Teotihuacan

Teotihuacan

At last, after months of pyramid-hopping, we have made it to Mexico’s queen of pyramids, the Pyramid of the Sun. At 71.2 m, it is the highest pyramid in Mexico and completely dominates the archaeological site of Teotihuacan outside of Mexico City. It is absolutely massive!

As we approached the hulking structure with its monstrous base, we kept oohing and ahhing. Rather than immediately running up the 248 steps to the top, we headed straight for the Continue…

Mexico City

Mexico City

Mexico City is huge, overwhelming, chaotic, loud, totally insane and absolutely spectacular. The entire city feels like an edgy work of art done by some artist who is destined to be completely misunderstood for life. Perhaps that’s why until our visit, I completely misunderstood one of North America’s greatest destinations.

Yes, it’s polluted and, at times, dangerous. But it is arguably the culturally richest place in the Americas. Mexico City is literally built on the ruins of the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan. One of the oldest colonial cities in the new world, the inhabitants of Mexico City were strolling past Spanish Baroque while the first colonial Americans were patching the holes in their drafty log cabins with mud. Some cities would be content to rest on their historical laurels, but Mexico City is a constantly Continue…

The Tule Tree

tule-tree-1

The Tule Tree just outside Oaxaca City is one of the little known wonders of Mexico. A Montezuma cypress roughly estimated to be around 1,400 years old, the Tule Tree has a circumference of 42 meters (138 ft), greater than any known tree in the world. To find a competitor which is even roughly approaches the Tule Tree, skeptics have to play some serious mathematical games. The massive plume of green foliage is so large that it Continue…

Sumidero Canyon

sumidero-1

I have to admit it’s been a while since we featured a purely natural attraction on the blog. Clearly, we’ve been enjoying colonial city life a little too much. To mix it up, we pried ourselves away from cobblestone streets and multi-colored casas and did a boat tour through the spectacular Sumidero Canyon in the state of Chiapas.

Entering through the southern end of the canyon at Chiapa de Corzo, we were quickly swallowed up by vertical walls reaching heights of up to 800 meters or more. Absolutely breathtaking! The two-and-a-half-hour tour travels 35 kilometers through the canyon and across a resevoir to Continue…

Casa Lily – Apartment with a View

casa-lily-1

After only a day in San Cristobal de las Casas, we totally fell in love with the town and decided to stay a little longer than we had originally planed. So we moved from our hotel to the lovely Casa Lily Ixim. After our wonderful experience in Merida, this was yet another special find as the casa is truly unique.

Designed and built by Swiss artist and architect Frédéric Burkhard, the apartment boasts lots of light, interesting angles, organic forms and an amazing view of Guadalupe Church. But what really impressed us were the Continue…

San Cristobal Tribal Markets

Chiapas market

Without a doubt, the highlight of any trip to beautiful San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas is a visit to the regional markets full of colorful Tzotzil and Tzeltal people. We explored the local market here in San Cristobal as well as the markets in Tenejapa, San Lorenzo Zinacantan and San Juan Chamula. It’s a feast for the senses and a quick course in the diversity of the region. Each village features unique local garb. Don’t miss the black, rug-like skirts of San Juan Chamula and the elaborately embroidered designs of San Lorenzo Zinacantan.

If you visit, try to get to those markets early to catch stunning processions of locals as they leave the church on market day. This is the best time to see everyone decked out in colorful turbans, heavy ponchos, and ribboned hats. (And don’t miss their very cool traditional footwear.) As in neighboring Guatemala, if you do decide to visit less touristed markets such as Tenejapa, be very careful Continue…

Palenque

palenque-1

The archaeological site of Palenque has been on our must-see list for over a decade. When we visited Tikal in Guatemala in 2001, we were very close to crossing the border into Mexico, but decided to put off Palenque for a future adventure. And now, here we are.

What makes Palenque even more special to us is that it is our last Mayan site on the Yucatan Peninsula. As we move west, we will be encountering other pre-Columbian civilizations, but in terms of Mayan ruins, this is it. So did Palenque hold up to our expectations and was it a worthy contender as our lasting image of a Mayan site? Continue…

Colossal Stone Heads of La Venta

la-venta-heads-1

Parque-Museo La Venta in Villahermosa is one of the most unique, well conceived museums we’ve ever encountered. Created in 1958, the park-museum was designed to house relocated Olmec treasures that were threatened by petro-chemical development near the original La Venta archaeological site in northern Tabasco. Those priceless treasures include three colossal stone heads as well as many other very impressive examples of Olmec sculpture and carving.

Olmec art is very old (1,000 – 500 BC) and unique; it immediately stands out from other pre-Columbian art because of its simplicity and modern aesthetic. (Much of the smaller sculpture could almost be mistaken for contemporary Japanese art.) There are also some intriguing cylindrical basalt structures and monoliths that leave visitors with many questions.

Such unique art requires an equally unique environment. Rather than being just another series of indoor rooms, Parque-Museo La Venta is a Continue…

Mayans and Mennonites

mennonitesLook for Mennonite crossing signs in rural Campeche

One of my favorite experiences while traveling through Campeche was seeing the many Mennonite communities along the way. As a German I was curious. Persecuted for their beliefs, the Mennonites had left the German speaking parts of central Europe hundreds of years ago. And up until now, I had never encountered them.

Walking through a local market, I found myself being transported back in time. In the sea of short Mayans, there were tall, pale women in dark floral-print dresses and men in black overalls, plaid shirts and straw hats. It was surreal. Although I couldn’t stop staring at them, I was mostly curious about their Germanic language. After all, they were my people (or so I thought). A few days later, we finally had a chance to talk to them.

While visiting an archaeological site near Hopelchen, we met a young Mennonite couple who had just emigrated from Continue…