For the culture hunters among us, it would appear at first glance that one has to board a plane to Europe or Asia in order to be surrounded by a culture that values its past. It’s a sentiment that’s not far off base here in North America, as many of us are surrounded by endless seas of sprawling suburbs in every direction.
In our downtowns, we have to fight tooth and nail to stop overzealous developers from bulldozing what few heritage buildings we do have, as few reminders of days gone by have survived the relentless drive for modernity. However, we needn’t go as far as we think we ought to, as the third amigo of the big 3 North American nations, Mexico, has a wealth of cultural elements, heritage structures, and ruins from the per-Columbian era that will satisfy the hunger of the most dedicated culture vulture.
While you will find reminders of their vibrant way of life everywhere you go in this nation, three cultural attractions in Mexico stand out from the rest, and should not be missed on your wanderings through Mexico. Let’s review them now…
Translating loosely to “City of the Gods” in Aztec, Teotihuacan is home to what was the largest pre-Columbian era, holding a population of 150,000 at its apex. The pyramids here are some of the largest in the world, giving their Egyptian cousins a run for their money, and while climbing some of them is allowed, the relatively high altitude will tire you out faster than you’ll realize, so take your time and bring lots of water.
While displays on traditional and contemporary Mexican culture can be had in most cities in the country, nowhere is it more profound than in Guadalajara. This city is well-known for its mariachis and (folk singers that serenade you while playing a classical guitar), wide open plazas with statues, fountains, and age old cathedrals. Additionally, within a short drive of this clean and photogenic city is Tequila, the town where Jose Cuervo tequila has its flagship distillery (and yes, tours are provided!)
Are you traveling with a group that insists on putting in some serious beach time while in Mexico? You needn’t sacrifice your desire for culture, as there are several cultural hotspots within easy reach of the resort centres of Cancun and Playa Del Carmen. Chichen Itza is the foremost attraction of them all, as it was a former Mayan city that was one of the largest in their civilization. El Castillo is the most famous ruin of the site, but take care climbing it, as the tropical heat here is relentless.
Further down the coast, Tulum is a smaller ruin, but one with a million peso view, as it has a regal view of the Caribbean, with the pure white sand beach below completing one of the most sought after photos in the Yucatan.
Finally, those looking for a taste of the real Mexico on the Yucatan Peninsula should head inland to Valladolid, as it lacks the touristy trappings of the coastal resorts, while retaining a wealth of Spanish colonial architecture, and people that are refreshingly unspoiled by the mass tourism that has affected the coastal regions.