The idea of a Mexican vacation, for most Americans, conjures images of palm trees, beachside margaritas, and sun soaked afternoons by the pool, typically in popular destinations like Cancún, Cozumel, Acapulco, and Puerto Vallarta. Often, cruises or all-inclusive resorts are part of the deal, with perhaps a visit or two into town to buy some crafts at a market or enjoy an authentic taco or michelada. And while there is a lot to be said about lying on the beach for three or four days without a care in the world, many of Mexico’s landlocked destinations are equally enjoyable and wildly underrated. We learned this instantly during our recent trip to Mexico City.
We had been to Mexico City (Distrito Federal to Mexicans, as the District of Columbia is to Washington) before, to run the marathon there last year, and M. had been one other time on business. However, running through the streets at nearly 8,000 feet and the accompanying altitude sickness that we experienced didn’t allow for much sightseeing. So, we decided to make one last trip to Mexico’s capital and dedicate our time to exploring the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes that it has to offer.
Some of our family and friends reacted in surprise at our mention of going there, likely because Mexico City has an unfortunate reputation of being an overcrowded, polluted megalopolis in a country overtaken by organized crime. What we discovered during our visit couldn’t be more opposite. We spent four and a half glorious days soaking in Mexico’s rich culture, from its beautiful and friendly people and colorful, delicious food to its Spanish-influenced architecture and Aztec ruins, the whole time thinking what a shame it is that there aren’t more tourists.
If you have the chance to visit this treasure of a city, go. You won’t be sorry.
Below is a small sampling of the hundreds of photos that best capture our time there.
Thank you for reading!
(Click photos to enlarge.)
An original painting of a jaguar on one of the walls in Teotihuacan. This artwork is more than 1,500 years old. Believed to have been created by the gods, the jaguar was considered sacred by the Aztecs.
The original cloth or tilma, showing the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mexico’s most important and popular religious and cultural image. This cloak is nearly 500 years old.
Danza de los Voladores (Dance of the Flyers, or pole flying), an ancient Mesoamerican ritual that is performed to thank the gods for rain or bountiful harvests. It originated in what is now the Mexican state of Veracruz.
Labor Day (May 1st) demonstrations in front of the presidential palace in the Zocalo.
The view from the top of the Pyramid of the Sun in Teotihuacan.
A variety of dried peppers at the San Angel market.
A woman naps while trying to sell her crafts near the Templo Mayor.
M. and I pose in front of the world-renowned anthropological museum. We could have easily spent a week meandering through Mexico’s timeline of rich history here.
Visiting the ruins of the ancient Aztec city of Teotihuacan, about 30 miles northeast of Mexico City.
The old Basilica of Guadalupe (right) is leaning forward due to the soft earth and former lake basin that is now Mexico City. Architects have been able to slow the process of the basilica’s movement forward, but not correct the building’s posture. On the left is the more modern church, built in the 1970s in order to accommodate the masses of people who visit the Basilica each year.
The famous Mercado del Sábado (Saturday Market) in San Angel. Hundreds of artists come to sell their creations to locals and tourists alike.
The Basilica de Guadalupe, on Tepeyac Hill in Mexico City. Millions of Catholics make their pilgrimage to Our Lady of Guadalupe each year. After the Vatican City, this basilica is the second-most visited religious site in the world by Catholics.
Performance art at its best: This man dressed as Frida Kahlo sat still for hours as passers-by snapped photos of him in front of his self portrait.
Enjoying a stroll through the Parque Alameda, just across the street from where we stayed.
In the plaza near The Pyramid of the Moon with our fabulous and knowledgeable guide.
One of the world’s largest urban parks, Chapultapec Park is nearly 1,700 acres.
La Gruta (The Cave) near the main city center of Teotihuacan. Formerly used as storage for fruits and vegetables by the people of Teotihuacan, it is now a restaurant serving traditional Mexican food.
Federal riot police stand ready during the Labor Day demonstrations on May 1st. The demonstrations remained peaceful and the police officers enjoyed a beautiful day in the sun.
We made a visit to La Casa Azul (The Blue House), the famous home of Mexican artists Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. Pictured with us is our friend Chris, who made the journey to Mexico City from New York. Frida and Diego lived in this house in the bohemian Coyoacan neighborhood from 1929-1954.
The Pyramid of the Sun, Teotihuacan’s tallest pyramid, with 267 steep stone steps to reach the top. This pyramid dates back to 100 B.C. While most people are under the impression that the pyramids of Teotihuacan were built by the Aztecs, archaeologists are unsure as to who the true builders were. Like all pyramids in Mexico, these are temples, rather than tombs. Religious ceremonies and sacrifices took place at the top while commoners looked on from the plaza at the bottom.
Traditional dancing during the Mercado del Sábado in San Angel.
Labor Day demonstrators pack the Zocalo in front of the cathedral.
Typical Spanish tile adorns the wall at Café de Tacuba, one of Mexico City’s most well-known traditional restaurants.
The rudimentary homes covering the hillsides in Estado de Mexico, just outside of Distrito Federal.
The ancient city of Teotihuacan. It is unclear as to exactly why the city was abandoned in the 7th or 8th century. Scholars believe the reason to be either excessive drought or fires caused by invaders.
Standing at the half-way point of the Pyramid of the Moon in Teotihuacan.
Bellas Artes, Mexico City’s most well-known center for performance arts.