Learn This Earlier than Your Mexico Highway Journey

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Our one month Mexico street journey had many challenges & many rewards. Listed below are the highs and the lows of our 4,000km journey and a few suggestions to assist make your street journey somewhat simpler.

Mexico is a totally rewarding vacation spot for a street journey.

With surroundings from arid highlands to lush jungles; pristine seashores to grassy plains dotted with Aztec ruins, there’s rather a lot to like about this vibrant nation.

It does, nevertheless, include just a few challenges. We aren’t typically hesitant about making an attempt extra adventurous street journey journeys. We’ve pushed lengthy desolate stretches of the Skeleton Coast in Namibia, and crossed rivers within the distant Iceland highlands.

However Mexico was essentially the most aggravating street journey we’ve undertaken.

Listed below are our impressions from our journey – the highs and the lows, the challenges and the rewards. Most significantly, after a month on the street (and never simply on the smooth-as-silk roads of Yucatán), we’ve compiled all our suggestions to assist make your Mexico self-drive journey somewhat simpler.

If you happen to’re prepared for a Mexico street journey, learn our information to driving in Mexico.

// Reserving your journey by way of the hyperlinks on this web page (or on our guide web page) will earn us a small fee, at no further value to you. Thanks on your assist – Paul & Mark.

DRIVING IN MEXICO

Our 1-month Mexico Highway Journey


3 DAYS

Exploring the historical past and meals scene in Mexico Metropolis

4 DAYS

Navigating pace bumps by way of artsy Puebla and Oaxaca

5 DAYS

Stress-free on the golden seashores on the Pacific Coast

3 DAYS

Separatists encounters round San Cristóbal 

3 DAYS

Discovering the jungle-shrouded ruins of Palenque and Yaxchilán

9 DAYS

Discovering our favorite seashores on the Caribbean Sea

3 DAYS

Revelling within the cenotes and ruins round Chichén Itzá

OUR MEXICO ROAD TRIP ROUTE

We began our one month Mexico street journey in Mexico Metropolis, then ventured south by way of the states of Puebla and Oaxaca and onto the seashores of the Pacific Coast. After the seashores, we headed again inland by way of the state of Chiapas on our technique to the tourist-friendly websites of Palenque and Yaxchilán.

Subsequent up, we explored the seashores on the Caribbean, did a little bit of island hopping then explored the cenotes and waterfalls round Chichén Itzá. All in all, it was a month of color, contrasts and car-related stresses and joys.

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS OF OUR MEXICO ROAD TRIP

We had magical moments on our Mexico street journey. Strolling jungle-shrouded historic ruins, lazing on stunning palm-fringed seashores, swimming in atmospheric cenotes, assembly pleasant locals, understanding their historical past and making an attempt scrumptious regional meals.

With 62 completely different indigenous peoples, Mexico is a bustling, inventive mess of various cultures, cuisines and experiences. And as we moved from state to state, it was typically like coming into a completely completely different nation. Completely different regional dishes, completely different dialects, completely different loyalties and really completely different ranges of infrastructure.

This variety is what makes Mexico a pleasure, but in addition difficult and aggravating.

Difficult as a result of the street high quality in some states will be dreadful requiring focus and focus. Hectic as a result of generally security just isn’t assured, notably in much less politically steady states like Chiapas.

Many vacationers, visiting solely Yucatán, have a slender picture of Mexico. However Yucatán is polished Mexico, the place vacationers are welcome and the roads are {smooth}. Mexico is a lot greater than that.

Listed below are the impressions and particulars of our journey with our suggestions that will help you design your individual Mexico street journey.

sunset in puerto escondido mexico

KICKING OFF IN MEXICO CITY

We spent 3 days in underrated Mexico Metropolis earlier than starting our Mexico street journey. We picked up our rent automotive from the airport to make driving out of Mexico Metropolis somewhat simpler. This was our first mistake.

Some rent automotive corporations in Mexico add a surcharge to choose up from the airport which is a share of the whole rental charge. As we had been hiring a automotive for a month, this was an astronomical determine – one which wasn’t defined on our preliminary contract. Be taught from our errors and evaluate costs between choosing up on the airport and someplace in central Mexico Metropolis.

That first hour in a brand new automotive in a brand new nation is all the time a problem. Indicators and windscreen wipers on completely different sides. Driving on the opposite facet of the street. Getting used to completely different street programs and completely different driving methods. However usually, the roads in Mexico Metropolis are first rate and comparatively simple to navigate (see Google suggestions on the finish of this text). Though drivers don’t point out recurrently and swap lanes typically, it’s not too troublesome.

TEOTIHUACÁN AND PUEBLA

After leaving Mexico Metropolis, we headed for Teotihuacán (1 hr 15 min) to discover the Pyramids of the Moon and the Solar. We began early to reach at opening time, thereby beating the crowds, the warmth and discovering parking house (there have been tons). After three hours strolling the sights, we made the 2-hour drive to Puebla arriving within the mid-afternoon.

Our solely hiccup occurred when the police pressured us down the incorrect manner of a twin lane freeway to keep away from an accident. With different drivers screaming at us we spent a superb hour discovering one other manner by way of the again roads of Puebla.

Puebla is properly price a cease. It’s a fairly city with some small good sights. The Capilla del Rosario, the Museo de la Revolución Mexicana (which nonetheless has bullet harm from the early days of the revolution) and the antiques market had been all prime issues to do.

We spent the evening on the wonderful El Sueno Resort, earlier than taking the 4-hour drive to Oaxaca within the morning. Flying previous mountains and volcanoes looming on the horizon, it’s an easy street on a quick freeway.

FOODY, ARTY OAXACA CITY

Oaxaca Metropolis itself is a pleasure to go to. Regal church buildings tower over little squares and cobbled roads are lined with artwork galleries, espresso retailers and craft shops. The wonderful ruins of Monte Albán, the traditional capital of the Zapotecs, sits on a hill simply outdoors the town. If you happen to will be right here for the Day of the Useless competition initially of November, all the higher.

We joined a stroll within the Pueblos Mancomunados, the hills that encompass the city. However to be trustworthy the drive on the market was tedious, the views lower than spectacular and the indigenous villages empty and underwhelming. So we’d recommend giving it a miss.

After three nights we headed south to Puerto Escondido and the Pacific Coast.

The drive from Puebla to Puerto Escondido was grim. It’s solely 250km (on street 131), nevertheless it took us 6 hours and half-hour –  a mean of underneath 40km/h. Why so gradual?

Firstly, it’s a windy mountain street zig-zagging by way of thick jungle. Fairly, however very gradual.

Secondly, there are lots of and lots of of pace bumps (tope in Spanish). Each junction and nearly each driveway has a pace bump that must be traversed very slowly. They’re not all the time properly signed.

Thirdly, the street high quality is poor with a lot of potholes. Not insignificant potholes, nice crevasses within the street. Severe harm can be incurred in case you went too quick by way of them. On condition that many are round steep corners, driving slowly and punctiliously is critical.

Lastly, Oaxaca is poor and locals pull up ropes throughout the street to get you to cease. Some simply need you to purchase their items, however others look extra menacing and try a bribe to allow you to cross. Many recommend the street up forward is blocked, nevertheless it by no means was. We simply drove by way of the rope and by no means had an issue however it may gradual you down.

All these challenges make the drive gradual, uncomfortable and a bit aggravating. A brand new sooner street is because of open in 2022, nevertheless it’s had a complete of 20 years of delays so we will see.

RESTING ON THE BEACHES OF THE PACIFIC COAST

We spent the following 5 days cut up between Puerto Escondido and Bahia Huatulco on the Pacific Coast. The barrel waves in Puerto Escondido make it nice for browsing and there’s a good number of seashores to find. The ocean life is diversified and you’ll swim out from the shore in locations, making it helpful to lease or have your personal snorkel gear. We noticed whales and dolphins from the boat and snorkelled with turtles. The city itself is a touristy vacation resort of little notice.

Subsequent, we went to Tangolunda on Bahia Huatulco, lured by photos of gorgeous virgin seashores and good snorkelling. The virgin seashores are nice however the entire place is a fenced off western enclave. Foreigners have purchased up the property and reside alongside the engaging hilly shoreline. The result’s an absence of native environment which will be skipped.

MAKING OUR WAY INTO CHIAPAS

After 5 days absorbing the solar, we headed again inland, out of Oaxaca state and into Chiapas. The roads had improved and had been good, straight and fairly quick. We made a pitstop at El Aguacero, a fantastic waterfall in a steep valley on the finish of a barely bushy concrete street.

After spending the evening at Chiapa de Corzo (7-hour drive from Tangolunda) we took a ship journey up the Cañón del Sumidero. The two-hour journey covers the 35 kilometres by way of the canyon, with partitions rising 800 metres. Boats depart each time they’re full, so a little bit of endurance is required.

ENCOUNTERS WITH SEPARATISTS AROUND SAN CRISTÓBAL DE LAS CASAS

Subsequent, we drove into San Cristóbal de las Casas. That is the capital of Chiapas and the buying and selling centre for most of the indigenous people who reside within the surrounding villages. The city is an thrilling mixture of Spanish colonial structure and indigenous crafts. Locals wearing conventional vibrant garments wrapped up from the chilly, scour markets earlier than returning to their houses.

However underlying this scene is political uncertainty. A lot of the world is managed by Zapatistas, a separatist motion with ambitions to secede from Mexico. They’ve a coverage of civil resistance in opposition to Mexican management and regulation. It offers the entire space a little bit of an edge. They don’t seem to be as welcoming because the indigenous locals that we met in Vietnam, Peru or Thailand. In truth, many don’t need vacationers there in any respect. Coming right here is an training however not the friendliest expertise we had in Mexico.

ONWARDS – SAN CRISTÓBAL TO PALENQUE

After a few days exploring San Cristóbal (La Vinã de Bacco wine bar, breakfast at Frontera and our keep at Casa Vieja all standout), we headed east to Palenque. The nice roads disappeared and we had been again on the windy, hilly, jungle roads. Plenty of speedbumps, a lot of potholes. There had been flooding, and among the floor of the street had been washed away. Highway employees had been making an attempt to repair it, however progress was gradual. We ready ourselves for an additional lengthy journey.

However then issues took a flip for the more serious. The Zapatistas had lower down a large tree, blocking the street and giving us no alternative however to backtrack. So, plan B was a drive again to San Cristóbal, then south-east to Comitán, earlier than going north to Ocosingo, then Palenque. It was an additional 4 hours on prime of the 5 hours we had deliberate for.

And it was not a simple 4 hours. We needed to drive by way of the again roads of Zapatista territory. Younger males roamed round carrying machetes, pink Zapatista flags hung from buildings painted with separatist political slogans. It was clear Mexican regulation had little jurisdiction right here.

ENJOYING THE JUNGLE SHROUDED RUINS OF PALENQUE AND YAXCHILÁN

The day after our prolonged journey from San Cristóbal, we explored the magnificent Palenque ruins and the waterfalls of Agua Azul and Misol Há (which we had deliberate to do the day earlier than, however the diversion meant we didn’t have time). Each waterfalls are engaging and an important place for a calming swim.

The following day we went to the historic ruins of Yaxchilán. It’s a 2-hour drive on a superb quick freeway (307) to the embarcadero in Frontera Corozal, the place speedboats can be found to whisk you upstream to the ruins. After Yaxchilán, we took a 30-minute detour for a nice refreshing swim at Las Golondrinas waterfall.

After 2 gratifying days (keep at La Aldea del Halach Huinic Resort), we had been dreading the 7-hour 45-minute drive to Mahahual on the Caribbean Coast. However, we had been pleasantly stunned. Whereas the primary hour was somewhat gradual, pushing our manner by way of busy cities, the remainder noticed us rushing alongside good, straight roads. The pace bumps had primarily disappeared, the potholes had been few and much between, the Zapatistas had been left behind and the rope holders had been having a break day.

Arriving within the Yucatán peninsula felt like a very completely different nation. The remainder of our time in Mexico was a breeze to drive.

FINDING THE BEST BEACHES ON THE CARIBBEAN SEA

We spent a lot of the following two weeks exploring the seashores of the Yucatán peninsula. Right here’s our round-up of what we discovered.

MAHAHUAL

Mahahual is a sexy small fishing village set on a stunning seaside, At evening, the relaxed eating places (strive Nohoch Kay) lining the entrance are filled with locals having fun with the gradual, simple tempo of tranquil Mahahual. However through the day it’s a hell gap. A whole lot of vacationers who seem to have simply tasted alcohol for the primary time, descend from large cruise ships.

By mid-afternoon, the streets of Mahahual are filled with folks throwing up within the gutter, competing music and obnoxious behaviour. At round 6 pm the cruise ships depart, and Mahahual is again to regular. Locals creep out from their hiding locations to survey the harm.

COVID could cut back the variety of cruise ships to a extra manageable quantity. If that’s the case all the higher.

TULUM

Tulum (1 hour half-hour up the coast, keep at Components Tulum Boutique Resort) is superb. The dusty roadside city, which appears uninspiring at first, comes alive at evening. Bars and eating places tucked into again streets serve good meals and reside music wafts in regards to the city.

However the true spotlight is the seaside, simply one among our favourites in Mexico. The seaside membership at Playa El Paraiso was a spotlight and the ruins on the cliff are set magnificently in opposition to the white sand seaside and azure blue sea.

PLAYA DEL CARMEN

Whereas Tulum is quietly enjoyable, Playa del Carmen (1 hour additional up the coast) is get together city. Seaside golf equipment line the entrance, pumping out music and serving cocktails. However in contrast to Mahahual, Playa del Carman can deal with it with ease. The true attraction for us was the snorkelling at Cozumel. Deep Blue Cozumel took us out with divers and we had a sensational day with the sharks, eagle rays, turtles, puffer fish and moray eels.

ISLA HOLBOX

Subsequent, we made our technique to Isla Holbox, an island off the north coast of Yucatán. Ferries depart recurrently from Chiquilá (1-hour 45-minute drive from Playa del Carmen) the place there are many locations that cost a small charge to lock up and take care of your automotive.

The seaside at Isla Holbox is underwhelming, however with no vehicles allowed on the island, the city has a relaxed vibe with loads of first rate eating places and quirky shops. High-end resorts are beginning to seem bringing golf buggies that assist ferry vacationers and their baggage round.

The entire place feels much less like Mexico and extra like a cute well-designed casual resort. We had fun, nevertheless it’s not someplace to expertise native tradition.

REVELLING IN THE CENOTES AND RUINS AROUND CHICHÉN ITZÁ

Lastly, we spent 3 days exploring the ruins and cenotes round Valladolid. A pretty pleasant small colonial city, Valladolid (keep at Aurora Colonial) is an effective base to discover all of the close by sights.

Chichén Itzá, whereas not as atmospheric as Palenque and Yaxchilán, is in wonderful situation with fascinating carvings. It’s busy with vacationers however undoubtedly price visiting. Cobá Pyramids provide nice views over the jungle and their setting makes you’re feeling like Indiana Jones.

There are numerous cenotes (sinkholes which might be nice for swimming) within the space. Ik Kil, X’kekén and San Lorenzo Oxman had been a few of our favourites however the guys over at 2 Journey Dads have a wonderful round-up of the most effective cenotes in Yucatán.

REFLECTIONS ON OUR MEXICO ROAD TRIP

Was it price it? Nearly. Both finish of the journey was a pleasure. The primary week in Mexico Metropolis, Teotihuacán, Puebla and Oaxaca had been all simple to get to and nice to go to. Equally, the 2 weeks in Palenque and Yucatán had been fascinating and academic.

It was the center the place the driving was onerous and the sights much less spectacular. Would we do it once more? Sure, however I’d be sorely tempted to bus and let another person take the pressure. Or drop the automotive and fly over the center part.

You possibly can see that our idealised 2 week Mexico itinerary does precisely that.

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TIPS FOR PLANNING A SUCCESSFUL MEXICO ROAD TRIP

After a month of highs and lows on the street in Mexico, listed here are some issues to consider to make your journey somewhat bit smoother.

HIRING YOUR CAR RENTAL

1 – Learn our article with all our recommendations on driving in Mexico.

2 – On a protracted street journey, don’t robotically decide up your rent automotive from an airport in case you can keep away from it. Some cost an extra charge as a share of your whole rental value which might push up the worth considerably. Store round.

3 – Most companies cost for a unique drop off location. Count on to pay about US $1 per 2 km distance between pick-up and drop-off. For us, this was an enormous charge which was not defined once we booked. If this charge appears prohibitive change your route to finish close to the place you began.

4 – Costs on-line typically don’t match the ultimate value you’ll pay on your rent automotive. Count on to pay a minimum of US $30 to $40 a day. Extra if you wish to decrease the insurance coverage extra.

ON THE ROAD

5 – Refill with petrol earlier than lengthy drives, particularly earlier than the Oaxaca – Puerto Escondido drive

6 – Obtain maps of the world you plan to drive by way of in Google Maps earlier than you set off. Your cellphone will monitor your location utilizing GPS in your downloaded maps.

7 – Pack a towel and snorkelling gear to make the most of the attractive cenotes and seashores when you’re on the street.

DRIVING TIPS

8 – Don’t underestimate how slowly that you must drive over pace bumps. Many are home made by native residents and are notably steep.

9 – Drive slowly on windy jungle roads as potholes can and can be round any nook.

10 – Don’t even take into account driving on Mexico’s roads at evening (besides in Yucatán). Potholes, pace bumps and drug cartels are extra of a hazard.

11 – Depart early for every day journey. Journeys can take for much longer than anticipated with roadblocks and/or street works widespread.

A FEWS THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND

12 – Attempt to guide resorts which have parking to make life somewhat simpler. Though if parking isn’t doable, we might normally discover a place simply outdoors or across the nook.

13 – A automotive offers you flexibility, so use it to get to the large websites at opening time to keep away from the crowds and beat the Mexican warmth.

14 – The police are sometimes not a supply of assist and luxury. Ask a neighborhood somewhat than the police for assist in case you get misplaced or want some primary help.

MORE READING FOR MEXICO TRIP

Mexico has a vibrancy and vitality that hits you the minute you arrive. To assist plan your journey, listed here are extra of our guides from Mexico.

Aztec and Myan ruins in Mexico

Our suggestions for driving in Mexico

3 days in Mexico Metropolis

The very best cenotes and waterfalls in Mexico


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