Mexico is a huge country
and it's hard to know where to go if you only have a limited time to visit this
nation. Some people prefer the beaches, some might want to take advantage of the
culture, history and international restaurants, and others could consider
emigrating to spend their retirement years there. Below are must-see
towns and cities along with useful notes to help you get an idea of what Mexico
Beautiful, easy-going Chapala, Mexico
Chapala, Mexico, located in central Mexico, has the largest expat community in the world and offers lots of
activities to keep one busy. If you like to play tennis, golf, bridge or get
involved in garden clubs, animal rescue or theater, this lovely town with year-round
spring climate is a good bet. Chapala's location, just 20 minutes from
Guadalajara's international airport and an hour from the capitol city itself, is a good home base to travel to the
beach, to the mountains, or to the
States or Canada.
Cons - Because
Chapala is such a pleasant town with lots to do and great weather, it is
definitely getting overrun with
Gringos and is losing some of its innocence and true Mexican culture. Traffic congestion
is a problem during the snowbird season and prices
continue to rise. Still, it is a great value compared to the States. For the most part there aren't problems
with drugs or the darkness it attracts, but there have been altercations between
the police and gang members in recent years.
Historical and clean Oaxaca, Mexico
located in southwestern Mexico,
is a beautiful
colonial city with picturesque architecture. The colorful indigenous add zest to
the ordinary walk through town. Offering food specialties like mole and
locally made chocolate, Oaxaca - as a living cultural center with lots of
museums, free concerts and cultural events - also has an
international feel. The Zocalo Plaza is one of the finest
in Mexico, and there is a large variety of restaurants to choose from, city
markets, and famous churches. For a day trip you
are close to the Maya ruins of
and you can visit the largest tree in the world there.
Cons - There
aren't many cons about Oaxaca, although it has a cooler climate overall than the
Lake Chapala area and prices are slightly higher. It's more populated and
larger, and is definitely a city - which some would not take as a negative
feature at all.
sweet, undeveloped Caleta de Campos
If you like beaches,
here are two completely different styles of beach from which to choose.
Campos, located in the Mexican state of Michoacan, is an undeveloped beach town where if you would like to be involved
with the locals and eat fresh grilled fish and shrimp at a palapa shack on the
beach, this is the place. The horseshoe beach is wide and gorgeous. Completely
non-touristy, you won't be annoyed with the sounds of jet skis or bothered
with vendors begging you to buy.
Stunning Zicatela Beach
Escondido, located in southwestern Mexico, is an old fishing village
transformed into a surfer's paradise. Choose to board surf or body surf, there
are lots of little coves to escape from the tourist crowds. You can enjoy
delicious fresh seafood beachside and watch
the sun set. Zicatela is becoming more developed every time we visit, but it has
a cutesy, arty feel to it. The larger city of Puerto Escondido is walking
distance away offering larger shops, pharmacies, and open markets.
Cons - Both
beaches are hot and humid in the summer which can be unbearable. On the one
hand, Caleta is wonderfully undeveloped, but one could feel isolated, especially
if you don't speak Spanish and services are limited. For the conveniences of
banking and medical, one must travel 40 miles away to Lazaro Cardenas, which
could get old after a while. Zicatela is a hopping place with lots of action and
a focus on being hip. It
is close to Puerto Escondido, but that city is not nearly as colorful or
intriguing and there is city traffic.
Zacatecas is a World Heritage site with historical classic Colonial
buildings, walking streets, tours, museums, and pleasant plazas.
There are excellent Mexican and international restaurants. Quality silver and
leather shops are found throughout the city. Easy transport to and from major Mexican and U.S. cities via
airport or bus is a plus.
In the highlands of Mexico the temps can be cold during winter, in the mornings or in the
evenings. Like San Francisco, the streets have a steep slope and there are many
steps to climb. If you are handicapped or have health issues with your back or
legs, this might present an uncomfortable problem for you. High altitude might
also be a consideration. The city is upscale and more pricey.
Mexican as you can get, Jerez, Mexico
Jerez is the most Mexican town in all of Mexico, and
is an hour away from Zacatecas. This easy-to-navigate town has lots of shops,
and offers clean, simple living that is family oriented and traditional.
Everyone seems friendly in that
small-town-sort-of-way and locals are eager to make conversation and engage with strangers.
Streets are walkable and not steep like either Zacatecas or Guanajuato, with
shops and grocery stores easily
accessible on foot or by bus.
Cons - There are no great ruins,
no international cuisine and if small town charm doesn't do it for you, you will
be bored within minutes. There are cultural events, theater and music, but there
heavy emphasis on this side of life.
Hip, happening, artistic Guanajuato
Guanajuato is another World Heritage site and is a photographer’s
paradise. This city is cosmopolitan and offers a full variety of
restaurants, entertainment, fabulous scenery and culture. Guanajuato
teems with vitality, history and the influence from the students of the
University. Every turn of the corner offers you a photographic
opportunity and is a goldmine for sketching or watercolor topics.
Pricing for lodging and food is available in all ranges and transport
to, from and around the city is easy. Lots of free theater and concerts.
Guanajuato is also located in the highlands of Mexico and can be cold in
the mornings and evenings. Altitude may pose a problem and streets are
steep and winding.
Tropical and historic Merida
Many people love
Merida which is located on the
Yucatan Peninsula. It has the region's best museums, and is only 22 miles to the Gulf
of Mexico Coast. There are lots of affordable places to eat and thriving
markets. If you want to see the pyramids of
Chichen Itza, you can come and go in
one day if you would like. The Maya ruins of Tulum
are reachable in a day but seeing them is not a day trip. There is
gorgeous Colonial architecture,
sweet barrio churches, wide boulevards and a very active main Plaza with mimes,
shops and entertainment. Upscale hotels, restaurants and outdoor cafes can
entertain you for hours.
Expats who live here enjoy the historical culture
activities. Merida also boasts of many
regional hospitals and medical centers offering full services for the city, the
whole Yucatan Peninsula and for neighboring states.
Cons - Hot and congested
with belching traffic, Merida is a city of almost a million inhabitants and has humid, tropical
stunning beaches, to highland mountain towns, cultural World Heritage sites to
local small town charm, Mexico offers something for everyone.