If Mexico was a book then it would be a leather bound, magical volume hidden in a secret panel at the bottom of an ancient desk. The kind that children’s stories are based around and myths are written in. To me, there is nowhere in the world more enchanting. I looked at guided tours when planning my first Mexican adventure, hoping to pack as much into the two weeks as possible. Jungle ruins, pyramids and antique Colonial towns would all be covered in my chosen tour. It was to be the most exciting two weeks of my life.
No amount of reading and research quite prepared me for the hustle and bustle of Mexico City, and I was pleased to be experiencing it with a group and knowledgeable guides. Our city tour was a whirlwind ride through the sights, sounds and colours of contemporary Mexican life as well as a walk through its incredible history. The National Museum of Anthropology was the highlight for me, introducing us to the ancient sites and civilizations we were to explore later in the trip.
Aztec ruins don’t get any more impressive than Teotihuacan, our next stop on the tour. There we were dwarfed by the surrounding step pyramids, built around 100BC. Climbing all seventy meters of the Pyramid of the Sun is well worth it for the views over the ruined city. A walk down the central Avenue of the Dead is a chance to follow in the footsteps of ancient leaders and ceremonies. Astoundingly preserved murals and stonework decorate the ruins, giving glimpses into the splendour of the site during its golden age. Complicated geometric principles are clearly visible in the layout and construction of the architecture.
Mexican cuisine is as rich and colourful as its history. Chili, oregano and cocoa flavour the various moles (sauces) that are accompanied by soft tortillas or rice and beans. We were lucky enough to sample the famous chocolate based mole in Puebla, its town of origin.
Oaxaca is one of the most beautiful cities in Mexico, nestled between three central valleys and surrounded by ancient ruins. It is also the centre of contemporary Mexican art, and the streets are filled with galleries showcasing new and established talent.
A magic tree, the village of the dead and local artisans came before the water bound leg of the journey. Our boat cruised along the Grijalva River through the Sumidero Canyon, delivering us at San Cristobal. From here we explored traditional Indian villages and experienced the rural side of Mexico life. We were also let in on the secrets of coffee, chocolate and spice growing.
Concealed in dense jungle, the mysterious ruins of Palenque were the most magical on our tour. This was the Mexico I recalled from childhood history books and mythology. Once ruled by a dynasty of kings and queens, there is something deliciously atmospheric about this site and its surroundings.
Uxmal and Chichen Itza, both spectacular Mayan sites, were saved for the finale of the trip. The latter is surely the most famous, made up of pyramids, temples and tombs.