Travel notebook: Mexico, from Cancun to Chihuahua

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Travel notebook: Mexico, from Cancun to Chihuahua

Hit the Mexican roads to really bask in the country's rich offering. Whether you crave for culture or idleness (or both), Mexico holds the great promise of a truly unique trip that you'll keep in mind for a long time.

As a link between the United States and Central America, Mexico is a country of often unsuspected riches. Shaped as a comma surrounded by the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, its geography varies from beaches to deserts and mountains. As the cradle of Aztec, Toltec and Maya civilisations, Mexico is steeped in mysteries you may try to unravel.
Fly off to Cancun, mythical spring break destination for students that also holds many cultural treasures. Head for Tulum before driving further north. Mexico is ahead of you: Acapulco and its stunning beaches, Mexico City and its ebullient cultural life, and finally the desert regions up north. From Los Mochis, hop on the El Chepe train to Chihuahua and gaze at beautiful landscapes evolving as the day goes by.

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Travel notebook: Mexico, from Cancun to Chihuahua

Days 1 and 2. Discovering the south: Cancun and Tulum

Because of the American spring break, Cancun is a favourite among students but it also offers many cultural wonders. At night, head for the ever surprising Tulum, celebrity hideout.

Marine life at Museo Subacuático de Arte
Around Cancun, Isla Mujeres and Punta Nizuc, clear waters reveal a genuine engulfed city. Since 2009, artists have been sculpting human-sized statues meant to be displayed... at the bottom of the sea. Those 517 works of art also act as artificial reef and constitute as of today the largest underwater museum in the world, a harmonious mix of art and natural environment. In order to admire these pieces, you have a choice of using a glass bottom boat or go snorkelling. However, the best option to come as close to the sculptures as possible is to scuba dive.

Museo Subacuático de Arte
Km 15,3, Blvd. Kukulcan
Zona Hotelera
77500 Cancun, Q.R.
+52 998 206 01 82
musamexico.org

Climbing the Coba pyramid
30 miles northeast of Tulum in the jungle, the impressive city of Coba spreads before your eyes, with most of the Yucatan region's archaeological sites located there. The various structures being far and apart, you may choose to hike, ride a bike or a Mayan rickshaw. Take your courage in both hands and climb up the Nohoch Mul – meaning hillock in Mayan. But when you're on top of its 130-feet high structure, it feels way bigger than a hillock! It is actually the highest pyramid of the Mexican Maya territory. Up there, take a breath and enjoy the view of the surrounding jungle. A worthwhile effort.

Nohoch Mul pyramid
Carretera Federal 307 Cancun-Chetumal
77793 Coba, Q.R.

Where to eat?
With ceviches and tacos, you have Mexico in your plate! Halfway between Cancun and Tulum, Los Aguachiles is the perfecting halting point to have lunch on the road. Raw and marinated fish ceviches with lemon juice and red onions have made the restaurant popular. You have to urgently try this dish out!

Los Aguachiles
Calle 34 Nte, Downtown
77720 Playa del Carmen, Q.R.
www.losaguachiles.mx

Where to sleep?
6 miles from Tulum, you'll sleep in heaven. Between the jungle and the beaches, the 44 suites of the Be Tulum hotel all offer private swimming pools. The use of raw materials – wood, linen, cotton – gives a serene feel to the site.
Relax at the spa and sauna. Inspired by pre-Hispanic times, the care provided will do you some good. You can carry on with a yoga session or meditate in a studio room overlooking tree tops.

Be Tulum
Carretera Tulum-Boca Paila Km.10
Zona Hotelera
77780 Tulum, Q.R.
+52 1 984 132 6215
betulum.com

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Travel notebook: Mexico, from Cancun to Chihuahua

Day 3. Discover Acapulco

Acapulco… the name sounds like holidays are calling you already. As the ultimate seaside resort, it needs to be on your must-see list towards Mexico City. It's definitely worth it.

The thrill of Acapulco
Discover Acapulco like Mexicans do and wander through the sunny streets before stopping by a local market. Visit the San Diego Fort and finally lie down on the golden sand of a nearby beach. Most importantly, do not miss to visit La Quebrada, a meeting spot for divers in search of adventure: they accurately jump from a 130-feet high rock formation into a canal that looks tiny from high up. Night time doesn't stop them and they jump from candle-lit bases.

Where to eat?
The Zibu restaurant is the perfect place to travel a little further. Here, Mexico meets Asia for very uncommon cuisine. After all, Asia's just on the other side of the pond. Try the langoustines in ginger butter, or green curry chicken with fried bananas. Decoration is in keeping with the spirit, both Mexican and Asian, using local materials: stone, wood and bamboo.

Zibu
Av. Escenica S/N
Fracc. Glomar
39887 Acapulco, Gro.
+52 744 433 3069
www.zibu.com.mx

Where to sleep?
Right in front of Roqueta Island, the Boca Chica Hotel offers splendid views onto the former. This 1950s establishment was perfectly renovated to offer you what's best in Acapulco. The immaculate whiteness of the rooms makes the varying outside colours all the more striking, especially when the sun lingers over the horizon line and the sky turns from blue to pink, orange then red. The shining star will come back early in the morning for a reversed show.

Boca Chica Hotel
Playa Caletilla
39390 Acapulco, Gro.
+52 74 4482 7879
www.hotel-bocachica.com

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Travel notebook: Mexico, from Cancun to Chihuahua

Days 4 and 5. Mexico City, of art and culture

As a city of art and history, Mexico City has a lot to offer. From Contemporary Art to ancient pre-Hispanic times, the metropolis can take you back in time.

Bosque de Chapultepec, culture within your reach
Is your stay in Mexico City too short to visit the whole town? Then head to the Bosque de Chapultepec, an immense park that gathers all the unmissable cultural spots of the city: the Chapultepec Castle, the National Anthropology Museum, the Modern Art and Contemporary Art museums... you'll likely get your fill. Far from Mexico City's restlessness, this 850-hectare area offers cultural outings but also a breath of fresh air. So take advantage and recharge your batteries at the thermal baths or follow the guide that tours the park's most famous spots. You've got a busy schedule ahead of you!

Bosque de Chapultepec
11100 Ciudad de México, D.F.

On Aztec footsteps in Teotihuacan
No trip to Mexico is complete without visiting Teotihuacan, one of the country's most important and impressive pre-Hispanic sites. Less than an hour away from Mexico City by car, you'll admire the Sun Pyramid rising up the 1.5-mile long Avenue of the Dead. Once on top of the 200-feet high structure, a view of the whole site will reward your efforts with the Moon Pyramid on one side and the Quetzalcóatl Temple and Quetzalpápalotl Palace on the other. This Aztec city was once a sacred land, inhabited by the gods. You will maybe feel that mystical atmosphere that presides over the entire location.

Teotihuacan site
Ecatepec Pirámides Km. 22 600
55800 San Juan Teotihuacan de Arista, Méx.
www.teotihuacan.inah.gob.mx

Where to eat?
For lunch, look for a taquería, a food stand where you can feast upon quesadillas, tacos and tamales, all local specialities. Truly unmissable in Mexico! At night, take a seat at the Café de Tacuba for dinner. This restaurant kept the old charm of a colonial-style villa. Mariachis will play in your ear as you enjoy chicken enchiladas. A real delight.

Café De Tacuba
Calle de Tacuba 28
Cuauhtémoc
Centro
06010 Ciudad de México, D.F. +52 55 5521 2048
www.cafedetacuba.com.mx

Where to sleep?
In the fancy Polanca neighbourhood, the Habitat Hotel is resolved to have you spend a wonderful night. It will seduce you with an-white minimalist design. The same spirit is found in each of the 32 rooms and 4 suites, all equipped with huge bathtubs where you'll gladly loll about at the end of the day.
Don't forget to pay La Terraza bar a visit. It is located on the hotel's roof and offers great views over Mexico City.

Habita Hotel
Av. Presidente Masaryk 201
Miguel Hidalgo
Polanco
11560 Ciudad de México, D.F.
+52 55 5282 3100
www.hotelhabita.com/main.html

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Travel notebook: Mexico, from Cancun to Chihuahua

Days 6 and 7. Discovering the arid north

Mexico's northern region is a little-known yet unmissable stop. The deserts and canyons are every bit as impressive as in Colorado, USA.

Travel on board El Chepe
Since 1961, the El Chepe train has proudly been running between Los Mochis in the Sinaola region and Chihuahua in the state of the same name. Every day, El Chepe connects the two cities, 400 miles apart. From Mexico City, head over to Los Mochis and get onboard early! The train leaves at 6 a.m. Stop wherever you want and take the train back on the following day. It will leave you 24 hours to visit! Stop in Creel for instance, one of the most beautiful Mexican villages, where you will discover the Tarahumara culture and can contemplate tourists sites like Arareco Lake, Queen Valley, the thermal waters of Recowata and the Cusarare and Basaeachi waterfalls, the latter being one of the highest in all of Mexico.

Where to eat?
Los Mezquites is an excellent steakhouse ideally located in the centre of Chihuahua. Charcoal-grilled meat is the restaurant's speciality, accompanied with perfect seasoning. On the menu, traditional Mexican ribs, chicken fajitas, beef T-bone steak... In one word, meat lovers will feel right at home here.

Los Mezquites
Av. Cuauhtémoc 2809
Cuauhtémoc
31020 Chihuahua, Chih.
+52 614 411 6699
www.losmezquites.com.mx

Where to sleep?
A few steps away, right in front of the Creel train station, the Sierra Bonita Hotel is the perfect place to spend the night. This large white and red house offers 29 very comfortable rooms, suites and cabins of genuine charm. You will deserve to rest after spending an entire day scouting the wonders of the region.

Sierra Bonita Hotel Cabañas Club
Carretera. Gran Visión s/n
Centro
33200 Estación Creel, Chih.
+52 800 713 4460
www.sierrabonita.com.mx