Mexico City (DF) is filled with weird and wonderful neighbourhoods, especially in its bohemian-inspired south. On my recent trip to Mexico, I had the pleasure of spending a week with Cantimplora Travel, a bespoke tour company offering privately guided small-group tours, hosted by local guides Bernie and Sam.
For solo travellers like myself, who want a safe experience in Mexico, but also want to travel off the beaten path, Cantimplora was perfect.
Sam and Bernie not only know their city better than the other 8 million inhabitants, they have a passion that exudes every time they speak. Bernie, who is an award-winning photographer, will also provide travellers with 150 personal images post-tour, which means you can let go and completely immerse yourself in the exciting and vibrant culture surrounding you.
Each day we explored a new and exhilarating area, but my favourite region was the southern neighbourhoods of San Angel, Coyoacán and Xochimilco.
NOTE: all photos have been provided by Cantimplora Travel in my personal set of photos!
Once home to the rich and famous of Mexico, San Angel is a buzzing metropolis boasting cobblestone promenades and high end fashion retailers. Here you will find the former residence (now turned museum) of the world’s most famous muralist, Diego Rivera. If you know little about the history of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, I highly suggest you read up on it. Their tangled love story and extravagant social life is one for the ages, which gives the qwerky modern blue and red complex a unique twist.
Along with the famous art house, San Angel is filled with sunny gardens and grand colonial-style residences. From the main Plaza San Jacintos you can easily find the former Dominican monastery, municipal palace and San Angel’s weekend market bazaar, filled with the beautiful art and crafts that make the region so famous.
Translated literally to “place of coyotes”, Coyoacán is a delightful village that was consumed by the urban sprawl of Mexico City. The leafy streets are lined with colourful bars, bistros, art markets and boutiques. From the central square Plaza Hidalgo you can easily find a restaurant to dine, or people-watch by the coyote fountain in the Jardin Centenario.
The most famous attraction, another not to be missed, is the Casa Azul, the cerulean blue kingdom of Senora Frida Kahlo. Take a glimpse into her opulent life in Mexico, from her unusual art, to her incredible journey through the pain and suffrage of multiple surgeries, polio and of course, heartbreak. Frida Kahlo was not considered a hero during her time, it was only once she passed and her true story was revealed, that her mono-brow clad face became so iconic.
Another interesting history-lesson that can be gained from Coyoacán (that of course, relates to Diego and Frida) is the final residence of Leon Trotsky. The Russian freedom fighter, who spoke the truth when nobody else would, was assassinated here after spending 3 years in asylum. His story is truly marvelous, from his speeches regarding the Stalin government, to his passion for the revolution.
Fianlly, head to the Mercado artisanal market which sits opposite the coyote fountain and town center. Shop for gifts and souvenirs in the winding plaza, grab a fresh fruit juice or taco and enjoy the immersive boho atmosphere.
Xochimilco is a truly unique area that, although considered included in Mexico City, feels like another world. The UNESCO listed site is a man-made canal system consisting of floating islands. Jump on board a Trajinera (track-in-era) boat, the flamboyantly decorated rafts traditional to the area, sip on a beer and listen to floating mariachi bands sing.
The community was formed in pre-Hispanic times and has a dense history. The islands, each individually crafted from intertwined roots and leaf matter, have a number of different uses, from gardens to restaurants. If your too comfortable on your trajinera to sit for a meal, why not paddle past a quesadilla boat and have one on the way out?
Xochimilco will have you feeling the fiesta, which is why you should always say yes to a drink on-board. Be sure to try the cheap-as-chips locally made Pulque (pull-key) a fermented agave wine, it isn’t the nicest beverage but it sure will get your head spinning!
Majority of the above photos have been provided by my guides, Cantimplora Travel, but were captured on my tour.