Travelling around Mexico with kids
If you're a family that thrives on adventure, and getting away from the hordes, travelling Mexico Yucatan Peninsula might seem an unlikely choice for your next holiday. But what Lunch Lady editor Lou and her family discovered, is with the mega resorts of Cancun, barely any gringos leave their poolside cabanas. So, with the majority of this vibrant, state light on tourists, you've got all the ingredients for an unforgettable experience.
Here's a shortlist of the things our family enjoyed most...
1. Lucha Libre
One of the most iconic symbols of Mexican culture is their wrestling masks, so it's kinda surreal when you see a real-life Lucha Libre match. Equal parts theatre and circus, there's never a dull moment with a crazy cast of goodies and baddies flying around the ring. We drove 90 minutes to find an amateur Luche Libre match in a small, out of the way town and our kids still talk about it.
2. Chichén Itzá
Part of the new seven wonders of the world, Chichén Itzá is one of those rare attractions that lives up to the hype. Despite seeing it everywhere from billboards to fast food shops (shout out to Chicken Itza) nothing prepares you for the grandeur and epic-ness of this 1500-year-old ruin. Discover the mind blowing Mesoamerican Ballgame (aka Game of Death) and get a guide on the way in for an unforgettable 60 minute experience.
3. Local Markets
If you're a follower of the "eat where the locals eat" philosophy, then head straight for the local food market wherever you stop off in the Yucatan. Best tacos guaranteed, plus all sorts of other yummy treats and trinkets. After indulging in a cooking class, we discovered a huge market in the city of Merida where taco’s cost 50c and a cast iron tortilla press will set you back just under 10 bucks.
A fact you don't hear about Chicxulub, the meteor that killed the dinosaurs, is that when it hit off the Yucatan coast, the impact created the perfect conditions for a network of incredible freshwater sinkholes known as cenotes. These otherworldly sites were sacred to the Mayan's and as soon as you descend into your first one (some with up to 100 stairs) for a refreshing swim (there's over 6,000 dotted around the state) you'll understand why.
5. Isla Mujeres
Located just 15 minutes by ferry from Cancun, Isla Mujeres is super busy. But the high-energy vibes only add to the charm of this tiny island with its pristine water, pure white beaches, golf carts for getting around, good food, wild coastline, and cute houses. Make sure to visit Mango Café for pretty much anything on the menu and swim with fish at Garrafon de Castilla (the less expensive of the two neighbouring water parks).
6. Take a Tour
Name a better way of getting to know a place than by learning how to cook a few regional dishes in a local's house. You can't. We did a class in the city of Merida and learnt so much more than just some recipes. While half the family learnt how to cook, the other half took a secret cenote tour via public transport and motorbike taxi. A thrilling day discovering out of the way watering holes followed by a delicious lunch and a local’s house.
Bacalar, oh sweet Bacalar. This little town, perched on a freshwater lake, or "lagoon of seven colours", is so beautiful and tranquil that we were hesitant to include it here, just in case paradise is lost before we get to return. A true "pueblo magico."
8. Los Rapidos
As if the world's best-looking lake isn't enough, a short drive from Bacalar is Los Rapidos, home to the oldest life form on Earth – stromatolites or "living rocks" – which you can observe as you lazily float down this crystal-clear creek.
What trip isn't enriched with a bit of city time? As the capital of the state, Conde Naste recently labelled Merida as Mexico’s most creative and affordable city. Merida has all the Spanish colonial buildings, galleries, museums and fine dining restaurants you'd expect. It also has heaps of delish street food (try the marquestitas), a thriving art gallery scene and a hidden railway museum full of old trains where kids can climb, jump and be free to do whatever they want without restrictions.
There are only so many old ruins you can show a kid. Or an adult for that matter. So, when we heard you could ride bikes around an ancient city in the village of Coba, it sounded like a fun way to absorb some more Mayan history. Which it was, as we ended up spending two hours cruising through a jungle and around temples that looked straight out of Indiana Jones. Of course, our kids had no idea who that was, until we rode the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland, but that's another list.
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