Grutas de Tolantongo
They call the Grutas de Tolantongo a hidden paradise up in the sierras and I’m inclined to agree. Make the trek and you’ll be greeted by streams of ribbon-like water cascading over the rocks.
Not many tourists know about this lovely box canyon, which carves its way through the hills above Route 27 some 86 miles north of Mexico City, but it’s well known to locals. It can actually be visited over a weekend trip from Mexico City pretty easily.
Cascades emerge from deep cave systems and are fed by underground hot springs. There’s now an on-site spa hotel resort with bathing pools cut straight into the hillsides – naturally!
Cutting through the peaks of the Sierra Madre Occidental in a series of deep chasms and valleys, this mighty gorge is like Mexico’s answer to the Grand Canyon north of the border. It’s named for the coppery greenish-blue that tinges the side of the bluffs in the summer months.
Most will visit on the El Chepe train (the Ferrocarril Chihuahua al Pacífico) that whizzes through on its way from Chihuahua City to Mexico City. It’s considered one of the most breathtaking locomotive rides in the world, and not just because you’ll be hitting heights of over 2,400 meters above sea level!
Taxco is the hidden gem of the state of Guerrero. Most people head this way for the sparkling sands of Acapulco, but this is all about escaping to the hazy sierras where silver mines and metal crafters are the norms. The town itself is wedged into a small valley and rolls down steep hillsides. Around it lies some of the oldest and most prolific precious metal mines in the country.
Bacalar and its surrounding lagoon is a dream for adventure travelers a little tired with the resort towns of the Quintana Roo. The town of Bacalar itself is the entry point. It’s one of Mexico’s charming pueblos mágicos and is marked out by the muscular Fuerte de San Felipe – an old pirate-fighting citadel! Around that spreads the so-called Lagoon of Seven Colors, named for the patchwork of emeralds and turquoise blues that abound.
Hierve del Agua
Waterfalls made of rock? You bet! These stunning geological formations are the result of thousands of years of calcite deposits on the sierras of Oaxaca state, one of the coolest places in Mexico.
They occupy a jaw-dropping location atop the undulating highlands of San Lorenzo Albarradas. There are two main falls – the larger and the smaller.
Both are pretty dramatic as they roll over the summits in a show of flowing calcium carbonate that looks just like classic H2O. The locals have even added in two artificial pools so you can swim on the top of the “falls” with a view.
Las Pozas of Edward James
Las Pozas has to be up there with the strangest landscape gardens in the Americas. Designed on the whims of the eccentric 19th-century English art critic Henry James, it covers 80 acres of the high mountain forest in the tropical region of La Huasteca. Now overgrown with vines and mosses, it’s a picture of surrealism in the middle of the woods, with twisted sculptures made of concrete, soaring lookout points, floating homes – the oddities go on.
There’s no doubt that cenotes are one of the most beautiful places in Mexico. There are about 6000 cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula, so you may spend years discovering it all. Some are open-air, some are inside the cave, and some can only be seen if you’re diving. If you’re feeling adventurous, take a leap beyond Dos Ojos or Azul and find some off the beaten path cenotes.