While I am in the throes of planning my travels in 2015 (watch this space), I wonder about where I could go in the Americas. I’ve already been to South America and saw Los Angeles from the airport entrance in the North. But what about backpacking down in Mexico? After all, I do have the Mexican mustache already.
So I asked my friends at Thomson Holidays to inspire me with a tale of Mexico…
While South East Asia might enjoy a reputation as a backpacking mecca, if there’s any serious competition for this title, it could well be Mexico. All of the senses can be stimulated by a trip to this spectacular country. The sights and aromas on offer from bustling street food stalls, for example, will have your mouth-watering even before the flavors are tickling your taste buds.
If you like to broaden your cultural horizons as well as your palate though then you’ll also appreciate the numerous historical sites to be found in this fascinating country. Then again, sometimes all you really want to do while travelling is to relax in a charming city square and watch the world go by. Does Mexico deliver on that front too? Absolutely!
So far, so good but then we come to the crucial question for the backpacker; how expensive is it? Well, the good news is that reasonably priced flights to Mexico are available and, once you’re there, you’ll also find accommodation and transport to be similarly affordable.
So, whether you want to eat, be inspired or simply to relax…what are some of the Mexican experiences that you shouldn’t miss out on your backpacking trip?
Street Food Crawl in Mexico City
Little hot tamales oozing with savoury meat. Tacos stuffed with freshly steaming ingredients. Thick, filling pambazos. Whether you spend two days or two months in Mexico city, it will never be enough to try all the different dishes available to the intrepid palate. The best tips for the backpacker short on time and money? Watch where the crowds go, look out for good basic hygiene from the stallholders, and, just once, try something beyond your comfort zone, whether it’s crunching on a freshly fried chapuline (grasshopper) or chowing down on some chinicuiles (caterpillars). Bon appetit, or rather provecho!
Temple Hop, Skip and Jump to Teohuacan
Known as the ‘birthplace of the gods’, this awe-inspiring temple complex is a World Heritage Site just 50km from Mexico City. Catch a bus from Mexico City first thing for a day trip, and spend the morning scaling to the summits of the giant Sun and Moon pyramids. It was believed by the Aztecs that this was where the universe was created, as the site predates their civilisation by several centuries. Just bear in mind that to explore this challenging area, you’ll need to be physically fit, and have brought plenty of water and sunscreen.
Chill in cultural Oaxaca
The colorful metropolis of Oaxaca might only be a one hour flight from Mexico City, but it couldn’t be more dissimilar to the choked and hectic vibe of the capital. Clean mountain air, beautiful architecture and art conspire to woo visitors. Soak it all up in the zocalo, the city’s central square. Sample some of the delicious and famed moles (it’s a Mexican sauce). Pick up some authentic Mexican folk art – the shopping opportunities are quirky and endless, and check out their festival calendar before you go – your visit might just coincide with one of the bright fiestas for which this city is equally famed.
Remember when you are heading off with your worldly goods on your back to allow yourself to be caught up in adventure, once in a while. Take an extra day in a destination if you like it. Be alive to new discoveries, whether it’s the experience of watching a Mariachi band or enjoying the Day of the Dead celebrations. Be safe, do your research, and you’ll have an authentic, wonderful experience in this exciting country.
Pambazos photo by AlejandroLinaresGarcia and used under creative commons licence.