So you’ve got 4 or 5 weeks in Mexico, perfect – you can definitely spend more time here, but it’s enough time to make you fall in love with Mexico and promise yourself that you will return one day. I know I’ve already promised myself that I will. If you’re reading this then you’ve got A LOT to look forward to. You may have read my other post on a perfect two week itinerary in Mexico, which focuses on the Yucatan and Quintana Roo States in the southwestern corner of Mexico.http://www.travelwithpip.com/the-perfect-two-week-itinerary-for-mexico/ Mexico is huge though, seriously, until I was there and starting travelling I had no idea of distances between places.. If you want to experience a different type of Mexico then Oaxaca and Chiapas are great areas to add to your Mexico itinerary.
Oaxaca City – 6 Days
Summary: Ahhhh, Oaxaca City. Enter the land of mountains, cacti and mezcal. Here you will be able to discover a more authentic Mexico, away from the touristy beaches of Tulum. You will learn that Tequila is not the first drink of choice for a Mexican, it’s actually Mezcal – the cousin of Tequila.
As we flew into Oaxaca, I felt a smile start to grow on my face. I looked out of the plane window and saw mountain peaks in line with the plane – wow. I am 100% a beach lover, but I cannot deny that my heart melts when I see sights like these. As we got off the plane and stepped onto the tarmac and cold wind blew past us. Almost as if it were greeting us saying – you’re in the real Mexico now, it’s not all 30 degrees and beaches. Welcome to Oaxaca City!
Stay: Casa Angel Hostel – we did not but should have! They have a dog too, why wouldn’t you want to stay…?!
Things to do:
- Hierve del Agua – a petrified waterfall, high up in the mountains about 2 hour drive from the city. The day trip you should do if you are visiting the city, if you can handle changing buses and catching colectivos, oh and a long wait.
- Sierre Norte Mountains – Benito Juarez can be visited as a day trip, you can hike to a wooden bridge. Or otherwise you can hire a guide and go for a proper hike and sleep overnight in huts. It’s high up here, remember to catch your breath before hiking.
- City Walking Tour – from Hostel Casa Angel – donation only.
- Rooftop Bar – Oaxaca is best seen from rooftop level especially at dusk. Find a rooftop bar to have a drink and watch the church change colour as the sun goes down. La Mezcalteca is where we went. A posh looking hotel but the public can use the rooftop bar – obviously we were on the lemonade as we couldn’t afford anything else.
- Mezcal Bars – an obvious suggestion when in Oaxaca. There are multiple mezcal bars where you can do a tasting session. La Mezclarita has good reviews!
- Watch a Street Parade – if there is one on. They are extremely colourful, loud and I loved watching the women dancing in their dresses.
- Thule Tree – quick visit up the road to the oldest widest tree in the world.
- Botanical Gardens – definitely worth a visit! Located right in the middle of town the gardens are small. There are both English and Spanish tours. The English ones are 50 peso more per person and are only at selected times and days.
- Cooking Class – fancy cooking some tortillas and guacamole, of course you do! Take a cooking class in Oaxaca, a great way to spend the afternoon and eat your own creations. There are varying types of classes though, the cheaper ones aren’t one on one. Each person in the group does one bit of the recipe, so you don’t have a go at making the recipe from start to scratch by yourself,
Eat: You may be able to tell that we ate a lot in Oaxaca, hey our hostel had no kitchen so we had to, plus wine at 25 pesos a glass, why would we say no to that?
- PAN:AM – literally THE best breakfast I had in Mexico. A bakery with a cafe attached. Cute courtyard. Pastries are circled around the courtyard as you order your main plate. We may have gone here most mornings.
- Tastavins – great tiny, little Spanish influenced restaurant. They sell great Spanish wine starting at 25 pesos a glass which included a small tapa. The other food is delicious too, the mixed croquettes are extremely authentic.
- Cafe Bruajla – again a relaxed courtyard cafe, surrounded by a library. Order coffee, fruit teas or the traditional hot chocolate here.
- Tlayudas El Negro – want an authentic taste of Oaxacan food then head to tyladuas el negro. Big restaurant leaking smoke from the bbq I think. Share a tyluadas if you’re aren’t sure but they are pretty simple, corn tortilla with whatever filling you choose.
Transport: Either fly from Merida, or travel by land through the country, which is a long way! If you start by flying into Mexico City then it’s a much easier route to Oaxaca.
Puerto Escondido – 4 Days
Summary: After Oaxaca City, ‘vamos a la playa’ head back to the beach. However this time to the Pacific coast and trust me it’s just as beautiful as the Caribbean. The rip tides can get strong on this side of Mexico though so take note of any signs you see! I loved it here, one for the beach and warmth, but two because we got to be at one with nature, well almost! Releasing baby turtles was amazing, but the main attraction was the spinner dolphins, whales and turtles we saw on a 6AM boat trip.
Stay: At Vivo Escondido, a great hostel with a young vibe, by young I mean late 20’s. Locatedin the Rinconada area, the quiet area near the best beach in town (Playa Carrizalillo).
Things to Do:
- Surfing – This is a world famous surfing town, so of course the main thing to do here is surf. Although it depends on seasons. When we went the sea was very calm. Apart from the one we went for a swim and Cat got taken by a vicious wave under the sea. It stole from her her favourite sunglasses and contact lenses – brutal!
- Beach Time – Playa Carrizalillo which could rival a Mediterranean beach in Spain. The other beaches are okay too.
- Boat Trip – Must do! Please, Cat is now an official tout for this boat trip. It was incredible. Head out earlier morning, on a small boat and begin searching. We saw a whale and her calf, a huge pod of dolphins and spinner dolphins, turtles and the tips of manta rays fins.
- Turtle Release – Release baby turtles at the Liberation de Tortugas. This sanctuary help to conserve the numbers of baby turtles. Learn how the sanitary help these animals and then help by releasing a baby into the wild. Be warned they allow birds and crabs to follow the usual circle of life, so you might see some babies getting taken.
- Movie Night – Watch a movie on the beach at Hotel Suites Villasol. Was a Wednesday night at 7pm in 2019.
Eat At: Not so much eat at but drink at. If you like pina coladas go to Palapita Bar on the Zicatela strip. Order a pina colada and you’ll get a fresh pineapple filled with sweet alcohol for 80 pesos, however refills are only 25 pesos. Watch the sunset with a pineapple in your hand, what more could you want?
Transport: A very long shuttle bus ride, on a very curvy road through the Mexican mountains. Actually you have a choice of two routes. The first with faithful ADO which takes twice as long as it goes around the mountains. The second choice, which we opted for was a shuttle bus. Can be booked through Casa Angel but you will pay a premium price. unless you can find a shuttle service directly.
San Cristobal – 4 Days
Summary: Go to San Cristobal to experience a colder side to Mexico. Here you’re 2,200 metres above sea level. The streets are cobbled black and lined with white traditional buildings. Although you’ll find some modern restaurants and cafes which are great hiding places for when the chill gets that bit too much to handle anymore. Chiapas is one of the poorest states in Mexico. The town is surrounded by traditional villages up in the mountains – Tzotil and Tzeltal for example. Making San Cristobal one of the most deeply rooted indigenous towns in Mexico. It is a town where ancient traditions merge and coexist with modern luxuries.
Stay: Puerta Viejo is where most backpackers stay. It’s chilling though (visited in December, coldest month I know!) open living room to the outside elements. We had a great Christmas eve party here though. San Cristobal made us feel a bit more like we could have been at home for Christmas by making sure we felt the cold. Overall though, Christmas was done and over after Christmas eve, Christmas day was just another Mexican day. No big celebrations or build up like in the UK – which was a breath of fresh air – literally!.
Things to do:
- Walking Tour – Join the ‘free’ walking tour that starts outside the cathedral. You’ll visit the market (amber is a key material in the markets here), a cafe (named below, because you will want to go back, it’s a great sun trap in a chilly San Cristobal), see some street art and you’ll taste some Pox (a Mayan drink made of corn, sugar cane and wheat) the chocolate one was my favourite, obviously. The walking tour has a slightly different take on a usual walking tour. The guide talked us through the Zapista movement and how some things still are in San Cristobal. He had some strong opinions lets just say.
- Sumidero Canyon Tour – take a day tour from San Cristobal to this stunning Canyon. Well worth it, even whilst hungover on Christmas day, being thrown around in a minivan through mountain roads. With my head hung in between my arms I somehow made it to the speedboat launching point.
- Lago Montebello – another popular, but much longer day trip from San Cristobal. About 3hrs to get there plus return journey.
- Kinoki – A perfect rooftop restaurant and bar and cinema. The best, yes I’m confident in this, rooftop view, especially at dusk. The food is pretty good too actually. Definitely worth a visit!
- La Vina de Bacco – Also another wine bar, obviously! Order a glass of wine starting from 30 pesos and get a small tapa with it.
- Kukulpan – the walking tour cafe. Head there early for the biggest selection of pastry. This spot is great for catching some sun, with san Cristóbal being a tad chilly at night it’s a good sun spot.
Transport: Take a long, sorry very long ADO bus (faithful ADO) to San Cristóbal in the state of Chiapas. From Puerto Escondido it is about 12 hrs.
Palenque – 2 Days
Summary: Do you fancy running around some jungle ruins and spotting monkeys. Palenque ruins are a must see if you are in Chiapas. Especially if you have seen Chicen Itza, Palenque is very different – intwined in the jungle, branches still cling to the stone as if nature is now keeping these ruins together. Palenque town is very small, the ruins are what people go for.
Stay: Casa Jannab Palenque – great little hostel, perfect for one or two nights. Just off the main (very small) tourist strip.
Things to do:
- Ruins – without doubt the main attraction and probably the reason you want to go to Palenque. Grab a colectivo from town, on the roundabout where the ADO bus station is. Locals are helpful so just ask if you are unsure,
Eat: Cafe Jade – was a good stop for lunch, amongst the canopy of trees in town. Otherwise we went to the supermarket and cooked at the hostel.
Transport: From San Cristobal you can get an ADO bus to Palenque, it goes the long route though so expect at least 9hrs on this bus. Ado do have night buses though so if you prefer take a night bus with ADO.
To get back to SAN CRISTOBAL – you can take a tour from Palenque which combines some waterfalls such as Roberto Barrios or Agua Azul then you proceed along a slightly debatable road back to San Cristobal. The road between Palenque and Sand Cristobal is said to be dangerous, some people get stopped at road blockages. We weren’t. But the guys we knew who travelled the same route the next day did. Nothing bad happened but they were unable to continue their journey for an hour or so. The locals wanted a number of someone in the government if I recall correctly.
Onward Travel Transport: From Palenque either you can travel back to Cancún for your departing flight. ADO go to Cancún but you could split up the journey by stopping over in Campeche. Then travelling onwards to Cancún. Otherwise if you’re continuing to travel, San Cristobal is a perfect town to start from if you want to enter Guatemala.