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  • Writer's pictureMatias

Exploring Mexico's culinary wonders and ancient culture

Updated: 18 hours ago

Mighty 7 Moles of Oaxaca

Today, I'm celebrating one of my absolute favourite countries on this planet: Mexico. It's a place that takes you on a culinary adventure, immerses you in ancient culture and traditions, and amazes you with breath-taking landscapes.


As a Chilean, I remember the late 90s and early 2000s when Mexico was a top destination for tourists in my country. Its unspoiled beaches along the Riviera Maya and Quintana Roo were a big attraction. However, over the years, this historic and paradisiacal region has lost some of its charm due to issues with cartels and security concerns. For example, walking through Tulum today, the sight of armed military vehicles is far from the relaxed vibe one hopes for on a beach holiday. And let's not forget the overexploited tourism, especially during the rowdy American spring breaks. But to me, the true essence of Mexico lies beyond Quintana Roo or Yucatan.


I've been lucky enough to visit Mexico four times now, and each time I go, I fall more in love with its ancient culture and delicious cuisine. From the Caribbean to the Pacific, I've barely scratched the surface of what this diverse country has to offer, but I did manage to check off one big item on my foodie bucket list: Oaxaca. It's the capital of Mezcal and Mole, two things that to me, define Mexican food.


Mexico's cuisine is a reflection of its diverse landscape and cultural influences. Along the coast, you can enjoy their take on ceviche and tasty seafood tacos. Inland, delicious and unique moles await, while in the south, spicy dishes with chillies and mezcal offer a fiery experience. Each dish in Mexico carries a piece of history, showcasing the culinary legacies of this ancient civilization. Whether it's learning the secrets of mole in Oaxaca or exploring the importance of corn in Chiapas, the country's rich heritage is evident in every bite.


Another memorable and enjoyable aspect of travelling in Mexico is the warmth and hospitality of its people. Whether you're exploring bustling markets or chatting with street vendors, you'll always be welcomed with open arms and genuine smiles which is not found in many places around Europe.

That's my bit of appreciation for Mexico, a place where every meal is a journey of discovery. From street tacos to ancient ruins, Mexico promises a visit you'll never forget, leaving you wanting to return as soon as you board the plane back home.

Below, I'm sharing my memories and a few recommendations every food and travel enthusiast should consider in this amazing country called Mexico.


 

Mexico City

Where ancient history meets a bustling city, providing an immersive experience of this fabulous country. Having visited the capital twice, I cannot recommend this city enough. From one of the most amazing natural history museums to some of the best restaurants in the world, this city caters to every taste and interest.


What to see and where to eat?


Getting lost in La Condesa and Roma

Exploring the neighbourhoods of La Condesa and Roma is a captivating adventure. Wander through cobblestone streets, discover hidden gems, and indulge in a culinary journey through innovative Mexican cuisine.


The National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City is like a treasure chest full of cool stuff from Mexico's past. Tucked away in Chapultepec Park, it's like a portal to the ancient civilizations of the Aztec, Maya, and more.


The Frida Kahlo Museum, also known as Casa Azul, is located in Mexico City's Coyoacán neighbourhood. This iconic museum was once the home of Frida Kahlo, the renowned Mexican artist, and her husband, the muralist Diego Rivera. This is a must-visit for art enthusiasts, history lovers, and anyone interested in learning more about one of Mexico's most beloved and influential artists.


Food Markets in Mexico City such as Coyoacan, San Juan and Medellin, will give you a glimpse into their rich culinary heritage and traditions, where you will find unique ingredients such as chapulines and amazing crafts from this ancient culture.


Visiting the Pyramids in Teotihuacan is a must. Whether you're checking out the Pyramid of the sun or just soaking in the vibes along the Avenue of the Dead, every moment at Teotihuacan is packed with history.


Pasillo de humo | Hipódromo

A fantastic way to explore Mexican food without the fuss and with the feel of an authentic Mexican eatery but trendier.


Limosneros | Centro histórico

One of my favourite restaurants in Mexico, located in the heart of the old town. You can find this stylish restaurant occupying a refurbished warehouse, offering mouth-watering food alongside great cocktails.


Pujol | Polanco

I'm including this one even though it wasn't one of the memorable culinary highlights of the trip. I visited Pujol in 2018 when it was still considered one of the best in the world. Although the food was tasty, my experience fell short, with discreet service and some timing issues. Not quite the experience you'd expect from a restaurant in this category.


Quintonil | Polanco

Even though I haven't had the chance to dine there yet, I've had many friends rave about Quintonil, which holds a prominent position on the World's 50 Best Latin America list. During our last visit, I couldn't secure a table, which means I'll have to make sure to visit next time.



Pictures: Tacos Cochinita Pibil, Limosneros, Pujol, National Museum and Teotihuacan

 

San José del Pacífico

Nestled in the heart of the Mexican Sierra, this spiritual retreat is a one-of-a-kind destination known for its unique offerings of shrooms and temazcal. While this hamlet might seem a bit strange at first glance, it's the perfect stopover if you're travelling from Oaxaca to the Pacific Coast.

There's not a whole lot to do or see in this place, but that's kind of the point. It's a chance to disconnect, unwind, and immerse yourself in nature and spirituality, even if just for a night. So, if you're up for a quirky adventure and a break from the hustle and bustle of big cities, this place is definitely worth a visit.


Pictures: San Jose del Pacifico, Temazcal and Shrooms art

 

Mazunte, San Agustinillo and Zipolite

You'll find the peak of hippie culture in this place. It's like stepping into a cartoonish scenario, which my partner and I definitely experienced. Even though we visited towards the end of the pandemic, this area seemed untouched by it, with no Covid restrictions in sight - it was like Covid never existed here.

We arrived in a pickup truck and were greeted by barefooted people strolling along dirt roads, shirtless youngsters jamming on instruments everywhere - it was a hippie dream come to life. This cliché arrival set the stage for an eye-opening experience.


What can you expect from your visit? Think slow living, happy vibes, and a chill atmosphere. The food by the beach is simple yet delicious, and the humble setting adds to the charm. It's all about the energy created by the nomadic community of tourists who call this place home.


Pictures: Sunset in Mazunte, Mazunte from the top and snack by the beach

 

Oaxaca

My favourite place in Mexico is well-known for being the heart of the country's food scene. Oaxaca offers delicious dishes like Mole and corn tortillas among other tasty treats. It's also the birthplace and capital of Mezcal, one of the greatest spirits in the world, which adds to the culinary experience. But beyond the food and drinks, Oaxaca is a place to connect with nature, explore markets, and experience traditional crafts like candle making and tapestries. With its vibrant art galleries and rich cultural heritage, Oaxaca offers a unique insight into Mexico's soul.


What to see and where to eat


This restaurant is undeniably the top spot to delve into Oaxacan cuisine. From rich moles to daring dishes like insect toasties, this restaurant promises an explosion of flavours that will leave you in awe.


This experimental restaurant offers a fascinating glimpse into Mexico's culinary heritage, blending traditional ingredients with a modern twist to create bold and innovative flavours.


A no frill but authentic restaurant where you can try one of the best tetelas, memelas and other corn tortillas.


La Milpa 

I want to thank this restaurant for making mole one of my favourite ingredients in the world. It's a humble place that took my partner and me on a journey through the 7 Moles of Oaxaca.


Mercado 20 de noviembre

Pasillo de Humo is a unique spot where you can enjoy lunch and indulge in smoked meats within a dimly lit and smoky alleyway.


Mezcal route| Santiago Matatlán

This is an absolute must when visiting Oaxaca. We stumbled upon a small, family-owned Mezcaleria recommended by our driver, which opened its doors exclusively for us. It was a fantastic opportunity to immerse ourselves in the mezcal culture. We even got to taste a piece of cooked maguey, the plant used to distil this iconic drink.


Pictures: Santiago Matatlán, Oaxaca Mezcal tasting, 7 Moles of Oaxaca, Streets of Oaxaca and ancient tapestry making

 

I can’t wait to go back to Mexico once again to explore the diverse and captivating regions of Chiapas, Monterrey, and Puebla. Each destination promises its own unique experiences, from the jungles of Chiapas to the vibrant culture of Monterrey and the historic charm of Puebla. Salud!

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