What comes to mind when you think of hostel hopping across Mexico? Do you see yourself jumping into the crystal clear waters of a cenote, staring in wonder at the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza or sipping a margarita on a white sand beach in Cancun? Whatever images you conjure of travel in this vibrant country, the new Roamies: The Most Mexico – Central Mexico, Yucatan & Cancún covers the best Mexico has to offer across 16 days of travel.
On this tour, you get to experience markets in Mexico City, mole dishes in Puebla, textiles in Oaxaca, surf in Puerto Escondido, cenotes in Merida, mayan ruins near Valladolid, snorkelling in Tulum, and Mayan delicacies in Cancun. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Here’s a rundown of things that I can highly recommend from my recent tour:
1: Enjoy Mariachi band serenades on a Xochimilco float
Mexico City is the very first stop and your itinerary includes a must-do in my book — cruising down the Xochimilco canals AKA ‘The Venice of Mexico’. Here you’ll find colourful trajineras, brightly painted gondola-like boats that fit about 20 people. The canal is full of vendors selling everything from corn on the cob to carpets. Better yet, there are smartly dressed mariachi bands happy to come aboard and serenade you with a couple of traditional songs. It’s an unmissable experience.
Xochimilco is about an hour drive from the historic centre of Mexico City which is where you want to be staying in the capital — Centro Historico is the heart of Mexico City. Our Roamies group stayed in a perfectly located hostel called Hostel Mundo Joven Catedral with a cool rooftop cocktail bar and great views of the city at night.
2: Soak in tradition and architecture in Oaxaca
After our days spent in Mexico City and a quick stop in pretty Puebla, we arrived in Oaxaca, the birthplace of the smoky agave-based spirit, mezcal. We spent our first evening visiting El Colibri in Teotitlan del Valle to learn about traditional textile making in the region. We learned how cochineal cactus was used to make vivid red dyes before chemicals replaced its use in the 19th century along with other plants like chili, nutmeg shells, moss, marigold and indigo. After our lesson on Oaxacan history and culture, we tucked into some traditional dishes like tamales and mole and even got to try our hand at making corn tortillas.
As our Chief Experience Officer (CEO) Bianca said, “there’s so much to do in Oaxaca but just walking around here with a coffee is still a great day”. We loved having free time built into our itinerary so we could do whatever our heart desired. Personally, I was blown away by Oaxacan architecture, particularly the buildings made with a beautiful sage green stone called cantera. Head to Kiyo Cafe or Cafeto & Baristos for a good cup of coffee and just enjoy the tastes of the town.
3: Take in soaring views at San Jose del Pacifico
On our bus journey from Oaxaca to the surfer town of Puerto Escondido, we stopped to stretch our legs with a short hike in the mountain town of San Jose del Pacifico. You can grab a coffee and admire the views of this stunning region from the top of a lookout tower. It’s a short but challenging little uphill walk but the rewards speak for themselves.
4: Try your hand at surfing in Puerto Escondido
Puerto Escondido is a major surfing destination on Mexico’s pacific coast within the state of Oaxaca. For most of my Roamies group this destination was a highlight of the whole trip. Rolling up on our bus ride from Oaxaca, the first thing that hit us was the rise in temperature — it’s beach time!
You can make the most of the best surf in Mexico by grabbing a lesson or renting a board if you’re experienced. Our accommodation was a slight change from hostels as we stayed at Hotel Acuario perfectly located overlooking Zicatela beach.
5: Stand in awe at the Mayan ruins in Chichen Itza
If any of your friends have visited Mexico, you’ve likely seen the famous pyramid of Chichen Itza on your Instagram feed. But there’s a very good reason this is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country.
El Castillo pyramid is the major draw to the site and a guide can teach you all about the extraordinary detail the Mayans included in their construction techniques. I recommend visiting early in the morning as it gets pretty packed and hot in the afternoon. We arrived early so there were plenty of opportunities to get great photos without sweltering.
6: Swim in Zazil Tunich cenote at night
This is one of those real pinch yourself moments. Swimming in a cenote in Mexico was high up on my bucket list but getting to swim at night took it to another level. A cenote is basically a swimmable sinkhole formed after a cave ceiling collapse. Filled with exceptionally clear water, they are a major feature in Mayan worship and considered portals to the underworld. The Yucatan region is where you’ll find some of the best cenotes in Mexico.
About a 45 minute drive from the town of Valladolid, you’ll find the extraordinary cenote of Zazil Tunich. The family who care for it placed lights underwater so you can appreciate the clear aquamarine water as you swim. Our group had the cenote all to ourselves and it was an unforgettable time.
7: Learn to make a traditional Mayan meal in Cancun
Our last three days were spent in Cancun, also known as the Miami of Mexico, where we experienced something very much off the beaten path. Just a short journey outside of the Hotel Zone is Mayan Kajtaj where a family with Mayan roots still upholds the old methods of slow cooking and shares their passed down techniques.
We helped chop, slice, and dice ingredients grown on the land to make pollo pibil. Pibil comes from the Mayan word Pib which means cooked underground and it came with homemade tortillas and a cactus salad. It felt really special to be welcomed in by Enrique and his family to experience something very important to their Mayan culture.
Ready to squeeze every tasty last drop out of Mexico like Claire on her The Most Mexico: Central Mexico, Yucatan & Cancún journey? Our Roamies by Hostelworld & G Adventures trips are just the ticket. And the price (especially for younger travellers on a budget) is just right too!