After one month in the Yucatan Peninsula, it was time for me to move on and go to the west: from Chiapas to Mexico city and around. This part is more traditional and cultural compared to Yucatan which is very touristic and has more marvelous beaches.
Step 1: Palenque
Palenque is, for me, the most beautiful archaeological site in Mexico. Part of it is in the jungle and the other part is outside, in a clear place. Thus, you can perfectly see some pyramids (and climb them) but you can see others in the jungle, covered of grass and trees. Moreover, the ticket includes the museum entrance. Maybe you already know it, but I’m not a fan of museums. Yet, I really appreciated this one and mostly the Maya King’s tomb. There are explanations in English (if you’re not fluent in Spanish) and the visit is even more interesting.
As usual, if you want to visit an archaeological site, I advise you to come early in the morning (the opening is at 8 am). You will enjoy much more the place without the crowd and you may see the fog on the site. It’s just magic.
Step 2: San Cristobal de las Casas
San Cristobal de las Casas is a jewel in the Chiapas. Its city center is s beautiful with its colorful houses, squares or viewpoints of the city. You can spend an entire day in the city, just to walk around, to sit on a bench, to drink a coffee, etc. This city is peaceful and I liked wandering there.
In the vicinity, there are also magical places to discover. Just next to it, there is the Arcotete park. There, you can see a river but also visit caves above it. This place is popular for locals during the weekends but you can also visit during the week. The access is very easy thanks to a colectivo which leaves from the city center of San Cristobal and drops you 1km from the entrance.
If you want to know more about the indigenous culture, you should go to San Juan Chamula’s church. This church is unique. From the outside, the church looks normal but once you’re inside, it’s totally different from the other churches you saw. There is no bench, but hundreds of candles and pine needles on the floor. If you are used to visiting churches or to go to the church, you will be very surprised when you will see this one.
Step 3: Oaxaca
Oaxaca is a city which, as usual, has a beautiful city center. You see colorful houses, squares and old buildings. You feel quickly comfortable here and you can spend a day just to enjoy the city. If stairs don’t frighten you, you can climb to the auditorium to have a viewpoint f the city.
In the vicinity, there is Hierve el Agua. It’s a petrified waterfall. There are only two of them if in the world, one in Turkey and the other one, here in Mexico. To get there from Oaxaca, you have to go to Mitla by bus or taxi-collectivo. In Mitla, there are trunks that drive you until Hierve el Agua. Once you arrived, you can see the waterfall from far, above and below. Don’t forget to take your swimsuit because there are natural swimming pools where you can swim.
Step 4: Puebla
Puebla is a small city just before the capital. Yet, it would be too bad to miss it. The city center is beautiful. It is also classified as Unesco World Heritage and has some buildings that worth to be discovered. The cathedral, the main square (Zocalo), the city hall but mostly there is the Palafoxiana Library. This library is marvelous. It is very small and you can sit there to study or read but just visit it. But it is so beautiful, it’s hard to find the word to describe it.
Step 5: Nevado de Toluca
Nevado de Toluca is a volcano you can climb easily. It is possible to climb if you stay in Mexico city or Toluca. If you are staying in Mexico City, you have to leave earlier in the morning than from Toluca.
To get to the volcano, you have to go first to Toluca to take the bus to Raices (departure every day at 7h20, 8h20, 9h20, etc.). Once you are in Raices, you have to go to the Nevado National Park (by taxi or hitchhike) and when you are at the entrance, there are lots of trunks that bring you to the top.
At the top of the volcano, you just have to enjoy it. The hike is very easy and so you can enjoy the lakes, the landscapes, and everything. I really loved this day.
Step 6: Morelia
Morelia is a city with a historical city center full of ancient and beautiful buildings. The city center is also classified as World Heritage. You can spend a day to visit it or just to rest.
Morelia is a good place if you want to visit the villages and the lake around. My favorite village is Patzcuaro. This village has a unique library. It is a former church transformed into a library. There are not many books, but you can work or read a book there and admire the religious painting on the walls.
Step 7: Guanajuato
Guanajuato is elected the most beautiful village in Mexico and it’s also one of the villages who inspired the movie “Coco”. The narrow and steep streets, the colorful houses, everything is there to be amazed. I especially liked to get lost (it’s pretty easy) to discover the city and see something else that the must-seen buildings like the cathedral or the university.
Step 8: Queretaro
Around Queretaro, there are two villages you have to see. The first one, between Guanajuato and Queretaro, is called San Miguel de Allende. This village is one of the most beautiful villages in Latina America. It is located in the mountains, has many colorful houses and even churches. Nowadays, it is also one of the favorite places for retired Americans. Thus, the prices may be high if you decide to stay there for a few days.
The other village to visit is Peña de Bernal. Its particularity comes from its enormous rock (340m high) behind the village. You can hike to the top or climb it if you want to have a view on the hills. However, there is a local belief that if you can find the 7 animals naturally carved in the rock, you can make a wish and it will be answered. So, do you see them?
Step 9: Ciudad Valles
The city itself doesn’t worth to be visited. There is no historical city center or colorful houses like in other colonial cities. However, it is a good spot to visit what’s around and close like the waterfalls and Xilitla.
Tamul waterfall and Mikos Waterfall are the most famous and the most visited. You can go there by yourself, but it’s very complicated. Moreover, to see Tamul Waterfall, you need a boat (kayak, canoe or paddle). Even if I don’t like this, I took a tour to be sure to see those two waterfalls.
The second place you have to go to is the Jardin surealista (the surrealistic garden, or Las Pozas in Spanish) in Xilitla. To go there, it’s very easy. You just have to take a bus from the bus terminal and 2h later, you’re in Xilitla. Then you can walk until the garden.
This place is difficult for me to describe. It is a kind of harmony between the jungle and some concrete constructions.
In Mexico, we could say that there are two types of budgets: one for Yucatan and one for the rest of the country. The budget I will show is the one for both areas, an average of my trip. So according to the area you want to visit, the budget may be lower or higher.
- Aim budget: 875$Mx/day/pers. (~42€/day/pers in October 2019)
- Real budget: 425$Mx/day/pers (~20€/day/pers in October 2019)
You may have noticed that I didn’t tell anything about Mexico City in this article, and this for two reasons:
- This article is already long enough (and thank you if you read everything!)
- There is so much to say about this Mexican capital!
So, there will be a third article about Mexico City and what’s around (I mean what you can visit in a one-day trip).
About this article, I hope you want to visit this area of Mexico now which is most of the time not visited and less know as Yucatan!