Ancient Mayan pyramids sparkling white beaches and warm people make Mexico a unique travel paradise. Mexicans enjoy life to the fullest and their cuisine is among the best in the world. Not for nothing it became more and more popular as a travel destination in the last years. In the land of cacti, the atmosphere is always exuberant and guests feel at home from the very first moment. There is an infinite amount to discover; once you’re there, you won’t want to leave so quickly.
Tulum and the Riviera Maya
Crystal clear water, white, endless beaches and a Caribbean flair await you on the Riviera Maya. The coast stretches over 150 km – from the popular resort of Cancún to Playa del Carmen and Tulum. The Riviera is the center of Mexico’s international tourism and accordingly well developed. Many luxury hotels and amusement parks are located here. On the many beach parties you party to the music of international DJ celebrities and the leisure offer is huge. No wonder that this unique region inspires so many people. Off the coast of the Riviera is one of the world’s best diving spots, especially the island of Cozumel is famous for it. Snorkeling is also possible along the entire coast. If you are in the region during the summer months, you will have the opportunity to snorkel with whale sharks, a unique and fascinating experience that you will never forget. In the south you will find the Sian Ka’an National Park, which is famous for its variety of birds. You can take beautiful tours by boat through the mangrove forests and enjoy the impressive nature.
Another highlight of the region are the cenotes, natural pools filled with fresh water, which invite you to dive, snorkel and swim. There are countless of these enchanting places in the Riviera.
Tulum is our favorite place on the Riviera, so we have plenty of gorgeous hostels to work with here. Crave endless white beaches, crazy beach parties and a hip vibe, you’ll find your happiness in Tulum. It’s rare to find such a laid-back vibe anywhere else. The town is full of backpackers from all over the world and has a lively bar and restaurant scene. That’s why it’s teeming with cool hostels and hotels just waiting for you. It’s made for an unforgettable work and travel adventure.
However, if it gets to be too much for you, you are not far away from various islands in the Caribbean Sea, where you can completely switch off. The internet connection on Isla Holbox is still poor, so there is more time for long walks on the beach or one of the numerous hostel parties on the island. We love Holbox and have therefore included the Animal Shelter to our programs. Even if you’re only there for a short time, it’s worth it to pay the animals a visit. If you prefer a little more infrastructure, but don’t want to miss out on the island feeling, you’ll love it on Isla Mujeres.
To and from Tulum
From Cancún International Airport or from Cancún center you can take a direct bus to Tulum. The trip takes about 2 hours and costs about 10 euros.
From Cancún airport there are also shuttles to Tulum. One ride costs between 20 and 30 euros.
Tulum is also easy to reach by bus from the other cities on the Yucatán Peninsula, tickets always cost between 10 and 20 euros.
A stopover in Valladolid is recommended, the route from Tulum to the colonial city takes 1.5 hours and costs between 8 and 12 euros.
From Tulum you can take a trip to the Chichén Itzá ruins. Local buses go there daily, but you have to change buses in Valladolid.
From Tulum you can also go to Bacalar via Playa del Carmen and reach the Blue Lagoon in only 2.5 hours.
With the night bus you can reach Palenque or San Cristóbal the next morning.
Chichán Itzé and the ruins of Yucatán
Explore what we consider the most breathtaking Mayan city of all. Along with the Great Wall of China, the Taj Mahal and Machu Picchu, the Temple of Kukulkan in Chichén Itzá, is on the list of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
This fascinating pyramid symbolizes the greatness of the Mayan culture. Keeping an eye on the architecture, the city must have played a nationally important role at that time.
Like Palenque, Chichén Itzá was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988 and attracts up to 8,000 visitors daily. So don’t miss it!
If Chichén Itzá is too touristy for you and you would rather explore a Mayan ruin far away from the footsteps of other travelers, we also recommend Ek Balam, located near Chichén Itzá. Also, on the way from Tulum to Valladolid you will find the ruins of Cobá, where you can even explore the largest temple on foot. From the top you will overlook the endless expanse of the jungle, a magical moment.
If you prefer a short journey, we recommend you to visit the ruins in Tulum. Called “Tulum Archaeological Zone”, they can be reached either by bike or by bus from downtown Tulum, which runs several times a day. A visit to the ruins enriches you not only with interesting history, but also with turquoise blue beaches.
To and from Chichén Itzá:
Chichén Itzá can be reached with an organized tour from all over the Yucatán.
If you arrive at your own, you will have to drive to the nearby colonial town of Valladolid. There you can stop at one of the many old cafés.
Valladolid can be reached from Tulum in 2.5 hours or from Cancún in only 2 hours for 8 to 12 euros.
Puerto Escondido and the beaches of Oaxaca
The wild Pacific coast of Oaxaca stretches for 550 km in the south of the state. Rocky bays, palm forests and perfect waves characterize the beaches. The region is unique because of its hotspots Puerto Escondido, Mazunte and Zipolite.
The surfer’s paradise Puerto Escondido is a mecca for sun worshippers and action sports enthusiasts. There is always something going on here. Whether international surf contests or beach parties, you will never get bored. We love Puerto and have also included this place for the Hostel Experience and the Turtle Protection program. The city is perfect for an unforgettable time in the volunteer project of your choice.
Besides your work in the project, you can book lessons at the many local surf schools, learn Spanish or just relax on the beach with interesting people from all over the world. At the time of the surf contests it gets turbulent, because the international surf elite meets in Puerto. Many unforgettable parties are pre-programmed.
If you drive the coastal road 50 km to the east, you will reach Mazunte and Zipolite, probably the most relaxed places on the coasts. A place where happy hour is an all-day affair and the clocks generally tick slower. Hippies from all over the world and sun worshippers of all kinds flock here. The hammocks in the beach bars invite you to linger, or you keep yourself busy with yoga or rent a surfboard. The turtle farm in Mazunte is also worth a visit, as are the streets of Zipolite decorated with street art. In the background, always the sound of the Pacific Ocean. There is definitely a danger here of never wanting to leave these magical places again.
To and from Puerto Escondido
To Puerto Escondido or Huatulco (near Mazunte and Zipolite) you can easily get by direct flight from Mexico City.
From Cancún by bus, it takes about 30 hours and costs 60 Euros.
A more comfortable way to travel is to take a domestic flight to Mexico City, from there you can take a second flight to Puerto Escondido. The cost starts at 200 euros.
You can take an overnight bus from Oaxaca or San Cristóbal to Puerto Escondido.
From Puerto Escondido, you can take a shared cab to Mazunte for a few euros.
You can also take the night bus from Puerto Escondido to Puebla or to San Cristóbal. From San Cristóbal, you are not far from the border to Guatemala.
If you are looking for the “real Mexico”, Oaxaca is the right place for you. The coolest city in Mexico in our eyes has so much to offer that makes the heart of every traveler beat faster. The city with its colorful houses and the cobblestone streets exude a mysterious and intoxicating flair.
In addition, Oaxaca is a mecca for foodies. The abundance of restaurants serving local delicacies, such as mole, which is famous for the region, and the markets, where you can also try really crazy things like grasshoppers, are worth a visit on their own. Otherwise, you can find impressive handicrafts, regional chocolate and superior coffee, among other things, at the markets.
You’ll never get bored during a stay in Oaxaca. The city is teeming with hip cafes, yoga studios, galleries and museums.
But the surrounding countryside is also worth a visit. Not far from the city is Monte Alban, an archaeological site with temples, tombs, and sculptures. Or you can drive to the “Hierve del Agua”, petrified waterfalls made of limestone as well as turquoise pools that invite you to swim – an unforgettable natural spectacle.
At a later hour you can linger together with the locals on the beautifully lit squares and then end the evening in one of the countless bars. And since Oaxaca is the capital of the Mezcal, you should not miss a sip of the delicious drop.
To and from Oaxaca
You can reach Oaxaca from Mexico City by bus in about 6 hours. From Mexico City there are also direct flights to Oaxaca.
From Puerto Escondido you can reach Oaxaca in about 7 hours or take a plane from there.
From Oaxaca you can reach the ruined city of Tehuacan in 4 hours. The ticket costs between 10 and 18 Euro
Another side trip can be made from Oaxaca to Puebla, this visit can be easily combined with Tehuacan, since the two places are only 2 hours away. The cost is between 4 and 16 euros.
San Cristóbal de las Casas
2,100 meters above sea level, in the highlands of the southernmost Mexican state of Chiapas lies the picturesque town of San Cristóbal de las Casas. Colorful colonial-style houses, cobblestone streets and many churches characterize the townscape. Backpackers from all over the world and many Mayan women, who want to sell their handicrafts, stroll through the alleys. The people here are extremely friendly and helpful, you feel immediately welcome and do not want to leave so quickly. In San Cristóbal the Mayan culture is omnipresent. The cityscape is characterized by women in traditional clothing. This is especially noticeable in the surrounding villages, where almost exclusively descendants of the Maya live.
A highlight of the city is the colorful market, where you can buy all kinds of souvenirs. Culture and nature lovers will get their money’s worth with a visit to the Casa Na Bolom museum. The home of the Danish-Swiss couple Blom shows an exhibition about their Mayan research. Don’t miss it.
San Cristóbal has a diverse restaurant scene with something for everyone. You should also try the highland coffee and chocolate from Chiapas. For the night owls among you, there are casual bars with live music and various small clubs. San Cristóbal magically attracts backpackers from all over the world, so the variety of exceptional hostels is wide. So, a great opportunity for a volunteer project in one of the hostels. Likewise, many interesting NGOs are located in the region.
From and to San Cristóbal de las Casas
The closest airport is Tuxtla Gutierrez, from which you can find various flight connections to Mexico City and Cancún.
From Cancún you can fly and be there in about 7 hours, the cost is about 100 euros.
From Puerto Escondido you can take a night bus, which takes about 13 hours and costs 35 euros.
From San Cristóbal de las Casas you can take a night bus to Oaxaca for the 11 hour trip. There are either direct buses for 30 euros or with a few stops in Tuxtla or Arriaga.
From San Cristóbal de las Casas you also have the option to travel to Guatemala comfortably by shuttle in about 10 hours. The ticket price is between 10 and 30 Euros.
You can reach the famous Palenque by bus through the mountains in 5 hours.
The Mayan ruins of Palenque
Surrounded by rainforest in the state of Chiapas in southern Mexico hides a jewel of past advanced civilizations. The breathtaking Mayan metropolis of Palenque will immerse you in another world. Surrounded by ancient rainforest trees, on which monkeys swing from branch to branch, the ancient palaces of great rulers gleam. The ruins appear particularly mysterious in the early morning, when the first rays of sunlight cast a soft glow on them. They have been a UNESCO cultural heritage site since 1987 and are considered one of the most recently discovered and best preserved Mayan ruins anywhere. The Temple of the Inscriptions, a step-like pyramid that houses the exceptionally large sarcophagus of the last ruler, and El Palacio, the largest architectural building, are the highlights of the ruins. There is also a museum where you can admire findings and examples of the once bright and colorful temples.
If you like to look at meditative natural wonders, you should definitely make the slightly further way to the breathtaking falls Agua Azul, which do not bear this name for nothing. With the crystal clear blue water, you are guaranteed a vacation for the eyes!
Another highlight in the region is the Misol-Ha waterfall, which can be explored in a day trip from Palenque. Palenque was originally called Lakamha, which means “big water”. The name is probably due to the waterfall, which plunges more than 100 meters into the depths.
To and from Palenque
From San Cristóbal, the trip to Palenque takes 5 hours and costs around 20 euros.
By night bus, you can reach Palenque from Tulum or other places of the Riviera Maya in about 12 hours. Tickets cost between 20 and 30 euros.
This is where the heart of Mexico beats. With over 20 million inhabitants, Mexico City is one of the largest cities in the world. There is hardly anything there that is not there. It is a city of extremes. Rich and poor live right next to each other, tall skyscrapers stand next to ancient temples of the Aztecs. Mexico City is the political, economic, social and cultural center, as well as the largest transportation hub in the country. Boredom is therefore out of the question. The city consists of 16 districts, in which there is an extraordinary amount to discover. You will find artist districts with many students, the Mexican Venice, nice bars, restaurants, shopping miles with great stores, and, and, and. In addition, there are street markets in actually every district, where you can taste your way through the tasty delicacies of the Latin Americans. But despite the enormous size, the city is very green and you will find many quiet corners and beautiful parks.
Mexico City has the highest density of museums in the world. Especially the famous museum of Frida Kahlo and the Anthropological Museum should not be missed.
Just outside the city is Teotihuacán, a historic site from the prehispanic period. Die bekannte Sonnenpyramide ist mit 65 Metern Höhe die dritthöchste der Welt und das zweithöchste Bauwerk des alten Mesoamerikas. Übrigens waren es die Teotihuacános und nicht wie oft fälschlich erzählt wird die Azteken, die die Stadt bauten.
Hast du Lust auf Bootfahren, komm nach Xochimilco, dem mexikanischen Venedig. Mit bunten Booten kannst du hier durch die Kanäle fahren und dem turbulente Stadtalltag entkommen.
Due to the international airport you can reach Mexico City from all cities of the country, as well as those of the neighboring countries.
To and from Mexico City
Since Mexico City has an airport, the best option is to take a domestic flight. Mexico City is served by all airports in Mexico and other countries in Latin America.
Many bus routes intersect in Mexico City, the bus is also the cheapest option, however, it depends on where you are traveling from, because the routes in Mexico are very large. So it can be that you then have to sit a whole day, or even longer, in the bus.
San Miguel de Allende
At an altitude of 2050 m in a valley lies the colonial city of Guanajuato. Narrow cobblestone streets wind through the hilly cityscape. The city is a gem of the colonial era and is one of the prettiest small towns in Mexico. The year-round spring-like climate attracts backpackers, students, culture vultures and language students alike.
Guanajuato is unique in many ways. Not a single road goes straight, instead they curve up and down the steep slopes, wind around hills, disappear into tunnels, and then suddenly reappear at another corner. Much of the road traffic is underground, using old mine shafts as tunnels.
Rich silver and gold deposits made Guanajuato an urban jewel. Ornate architecture and buildings painted in bright colors characterize the cityscape. The historic old town and mining sites were added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1989.
Three hours northwest of Mexico City lies a gem of colonial architecture. San Miguel Allende is especially popular with artists, who have settled here. If you long for a dramatic sunset, this is also the place to be, as the disappearance of the sun becomes a wonderful experience thanks to the light conditions and changing colors of the Sierra Madre foothills. There is a lot to discover here, such as the pink church in Gothic style, which was already built in the 17th century and actually rebuilt in 1880 based on the Ulm Cathedral.
To and from San Miguel de Allende
Guanajuato and San Miguel de Allende can be reached by bus from Mexico City in three hours.
A direct bus from Guadalajara will take you to your destination in 6 hours for about 30 euros.
country & people
Latin American temperament, a profound history and ancient traditions characterize Mexican culture. The country can hardly be surpassed in fascination and diversity. Therefore, you will gather new impressions here that will accompany you for a long time. Mexicans are friendly and helpful people with a strong character and many characteristics. They are proud of their culture and live it very intensively.
At the center of their lives is the family. In a Mexican household, several generations often live together and organize their everyday life together.
Fiestas play an almost equally important role for Mexicans. In Mexico, there is almost always something to celebrate. On many weekends, the cities are colorfully decorated and people are drawn outside. Parades parade through the streets and people wear traditional clothing. Of course, the one, or other tequila may not be missing.
Also, always present is the tortilla, flat bread baked from corn, which belongs to the elixir of life of the Mexicans. Tortillas are served in abundance at all meals, and Mexicans are extremely creative in their use of them in the kitchen. He incorporates them into his dishes in a wide variety of forms, whether grilled, deep-fried, baked or raw.
In Mexico, the prehispanic, colonial and modern cultures combine with each other. This is especially evident in the architecture. Many chic colonial cities can be found throughout the country. Daneben gibt es in Mexico wahre World Wonders like the famous Mayan Pyramid Chichén Itzá. In colorful colonial cities like Oaxaca or Guanajuato, which radiate as much joie de vivre as few other places in the world, you can discover the real Mexico.
Scenically, Mexico has a lot to offer. Rainforest, desert, white beaches, cactus forests and much more can be found there. The animal world is also extremely diverse. Particularly impressive are the sea creatures that reside on the Mexican coast, such as whales and colorful corals.
Food & Drink
Tacos, guacamole, enchiladas – many of the Mexican delicacies are familiar to us even in faraway Europe and regularly appear on the menus of local restaurants. Of course, the uniqueness and authenticity of Mexican cuisine can only be experienced in its diversity in its country of origin. One more reason to visit Mexico.
For Mexicans, food is a very important part of their culture. This is probably also due to the large selection of fruits and vegetables available there. For this reason, Mexican cuisine was the first cuisine ever to be named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2010. The main ingredient is the tortilla, which is used in Mexico in the form of enchiladas, quesadillas or tostadas, and corn, beans and chili peppers are also found in many dishes.
There is a great selection of restaurants in the country. From the simple roadside loncheria, where you can get the favorite Mexican food – the taco – inexpensively and in an authentic way, to restaurants that can conjure up great fish dishes in addition to various regional specialties, you will find it all.
In addition to the abundance of culinary specialties, of course, one must not forget the excellent selection of beverages. Besides the national drink tequila, Mexicans love mojitos and margaritas in all variations. After all, what could be better than enjoying the sunset at a beach bar with a cocktail in your hand?
Best time to travel
As diverse as the country is, so is the climate. Due to the proximity to the equator, moderate temperatures prevail throughout the year, creating optimal travel conditions. Due to the size of the country, the climate is not the same everywhere. In the highlands it can get very fresh in the winter months, the north is characterized by warm summers and cool winters.
On the other hand, the Caribbean coast in the east of the country offers year-round bathing weather. The endless south coast of Mexico offers a tropical climate, which is accompanied by high humidity and constant temperatures of about 30 degrees.
The rainy season is present throughout the country at different times. However, between May and October it rains basically more than during the dry season. In central Mexico, the rain tends to come in short, intense downpours in the afternoons, while in southern Mexico the climate is consistently tropical and warm, and it always stays warm despite a few hours of rain.
As soon as the rain stops here, you can be sure that the sun will show its best side again.
The rainy season in the project country of your choice should not be a criterion for exclusion, as the country simply shows itself from a different side. In the rainy season, many accommodations are cheaper and there are fewer tourists than in the dry season. And also the vegetation is changed at this time. If you decide to travel to Mexico during the rainy season, you will be able to experience nature there in its full splendor and bloom.
Mexico has a well-developed transportation network. The huge country is therefore easy to travel by public transport.
Since public buses pass through all major towns, it is a particularly good means of transportation for your trip. There are some large bus companies that offer regional and intercity trips and many small, local operators. The buses in Mexico are also much more comfortable than the buses we are used to in Germany. From simple buses to luxury class, everything is available in Mexico. The buses run regularly, for long distances there are corresponding night buses. However, it is advisable to purchase the ticket in advance, as the heavily frequented routes are often booked up quickly. The ticket can be purchased via an app of the bus company or at the counter at the local bus station. The 1st class buses travel quickly and often make no stops between major cities. In addition, some bus companies offer free WiFi on board. The less expensive buses, on the other hand, make more frequent stops along the way.
Another option for traveling Mexico is by air. Due to the numerous low-cost airlines, a plane ticket is sometimes cheaper than the bus. Therefore, it is always worthwhile to compare prices. From Mexico City to Cancún you can get a ticket for 30 euros if you are lucky.
A special highlight for every traveler is a train ride. Although the railroad traffic was largely shut down in 1990, two impressive routes can still be covered by train. From Los Mochis on the Pacific coast, the train travels through breathtaking canyons and over bridges in the so-called “Copper Valley”, through the Sierra Tarahumara to Chihuahua.
Also not to be missed is the ride on the Tequila Express. From the capital of Jalisco, Guadalajara, the train travels to the city of origin of the Mexican popular drink with the same name “Tequlia”.
Ferries run regularly to the Caribbean islands from various departure ports, as well as to Baja California in northwestern Mexico.
Ferries operate regularly to the Caribbean islands, as well as to Baja California.
In Mexico you enter comfortably with the tourist visa and are allowed to stay 6 months in the country. The entry is strictly controlled by the migration authorities and upon arrival you will be asked for the address for your first overnight stay as well as for onward or return flights. All our programs can be completed with a tourist visa. If you want to do a volunteer project or an internship for a longer period of time, we will take care of your visa. It is also possible to travel to neighboring Guatemala after the 6 months and then re-enter Mexico. Then you can stay for another 6 months.
In Mexico, you pay with the Mexican peso. In general, the cost of living is much lower than in Germany, which is good for the wallet.
As a low-budget traveler, you can get by with a daily budget of 20 – 30 euros. For the food you have to plan about 7 Euro per day. However, this includes cooking in the hostel from time to time. At the markets you will find great regional food and you will meet many nice people from all over the world in the hostel kitchen. The prices in the supermarket and on markets are below those in Germany. You can get three tacos on the side of the road for 2 – 3 euros, a meal in a local restaurant for 2 – 6 euros, a cocktail costs 3 – 4 euros and a beer about 2 euros. A night in a hostel costs between 7 and 18 euros, depending on the region. For a 5-hour bus ride you will pay between 6 and 12 euros, depending on the region, and a 14-hour ride on the night bus costs about 30 euros.
In the tourist areas of the Riviera Maya you will notice a significant price difference compared to the rest of the country, but still you have the choice between fancy European standard restaurants, street food or many local restaurants.
Our tip: Be sure to wait for your visit to Oaxaca to buy cheap souvenirs for friends and family, the same pieces can be found at the Rivera Maya for three times the price.
History and culture
Before you visit this beautiful and diverse country, it certainly doesn’t hurt to know a little about its history. The local people will certainly be able to tell you a lot, but they will be happy if you already have some knowledge yourself.
Mexico’s history is marked by pre-Columbian civilizations, Spanish colonial rule and a long struggle for independence. Long before Christopher Columbus discovered America, different peoples lived in Mexico. Between 800 – 500 BC, the Zapotecs settled in Oaxaca and the Mayans on the Yucatán Peninsula. At that time the now famous Monte Albán was built, which you can visit outside of Oaxaca. Several other tribes joined them and built temples and entire cities in the areas they ruled, often several thousand meters above sea level. After Columbus arrived in 1492 and the Spanish led by Hernan Cortes in 1519, some Mayan and Aztec-held cities were lost to them. Also the then Aztec capital Tenochtitlan, on the ruins of which the present capital Mexico City was built.
It was not until 1821 that Mexico became independent of Spain and officially declared a republic. Today, Mexico is the most populous Spanish-speaking country and a total of 62 indigenous languages are recognized as official national languages.
WanderWorld Insider Tips from our contributor Lisa
Mexico is a country that really fascinates everyone from the first moment. Our contributor Lisa has already been able to travel to some places of Mexico herself and has summarized her favorite places and experiences of her trip in 4 highlights.
- Oaxaca is a vibrant, colorful and lively city. I was in love with the beautiful houses, cute restaurants, markets, and food from the first moment I saw it! Oaxaca has the best cuisine in Mexico, plus the traditional mezcal. My favorite dish there is the tlayuda, a huge, thin and crispy tortilla, topped with different ingredients. Oaxaca is the perfect place to experience the culture of Mexico! You can stroll through the beautiful colonial style streets in a pleasant climate and meet friends in a bar in the evening. For “Día de los Muertos”, the city is also decorated for days and there are big parades and parties.
- In Puerto Escondido I went surfing for the first time in my life and it was incredibly fun. The beaches are gorgeous and the waves are perfect for standing on the board for the first time. For me it was really exhausting, but this sense of achievement to stand a wave on the board is just outstanding! In the evening, you can have a well-deserved meal in the delicious restaurants and then go party in the beach bars and clubs.
- You’ll never get bored in Guadalajara. I can walk there for hours through the beautiful city and always discover new corners. The city combines the old colonial style with the modernity of a big city. Guadalajara is typically Mexican and I like the hustle and bustle of the city. Whether it’s a shopping tour or sightseeing, the city is a must-see on any Mexico trip. It also has top notch restaurants and a great hostel scene
- I had a total goosebump moment when I was in Mexico for Día de Muertos. The Day of the Dead is held annually on November 2, with preparations starting as early as mid-October. It was an unforgettable experience to stand in a cemetery in Michoacán at night with candlelight and music. The atmosphere was a bit spooky, but at the same time it was beautiful to see how Mexicans visited the graves of their relatives and still live this culture today. All the graves were decorated with flowers and candles, people were dancing, drinking, laughing, and crying in the cemetery – a very special experience. If you have the unique opportunity to be in Mexico at this time, you should definitely spend the holidays in Oaxaca or Michoacán.