Mexico is far more than the cliches of sombreros, tequila and nachos. Former ambassador Armando Alvarez Reina says it’s a land of wonders – it has 34 sites recognised as world heritage, the most on the American continent – is biologically diverse and rich in festivals and folk traditions.
MUST DO EXPERIENCES
Start your quest in Mexico City, which is described by the New York Times as “A metropolis that has it all”, and visit one of its 170 museums. Continue along the “Independence Trail”, which will take you through some cities that are declared world heritage, such as Querétaro, San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Morelia and Guadalajara, in which you will revel among colonial buildings, colourful festivals and prized handcrafts. Indulge in their gastronomy. If you have time to spare, travel along the “Mayan Route”, which comprises the southeast states of the country and the Yucatán Peninsula, in which you will discover awe-inspiring archaeological sites such as Chichen Itza, Uxmal, Calakmul and Palenque. Enjoy the wonderful jungle landscapes of Chiapas and Tabasco, or the stunning Mexican Caribbean, and don’t forget to try the seafood!
MUST LISTEN (AND DANCE) MUSIC
When in Mexico City, do not miss the delightful music and dance show of the Mexican Folkloric Ballet, in the Palace of Fine Arts. If you feel adventurous, sing along Mariachi bands in the Garibaldi Plaza, or attend one of the hundreds of concerts that take place every year throughout the city. Whether is the Cervantino Festival in Guanajuato, which brings together some of the most renowned contemporary performers in the world, or the Guelaguetza in Oaxaca, with its endless parade of traditional costumes and colour, Mexico is a country where music is everywhere.
MUST VISIT TOURIST SITES
In Mexico City, don’t miss the largest historic downtown of the Americas, and the ancestral floating gardens of Xochimilco. In its surroundings visit the Teotihuacán Pyramids or the colonial city of Puebla, with its newly built Baroque Museum, all of them designated as World Heritage Sites.
MUST EAT AND DRINK
In every corner of Mexico, eating and drinking are a memorable experience. The country itself is a tapestry of different cultural and gastronomic traditions, and hence the offer is endless. The ancient indigenous ingredients and techniques have blended with European, African and Asian elements to form an impressive culinary landscape. Do not miss Mole Poblano, Cochinita Pibil (Pibil Pork), Veracruz Style Fish and Oaxacan Cecina. The offer is not only broad and diverse, but is in the range of every pocket, from the ubiquitous street food stalls to fine dining restaurants, some of which were ranked in the World’s 50 Best of 2016. To find out more about Mexican food down under, visit our specially created website.
MUST READ BOOKS
The poems and essays of Mexican Nobel laureate Octavio Paz are highly recommended as an introduction to Mexican literature. Carlos Fuentes is another great novelist and essayist. The short story collection El Llano en Llamas (The Burning Plain) by Juan Rulfo, is unmissable as well. Among the long list of contemporary authors that are essential to any reader interested in Mexican literature are Angeles Mastretta, Juan Villoro, and Jorge Volpi.
Now that the works of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera are better known in Australia, thanks to the stunning exhibition that was at the Art Gallery of NSW, I’d suggest visitors take some time in Mexico City to visit the Diego Rivera murals at the National Palace or the Anahuacalli Museum, as well as Frida’s Casa Azul (Blue House) in Coyoacán, or the Dolores Olmedo Museum in Xochimilco. TTW
Armando Alvarez Reina is a former Mexican ambassador to Australia. More at Visit Mexico.