins, buried by lava. The tower still stands and makes an eerie sight. Exploring what is left is like exploring a dragon’s lair.
The small town of Jalcomulco in the state of Veracruz is making itself into an eco resort. Located on the Río Pescados and is a great place for adventurous travellers. Here you can try your hand at white water rafting, rappelling, canyoning, kayaking, zip lining and more. In my mind this little town could become Mexico’s answer to Queenstown.
However, this town may lose it’s edge soon. A few years ago the Veracruz government approved an application from a Brazilian power company to dam the river for hydroelectricity. As the river here is vital for the tourist trade, fishing and agriculture it didn’t go down well with the locals. Since 2014 there has been a camp of volunteers set up on the river to stop the damn being built. So going here won’t just be a great adventure, but will also help the local people in their fight to save the river.
The easiest way to reach this town is by taxi from Xalapa. It’s worth spending a couple of days to get a full dose of adrenaline. Many of the adventure companies offer packages that include a few activities and accomodation. What’s great here is all the companies work as a ‘cluster’ so they all help each other out.
Mexico is much more than the Yucatan Peninsula and Chichen Itza. The country has a vast wealth of ruins, beaches and beautiful places to visit. There is so much variety in this country that is is well worth getting off the beaten track and exploring further.
Today’s post is a fabulous article from Nat, our blogger friend from natpacker.com. Her and our Roxana have a lot in common. One of the things is their love for Mexico. Here is what Nat has to say about some more remote Mexico destinations!
Nat is a part-time backpacker, trying to make backpacking a full-time lifestyle. The travel bug first bit on a round-the-world trip in 2010-2011. The trip did not reduce the bucket list, but instead made it bigger. In 2016, she launched natpacker to help other travellers, focusing on backpacking and budget travel, which is her preferred style. The blog contains her own adventures, destinations, reviews and travel advice. You can also follow here adventures on facebook, twitter and instagram.