Sep 14, 2011, 1:59 PM
Post #12 of 16
Re: [robinsonkh] Travel by car throughout Mexico
Can't Post | Private Reply
Many thanks for getting back to me so quickly.From what you say I think your choice of car is probably the better option. Maybe driving around in a Mercedes just increases the chances of finding trouble.
I agree with a low-profile car. In addition, think low-profile in what you wear, jewelry you bring, cash you flash, etc. Remember that it might not only be criminals whose attention could be attracted, but cops looking for mordida. All that said, my wife and I have lived full-time in Mexico for the last 4 1/2 years, traveled over a great deal of Mexico by car, and have never had an incident either with criminals or the police.
On a matter you raised in your original post:
"We have up to 3 weeks for the journey and would like to see as much of the country as possible."
This is a huge country, and three weeks is not all that long. I am unclear whether your goal is to see as much of the countryside as possible through long-distance driving, or whether you want to spend some time in some of the many wonderful colonial-era cities and ancient ruins found in the middle-to-southern part of the country. If you would like to do some of the latter, I would pick 3-4 of those cities and spend several days in each, walking around, checking out fiestas, colonial architecture, museums, etc., rather than spending all my time as a "road warrior". However, if road warrior is your choice, I would suggest that you stick to cuotas (toll roads) for the best use of your time. They are well-maintained high speed highways, lightly traveled, and pass through stunning scenery, worth every penny of the tolls. They also have regular turnouts where you can call for assistance in case of a breakdown, and the famous "Green Angels" who come to your assistance, generally without charge.
If you would like to see the colonial cities and sample their delights, I would suggest, from Mexico City, the following route:
Tula, Hidalgo State (approximately 55 miles north of Mexico City). Very nice small city which contains the ruins of the capital of the ancient Toltecs. A good overnight stay.
Queretaro, Queretaro State (about 2 hours north of Tula). Wonderful city of about 1 million. Very prosperous and clean, with a wonderful Centro Historico full of plazas, parks, museums, historical sites, and restaurants. Just outside are Tequisquiapan, a craftsmans town, and Bernal, a Magic Pueblo that is utterly charming.
San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato State (about an hour from Queretaro) a famous watering hole for expats, full of art and art galleries, as well as a stunning Cathedral and many historic sites. Lots of tours of haciendas and and other sites in the area outside of town.
Guanajuato, Guanajuato State (about 2 hours from San Miguel) a former silver mining town dating back to the early colonial era. Great walking town, with numerous picturesque alleys called callejones. Numerous interlocking plazas and lots to see.
Guadalajara, Jalisco State (about 4 hours from Guanajuato) 2nd biggest city in the country, but has a wonderful Centro Historico with a huge plaza, magnificent Cathedral, great restaurants, etc. A good side trip from there might be to Lake Chapala, about 40 miles south. It is the biggest lake in the country and home of the largest concentration of expats in Mexico. Gorgeous area. Another side trip might take you to Colima, Colima State (3 hours from Guad), and Manzanillo on the Pacific coast (about another hour or so from Colima). There is much of interest in both places.
Aguascalientes (Aguascalientes State) (about 3 hours north of Guadalajara) another historic city with great museums.
Zacatecas, Zacatecas State (a couple of hours north of Aguascalientes) Another historic silver mining town where Pancho Villa had his greatest victory during the Revolution. A bit like Guanajuato, with lots of callejones and interlocking plazas. Zacatecas is one of my favorites.
Heading east and south of Mexico City, I would strongly suggest stops at Puebla (Puebla State), Oaxaca (Oaxaca State), both of which abound in sights to see and places to visit. If you continue east from Puebla, Vera Cruz is worth a visit. You then have a long haul along the coast (but mostly inland) until you get to Campeche State where a visit to Campeche, a colonial era town fortified against pirates in the 17th Century, is well worth a stop over. You could use Campeche as a base to visit the innumerable Maya ruins within a 2 hour drive from there. Then up the Yucatan Coast to Merida, the capital, another great old colonial city with massive numbers of Maya ruins nearby.From there you are about 4 hours from Cancun if you are into resort cities (I am not), but you can continue down the so-called Maya Riviera with its ruins at Tulum and other sites and wonderful snorkling and diving.
I would also recommend building in a few days to explore the major attractions of Mexico City itself: the Zocalo, Chapultepec Park, the ruins at Teotihuacan, and much more. In many of the cities I mention above, the best strategy is to drive to your hotel (hopefully in the Centro Historico) and park your car in secure off-street parking until you are ready to leave. Most of them are wonderful walking cities and public transport and cabs are cheap. Whatever route you decide, remember that the coastal areas and Yucatan get very hot and muggy between the Spring and Fall seasons. Dec-Feb. are the best times to visit those areas. Also remember that winter can get chilly in some of the other areas I mentioned, all of which are on Mexico's Central Plateau. Mexico City is at 7,000 feet and Zacatecas is 8,000, you won't run into any snow, but you'll definitely want some sweaters and jackets during the winter in the higher elevations.
I know that I have left out a lot of great places, including several in Michoacan State and elsewhere, but maybe others can fill in.
If you would like to get a sense of many of the areas I mentioned above, check out my photojournal blog at: http://cookjmex.blogspot.com/