From the blog

Magical Mexico

A 3-week trip through Mexico’s wonders – city, jungle, beach and everything in between.

Mexico City San Miguel de AllendeOaxacaSan Cristobal de las CasasChichen Itza HolboxTulum

Mexico has always existed in my subconscious as an exotic land far away, with the only taste I got of it during my life being the Zorro movies I first watched in my childhood, Frida Kahlo’s paintings that I discovered during art studies, tacos (although I have no memory of when I first tried these) and, in recent years, Pixar’s fantastic Coco.

It was a land I did not know much detail about – short of what you hear on Western news – until I started researching for this trip, and then only because Mexico contained one of the World Wonders we were checking off our list. It turns out that Chichen Itza (while objectively impressive, let me not be misunderstood), was one of the least exciting parts of our trip; overshadowed by the lush greenery, interesting cities, mesmerising beaches and other archeological wonders that the country is so abundant with, not to mention the world-renowned cuisine. 

We spent 3 weeks traveling through Mexico, and I only wish we had more time to discover more of it. 

The below is an overview of where we went, what we saw, what we ate, and all related tips and thoughts. 

First things first, some brief general notes for those thinking of visiting:

  • Safety – I admit I was a little apprehensive about visiting based on Mexico’s reputation and some first-hand accounts from friends, but luckily everything went super smoothly and we had zero issues. The Mexican people are quite friendly and I felt safe practically everywhere. We were a group of 4 – two guys and two gals – which may have helped put me at ease. Naturally, some areas are no-gos, but we felt absolutely fine in all the places mentioned below. 
  • Transportation – We flew via Turkey to Mexico City and back from Cancun with Turkish Airlines. The flights were very long and pretty uncomfortable. We travelled internally with buses (including an overnight bus ride) and private taxis, and one flight (more detail later); parts of which were also long and pretty uncomfortable. The trip as detailed below involves substantial travel time. But hey, that’s economy long-haul travel / travel in a large, not greatly-connected country for you. It was worth it. 
  • Money – Mexico is not a “cheap” tourist destination; I would say accommodation and food/drink costs are similar to Malta, and higher in certain tourist-popular spots. There are, as with everywhere, plenty of cheaper accommodation and street food options if you’re on a tighter budget. We paid with card in many places, but also needed cash a number of times (for which we used ATM withdrawals at airports and cities). 
  • Language – The language barrier is considerable even in touristic places, more so than we expected. A basic knowledge of Spanish is ideal – maybe make use of Duolingo or at least watch some Youtube videos in the months leading up to your holiday. 
  • Connectivity – We stayed connected through an esim purchase from Holafly, which worked well in certain places and less so in others. I’m not sure if you will get better connectivity with other providers, but perhaps be prepared that you will be off the grid on certain days.
  • Entry – Maltese travellers do not, at time of writing, need a Visa to enter Mexico. Research before your travel to ensure this does not change. We cleared immigration quickly, but you might wish to have a copy of your return flights and accommodation bookings handy in case you are questioned on this.
  • Tipping – Tipping culture is strong in Mexico, and you will often find that waiters are pushy (more so than anywhere else I’ve been) with adding a considerable percentage (sometimes 20%) over your bill, and might not always hide displeasure if you suggest a lower amount. Just a heads up!
  • Weather – Mexico is a large country, and the weather will likely vary with your location. We visited end November to beginning December, and had mostly good weather, with some rain, some cold mornings and nights, and some hot and humid days. Mexico City, for example, got very cool during the night and then warmed up during the day; Oaxaca was comfortably warm throughout; Tulum hot and humid throughout. We packed summer clothes with a few warmer things we could throw on top, and this worked well enough. We travelled with a backpack, and managed to wash our clothes a couple of times.


Mexico City

We landed in Mexico City, the country’s vibrant capital and largest city in Mexico. As the most populous city in North America, Mexico City (often referred to as CDMX, the abbreviation of the Spanish name Ciudad de Mexico) is bustling and teaming with life, but with pockets of peace to be found.

If you wish to book an airport transfer, or a day trip to anywhere in Mexico City’s vicinity, contact Alfredo Gallegos via Whatsapp on +52 55 6884 0925. We used him for our transfer from Mexico City airport to our apartment, as well as for our day trip to Teotihuacan (more on that later), and he was very pleasant and accommodating.

With a number of visibly diverse neighbourhoods, we chose to stay in the historical and authentic Centro Historico (historical centre) – right off the main square (or Zocalo), but other popular areas to stay in are Roma, Condesa or Polanco. Do some research to see which area is more your vibe. If I return, I will probably stay in pretty Roma, with its beautiful tree-lined streets and restaurants and cafes on every corner. Whichever area you stay in, it is easy and quite cheap to get around with an Uber, although the city’s traffic results in some slow rides.

When you arrive in the city, head to the Zocalo, Mexico City’s sprawling main square, with Aztec routes and which now hosts many cultural events (we visited during Revolution Day festivities, and there were parades in the square). The main point of interest in the area is the magnificent Metropolitan Cathedral – this is free to enter and you should definitely check it out.

Other spots to check out in the area are the impressive lobby of the Gran Hotel Ciudad de Mexico (we asked door security if we could just have a look and they welcomed us in), as well as the National Palace (this was closed on the day we passed by, and we didn’t end up returning, but it looks like one to check out).

Before the above, we enjoyed breakfast – our first meal in Mexico – by diving right into Mexican cuisine at El Cardenal, just off the Zocalo. Order some of their traditional hand-whipped hot chocolate and one of their interesting egg-based dishes – we even tried one including grasshopper sauce!

We also picked up some pastries to enjoy later from Pasteleria Ideal. The bakes were hit and miss, but the place is definitely worth a look just to wander at the sheer volume of goods on sale.

After exploring the above spots, we set off to try our first tacos, from two different spots in walking distance to each other and the Zocalo. First, we tried tacos de suadero (lean cut of beef between the lower flank and sirloin) at Los Cocuyos, followed by tacos el pastor (spit-roasted pork) at Tacos el Huequito.

A short walk from the latter will bring you to the Torre Latinoamerica, famous worldwide as the first skyscraper successfully built in a highly active seismic zone. Although it looks old and run-down today, it attracts many visitors to its 40th-floor observation deck. We joined the masses for a view over Mexico City, but I’m not sure it’s worth the expense considering the squashed experience.

Just next door, check out the House of Tiles, an 18th-century palace with a beautiful white and blue mosaic facade housing a beautiful restaurant – we didn’t sit, but just had a quick look.

Right nearby is the Palacio Postal; certainly the most majestic postal office I’ve ever seen.

Just across the road, one finds the Palacio de Bellas Artes – the imposing marble performance hall and museum which includes Diego Rivera murals (it was closed on the day we passed by), and Alameda Central – the city’s oldest public park which was bustling with families when we visited.

After much exploring, we enjoyed another traditional hot chocolate (what would become an unexpected routine in Mexico) in yet another beautiful restaurant – Cafe de Tacuba, housed in a former convent.

Our first dinner was at the swanky Limosneros, with its striking and atmospheric setting, where we enjoyed a number of shared dishes, including the first of many incomparable (for those who have never been to Central and South America, at least) guacamoles.


Having explored most of Centro’s main sites, the next morning we headed off further out of the city to the colourful Coyoacan district, one we really enjoyed strolling around.

After a delicious breakfast of airy, hot churros at Churreria El Moro, we strolled to the peaceful (first thing in the morning, at least) Jardin Plaza Hidalgo and checked out Parroquia San Juan Bautista.

We then made our way to the main purpose of our visit to the area – the Frida Kahlo Museum. Art lovers will be familiar with Mexico’s famous artist and her turbulent life. I had been greatly looking forward to visiting her home, and it exceeded my expectations. The house is beautiful and the exhibit gives you just the right amount of information on her interesting life and art. It is recommended that you buy tickets online from the official website in advance, and make sure to arrive for your given time slot.

For a typical indoor Mexican market selling just about everything on Earth, check out the Coyoacan Market in the area, and if that’s not enough shopping for you, there is also the Bazar Artesanal Mexicano. The Mercado de Comida de Coyoacan then, as the name suggests, is a food market – a couple of stalls selling traditional food where you can take a seat and sample one or many of the items on order. I couldn’t tell you the name of the stall we chose, but sadly we did not love our selection. Cafe Avellaneda is a nearby hole in the wall serving some interesting coffee options.

In the afternoon, we headed (once more, with an Uber) to the furthest district of our Mexico City adventure – Xochimilco. This is a gritty, working-class neighbourhood that you should not be dawdling in after dark, but many tourists and locals alike make a morning or afternoon trip there to ride one of the agriculturally-rich canals through floating gardens on a colourful trajinera (gondola-like boat). Opinion on the acitivity is divided, but riding one of these boats to the merry sounds of Mariachi while downing a few drinks (take your own or purchase one from the vendors on nearby boats) gets you right in the Mexico spirit. You can head to the area and haggle for a private ride, or take a group tour. We booked this tour, and although not cheap, we spent a fun few hours with other young travellers playing Mexican drinking games, downing tequila and making Micheladas, and even stopping on a floating island for a bite, while also learning a little about the area. If you’re young and up for a party atmosphere, this is a good option.

For dinner, we headed to Roma for Contramar; a meal I had been looking forward to for some time. This uber-popular seafood spot is quick and a little chaotic, but people flock there for good reason. We tried different lovely dishes, but their tostadas are second to none; particularly, for me personally, their simple tuna ones – so good, I ordered another round. Book well in advance.


A visit to Mexico City should include a half-day trip to Teotihuacan, the ancient Mesoamerican city about 50km outside of Mexico City. While a lot about it remains unknown, experts state that it reached its zenith between 100 BC and 650 AD, covered 21 square kilometres and supported a population of 100,000, making it the largest city anywhere in the Western Hemisphere before the 1400s. Today, you can walk the length of its enormous central road – the Street of the Dead – and marvel at the remaining structures which include the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon.

We organised the trip with Alberto (info above), who drove us to the site and also took care of tickets. An early morning arrival meant we were the first to enter the complex, allowing us an incredibly serene – and, on the foggy and cloudy day we visited – haunting atmosphere. We spent about 2 hours walking around the site. Naturally, guided tours can be found online for those who wish to learn more about the specific buildings. Good shoes are recommended due to the uneven terrain (in parts) and high stairs.

Following the visit to Teotihuacan, we asked Alberto to drop us off for a quick visit at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The shrine is the second most-visited Catholic site in the world after St Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. It is built just under a hill where it is believed that the Virgin Mary appeared to an Aztec peasant in 1531 – the event is credited with launching Mexico’s Catholic conversion, and the painting of the Guadalupe, which you can see in the new Basilica, is world-famous and an image which you will come across countless times all over Mexico. Entry is free.

After a brief visit to the Basilica, we asked Alberto to leave us at the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, the largest and most-visited museum in Mexico, and with good reason. The museum is probably one of the most impressive museums I have ever visited, with extensive displays tracing Mexico’s anthropological history exhibiting an endless array of artefacts housed in various rooms, together with outside exhibits recreating the typical buildings of each era allowing you to ‘walk through’ the respective time periods. It was early afternoon by the time we arrived and the line for tickets was short, and the museum itself not too crowded. Before our exploration, we had a late lunch at the museum restaurant, which was surprisingly decent and with prices which weren’t too inflated. You could spend days seeing the exhibits, but you should afford yourself at least a quick walk-through.

We killed some time walking around the Roma area in the afternoon, stopping for a book browse and drink at Cafebreria el Pendulo, an inviting and laid-back space.

After a long day of exploration, we rested our sore feet for an early dinner at Huset, in Roma. This is one of the prettiest and most atmospheric eateries I’ve been to, with thousands of fairy lights lighting up the plant-canopied space. The food is Mexican-fusion; good but not the best we had. Cocktails were great, though, and all in all, it makes for a lovely night out. We online-booked a table in advance.


On another day, we started off with a delicious breakfast at Cafe Nin, a popular bakery/breakfast spot (we needed to queue for about 30 minutes), before heading off towards Paseo de la Reforma to snap a shot near the Angel de la Independencia – an imposing victory column on a roundabout on this major thoroughfare in Mexico City.

We then walked to Chapultepec Castle, the historic hilltop castle with views over Mexico City which houses the National Museum of History. The castle was crowded and far from the most impressive I’ve seen, and the uphill walk tiring after days on our feet, so in a re-do situation I might omit this, although it is considered to be one of the most important of the city’s sites.

Taking a little break from all the corn, we enjoyed an Italian lunch at Lardo, in Condesa, not too far-off from the castle. We had to wait, but the simple and well-executed food in a relaxing atmosphere was worth it.

To ensure we got as immersed in Mexican culture as possible, we also included some Lucha Libre in our trip; the Mexican form of professional wrestling. We caught an afternoon show at Arena Mexico, for which we bought tickets in advance online (but there were plenty of empty seats). It is a fun, often funny way to while away an hour or two if you have some extra time in the city, and tickets are cheap enough to justify it.

The best dinner of our trip was undoubtedly the one at Pujol, a dinner which we reserved 10 months in advance (such was our excitement, but if you wait too long you might have trouble finding a table). Enrique Olvera’s groundbreaking restaurant is consistently ranked amongst the best in the world – check out his episode on Netflix’s Chef’s Table to learn more. Fine dining fans can enjoy the tasting menu for about Euro 180 (drinks excluded), in a beautiful and understated restaurant in the Polanco district. My personal favourite dish was the baby corn in coffee mayo dusted in chicatana ant powder – such a unique flavour; although of course, his most famous dish has to be the main course mole dish – mole madre (at 3263 days when we visited) and mole nuevo, perhaps (?) the only main course in the world which is just sauce.


Our last hours in the capital consisted of a relaxing walk around the areas of Roma Norte and Condesa. 

We stopped to check out some art housed in the galleries of Cultural Center Casa Lamm.

We had a morning coffee and pastry at Panaderia Rosetta, sister to Cafe Nin. If you would have already visited the latter, this one can be skipped – it offers largely the same baked goods but less of the food menu.

We checked out the pretty Plaza Rio de Janeiro with its fountain with a full-scale replica of Michelangelo’s David, also taking a look at La Casa de las Brujas (named so because it somewhat resembles a witch house) and the other beautiful surrounding buildings. Just a stone’s throw away is Parroquia de la Sagrada Familia, which you can have a quick look at. 

We then walked all the way to Fuente de Cibeles, a large fountain on a roundabout with a statue of the goddess Cibeles (a replica of one found in Madrid), before heading on towards Parque Mexico, a pretty urban garden with a large swan pond. On the way, we stopped to have a peak into Hotel CondesaDF‘s art-deco central courtyard (the unique architectural style can be best admired from the rooftop, but we were a little shy to venture up).

We finished our little walk-around with the best tacos of our entire trip. El Pescadito‘s shrimp tacos were delicious (we were not fans of the marlin ones), but the star of the show is the neighbouring (I mean literally opposite the street) Tacos Don Juan. Both the tacos de carnitas and de suadero at this spot were fantastic. That was the perfect way to close off our time in Mexico City.


San Miguel de Allende

From Mexico City, we took a 2-day detour in the opposite direction from which we were travelling during the remainder of the trip to visit San Miguel de Allende. Having secured an apartment in Mexico City for a good price, we opted to book this for a longer period allowing us to leave our luggage there and take the trip to San Miguel in the middle of our CDMX stay, then return to CDMX for a few days before moving on to our next destination. This allowed us to break up the travelling time a little, rather than lining up San Miguel to CDMX to Oaxaca in the same day. We stayed in the central and traditional Villa Mirasol – the superior rooms are comfortable and the place itself is quite lovely; worth checking out if you want to stay in the centre without breaking the bank.

While San Miguel may appear to be inconveniently out of the way for a short break, it really is the prettiest place we stayed in during our stay. With its colourful colonial-era buildings, many consider the city to be Mexico’s most aesthetically-pleasing Mexican town and it exudes an atmosphere which feels – at least to Westerners who are Coco fans – immensely Mexican. While I would have gladly welcomed a longer stay allowing me to relax and read my book in one of the many cafes, a two-night stay is enough for one to leisurely discover a lot of the city.

We travelled there and back from CDMX’s Norte station (we got there via Uber – consider thinking early due to traffic) with Primera Plus – we booked a Platinum (highest-class) ticket from their official website in advance and the bus was the most comfortable I’ve ever used, with roomy, plush seats. The trip takes just over 4 hours, and the town centre is then a short walk or super-short Uber ride away.

Having taken an early-morning departure, we arrived in San Miguel just before lunch-time. We had a lovely traditional lunch of lamb barbacoa at El Plato Barbacoa y Mixiotes, from the nicest lady named Pilar, who has the best English from a local you will probably come across. Her restaurant – a simple, welcoming and very clean outside space in an industrial-like area – is just to the left of the bus station you will arrive at (just take a left when you exit and walk a few metres). There’s no menus here – she will just bring you the barbacoa, explain to you the cooking process, and you can go ahead and dig in.

The way to go with San Miguel is to take your time walking around and seeing what you discover, starting with the central square with the striking pink cathedral – La Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel – and working your way outwards in the surrounding streets. Art galleries, shops, markets, cafes and restaurants are on every corner, so there is plenty to browse and eat, although do not expect cheap prices considering that this is a popular tourist spot.

Check out the Mercado de Artesanias, spend a few hours getting quite literally lost in the many art galleries housed at Fabrica la Aurora, maybe even take a steep uphill hike to El Mirador for a great view over the city (jury is still out on whether it’s worth the physical toil).

You should definitely enjoy a dinner or lunch (or both) at one of the city’s rooftop restaurants, taking in the view with a good cocktail in hand and feeling grateful to be alive.

On our first night, we really enjoyed our sunset dinner at Luna Tapas Bar (we booked online in advance). I recommend checking what time sunset will be on your day of visit and booking a table half an hour in advance to take in the beautiful view before the sun goes down. Do note that this is a popular spot for this reason and there might be a few people competing for a photo; and prices are not cheap with it forming part of the stunning 5-star Rosewood hotel. 

The next day, we also had a delicious lunch at Antonia Rooftop, getting the rooftop view from a different angle, on a beautiful bright-blue-sky day. We also reserved in advance, although there were many tables available for lunch.

If you’re craving some churros, check out Chocolates y Churros San Agustin, or maybe just a drink and a baked good from Cumpanio. Lavanda Cafe is one of the many breakfast spots available, with coffee subtly flavoured with lavender and delicious food options (there might be some queueing involved). 

A rare impromptu dinner for us was at Casa Arca, which drew us in due to the incredibly cute bohemian decor and an understanding that there would be live music involved. Turns out the latter was a lost-in-translation kind of situation, and the food was just good, but you might wish to have a drink in the pretty surrounds nonetheless.



After Mexico City, we headed to Oaxaca, considered by many to be the culinary capital of Mexico. 

We took an afternoon bus from Norte station – a platinum Ado bus, which we booked online through the official Ado website in advance. Once more, the bus was comfortable, although what should have been a 7-hour drive ended up being delayed by around 1.5 hours due to very slow-moving traffic at a border checkpoint. You have the possibility to fly, instead. From the Oaxaca bus station, we easily hailed a taxi to our hotel, even though it was the middle of the night. 

The city is colourful, walkable and friendly, with many shops, cafes and restaurants in which to sample the region’s popular food. I loved Oaxaca, and could have stayed for a while longer, although our 3 nights permitted us to see and do quite a bit of what was on our list.

On our first morning, we had a cup of coffee and bite to eat at Muss Cafe. The food proved, soon enough, to have been extra. 

We spent the later part of the morning and the best part of the afternoon at this cooking class with the inimitable Mimi Lopez. While the class is not cheap, it was probably one of the highlight activities of our time in Mexico.

We were collected from central Oaxaca with a small group of other travellers and driven to Mimi’s house in the hills on the outskirts of Oaxaca. While Mimi doesn’t speak English, her son joins in the activity to act as translator. It felt very much like being welcomed into Mimi’s family, as we gathered into her large and colourful kitchen garden, sat down with her for some breakfast memelas and hot chocolate, and then got to work to make a number of dishes. Everyone was assigned jobs, but had the opportunity to try their hand at all tasks, in making salsa, tortillas, the fluffiest tamales ever including related sauces, and – the star of the region – the black mole, one of Mexico’s seven mole sauces and the most assertive in flavour, made using a host of ingredients. Afterwards, we set down to enjoy the fruits of our hard labour. It was a fun, educational day and a great activity to do while in Oaxaca.

The rest of the afternoon we spent leisurely exploring some of Oaxaca city, including its Zocalo and the surrounding roads. 

In the evening, we enjoyed dinner at the stunning Los Danzantes restaurant – I was quite in awe at the beauty of this place. We were still quite full from our cooking class so we did not appreciate the food as much as we could have, both both food and drinks were well-executed.


The next day, we grabbed a coffee from Cafeto & Baristas, before taking this day tour to Hierve el Agua, an ancient geological site featuring one of the only two petrified waterfalls in the world, pools and springs.

The tour includes a stop at Panaderia Artesanal Yasmin, where you can sample some of their traditional bread / cakes, before heading on to Hierve el Agua. It was not very busy by the time we arrived, allowing us to enjoy the pools without crowds. It felt quite special to swim in natural pools amongst the mountains. Afterwards, you can have lunch in one of the simple restaurants on site. We had a nice, cold coconut (to drink, and afterwards, they’ll give you the pulp to eat) from one stall, and then a delicious chorizo tlayuda from a little hut called el Sabor de Oaxaca. After leaving Hierve el Agua, we stopped for a visit to el Rey de Matatlan, a mezcal distillery, where we learned the mezcal-making process and then sampled a large number of mezcals. More than 90% of mezcal is made in the state of Oaxaca, so this is an ampt place to try it (and perhaps buy a bottle to take back home with you).

Back in Oaxaca, we tried a cup of atole, an interesting hot masa-based Mexican drink, from Atoleria, apart from continuing in our exploration of the city, including its numerous art galleries and handicraft shops.

In the evening, we had dinner on the rooftop of Restaurante las Quince Letras, where I sampled some different moles and had a fantastic flan de queso.

We also had an after-dinner cocktail at Selva Cocktail Bar. This small but swanky space is ranked as one of the best bars in the world, although to be honest none of us particularly enjoyed our cocktails (they were the kind you would call interesting and original, but not good old plain yummy) – the atmosphere was great, though.


The next morning, we had breakfast at Boulenc. The popular space in the inner courtyard of an old building serves a variety of breakfast dishes and baked goods, where I had probably the best BLT I ever had.

We then took a shuttle to the nearby archeological site of Monte Alban, using the services of Lescas Co Tours (you can Whatsapp them on +52 1 951 169 5242 for the shuttle timetable). You could also take a private taxi and ask the driver to wait for you at the site.

Of the three archeological sites we visited in Mexico, Monte Alban was my favourite, if I had to pick. The sprawling site with its great plazas, truncated pyramids and numerous tombs sits on high ground, providing fantastic 360-degree views, with green vegetation making it a picturesque sight. We spent a bit over an hour just walking around, but you could spend a few more if you have a guide to explain more about the site in detail.

After Monte Alban, back in Oaxaca, we went to La Cosecha organic market, a welcoming space with a number of food and drink vendors. I tried great enchiladas rojas and tortitas de papa from one of the stalls somewhat hidden in a corner – there was no name, but you might recognise it from the sign below. 

We also grabbed a lovely post-lunch iced traditional chocolate from Rito Chocolateria, and even bought some chocolate discs to use for hot chocolate back home, and closed off our Oaxaca explorations.

In the evening, it was time to head off to our next destination.


San Cristobal de las Casas

San Cristobal de las Casas, in the state of Chiapas, is another well-preserved city much-deserving of a visit.

If I really, really (with a gun to my head kind of really) had to pick one portion of our trip that was my favourite, I think I would have to settle on the three nights we spent in San Cristobal; less for the city itself – although I liked it very much – and more for the stunning nature it provides access to.

The major downside to a stop there is connection. From Oaxaca, the only way to arrive to San Cristobal is by overnight bus, unless you wish to fly back to Mexico City and fly to Tuxtla Gutiérrez airport which is about 1.5 hours’ drive to Oaxaca city. In fact, we took an overnight bus with Ado, only this time there was no platinum service available on the route – the gold service that we took is still considered a comfortable bus, although with a whopping 12-hour drive, not quite comfortable enough.

We arrived in San Cristobal in bright daylight and hailed a taxi to our hotel from the bus station. Most of the places we stayed in in Mexico were nothing to write home about, but our San Cristobal stay at Sombra del Agua was great – super central, comfortable rooms, lovely building with a traditional but modern feel with lots of greenery and lounging space – so you might wish to check it out.

After freshening up, we headed out for breakfast in the inviting garden of Frontera Artisan Food & Coffee.

We spent the day leisurely walking around the city, including the long shop-filled real de Guadalupe (street) and climbing up to the Templo de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe. There was a feast at the time, so we took the opportunity to sample some more freshly-fried churros from near the church. Later, we enjoyed a large cone of delicious thick-cut fries from Frida’s Frites.

In the evening, we had dinner at Ristorante el Secreto. Unfortunately, we were quite let down by this considering the rave reviews we read in advance – service was shockingly green, and food was also not up to par. The latter, unfortunately, turned out to be a continuing occurrence for us in San Cristobal, despite the fact that we dined in what should have been some of the best restaurants there.

The next morning, we headed off for perhaps my favourite day of the trip – visits to Cascadas el Chiflon and Cenote Chucumaltik.

We arranged the driver for this day trip through Jairo – contact him on The driver also bought our tickets with our cash.

We left San Cristobal in the early-morning fog and after a 2.5 hour drive, arrived at Cascadas el Chiflon. The early wake-up call meant we were the first to enter the magnificent park and, though it never got crowded, we got to enjoy the wonders there in perfect serenity.

And what wonders! Cascadas means waterfalls, and there are 5 of them here; all different and breathtakingly beautiful. There is only one trail, very straightforward, towards the right of the waterfalls and it takes you further on and on past all 5. Most people stop climbing at number 3, the BIG ONE. This beauty is so strong you will be covered in spray as you stand underneath it. However, if you have the strength (and yes, the climb is grueling and required quite a few breaks for us), I suggest you keep going to see all 5. At the 4th waterfall, see if you can spot the rainbow created in the spray mist.

On your way down, close to the entry to the park, feel free to cool off by taking a dip in the stunning waters. The water is cold and clear, and swimming in that setting with the sound of the waterfalls is a special experience that I will not soon forget.

There are some food stalls selling snacks and drinks at the entrance to the park.

After the waterfalls, we also had a stop at Cenote Chucumaltik, which is only about 20 minutes’ drive away. 

Cenotes are natural sinkholes, which come about from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater. There are many across Mexico, and seeing at least one is a must during your visit.

This cenote is exposed, meaning the roof has completely fallen through. It is not very popular / well-known, which is just what you want for the best experience. When we visited, there was just one small family of locals (although they played music throughout which I could have really done without). As we were about to leave, a group of tourists from a tour turned up, so I guess we got quite lucky.

We first took a short hike around its edges to have a look at the cenote from above, even spotting a majestic black hawk just 3 metres away from us.

We then went down to the cenote, and I couldn’t wait to jump right in. Although from afar the waters might seem a little dark and intimidating due to the vegetation, it is actually incredibly clean and clear, and at an extremely pleasant temperature. I did not see any fish in this one (many have large catfish). If you have goggles with you on this trip, you should definitely bring them here.

Swimming, at times alone, in this stunning cenote was the cherry on the cake of this magnificent day. I left feeling very content and in awe of nature’s splendor.

Back in San Cristobal, we enjoyed the pre-Christmas atmosphere of the city which was absolutely bustling with locals, before having dinner at our hotel’s popular Restaurante Tarumba. It’s a great setting and obliging service, although once more the food was nothing special (photos did not turn out well in the dim lighting).

The next morning, we had a good cup of coffee and some at Cafeología (bakes were not great).

We were excited for our group tour to the nearby indigenous towns of Chamula and Zinacantan, which we booked through Get Your Guide (it seems to have been taken down now, but there are other providers). While the towns themselves provided some interesting insight into the residents’ daily lives, the tour was too short, with a lot of time wasted in an over-priced establishment where we were being upsold handicrafts, and the guide not great. If you have extra time on your hands, you could perhaps look into other available tours to these towns or arrange a taxi. The most interesting part of our tour was Iglesia De San Juan in Chamula, where locals partake in ritual healings (which may include sacrifices). No photos or videos are allowed inside the church. This blog contains a detailed post on these two towns.

Back in San Cristobal, for a change of pace, we tried some Japanese from Sapporo & Tokio, which was decent enough. What you definitely need to try is a scoop of chocolate ice-cream with cacao nibs from Jangala – yum!

Come dinner time, we had a reservation at Tierra y Cielo, considered to be one of the (if not the) best fine dining restaurant in the city, where we ordered the tasting menu. While the dishes are a great exhibit of the region’s products, we felt that they were very hit and miss. Service, however, was very good. Overall, unfortunately, the meal failed to live up to our expectations, especially when one considers the sparkling reviews this place has.

The next day, it was time for us move on to another region, but not before seeing one more natural paradise. We once more arranged for a driver through Jairo (contact details above) to pick us up in the morning, with our luggage (which we left in the car during the day), and drive us to Sumidero Canyon. After the canyon, he dropped us off at Chiapa de Corzo for lunch, before he took us to Tuxtla Gutierrez airport for our flight to Merida.

Sumidero Canyon is a deep, natural canyon fed by the Grijalva River. The driver arranged our boat tickets and after a short wait, we were off for a 2-hour boat ride through the canyon. The time flew by.

13 kilometres long and 1 kilometre high at its highest point, lush with thick vegetation and home to a variety of wildlife including endangered river crocodiles, spider monkeys and ocelots … it was a paradise. 

The boat driver / guide spoke in Spanish, enough of which I managed to understand to appreciate what he was showing us. He was a talented spotter, stopping us to point out various species. We saw iguanas, crocodiles and the cutest spider monkeys (the latter were very happy with the audience). Storks, pelicans, ducks and host of different birds bobbed in the water, perched on branches or glided on the breeze, as rainwater gathered on the rocks above gently dripped into the canyon.

I was rendered quite emotional by mother nature’s bounty.

In Chiapa de Corzo, after a quick stroll around the town, we went to Jardines de Chiapas for a simple but good lunch. If you’re super hungry, they even have a buffet available.

We flew to Merida with Aeromexico. We read plenty of negative reviews about the airline and the online booking required us to put in a fake address, because our Malta address was not being accepted when booking, for some reason. But it was our only choice and thankfully, we did not have any issues (apart from a 1-hour delay).


Merida, Vallodolid & Chichen Itza

We arrived in Merida, in the Yucatán region, in the evening, in pouring rain. A taxi picking us up from the airport required an hour’s wait, so we hiked for a couple of roads from the airport with our luggage, getting quite soaked, for an Uber instead.

We had originally planned to stay in Merida for a few nights, but ended up changing our plans in the months before the trip to fit in Holbox. We ended up staying just for the night, as a stop over before the next leg of our trip. I did not regret the change of plans at all, but still wish I had a day to enjoy Merida.

All we got was dinner, at the much-acclaimed Picheta. Disappointing service and almost-as-disappointing food once more; it seemed we couldn’t catch a break with our restaurant choices after we left Oaxaca.

We arranged the transfer from our Merida hotel to Chichen Itza, and then onwards to Vallodolid (for a quick lunch) and then to Chiquila (to take the ferry to Holbox) with Yucatan Connection, and we had an excellent driver with fluent English – contact them on Just don’t expect cheap transfers on this side of Mexico – they only made financial sense for us because we were 4.

We arrived quite early in the day, but the crowds were already building, as expected. You will need 2 tickets to enter the site – the ‘main’ ticket which is the local government tax which you will buy from a teller, and the much lower federal tax which you can buy from a machine (your driver / workers there will guide you).

Chichen Itza, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, is a complex of Mayan origin in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. The ancient city (c. 600 AD) was one of the largest and most important Maya cities of the time.

While it has multiple buildings, it is best recognised by a large step pyramid with beautiful symmetry, known as El Castillo or the Temple of Kukulcan, which towers over the ancient city. The steps total to 91 on each side which, when combined with the temple at the top, represent the 365 days of the Mayan solar year. The temple at the pinnacle was used by priests for sacred rituals at a height which brings them closer to the gods in the sky.

While there is much to be objectively admired in the site, I kept thinking that I must now be quite spoilt by wonders so magnificent as to leave me feeling somewhat underwhelmed by Chichen Itza. Perhaps a part of it is the fact that I couldn’t shake off the ridiculousness of having a hundred and one vendors hogging up half the space on the site (yes, I mean literally surrounding the pyramid itself) trying to sell you souvenirs.

With a quick stop in Vallodolid for some food and literally 5 minutes to look around, we went to the very inviting Carolin Cacao Cafe Boutique, just off the main square, for some fresh juice and simple, fresh food. Make sure to take a trip down to the bathroom in a little underground grotto.

Then we were off to Chiquila port, the gateway to the island of Holbox. Once we arrived, we bought ferry tickets from one of the two companies available, had a seat while we waited for the ferry and, once it arrived, handed over our luggage which was all stored on the front of the ferry, took a seat and off we went to our island paradise.



Isla Holbox is an island north of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, in Quintana Roo State, separated from the mainland by a large lagoon. Ferries run from Chiquila every half an hour, with the crossing taking around 25 minutes.

The island is car free; golf carts are used – you can rent one or hail taxis to get around the island. You will find many taxis when you disembark at the port to take you to your hotel. Be warned that taxi prices (like everything else on the island) are not cheap.

The island consists of dirt/sand roads, many of which develop deep puddles when it rains, making driving and walking around – at times – interesting to say the least. Perhaps don’t take your best shoes. Holbox is very rustic (although there are plenty of luxurious accommodation options – we stayed in the less luxurious Arte Sano Hotel, which was still quite cute and just off the beach), and it being a tropical island means that the weather is iffy, but oh what a fantastic two days we had there. Stunning, remote beaches dotted with wildlife afforded us a slow-paced and incredibly relaxing stay – a getaway in the true sense of the world. While the island is a popular tourist destination, it never felt crowded. 

We were off the grid while on the island, which although refreshing (from a getaway perspective), was somewhat unnerving when I went off on solo adventures.

One thing to note is that while the beaches are breathtaking, they do not have the calm, clear waters that I am used to in the Mediterranean – for a number of reasons including that the beaches are sandy, shallow for a long distance, and tropical weather might result in wind/waves. Perhaps on calmer days this will be less the case, but we didn’t end up doing much swimming, with wading and lounging being more the normal course of events.

We stayed right off Playa Holbox, the main long stretch of beach, a 1-minute walk to the beach but still quite close to the heart of the town. 

We arrived in plenty of time for sunset, enjoyed a tropical cocktail and some guacamole at Villas HM Palapas del Mar, and had an early night after a long day of traveling.

The next morning, we went off in search of Punta Mosquito

Finding this beach proved to be quite an adventure. It is actually a sandbank, which you will need to access on foot and, depending on the tide, will involve wading through extensive stretches of water.

We started walking first thing in the morning, walking along Playa Holbox towards Hotel Las Nubes de Holbox, as far as we could go before the hotel beachfront ended. At that point we waded out slightly and back in to a non-occupied, rough beachfront stretch, continuing our hike for quite some time until the beachfront completely ended and we waded out to the sandbank, then continuing our walk towards Playa Mosquito until we hit a barbed fence declaring a nature reserve including crocodiles – at that point, we had arrived. 

Look at the map in advance and ask around – but the confusion is part of the fun.

There was no one else around on most of our walk until we reached the end (where there were just a handful of people seemingly as lost as us), so it felt like we could have been marooned on an uninhabited island. We got to enjoy the stunning sandbank almost alone (save for some flamingos and seagulls) … and what a magical place!

The tide appeared to lower later in the day and people started coming in, wading along a now more-exposed sandbank stretching essentially all the way to the beginning of Playa Holbox. We returned back that way – an activity which proved to stretch on endlessly, with our leg muscles crying at the exertion.

I spent the afternoon lounging along Playa Holbox, including getting a sunbed at one of the beachfront bars. In the evening, we enjoyed a dinner at the nearby funky Luuma – both service and the modern Mexican fare were very good.

The next morning, I had a nice breakfast at Bilu, following which I headed off alone in search of a taxi to take me to Playa Punta Cocos

This proved no easy task – most of the taxis I stopped simply shook their heads. I walked all the way to the centre of town before finding a number of taxis lined up, where a driver finally agreed to take me. I understood the hesitation during the drive, which while not too long, was pretty turbulent, involving a large number of deep puddles.

Apart from a large apartment complex/hotel and a few beach clubs which were still opening up, Playa Punta Cocos was essentially deserted.

The beach itself is stunning, offering long expanses of shallow, still water surrounding a private quay. The issue is that the shallowness extends long enough to make swimming impractical, and the stagnant water creates softened sand pockets into which your feet will sink, releasing a foul smell. 

I asked after the price of a sunbed at one of the clubs and having been given an exorbitant price, I decided to just spend some time walking around, before heading back towards Playa Holbox. Deciding that I did not wish to wait long enough until a taxi turns up with a new visitor, and up for a walk, I started walking along the beachfront. 

This took me through some lovely, empty coast, where I spent a very happy hour or two gently walking and picking up stunning shells. 

The beach did end at a point, requiring me to walk inland past some apartments (felt like, and I probably was, trespassing) and walk along the road for a while. Perhaps this was not the safest of outings for a half naked woman … traipsing around alone in almost-deserted stretches of island. I had a tense moment where I walked past a construction site with a number of male workers, and a very close face-to-face encounter with a huge iguana, but all turned out fine.

Eventually, I made it to the first beachfront hotels and clubs, where I continued to walk along the beach, having a dip every now and then to refresh myself from the hot sun. 

After a lovely but tiring morning, I once more spent an afternoon lounging on Playa Holbox. 

In the evening, we headed into town for dinner. We were a little tired of corn, and wouldn’t have thought we would find an excellent pizza cooked by Italians on this spit of land in the Gulf of Mexico, but there we were at Quartieri munching on a couple of slices alongside some Italian customers, feeling suddenly a little closer to home.

In the morning, we had a good breakfast at Cold Brew Bar, before taking in Holbox’s wild beauty one last night.

Then we headed off to the port to catch our ferry back to the mainland.



Having landed back in Chiquila, we were picked up by our driver for our private transfer to our final destination – Tulum. We used Holbox Shuttle for this, booking online in advance through this link. There is a cheaper public transport option which will include some transfers; we went for this for ease. 2 hours’ drive later, we arrived at our hotel in Tulum.

So, Tulum … there is much to be said about this world-renowned party beach destination. A town on the Caribbean coastline of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, it has throughout the year exploded in popularity with visitors from all over the world in search of some fun in the sun. Some people love it, some people hate it – I fall closer towards the former, but then again I did not get the full Tulum experience.

We just visited for 2 days, having heard many mixed reviews, even from big party-lovers who found it shady and shockingly overpriced. Having been of two minds whether to visit for some time, we decided to tick it off our list. At the end of it, we spent most of our two days there relaxing at our hotel or the immediate surrounds, feeling quite lazy at the end of our long trip. We did not make it into town, did not do much exploring, and only went to one party. Our experience was a perfectly safe and normal one, although we did visit in December before the rush of the big January festivals, so it was very quiet.

We decided to stay on the beach zone to avoid having to travel from town to the beach in the infamous high-priced taxis. We chose one of the most humbly-priced hotels towards the end of the beachzone (perhaps this might have contributed to our very normal experience) – Coco Unlimited – which still cost us a large chunk of our Mexico accommodation budget and more than I spend in most places. While the hotel is a little rustic and not perfect, it still feels luxurious enough and is a good option for those who wish to stay on the beach without completely blowing the bank. 

In the evening, we went to the nearby Mammazzita for dinner. The place is stunning and the service was great. Still, we were expecting a pumping atmosphere but it was extremely quiet; just us and another two tables, and none of the live entertainment that we read about. The food was just ok, not worth the high price tag, but that’s Tulum for you!

The next day, we had plans to go to one of the many nearby cenotes, visit the town, check out some of the popular hotels and maybe even the Tulum ruins. But it was hot and so humid, so instead, we lounged on the hotel’s comfortable sunbeds and soaked up the sun. The water was quite rough, so there was not much swimming to be had, but seaweed levels were low and we spent some time walking along the magnificent never-ending beach.

A venture out to find a coffee place ended up with us being pulled in for a 2-hour Mayan Clay massage experience at the Mayan Clay Spa, which was actually lovely and extremely relaxing.

In the evening, following some hotel pre-drinks with purchases from the nearby store, we went to a party at the popular Papaya Playa Project, for which we had purchased tickets online in advance. The atmosphere was great, the DJs just fine, the drinks expensive, and we got soaked a few times by passing clouds – all part of the fun.

Post-party munchies were resolved with hot dogs and empanadas from the previously-mentioned store right near our hotel.

The next day was our final day and why change a winning end-of-trip uber-relaxing recipe? Yep, more lounging and working on our Christmas tans to make everyone at home jealous. 

We had a simple but very nice lunch at the next-door Hotel Los Arrefices, with the hotel’s gorgeous dogs.

In the evening, plans of a fancy dinner at Taboo didn’t make much sense since it started heavily raining. Instead, we just crossed the road to Ukami, a Mexican-Japanese fusion, which we really enjoyed.

We had an early-morning departure to Cancun airport booked through the hotel, and the drive went smoothly.


As usual, the trip just flew by, leaving us with three weeks of fantastic memories of some pretty special places and moments.

I had a truly fantastic time in Mexico, and recommend that you put this country on your travel list.

Until the next one!

K x