In anticipation of this year's AFAR Experiences-Mexico, set for October, AFAR co-founder Joe Diaz visited Mexico City, as well as Mexico's beautiful Pacific Coast, in the fall of 2013. Each time he has visited, he's found new reasons to return. Here are 10 reasons why Mexico is the place to be, in Joe's words.
1. People: The level of friendliness of the Mexican people is among the highest in the world. Everywhere you go someone will be willing to lend a helping hand. Here is one of my favorite highlights, which captures the friendly spirit of the Mexican people.
2. Value: Your dollar can go a long way in Mexico and the price-to-value ratio is high. (Remember what Warren Buffett says, "Price is what you pay, value is what you get.") As you travel into the interior of Mexico and away from major beach destinations, you'll notice the difference in prices. Two of my favorite areas are San Miguel de Allende and Guanajuato.
3. Food: I can't say enough about the freshness, flavors, diversity, and quality of Mexican food. Every region brings its own distinct traditions. From roadside stands to Michelin-starred restaurants, Mexico is home to some great eats. Sayulita is my recommendation for the world's best shrimp burrito. And when in Mexico City you need to eat at Dulce Patria and Anatol.
4. The Pacific Coast: I love Mexico's Pacific Coast. There is so much coastline to explore. One of my favorite spots is the area around Puerto Vallarta. The small villages north and south of the city bring you back to a calm and tranquil state of mind. One of my top beach towns is Sayulita, which is about 45 minutes north of Puerto Vallarta.
5. Escape from it all: Mexico has always had a reputation as one of the world's best hideouts. From the beaches of Tulum and Oaxaca to the haciendas in the Yucatan, you won't have to search long and hard to find your perfect escape. La Casa Que Canta was one of my hideaways this year. And for our Editor in Chief, Julia Cosgrove, her "go to" is Amansala in Tulum.
6. Indigenous culture: Spending time in Chiapas, I developed a love for, and a fascination with, Mexico's indigenous culture. The textiles are beautifully hand-woven and the people here use clothes and patterns as a form of communication. Chiapas isn't one of Mexico's most traveled areas, and there's plenty of opportunity to explore beneath the surface.
7. An easy long weekend: Mexico is not far away, regardless of where you live in the United States. From the West Coast, Baja is only a couple of hours away. And from the East Coast you have the Yucatan. For your next long weekend, consider spending it in Mexico.
8. The music: From mariachi to modern rock, Mexico pulses with infectious tunes. Head to Guadalajara to spend time in the place that calls mariachi home. Or when you're in Mexico City, take a trip to Plaza Garibaldi. If modern is more your style, download some of Mana's best tracks.
9. Tequila and mezcal: I'm a huge fan of these truly Mexican spirits. And it takes a trip to Jalisco and Oaxaca to begin to understand the depth and variety of flavor that tequila and mezcal afford. Shake off your awful memories of getting drunk on Cuervo as a teenager and begin to explore the quality of real 100% agave-made tequila. You'll leave the hangover at home.
10. Architectural ruins: Mexico is home to some of the richest archaeological sites in the world. Thousands of pyramids dot its landscape, with the most famous near Tulum and Mexico City. This year I visited the pyramids of Teotihuacan and Guachimontones. To begin to comprehend the knowledge and vision it took to construct these will take your breath away.
Photo courtesy of Verana.