Historic Center of Mexico City and Xochimilco

Historic Center of Mexico City and Xochimilco

The Sun StoneLocation: Mexico City, Mexico

Visited:

November, 2001

July, 2008

August, 2009

January 2, 2011

Opinion and Background: (Bias alert: I’m Mexican)

Mexico City is possibly one of the most amazing cities in the world with history bursting at the seams. It is the capital city of a country with 31 UNESCO world heritage sites and shows it. The exact center, El Zocalo (the name of the town square), warrants at least a day or two. It is surrounded by the judicial building, parliament, the executive building, and a cathedral and is symbolic to the governing principles of the Mexican people. These buildings alone take hours to tour, so plan to stay a while.

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Historic Center of Zacatecas

Historic Center of Zacatecas

The view of Zacatecas from the nearby silver mines.

Location: Zacatecas, Zacatecas, Mexico

Visited: August, 2009

Opinion and Background:
Towards foreigners, Mexicans seem united in their love for their country. However, amongst themselves, distinct (but friendly) battle lines are drawn showing off specific city pride, with everyone claiming that their city is the most beautiful and unique in Mexico. While its easy to brush this off as typical over aggrandizement of one’s hometown, it is actually quite remarkable how different Mexican cities can look compared to each other, and for once, the hype is justified.

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Three Things to do Near or Inside Sian Ka’an (pt.1)

Sian Ka’an is one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited. If you haven’t seen my post, read that article first. However, now that you are in the area, what else should you do? Furthermore, inside of Sian Ka’an, what is there to do? Fortunately, these questions have very satisfying answers.

1) Track Dolphins and Sea Turtles (inside Sian Ka’an)

As you enter the town of Punta Allen, you might see some signs for “eco-tours.” Some of the town people have grown an appreciation for observing the wildlife, without harming it. In this spirit, they offer a boat ride to see some dolphins and sea turtles. The longer tours can also include viewing eagles in their nests, and crocodiles. The boat also navigates through rivers fenced by mangrove trees. It is quite a surreal experience.

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Sian Ka’an

Sian Ka’an

Mangroves 3Location: (Near) Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Visited: January 3-7 2011

Background and Opinion:

In a few words, Sian Ka’an is the Amazon of North America. No amount of praise can do justice to the beauty that is Sian Ka’an. This Biosphere Reserve is on the Yucatan Peninsula and is home to so many species of animals, including mammals like pumas, jaguars, dolphins, and manatees. In addition, development within this area is strictly regulated making for a pristine and truly natural environment. If nature isn’t enough, on the western side, there are some fairly untouched Mayan ruins, so go fulfill your need to act the part of Indiana Jones just this once.

Sian Ka’an is a fairly large reserve, so it was not possible to explore all of it. I took the east most route into the reserve, which is a very thin peninsula that goes from Tulum to Punta Allen, 50 km inside Sian Ka’an. The drive has thus far, been the single most memorable one in my life, surpassing the route between the Angkor Temples, along Pacific Coast Highway, or along the Okinawan coast in Japan.

Imagine this: You are driving along a single dirt road. You don’t see people or cars for the next two hours after entering the ‘Arco’ (Gateway). Then suddenly you hear noises in the dense forest next to you. When you stop to investigate, you see some large eyes and what looks like a monkey. He scurries away. As you try to find it again, you see it and about five of its family members cross the single dirt road. Or, imagine that you finally reach a small town deep inside a forest, and the first person you talk to asks “want to go see some dolphins?” Final scenario: You reach the ‘welcome center’ 10 km inside of Sian Ka’an, and are told there is an observation deck up some stairs. While you are up there, you look in all directions and see nothing but palm trees, a huge lagoon, and the Caribbean Sea as far as the eye can see, without a human in sight. If all three of these excite you, Sian Ka’an is for you.

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