MEXICO (Estados Unidos Mexicanos)
(Officially; United Mexico States)
PART 1. GENERAL INFORMATION
Capital city: Mexico City
Population: 130 million
Km travelled: TBA
Days in: TBA
Many think Mexico is part of Central America. (like us) but it is country of southern North of America and the third largest country in Latin America after Argentina and Brazil. Mexican society is divided by wealth and poverty, with little middle class wedged between the rich and poor. (minimum wages have just been raised to 6USD per 9-hour day) Mexico has 32 states and the 10th most populous country in the world. Since 2007 over 130000 people have died due to drug related conflicts. However, this has not stopped tourism with over 39 million visitors every year. Mexico despite the challenges it faces as a developing country, Mexico is one of the chief economic and political forces in Latin America. It has a dynamic industrial base, vast mineral resources, a wide-ranging service sector, and the world’s largest population of Spanish speakers. Mexico City the capital, is one of the most populous cities and metropolitan areas in the world. More than half of the Mexican people live in the centre of the country, whereas vast areas of the arid north and the tropical south are sparsely settled.
Mexico has a fascinating history going back thousands of years through the Mayan, Aztec and Olmec cultures that have left Mexico with a rich heritage of stunning archaeological sites. And some of the most famous beach resort cities in the world, Cancun, Acapulco, Puerto Vallarta, Playa Del Carmen, and Cozumel.
Mexico’s most populated city with a staggering 24 million residents! Mexico City is a dizzying blend of culture and tradition. Near Mexico City where we view the huge Sun and Moon pyramids at Teotihuacan. Must do visits Coyoacan, Xochimilco, Historic centre and many museums
OAXACA & SAN CRISTOBAL Discover the cultural ancestry of the Zapotec people and spend time in the rarefied climes of San Cristobal de la Casas and the magnificent Sumidoro Canyon. San Cristobal de las Casas and explore this lovely city in a guided tour. With winding cobblestone streets and colonial Spanish architecture, San Cristobal maintains a lovely old-world feel mixed with strong indigenous roots.
the stunning jungle ruins of, with its dramatic Mayan step pyramid architecture and Chichen Itza, recently declared one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
The world-famous beach resort of Cancun located in Quintana Roo. located at the azure blue Caribbean, soft white sandy beaches (coral sand) and crystal-clear waters. Must do visits, Temple of the scorpion, Xel – Ha aquarium and Secret river.
Merida, “The White City”,
Visit Uxmal (meaning “built three times”), listed as World Heritage, is considered one of the Maya cities that is most representative of the Puuc style,
one of the largest and most prominent Maya cities. Nowadays, Chichen Itza is undoubtedly the best-preserved Maya site on the Yucatan peninsula. Recently declared one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Close by is the sinkhole of Ik-Kil which is arguably one of the most beautiful cenotes in Mexico.
The most northern and western states in Mexico. It is the world’s second-longest peninsula, just over 1200km long, highlights include Espiritu Santo, Cabo Pulmo, San Ignacio, Todos Santos, Loreto, Tijuana, Lands end and Bahia Conception
A perfect culture and Caribbean combo, Tulum has a sleepy, bohemian feel, Mayan people still live here and fishermen still fish. But the word is that developers are moving in. Lest hope Akumal and Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, get spared?
Palm-lined Pacific shores, dolphins playing, fiesta of food stalls, superb seafood, beach massages. Amazing place according to others
Worldwide a well know city, unfortunately it has been announced it also is the second most dangerous city in the Americana’s. But it has natural beauty environment, golden sand, tropical weather, warm sea water and a huge nightlife. Most famous are the cliff divers jumping of the 35-meter rock.
Because of its vast size and topographic diversity, Mexico has a wide array of climatic conditions. More than half of the country lies south of the Tropic of Cancer. In this area ocean air are the main sources of precipitation, which is heaviest from May through August. Tropical hurricanes, spawned in oceans on both sides of the country, are common in the coastal lowland areas from August through October. Northern Mexico is dominated by the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts, and arid and semiarid conditions predominate over much of the Mexican Plateau.
Winter; 8 degrees at night to 25 degrees during the day
Summer; 15 degrees at night to 30 degrees during the day
Rainfall; June to October
Winter; 20 degrees at night to 26 degrees during the day
Summer 25 degrees at night to 35 degrees during the day
Rainfall; June to October
Winter 20 degrees at night to 28 degrees during the day.
Summer 25 degrees at night to 35 degrees during the day
Rainfall; June & Sept till Oct
Rainfall; June to October
Winter 15 degrees at night to 25 degrees during the day
Summer 20 degrees at night to 35 degrees during the day
Rainfall; June to September
Cabo San Lucas
Winter; 15 degrees at night to 25 degrees during the day
Summer; 20 degrees at night to 34 degrees during the day
Rainfall; Aug to October
Winter; 2 degrees at night to 20 degrees during the day
Summer; 20 degrees at night to 35 degrees during the day
Rainfall; June to September
Winter; 22 degrees at night to 30 degrees during the day
Summer; 25 degrees at night to 35 degrees during the day
Rainfall; June and Aug to October
PART 2, BLOGS, PICTURES & GALLERY
Part 1, Mexico City to Cancun
Feb 12, 2012, we said goodbye to South America, after 3 amazing years with lots of scenery and culture.
Central America is our next destination to explore but due to our truck being Right Hand Drive we had to give Panama and Costa Rica a miss hence we shipped to Vera Cruz in Mexico. Despite the many negative reports regarding break inns we were lucky and the motorhome arrived undamaged. Inefficiency in Vera cruz was the major issue but after 8 days we collected our truck.
Our first stop was Mexico City (officially known as Ciudad de México) the most populous city in North America. (I always thought Mexico was part of Central America) What a difference a day makes, no more beeping horns and well-organized traffic. Mexico City lies in a large valley in the high plateaus in the centre of Mexico and is surrounded by mountains and volcanoes that reach elevations of over 5,000 meters. Mexico City is located at an altitude of 2,240 meters.
Its location in the valley, which has no natural drainage outlet for the waters that flow from the mountainsides, makes the city vulnerable to flooding. Drainage was engineered using canals and tunnels starting in the 17th century. Mexico City primarily rests on what was Lake Texcoco.
Seismic activity is frequent there. Lake Texcoco was drained starting from the 17th century. Although none of the lake waters remain, the city rests on the lake bed’s heavily saturated clay. This soft base is collapsing due to the over-extraction of groundwater. Since the beginning of the 20th century the city has sunk as much as nine meters in some areas.
22 million people call Mexico City home, and this makes it the second largest metropolitan area in the Western Hemisphere and the largest Spanish speaking city in the world. We were surprised to hear that over 700000 US citizens live in Mexico City and a large population of Canadians.
Mexico was a surprise city for us and we loved the atmosphere and the sights such as the Historic centre, floating gardens of Xochimilco, Plaza de la Constitution, Templo Mayor, The Markets; Central de Abasto, Tepito (sells everything and occupies over 20 city blocks) just to name a few.
Just north of town are the famous Teotihuacán Pyramids. Teotihuacan means, the place where gods were created. It is a mysterious area, dominated by the Pyramids of the Sun and the Moon and the central Avenue of the Dead.
The city (settled as early as 400BC) had been abandoned for centuries. Teotihuacan’s origins, history, and culture largely remain a mystery. Our 4 days in Mexico City were not enough hence a second visit will happen once we explore the Southern and Northern Part of Mexico in 2021. We were expected in Veracruz where our ship with truck arrived. Veracruz also known as Heroica Veracruz is a major port city located on the Gulf of Mexico (and one of the most inefficient ones we have been dealing with in 16 years of overlanding and 8 RoRo shipments to date).
All up it took 8 days to clear the vehicle. Only once did we meet customs who inspected the truck for narcotics, the rest was all about paperwork. AMAZING. But we did enjoy the carnival in Veracruz and the food.
Veracruz has a blend of cultures, mostly indigenous, ethnic Spanish, and Afro-Cuban. The influence of these three is best seen in the food and music of the area, which has strong Hispanic, Caribbean, and African influences.
Veracruz mainly caters for locals and is not a popular tourist destination as many other resort areas in Mexico. The cultural centre of the city is its main plaza, officially named Plaza de las Armas but commonly called the Zocalo.
And it was here we spent most nights. It is occupied from morning to night with people playing dominos, selling food, cigars, etc. playing music, dancing, and other activities. It is more crowded in the evening, when roving musicians play music and people dance. After 2 days south of Veracruz getting our truck sorted, we left for the Yucatan area. Our first stop was Villahermosa which means beautiful village and is the capital city of the Mexican state Tabasco.
Our overnight stop was at the large swimming pool just before the town centre. Obviously, we had heard of snowbirds and US travellers in huge motorhomes. But after 16 years of travel I would never expect to drive into a parking lot of a swimming pool and meet 21 huge motorhomes with half of them towing small cars behind them! Not sure if we scared them but it took till around 5.30PM before they came out of their airconditioned motorhomes, they told us it was so hot?!?!? I thought this is why you come to Mexico? Anyway, a great night and we listened to all the dangers Mexico had and that we should not travel alone or camp in the bush. Next morning, we were charged 35USD for one night!!!!! The snowbirds told me this was cheap and most important safe?!?!? We started to wonder if you are that scared why would visit Mexico?
Our next destination was Calakmul ruins recognized by UNESCO as cultural Heritage. However, after the news we received from Australia plus the fact we were told the border with Belize could close we decided to bush camp near Calakmul and continue to Chetumal. We set up camp a few days later in Chetumal and by this time it became clear that the news we were following from the USA was not what the rest of the world was reporting and when the Australian Government urged everyone to come home while it was still possible we started to realize that the news given to the US people was not necessary correct.
Our first priority was to get the TIP for the scooter cancelled (Quintana Roo is a TIP free state). We made this a day out not just to cancel the TIP but also to explore Chetumal on the scooter. Chetumal means place of red wood and it has around 170000 inhabitants. The city is situated on the western side of Chetumal Bay and is the main trading gateway between Mexico and Belize just 15km south of the city. Because of its location on the Caribbean coastline, it is vulnerable to cyclones and cyclone Dean and Janet both Category 5 cyclones made landfall in Chetumal in 1955 and 2007. (Cyclones are called Hurricanes in the Northern Hemisphere).
We loved our campsite in Chetumal and love this city far away from the Cancun tourist trap. Our few days in Chetumal became 8 days and lots of exploring on the scooter. During our stay we did not visit the lake of the seven colours and Bacalar, but we will visit this amazing part during our next visit. Internet became now important as we were looking for an earlier flight back home. By now it became clear airlines were reducing flights but both Mexico and the USA were still in a very relaxed mood advising citizens, they had it all under control!!! As we were waiting to get an earlier flight home, we enjoyed our journey north, beach hopping towards Cancun.
On the way we passed by Tulum the site of a pre-Colombian Mayan walled city. The city was crowded with tourists and it made us wonder if we also should stay in Mexico? Next, we met up with Martin and Paula Ex overlanders who now call Mexico home. Martin helped us with some issues we had (melted fuses) after plugging into the power supply while on a powered campsite. We could park in their garden in Playa Del Carmen. At the time in Australia all bars, restaurants and coffee shops had to close, playgrounds, sporting events etc. were called off, foreign tourists where no longer allowed into Australia and cruise ships were no longer allowed to dock.
However, in both Tulum & Playa del Carmen life went on as normal with thousands of tourists and parties every night. Like Tulum it was 20 years since we had visited this area and Playa del Carmen has recently undergone extremely rapid development with new luxury residential condominium buildings, restaurants, boutiques, and entertainment venues. Tourist activity in Playa del Carmen centres on Quinta Avenida, or Fifth Avenue, which stretches from Calle 1 Norte to Calle 40. A pedestrian walkway located just one or two blocks inland from the beach, Fifth Avenue is lined with hundreds of shops, bars, and restaurants. There are many small boutique hotels on and just off Fifth Avenue and on the beach.
Nothing reminded me of the originally small fishing town. Our next stop was Cancun, a tourist mecca for Americans and largely overpriced. Cancun consist of 2 areas: the downtown area and the Hotel zone. In 2004 we spent a week in Cancun but during this recent visit we did not recognize the city, lots of development, overpriced cafes and bars, the undeveloped lagoon areas now all under development. In short is has nothing to do with the Mexico we experienced while driving from Veracruz to Chetumal. Another area of concern are the violent acts related to drug trafficking between 2013 and 2018. Peaking in 2018 with in the month of January (Height of the tourist season) 33 murders in just one month and a continuing wave of violence and murders the following months. Most have occurred in the urban nucleus, and there have been various violent episodes with firearms in the so-called “Zona Hotelera” Maybe the above and incredible cost for food, accommodation and beverages and not being the Mexico people look for while travelling had something to do with a decrease in tourism in both 2019 and 2020 (before the Corona crisis).
We parked our truck around 30km East of Cancun and 23 km from the airport. Lucky, we found a flight out of Cancun to return home but were surprised to arrive at both Cancun and Dallas airport in the USA that it was life as normal without any checking. (this was March 23) the rest is now history and it now shows they left all by far too late. While we arrived in Australia, we were required to spend 2 weeks at home in Self Isolation.
Let’s hope this corona virus is going to go away soon and we can travel again. Our plan is to be back in Mexico Mid-August to explore Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala. Stay safe and till next time once we arrive back in Mexico again
Oct 30, and we are ready to start Mexico Part 3
Already December and back on the road for the last 5 weeks. Travelling from Australia to the USA with just 22 people onboard was amazing 9 in business, 9 in economy and 4 in premium economy. Arriving in the USA was remarkably interesting, despite the huge amount of Corona cases we never were checked. Next our flight to Cancun (full flight) no checks. Landing in Cancun was interesting during a huge storm. Our motorhome survived 2 hurricanes and except from a ripped apart tarp all good. First stop was Playa Del Carmen where we caught up with friends, got ourselves set up, did shopping etc and started our trip. Cancun is known as the USA playground and really it has nothing to do with Mexico. It is expensive and overrated. At the hotel strip, you will see hundreds of different fast-food joints such as McDonald’s, Taco Bell, and Burger King. Apart from the island tourist zone, a major confusion for many is that Mexico uses the $ sign for pesos, and shady street vendors occasionally ‘forget’ to mention this to tourists when taking their money. Cancun (Hotel Zone) is an island, joined to the mainland by bridges at each end. The Mexican residential section of the city, the downtown part of which is known as “El Centro”, follows a master plan that consists of “supermanzanas (superblocks), giant trapezoids with a central, open, non-residential area cut in by u-shaped residential streets.
The city is on the Caribbean and is one of Mexico’s easternmost points. Playa del Carmen in the heart of the Riviera Maya, was once a fishing village known as Xaman Há; Nowadays it is a cosmopolitan beach town with lodging and entertainment options. Due to Corona, no cruise ships, no thousands of tourists, hence beaches with different shades of blue and fine white sand all empty.
No need to find a secluded beach this time. Great beaches surrounded by incredible coconut palms; others have the reef just a few steps away, so the waves are gentle, and others have the great fortune of having a freshwater body nearby, such as a cenote or lagoon. Next stop Paamul Once simply a trailer park on a beautiful stretch of white sand beach, Paamul is now a little beachfront community. It now has become a RV heaven for US and Canadians willing to pay ridiculous amounts of money for parking their motorhomes and spending most of the day inside with the air conditioner running overtime? /!?!
Having great memories of Chetumal near the Belize border we decided to return enjoying one of the best campsites so far in Mexico and South America. While staying at the campsite we copped the aftermath of Hurricane Iota which devastated Belize, Honduras and Guatemala (Category 4). We were lucky only to receive the rain (500mm in 3 days).
With Belize borders closed for at least another month we decided to skip Belize and make our way slowly to Guatemala.
First stop was Calakmul. Despite an email asking if Calakmul was open (other overlanders told us it would open this week) and the official website stating it was open, upon arrival it was closed?!?!? The email they never responded to (normal in Mexico) At the gate we were told that roadworks were happening, and the road was closed till further notice. It also included tree pruning. Disappointed but hey that is life and as an overlander you cannot be lucky all the time.
One of the main reasons for our visit was the fact that the Mayan site of Calakmul in the state of Campeche is basically untouched by tourism, also impressive is the location in the middle of the rainforest, away from any civilisation. We decided to bush camp in the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve near the main gate and enjoy the howling monkeys and other wildlife. At least we had that feeling and it helped.
We did a fair bit of research but nothing you can do when the website states it is open when it is not. (At this stage Nov 28, 2020 no date has been set for the reopening. Please note the Calakmul ruins pictures are not ours. Next day we left disappointed not to have seen Calakmul but looked forward to our next destination Palenque. According to others, located in the poorest part of Mexico. (Chiapas) Perhaps Mexico’s most breath-taking archaeological park. nestled on a thickly wooded ridge is the ancient Mayan city of Palenque only a few kilometres away from the city centre right in the rainforest.
The architecture is impressive, surrounded by lush tropical forest and jungle, this site has a mystical atmosphere. This time we choose to stay in a hotel garden close to the entrance, a great place with the surrounding forest home to a huge variety of wildlife, such as the colourful toucan and monkeys, including howling monkeys. The hotel we stayed was called Maya Bell, great owners, great staff. Once you enter the archaeological park take note, everything you see was built without the benefit of metal tools, the horse, or the wheel.
This place was purely created by human labour. Today, excavations are on-going to uncover more mysteries about the ancient civilizations of the Maya. Part of the site was closed off as work to uncover the hidden treasures, reclaimed by nature over centuries of disuse, continues. Only a small number of the estimated 500+ buildings across the site have been excavated. The most attractive ruin is the Temple of Inscriptions.
This is the first structure you will see as you climb the hill up to the old city. Due to torrential rain places we could visit were now also restricted. It should be noted that due to Corona restrictions only 600 people maximum per day are allowed in the park. Our visit was on a Monday and just 20 people were around. For us an amazing experience and for us one of the great benefits while travelling during Corona. Till next time when we visit Guatemala
PART 4, Exploring Chiapas travelling from Guatamala Border to Oaxaca
We are back in Mexico after 9 weeks in Guatemala, we entered Mexico from La Melissa. The State of Chiapas is the most southern state in Mexico, the poorest in Mexico and the state with the largest indigenous population. The mountains in Chiapas are scenic with a diverse landscape subject to altitude. The highest peak is volcano Tacana at 4080 meters. Just past the border the first stop planned was Lagunas de Montebello National park. These lakes are known for their varying colours of green and blue that glisten in the sunlight. But misty weather made us change our mind and we continued further North into Chiapas.
We were advised not to drive into San Cristobal, but a wrong turn got us into town and very narrow streets in the outskirts of San Cristobal it became very narrow and with mirrors in we still managed to hit a few roofs (OOPS) the width of some streets looked more like India-Nepal and Pakistan. After we found our camp spot it was time to explore San Cristobal de las Casas. San Cristobal de las Casas is the fourth largest city in the state of Chiapas. (pop 200.000.00) the city is mainly populated by indigenous people, cobblestoned streets and pastel dwellings in this mountain setting adds to San Cristobal’s charm and atmosphere. However, the nights are cold (down to 2 degrees while we were here) at an altitude of just under 2280 meters days are okay but nights are cold. It is easy to walk around the city and visit most of the highlights. However, we took a taxi to visit the viewpoints, of San Cristobal de las Casas! Iglesia de Guadalupe and Iglesia de San Cristobal. ( the viewpoints were disappointing. In town we visited the Temple Santo Domingo with its pink facade. This historic church and former convent dating back to the 1700s is arguably the most beautiful church in San Cristobal de las Casas. (if the sun is in the right position) unfortunately during our visit the town’s central Cathedral, which overlooks the main plaza (zocala) in the centre of town was closed for renovations. This Cathedral dates back more than two centuries and is the site of Pope Francis’s visit in February 2016. Another must do is to walk along the many pedestrian-friendly streets and simply soak in in the atmosphere the main pedestrian thoroughfare is Real de Guadalupe. This pedestrian only area is the main tourist part of town and lined with many restaurants, cafes, and bars. San Cristobal is a great place for people watching and observing street vendors. We left San Cristobal de las Casas and drove the 50 kilometres to the Sumidero Canyon, we parked our truck at the boat docks on the Grijalva River from here we took a 2-hour boat tour through the impressive and extremely beautiful Sumidero Canyon. As we travelled deeper into the canyon the canyon walls seem to grow higher and higher. Eventually, those canyon walls will tower nearly a kilometre in height above us. Sumidero Canyon, or Cañon del Sumidero, is part of Parque Nacional Cañon del Sumidero, a national park covering 50,000 acres. It is one of the most visited places in Chiapas and the canyon is even on the Chiapas flag! Sumidero Canyon is about the same age as the Grand Canyon and was formed by the Grijalva River carving through the landscape. Unlike the Grand Canyon, Sumidero Canyon just 12 kilometres long. On the end is the Chicoasen hydroelectric dam, which opened in 1981, and today is one of the most important of electric power in Mexico. We did spot some crocodiles and spider monkeys on the way in. It is true most tourist visit Mexico for the beaches, but it has so much more to offer. It is true the beaches are beautiful near the Cancun-Playa Del Carmen areas. However, exploring Mexico overland visiting remote areas such as Chiapas is and places like San Cristóbal de las casas, Sumidero Canyon, Palenque, chiflon waterfalls are just some must do destinations. Till next time from the beach in the state of Oaxaca for some R & R.
Pictures below are from our Previous visits to Mexico 2002 and 2004
PART 3 VIDEO CLIPS
- Mexico Part 1, Mexico City to Vera Cruz (truck arrives from Colombia)
- Mexico Part 2, Vera Cruz to Chetumal
- Mexico Part 3, Chiapas (under construction)
- Compilation South America Part 1, 2016 to 2019
- Compilation South America Part 2, 2019 to 2020 (Under Construction)
- Mexico part 1, Mexico City to Vera Cruz (truck arrives from Colombia)
2. Mexico Part 2, Vera Cruz to Chetumal
3. Mexico Part 3, Chiapas
4. Compilation South America Part 1, 2016 to 2019
4. Compilation South America Part 2, 2019 to 2020 (Under Construction)