The Cultural Riches of Mexico
There’s something electric that happens when I find myself talking about the Mexico travel experience with another Mexico enthusiast. We both can’t get the words out fast enough about the people of Mexico, the warmth, the culture and beauty of the country. The same thing happens when I’m speaking to someone who has never been to Mexico –you can see the passion in my eyes and feel the sincerity in my words as I speak fondly of a country I have traveled to all of my life.
Traveling can be one of the most rewarding and exhilarating experiences we can have: cathartic, transformational and many times, very emotional. People travel for many different reasons whether it’s to tan themselves on the sunny shores of Mexico’s white sand beaches, retreat for wellness, voluntourism, adventure and adrenaline, gastronomy, language-study, work abroad or to gain a rich cultural experience.
In a recent article from a popular in-flight magazine, Mexico’s Secretary of Tourism, Gloria Guevara named a few of her favorite reasons to travel. She stated, “Immersing myself in a local culture is very important.”
In my opinion, Mexico is clearly defined by its rich culture and all of its extraordinary offerings. Below are suggestions to enhance your cultural experience in Mexico.
Pueblos Magicos – Magical Towns
From a tourism perspective, Mexico offers undoubtedly some the most pristine beaches in the world along with an abundance of five star hotels, stunning architecture, breathtaking archeological ruins and world-class cuisine. But off the beaten path, Mexico is filled with hidden jewels and towns so colorful and quaint, they seem surreal. In order to preserve and showcase these towns, in 2001, the government of Mexico identified a list of ‘pueblos magicos’ (magic towns) to help put some of its most colorful, undiscovered areas on the map. These quaint towns are representative of historical tradition and reflect regional folklore and culture of the country.
Some of the magical towns on the list include: Izamal, Yucatan, San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Dolores Hidalgo, Guanajuato, Creel, Chihuahua and of course dozens more. On the last revision of the list, updated in June, 2012, there are 55 pueblos magicos located throughout Mexico.
As all of the pueblos magicos can make for an immense (but certainly worthy) bucket list, I did have the good fortune to have at least visited a few of them, Izamal in particular. The small, historical town of Izamal, located in the state of Yucatán is approximately 40 miles east of Mérida. If you are planning on making a trip to Mérida, I highly recommend visiting the town of Izamal and, in particular, a visit to Centro Cultural y Artesanal Izamal.
Named a “Pueblo Mágico” in 2002, Izamal is known in Yucatán as “The Yellow City”, as most of its buildings are painted yellow and “The City of Hills” as most of the hills are said to be the remains of ancient temple pyramids. It was an important archaeological site of the Pre-Columbian Maya civilization and today, the Maya language is still heard as much as Spanish in Izamal. This historically significant location is also on the list of properties in line to become an official UNESCO World Heritage Site.
I invite you to discover other pueblos magicos on your next visit to Mexico to enhance your cultural experience. Keep in mind that festivities in each of these towns are abundant and will create a lifelong memories for you and/or your family. To learn more about the ‘pueblos magicos’ visit: http://pueblosmagicos.visitmexico.com/wb2/.
UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Mexico
If you think your cultural bucket list was full after discovering the pueblos magicos of Mexico list, try adding on these 31 extraordinary cultural properties and natural areas inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. In addition to this list, there are also 31 impressive sites on the tentative list as well.
According to the official UNESCO World Heritage site, to be included on the World Heritage List, sites must be of outstanding universal value and meet at least one out of ten selection criteria. These criteria are explained on the World Heritage website and are regularly revised by the Committee to reflect the evolution of the World Heritage concept itself.
Having visited several sites on this list repeatedly, I can see why these areas have been chosen to represent Mexico as far as its greatest cultural assets. The state of Oaxaca, the second furthest state in Mexico, is at the top of my list for recommendations for the best cultural experience in Mexico. Original indigenous cultures, flavors that will send your taste buds into overdrive, ancient archeological ruins, impressive cathedrals, vibrant textiles and handicrafts are just some of the reasons why Oaxaca is truly a cultural mecca.
Oaxaca appears twice on the World Heritage list: the Historic Centre of Oaxaca and Archaeological Site of Monte Albán, added in 1987 and the Prehistoric Caves of Yagul and Mitla in the Central Valley of Oaxaca added in 2010.
Above all, before visiting any of these specially selected towns or areas, either on the pueblos magicos list or the UNESCO World Heritage list, keep in mind cultural traditions of the people. Knowing more about the area and its people will surely enhance your experience.
For more information on the World Heritage Sites of Mexico - visit