Mary Kelly from Sydney recently returned home after travelling in Mexico on the Byroads ‘Mexico & the Yucatan‘ trip and has written a few words to share with readers about her trip through this colourful and lively country.

Byroads ‘Mexico & the Yucatan‘ – by Mary Kelly

Having travelled with Steve and Byroads previously I was excited to visit Mexico, not actually knowing a lot about the country, its history and people. The carefully crafted itinerary along with our dynamic and passionate local guide Ana, ensured we got to see all the must-see sights and hidden gems and learnt a lot about Mexico’s ancient civilisations, rich indigenous culture as well as contemporary society.

We began our tour in Mexico city. Our modern hotel was well located in the historical centre, close to the main plaza, the Zocalo, the massive baroque/neo-classical Cathedral and the city temple ruins of the Aztecs. The city is safe and easy to walk around, the buildings quite elegant (despite the cracks – the city is slowly sinking) and the buskers add a charming musical element. It was very special to see the striking Diego Rivera murals showcasing Mexico’s political history at the National Palace and visiting Frida Kahlo’s colourful house was a moving experience.

Over 15 days we travelled by comfortable coach to the south, then across to the east coast. Mexico is a big country! We saw active volcanoes, vast plains, the Sierra Madre mountain range and then swam in the Caribbean sea. We visited many interesting and beautiful colonial towns and cities along the way – Taxco, Puebla and Oaxaca.

One of my favourite places was San Cristobel de las Casas, where we felt the temperature drop dramatically, in this indigenous highland location. The highlights were simply walking around the old streets getting a feel for the vibe of the place, lots of interesting shops and especially the local Indian markets offering gorgeous arts and handicrafts, textiles, pottery, jewellery and clothing – I needed another day here! We visited a small village nearby and was able to enter the local church to see traditional families grouped together on the ground strewn with fragrant pine-needles with their offerings of lit candles, flowers and bottles of Coca-cola! It was fascinating and other-worldly.

Other highlights included a canal gondola ride, an exhilarating speedboat ride through the Sumidero Canyon, seeing crocodiles, pink flamingo and other birdlife, visiting a local family for a home-cooked lunch (one of the best meals of the trip), making chocolate from scratch (best I’ve eaten), tasting fried grasshopper (crunchy) and enjoying a daily Margarita (addictive).

The great surprise lay in Mexico’s ancient archaeological sites and ruins. The vastness of these well-preserved sites, coupled with the explanations of how these cities were constructed and how people lived added a fascinating dimension to our understanding of the origins and influences of this diverse country .

Mexico is a curious mix of old and new. While it is a very Catholic country (so many churches!) it is also quite progressive in that Mexico has legalised same-sex marriage, introduced a sugar tax (diabetes is the No 1 health issue) yet has no pension structure for its elderly. I came back wanting to know more, to learn Spanish and of course return one day.

I’m a big fan of the Byroads travel formula. From the mode of transport, to the quality of the accommodation and the calibre of the local guides, Byroads holidays are authentic and great fun. Steve, as the brains behind the operation is organised and attentive, joins in the fun and is the glue that keeps everyone bubbling along.

The next ‘Mexico & the Yucatan’ trip is scheduled to start on the1st of February 2019 and can be combined with the Byroads 14 Days ‘Rhythms of Cuba’ tour.