Mexico has been in the news a lot lately. Unfortunately, it’s for all the wrong reasons. While it is true that Mexico’s war on drugs has been violent, it is also true that the majority of the crime you hear about is taking place in a just a few cities located along the US/Mexico border – hundreds of miles from the many cities and regions that continue to draw millions of visitors each year. True international travelers know that the culture, the cuisine, the nature and adventure experiences, and the value of Mexico are what reporters should really be talking about.
Did you know that Mexico has more UNESCO World Heritage sites than any other country in the Americas, including the US? UNESCO awards world heritage status to select sites around the world considered as having outstanding universal value. Mexico is home to 31 of the world’s 911 sites, where as the US currently has 21 sites.
Archeological sites of the ancient Maya like Chichen Itza, Calakmul, Uxmal, and others offer travelers a glimpse back in time to the pre-hispanic cultures of Mexico. New findings are being made at these sites daily, making them ideal destinations for world history enthusiasts. Each finding also offers clues as to the cause of the mysterious decline of the Maya. Visitors to these sites are literally witnessing history in the making.
In addition to its 31 physical heritage sites, the cuisine of Mexico was awarded heritage status by UNESCO in 2010, which was the first time the food of a nation had ever received the honor. From the fresh seafoods of the coasts to the rich and complex moles of Oaxaca, the fiery flavors of Mexico are unforgettable. In many regions of the country, travelers can participate in cooking classes with expert local chefs and bring some traditional recipes of the cocinas in Mexico home with them.
The wines and spirits of Mexico have also been earning recent acclaim as the Gaudalupe Valley in Baja California has been producing some of the most trending and talked about varietals in the world. Tequila lovers flock to the costal city of Puerto Vallarta in the state of Jalisco, home of the blue agave plants from which the infamous spirit is made. Day trips to local distilleries provide insight into the complexities of the many varieties of tequila and often dispel common, “wormy” rumors. Other regions like the highlands of Oaxaca where they make Mezcal, the smokey sister of Tequila, have been attracting more and more connoisseurs of fine spirits as well.
Nature lovers will tell you that Mexico is extremely fortunate to witness three of the most impressive annual migrations in the world. In the winter, the giant Gray Whales of the Pacific make a long and strenous journey from Alaska to the warm waters of Mexico to breed, often offering up close and personal encounters with these massive mammals. Winter also attracts millions of Monarch Butterflies from as far away as Canada each year. A visit to Michoacan in February will have you surrounded in a blizzard of bright oranges and reds as the gorgeous Monarchs flutter around you. In Summer, a different type of whale (that’s not actually a whale at all), the whale shark, migrates to the Caribbean coast of Mexico. These enormous sharks can grow over 40 feet in length, yet they remain perfectly harmless to humans as they feed on plankton and are docile in temperament. Snorkeling with these spotted giants is both thrilling and unforgettable.
Speaking of thrills, Mexico is recognized as one of the top adventure-travel destinations in the world offering activities of all age and experience levels. Families and couples can enjoy things like kayaking the lagoons of Baja, biking the mountains of Oaxaca, and hiking the Copper Canyon while more adventurous travelers can get extreme by climbing the infamous trio of Popocatepetl or surfing the barreling waves of Mexico’s Pacific coast. Need more? Try ziplining through tropical jungles, SCUBA diving or snorkeling in crystal clear waters, base-jumping the largest cave in the world, exploring underwater cenotes and rivers, or rally racing over the empty sand dunes of the desert. The thrill list goes on!
There’s never been a better time to visit Mexico to see its incredible sites, enjoy its savory cuisine, and get to know its warm, friendly people. As major economies of the world continue to slump, the hotels, resorts, and private villas of Mexico have been expanding their already fabulous packages to include perks like free night stays, complimentary spa treatments, and private airport transfers. With more five diamond resorts than the Caribbean, Hawaii, and Canada combined, there is no doubt that Mexico is delivering on value and luxury.
Mexico’s proximity to the US makes it an ideal destination for both those looking to get away for the weekend and those looking to take a longer, more adventurous holiday. From white sand beaches with crystalline waters to the cobblestone streets of charming colonial cities, Mexico’s got something to offer to all types of travelers. No matter what your TV says.
Chase Buckner is the webmaster at Journey Mexico
Bottom photo by racoles