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Beat’s Guide to Mexico: The best things to experience

The best places to eat, dance and explore. 

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Mexico is abundant with culture and individuality that's ripe for exploring. To make the most of what magnificent Mexico has to offer, here’s Beat's guide to the best food, music and cultural splendours that make the country so unique. 

Three Best Dishes That Aren’t Tacos or Burritos

Torta

A torta is a type of Mexican focaccia and serves as the perfect lunch delight. It’s served throughout most of the country -- such is the universal love for this cheesy delight. Fill it with ham, avocado or adobo (a gathering of raw food in a stock) and you’ve just experienced one of the country’s most popular dishes.

Tlayudas

Tlayudas are more troublesome to find but if you find yourself wandering through the state of Oaxaca, it’s very likely that you’ll stumble over this Mexican variation of a pizza. The base is a crispy thin tortilla slathered with refried beans, asiento (unrefined pork lard), a meat of choice whether it be chicken, pork or chorizo, and a collection of lettuce or cabbage and avocado.

Cochinita Pibil

Cochinita Pibil hails from the Oaxacan region northeast to the Yucatan Peninsula where the booming fortress of Merida resides. This is where you come face to face with Mexico’s variation of a pulled pork. It’s the delicious saltiness of this dish which can’t be ignored. It comes wrapped in banana leaf alongside fresh sides such as red cabbage and guacamole which the take the edge of its acidity.

Three Best Music Cities

Tulum

An electronic music lovers dream, Tulum is the nocturnal hub of Mexico. Whether you’re after a mysterious late-night rave or full throttle beach party, beachside Tulum is your ticket to the stars. Much of the charm is in its history– millions of years ago the Quintana Roo state with which Tulum resides was showered with meteors leaving behind natural pools called cenotes. These passages to the core of the earth now play host to huge after-dark parties. The social game runs around the clock in Tulum, so you'll be sorted any night of the week. 

Mexico City

Not only the capital geographically, Mexico City is also the heart and soul of rock music in Mexico. Calling the metropolis a behemoth would be putting it lightly yet the musical heartbeat pulses across every stretch of this boom town. Salon Pata Negra, in the social hub of La Condesa, is a treat for psychedelia and garage imaginations while Jules Basement in Polanco will excite all your best interests in local jazz. Head to Plaza Garibaldi and experience the Mexican culture down to its core as mariachi virtuosos hit the streets nightly.    

Guadalajara

Guadalajara is not only a spectacle to the eye, it’s a spectacle to the ears too. The country’s second largest city -- if you’re happy to call the larger Ecatepec a suburb of Mexico City -- is the backbone and initial settler of the nation’s mariachi culture. Alongside fellow Jaliscan neighbour Cocula, Guadalajara forged the identity of the genre. Experience the booming Plaza de los Mariachis in all its glory where roaming mariachis are sure to hassle and hound. It’s a blessing, embrace it.

Five Best Experiences

Visit Palenque

Wandering the tourist trail through Central Mexico, you’re certain to saunter over the modern town of Palenque, the doorstep of Mexico’s Mayan culture. The contemporary city was created as a result of the global attraction in the jungle ruins lying behind it. Dating back to 226 BC, the ancient municipal of Palenque was home to the country’s earliest residents and houses some of the most incredible prehistoric architecture. Less cluttered than the more commercially renowned Chichen Itza and Teotihuacan; enjoy the wide-open expanses and tourist-free photos.     

Experience Coco Bongo

Cancun and Playa del Carmen play host to one of the craziest party concepts ever devised. Musical theatre and electronica combine to create a special late-night occasion. $75 US gets you unlimited alcohol, a personal waiter and a ticket to one of the most captivating shows you’re ever likely to witness. Acrobats fly down from the ceiling evading raining confetti as they undertake tributes to some of the most prominent pop culture icons of the modern world including Michael Jackson and Madonna. In between tributes, it’s just flat out bangers courtesy of their in-house DJ. 

Encounter the Cenotes

A huge drawcard of Mexico is its cenotes. While Canada, the US, even Australia can lay claim to owning a collection of these meteor-manifested waterholes, Mexico is the king of the castle. From the Yucatan Peninsula all the way down the Caribbean coast through Quintana Roo, cenotes provide tourists with opportunities to bath in beautiful natural springs. Jump from platforms 10m above or scuba dive the deepest depths looking for Mayan artefacts, these rare sights provide a truly special experience unique to the country. Merida, Tulum and Playa del Carmen are the true hotspots.

Paddleboard Lake Bacalar

Before you say goodbye to Mexico heading southward to Belize or Guatemala be sure to stop by the modest town of Bacalar and the adjoining “Lagoon of Seven Colors”. Lake Bacalar, as it's traditionally called, welcomes thousands of tourists every year due its unmatched beauty. Climb to the top of the Fort San Felipe and peruse the lake in all its majesty – you’ll notice that one shade of blue seeps into another depending on the depth and clarity of the freshwater. Rise at 5am and take a paddleboarding tour across the lagoon – you’ll see a magnificent sunrise and visit a dilapidated restaurant locals built on a small isle.

Visit San Cristobal’s on Horseback 

San Cristobal de las Casas is known for being a backpacking cauldron. Worldly nomads who have ventured far and wide come for their handicrafts. It’s a magical city nonetheless and just outside of this colonial town lies the electric Tzotzil village of San Juan Chamula. You can get there by bus but that takes the fun out of it - Hotel Casa Margarita’s travel agent in town run horse riding tours to the destination. Wooden saddles, short stirrups and no helmets means it’s not entirely safe but that’s all part of the thrill. At the end of the trail lies a fairylike church where local Tzotzil people pray amongst hundreds of lit candles drinking ceremonial cups of Coca-Cola and Sprite as they go.   

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