Chichen Itza is one of Mexico’s 31 UNESCO World Heritage sites. // © 2013 Mexico Tourist Board
Mexico has 31 UNESCO World Heritage sites, which makes it sixth in the world for number of designated sites. While every one of the 31 historic or natural attractions is worthy of a visit, TravelAge West has narrowed the list down to five attractions that are guaranteed to enhance any Mexico vacation. Chances are that a visit to one of these UNESCO World Heritage sites will be the most cherished memory of your clients’ Mexico vacation.
Chichen Itza, Yucatan
It’s safe to say that Chichen Itza — one the Seven Wonders of the World — is the iconic symbol of Mexico. Unlike some of Mexico’s UNESCO World Heritage sites, Chichen Itza is firmly ensconced in the Yucatan Peninsula’s tourism network. It’s easy to visit this marvel of the Maya-Toltec civilization via daytrips from Cancun and the Riviera Maya. History buffs may also prefer to head toward the colonial city of Merida, which also puts them within hailing distance of Chichen Itza. While there is much to see, standouts include The Pyramid of Kukulcan, the Great Ballcourt and Temple of the Jaguars. Unfortunately, climbing to the top of the pyramid is no longer allowed. However, there’s much to see and experience at Chichen Itza and, if your clients have the site at the top of their travel lists, suggest that they spend a night in a nearby hotel in order to soak up all the site has to offer.
The 16th Century Monasteries on the Slopes of Popocatepetl
If your clients are visiting Mexico City, suggest they head southeast of the capital to view the 14 monasteries clinging to the slopes of volcanic Popocatepetl. These well-preserved structures date back to the 16th century. At the height of the Franciscan, Dominican and Augustinian missionary influence in Mexico, more than 300 monasteries were built in the region. Many of these were later converted into churches for Christian parishioners. The 14 monasteries designated as UNESCO World Heritage sites share the same architectural style, comprising a church, atrium, courtyard and monastic quarters. Mass was typically held outdoors in the atrium.
Historic Center of Puebla
Experiencing the historic attractions of Puebla makes for a multi-faceted experience. While touring venerable structures such as the Cathedral Santo Domingo and the Museum of No-Intervention, Fort of Loreto, travelers can also satisfy their urges for browsing interesting shops or dining in restaurants serving regional cuisine. Puebla has more than 2,600 downtown colonial buildings, such as elegant 18th century mansions converted into museums, and convents and churches replete with sacred art, baroque ornamentation and colored Talavera tile work lining their facades. Puebla is within hailing distance of Mexico City, located 74 miles southeast of the capital.
Rock Paintings of Sierra de San Francisco
This is a destination for dedicated travelers — you don’t just roll out of bed to see the Rock Paintings of Sierra de San Francisco. Here, your clients will discover a stunning collection of pre-Hispanic rock art dating back to 1100 BC. About 400 sites of rock paintings are on record, with the great majority being in the Sierra de San Francisco. The rock paintings are well preserved, with vibrant colors depicting people and the animals they hunted, including deer, rabbits, puma and even whales. The Rock Paintings of Sierra de San Francisco are located mid-peninsula, close to the border line between Baja California and Baja Sur. The closest tourism town with an international airport is Loreto, which lies 186 miles to the south.
Pre-Hispanic city and National Park of Palenque, Chiapas
With the buzz surrounding Maya culture due to last year’s end of the Maya Calendar, Maya sites have been attracting more attention. The pre-Hispanic city and National Park of Palenque in Chiapas is far from typical tourist routes, but it’s worth a trip of its own. The Mayan ruins of the city of Palenque are surrounded by lush jungle. Excavated monumental structures include pyramids, plazas, temples, funeral crypts and observatories, with stand-out structures being the Palace and Temple of the Inscriptions. Nature-lovers will want to combine Palenque with a visit to see the natural beauty of Chiapas, which is most notable for its magnificent waterfalls.