Written by Peregrine Travel Centre SA team member Adriana.
When we think Mexico, quite often people imagine relaxing on the beach, cocktail in hand and staying in luxury all-inclusive resorts. While this is the case for destinations like Cancun, Cabo San Lucas and Playa Del Carmen – there is a whole other side to this fascinating country that travellers quite often don’t get to discover!
I recently embarked on a 15-day Mexico Highlights tour with Geckos Adventures, a small group tour for people aged 18-29, and had the opportunity to experience the big city side of Mexico, the relaxing beach side and some pretty amazing small local towns along the way. Places I never would have visited had I not travelled through Mexico on a tour! The tour started in Mexico City and then we spent two nights in Puebla, Oaxaca, San Cristobal De Las Casas, Palenque (for one night), Merida and finally finished in Playa Del Carmen.
Here are my highlights – and reasons why Mexico should be on your travel bucket list!
Ruins and History
Mexico is a country with a rich history and there is so much to learn along the way (like did you know Mexico City was initially built on a lake!) This tour gives you a great insight into this history and plenty of opportunities to explore Mayan Temples, ruins, palaces and more. We visited the ancient Aztec city located under Mexico City, had the option to visit the archaeological site of Teotihuacan, saw the Mitla Ruins, the Monte Alban Zapotec Mixtec site and of course the iconic Chichen Itza! These places were incredible to see in real life and to help us learn all about the history of the people and this country. There were also many beautiful churches, palaces, art galleries and museums that provided an insight into this fascinating destination.
Travel Tip: Make sure you visit the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City, definitely worth a visit and will leave you speechless!
Food (and drinks)
One of the best parts about travelling is getting to eat the local food of the destination you are visiting. It’s a great way to learn more about the culture and people as well. Mexico is no exception! There are the tacos, quesadillas, chilaquiles, empanadas and guacamole that you would expect, all with a slight twist depending on the region you are in. But you’ll also have the opportunity to try scorpions, crickets, grasshoppers and ants – and for those not too keen on giving bugs a go there are some specialties along the way such as Mole Poblano (a dark sauce made of chilli and chocolate), Nopales (grilled cactus leaves) and ceviche when you get closer to the coast. My advice – give it a try (yes, even the bugs), you may only visit once so why not! As for drinks, there’s no better place in the world to enjoy a Margarita, Tequila or Cerveza (beer) but also make sure you try mezcal, a local drink very similar to tequila. We were able to visit a mezcal distillery and see how it is made (and try a few samples as well)! Another bonus to the amazing food and drinks is that it’s cheap! Think $2.50AUD for a taco or Corona and $4AUD for a Margarita – you have no excuse not to try one of everything along the way.
Travel Tip: The orange salt they give you with Mezcal/Tequila or on the rim of your Margarita is worm salt – sounds gross, but it’s surprisingly delicious! Also, if you’re anything like me, you’ll want to know the word Queso (Spanish for cheese) ?
Colourful towns and beautiful scenery
Mexico is full of Insta-worthy photo opportunities! But as much as we all love the perfect Instagram shot, make sure you take the time to look up from your phone/camera and take in all of the amazing buildings, colours and cobblestone streets around every corner. Mexico is also home to some incredible waterfalls, cenotes (or sink holes) and jungles. On our trip we had the opportunity to trek through the jungle in Palenque in search of Howler Monkeys, explore some incredible cenotes at the bottom of hidden caves and swim in some breathtaking waterfalls that seemed as if they were in the middle of nowhere.
Travel Tip: Do the optional Cenote tour from Merida, our local guide took us to three different Centoes (all very different) and you get to spend the day swimming in these incredible caves!
Culture and friendly people
The people of Mexico are very friendly and welcoming, of course like all destinations while travelling you need to make sure you are aware of your surroundings and watch your personal belongings, however I didn’t have any trouble at all along the way. A great thing about a Geckos Adventures trip is that they put a focus on helping the local community and giving younger travellers an authentic local experience. Our tour leader was from Mexico City and was very knowledgeable having travelled and guided extensively through Mexico. This means he was able to take us to local restaurants, bars and shops that we may not have visited had we been travelling on our own. We visited local markets and villages and learnt how crafts were handmade as well as visiting a local textile factory, local distillery and much more.
Travel Tip: Learn to speak a little Spanish, even just some of the basic words like Hola, Gracias, Cuenta, Adios and Como estas will go a long way when you talk with people at shops, restaurants and other places.
As you can see from all of the wonderful highlights I’ve listed above, Mexico certainly has a lot to offer all travellers. If you’re aged 18-29 I recommend travelling Mexico with Geckos Adventures. We had a group of only 11, which meant we had an authentic experience and were able to travel using local transportation rather than a coach tour; our tour leader was fantastic, and being a local himself meant he gave us some great advice and tips to make the most out of our trip. Having at least two nights in most destinations allowed us plenty of time to explore and really see each town and the accommodation exceeded my expectations along the way. I also travelled on my own, which was a great experience – you can read all about my thoughts on solo travel here. If you’re over the age of 29 don’t worry, Intrepid have a 15 day Mexico Unplugged (Basix) trip which is pretty much an identical itinerary and open to all ages.
Contact our friendly team at Peregrine Travel Centre SA if you’d like to know more about travel to Mexico.