Mexico is not only Maya pyramids and colonial cities, but also wilderness, hidden lagoons, underground waterholes and lots of wildlife.
For those who love adventure, Mexico is really the ideal destination. Here is the top 10 of the wildest places in this fascinating country in Central America.
Let's start from Baja California Sur, certainly not the first state that you visit when you choose to take a tour of Mexico, but definitely worthwhile. Because of its beaches, its desert environment, its underwater fauna and its islands reserve the biosphere.
The most noteworthy is the island of Espiritu Santo, off the coast of La Paz, the state capital, from which it is easily reached by boat with a short ride. The island of Espiritu is 19 km long and 5 km wide, dotted with bays and wild inlets, uninhabited by humans but populated by reptiles, amphibians, birds and the teeming underwater fauna that make it one of the richest ecosystems of Baja California.
Sea lions, turtles and dolphins live here, along with whales and sharks during the migration period. Visitors can discover this unique and protected environment by kayaking, camping, snorkeling or long hikes. The island of Espiritu Santo is protected by UNESCO as a biosphere reserve and is one of the best protected natural environments in the world.
If you are enjoying a sun and sea holiday in Playa del Carmen, get away from the crowds and the nightlife, board a boat and reach the Caribbean island of Cozumel. Loved by tourists, appreciated by those who practice diving, this island in the Caribbean Sea boasts beaches with few equals in the world.
There is only one village, San Miguel, with bars and restaurants, all the rest is nature, so much so that the oceanographer Jacques Cousteau declared it in 1961 one of the best places in the world for diving. From that moment on, tourists arrived in quantity, without however ruining this little paradise. In fact, in its depths there is a wonderful coral reef, but also on the mainland there is no shortage of naturalistic attractions, including the Chankanaab park.
You can go hiking in the forest, maybe meeting turtles. Only 6% of the island is urbanized: it is up to you to discover the rest.
In the heart of Sierra Tarahumara, inside the Chihuahua state, the magnificent Barrancas del Cobre, the longest and deepest of the Grand Canyon in Arizona, the Copper Canyon. The surroundings are inhabited by the indigenous Raramuri or Tarahumara communities, who have invested these mountains with mystical meanings, have inhabited the canyon walls and have adapted their lifestyle to the harshness of the mountains.
You can explore the canyons with a small traditional train called Chepe, which starts from Chihuahua and arrives in Los Mochis. The railway, inaugurated in 1961, crosses tunnels and bridges in a journey that lasts about 14 hours giving breathtaking views. In the area, ideal for ecotourism activities, it lends itself to trekking, hiking, bird watching and camping, thanks to a sierra that changes colors and looks with the changing seasons. There is no shortage of hotels and services, some very basic and close to the customs and habits of the local population. The temperatures at high altitude can be cold, so you need to bring heavy clothes and, of course, a good camera.
Sumidero Canyon is a narrow gorge, protected within a national park in the state of Chiapas, north of the city of Tuxtla Gutiérrez. The interesting feature of this canyon is its conformation: high walls, which wind up creating a U following the path of the river. North of the canyon is the Chicoasen dam, used for the production of hydroelectric energy. All around spread deciduous forests, with pines and oaks.
The canyon can be visited mostly by boat, following the river, getting on board at Chiapa de Corzo. A historical note: during the invasion of the Spanish conquistadors, many natives, to escape the invaders, threw themselves together into the canyon.
The cenotes: if you are preparing for a trip to Mexico, surely you will have heard about it. These are natural caves filled with fresh water that have formed due to the collapses of the calcareous covering. In Yucatan, the state where they are most common, there are even six thousand.
The name in the Maya language means sacred well, and in fact for the ancient people the cenotes constituted an important source of water, so that the villages were built nearby. The Maya, moreover, considered them access points to an underworld. The cenotes are many, very different from each other and very beautiful. There is Zacil-Ha, near Tulum, not very touristy, where you can take a dip. Near Playa del Carmen is the Garden of Eden, surrounded by tropical vegetation. The most famous is however Ik-Kil Cenote, a short distance from the pyramids of Chichen Itza, a real sight for the eyes, surrounded by small waterfalls and exotic plants.
Have you ever heard of butterfly migration in Mexico? If not, you should! Between October and March the monarch butterflies migrate from Canada to the high-altitude forests of the state of Michoacán. About about 300 million butterflies fly all together reaching the biosphere reserve of the monarch butterflies in the east of Michoacán, Unesco heritage since 2008.
Within the reserve there are four parks open to the public, to allow visitors to attend this wonderful show: Sierra Chincua, La Mesa, El Capulín and El Rosario.
In Mexico you can also go ... to see the whales! Every year from May to December gray whales migrate from the cold Alaskan waters to the warmer waters of the Cortés Sea in Baja California Sur, which is why the Mexican state is also popular for whale watching. The best sightings take place in the Ojo de Liebre lagoon, in Guerrero Negro, in the San Ignacio lagoon and in the Bay of Magdalena inside the Vizcaíno Parque Ecológico.
These whales can be seen along the coasts of Mexico, especially between February and April, and here they give birth to their young. They are easily approached by boats and lances full of tourists who can see them from very close. To try whale watching you can rely on the many local operators, who make trips on board boats or inflatables: the whales approach, jump out of the water, sometimes even let themselves be touched!
The Sian Ka'an National Marine Park is the most important reserve in Mexico and is also a biosphere reserve, composed of marshes, lagoons, forests and Mayan ruins. Located in the state of Quintana Roo, hosts herons, frigates, pumas, ocelots, monkeys, not to mention the corals, tropical fishes, turtles ... for the richness of its fauna and its flora, it is Unesco heritage since 1987.
It covers both the mainland and a portion of the Caribbean sea, as well as 23 Maya archaeological sites. In the Sian Ka'an National Park you can also see cenotes, or relax on beautiful white sand beaches. The climate is hot and humid, with the possibility of cyclones between June and November.
The Lagoon of Bacalar, called by the Maya "Lagoon of 7 colors", is a lagoon in the Bacalar, overlooking the Caribbean Sea, so named for the different colors of its water that change according to the different depths. Bacalar is located in Quintana Roo, close to the Belize border. There is also a freshwater lake, close to the coast, around which mangrove forests lie, but also small population centers.
A real corner of paradise, where abandoning all worries is really possible.
15% of the state of Campeche is covered by a forest that extends from Belize to Guatemala. This is the Calakmul Biosphere, which houses the Mayan archaeological site of Calakmul, but above all many animals, including 86 species of mammals, including pumas and jaguars.
Calakmul is also protected by UNESCO and boasts over 1600 different plants. The cave of the bats of Calakmul houses up to 5 million bats. This and other features make it a place of great tourist interest. So, if you love nature and go through the Campeche, it is worth considering taking a detour into this gem of nature.