Tulúm archaeological site
Laura Hare

Bucket List: Mexico

Bucket List: Mexico

Jun 21, 2019|Where we travel| by Lindsay Taulbee

Encompassing mountains and oceans, jungles and deserts, Mexico is an ecologically diverse country hosting some of the world’s most amazing natural phenomena, endemic flora and fauna, and breathtaking landscapes. Meanwhile, the indigenous and colonial influences and unique history of each region are reflected in a multitude of vibrant and inviting cultures, each with its own distinct customs and traditions. If Mexico is on your mind, here are 6 experiences not to miss!

Swim in a cenote

More than 6,000 of these natural pools, formed by limestone sinkholes, are found across the Yucatan Peninsula. Cenotes played an important role in ancient Maya culture; they provided fresh water and were believed to be passageways to the underworld.

 Cenote Ik-kil by Anna Brown

 Cenote Xlacah by Laura Vick

Marvel at the monarchs

The annual migration of millions of monarch butterflies to the mountains of southern Mexico is one of the world’s most dramatic natural marvels. February is the best time to visit, and there are several different reserves, each offering a slightly different experience.

 Monarch butterflies by Samm Wehman Epstein

 Photo by Debbie Jordan

Encounter whales—or whale sharks

Each year, gray whales travel thousands of miles from the Arctic Ocean to the warm waters of Baja California’s lagoons to court, mate, give birth, and care for their young. In the protected waters of several marine sanctuaries, visitors aboard small boats may find themselves at arm’s length from these curious mammals. 

 Gray whale by Debbie Jordan

Another ocean highlight is the whale shark. Reaching an average of 32 feet in length and weighing 20,000 pounds, these are the world's largest fish. There are opportunities to swim and snorkel with these gentle giants on both the Pacific coast and in the Yucatán Peninsula. 

 Whale shark by Christian Jensen

Add new birds to your life list

Thanks to its geographic size and diversity of habitats, Mexico is home to about 1,100 bird species, more than 100 of which are endemic. If you're heading to the Yucatán Peninsula, consider a stop at Celestun or Rio Lagartos, where thousands of American Flamingos gather from November to February.

 The endemic Mexican Sheartail by Alexander Dzib

Flamingos at Celestun by Peyri Herrera, CC BY-ND 2.0

Visit archaeological ruins

Advanced indigenous civilizations such as the Maya, Aztec, and Olmec thrived in Mexico long before the arrival of Europeans. Many of their buildings and structures remain today, providing insight into these Pre-Columbian cultures. 

Chichén Itzá archaeological site on the Yucatán Peninsula

 Teotihuacán archaeological site near Mexico City by Carlitos Alonso Caballero Vallejo

Experience breathtaking landscapes

Considered one of the world's megadiverse countries, Mexico's landscapes range from lush rainforests to arid deserts, and from fir-topped mountains to coral reefs. From the Baja Peninsula's unique vegetation—600 of its plant species are found nowhere else—to the seven stunning shades of blue in the Yucatán's Laguna de Bacalar, Mexico's treasures are too numerous to name. 

 Baja landscape by Debbie Jordan

 Laguna de Bacalar by Lidia Tretyakova - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

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