Here it is ladies and gentlemen, we know you’ve all been waiting for it, it’s our top 10 for Mexico. We’ve come to this list based on our experience, will it stick with us, was it enlightening, did it exceed expectations? So some of this might surprise, some of it will be obvious if you’ve read some of the previous posts. And not surprisingly there’s a bit about food here.
10- Tlayudas in Oaxaca: The food here is amazing, no doubt about it. We found overall that restaurants are very over-rated, street food is where it’s at. There’s plenty of great street food gems but Tlayudas scrapes it into the top 10. Yes Tlayudas are great but they were completely unknown to us, quite a regional treat being only really in Oaxaca and the street stall we found them at epitomised the bustling humming vibe of street food.
9- Sierra Norte: Sierra Norte is probably a little hard done by here, a place of this grandeur would usually be further up the list than number nine. Although the weather made the trip a lot harder with rain and cloud smothering us, it’s undeniable that the landscape was amazing, even if we could only sense the drama in patches rather than taking in all its glory.
8- Oaxaca City: Yes, shock horror, a city is making it into our top 10, but Oaxaca doesn’t feel like a city as we know it. We heard and read multiple times that Oaxaca is a sort of unofficial heartbeat of Mexican culture. This is reflected in our experience with strong Spanish colonial influence (architecture), ancient history (Monte Alban), Outdoors (Sierra Norte is part of Oaxaca state), great food and it’s beautiful to boot. Not surprisingly we stayed longer than planned and chose here to start studying Spanish.
7- Museo de Antropologia: Another surprise one for us, a museum. The first thing to note here, like many great museums or galleries, the building is great. it boasts a huge central courtyard with a truly immense floating ceiling supported only by a central column, spectacular! Secondly, if you wanted a good dose of what this part of the world is about historically, this is the place. Not displaying the occasional piece of genuine antiquity, this place has room upon room upon room of huge and interesting pieces with thousands of years of history.
6- Tacos el pastor in Mexico City: What an introduction! Yes it’s just a taco but this was our first piece of food in Mexico. Straight off the plane we were desperate for something, anything just to see us off to bed. What we got was the aforementioned street food experience and a ‘welcome to Mexico’ slap in the face in the best possible way. Will possibly never forget this meal.
5- Palenque ruins: Hard to put into words, you really have to visit these ruins to get the gist. Some of the other ruins we visited were nice but Palenque was the only one that really hit the nail on the head and filled us with appreciation for what they really were. The area was vast and sprawling, it had exposed areas and jungle, restored and dilapidated, natural grace and man made awe, a genuinely complete package.
4- Carne Asada in Oaxaca: Another food one, Carne Asada in Oaxaca was the food we went back for the most throughout the whole time in Mexico. The process of ordering was enticing, the presentation was authentic, the atmosphere was buzzing and the food itself was moorish. Carne Asada became more of an event than a meal.
3- Frida Kahlo Museum: To start this trip and tell me that Frida Kahlo’s house would be in the top three I’d say you’re joking. We have some appreciation for Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera before visiting so that helps but this small place tells a story all of it’s own. We left really appreciating that in many ways Kahlo and Rivera were at the forefront of shaping so much about Mexican culture of the period, food, fashion, appreciation of indigenous origins, revolutionary leanings, links with the Soviets, take a breath, and so much more.
2- Chamula community: Quite a bolt from the blue this one and a really unexpected gem. We were afforded a look into an indigenous community that’s about as authentic as we’re going to get along with an eloquent parallel to much of a national dialogue, melding indigenous and colonial cultures. Truly fascinating, genuinely enlightening and shamelessly to-the-point. A deserved number one place is sadly sitting in second.
1- Cenotes in Tulum: For anyone reading the blog this will not come as a massive surprise. In making this list there was little/ no discussion, cenote diving in Tulum was the winner. Diving in itself is a sort of escape into another world, an environment unlike our own, like skydiving or canyoning, a place where it feel like a different planet. If diving is a different world, cenotes are a veritable planetary journey through the cosmos. We dived four cenotes and all were different ‘planets’ to put it that way. some have caves, some have caverns that are spacially disorienting, some have a cloudy sulphuric layer like an 80’s film clip smoke machine. They even change throughout the day and even the year as the light enters them from different angles, some are green, some are blue, the list goes on. This is a genuine ‘best in the world’ feature and a deserved number one. There’s really too much about cenotes to summarise, have a bo-peep here.