What is Mexico Famous For? 11 Things That Make Mexico the Country it is
Mexico has become a hugely popular tourist destination over the past decade, and has influenced the worlds food, and culture in so many ways.
What is Mexico Famous For?
Mexico is known for its food and drink culture, like; tacos, tortillas, burritos, tequila and for being the origin of chocolate. Mexico is also famous for Mayan temples, cenotes, mariachi bands, beach destinations like Cancun, the ‘day of the dead’ festival, and unfortunately, drug cartels.
Read on to find out what else Mexico is famous for and why it should be top of your bucket list…
1. Mayan Temples
Aside from the food and drink of Mexico, Mayan temples are probably the next most iconic feature of this vast country and are one of the main reasons people choose to visit. Sites like Palenque, Teotihuacan and, of course, Chichen Itza are among the most renowned temples in the world and seeing them in person you will be astounded by the sheer size and grandeur of these pyramids.
The ancient stone temples of the Maya are thought to be around 2000 years old and were a staple part of Mayan villages and settlements. These temples were built for various reasons, including being places of worship or sacrifice or as abodes for royalty.
Many Mayan temples were hidden by their jungle surrounds for centuries until archaeologists discovered and uncovered them. We can now visit sites all over Mexico and Central America to compare and contrast the different temple sizes, styles and meanings.
Another of Mexico’s famous features are cenotes, natural swimming holes that are formed by the erosion of limestone bedrock. Where the limestone has collapsed, cave-like pools appear, with crisp, clear waters below.
The name ‘cenote’ means sacred well in Mayan and they were thought to be important freshwater sources during periods of droughts in Mayan times.
Today, the cenotes of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula are a popular spot for swimmers, snorkellers and divers who come to discover the blissfully blue waters and the subterranean world that lies beneath the surface. Dip into these secret swimming holes to cool off during a hot summer’s day, witnessing fish and even turtles in the clear water. There is a range of different cenotes around Tulum and Playa del Carmen, both big and small, so you can take your pick of which you want to experience.
If you’ve read any of my other articles on Bucket List HQ, you’ll know I’m a huge foodie, and thankfully this is one of the things Mexico is most famous for so I can talk about it until the cows come home!
Unlike Tex-Mex food which is famous for fajitas and burritos, in Mexico it’s all about the taco. Tacos can be found pretty much everywhere you go in Mexico, with each region having their own speciality. These cheap eats are made up of small, soft, round, corn tortillas topped with delicious shredded meat and finished with a squeeze of lime and some fresh herbs. There are occasionally vegetarian versions (Isla Holbox has some incredible vegan tacos!), but on the whole, they centre around pork, beef and chicken cooked up with plenty of sauce and spices.
When you’re all taco’d out, you can opt for other Mexican favourites like tortas (sandwiches), tostadas (crispy versions of tacos) or tamales (traditional stuffed cornbread).
4. White Sand Beaches
Many people choose to visit Mexico as a winter getaway as the country’s beaches are truly out of this world. Whether you want touristy, chic, rustic or rugged, Mexico has a beach for you.
As it is such a large country, Mexico has a range of different climates, so no matter what time of year you visit there’s sure to be a beach destination that has the perfect weather for reclining on the sand and taking a dip! The beaches around Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Tulum, are traditional white sand beaches with warm waters and plenty of facilities, while more off-the-beaten-track locations such as Yelapa and Bucerias offer a slightly more chilled vibe.
If you want to surf, you’ll probably want to check out beaches like Sayulita and Puerto Escondido, while if you want to snorkel or scuba dive, you’re better off on the islands such as Cozumel and Holbox.
Mexico is known for being one of the best producers in the world when it comes to chocolate, so if you’ve got a love of all things cacao, Mexico should definitely be on your bucket list!
The Olmec Indians were thought to be the first producers of chocolate in the country, around 4000 years ago, so it’s hardly surprising that Mexicans know a thing or two about creating the perfect chocolate blend. Today, Mexico produces and exports huge amounts of cacao and chocolate around the world, mixing in flavours such as chilli, lime and salt into their bars.
If you’re visiting Mexico and love chocolate, you should check out a cacao plantation to see the process from bean to bar. You’ll be able to taste the tangy white pulp of the cacao pod, before seeing the beans dried, roasted and ground into cocoa powder. This is then where different artisans choose to add extra ingredients to make sweet, smooth and milky varieties of chocolate. It’s a fascinating process, and you’ll be able to taste some chocolate too, which is always a bonus!
Named after the region in which it is produced, the spirit of tequila is yet another popular Mexican export that is loved (and hated) the world over! Traditional tequila is made from the sugars of the blue agave plant, and should only be called ‘tequila’ if it is made in Mexico and produced in this way. Other ‘tequilas’ (the ones that taste dreadful and give you hangovers!) tend to be ‘tequila mixto’ which are versions made with other added sugars.
Rather than shotting back a cheap tequila mixto in a rowdy bar, why not try and try it in its purest form, opting for a classic tequila blanco paired with some of the aforementioned tacos?!
7. Day Of The Dead
Day of the Dead, or Día de los Muertos, is an annual tradition in Mexico that celebrates loved ones who have died. Held on the 1st November each year, the Day of the Dead traditionally involved decorating your Ofrenda (family shrine) with pictures, candles and flowers while getting together with family and friends to enjoy home-cooked food and drinks to remember those who have passed on. It has now become a much bigger festival in Mexico and beyond with people painting intricate skull masks on their faces and wearing traditional dress while parading through the street.
The Disney film Coco followed the story of Miguel during the Día de los Muertos, which helped popularise the festival even further.
8. Churches and Cathedrals
On the whole, Mexico is a pretty religious country, with around 83% of Mexicans thought to be Catholic. Therefore, it’s no wonder there are some pretty spectacular churches and cathedrals around the country. From the Catedral Metropolitana in the heart of Mexico City to the Catedral Basílica de Zacatecas and the colourful Santa María Tonantzintla and Los Remedios churches in Cholula, there are plenty of religious sites that are well worth a visit. No matter which town or village you go to in Mexico, you’ll never be far from a church, so visit a few to witness the opulent interiors and detailed exteriors of a Mexican place of worship.
9. Mariachi Bands
Mariachi music in Mexico has been recognised by UNESCO as an ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage’ so it’s safe to say that this regional folk music is one of the things that Mexico is famous for. Consisting of music played using guitars, fiddles, brass instruments and sometimes a harp, mariachi bands usually feature four or more members wearing charro suits (waist-length jacket, bow tie, fitted pants, short boots, and a wide-brimmed sombrero) and are often favoured at weddings and family celebrations.
While you tend to hear mariachi music less and less on the streets of Mexico these days, it can still be found in traditional restaurants and squares such as the aptly named Plaza de los Mariachis in Guadalajara.
10. Scuba Diving
With coasts on both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, Mexico offers divers the best of both worlds with scuba diving being available year-round across the country. Some of the best scuba diving in Mexico can be found along the Riviera Maya and the islands off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, with the likes of Isla Mujeres, Isla Cozumel and the Banco Chinchorro coral atoll being real highlights.
Everything from rays and whale sharks to tropical fish, turtles and even submerged sculptures can be seen in the waters around Mexico, so you’ll be in for a treat when venturing into the underwater world!
11. Drug Cartels
One of the less savoury things that Mexico is famous for is, unfortunately, drug cartels who are known for smuggling illegal drugs from Mexico and Central America up into the United States. These cartels are known to have control over large parts of the country including border towns such as Tijuana, Juarez and El Paso. As such, there are a number of Mexican destinations that are best avoided if you are a traveller to ensure you don’t run into any trouble.
While it’s true that some of the cities in Mexico are among the most dangerous in the world, this doesn’t mean that the country as a whole should be avoided. If you stick to areas like Guadalajara, Mexico City, Oaxaca and the Yucatan Peninsula, you should have an incredible and safe trip! (US Department of State travel advisory)
So, there you have it, the top 11 things that Mexico is most famous for. Let us know what you love about Mexico in the comments below!
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