By guest blogger Carla Dobson-Elliott.
Mexico is a beautiful, welcoming, and culturally fascinating nation whose appeal is often overshadowed by rowdy coastal resorts such as Cancun and Tijuana. Beyond the tourist trail lies an ancient and endlessly fascinating country.
While Puebla and Toluca are good bases for exploring South-Central Mexico, neither quite lives up to the hustle and bustle of Mexico City, which is always buzzing with plenty to see and do and boasts a lively restaurant and bar scene.
If you are looking to spend a day acclimatizing yourself to Mexico City, as well as getting to know the country that you are visiting, then the National Museum of Anthropology (Museo Nacional de Antropologia – closed on Mondays) is definitely worth spending a couple of hours exploring. A vast treasure trove of Mexican culture and history, it is perhaps the best place to get to grips with Mexico’s pre-Hispanic Mayan and Aztec cultures before heading out to visit the ancient ruins in person.
Things not to miss
A little over 30 miles northeast of Mexico City lies the ancient city of Teotihuacan, an expansive collection of Mesoamerican pyramids that stretch back over two millennia. Translated from the Aztec language to mean “where god met man”, the origins of this historic monument are shrouded in mystery with any number of Mesoamerican cultures potentially laying claim to its construction.
The most impressive structures in Teotihuacan are the great pyramids of the sun and the moon, which were built during the 1st century AD. These enormous altars offer the best views over the complex and the surrounding countryside.
What to eat
Most of what we have come to recognize as Mexican food is mainly Tex-Mex, an American invention or adaptation on traditional Mexican cuisine.
Most dishes will probably seem foreign to Anglophone visitors, but the flavours and bases for traditional Mexican dishes aren’t a million miles away from their Tex-Mex offshoots. Picadillo for example is very similar to chilli con carne and variations of enchiladas also exist.
Street food is very popular in Mexico City with taco stands and torta (sandwich) shops dotted along the main streets in major cities.
What to drink
Tequila is perhaps Mexico’s most famous export and a symbol of the country’s drinking habits. Traditionally it is drunk straight, without lemon or salt, or mixed in with sangrita (a mix of orange juice, grenadine and hot chillies), however, the salt and lime version or “tequila cruda” can be acquired.
The country is also known for its wide range of internationally recognizable beers, with Corona being the standout name, but other brands such as Sol, Dos Equis, and Modelo are likely to be known to UK consumers.
In Mayan times chocolate was drunk rather than eaten and this tradition has continued in modern-day Mexico, where hot chocolate is infused with vanilla or chilli. Coffee is also jazzed up with café de olla (brewed with cinnamon and cane sugar) a specialty.