The Mexico Bucket List: Top 12 Things You Must Experience in Mexico (before you kick it!) Plus 12 Honorable Mentions

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The MEXICO Report
TRAVEL Section

By Susie Albin-Najera

As Mexico is celebrating both its bicentennial this year (200th anniversary of independence, September 15, 1810) along with the 100th anniversary of its revolution (November 20, 1910), the entire year of 2010 has been proclaimed by President Felipe Calderon as “Año de la Patria,” or “Year of the Nation.”

What are you doing with the years you have?  If you haven’t been to Mexico, you are missing out on some of the world’s most incredible sites. There are so many miraculous places of interests, historical sites, ancient pyramids, extraordinary cathedrals, breathtaking waterfalls, ruins, jungles, beaches, farms, villages, lakes, indigenous cultures and much more to experience.

Along with the list below, you can also visit the World Heritage List of MEXICO site, to see the list of Unesco (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) areas.

Well, in honor of Mexico’s history and for the sake of enriching your life experiences, I decided to ask my fellow Mexico travel experts their top picks for The MEXICO Report’s “Bucket List”.  A bucket list is a list of things you hope to do before you ‘kick the bucket’.  It can include cities to visit, foods to eat, languages to learn, sites to see, anything you want or have dreamed about doing.

You are never too young or too old to start (or even finish) your bucket list, and let’s face it, Mexico deserves to be on your list.

These places below will light up your eyes, make your heart pound and take your breath away. It was such a pleasure to join forces with my fantastic contacts in being able to create this list for you.  Mil gracias!

The MEXICO Bucket List: (in no particular order)

1. Mérida (198 miles from Cancun) – “Founded upon the ruins of the Mayan city T’ho, which was constructed with white limestone and means “Face of Infinity,” art, traditions, culture and history are the main attractions. In the downtown Historic Center, you can visit the city cathedral, an impressive 16th century construction. You can check out some amazing cenotes (sinkholes) in underground river systems and take in beautiful natural scenery at the Reserva de la Biosfera Ria Celestun, a biosphere reserve and habitat the third largest in the world of pink flamingos.  Also near the White City are many spectacular archaeological zones where you can discover the grandeur of the ancient Mayan culture at sites such as Uxmal, Dibilchaltun and Chichen Itza.” – Jorge Gamboa Patron, Mexico Tourism Board

2. Sea Turtle Experience (Nuevo Vallarta area) – “I was living in a hotel in Nuevo Vallarta at the time and the hotel manager asked security to wake us if turtles came up on the beach to hatch their eggs. I was woken up at around 4am to watch this huge (very heavy) mother turtle make her way up the beach, patiently and painstakingly dig a hole, lay her eggs and then softly cover them up so they were protected. She then leaves them forever, drags herself back to the water and swims away. It is said that turtles return to hatch their eggs in the exact spot where they were laid by their mother.” – Sylvie Laitre, Mexico Boutique Hotels

3. Tepoztlán (near Mexico City in the state of Morelos)“This is one of my favorite spots in Mexico especially after climbing the Cerro del Tepozteco (named after Tepoztécatl, an ancient Mexica warrior) which is known as a place of high energy concentration and home to an ancient pyramid. The legend says that Tepoztlán was the birthplace of Quetzalcoatl.”  – Mariana Bermudez, Mexican Consulate, Los Angeles

4. Cabo Corrientes (South of Puerto Vallarta) – “A short distance south of Puerto Vallarta. Unspoiled, beautiful and few travelers. You can drive there from PV in less than an hour.” – Dave Simmonds, Mexico Premiere / One Town at a Time

Sierra Lago (photo courtesy of Robin Noelle)

5. The Copper Canyon (in the Sierra Tarahumara, in the southwestern part of Chihuahua) – “This place has a special place in my heart, especially leaving the train and hiking deep into its depths!” – Zachary Rabinor, Journey Mexico

6. Juanacatlán Lagoon (2.45 hours east of Puerto Vallarta, outside of Mascota) – “I stayed at the amazing Sierra Lago on the Lagoon. It was breathtaking, as was the drive up the mountain to the lake.” – Robin Noelle, Moon Guide to Puerto Vallarta (8th Edition)

7. Riviera Maya – “This area offers travelers a more engaging, multifaceted vacation experience in tune with the natural environment and with the world’s ever-increasing social and ecological awareness.“- Erika Garcia, CEO, Yucatan Holidays

The Monarch Biosphere Reserve (courtesy of Betsy McNair)

8. The Monarch Biosphere Reserve (located mostly in the eastern part of Michoacán) – “Standing in the midst of thousands of monarch butterflies as they fluttered all around me – landing on my nose and my hands, filling the air, cascading off trees”. – Betsy McNair, My Mexico Tours

9. Puebla – “Because I love talavera, chocolate and history. And the mole poblano comes on talavera plates in this historical place.” – Jessica Lilly Arent, All About Mexico

Verana, Yelapa (courtesy of Mexico Boutique Hotels)

10. Verana, Yelapa (near Puerto Vallarta)“I had the pleasure of staying at Verana, high above Yelapa and enjoyed morning coffee with the wild parakeets racing overhead and overlooking the Yelapa bay was awesome!” – Robin Noelle, Moon Guide to Puerto Vallarta (8th Edition)

11. Yucatán Country Club – “If you like golf, we have a one of the best golf courses in the whole country!” – Jorge Gamboa Patron, Mexico Tourism Board

12. The Pyramids of Monte Albán (Oaxaca), Palenque (Chiapas) and Tulum (Quintana Roo) – “The positive energy and spiritual intake you experience at these pyramids is truly life changing” – Susie Albin-Najera, The MEXICO Report

Honorable Mentions:

1. The Fiestas Grandes de Enero in Chiapa de Corzo (Chiapas) – “Feeling my heart thump to the beat of the hundreds of Parachicos dancing and shaking their rattles to the beat of the drum and call of the reed flute.” – Betsy McNair, My Mexico Tours

Playa Mayto (photo courtesy of Robin Noelle)

2. Playa Mayto (1.45 hrs South of Puerto Vallarta) – “One of my favorite places because it’s just a long, curved white sand beach with not a single hotel, condo, hut, or palapa on it, save the small 8 room hotel at one end where you can get refreshments and have access to modern bathrooms.” – Robin Noelle, Moon Guide to Puerto Vallarta (8th Edition)

3. The Coasts of Oaxaca and Michoacán “These are very special places for me: small fishing villages, slow pace of life, outrageous surf (yes, I am addicted to surfing, but not a “surfer”), hammock hanging and the best sea food in the world!” – Zachary Rabinor, Journey Mexico

4. Driving the transpeninsular highway from Tijuana to Cabo San Lucas “When you see a road, dirt or paved, heading to either coast, take it. The people and the beauty you will find is the Mexico you will never forget.” – Dave Simmonds, Mexico Premiere / One Town at a Time

Preparing Caldo de Piedra (courtesy of Betsy McNair)

5. A bowl of Caldo de Piedra (Sta. Maria de Tule, Oaxaca) “Looking into a bubbling jícara filled with fish, shrimp, vegetables, and broth all bubbling around the red-hot rocks just taken from the fire, its fragrant steam rising to me as it was placed on the table in front of me by the proudest cook I’ve ever met.” – Betsy McNair, My Mexico Tours

6. The Fiesta Days for Saint Michael (San Miguel de Allende) – “Standing in the jardín at night looking up at the tallest castillo of fireworks I’ve ever seen as it sparkled and spun and whistled while just beyond it the Parroquia the church bells rang out for what seemed like a solid hour.” – Betsy McNair, My Mexico Tours

7. Carnitas and an ice-cold cervezas in Dolores Hidalgo (Guanajuato) – “Jose Alfredo Jimenez belting out Camino de Guanajuato on the jukebox in the background. (And a visit to his fabulous nearby tumba afterwords.)” – Betsy McNair, My Mexico Tours

8. Remote camping on both sides of the Baja Peninsula (Baja California) – “Remote fishing villages and surf on the pacific and translucent water, marine wonderlands.” – Zachary Rabinor, Journey Mexico

9. The Chocolate Factories of Oaxaca (City of Oaxaca) – “From a mile away you can smell the rich aroma of pure cacao. The market I visited was the 20 de Noviembre market, where incredible sauces, powders and pastes for Oaxaca’s famous mole and chocolate dishes are prepared. I bought the pure chocolate and made the most extraordinary hot chocolate known to man or woman.” – Susie Albin-Najera, The MEXICO Report

10. Chiapas and Oaxaca… “Deep rich culture, amazing food, handicrafts that blow your mind!” – Zachary Rabinor,  Journey Mexico

Princessa cub at Vallarta Zoo (courtesy of Robin Noelle)

11. Yucatán Peninsula – “Cenotes, Caribbean Sea, Mayan archeological sites swimming with whalesharks off Isla Holbox.” – Zachary Rabinor, Journey Mexico

12. Vallarta Zoo (Puerto Vallarta) – “Holding a 3-month-old lion cub and a 6 week old jaguar cub at the Vallarta Zoo is one my lifetime highlights reel.” – Robin Noelle, Moon Guide to Puerto Vallarta (8th Edition)

This list go on forever, but do yourself and your soul a favor – go experience the magic of Mexico…

If you have visited a place in Mexico that you love, please feel free to share it in the ‘comments’ section below!

*All photos used with permission.


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Susie Albin-Najera
Susie Albin-Najera is the creator and editor of The Mexico Report, an award winning travel blog showcasing news, deals and resources for the modern traveler. Najera is a writer, author, travel blogger, marketing and public relations specialist and producer. Najera serves on the host committee for Maestro Cares, founded by singer Marc Anthony and producer Henry Cardenas; and on the advisory board for Corazon de Vida, providing aid to children in Mexico. She is also the creator of 'The Real Heroes of Mexico' showcasing community heroes in Mexico and producer of Latino Thought Makers. Najera has been recognized by the Mexican Consulate and Mexico Tourism Board for fostering positive relations between countries and her dedication to showcasing Mexico as a premiere destination. She can be reached at

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