Yes, the beach is beautiful, but Mexico has so much more to see!
On a piece written for the launch of HuffPost Mexico on Sept. 1, author Roberto Sierra points out 5 stunning vacation spots in Mexico that go beyond the beach.
A vacation in Mexico has long conjured up visions of reclining on miles of white sand and swimming in deep blue waters. Stunning beaches are certainly part of the Mexican experience, but there’s a lot more to the country than that.
Here are five incredible places in Mexico — from colorful cities to dreamlike canyons and waterfalls — that should definitely make it onto your bucket list.
San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato
Once an important stop on the silver trade route between the mines of Zacatecas and the capital of Mexico City, San Miguel de Allende is now a UNESCO Cultural Heritage Site.
Even as the colonial-era city continues to modernize, its many fine examples of Novohispanic Baroque architecture amaze any visitor. La Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel (pictured above) is the parish church of San Miguel and the city’s crown jewel, but other attractions include the Square Garden, the School of Fine Arts, the Instituto Allende and La Capilla restaurant.
If you’re feeling more adventurous, you can always travel a few extra kilometers to visit the historic Hacienda Landeta, eat at the Ristorante de Andrea and relax in the area’s natural hot springs such as those at La Gruta. The charming town of Mineral de Pozos is an hour away by car.
Huasteca Potosina, San Luis Potosí
This mountainous region along the Gulf of Mexico has gained popularity in recent years among travelers seeking extreme aquatic sports. If that’s you, you’ll definitely be interested in rafting on the Tampaón and Salto del Meco rivers and rappelling in the Tamul and Minas Viejas waterfalls.
The breathtaking view at dawn in the Sótano de las Golondrinas, an open-air pit cave, is another site you shouldn’t miss.
And don’t forget Las Pozas, a surrealist sculpture garden created by English poet Edward James in the town of Xilitla. It looks like it came right out of a Salvador Dali painting.
Barrancas del Cobre
Chihuahua is home to Las Barrancas del Cobre, the massive Copper Canyon, where you’ll find stunning landscapes and meet members of the Rarámuri, one of the indigenous peoples of Mexico.
This is one of the most challenging areas to travel around in Mexico, but well worth the effort. With the help of a guide, you can spend time with the Rarámuri communities, hike the canyons, raft through the Papigochi River and gasp at the Basaseachi and Piedra Volada waterfalls.
To start your unforgettable trip, you’ll want to board the Chepe (the Chihuahua-Pacific train) in the city of Chihuahua, which will take you to Los Mochis on the coast.
San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas
If you want to visit a true colonial-era Mexican city, you can’t go wrong with San Cristóbal de las Casas. Founded in 1528, it’s the home of the descendants of the Maya people ― including the Tzotzil, who are best-known for their colorful outfits and hand embroidery.
The city’s 16th century architecture shines in the Cathedral, the Convent of Santo Domingo, and various other buildings found along the Andador Eclesiástico and Real de Guadalupe. Climbing to the top of the Temple of San Cristobal will give you a breathtaking view of the whole town.
The city boasts a number of shops, cafes and restaurants offering handmade crafts and the very best of Chiapas food. The nearby towns of San Juan Chamula and Chiapa de Corzo are also well worth a visit.
The New York Times named Mexico’s capital the number one city to visit in 2016. Don’t miss the much touted historical center, legendary artist Frida Kahlo’s house museum called Casa Azul and the Castle of Chapultepec.
But the city has so much more to offer. Past and present converge in the trendy, vibrant neighborhoods of La Roma, Condesa and Polanco, which are all rich in restaurants, bars, galleries and designer shops.
Exhibitions at the MUAC, the Jumex Museum and the Tamayo Museum, as well as a skyline that’s rising higher and higher, also help to make Mexico City the country’s leading destination.
When you do think of sleep, you can choose one of the city’s long list of hotels. But more and more people are opting to stay in local apartments via Airbnb.