Uncover Mexico’s Best-Kept Travel Secrets
Travel is the key to unlocking life-changing experiences. By choosing the road less travelled, the chapter less read, the dish less tasted, you’ll discover things about the world – and yourself – that you never knew before. Discovery is the reward that keeps on giving, the prize for the curious, the brave, and the seekers of adventures. These lesser-known travel gems, hidden throughout Mexico, are out there waiting to be discovered, so take the first step.
Explore a lost city of the surreal
Amid the jungle palms and strangled vines of Mexico’s Huasteca region is what seems, at first, like a lost city. Columns, statues, stairways, all stand wistfully like echoes of a forgotten civilisation, succumbing to the creeping rainforest. But this is no El Dorado, nor is it ancient, despite appearances. And something else about it is a little, well, surreal. Behold, a library without books. A “Three-Story House that Might Be Five”. A cinema with no seats. A stairway to nowhere. Welcome, wanderers, to Las Pozas, the eccentric vision of Edward James (1907-84), British poet and patron of the arts. He sold his art collection to build Las Pozas in a Mexican rainforest, a place he called his “Surrealist Xanadu”. Over 40 years, James’ turned his indulgent vision into reality. Why, one might be tempted to ask? Why not? For art’s sake. For the sheer joy of creation. Because life is to be lived, and dreams are to be followed.
Take a dip in nature’s most beautiful swimming pool
In Spanish, hierve means to boil, but though these natural clifftop pools might look like infinity hot tubs, the water is cool, refreshing and clear. And yes, you can even take a dip at Hierve El Agua, admiring the view over green valleys in Mexico’s Oaxaca region. Even more impressive, though, is the view from the side, where the water appears to cascade over the edge of the cliff like a waterfall. Except, these falls are completely still, suspended in time. The ‘flow’ is calcified, the result of millennia of mineral-rich water dripping through the limestone, gradually sculpting the undulating, flowing falls in a manner much like the way that stalactites grow from a cave roof. Give nature enough time and she really is the greatest artist of all.
Admire the artistic legacy of a life richly lived
Within the leafy surrounds of Mexico City’s Roma neighbourhood, a stately residence invites visitors to meet with a veritable treasure trove of art. For this was the home of one Guillermo Tovar de Teresa (1956-2013), historian, art collector and possessor of a prodigious intelligence. Tovar de Teresa learned to read well before he started school (the house also contains some 20,000 books), and by the tender age of 12 he was appointed as colonial art advisor to the Mexican president. Guillermo Tovar de Teresa House Museum opened to the public in 2018, free of charge, and has several rooms crammed with objects d’art, including grand furniture of tortoiseshell and mother-of-pearl, viceregal oil paintings from the 17th century, antique tapestries, unpublished photographs and religious sculptures. In all more than a thousand pieces of art tell the tale of a life richly lived.
Dream of a digital utopia for us all
Welcome to the future. A place where the digital inserts itself seamlessly into all aspects of our analogue lives. So seamlessly that we barely notice. This is the world we are becoming, a world that Centro de Cultura Digital seeks to explore. This cultural complex presents entirely digital galleries (some are even virtual), devoted to games, communication, literature and many other increasingly digitised aspects of our world. Housed underground in Mexico City, the ethereal galleries and art spaces are illuminated solely by coloured lights and projections. Above, reaching into the sky, is the Estela de Luz, a 100m tall, quartz and marble monument erected to commemorate 200 years of independence from Spanish rule. The Centro de Cultura Digital is also given over to digital live performances, experimental theatre, concerts, launches and festivals, blurring the edges of what was and what will be.
Enter the mind of Mexico’s greatest modern architect
The façade of this house in Mexico City is plain and unassuming, but within is contained the creative genius of Mexico’s most important 20th century architect, Luis Barragán (1902-88). In the home Barragán built and lived in for most of his life, light flows with artistic intent, dyed by coloured glass. Staircases provide circulation. Ceilings soar. Shadows dance. Windows frame rambling garden vistas. This is architecture as poetry, a masterpiece of modernism. Barragan’s work draws on his childhood hacienda memories and the colonial grandeur of Guadalajara, a blending of colour, texture and rhythm in a style that’s highly personal. The house itself feels highly personal, too, exactly as Barragán left it. For him, home wasn’t just where the heart resides. It was a place of wonder and discovery too. “The ideal space must contain elements of magic, serenity, sorcery and mystery,” Barragán wrote. After seeing Casa Barragán, who could disagree?
Take your inner child on a tree house adventure
Because who doesn’t love treehouses? In national park woodland outside Mexico City is this residential sculpture, a cluster of 25 cabins spread over a serene slice of nature. Appearing like something from a fairy tale, the tree houses – delightfully asymmetrical with wonky windows and teetering, and vine-shrouded turrets – are the combined vision of a father-son duo: Guillermo Siliceo, an architect and sculptor, and his son Sidartha, a celebrated musician. In this woodland wonderland you can get back to nature, hiking mountain trails and exploring every corner of this eco-friendly art statement made with upcycled materials, a grey water system and a whole lot of love. Symbolic allegories to Buddhism and Hinduism are writ into the treehouses, some of which Sidartha records and produces musical works in, assembling sounds of the forest in his compositions.
Go on a sensory sugar rush at a Mexican mercado
Mexico City’s markets are its lifeblood, and they come in all tastes, shapes and styles. To sample a sweeter side of the city, make your way to Mercado de la Merced, Mexico’s largest market covering a whopping 12 city blocks. As well as vibrant displays of fresh fruit, vegetables, piles of mole, perfect tacos and even edible insects, you’ll find (eventually) a haven of sticky-sweet treats beyond your most gluttonous dreams. Teetering stacks of limes stuffed with coconut, pyramids of candid mango, guava, papaya and other fruits, artisanal blocks of grains, nuts and raisins glued together by gooey honey, peanut-studded balls of dulce de leche, beautiful handmade lollipops – over 150 stalls specialising in sweets and candies that your dentist would certainly not approve of. Go on, treat yourself!
It’s markets like Mercado de la Merced, with their exotic array of tastes, spices and aromas, that captivated Thomasina Miers, a traveller from the UK. Miers was instantly charmed by Mexico’s sensory array of incredible food. So much so that on her return to London, Thomasina decided to give up her job as a tax consultant and channelled her travel inspiration into something that has altered the course of her life. She was moved by the experience to open her own Mexican restaurant, now an award-winning chain with outlets nationwide. Her amazing story is one of five such incredible narratives captured by Lufthansa in their campaign #LifeChangingPlaces.
Travel gives us new ways of seeing and experiencing. It sparks creativity and inspiration. By choosing the road less travelled, the sights, smells and especially tastes Thomasina encountered inspired her to create something meaningful and genuine. And it can do the same for you.
With so many hidden gems peppered around the city, it’s hardly a surprise that Mexico has the power to transform lives the way it did for Thomasina Miers. And just like her life-changing experience, there are many others who have been inspired by places to explore and change something about themselves. You can log on to www.lifechangingplaces.com to be inspired by some of these amazing stories of #LifeChangingPlaces.