Hey you!! Whats up? I just wanted to say if you have already decided to go to Mexico and planning a trip, you are Awesome. You can skip to main content.
However, If you are not sure or skeptical about travelling to Mexico for reasons like is it safe? Then , i would say , you will be missing out an awesome opportunity. And i will tell you exactly why. Here is my story on recent Mexico travel and I hope at the end of this story, you get really excited and get ready to pack your bags for Mexico Trip.
Thanks to my Mexican-American friends, Luis and Sushi , who decided to get married back home in Mexico. Me and my husband got a good opportunity to learn a lot about exciting new marriage culture and also made a mini vacation out of this trip.
I am definitely one of those person who plans a lot before any trip and i came across some articles telling why it may not be safe to visit Mexico. But i did my research and came to know , “Yes , Mexico can be dangerous like any other big cities in the world” , but most of the places in Mexico are safe . Only few have been marked as high risk due to criminal activities or covid. Also in these cities marked as dangerous , they are valid for only small areas. Most of it is pretty safe. As long as you follow some basic protocols like you would in any other city or country , you will not be in any trouble. This include things like keeping valuables safe back in hotel and not carrying them in crowed place where it can be pick pocketed, using Uber instead of taxi or public transport specially while its dark, not travelling randomly alone to unknown cities with less crowd and sticking in Tourists ares, booking tours with certified guides with really good reviews online and in general just being aware of you surrounding.
If you are travelling to Mexico for first time , like we did, this hassle free itinerary is perfect for you.
Here is a 1 week itinerary with best of everything from history to cuisine to nature . You can of course create your own sequence of activities based on your preference.
Pro tip 1: Domestic flights within Mexico cities are cheap (around 50-100 US Dollar for 1 way) if u book at least 2 weeks in advance. Some airlines do charge extra for checked baggage and don't include this in ticket price. So be aware of baggage policy before booking domestic flights. Since domestic flights are cheap, your major expense will be booking international flight from your country to any Mexico city you land first and city that you take off from while returning home. So you can visit these cities in any sequence that works for you and your budget. However if you don't want to miss World's Larget Weekly Car-Free cycling rides then make sure you have Mexico City (CDMX) listed on for Sunday (8 am to 2 pm).
Pro Tip 2: If you don't know Spanish, use google translator or download a translator app that does voice to voice translation or text to voice / vice-versa translation. It makes it easy to talk with locals and to find out secret local favorites.
City 1: Mexico City
Stay: We stayed at Centro Historico which is the epicenter of Mexican history with its architecturally impressive landmarks. It is also know as historic downtown of Mexico City. The reason we chose this place after tons of research was that all the site we wanted to visit was walkable and also it has an epic street food scene.
Day 1: Centro Historico
Here are top places to visit in Centro Historico. It no fun visiting all these historic sites without some background or history. Its like you go to Egypt to see pyramids but you don’t know why its so famous? why is it one of the 7 wonders of the world? So little historic background is important while visiting cities like Mexico City.
I am here for your rescue. With small snapshots of history i have provided below for each site, you can do a self guided walking tour on your own. But if you would like to know more in depth, i would suggest taking a guided tour ( from AirBnb or viator or getyourguide*).
Before we begin, its important to know that around 15th century, Mexico City , including other nearby cities , were being ruled by the Aztecs civilization. Mexico City at that point was known as the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan. Then Spanish warriors who were colonizing Mexico arrived at Aztec empire, overtook the Aztecs, claiming Tenochtitlan and the surrounding area for their own. With this small background on Mexico City history we can now begin our tour.
Here is a glimpse of google map of places to visit Mexico City on your first day. Staring from point A to point F in map below, if you just walk ,you can over all these sites in less than 30 minutes. Everything is literally right next to each other.
Stop 1: Zocalo SQUARE
No better place to start your first day than heart of Mexico city , Zócalo. It is also one of the largest square in the world. Zócalo has a giant Mexican flag at its center and is surrounded by many historic buildings, larger than life churches (aka Templo) , street vendors , street performers and list goes on.
History: Zócalo has been the centerpiece of public gatherings since the days of the Aztecs , a civilization that started in 1400. In Aztec times, the zócalo was a gathering place for rituals, ceremonies and parades. Its legacy still continues and due its capacity to hold large people, there are several events through the year at this square.
Stop 2: METROPOLITAN CATHEDRAL
Metropolitan Cathedral is located on the North side of the Zócalo just across the street. The cathedral is open daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and admission is free. Main highlight of Metropolitan Cathedral is its architecture and the details on the walls. Make sure you watch it from all side and just awe at its intricate beautiful details. We also went inside the church and spend some time in serenity.
History: Can you believe it took almost 250 years (1573–1813) to complete the construction of this cathedral. It was built by Spanish colonist who were back then trying to spread Christianity . The cathedral features 2 bell towers, a central dome, 150 windows and stands 220 feet tall.Most of the material is made from volcanic rock which gives this structure its unique texture and color. A majority of the construction was done by human hands with materials transported with horses and ox.
Stop 3: AVENUE FRANCISCO I. MADERO
After visiting zocalo and cathedral, just walk towards FRANCISCO avenue. This street runs from Zocalo to the Alameda park , our next stop. It is the walking street filled with lively crowd and street live shows. Main highlights of this street are huge number of shops, cafes , amazing architectures all the way on buildings around. Beware of pickpockets here. This stop is my favorite walking street in Mexico City.
Another popular activity in this street is climbing the Torre Latinoamericana building. It is a landmark with 360° view of city with an entry fee of 8 to 10$. We did not try this as we opted for a cafe with rooftop view few blocks ahead. i will mention it below.
History: This street is named after one of the most important figures in the Mexican Revolution – Francisco I. Madero. He was a member of a wealthy landowning family but despite his wealth, he was an advocate for social justice and democracy. This street has always been one of the most popular and busiest roads since colonial times.
Stop 4 : PALACIO DE BELLAS ARTES
PALACIO DE BELLAS ARTES is the most treasured architectural masterpieces in Mexico. This structure is just amazing to look at . The building’s exterior is made out of white marble with dome shaped roof with yellowish dragon scale tiles. Entrance fee is about 3$ per person but its free on Sunday. It is also know as “Cathedral of Art in Mexico” as it hosts several events like music, dance, theatre, opera , literature , art exhibitions , etc.
To get the best aerial view of BELLAS ARTES , i suggest you this rooftop cafe called ,Café Don Porfirio’s, which is right across the street. To get there, just cross the street and go inside the Sear’s building , up to the furniture department. You can also enjoy a little coffee, tea, pastry, or sandwich along with the view.
Pro tip 3: Make sure you check Sears store hours online as you cannot access this cafe if store is closed
The first stone of the building was placed by, president of Mexico , Porfirio Díaz, in 1904 with some italian architects. However the project sat unfinished for about twenty year. One reason for this was that the project became more complicated than anticipated in terms of construction location along other political & economic reasons during Mexican Revolution. In 1932, construction resumed under Mexican architect.
Stop 5: Churrería El Moro
One thing you can’t miss while in Mexico city is Churrería El Moro . It a cafe just 5 minutes walk from Bellas Artes building above . I am not a big fan of churros but churros here made me change my mind. Churros here were freshly made , crispy outside, chewy inside, mildly sweet and served hot. They also serve milkshakes , hot chocolate and coffee. Its opened 24 hours and they take card. Its around 20 pesos for an order of 4 huge churros. Trust me, it’s worth every cent.
One must try food while in Mexico is Tortas, a sandwich. Churrería El Moro also has a Tortas corner right outside , but they only take cash for tortas .
Stop 6: ALAMEDA CENTRAL (PARK)
After a long hustle and bustle around city , take some rest at ALAMEDA CENTRAL park. This park is better than any parks i have seen in America. First of all , its huge and filled with gigantic water fountains everywhere. You will see kids and adults playing / dancing in fountain , all soaking wet and just lying down on grass and park benches to dry off under the sun. This beautiful park is filled with the richness of this city’s culture beaming at every turn with music, dancing, skating and local Mexicans going about their life in or around the park.
Pro Tip 4: Don't drink street drinks with ice or water as it might upset your stomach. Instead get a bottled water or soda like Coke or Pepsi.
Day 2: Day trip to Teotihuacan and fancy 5 star dinner at World’s Largest Rotating Restaurant.
Teotihuacan is the most visited archeological site in North America. The ruins are extra ordinary and takes you back in time.
Main highlight of Teotihuacan is the dramatic architecture of building and layout of city which is carefully engineered to support a large population. It contains around 2,000 single-story apartment compounds, as well as various pyramids, plazas, temples and palaces of nobles and priests.
It’s amazing to imagine how this civilization from stone age build these larger than life cities with crude tools like stones. Another interesting thing about these structure and its surrounding is that they are designed in relation to specific constellations in sky and other planetary events to predict weather or rainfall.
INFO : This place has amazing vibes and many people around the world with mental stress , trauma and illness also come here for healing sessions. Sessions help to heal patients by connecting them back to earth and history of human evolution.
You can find tons of guided tour for Teotihuacan. One popular one is hot-air balloon ride over Teotihuacan. But the one we took was a walking tour. Ours tour included a hotel pickup and drop off from Mexico city to Teotihuacan site, 2 hours guided tour walk with all the history , 1 hour to explore by ourself and take photos. It also included lunch at local Mexican restaurant where we tried one of the famous dish i.e meat and rice with Mole sauce, cactus salad followed by ancient chocolate making tour.
Did you know , Mexican cuisine is considered to be a World heritage? I did not know that even food can be world heritage. I though , heritage are all buildings and stuff. There is a full details on food you can’t miss while in Mexico*.
Finally we visited ancient cave where we meditated like our human ancestors to the beats of ancient chants and century old musical instruments in total darkness.
In first century CE , in valley of Mexico, the greatest city of western hemisphere began to take shape i.e. Teotihuacan. This was the largest city ever in Meso America during that time. It was also one of the largest pre-industrial cities of the entire world. At the height of its power it was home to almost 200,000 people.
After Teotihuacan, we wanted to visit the famous cave restaurant , La Gruta. But due to limited time and since we were in guided tour , we had to head back to Mexico city.
Once we arrived at Mexico city, we headed to hotel room to freshen up and get ready for a date night at Bellini . This activity is something that we discovered on our own and did not find it mentioned anywhere in other blogs when we planned for Mexico.
Stop 2: Bellini restaurant that holds a Guinness World record for “Largest Revolving Resturant In The World”.
Bellini is a once in a lifetime opportunity that should not be missed while in Mexico city. Bellini is located at 45th floor of Mexico city’s World Trade Center. This entire restaurant rotates (very slowly) with amazing view of city outside . They had a lot in their menu with cuisine all over the world, but we tried a “Elite Menu” which came with a 4 course menu and a bottle of champagne.
My favorite part was when they made dessert right in-front of our table. It was a beautiful performance with fire and sizzle. The price was about 200$ and its good for two people. I can guarantee that you can’t have same experience in USA for anything less than 500$.
Day 3: Cycling , Rooftop breakfast with a historic view and Street food for lunch
I hope you are hungry , lets get started .
Stop 1: Sunday cycling at Paseo de la Reforma
If you are in Mexico City on Sunday Morning, why would you want to miss world’s largest weekly car-free cycling ride! If you are looking for something fun and unique to do in Mexico City, the first thing that should be in your list is Sunday morning cycling at Reforma.
Every Sunday between 8:00 am to 2:00 pm, all cars are banned from the street and the entire roadway is blocked to allow space for bikes, scooters, runners, and pedestrians. This street is like a vein flowing through the city and connects many popular neighborhoods.
After that awesome bike ride , how about a breakfast with equally awesome rooftop view of Historic center? Well , that’s our second stop. This restaurant is around 20 mins drive from Reforma. However all other stops for day 2 below are walkable from EL mayor restaurant.
Stop 2: Breakfast at El Mayor
El Mayor is a rooftop restaurant with a view of Templo Mayor, other Mexican cathedrals around Plaza de la Constitución. One unique thing we tried here was chapulines , a cricket soup along with some fresh orange juice. However you also get regular Mexican or American breakfast.
Stop 3: Templo Mayor area
Templo Mayor was main temple of Mexican people in ancient city of Tenochtitlan dedicated to god of rain and agriculture. Several human scarifies were done to appease the rain god .
Prisoners were taken to the top of the steep steps of the pyramid leading to two shrines. The victims’ abdomens were sliced open by high priests with ceremonial knives, and their hearts were scraped out and raised to the spirits above in sky. Meanwhile lifeless bodies were tossed down the stairs in-fornt of huge crowd. Around 4,000 prisoners were killed to satisfy the Aztec gods on this four-day butchering ceremony . You can see this entire scene i just described in movie Apocalypto.
However this temple was destroyed by Spanish during their colonization. Currently there is a museum with ruins of temple. We had a good view of the ruins from El Mayor restaurant that i mentioned earlier in this post for breakfast, so we did not visit the museum. Instead we walked around as most of the ruins are just visible from outside.
Stop 4: Street food at Santo Domingo plaza
This is by far the most best kept secret as i did not see anyone mention this place in any other blog articles. We stayed at Santo Domingo Hotel in Centro Historico and saw a bustling local life on street everyday during our stay. Thats how we discovered this intersections of streets with amazing fresh local street food starting right in-front of a square called Plaza de Santo Domingo.
City 2: Playa del Carmen
Stay: We stayed at Vindata Riveira Maya Resort , 20 minutes away from Playa del Carmen.
DAY 4: Chichen Itza and Cenote IK-KIL
This is where we saw our first wonder of the world out of 7. Located on the Yucatan Peninsula, around 3 hours from Rivera Maya, Chichen Itza is an impressive ancient Mayan civilization city. You might be familiar with this picture. It is one of the most significant buildings in the Mayan Empire and i will tell you why its listed as one of the ” Seven Wonders of the World“.
We started our adventure with an early pick up from our resort around 5 am. We booked our trip from Airbnb but several other websites like Trip-advisor, Viator , Mexico local guide , resort/hotel guides, etc also have this experience listed. Early trip allowed us to beat the crowds and the heat once we were at the ancient ruins of Chichen Itza. This was a full day tour from 5am to 5 pm.
Once in Chichen Itza, we roamed around the Mayan ruins which used to be bustling complex with people, palaces , temples , market, homes and so on. We learned a lot about Mayan rich history, culture and daily life. I was particular impressed by their engineering and architect skills. This is also one of the reason why Chichen Itza is one of the 7 wonder of world and world heritage site. More on its architecture marvel below in History section.
The tour also took us to the charming town of Piste where we had a quick look around before we make our way to Cenote Ik Kil. Then we filled our bellies with some local buffet food at Cenote Ik Kil, and headed for swim on Cenote. After reaching resort , we went to watch Cirque du Soleil® JOYÀ show as it was inside same resort we were staying. This show draws on the heritage and history of Mexico weaved into the story, presented in an intimate dinner theatre in the jungle of the Riviera Maya.
Chichen Itza archaeological site has different Mayan ruins to explore such as the Kukulkan Pyramid, The temple of the warriors, The Skull temple, and more. But the focal point of Chichen Itza is the 75-foot-tall Temple of Kukulkan, a feathered serpent god. What is so special about this pyramid looking structure , you ask? First of all, its a temple not a pyramid. Each side of the temple has 91 steps. So, if you multiply 91 by 4 (there are 4 sides of the temple) you get 364 and if you add the 1 step at the top of the temple the total becomes 365, which indicates the 365 days in a year. Mayans , soley based on this building and its shadow estimated crop and harvest season. They predicted seasons and days in a year.
Mayan civilization who had mastered astrology over time, literally created this temple as a physical calendar that aligned with the sun and predicted awesome things throughout the year. Isn’t that super cool?
Architectural details are designed with such perfection that in the late afternoon on the spring and autumn equinoxes, the sun casts shadows that slithers down the steps and finally connects with the stone serpent’s head at the bottom of one of the staircases. Thus making it look like moving snake.
Due to all these marvellous architecture , Chichen Itza is one of the 7 wonders of the world.
Now let’s talk about underground water hole, Cenote.
Cenote is a natural pit, or sinkhole, resulting from the collapse of limestone-bedrock that exposes groundwater fresh water. Mayan build their civilization around Cenote due to plenty of fresh water. However, locals say that Mayan used some specific Cenote for human sacrifice and burials after death which gradually polluted several other Cenote. Mayans were not aware of the fact that all Cenote were, in-fact, inter-connected through underground water system. With growing population and lack of fresh water whole civilization had to leave Chichen Itza and migrate to new place. It’s just a belief not based on facts.
Day 5-6: Soak the sun and self care
Spend two or more days to just relax and plan no activities. Just chill with your drink by the pool or ocean , sleep in your cabana and have some good food . Since USD, EURO currency has more value in Mexico, use this opportunity to get some SPA, manicures, pedicures, calming messages, hot stone messages, facials and similar to unwind all the stress and to relax. These services are comparatively of better quality and more cheaper in Mexico, specially inside resorts.
Day 7: Explore Playa Del Carmen (Optional)
If you have one more day here are list of top activities to choose from at Palaya Del Carmen.
- Jetski or Speed boat snorkelling tour
- If you like zip line, rafts or swim in the underground river or drive the jungle jeeps / ATVs through jungle then you will love Xplor Park
- Swim with Dolphins
- Xcaret is the nature , adventure and cultural park, all in one at Playa del Carmen with more than than 50 aquatic activities, natural and cultural attractions for entire family to enjoy , from kids to adults to elderly. There are lot of options to choose from The Xcaret Basic admission is $99.99 USD, while Xcaret Plus is $129.99 USD
City 3: Jalisco , Mexico
Day 8: Jalisco half Day tour or Overnight at Barrel hotel
Jalisco is birth place of Tequila. You can skip Jalisco city in your first trip to Mexico, if you don’t have enough time. But if you do , 1 day is more than enough to get best out of this place. We stayed for few days at historic center of Guadalajara as our friends were getting married in this city. City of Tequila is 45 minutes drive from Central Guadalajara.
There are two ways you can enjoy Jalisco. Make a day trip with pickup and drop off from your hotel to Jalisco or spend a night at some Hotel.
If you do decide to stay, Matices Hotel de Barricas will be the best option as it is a stylish barrel like pod in town of Tequila surrounded by agave fields. It offers tequila tasting and guided tours of the facility and on-site museum. It is expensive but definitely worth it.
Guadalajara is also a beautiful city , full of history , nature and also a birth place of Birra Tacos. We did not get enough time to visit this city and we hope to visit it in our next trip.
Pro Tip 5: Make sure you check review for tours and hotels when booking in Tequila as some areas are not considered to be a safe. Only book from companies that seem legit and have really good review even if its expensive.
Airbnb Experience Chichen Itza & Cenote Ik-Kil (Note: We did the one which was hosted by guy name Ariff, highly recommended)
Santo Domingo Hotel in Centro Historico (Type this hotel name in Booking.com or expedia.com)