Mexico Vacations: 10 Things to Know Before You Take Off

More Americans visit Mexico more than any other international destination, and Canadians are not far behind. It’s no surprise seeing as this country boasts sunny skies, clear warm waters, beautiful weather and a slew of resorts and activities to choose from. In order to make your trip to Mexico a little more enjoyable, there are a few things you should know before taking off. Here are 10 of our best suggestions on how to make the most out of your vacation to the beautiful country of Mexico.

10. Tequila is NOT the only Drink of Choice

We get it, when you travel to Mexico you are going to drink Tequila, and probably a lot of it. But that is not the only choice in this awesome country. Before the fire of tequila there was another beverage fermented from agave nectar: pulque. This ancient liquor has been making a comeback in recent years and those familiar with the drink tell you that it won’t get you intoxicated, well not exactly. While you can sit there and drink pulque for hours, chances are your legs won’t want to work when you get up, but your mind will be clear. Mezcal is another alternative to tequila, a cousin to the popular drink and is meant to be sipped, straight up. Acolytes claim that is a much purer tipple than tequila and that it never betrays you with a hangover, however its up to you to test that theory.

Tequila

9. You Have to Pay to Leave

The Mexico departure tax is overwhelmingly complicated, thanks to a lack of information available regarding it. Our best advice, make sure you keep at least 900 Mexican Pesos on hand when you arrive at the airport. Depending on whether you drive or fly in, depends on who asks for your money. Some airlines include the departure tax in their ticket price, some don’t. It is possible to go to any bank before you depart and pay the tax, just show them your tourist card, essentially a visa that allowed you into the country and they will give you a receipt to show the border officials when you leave. Yes, you have to pay to leave, or as others would say, you have to pay to get in. Either way, keep 900 Pesos handy and you’ll be just fine.

Pesos

8. Don’t Drink the Water

As a general rule, stay away from all tap water in Mexico. It’s pretty simple actually considering locals themselves find the idea of drinking the tap water repulsive. The water is indeed purified at the source but it’s the distribution system that allows the water to be contaminated en route to the tap. Most Mexicans buy water in five gallon jugs called garrafones which are delivered to their homes and recycled. If you are staying at a hotel they should be providing bottled water or large jugs of purified water for you to refill your bottle. This goes for brushing your teeth as well, make sure you are using the purified water. And don’t forget about the ice cubes that are put into your drink at the restaurants, we suggest asking for any drink “without ice” or inquiring if the cubes are made from tap water or purified water.

bottled water

7. Learn some Española

It is always a good idea to learn the local language when you travel, always. It is no different when you are traveling to Mexico, especially if you are planning on traveling around the country. With the availability of free language programs available, there is no real excuse for not knowing simple phrases. A couple key phrases include dónde está el baño (where is the bathroom), una cerveza porfavor (one beer please), and gracias (thank you). Make sure you have google translate enabled on your phone or have a phrase book handy in order to connect with the locals. Before you know it you will be speaking Spanish to everyone you come across.  
habla espanol

6. There is More to Mexico Than the Drug Cartel, But it is Still Dangerous

Like the title suggests, this country is not all drug cartels and smuggling operations. But there are drug groups openly battling law enforcements as well as each other in certain parts of Mexico. And the number of tourists murdered here has risen in the past few years. But that doesn’t mean you have to stay away from this country all together, traveling here can be safe. It is recommended to read travel advisories before booking a trip here, as there are some undesirable states, especially near the U.S border. The good news is that the most popular tourist spots are deemed safe to visit. If there is one piece of advice to take with you when you travel to this country, it is to know what car you are getting into, and only get into registered taxis. Use common sense and stay in the safe tourist areas, don’t withdraw large amounts of money from the ATM and don’t wear a ton of jewelry if you are off of a resort.

ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock.com
ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock.com

5. Mexico is a Nature Lover’s Paradise

From the deserts of the north to the tropical forests of the Pacific to the feeding ground of the Sea or Cortez to the pine forests in the Mexican Central Plateau, this is one of the most biologically diverse countries in the world. Mexico is home to the second highest number of mammal species, more than a thousand species of birds and more reptile species than any other country. You know what this means? Visitors should expect to be blown away by nature here. The eastern perimeter of Michoacán state is home to 30 billion butterflies, the winter home of the Monarch butterflies. The mystical state of Chiapas is overflowing with brilliant shades of green and vertical jaw-dropping cliffs. The Caribbean coastline of the Yucatan is home to the 2nd largest barrier reef, littered with manatees, whale sharks and turtles. Copper Canyon, four times the size of the Grand Canyon stands in the heart of the Sierra Madre and offers breathtaking views and incredible adventure opportunities.

Butterflies

4. Buses are Safe…and Cheap

If you are planning on making your way around different parts of the country, we suggest hoping on a bus. Not only are they safe and cheap but they generally run on time. Hop on one of the executive or first class busses for a great experience that includes air condition, reclining seats and movies. These generally run on express routes and can take you from Cancun to Chichen Itza for under $20. Second class buses normally make more stops, perfect for those who are looking to make local stops. Buses here are a great way to avoid the touristy tours and sightsee independently.

bus in mexico

3. Mexico is Loaded with UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Mexico has 28 cultural sites, 5 natural sites and one mixed site of UNESCO’s list of world heritage sites, more than any other country in the America’s. Chichen Itza is perhaps the most well-known of these sites and no one will argue that these ancient ruins are awe-inspiring, but there are so many more sites to discover in this country. The historic centre of Mexico City and Xochimilco is home to five Aztec temples, the largest cathedral on the continent and floating gardens. The islands in the Gulf of California are loaded with high cliffs, sandy beaches and brilliant turquoise waters. The Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve is located on the east coast of the Yucatan Peninsula and is home to tropical forests, mangroves and marshes, along with a large marine section, and is home to over 300 species of birds. The Monarch Butterfly Reserve is where the billions of butterflies call home in the wintertime and is located 100km northwest of Mexico City. There is so many natural wonders, ancient ruins and historic cities that deserve a visit when you are here.

Mayan Ruins

2. Two Words: Linen and Cotton

It is HOT here. All the time. No matter when you come. Remember this. The humid climate and climbing temperatures are especially uncomfortable in the summer months. How you will stay cool in this country is by wearing natural fabrics such as linen and cotton, or your bathing suit- although we don’t suggest leaving the resort in just a swimsuit. Many locals will wear long pants made out of linen as it allows the body to breathe. Stay away from polyester. You can thank us later.

beach clothes

1. Mexico is a Foodie Lover’s Dream

We understand that everyone thinks Mexico and immediately thinks tacos, but come on people, that is clearly not the only food in this country! Mexican cuisine is indeed so good that UNESCO has put it on the cultural heritage list. Make sure to visit the stalls in the markets where you will find succulent dishes at ever turn, think meat with purple corn topped with avocado ice cream. It is a must to try mole when you visit Mexico and enjoy the rainbow sauce of bitter chocolate and spice that often accompanies it. Each region in this country is known for it’s own local specialties. In the Yucatan make sure you try the slow roasted pork with bitter orange marinade and lime soup, also called the cochinita pibil. And for dessert, one word- churro- a fried dough covered in sugar and cinnamon, found all over the country.

churros

 

10 Soccer Stadiums You Need to Visit

One of the best ways to experience a city as a local does is to attend its local sporting events. The crowds are often friendly (as long as no one makes the mistake of wearing the other team’s colors) and they’ll point out the best street food, the cheapest beer, and most likely, they’ll be using local slang to insult the opposition. But not all soccer teams are created equal, nor are their arenas. Read on to find the 10 sporting teams whose arenas should be on your bucket list.

10. Estádio Municipal de Braga – Braga, Portugal

The Estádio da Luz might be “the Cathedral” and Estádio José Alvalade is bright and beautiful, but it’s the Estádio Municipal that should be on soccer fans’ must-visit list. How many stadiums are carved out of a quarry? The Portuguese stadium might be unique in its setting, providing a beautiful place to watch a match. Only two sides of the field are flanked by stands, meaning the stadium is on the small side, holding just over 30,000. But a glance toward the hew rocks on one end, upon which the scoreboard stands, can fool visitors into believing they’re in the middle of nowhere. Look around to the other end, however, and the city of Braga sprawls below. The stadium sits just a 15 minute walk outside the city center, meaning there’s also plenty of opportunity to enjoy the delights of Portugal’s food and drink.

Photo by: Leon
Photo by: Leon

9. Anfield Stadium – Liverpool, England

For neutral fans wanting to catch a game in the country that gave birth to modern soccer, Anfield is by far the best choice. While Manchester United has a slick new complex and both Chelsea and Arsenal are located in London, all three are known for the rather tepid atmosphere pervading their stadiums. So for those seeking both a great stadium experience and a fun city to explore, the choice must be Anfield. Liverpool hasn’t won a major trophy in over a decade, but that doesn’t mean Reds fans are any less dedicated. The stadium is filled to capacity for nearly every league match, and the Kop – where the most vocal supporters sit – is guaranteed to be raucous. Be sure to learn the words to the club’s anthem, You’ll Never Walk Alone, before showing up at Anfield, as the entire stadium sings along just prior to kickoff.

nui7711 / Shutterstock.com
nui7711 / Shutterstock.com

8. Juventus Stadium – Turin, Italy

Serie A was once the top league in Europe, but Italian football is on the decline. That means less money, and less money means once-glorious stadiums like the San Siro in Milan are now crumbling. Juventus Stadium, however, provides not just a bright spot on the peninsula, but a prime model other clubs are in the process of emulating. Filled to almost its 40,000 capacity for every game, all that money goes to the team, a rarity in Italy. For Juventus, that means the ability to buy better players, which has lead to a run of league titles. For fans, it means getting to watch great soccer in the comfort of a modern stadium. For the visitor, it’s a wonderful atmosphere with seats almost right on top of the field. In short, it’s where to go to see the future of Italian soccer.

Pix4Pix / Shutterstock.com
Pix4Pix / Shutterstock.com

7. Maracanã Stadium – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Brazil’s Maracanã is one of the most famous stadiums in the world. Even those who have no idea of its history (the venue was built to wow visitors coming to Brazil for the 1950 World Cup) would likely recognize it as an icon. All those memorable shots of Rio’s Christ the Redeemer statue, broadcast to millions during the 2014 World Cup final, often showed the stadium in the background. Visitors might be disappointed to learn they can’t see the famous statue from inside any longer, however, as the roof has been extended to protect nearly every seat in the house. But the upgrades make this a great place to watch a game, from the open, single tier of yellow and blue seats to the airy roof above. And lovers of soccer history will be thrilled to know they’re sitting in the same stadium where the legendary striker Pelé scored his 1,000th goal.

T photography / Shutterstock.com
T photography / Shutterstock.com

6. Celtic Park – Glasgow, Scotland

Celtic played their first match at Parkhead, as fans refer to the stadium, way back in 1892. The park has come a long way since those days when just one wooden stand loomed over the field. Rebuilt in the 1990s, 60,000 seats now enclose the field, and the noise from the stands creates an intimidating atmosphere for visiting teams. Those wanting to catch a game at Celtic Park should try to get tickets to an Old Firm derby, when Celtic play their rivals Rangers. More difficult to find now that Rangers are in the second division, when a tournament draws these two together, these tickets are some of the hottest in Europe. Not only does the Old Firm pit the two most successful teams in Scottish history together, but it brings together passionate fans that absolutely despise the other side, making for a cracking atmosphere.

Cornfield / Shutterstock.com
Cornfield / Shutterstock.com

5. Estadio Azteca – Mexico City, Mexico

Club América is one of the most successful teams in Mexico, and it’s definitely worth a trip to watch them play Chivas Guadalajara, another of the country’s best and América’s most bitter rivals. But the real reason to come to this stadium is for international matches. The Mexico national soccer team, nicknamed El Tri, rarely ever loses a game at its home stadium, largely due to the intimidating atmosphere in the stands, which hold more than 95,000 spectators. Even when El Tri isn’t playing, history gets made. The Azteca, the first stadium to host two World Cup finals, has given the world some of the most famous moments in soccer. In 1970, Italy beat West Germany 4-3 in what’s known as the “Game of the Century,” while 1986 brought not only the “Goal of the Century” from Diego Maradona, but his infamous “Hand of God” incident against England.

Jess Kraft / Shutterstock.com
Jess Kraft / Shutterstock.com

4. Türk Telekom Arena – Istanbul, Turkey

Once the holders of the Guinness Book of World Records title for the loudest crowd noise at a sporting event, now Galatasaray fans behave as though they’re determined to take back their crown. The Türk Telekom Arena isn’t one of the biggest in the sport, holding just over 50,000, but the cim bom faithful know how to create a fantastic atmosphere. Galatasaray supporters are also partial to fire, so keep an eye out for flares and flames coming from the sections that house the hardcore fans. For those lucky enough to score a ticket to the Intercontinental Derby, when city rivals Fenerbahçe come to visit, huge displays of choreography and massive banners exalting Galatasaray are to be expected. Expect to be entertained by antics on the pitch as well, as tempers flare there’s usually at least one sending off.

Photo by: Omer via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by: Omer via Wikimedia Commons

3. La Bombonera – Buenos Aires, Argentina

Officially named the Estadio Alberto J. Armando, this stadium is called “La Bombonera” due to the fact that it resembles a chocolate box, having originally been built in a U-shape, although the fourth side is now filled with a low stand and VIP boxes. The addition of more space for spectators along that fourth side hasn’t diminished the stadium’s acoustics. The triple-tiered stands along three sides trap the noise, aiding the 49,000 supporters in creating an atmosphere hostile to visiting teams. The smallish capacity can make tickets hard to come by, especially if Boca Juniors are playing rivals River Plate, but the experience of being among such passionate fans is worth the effort. Take time before the game to walk around La Bombonera, admiring the murals depicting important moments in Boca Juniors’ history – particularly the choosing of the club’s famed blue and yellow colors.

Jess Kraft / Shutterstock.com
Jess Kraft / Shutterstock.com

2. Camp Nou – Barcelona, Spain

The biggest soccer stadium that can be found outside North Korea, the Camp Nou is on nearly every serious soccer fan’s bucket list. And no wonder: the stadium plays host to one of the most successful teams in Europe and offers a stage to many of the best players on earth.The fans also demonstrate a fierce pride in Catalonia, the autonomous region in which Barcelona is located. The club’s Catalan motto, “Mes que un club”, is spelled out in the seats, the supporters sing in Catalan, and the region’s flag waves throughout the stands. If going to El Clásico, the meeting between Barça and Real Madrid, read up on the political background for some fascinating insights into the rivalry. Even without a visit from the rivals, however, visitors are certain to see some wonderful soccer played out.

Natursports / Shutterstock.com
Natursports / Shutterstock.com

1. Westfalenstadion – Dortmund, Germany

The absolute best place to go for fans who want to experience both entertaining soccer and a fantastic atmosphere. Officially named Signal Iduna Park, the Westfalenstadion is the biggest in Germany and one of the largest in Europe, holding 81,359 when both seating and standing are included. While standing is not allowed when Borussia Dortmund are playing in European tournaments, it is their standing section that is perhaps the most attractive feature of a trip to the stadium. Die Gelbe Wand, or the Yellow Wall, comprises the Westfalenstadion southern terrace. It was named so because Dortmund’s primary color is bright yellow. The wall is an intimidating sight, featuring 25,000 supporters doing their best to strike fear in the heart of the opposition. Also watch for Dortmund’s tifo, or giant banners, unfurled in impressive displays of choreography as the match begins.

Photo by: lackystrike via Flickr
Photo by: lackystrike via Flickr

10 Places in North America to Escape the Heat

It’s been a long, hot summer – and it’s likely to just keep getting hotter. That jug of fresh iced tea isn’t meant to be sipped inside with the shades drawn and that blow-up kiddie pool you’ve outgrown doesn’t have to be your only means of summer heat relief. Because we have good news! There are quite a few places you can go to escape the heat – and none of them involve heading to the Southern Hemisphere. North America provides plenty of watery getaways, but you’ll also find a couple chill cities on this list. Here are the top 10 places to cool off in North America.

10. Vancouver, Canada

Vancouver does get a little warm at times, but for the most part, the cool breezes off the water that nearly surrounds the entire city are a constant relief. While the city’s public transportation is excellent, getting around on foot lets you see all its splendor. Try walking the Granville Bridge for the most perfect views of the city’s glass-fronted skyline, and then, after exploring the public market, take an Aquabus back across False Creek to downtown. If you’re looking for something a little more refreshing, visit one of the cities secluded swimming holes filled with glacier water. It doesn’t get much colder than that! Lynn Canyon is a great place for cliff diving, or to simply sit on a rock with your feet in the frigid water. There’s also Capilano Canyon located next to the Capilano Suspension Bridge where there are even more cliff diving spots, with some as high as 60 feet in the air!

Photo by: GoToVan via Flickr
Photo by: GoToVan via Flickr

9. Six Flags White Water -Atlanta, GA

There’s no denying Atlanta can be hot and sticky in the summer. But drive 30 minutes away to Marietta, and you’ll cool down in Six Flags’ stand-alone water park. Owned by the amusement park operators famous for their gravity-defying roller coasters, you’ll find more than lazy rivers and looping slides here (although they’ve got those as well). The Dive Bomber is White Water’s premier adrenaline rush, with their feet dangling freely in the air, riders are sent plummeting over a hundred feet, nearly straight down. Talk about a nice breeze! Calm your heart in the wave pool or get it racing again in the pitch-black darkness of Black River Falls.

Photo by: Six Flags White Water
Photo by: Six Flags White Water

8. Nova Scotia, Canada

Halifax, the capital of Nova Scotia, barely breaks a sweat in the summer because of its fresh salty ocean air. Take your camera to Lunenburg, a UNESCO World Heritage Site just a little over an hour away. The town looks remarkably similar to the way it did when it was founded in 1753, and its wooden architecture is perfectly picturesque. From Lunenburg, circle the island, photographing the iconic lighthouses along the coast. Then make for Brier Island, an out-of-the-way gem that features some of the best whale-watching in North America. Marine life is guaranteed (so always keep that camera ready!), but the refreshing breezes might be all you need.

Lunenburg, Nova Scotia

7. Upper Peninsula, Michigan

Remember those lazy summer days you spent as a child, barely leaving the water? You can revisit them at Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where your biggest problem will be choosing which Great Lake to set your towel alongside – Superior? Huron? Michigan? Travel inland where you can cool off in one of the many glacier lakes, or hike to Tahquamenon Falls, the region’s largest waterfall. Explore the cliffs and beaches of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, here you can take a glass bottom boat tour of Munising Bay to view some of the area’s shipwreck sites, or paddle on your own through sea caves and around the coves of lighthouses.

Tahquamenon Falls, Michigan

6. Rangeley, Maine

Maine’s coastline gets rather crowded in the summer, so head inland to this charming town, located on the edge of Rangeley Lake. Relax in town while wandering through the historic streets, or use it as a jumping-off point to the Rangeley Lakes Region, which consists of six large lakes and hundreds of smaller lakes and ponds, rivers, streams and waterfalls. It’s known as a fisherman’s paradise, but the area also offers up almost every water sport imaginable, as well as hiking trails, lake cruises and beautiful overlooks along the Rangeley Lakes National Scenic Byway.

Rangeley Maine

5. Mexico City, Mexico

Escape the heat in Mexico? Yes, thanks to its mile-high altitude, the country’s capital rarely gets unpleasantly hot. Put aside any misconceptions of Mexico City, as it’s both beautiful and endlessly intriguing. Visitors can poke around the many markets, seek out public spaces displaying the works of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, take in exhibitions featuring Aztec artifacts, or simply sit and sip the lightly-alcoholic beverage known as pulque. Those wanting a bit of exercise can hike Chapultepec Hill, which offers incredible views from its summit, then immerse themselves in a history lesson at its castle, now the National History Museum.

mexico city

4. Schlitterbahn Waterpark -Kansas City, Kansas

Amusement Today named the Verrückt the “World’s Best New Waterpark Ride,” which alone is a reason to visit. It’s the world’s tallest waterslide, and riders are strapped into a raft before being sent flying down a 168-foot drop, then whooshed up a second hill and down another 50 feet. This ride’s so popular that you need to make a reservation when the park opens, but once your group is assigned a ride time, there’s no need to waste time in line. That leaves you free to cool off in one of the many slides and chutes that transport visitors across the park, making it unnecessary to ever leave the water.

Photo by: Schlitterbahn New Braunfels
Photo by: Schlitterbahn New Braunfels

3. Cannon Beach, Oregon

Babies of the ‘80s will quickly recognize Cannon Beach’s most prominent feature, Haystack Rock, from when the Goonies are checking their map for buried treasure. Ecola State Park might also be familiar to fans of the Twilight movies. But for Oregonians and visitors alike, Cannon Beach is simply a beautiful place to escape the summer’s heat. Even when temperatures push 100 inland, you might need a sweatshirt to walk the sand here. Oregon’s beaches aren’t meant for swimming – unless you’ve got a wet suit – but the dramatic, jagged coastline and the misty morning views will more than make up for it.

Cannon Beach, Oregon

2. Wrangell St. Elias National Park, Alaska

If seeing the continent’s tallest peak isn’t on your bucket list, then skip Denali National Park in favor of the second best with a truer wilderness experience at Wrangell St. Elias National Park. Mount St. Elias weighs in as the second-highest mountain, and along with two neighboring parks, the 24-million-acre wilderness park is the largest internationally protected area. Summer is short, the mountains retain their snowcap all year long, and you can kayak through Icy Bay. This area is also where you’ll find Bagley Ice Field, over 100 miles long, as well as the Malaspina glacier, which is bigger than Rhode Island.

Wrangell St. Elias National Park

1. CHILL Ice House -Toronto, Canada

It might seem strange to build an ice bar in Toronto, where temperatures are near freezing half the year. But wise men and women looking to escape the heat should not only come to this city, where temperatures are rarely stifling, but also get themselves to the CHILL Ice House. Upon entry, guests put on hats and gloves, plus a digital watch that tracks purchases, so no one needs to feel their fingers freeze when handing over cash. Kids are welcome to come and gawk at the frozen interior until 8 p.m., but after that adults remove their coats and head to the speakeasy to sip drinks from ice cold glasses.

Photo by: CHILL Ice House
Photo by: CHILL Ice House

Underrated Escapes: 8 Resort-Free Destinations in Mexico

Mexico has so much more to offer than just beautiful resorts.  Perhaps you have done the resort experience one too many times? Excited to step away from the convenience, sterility, and luxury of the big resort experience and step out into the great unknown?  Then pack your bags and get ready for the adventure of a lifetime to any one of these incredible resort free destinations.  Sure, you’ll have to put a little extra effort into mapping out your itinerary, meals, and accommodations, but at the end of the day, you’ll have created a unique trip that has been tailor made to your desires, specifications, dreams, and goals.  Whether you are fascinated by ancient ruins, find thrills surfing gigantic waves, or simply yearning to sprawl out with a good book in the sun on a pristine beach – these 8 beautiful underrated escapes have exactly what you need to fulfill your dreams.

1. Campeche, Campeche

Campeche is a gorgeous port city on the Gulf of Mexico.  At around 250 000 people, this fast growing small city showcases carefully preserved history and manages to maintain a laid back, easy to navigate kind of vibe that will keep you coming back for more.  For a mid-range option, consider Hotel Socaire, and for affordable options, consider staying at Viatger Inn or Hotel Castelmar. When you get into the city, walk along the Malecon – a 2 mile path along the sea wall to check out the big attractions – you will come across the cathedral, public square, museums, and lots of restaurants. Visit the nearby Ednza ruins (about 45 minutes away) and head to the close towns of Seybaplaya and Champoton for some beautiful beaches.  Take advantage of the coastal location and stock up on seafood at La Pigua, Faro Del Morro, or Los Delfines, and then grab some coffee and dessert at Cafeteria Luna Caramelo, Italian Coffee Company, or Chocolato Café.  For the ultimate dessert experience, stop by Chocol Ha – you can blame your chocolate consumption on ‘learning about Mexican history’.

Campeche Mexico

2. San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas

Visiting the beautiful city of San Cristobal de las Casas in the state of Chiapas is a one of a kind experience. Rich with Mayan culture, the city’s colonial architecture is in stark juxtaposition with the neighboring countryside and villages.  Flower lovers will adore the Orquideas Moxviquil where they will learn all about the natural flora of Chiapas.  Museum buffs will love this city – check out Na Bolom Cultural Centre, the Museo de Trajes Regionales, and the Museo del Ambar to name a few. Architect lovers will enjoy the Templo Del Carmen, the Guadalupe Church, Templo de Santo Domingo, and of course – the famous and iconic Catedral de San Cristobal de Las Casas. If you are after an adrenaline rush, check out the local tours for the opportunity to hike, bike, and zip line nearby.  After your busy days, grab a drink at El Cocodrilo and refuel at one of the many amazing restaurants – vegetarian at Te Quiero Verde, coffee and snacks at Frontera Artisan Food & Coffee, Mexican at Funky Burritos, or enjoy French at El Chalet Frances.

San Cristobal de las Casas Mexico

3. Tlaxcala, Tlaxcala

Just east of Mexico City, the laid back Tlaxcala is the capital of Mexico’s smallest state. There are no beaches, but with a striking colonial downtown filled with one of the country’s most impressive centers and a large student population creating a demand for a vibrant nightlife and delicious food, Tlaxcala is definitely worth a visit. Check out the beautiful murals of the Government Palace, take a hike to the Basilica de Ocotlan, and enjoy having some ruins to yourself for a change by visiting the nearby ancient Xochitecatl ruins. Spend an afternoon reading or sipping on some local coffee in the shady Plaza de la Constitucion, then stop by the Museo Vivo de Artes y Tradiciones Populares to learn about Tlaxcalan village life. Enjoy Mexican food at Fonda del Convento or Restaurante El Tirol, then grab a drink at Vinos y Piedra. If you are enjoying the food on your trip, consider taking a class at Estela Silva’s mexical Home Cooking School.

Noradoa / Shutterstock.com
Noradoa / Shutterstock.com

4. La Paz, Baja California Sur

La Paz, the capital city in Baja California Sur, is located on the coast of the Gulf of California.  Frequently passed over in favor of the larger Los Cabos nearby, La Paz has a jaw dropping waterfront and gorgeous beach without all the touristy flash. Carve out some major time in your holiday plans to visit the islands in the Sea of Cortez – get on a boat and head to Isla Espiritu Santo for the chance to see water teeming with dolphins, sea lions, and a myriad of fish. If you are after the ultimate beach experience, grab your swimsuit and visit Balandra Beach – an absolute paradise. If you’re exploring the city, consider renting a bike to cover more ground. In town for a while? Grab a Spanish class at El Nopal.  Interested in sport fishing?  Check out Tailhunter International Sportfishing or Baja Pirates Fishing Fleet for the ultimate experience.  After your long days in the sun, grab pizza and pasta at El Mural or capitalize on the seaside location and fill up on fresh seafood at McFishers.

La Paz Baja California Sur Mexico

5. Bacalar, Quintana Roo

The small city of Bacalar in Quintana Roo is worth a visit to see Lake Bacalar alone. This lake is called the Lake of the Seven Colors – this large crystal clear lake ranges from green to the palest of blues and is fed by underwater cenotes and completely surrounded by tropical rainforest -truly one of a kind. Get on a boat and head to the southern end of the lake, where natural rapids, beautiful fish, and stromatolite fossils will give you heaps of memories for years to come. Consider a trip with Active Nature Bacalar, a reputable company that can help you explore the lake by kayak and trek in the nearby jungle. Enjoy barbecue at Barril Grill, seafood and cocktails at La Playita, unbelievably cheap and tasty traditional local food at Cefe Orizaba, great pizza at Pizzeria Bertilla, and incredible tacos at Christian’s Tacos. Getting restless?  Head to the nearby Chacchoben or Kohunlich ruins to immerse yourself in history while sparing yourself the crowds.

Bacalar Mexico

6. Troncones, Guerrero

Troncones is an undeveloped coastal town in the state of Guerrero tucked between the Sierra Madre Mountains and the Mexican Riviera. Laid back and relaxed, this beach town of only about 500 permanent residents boasts incredible breaks, making it a prime surfing destination.  The best places to surf are Troncones Point and Manzanillo Bay. Beginners should consider visiting during spring and fall, when the breaks are typically gentler than the huge swells from June to October when the breaks can be around 25 feet. Stop by the one major surf shop or inquire at any hotel in town to get lessons or rentals. After hitting the waves refuel with delicious Mexican food at La Mexicana, La Costa Brava, or Chenchos, or switch it up and grab Mediterranean food at Jardin del Eden. If you need a change of pace from surfing, enjoy horseback riding, hiking in the nearby Sierra Madre Mountains, kayak, or walk the beach and keep your eyes peeled for sea turtles.

Surfing Troncones Mexico

7. Oaxaca, Oaxaca

Oaxaca, the capital city of the state of Oaxaca, is a perfect destination for those looking to explore the famous ruins nearby. No resort necessary, this city has plenty of do it yourself options that you can tailor to your sleeping, eating, and entertainment desires. Hit up the Instituto Amigos del Sol for some outstanding Spanish lessons; head nearby to the famous Monte Alban ruins or Hierve el Agua for some epic views of the region and the chance to see salt pools and falls. Learn about local culture at the Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca, then visit the Ethnobotanical Garden to see hundreds of local native plant species. Test out your haggling skills while grabbing breakfast at the lively and dynamic Benito Juarez Market – then bring the flavors of Mexico home by taking a class at the Alma de mi Tierra Cooking School. Check the schedule for the chance to wrap up your visit with a trip to the famous Teatro Macedonio de Alcala for a spectacular performance in the famous theater.

Ruins of Monte Alban Oaxaca Mexico

8. Copper Canyon, Chihuahua

Copper Canyon is a system of canyons in the Sierra Tarahumara encompassing a gulf that is four times larger than the Grand Canyon which offers incredible opportunities for exploration.  Try to visit in the shoulder seasons of early spring to early summer or late summer to late fall to avoid sweltering heat and stay comfortable. Highlights of the area include Cusarare Falls, Valley of the Monks, Batopilas Canyon, Frog Valley, Recohuata Hot Springs, and Arareco Lake. If you are interested in hiking, biking, or ATVing, consider checking out The 3 Amigos or Eco AlterNATIVE Tours to help you plan and execute the trip of your dreams and narrow down your options – the Canyon is gigantic!  If you can’t experience the Canyon on foot, consider taking a trip on the Chihuaha al Pacifico Railway, where you travel through 85 tunnels and over 37 bridges, guaranteeing you will have your nose pressed to the glass to watch the beautiful landscape go by. For easy access to the Canyon, consider staying in nearby Creel, where you can grab delicious food at Restaurant la Cabana, La Troje de Adobe, or Restaurante Veronica and find a handful of affordable hostels and hotels.

Copper Canyon Mexico

 

Top 10 Places to Ring in the New Year

Were you watching the ball drop in beautiful New York City when the clock struck midnight last New Year’s Eve? Or worse, were you already in a peaceful slumber?

It sounds like your New Year’s Eve plan requires a little adventure. Don’t let next year be the same let down as it’s always been. Here are our picks for the top 10 2010 New Year’s Eve destinations around the world…

1. Moscow, Russia

There are few celebratory backdrops that can even attempt to rival Russia’s Red Square. Here, New Year’s Eve fireworks are set off behind the gleaming domes of St. Basil’s Cathedral and the square is literally crowded with the tidings of revelers, street vendors, street performers, and snow sculptures of the Russian Federation.

moscow

2. Sydney, Australia

If you want to be among the first to ring in a New Year, Sydney throws a midnight fireworks display and “Harbor of Light” parade (at Sydney Harbor) that make the over one million participants wish they were nowhere else on earth. And since January is summer in Australia, you can drink in your itty-bitty bikini and still dance the night away.

Sydney Harbour Bridge

3. Las Vegas, Nevada, USA

If you’re in the mood for a little debauchery this December 31st, then look no further than Sin City. Here the strip is dubbed a “pedestrian zone” for the massive New Year’s Eve party, drinks, fireworks, light shows, music, clubs, and virtually hundreds of thousands of revelers—anyone of whom might kiss you at midnight!

Las Vegas, Nevada

4. Mexico City, Mexico

The End of the Year Fiesta in Mexico’s capital comes alive with street festivals, confetti, fireworks, dancing, traditional music, and parties. The celebrations are underway by 9 p.m. after a family meal. Revelers gather at the Zócalo (the city’s main square) with their empty eggshells filled with confetti to toss at other party-goers, and colorful cocktails to raise their festive spirits.

Mexico

5. Brandenburg Gate, Berlin, Germany

If beer tents, open air clubs with world-renowned DJs, lightshows, performers, and fireworks displays are your ideal way to ring in the new year—then say Guten Tag to Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate, where you can gather with over a million other party-goers for the 1.2 mile-long “Party Mile,” which begins at strasse des 17th Juni (17th June Street) and goes until the wee hours of dawn.

Berlin Germany

6. Copacabana Beach, Rio de Janeiro

Sun, sand, and people as stunning as the fireworks displays—this is what New Year’s Eve in Brazil is made of! You’ll be swept away by the carnival atmosphere on one of the earth’s most spectacular beaches.  It’s tradition in Brazil to dress completely in white for the festivities (or “Reveillon”) an all-day party with musical acts, dancing, and four kilometers of open-air club.

rio

7. Paris, France

The City of Love is an excellent place to ring in the New Year with that special someone in your life. And the stunning backdrop of a glittering Eiffel Tower, a massive pyrotechnic firework display, and the laid back bohemian hedonism of gay Paris make the ideal combination for a memorable New Year. Add some champagne, and pop—c’est magnifique!

Paris-France

8. Kitzbühel, Austria

For a traditional New Year’s Eve celebration among snowy, hills, horse drawn carriages, roaring fires, and brightly lit cobblestone walks,  Kitzbühel, a ninth-century town in Austria, serves up a satisfying serving of romance set against jingling bells, medieval inns, traditional folk singers, and impressive fireworks to choreographed to music over the pristine alps.

St. Anton, Austria

9. Frenchmen Street, New Orleans

Renowned for its bars, cafes, and lively entertainment all year long—it’s no wonder that the locals in New Orleans book it to Frenchmen Street to party the previous year away, along to the tunes of fantastic musicians, dancing in the street, parades, eccentric costumes, and, of course, lots of flowing booze.

new orleans

10. Times Square, New York City, USA

The most famous New Year’s Eve in the world takes place in the Big Apple and is capped off by the big ball descending in Times Square. If you want to be among the millions of people gathered in Times Square, you’ll witness the star-studded entertainment, world-class fireworks display, people streaming between lively clubs, and you’ll be the envy of everyone watching on television at home.

Times-Square1