Welcome to the Mexico Travel Awards Show presented by Planet Bell. Last fall, I traveled for two months through 13 Mexican states, from the north to the south, from the Baja to the Yucatan, and points in between. Here is a map of where I went:
Now that the dust has settled on the trip and I’ve had time to reflect, it is time to give out awards! By the way, I am wearing a tuxedo and will be your host for this event. Please put on your formal wear, get a beverage of your choice and settle in for an evening of awards and entertainment.
The Best of Mexico Travel
Prettiest Colonial City
(I am now opening the envelope to reveal the winner)
And the winner is: Guanajuato!
Mexico, it could be argued, has the greatest collection of cities outside of Europe. The Spaniards, aside from mining silver, decimating local populations and destroying their temples, were also very good at erecting striking colonial cities. Although all of them are beautiful, colorful Guanajuato, which is shoehorned in a narrow valley and is dotted with plazas and squares, is the most bewitching of them all.
The Most Impressive Natural Wonder in Mexico
The winner is: The Monarch Butterfly Reserve!
In this very competitive category, The Monarch Butterfly Reserve emerges as the victor for one reason: it is unique. Each winter, huge swarms of butterflies migrate to central Mexico for the winter. Standing all alone in a forest with literally millions of butterflies flying around is truly magical and cannot be replicated anywhere else on Earth.
Best Park or Plaza
- Plaza de Armas, Morelia
- Zocalo, Puebla
- Zocalo, Cuetzalan
- Plaza de la Independencia, Campeche
- Plaza Girabaldi, Mexico City
And the winner is: Plaza de Armas, Morelia
Mexican parks and squares are full of activity, but the Plaza de Armas in Morelia was my favorite. During our visit, the beautiful square was packed with street performers, dancers, musicians, families and lovers. The park is surrounded by lively cafes, bars and restaurants and the massive church that rises on the east side of the square is one of the most impressive in Mexico. Moreover, there were hardly any tourists there.
Best Mexican Beer
- Negra Modela
And the winner is: Victoria
In an effort to report back to my readers on the quality of Mexican beer, I tried to sample all of them. Normally I am not a fan of watery Mexican beer because I like my beer to have flavor. But in the heat, with a lime and muy picante food, a Mexican beer totally hits the spot.
I should note that Negra Modelo is clearly the best beer in Mexico. No one with a palate could deny that. The reason Victoria wins is that it was usually 5 pesos cheaper, and if you are
a cheapskate frugal traveler like me, every bit counts.
Best Mexican Food
- Fish Tacos
- Enchiladas for breakfast
- Guacamole by the truckload
- Chile Relleno Taco (yes, there is such a thing).
And the winner is, what? Okay, and the winner is: Fish Tacos?
I know what the audience is thinking: that is maybe the most boring food you could pick, but hear me out. Fish tacos were usually just a bit of fish or shrimp on a corn tortilla, but what made them delicious was the accouterment. Often, there was a condiment bar with peppers, avocado, pickled onions, tomatoes and salsas that ranged from fire to toxic on the picante scale. Once the taco is properly decorated it is transformed into a cheap, flavorful and filling pocket of goodness.
Note: always take a tiny taste of any salsa before loading up your taco or dunking your tortilla chip in it.
Best off the Beaten Path Destination
And the winner is: Zozocolco!
The owners of our guesthouse in Cuetzalan invited us to go with them to the state of Veracruz to a festival. It turned out to be the most fun adventure of our trip. In addition to getting to spend a day with a Mexican family, we got to see a colorful, lively fiesta that was free of tourists. Giant balloons made of thin tissue paper were filled with hot air so that they would expand and take flight. Between each balloon launch, there was live music, dancing and this being a Mexican fiesta, much drinking.
Favorite Ancient Ruin
For this category, lets look at a photo of each nominee.
And the winner is…WOW! This one is a surprise. Uxmal wins in an upset!
Obviously, Chichen Itza was the clear favorite to win here, and admittedly, it is more impressive than Uxmal in many ways. Chichen Itza is truly a wonder of the world. But Uxmal is also incredibly impressive and is smack in the middle of the jungle. It receives a fraction of the tourists of Chichen Itza and you can enjoy it almost all to yourself.
Best Place to Watch a Sunset
And the winner is: the La Paz Malecon!
The seaside promenade of La Paz comes alive at sunset when the temperatures finally drop and the intense tropical sun slips below the horizon. The malecon becomes a playground for kids, families, joggers, bikers, skateboards, and partiers. The restaurants that line the avenue are reasonably priced, offer great food and people watching. Speaking of which…
Best Place for People Watching
And the winner is: Zona Rosa, Mexico City
With drag queens, tattooed bikers, fashionable youngsters, men in suits, girls in impossibly high heals, random indigenous women in traditional clothes and punks with piercings and green hair, the Pink Zone of Mexico City is a people watching, and street photography, dream. On our last visit, at 5pm on Friday, all the sidewalk cafes and bars were packed with people fresh off work, starting the weekend early with heavy drinking, dancing and fun.
Overall Mexican Highlight
Okay, now it is time for the big prize, the Very Best of Mexico.
Drum Roll Please…
And the winner is: Day of the Dead, Oaxaca!
Overall, our best experience and favorite thing in Mexico was the Day of the Dead celebration in Oaxaca. We experienced five days of colorful parades, wild fiestas, and raucous concerts juxtaposed with somber gatherings in the cemeteries. I have never seen anything like it. Mexicans really know how to fiesta!
That concludes our evening of awards. I’d like to congratulate all the winners and nominees.
Have you been to Mexico?
What are your favorite places?
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My favorite awards ceremony of the year! (OK, it is also the only one I’ve paid any attention to). Congrats to the winners and to you for sacrificing your time to check out each of the nominees!
The nominees appreciate you taking the time to read and pay attention to this awards show. It was a hard job researching it all, but someone had to do it!
Over the years, I’ve been to Mexico on 16 different trips ranging from a day to a year. I’ve been to more Mexican states (percentage wise) than American states. I like your nominees and winners, but they are limited to the places you visited, dah. However, that can be remedied by more trips south of the boarder. Of all the countries in the world, and I’ve been through 60 of them, I rate Mexico right up there with the best of them, and the best part is: they’re our neighbor!
The only thing I might disagree with you is on the beer. Pacifico is my favorite. 🙂
Next on your list should be further south, Guatemala! Tikal, Antigua, Lago Atitlan, volcan Pacaya, and much more. Be sure to take your camera again.
Hi Steve, I agree with you – Mexico is one of the top countries in the world. When you add up the pre-Columbian ruins, the natural wonders, the cities, the culture and food, It is hard to beat.
As you say, this is limited to my experience and there are so many places yet to visit for me, like Zacatecas, the Pacific coast, the Chiapas. Mexico is a huge country!
Pacifico is a good beer too – My wife would list that as her favorite. Maybe someday we’ll drink one with you in Mexico.
And the winner of the best travel awards show … once again is Planet Bell. Let the good times roll.
Thank you Lyle.
Jeff what a brilliant way to do a summary of your amazing Mexico trip. Loved the recap and the photos. An unexpected pleasure in Mexico was stand up paddleboarding off the coast of Manzanillo with what had to be some international pelican convention. Hundreds of them all around. All very peaceful until one took off which caused all including me to take flights. They were graceful . Me not so much.
Pelicans are my favorite. I can’t imagine being in the middle of them as they take off and fly around. Am I right to assume you fell off the paddle board?
Yes and Dave caught the photo. I don’t want to spam your comments with a link but the post is called Stand Up Paddle Boarding in Manzanillo if you want to have a look. 🙂
You are always welcome to share a link in the comments.
That is a hilarious photo, and also terrifying. It looks Hitchcockian. I am glad you survived.
Fun! I could not guess your winners after reading the nominations because sadly, I haven’t been to most of those places. I did guess the Zona Rosa win though. The hardest category was food, it’s just so good!
The food is great. I think part of the reason I went with fish tacos was that I got it in all regions. I was surprised at how each region had different cuisine and how far removed it all is from Tex-Mex. As much as I loved the food, it is a slow form of suicide! Some of it is so fattening!
Zona Rosa was fun, and as we’ve discussed, I loved Mexico City. Such a great place. Thanks for commenting.
Very Nice Place, I Like It
What a wonderful way to present your post. I found it entertaining and informative and so really enjoyed it. I’m not sure about the fish tacos, though…
Beautiful photos from Mexico!
Wonderful round up, Jeff! You hit on several of my personal faves (Guanajuato and Morelia), and introduced me to some great new destinations to put on our next Mexico itinerary (Zozocolco and Uxmal). I’m still sticking with Negra Modelo as my beer of choice, but I’ll give Victoria another chance. 🙂 Your first photo is stunning! Is that Mexico City? ~Terri
Obviously you have way more money than we do if you are willing to pay a whole 5 extra pesos for Negra Modelo!
The first photo is from Campeche, a colonial town on the Gulf Coast of the Yucatan. It was one of the prettiest cities we saw, but it had a museum like quality as the colonial center was beautiful yet quiet. Outside the old walls was a busy city.
If you like Mayan ruins, Uxmal is a great choice. Thanks for the feedback.
Great post Jeff. Mexico is fabulousness from fiestas to beaches to gorgeous colonial cities. You covered a few places we haven’t been to, but have the same wonderful Mexican flavour we’ve experienced every time we’ve been here. Great photos as usual. I especially like the opening shot and the one of Guanjuato.
Thank you Alison. Have you done much exploring yet or just taking it easy?
Those colonial cities are so photogenic. It is hard to take a bad photo!
We’ve been taking it easy. We knew we needed to stop for a while so came to SMA to do that. On April 4th we go to La Manzanilla for 2 months at the beach.
The beach will be nice. It should be nice and warm with afternoon thundershowers that time of year I think.
I think we’ll be good re rain – last time we were there the rains didn’t start until June.
I’ve only been to Mexico once so I’m in no position to have an opinion, but I really enjoyed your unique awards ceremony. I love the idea of spending 2 months touring the country 🙂
Two months still wasn’t enough. I need to go back and hit many places in the north, the Chiapas and the Pacific coast! It is such a huge place with so much to see.
Thank you for tuning in to the awards ceremony.
That’s that problem on any trip. So much to see and do … so little time and money 🙂
This is a terrific post and it was fun to see who won the various categories although clearly this was NOT a democratic process 🙂
You traveled quite far and wide for two months in a country …. One can’t see it all, but you sure got around and seems you had a good sprinkling of ruins, cities, food and beer.
Mexico is a really diverse country. In two months we kept seeing different things. Have you been?
looks superb 🙂
I loved this post! I’m planning to travel in Mexico (and maybe Guatemala) for about 4 weeks this summer. I’m thinking Mexico City, Oaxaca and Chiapas (though I’m possibly reconsidering after reading your Mexico posts). I’m curious about the following:
1) How do you recommend getting around and how simple did you find regional travel to be?
2) Where did you stay and any tips for finding good/cheap places to rest your head?
3) How safe did you and your wife feel? I’ll be traveling mostly alone and speak Spanish, but just curious if you have wisdom there.
P.S. Jenny and Justin Jurek are my good friends and when I told them I’m thinking Mexico this summer, they pointed me to your site 🙂
1. The Mexican bus system is one of the best in the world. Buses are clean, safe, comfortable and go everywhere. At the bus stations, you get secure, pre-paid taxis to your hotel. It is so easy to move around by bus.
2. We usually stay in cheap hotels or guesthouses, but Mexico has plenty of good hostels too. I almost always use booking.com and highly recommend it. You get photos of rooms, up to date reviews and a really easy booking especially if you create an account. Otherwise, lonely planet usually has good recommendations and has maps and descriptions of neighborhoods.
3. Mexico is very, very safe for a single female trailer, however you will probably get cat called and flirted with a bit – there is a bit of machisimo in the country. If you travel during the day, use pre-paid taxis or have a hotel call for you (never hail one on the street), don’t become a drug mule, don’t try to overthrow a drug cartel and choose hotels in the city center you will be totally fine.
We traveled through Michoacan, Chihuahua, Mexico State, and Sinaloa, all of which are among the most dangerous states in the country. We were totally safe. There isn’t much street crime, it is mostly a war between cartels and the police. In fact, some places are exceedingly safe. Yucatan state has a murder rate on par with Vermont.
Jenny and Justin are the best. Thanks for checking out my blog and let me know if you have any more questions.
One thing I’d say is that if you are considering Guatemala you can’t go wrong. Antigua, Lake Atitlan and Tikal are world class destinations that are very fun for a solo traveler (you will meet many cool people) and climbing Vulcan de Pacaya is a really awesome experience. I spent about 6 months total there (all pre-blog so no posts) and really love it. One thing I’d say is that if you do go there Guatemala City is dangerous and so is the Mexico/Guate border region. You might try to fly between the two countries or if you cross by land, take the long-distance bus from Tapachula to Guatemala City and avoid doing the border crossing independently.
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