Wavesnbackpack is all about bundling backpack & surf stories of people who want to share impressions. After we came back from backpacking in Sri Lanka we decided to share our great moments. Therefore we set up the blog wavesnbackpack. Here we do not only share our own experiences but also bundle backpack & surf stories of people all over the world who want to share impressions.
The following article is written by Christian, a real world traveller from beautiful Cologne. Julian bugged him since a while already to bundle his travel experiences on wavesnbackpack. After his world trip he didn’t stay long in his hometown but found himself in a plane traveling east soon again. Now, finally the experiences of a truly well-traveled person. Here are his tips for the best travel route in the Philippines.
Arrival in Manila
My adventure on the archipelago started with the flight from Frankfurt to Manila. I was able to get a cheap return flight with China Southern Airlines for 450€ round trip. Arrived in Manila I followed the hints of many friends and other travel bloggers and left Manila immediately again. In Manila you won’t see anything special so better don’t waste your valuable time. The philippines have so much to offer, but you will see later.
First Stop: Coron
For this reason I got the GoHotel near the airport for one night. It is located 10 minutes from the airport and made my onwards travel easy. After a couple of relaxing hours in bed I jumped on the plane to Busuanga (Coron). I found this 1.5 hours flight on Skyscanner for 75€ and was operated by Philippines Airlines.
Coron is – as El Nido – a hotspot for island hopping tours to adjacent islands. Beyond that, Coron is a famous diving spot as two ships wrecks now inhabit thousands of fish. The small Coron is not known as a party town and not very touristy, which is always great to arrive in a country. During the day you hardly see any foreigners as these will be either diving below sea level or exploring the islands close by.
Tip: It makes sense to look for a place to stay on time, as the area is often pretty booked. In the end we found a place and paid 4€ for a double room. From my perspective three nights are sufficient for divers.
Activities on Coron
Coron offers a lot of interesting activities – such as the all inclusive day trip – that are definitely worth their money.
Ultimate Island Hopping Tour
By joining this trip you will see the following places: Siete Pecados Marine Park – Twin Lagoon – Kayangan Lake – Beach 91 – Coral Garten – Skeleton Wreck – CYC Beach. In this stunning trip snorkel gear, lunch, other snacks and drinks are included. As well as that you are allowed to use kayaks. A pretty cool day if you ask me.
Mountain Tapyas Already from further away you will notice the letters Coron. Once you climbed the summit after approximately 750 steps, you will spot a lookout. The view is breathtaking and worth every step you made beforehand. Ideally you do the ascent before sunrise to get a fabulous view on the surrounding islands.
Maquinit Hot Springs These hot springs are reachable with a just 5 minute tuk tuk ride. Here you will find 38-41 Celsius (104 F) hot water which runs down the mountain into a pool. The entrance is 4€.
Tipp: End your day here. I still bask in the memories hanging out in the hot springs while enjoying the sunset!
Beaches on Coron Ideally you explore the beaches close by with a rented scooter, as often while travelling on the Philippines. Through this, you can travel at your own pace and plan your stops individually. Take a whole day for cruising around! You will spot things, stop, get off the scooter, walk around, enjoy and get back on.
We stopped at three different beaches and have always been the only tourists. Here you can be pretty sure in advance that you will have a beach for your own.
In my time I stayed at the Guapos Guesthouse.* Rooms were small but I really liked it. A great bang for the buck if you ask me.
Onwards travel to El Nido
Two boats depart to El Nido daily. One of them is a smaller boat which takes up to 9 hours and the other one a ferry that makes the trip in 3-4 hours. This ferry costs 30 Euros – just 10 Euros more than the smaller boat – but as it is more comfy and significantly faster, it’s definitely worth spending the money on top.
Second Stop: El Nido
El Nido, a small town in the north of the island Palawan, is a lot more touristy than Coron. Both islands are famous for its island hopping tours. In El Nido you will find everything you need. Hostels and Hotels in all price categories, countless bars and restaurants as well as little shops. The beach in El Nido in unfortunately not suitable for swimming as boats to the mentioned island hopping tours leave here. In the evening and at night the bars will transform to clubs.
Don’t panic: You’ll find them! When you stroll around the beach at night, you won’t be able to miss the parties.
Despite many accommodation and shops the island remains laid back and not a tourist hotspot such as Phuket or Koh Samui in Thailand. I really enjoyed my time here and would recommend getting the vibe. So definitely part of my travel route for the Philippines.
Tip: Always book your accommodation early, as the best places are likely to be booked already days in advance. Here it is possible to find a decent place to stay for approximately 5€ per night.
Activities on El Nido
Once in El Nido you wanna do stuff. Of course! And there are many things to do in El Nido!
Island Hopping on El Nido When it comes to island hopping four tours are offered. Tour A, B, C and D. Tour A is definitely the one with the highest frequency, as it stirs to all highlights. The negative part about that is that you will not be alone on the boat but share the ride as well as the sights with a couple of people.
In our other Philippines article written by our American friend Pierce, El Nido was also recommended.
Tour A: 22 EUR
Small Lagoon, Big Lagoon, Secret Lagoon, Shimizu Island, 7 Commandos Beach. All inclusive
I really enjoyed the tour. Even if a handful of boats arrive at the same time, the lagoons are worth seeing.
Tip: Comparing prices is not really necessary here. You will find the same offers almost everywhere.
Mountain Taraw Mountain Taraw is a mountain directly located behind El Nido. Who is not scared of heights, physically fit and looking for an adventure, should dare to go up. A guided tour is roughly 10€ and definitely recommended. The ascent can be dangerous as it is easy to lose track, so it is advisable to be accompanied by a local guide. The summit is roughly reached within one hour and the view is simply insane.
Beaches in El Nido To visit the surrounding beaches I would recommend to rent a scooter and explore the area around El Nino. My favorite here are Napcan Beach, Las Cabanas and Duli Beach.
Las Cabanas Beach has a zipline with which you can slide to the closest island while enjoying a great view. This costs 15€.
Duli Beach is great for surfing and mostly empty. The cool thing here is that you also can drive along the beach with your scooter. A different perspective than usual and definitely recommended when you are close by.
From El Nido to Puerto Princesa
From here the trip continues in direction of Puerto Princesa. The trip takes roughly 4-5 hours and costs round about 10€.
Thrid Stop in our Travel Route Philippines: Puerto Princesa
Puerto Princesa is especially famous for one attraction the Underground River NP. Here you drive a couple of kilometers along an underground river, the longest one in the world. Since a few years this river is considered as one of the seven nature wonders of the world.
If you only have one day in Puerto Princesa, as we had, you should do this, but isn’t a sight you should never miss out on.
Onwards to Boracay
The next day our plane departed from Puerto Princesa to Kaliko. Boracay calling!
Fourth Stop: Boracay
The island of Boracay seems to be the mecca for tourists of all kind in the Philippines. Here you will spot backpacking folks and masses of other tourists, which results unfortunately in a huge number of big hotels.
The positive effect of this is that you will find a lot of things to do on Boracay. From water sports such as water skiing, banana boats to day trips to adjacent islands. On the island Boracy everyone should find a suitable offer.
Also for people who want to party, Boracay is the right plance as the promenade becomes one big party in the evenings. Of course, the high number of paying tourists also pushes the prices compared to the rest of the Philippines. Prices here are roughly double than usual.
Tip: Two nights on Boracay have been enough for me. Everybody who has been in Thailand and knows places such as Phuket or Koh Samui, also knows the philippines version of them – Boracay.
Activities on Boracay
So you wonder what to do on Boracay? This will of course be covered!
Diving on Boracay
Diving is possible on Boracay as in the rest of the Philippines. Strolling trough the streets you will spot countless diving schools with countless possibilites of great diving spots.
Party and Nightlife
At the White Beach visitors can find a number of clubs and bars. Every evening you have the possibility going to a party or join one of the pub crawls.
Island Hopping on Boracay
Boat trips to various beaches and islands can be found as well. All inclusive, of course.
Tip: Who already did a boat trip in El Nido or Coron, should skip the more expensive boat trips here.
Beaches on Boracay The main beach on Boracay is calles White Beach, where you will find hotels, shops, bars and restaurants. The miles long white and poudery beach is great to hang out and sun beds and umbrellas can be rented. Doubtless an incredibly beautiful beach but for me personally, always a bit overcroweded. On top, the merchants on the beach who want to sell sunglasses and other things can be annoying when you just want to hang out in peace.
What you definitely should do: Get a tuk tuk to the other side of the island. Here you still find empty beaches with post card flair.
Boracay in a nutshell: A paradise island with dreamy beaches but here you really feel the tourism. In my humble opinion, as a backpacker you can easily skip Boracay and spend more time at less explored areas in this beautiful country.
Onwards travel to Bohol
Try to catch a flight to Cebu (On skyscanner you can find flights for round about 70€ / $90. From here you jump on the ferry to Tagbilara (Island Bohol).
Firth Stop: Bohol
For me, Bohol has the perfect mix of beaches and incredible nature. Most of the beautiful beaches are located in the south of Panglao Island, which you can reach by crossing a bridge. Most of all I can recommend Alona Beach!
Bohol’s landscape is Philippines at its best and ideally explored with a scooter. For all this it is definitely recommended to take a whole day.
Activities on Bohol
Once you are on Bohol there are three things you shouldn’t miss out on:
Tarsier Santuary (Animals you can only see here)
If you start early in the morning you will be back just before the sunset.
A good point to start is Tagbilaran and start exploring Bohol with your scooter. On the next day you can simply cross the bridge to Panglao island to enjoy the beaches here. Two days are enough as you will find even nicer beaches on your trip. Because of the unique Choclate Hills and the rare Tarsiere Bohol should not be skipped.
If you plan on a different trip as we did, it is also easy to reach from Cebu City with a ferry.
From Bohol to Apo Island
From Tagbilaran we continued by ferry to Dumaguete (Island Negros). Arrived at the harbor just ask a tuk tuk driver to drive you to APO Islands, bargain a bit and hop on the trycycle. After 40 minutes drive for a few bucks, you will reach a small harbor from which boats regularly depart to Apo Island.
Sixth Stop: Apo Island
Apo Island is a tiny island so that most likely every point is reachable by foot. The main reason to come to this island is most likely the underwater world. Apo Island is a real diver’s and snorkeler’s paradise.
The speacial fact: Sea weed in knee high water attracts huge sea turtles.
Here you just need to put your head under water and you will not only see turtles but come close to them.
Before my first snorkel trip I was excited to spot a turtle, or perhaps two but ended up being literally surrounded by 15-20 turtles, incredible Philippines!
I definitely recommend to stay overnight. The first reason for this is the pristine beauty of the under water world and the second is that tourists come to the island at fixed schedules. If you stay longer, you will have vast areas of the tiny island for yourself. Lucky you :)
In my time at APO island I stayed at the Liberty Lodge that I really liked. Have a look at booking.com* to find the place or another one that you might like.
Onwards travel to Cebu Island
From Apo you take the same way back. Hop on a boat to Dumaguete and from here to Cebu Island.
Seventh Stop: Cebu Island
Arriving at Cebu harbor you will see tuk tuk’s here tuk tuk’s there as well as bigger travel busses. All offer to bring you to your destination of your journey. As the whale sharks are, for me personally a absolut must-see it is recommended to take the bus to Tanawan for $3. You might ask yourself “what to do in Tanawan”? The answer is “absolutely nothing”. The best thing you can do is to arrive in the late afternoon, go to bed, get up at 5 am to see whale sharks.
For round about $45 you get the great opportunity to swim with the biggest fish on earth. Most of the were 6-9 meter long and I can tell, it was absolutely breath-taking to encounter them. Just imagine. They can get up to 15 meter, which is simply insane.
Whale sharks are attracted with shrimps that are thrown into the water. Some people, might say this it is incorrect to feed them. You migth be correct but in the end watching whale sharks was extremely impressing and thus a must see for me.
Please be aware not to touch them or come too close and have a look that you choose bigger boats with more people. So whale sharks are less disturbed by us humans.
From Cebu to Moalboal
Pretty easy to answer. From Tanawan with the bus to Moalboal!
Eigths Stop on the Philippines: Moalboal
Moalboal is a small authentic fishing village that is mostly famous for its under water world, similar to APO island. Restaurants are serving great food, some bars and shops for things you need. The atmosphere here is laid back and very chilled. All in all a place where you can spend some time and feel comfortable.
Activities auf Moalboal
In the following I will cover some cool things you can do on Moalboal.
Diving and Snorkeling
Most of all there is one particular reason for underwater entuthiasts to come to Moalboal: Sardines. Gazillions of Sardines.
Just a few meters away from Panagsama Beach you will spot the colorful and beautiful reef, where you can swim with millions and millions of sardines. As well: One or two turtles might croos your path as well.
With your rented scooter it is easily possible to reach Kawasan Falls within 40 minutes. Arrived here you need to pay $2 entrance fee, which are well worth spent as these falls are an absolut must see!
The water falls are 5-10 meters high and if you dare, it is also allowed to jump down.
It is also possible to book a guided canyoning tour, which is comparatively expensive. As the area is great to explore on your own, you can save the money!
Beaches around Moalboal
Panagsama Beach is the main beach in Moalboal, where you should ideally book your accommodation...
The country of Maya ruins, Mezcal and spicy Tacos is incredible. We ate delicious tacos stuffed with fresh avocado, surfed the waves in Puerto Escondido and explored the country with its spanish-speaking, indigenous inhabitants while Backpacking in Mexico.
You just booked the flights to Mexico and now you are looking for the most important information? How safe is Mexico? How much is a room per night on average? And do I need to be aware something when I enter the country?
All our knowledge, our impressions, the most exciting moments of our six weeks Backpacking in Mexico will be described in the following article. Beyond that we also bundled handy tips and tricks for your time abroad.
As Julian needed to work in Mexico City for a couple of days, we had a lot of time to explore the massive capital. From what we’ve heard we expected CMDX (this is how locals call it, and stands for “Ciudad de Mexico”) to be ugly, polluted, unsafe, so overall a waste of time.
We couldn’t agree less. After we finished all preparations and arrived in the city with 22 million inhabitants our lovely AirBnB host warmly welcomed us and brought us in the district we can strongly recommend to live in “La Condesa”. This beautiful area is full of cute cafés, avenues and local taco vendors. Does your trip also start in Mexico City? Then we wrote a great travel guide here.
Backpacking in Mexico – Our Route
Six weeks Mexico. First you might think you have endless time to explore every corner in the country. Unfortunately this is wrong, as you most likely forget – as we did – how gigantic the country of mezcal and tacos is. Our tip here: Don’t plan too much in a short time. Otherwise long distances make your trip hectic and less enjoyable.
In this map you can see exactly which route we ended up taking.
Mexico City > Puerto Escondido
After twelve days Mexico City the Pacific was calling. To be more precise, Puerto Escondido was supposed to be our home in the next couple of days. One hour after stepping in the plane we have arrived in Puerto already.
For most of the surfers Puerto Escondido will ring a bell. If not, think of the ‘Mexican Pipeline’, one of the fastest and most dangerous waves in the world where the Pacific hits the coast line with all its power.
But one after the other. Puerto Escondido is a small town located on Mexico’s East Coast. Neither the city nor the main beach itself is extraordinarily beautiful but on the most southern point of the street a sandy road appears. This is where “La Punta” is situated.
Tiny taco booths, cozy restaurants, little shops and relaxing café’s make you feel at home within seconds. Already on your way to your first surf session all this will make you feel the special vibe. Even if you are not surfing! And if you do, you will most likely love Puerto Escondido even a tiny bit more. If the small town is on your list, check out our in-depth guide.
In total we spent 1.5 weeks in Puerto Escondido. Julian paddled countless waves, I enjoyed a couple of handful of fresh Smoothies, we strolled through the sandy road, bought fresh avocados and prepared our own lunch and enjoyed one or two Mezcal at a campfire. Indeed, we were sad to leave this picturesque place on earth. But hey, we left Puerto for good, next stop the colonial city of Oaxaca.
Puerto Escondido > Oaxaca
We reached Oaxaca by plane via Mexico City. Looking at the map you might think “Are you kidding me?”. No we aren’t – we decided to take a cheap flight as we have so many horror stories about the bus ride from Puerto to Oaxaca. The extremely curvy way with many serpentines let many people vomit and the people kept talking about the ridiculously fast driver who seem to be rushed. In the end, I guess, it wouldn’t have been that bad. When we found a comparatively cheap flight we just decided for the more relaxed alternative.
In the following days we visited the local food markets, botanical gardens and the beautiful buildings. Our highlight in Oaxaca: A tour through a Mezcal fabrication as we wanted to know how this famous liquor is made.
After that our journey continued.. Hola San Cristóbal de Las Casas.
Oaxaca > San Cristóbal de las Casas
12 hours night bus. Sounds exhausting but actually is significantly more relaxed as it sounds. Not only relaxed but it is also very comfortable in the busses of the Mexican bus company ADO. Early in the morning we arrived at the bus station of the hip, colorful city in mid of mountains in Chiapas. Our home for the next days was supposed to be a “rustic” garden house which rather turned out to be a dirty dog’s shed in the garden. It became pretty clear that we don’t stay here and reached out to AirBnB claiming a refund. Ten minutes after the first tweet we received a refund and found something very nice for less money. So we could start to enjoy our time in San Cristobal.
You can participate in a great walking tour through the city free of charge. Here you will meet many backpackers and other travellers from around the world while getting to see some really cool spots in the city by a local. From San Cristobal you can also do day tours to Palenque and Maya tribes close by. Just try and feel the city vibe, you will love it.
San Cristóbal de las Casas > Cancún > Isla Holbox
The Caribbean is calling. To reach the tiny island at the Yucatan peninsula you need to travel across the country. Sitting again for 12 hours straight in the bus wasn’t what we were eager to do, so we checked the flights. Luckily, we found extremely cheap flights for around $30 and landed after 45 minutes in Cancun. From here we took a bus to Chiquila and took jumped here on the ferry to Isla Holbox, Mexicos hidden gem.
Tip: Don’t forget to have at least a handful of tacos at “Taco Gordos”. And don’t forget to rent bikes.
Once in Mexico you also need to see Chichén Itzá (if you didn’t see Palenque). Since 1988 the Mayan ruin is UNESCO world heritage and since 2007 one of the seven wonders of the world. Valladolid, a small colonial town in Yucatan, is perfectly situated for a visit in this breathtaking piece of Mexican culture as well as for the impressive pink lake “Las Coloradas”.
For the small island you take the ferry to Chiquila and travel onwards with a bus to Tizimin. After a three-hour trip you get off the bus in Valladolid in which you can taste – again – great food, visit the cenote Zaci or just stroll through the beautiful city buying fresh vegetables for a nice, home-made dinner. From here you reach Chichen Itza within one hour by colectivo and with busses (you need to change in Tizimin) Las Coloradas for a day-trip.
Tip: Don’t miss out on the great food at “Hierbabuena” and jump ten meters deep in the cenote zaci.
Valladolid > Tulum
After checking out the last city on our trip the ocean was calling. And how does this work best? Correcto, with the bus. For the next days: Hola Tulum! Turquoise water, mayan ruins, tacos, tacos and tacos (one better than the other). Cycling to the beach, hopping in the water to snorkel – could it be any better?
Tulum is the perfect place to relax and a great last stop of wonderful trip through Mexico.
Tip: Definitely visit “Taqueria La Eufemia” at the beach! At the main fork (coming from the town) keep right. Pass the shops and stop for the best tacos you can a imagine, a chilled beer with an incredible view.
Tulum > Cancún
We never stayed more than one night in Cancun and used it just as connection point for our onwards travels. Here, our trip through Mexico also ended and we flew to Nicaragua.
Country, Culture & People in Mexico
Visa for Mexico
All inhabitants of countries that have been part of the “Schengen Agreement” (UK, USA, Canada, Germany, Japan) neither need a visa nor any special documents.
Inhabitants of all these countries can enter Mexico for 180 days. In the plane you will receive a tourist card, the FMM (Forma Migratoria Multiple)where you need to fill out all details. This document and a at least six months valid passport is needed to enter the country. Also you need the FMM to leave the country again, so better don’t lose it. Also have an wye on the date added from the official at the border. In case that’s missing it can lead to misunderstandings as well.
Security in Mexico
As soon as you start researching the country you stumble upon horror stories of drug wars, executions and other bad stories where people get killed. And it is true Mexico has a very high homicide rate. But, there is a big but!
As a tourist you will not be involved in drug and cartel related activities so you will not be confronted by that. Due to the fact that gangs and villains are also present in cities you will visit you definitely need some common sense to stay safe. We had a great time and felt safe the entire time. The security standards are definitely higher, which is a reason you feel safe on the average day travelling through Mexico. We personally had just encountered one dodgy situation where we ran into a fully tattooed gang hanging on the street and obviously talking about us. We didn’t make eye contact ignored them and walked to the beach.
But other than that – once again – we felt safe while Backpacking in Mexico!
In every bigger city there are districts that aren’t entirely safe. In Mexico the same applies.
Tip: Inform yourself upfront which districts are good and which would be wiser to avoid.
Unfortunately, Mexico has a huge corruption problem. In general we have heard from locals, Policemen are not there to help. They get paid so badly that they are basically forced to misuse their power. Never take photos from policemen or police stations and maintain a low profile.
Robberies mainly happen when it’s dark. Ideally you are not strolling through the city when it’s pitch dark and rather take a taxi.
Always have an eye on your belongings. And most of all: Carry the most important documents (or at least a copy) on your body.
If you travel with expensive equipment, observe who is surrounding you. Also while taking photos.
On the street it is forbidden to drink alcohol. The penalizations in case you contravened are harsh so do yourself a favor and refrain doing so. Even we Germans managed to not drink alcohol in public.
In the unlikely event of a robbery or similar, don’t put up resistance. If you are forced, don’t bargain or try to trick. Just hand out everything the robbers want to you. These people are extremely desperate and will not argue with you. If you follow their instructions nothing will happen and they will leave quickly.
Travel Time & Climate in Mexico
We stayed in Mexico from January to March and have been really lucky with the time of the year. The weather was great, neither too hot nor too cold and we hardly saw any clouds.
As diverse the country is, the diverse the weather can be. You will witness different climate zones due to a great difference in altitudes. Isla Holbox for example pretty much defines the Caribbean, whereas the evenings can be chilly in Mexico City and San Cristobal. Nevertheless there is a rule of thumb you can follow:
During the European winter Mexico will welcome you with a lot of sun and almost no clouds. In this time of the year it’s dry season in Mexico so you will hardly see any rain.
On the contrary, if you travel between May and October you will face more rain and thunderstorms as you are visiting Mexico during rainy season. If you do not mind some rain and bad weather this time can also be considered as ideal as the prices drop and the crowds are gone. Please also think of the hurricanes that might come up during this time of the year, even though they are mainly present in September and October.
While the North West has a desert-like feel, the North can get pretty cold in the winter, the East Coast reminds more of the tropics.
Locals tend to favor the months December and January and preferably spend them in the East of the country. Gazillion’s of Americans come during the Spring Break season to Quintana Roo where prices surge and accommodations need to be book in advance.
Transportation in Mexico
The way of transport in such a big country is from great importance as you can tell. The infrastructure of the country is comparatively well and makes coming from A to B quite easy. In contrast to Sri Lanka you will not spend a lot of time in trains but rather sit in busses to get to the next beautiful city.
Trains in Mexico
Trains aren’t widely-spread in Mexico and rarely used. Since 1990 the train system is almost non existent anymore and only two train connections are operating. One of them passes through the mountains and is known as “Copper Gulch” and the other one is called “Tequila Express” and ends in the city of Tequila.
Taking the Bus in Mexico
Busses leave literally everywhere. The bus system is very good and the value for money even better. When booking tickets for longer distances you normally can choose between a bus that drives during the day and a night bus. In..
This article is written by Joshan. In the beginning of the year Joshan visited the country of the Mount Everest, his homeland, with a couple of friends and shares his experiences and valuable tips on wavesnbackpack about backpacking in Nepal.
What clothes should I pack?, asked a friend going through his checklist.
Prepare for anything between 0 to 40 degrees. They thought I was joking. I wished I was. But I was committed to keep them safe and warm. I was going back home to Nepal and taking three of my very good friends for an adventure in Nepal, here we come!
Backpacking in Nepal – Good to know
The southern part of the country lies at about sixty meters from sea level and soars to the top of the world towards the north. All that variation of 8600 meters within the north-south distance of 193 kilometers, crazy right? Our trip was during early May. By then, temperatures already start soaring high across the southern plains while the northern mountains are still covered in snow.
While the flight is descending towards Kathmandu, you can already witness the majestic mountains rising above the clouds. A rush of excitement is inevitable. After leaving the airport, the first few experiences might be overwhelming or shocking for some because of the crowded streets, dust, unmanaged urbanscape, reckless drivers, etc. It is not the fairy-tale-snow-clad mountain land that you had imagined. There are no stop signs, no sidewalks, no rules. You kind of figure it out that everything functions together somehow. But if you are open minded and willing to set your foot outside of your comfort zone then one of the best adventures of your life awaits you ahead.
The country, people, food and culture
Nepalese people are usually very friendly and relaxed people. Do not forget to greet them with a ‘Namaste’. It is how they say hello and they absolutely love it when they are greeted by foreigners. Bhat (rice), dal (lentil soup), tarkari (curry), achar (pickle) makes their main dish and people consume it twice a day, even three times in some regions. The majority of Nepalese eat this main dish with their hands. Give it a try, ask the locals for instructions; they will be delighted to help you. Raksi, Chyang and Tongba are the Nepalese special homemade liquors. Drinking water situation is poor in the capital and in most of the cities. Drinking bottled water will save you from lots of trouble. There is big difference in climate in different part of the country. So, research ahead and pack appropriate supplies for your trip. Road trips are usually scenic but tedious through treacherous mountain roads. Also, make sure to pack extra toilet paper rolls and be aware of the fact that most non-touristy places still use squat toilets.
Stop #1: Kathmandu, the city of temples and stupas
Things to do in Kathmandu
Kathmandu Valley has three Durbar Squares. Basantapur (Kathmandu) Durbar Square, Patan Durbar Square and Bhaktapur Durbar Square. These are the old towns of Kathmandu Valley and exhibit ancient art forms, architecture, religious values and lifestyles. All of these squares have beautiful temples, ancient palaces, art and history museums and amazing food spots. Basantapur, also being the main center of the city is busier compared to the other two. It is surrounded by a maze of narrow shopping streets, and ‘Freak Street’ because it is freaking awesome. Patan and Bhaktapur are equally amazing as well and offer famous traditional newari food and liquor spots. Sadly, many iconic temples in Basantapur and Bhaktapur area were destroyed during the earthquake of April 2015.
Swayambhunath, also known as ‘The Monkey Temple’, is one of the holiest Buddhist stupas in Nepal. The stupa is believed to be the oldest of its kind in Nepal and exhibits religious harmony among the people as Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and people of all religions visit and enjoy this monument equally. Resting atop a small hill, it boasts a stunning panoramic view of Kathmandu Valley with the misty mountains in the background.
Thamel is the happening quarter of Kathmandu. The streets are filled with shopping lines, restaurants and rooftop bars. As evening approaches, the streets become vibrant with dwellers, hippies, backpackers and live music. It is busy and chaotic but mesmerizing. A very important warning for shoppers is that shopkeepers tend to overprice the items. Try out different shops and know the reasonable price before buying any souvenir.
Stop #2: Chitwan, a blend of wildlife and culture
Things to do in Chitwan
Chitwan National Park is a World Heritage site and it Iies in the Southern plain lands of the country. Over 932 sq kms of protected area is renowned for its protection of One Horned Rhinoceros, Royal Bengal Tiger and Gharial Crocodile.
It is also a heaven for bird spotters with 544 species of birds recorded in the area. You can do a guided jungle safari trip and explore wildlife in their natural habitats. Spotting rhinoceros, deers, wild boars, monkeys and birds are common.
But if luck is in your favor you might get the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to spot a Royal Bengal Tiger while Backpacking in Nepal. If that is not enough adventure, then you can do a guided boating trip in the crocodile filled Rapti river. You can witness crocodiles sunbathing along the river banks or just swimming across your boat minding their own businesses.
Sauraha is a little Tharu (the local people of this region) village which is the main entry point to the National Park. The village provides good accommodation, traditional tharu meals, and cultural shows. Jungle safaris, elephant ride or canoeing can be arranged from here.
Stop #3: The vibrant Pokhara
Things to do in Pokhara
Pokhara is the tourist capital of the country. It is equally famous among the locals and foreigners. Stunning sceneries, adventure activities, good food, this place has it all. Lake Fewa is the most famous location in Pokhara. You can take a hand carved row boat to the middle of the lake and enjoy tranquility. The view of the Fishtail mountain or the view of sunset behind the layers of hills as far as you can see in the horizon is just spectacular. If you are more adventurous type then paragliding, mountain biking, bungee jumping, white water rafting and zip lining are the way to go. The evenings here are filled with tourists, backpackers and locals. You can hear live music echoing through every other restaurants and bars. Delicious food, shopping streets, happy people and activities, Pokhara is the perfect blend of adventure, chill and tranquility.
Pokhara is the gateway to the world renowned Annapurna Trekking Circuit. All the necessary equipment, documents and permits can be obtained from Pokhara and Kathmandu.
Stop #4: Mesmerising Ghandruk – Poonhill trek
Things to do in Ghandruk
If you have enough time do not miss the Annapurna Base Camp trek or the Annapurna Circuit trek. It is absolutely mind blowing. Ghandruk – Poonhill trek is one of the easier 3-5 days trail in the Annapurna Circuit. Foreigners need Trekking Permit and TIMS card to enter the Annapurna Conservation Area.
The Ghandruk – Poonhill trek lies towards the easier spectrum among trekkers but is equally famous among beginners and advanced trekkers. The day starts with a two hours jeep ride from Pokhara. The later part of the drive goes uphill through harsh dirt road. After the jeep ride and around 45 minutes walk you reach the beautiful village called Ghandruk (approx. 1940 m). Make sure to spend at least a day here. Gurung people are the main inhabitants here and you can experience their culture, home-grown food and lifestyle. Even more exciting is that you can see Annapurna South, Machhapuchhre, and Himchuli standing tall right in front of you. The serenity and sheer beauty of this place will make you forget about all your troubles and put you in absolute peace of mind. The narrow stone paved paths, small slate-roofed houses, terrace farming, green hills and snow capped mountains as backdrop, it is hard to say goodbye to this place.
The trekking proceeds through cloud and fog, magical forests, and brooks of icy blue water. There are rest stops and water taps along the path. The more ambitious ones aim to reach Ghorepani (approx. 2760 m) while others stop halfway through at Tadapani for a night. Almost everyone you pass by en route will greet you with a smile and Namaste. Ghorepani, the gateway to Poonhill, is another small village and feels slightly modern and commercial than Ghandurk. People generally spend a night here and prepare for next day’s uphill trek to Poonhill.
Poonhill, situated at 3210 meters, is a famous hill-top view point with breathtaking panorama of mountain ranges with some of the highest Himalayan peaks like Annapurna I, Annapurna South, Himchuli and Dhaulagiri. Visitors start the the 45 minutes Ghorepani-Poonhill trek as early as 4 am in the morning to catch the sun rise from behind the snow-clad peak of Annapurna. The fresh mountain air and the magnificent sight will take all your tiredness away.
In the end
Nepal is synonymous with mountains. It is how Nepal is known around the globe. But there is more to explore. The untouched nature, the warm-hearted people and the unique culture will make you fall in love with the country. It is a poor country with lots of domestic problems but people always manage to stay humble and smile through all their hardships. You will come back not only with great adventure stories but also with tons of positive inspiration. Happy backpacking in Nepal :)
Since I heard the first time from this country I wanted to go there. Was it just the soft sound of the name Nicaragua or was it because of the great stories I heard. At the same time, I did not meet many people who have been here already. So, perhaps the unexpected gave it something magical? All that made me want to go to Nicaragua. Since ages. When I became clear that Mexico would be the next country to travel to, I realized that Nicaragua is ‘just around the corner’. That meant – Backpacking in Nicaragua! Yes, finally.
People we talked to in Mexico, mentioned that Nicaragua will be totally different than Mexico as it is the second poorest country in Central America, even though it is “close by”.
After six weeks in Mexico were sad leaving but equally eager to travel to Nicaragua. As always, the day of departure arrived soon and we took a plane from Cancun to San José and after four hours of sleep, onwards to Managua, Nicaragua’s capital.
Our travel route through Nicaragua
In the following I will describe the route we decided for. Here I will also point out what we missed and what we should not have done. As well important to note: We wanted to surf as much as possible. If that wouldn’t have been the case, the route would have most likely been a bit different and might have not focused on the Pacific side of the country but rather the picturesque Caribbean side (just google ‘little corn island’, for example).
Managua to Granada
Directly after arriving we organized a driver to Granada. We spent more money than necessary, but we have just been extremely exhausted from the flights so wanted to sit down and relax. Excited and equally tired. Our first stop, Granada.
Indeed, Granada is beautiful. The center of the town is shaped by its distinctive church. Around ‘Iglesia La Merced’ numerous restaurants and bars invite visitors to enjoy Burritos, a chilly Toña, Gallo Pinto (in a lot of different variations) or freshly grilled meat. On the central place in the city you can find some nice handcraft work such as bracelets or necklaces for great memories on your wrist. Further to the East, you will reach Lake Nicaragua, the largest lake in Central America.
Around the city, you can climb a handful of volcanos with different routes varying from two hour to entire day trips. Depending on your sight trails can be impressive and heaven on earth for photographers.
Despite its beauty, we have to say, Granada was the only place on our travel we did not feel comfortable. While strolling through markets people looked to us in a way we have never experienced before. The waiters have been unfriendly and some other occasions did not help towards improving our perception of Granada. Due to that reason, we decided to leave earlier than planned. People we’ve met or talked to in our onwards journey loved Granada and did not experience anything like us. So, I bet you’ll be luckier than we have been.
Things to do Granada: Decide for a volcano to climb and visit Isla Ometepe for a night. We heard great stories of the little island in mid of the lake but unfortunately missed it.
Granada to San Juan del Sur
You can either drive by bus or with a private driver. Busses are the significantly cheaper option and recommended if you do not have time pressure. They leave multiple times per day but as the journey takes several hours, an early start might makes sense.
Prior to our trip, we had a hard time to picture San Juan del Sur, especially where the best waves are. The city itself became in the last years as a party town and attracts many backpackers from around the world. Here you get everything what you need. Food, drinks, surfboards, clothes and cheap restaurants (recommendation: ‘La Lancha’).
Where to stay in San Juan del Sur
The main question we had whether staying close to one of the beaches or in the city makes sense. This mainly depends on what you exactly want. In the city, you are closer to bars and restaurants but dependent on bus shuttles to the beaches. These rides cost around 2.50 USD one way and leave multiple times a day and the last bus leaves shortly after sunset. Shuttles to the beaches leave at Casa Oro, a well-known and often booked hostel in the heart of the city (we’ve heard very good things about staying here).
As we did not want to party but just relax and surf we decided for the hostel Casa Maderas* close to Playa Maderas. If you plan to go to SJDS or you are looking for great waves in Nicaragua, check this in-depth article for more information. Most importantly, we loved this relaxed and calm place close to the beach. Our own apartment including a own hammock treated us very well.
Things to do in San Juan del Sur: Go surfing, get grilled fish or meat at ‘La Lancha’, go on a party off the beaten path in one of the ‘Cervecerias’.
San Juan del Sur to León
This is one of the furthest trips you can do in Nicaragua. By bus it will take up one entire day, so we shared a taxi with two other travelers and paid 30 USD per person. Four and a half hours later we arrived in Léon and strolled through the city. The church certainly is the most important sight and with its snow-white roof pretty unusual. We spend some time here to watch clouds passing by and to observe erupting volcanos faraway.
In the night, we went to a food market and enjoyed fresh Nicaraguan cuisine and have been stunned by its kitchen the first time. Most backpackers we’ve met just went to León to slide down Cerro Negro, which is unfortunate, as there is much more to see.
Things to do in León: Enjoy the view from the ‘Catedral de la Asuncíon de María de León’, volcano boarding, visit the food market at night and look for a remote place.
León to Isla Los Brasiles
We decided to enjoy the last days of our trip in a remote place, before facing the stressful urban life in Europe again. After taking a taxi, a boat and a horse carriage we arrived at the “Surfing Turtle Lodge” and spent the last four nights in a hut with a porch and a hammock at the beach. Paradise. We still bask in memories having our breakfast here or enjoying the sunset with a chilled beer.
Before coming here, we researched a lot about this place as it was our last stop of a fabulous trip. Almost all comments have been positive, some said it is too expensive as you are dependent on the kitchen. Due to its remote location, you are dependent on the kitchen, that’s correct. As soon as you aren’t able to prepare your own meals, stays tend to get more expensive, that’s correct.
As the Surfing Turtle Lodge was our last stop, we took the beach cabin (you can also get cheaper dorm rooms). In the end, we had a great time with wonderful people from all over the world.
For us, it was a great mixture of having fun with travelers and enjoy our freedom at the beach. Among that we tried Yoga for the first time in our lives. The first Yoga lessons while the sun sinks in the Pacific Ocean on your left-hand side is something you do not forget easily.
From our perspective, the owners just need to be careful that parties do not take place too often as many travelers come here to get away from it all and to enjoy their lives to the fullest.
… Then, an eight-week trip came to an end. Some gigabyte of pictures and clips wanted to be edited and we knew that we need come back to Central America soon. But here are some further handy tips for your Nicaragua trip.
Tips for Backpacking in Nicaragua
While backpacking through Nicaragua you should be aware of the fact mentioned above. Nica a very poor country with a lot of very poor people begging on the streets. Here, it might be a wise decision not to show your camera the entire time, considering that it might be worth more than a whole family earns in a year.
How to get to Nicaragua – In a cheap way
While booking flights to Mexico, it has been clear that we also wanted to see Nica, so we booked a multi-city flight from Germany to Mexico and the return flight from Managua. These flights are on average more expensive but we have been lucky with a fare from around 700€ each. At this point we knew that we will end our Mexico trip in the Yucatan peninsula but nothing more than that.
Soon we arrived in Mexico City and checked flights from Cancun to Managua, we figured out that they are costlier than expected. After comparing prices for a couple of days (including some frustration) we then found the cheapest option. Cancun – San José – Managua for round about 220 €.
Tips: Check flights before you leave or plan more time to travel by bus. They are more expensive than you might think, even though the distance is short. The rates to fly to Nicaragua can vary greatly depending on your departure airport. In Europe, Brussels and Amsterdam are a good point to start your trip, for example.
As soon as you enter the CA-4-region (Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua) you receive a 90-day visa for these countries. That means for most citizens it’s easy to immigrate in the listed countries as long your stay does not extent 90 days. More infos in our Preparations for Backpacking in Central America article.
When to go to Nicaragua
As in other Central American countries, Nicaragua has two seasons – the dry (January until June) and rainy season. Since virtually no rain fell until April plants start to dry out and the country loses its tropical flair. So, the best time to travel would be January or February.
For a consistent waist to head high swell the best time for surfing would be end of March to September. In April, waves tend to be great and uncrowded. Before deciding on specific travel dates, research depending on which waves you are looking for.
Accommodation in Nicaragua
On our trip, we always have been pleasantly surprised with our accommodation. As we were used from Mexico already, prices are higher than in Asia but you always receive something at least reasonable – A good bang for your buck!
As a rule of thumb you can find a nice dorm for 12 USD and a private room starting from 20 USD.
Transportation in Nicaragua
Once arrived in Central America you will get told new horror stories in every hostel. Due to that reason, we have been uncertain whether busses across borders are safe. You hear a lot of horror stories. It’s perhaps a bit like talking to your grandpa. You should not believe every story. In our time, we just had good experience with busses but never crossed borders by night. This would be one thing I personally would avoid. Most likely you’ll be fine but normally you find a better and more secure way.
Inside the country chicken busses are the cheapest way to get from A to B. When hopping on a bus, your backpacks normally get tied on the roof or somewhere in the back. Here they get really dirty! I was happy that my bag was covered in a cargo bag*. Collectivos are operating as well and normally departing at the estación de autobuses.
Food in Nicaragua
Prior our trip we researched a lot on a lot of topics and we often stumbled upon travelers “disappointed” by the food. Indeed, food can be dreary as Gallo Pinto (Rice and Beans) is served with almost every dish and beside some expectations not very cheap. As mentioned above, we also enjoyed great fresh barbeque on the streets of León. So, keep your eyes open and you will find something enjoyable.
Language and Communication in Nicaragua
¿Ya sabes hablar español? In Nicaragua, some basic knowledge of Spanish will help you a lot! Especially in rural areas the English language is pretty much not existent. So, it might be really (!) helpful! As Ani speaks Spanish, for us it was easy getting around and we helped many other backpackers stuck in a conversation.
Summing things up we can say that we had a great time backpacking in Nicaragua. The country is perfectly suited for surfers and as we’ve often heard considered to be the cheap alternative to Costa Rica (as prices here are exorbitant). Since our expectation has been very high, we got a bit disappointed in our first stop but then felt extremely comfortable in San Juan del Sur. Nicaragua is a laid-back country and you will learn how to settle down and relax with a coffee in a hammock. Nica, one day we will come back!
*Affiliate Link. We will earn a small commission, without extra-costs for you.
Maya ruins surrounded by turquoise water, incredible Tacos with avocado & limes and for me the most beautiful languages in the world: ¡Hola México!
Prior to our trip we didn’t realize how huge the country actually is. Through this, you underestimate distances and reaching the next step on your trip, easily means 10 hours bus journey. Even though we had six weeks to discover Mexico it is also possible to see the most beautiful places within two to three weeks. To make your life a bit easier the following post will describe different travel routes through Mexico, so that you can enjoy a relaxed time in this beautiful country. For how long you travel for? What is time-wise realistic and what do I better skip? These and many more questions will be answered in this Travel Route Mexico article. ¡Vamos!
Travel Route Mexico – Getting there
Flights to Mexico are not dirt cheap, especially not when you aim to see a lot from the country and you book a multi-city trip, meaning a flight that does not leave at the same airport as where you arrived. For most countries, arriving in Mexico’s tourist hotspot Cancun, is cheaper. Thus our recommendation would be to check flights to the Yucatan peninsula. While you are saving money, at least when flying in from Europe, that means that you need to go certain ways twice, as a typical round trip does not work due to the shape of the country. From Germany you can get a return flight to Cancun for around $450. From the States it will be significantly cheaper and from the UK similar to leaving from Germany.
Travel Route Mexico – Countless possibilities
So many possibilities to plan your trip but so little time? Travelling through Mexico in a smart way isn’t as easy as the country is just huge. This was for example significantly easier while backpacking in Sri Lanka as the country is just a fracture of Mexico. So what do you need to do to plan wisely?
Tip #1 – First think about what’s supposed to be the focus of your travels. Relaxing in the sun or are you eager to see as much as you can? If you just want to relax we would recommend our suggestion focussing on Quintana Roo or Yucatan, if you are in the mood for a little more action and you want to see more from the country you can also travel through Chiapas, as our routes suggests.
Tip #2 – For long distances take the night busses from ADO. Here you kill two birds with one stone. First, you do not lose time as you can sleep while traveling onwards and you save money for an accommodation for this night. Mentioning here: We slept extremely well on our trip from Oaxaca to San Cristobal de las Casas.
So, enough preparation. Here you go: Two travel routes with different distances. Do you have two or three weeks?
Arrived in Cancun we would suggest not to waste any time here. Cancun is – from our point of view – over-crowded without anything special to see. Our advice here to start and end your trip here, without wasting time here.
Cancún > Tulum
After arriving in Cancún your goal is: Get to paradise! For doing so you jump on a two hour bus journey operated by the company ADO. ADO offers bus tickets throughout Mexico at an affordable price. Here you can choose between standard and premium busses depending on the length of the journey and comfort. Important to note here: ADO busses are extremely comfortable and by far better than any travel bus we know from Germany. Depending on when you arrive in Cancun, we would suggest to stay one night in Cancun and have a shower and a good portion of sleep – as mentioned, depending on how tired you are. After that you hop on the bus in the direction of Tulum.
On the second day you already arrived in paradise. Tulum gets increasingly more touristy but no surprise: In Tulum you have incredible Tacos directly on the beach with a great vibe. Now: Settle down, relax and feel the powdery sand between your toes and jump into the turquoise, lukewarm, caribbean water. Tulums spreads holiday flair that makes you want to spend the third day here as well. So just do! While you can drive around with the bicycle, visit cenotes or just enjoy the easy and relaxed vibe before you leave to the more exhausting part of the journey. We stayed in an AirBnB and met great people and had a great time, friends stayed in Secret Gardens and loved it as well.
Tulum > Cancún > Tuxtla > San Cristobal de las Casas
On day five you would drive back to Cancun to take the plane to Tuxtla, in the state of Chiapas. As the way takes more than 16 hours by bus it makes sense to fly. Especially if the flight tickets are round about $50. The low-budget airline Volaris flies you in 1.5 hours across the country to the state of Chiapas. After arriving in Tuxtla, you jump on the next bus to the beautiful city San Cristobal de las Casas, which takes one hour. San Cristobal is a city in mid of mountains, colorful and picturesque. For us, the most beautiful city of Mexico with colorful cobblestone streets and a lot of charm. Here you can spend day six and seven. In one of the days, we would recommend to take part in the “Free San Cristobal Walking Tour”. Part of the trip around the city is getting to know the famous Real de Guadelupe and other beautiful places and hidden gems of the city. In San Cristobal you can also visit ancient tribes and explore their way of life. This can be done by car, with bikes or even while hiking through the mountains. We needed to leave earlier but you should consider :)
San Cristobal de las Casas > Palenque
Day eight and nine are the two most exhausting days of the tour: The drive to Palenque and the onwards journey back to Cancun. The best way here would be to choose a bus in the early morning, which brings you in a 8-9 hour trip to Palenque and the most fascinating stop of the tour. Arriving in Palenque at night, you will have the next day to get beguiled by the Maya state that flourished in the 9th century in mid of the jungle. The ruins are known as a UNESCO world heritage since 1987 and since then tourists get deeply impressed by them. Due to its location and the prevailing mood a very mystical feeling and definitely a must do: Palenque!
Palenque > Cancún
Impressed by the Maya architectures you will hop on the bus back to Cancun. As the ADO busses are almost as comfortable as a dorm bed, we would recommend to take a night bus. This is a 12 hours bus journey but most likely you will be sleeping many kilometres and now you are reaching the end of the trip and the relaxing days at the same time. Quintana Roo calling.
Cancún > Isla Holbox / Bacalar
On day ten you will have arrived in Cancun in the early morning. Now you need to make the decision whether you want to go to the small island Isla Holbox in the north of the peninsula or in the relaxed village of Bacalar in the south. We personally have spent four days on Isla Holbox and liked it a lot but have also heard a lot of positive things about Bacalar. If you decide for Isla Holbox, take the bus from Cancun to Chiquila, then change to the ferry, which brings you to the island in about 30 minutes.
When you decide for Bacalar you need to go on a five hour bus ride in the direction of Belize. However, in both stops you can spend three days before the trip comes – with a caribbean flair – to an end.
Travel Route Mexico #1: In a nutshell
Cancún, Quintana Roo.
Tulum incl. day trip to a cenote, Quintana Roo.
Flight to Tuxtla, Chiapas. Onward journey to San Cristobal de las Casas
San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas.
Onward journey to Palenque, Chiapas.
Palenque, Chiapas. Night bus to Cancún, Quintana Roo.
Cancún, Quintana Roo. Onward journey to Isla Holbox or Bacalar, Quintana Roo.
Our recommendation for a three week trip through Mexico builds on the two-week trip. To get the most out of the three weeks we added some stops and planned more time per stop for a more relaxed travel.
Cancún > Tulum
After you arrived in Cancun the first stop would be – as in the two week trip – Tulum. Caribbean beach and a couple of very relaxed hours expect you on the second and third day.
Tip: Don’t skip “Taqueria La Eufemia”! Just wow!
Tulum > Valladolid (Chichen Itza)
Now you jump on a bus to Valladolid where you will roughly spend two days. Half a day to settle and explore the nice colonial city, the second day to visit the UNESCO World Heritage Chichen Itza. On an area of 6.5-square-km you will find impressive Maya ruins and is after the Pyramids of Teotihuacán the second most visited site of Mexico. When you got inspired for a half day, you can take the bus to Cancun in the late afternoon.
Here you would spend a night (to the seventh day) and then take a plane in the next morning to Tuxtla. After 1.5 hours flight with the Mexican low-budget airline Volaris you will arrive here. Now you need to decide! Either going to the pacific coast in the state of Oaxaca, which is well known for surfing. Or you never stood on a board and you prefer the calm caribbean water? Then you might head from Tuxtla to the city of Oaxaca.
If you got infected by the surf virus and or you want to try surfing, Mexico’s pacific coast will be the perfect fit for you. Here you will find world-class spots such as Barra de la Cruz, Puerto Angel, several spots around Mazunte and our favorite Puerto Escondido. Each of them nearly ten hours bus ride from Tuxtla but more than worth visiting!
If you are not into surfing, Mexico’s pacific coast might not be as attractive for you as it has been for us. Non-surfers can have a great time here as well but you might prefer to spend your valuable time in the colonial city Oaxaca. From Tuxtla you can reach Oaxaca by night bus.
Depending on your interest you can spend either three days at the pacific coast in Oaxaca state or in the city of Oaxaca itself. Three days are definitely the minimum!
Tip: Oaxaca is famous for its Mezcal. Book a tour and explore how it is made.
Pacific Coast Oaxaca / Oaxaca City > San Cristobal de las Casas
On day 11 our travel route suggests to go to San Crisitobal de las Casas. A charming city surrounded by mountains and for us one of the highlights. It’s hip, has very pretty areas and a highly interesting history. You will definitely not get bored in two days.
San Cristobal de las Casas > Palenque > Cancún
Day 13 you would hop on one of those comfy busses again with the destination of the mystical mayan ruins of Palenque (approximately 9 hour drive). In the next morning you will arrive well-rested in the archaeological site. Afterwards, we would recommend to jump on the last night bus with the direction of Cancun. The trip from Palenque is roughly 12 hours but the place is magical!
Cancún > Isla Holbox / Bacalar
Now that you travelled a lot from A to B we would suggest to enjoy the last days in the sun at the beach, with Tacos and other delicious treats. At this point of your trip you can decide! Either to the little, car-less island in the north, Isla Holbox or Bacalar, close to Belize. Of course you could also do both but that’s entirely up to you. Relax and enjoy!
At the 21st day and unfortunately already the last day you need to take a bus back to Cancun. Depending on the time of our flight it might makes sense to arrive already a night before. This is officially your last bus trip through Mexico and now you need to head towards your country of origin. ¡Hasta pronto México!
Travel Route Mexico #2: In a nutshell
Cancún, Quintana Roo.
Tulum incl. day trip to a cenote, Quintana Roo.
Valladolid incl. day trip to Chichen Itza, Quintana Roo.
Flight to Tuxtla, Chiapas. Onward journey to the Pacific coast of Oaxaca or to Oaxaca City
Pacific coast of Oaxaca / Oaxaca City
San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas.
Onward journey to Palenque, Chiapas.
Palenque, Chiapas. Night bus to Cancún, Quintana Roo.
Cancún, Quintana Roo. Onward journey to Isla Holbox or Bacalar, Quintana Roo.
Isla Holbox / Bacalar, Quintana Roo.
Return to Cancún, Quintana Roo. Flight back home.
Especially as Mexico is such a big country there’s so much to see. Many destinations that are worth visiting and often the best and most of all cheapest way is by bus. What we had to recall quite often while travelling for six weeks through Mexico. It is better to skip a stop and potentially miss out on something than to stress yourself. For example we have been so impressed by Puerto Escondido that we spent more than a week. The tradeoff was to skip Palenque, which hurts at the same time but at some point you need to decide. We’ve never regret it and would do the same again. So before leaving to Mexico think about stops you definitely want to see and determine whether the stops and kilometres are realistic and most of all not stressful to reach. The goal of travelling is being happy, have time to explore and be on the road – always at your own pace.
So, if you are about to step on Mexican soil soon, take a few minutes and have a look at our in-depth article on “Backpacking in Mexico”. Here you will find many more information on the beautiful country on the American continent.
Backpacking in México - together with wavesnbackpack - YouTube
We hope that we were able to shed some light in the dark and you enjoyed reading. Now, get excited about your trip! You have questions or you would like us to add a stop? Just leave a comment!
When you are reading this, you are quite likely either thinking about traveling to Sri Lanka or you bought tickets already. Both sounds tempting and we can tell, you won’t regret your trip. Sri Lanka is fascinating from the first day onwards. The following article presents a travel route through Sri Lanka for two weeks. As the South has good weather while the East is facing rain season, this Sri Lanka travel route is best suitable for a time between October and April.
You will arrive in Colombo, the hectic and loud capital of Sri Lanka. We wanted to stay a couple of days to explore the city but we have been annoyed by all the noise and craved for relaxation. Thus, we left Colombo after one night. Colombo will most likely offer a lot of different things to see but the island has so many things worth seeing that it might be a wise decision to head on to Kandy.
From Colombo to the highlands – Kandy
We would suggest taking a Tuk-Tuk from your Hostel or Hotel to the train station (Fort Railway Station) to hop on the train to Kandy. Now, your trip starts to get exciting. You are joining Sri Lanka’s society in the train and soon flat land makes way for green hills. Welcome to Sri Lanka. Arrived in Kandy you need to start exploring Sri Lanka’s cultural capital. Here you can visit temples, enjoy the hilly landscape from viewpoints and walk around the beautiful lake in the middle of the city.
Things to do in Kandy
Visit “The Temple of Tooth”, walk around the lake, watch out for events, enjoy good coffee (in the café “The Natural Coffee” as it might be your last one in Sri Lanka), buy a SIM card and get impressed by Sri Lanka’s culture.
From Kandy to Pidurangala
In a day trip from Kandy you can reach the rock of Pidurangala. From here you can see the famous and at the same time very touristy rock of Sigiriya (The Lions Rock). Thanks to the similar size, the view from Pidurangala is still extremely impressive. As Sigiriya is one of the “hottest” tourist hotspots it’s busy and got ridicously expensive. Here you pay an entrance fee of 30€, whereas the rock from Pidurangala costs little less than one tenth. As we are always looking for less busy places (for nice photos and a relaxed time) we recommend visiting Sigiriya’s “small brother”.
From Kandy to Hatton and hiking up Adam’s Peak
If you are traveling between December and May in Sri Lanka, you have to climb Adam’s Peak. In off-season, the weather on Adam’s Peak is not suitable for the hike and due to the risk of landslides the police prohibits the ascent.
From Kandy, it goes onwards in a beautiful, two hour train ride in the direction of Hatton (100 LKR, roughly 60 Cents). After that, you need change from the relaxing train to a bus and the onwards travel will be a lot less comfortable compared to Sri Lanka wonderful trains. After two hours speeding through tea plantages you will arrive in the little village of Dalhousie. This is the best starting point for the next morning’s hike. At around 2am you should slowly start the ascent to reach the highest point just before sunrise. After this exhausting (!) hike you will get rewarded with a view, you have never seen before. For us, this view on the hills of Sri Lanka was certainly one of the most beautiful things we saw in our entire lives. For more tips on the Adam’s Peak, have a look at our Sri Lanka eBook.
Note: Try not to climb up Adam’s Peak on Sundays or Full Moon, as on these holy days the way up will take a lot longer due to crowded paths.
From Hatton to Ella
With tired legs, you will now see the most beautiful part of the train ride. The way to Ella is magical. Equally magical is the small backpacker village surrounded by tea plantages. Here you can stay a couple of days, relax and enjoy all kinds of fresh tea variations.
Things to do in Ella: If you did not get enough of hiking: A day trip to Little Adams Peak (4.5 km hike), Ella Rock hike (9km) or just visit water falls around Ella
From Ella to Sri Lanka’s coast
Now you will finally get to see Sri Lanka’s stunning beaches. We noticed, while making our way through Sri Lanka’s highland that we are rushing. Not because we did not like the highlands (we really liked it) but we even more fell in love with the countless sandy beaches. The first stop could be Tangalle or Mirissa.
For swimming and especially snorkeling we preferred Mirissa over Tangalle. Whereas we found Tangalle a bit more quite and relaxing. Both beaches are unbelievably nice. So just get yourself a hammock, a coconut and enjoy the sun. In case you want to surf, Weligama is a great place for almost every surfer. Beside soft beach breaks you will also find harsher reef breaks with powerful waves.
Our beloved Hikkaduwa
Here we started our trip and here we ended our trip. The sunsets, good food, friendly people and the warm, partially powerful waves. All that made saying goodbye to Hikkaduwa hard in the end.
Hikkaduwa is a small village with a train station and a lot of Tuk-Tuks. Even though Weligama and Medigama offer more variety of surf spots, here you can also have a lot of fun in the water and end your vacations slowly.
Things to do in Hikkaduwa
On the way to Hikkaduwa you should make a quick stop in Galle. In the beautiful colonial city, you can lock your backpacks at the train station and stroll through the old town just with a light daypack.
Among that you might visit the Tsunami museum, just to understand the extent of this catastrophe. You will see the island and especially its inhabitants differently. Despite all these heart-breaking events they always welcome you with a smile and share everything they can.
Sri Lanka Route: Wrap-up
Kandy incl. day trip to Pidurangala rock
Dalhousie, Adam’s Peak
Now your time in Sri Lanka is almost over. As we did not enjoy Colombo too much we decided to stay our last night in Negombo, which is closer to the airport, less hectic and nicer. Enjoy and safe travels!
Our two-month trip started in Mexico City. It is a huge city, with nice areas but a lot of traffic. We worked quite a lot in Mexico City, drove a lot with Uber’s and enjoyed good coffee, great food and more food. The following Mexico City travel guide will help you while preparing your trip and will give you some recommendations while you are staying in the metropolis. The travel guide will quickly discuss security, flights to Mexico City, some good restaurants and places to stay. By the way: We really liked Mexico City!
Mexico City Travel Guide – Security in Mexico City
As many people are worried about their security, we will make this our starting paragraph. First off, the most important: We didn’t have any negative experience nor felt unsafe at any time. Looking at crime reports and other statistics, what we did prior leaving Germany, you can get really worried. In the end the risk is higher to get robbed as in rural Bavaria, true, but as long as you play with the rules, you will be fine while traveling through México.
Security, as in every other big (big big) city depends on the area where you go. There are no-go areas, which you have in Berlin or in New York, too. As a tourist you will not be in these areas as there is nothing to see, as we got told. This part goes hand in hand with “Where to stay” later in the post. We got the recommendation to stay in La Colonia Roma or in Condesa, which turned out as a great area with many good restaurants and cafés with good Wifi (Our favorite: Café Dosis). But more later in our Mexico City travel guide!
We stayed in an AirBnB in Roma and organized an airport pickup. Our nice host waited outside of the airport and drove us to our accommodation for the next two weeks. This leads well into the second important thing while talking about security. We have been told not to take taxis (especially not stopping one at the street). That’s why we asked our host to pick us up and drove with Uber throughout our stay. Uber rides in Mexico City are ridiculously cheap and safe as the drivers are tracked with GPS and have star reviews.
Additionally, a friend who lives in Mexico told us that Mexican police corruption is a huge problem. Policemen can just stop you and ask you for your passport and immigration papers. As nobody wants to carry around their passport through the city, we put copies of both in a hidden bag, which we wore under our t-shirt. This might have been over-cautious but yeah.
During the day we walked around a lot and worked in cafés on the street. At night we haven’t been out a lot as we worked in our AirBnB and were really tired caused by the height. Side note here: Drinking beer on the street is illegal! So don’t do it. If you buy beer in a shop, put it in your backpack and have it at home. Other than that we took Uber when we have been out eating some of the great Tacos or zipping some Mescal.
Mexico City Travel Guide – How to come to Mexico City?
From many cities in Europe it is cheaper to fly to Cancun, the tourist hotspot in Mexico. Our trip needed to start in Mexico City as I had a couple of meetings with clients and partners, we looked for cheap flights to Mexico City. After checking Skycanner and Google Flights for a couple of weeks we found the cheapest option from Düsseldorf via Amsterdam to “Ciudad de México”. As our flight in Düsseldorf was delayed some passengers, including us got a bit worried about the connection flight. As the captain was aware of our layovers, he told us to take some shortcuts and that he will hurry up. In the end we were in less than 30 minutes’ flight in Amsterdam and easily made it. Here our tip as always: Watch error fares, we haven’t been lucky this time as on our backpacking trip through Sri Lanka and paid around 815 USD for the multi-city flights Düsseldorf – Amsterdam – Mexico City – Managua – Atlanta – Düsseldorf with Delta, operated partly from KLM.
Mexico City Travel Guide – What to bring to Mexico City (Climate)?
We have been in Mexico City in the end of January and February and the temperature varies greatly throughout the day. The mornings and evenings are pretty cold, so that you definitely need a light jacket or a cardigan. After noon it got really warm, and we walked around with long trousers and T-shirt. The pyramids of Teotihuacan were really hot and long trousers were definitely not needed but we should have used sunscreen – first sunburn, check!
Mexico City Travel Guide – Where to stay in Mexico City?
In research prior our trip we decided to take an AirBnB. This was a great way to meet some more people (as six more people stayed in the same house) and it was a cheap alternative to a hotel. Here we paid roughly 55 USD per night, split by two pretty fine.
As mentioned above the best two districts are Colonia Roma and Condesa. Luckily we stayed just on the border of both (Avenida Yucatan 14). After almost 14 days meeting clients and new partners I would say, I saw a lot of the huge metropolis and can say with confidence, that these two districts are by far the nicest ones. Uber drivers, which I annoyed with my first Spanish skills, confirmed that. So quick takeaway: Colonia Roma and Condesa are hip and upper-class districts, which are not only nice to live in but also considered as the safest ones.
Mexico City Travel Guide – Best restaurants in Mexico City
Food in Mexico, yeah that’s a topic you definitely can fill a book with. In Colonia Roma and Condesa you will not only find places that have great Mexican food such as “El Parnita” but also places with great organic food such as “Origenes Orgánicos”. A place we really liked as well was “El Pan Comido”. For having Pizza we have heard “El Perro Negro” should be good but we didn’t make it to it, due to the huge variety of good food. For getting a coffee our favorites were “Un Café”, “Milos” and most of all “Café Dosis”. Especially Café Dosis had great coffee and even better Wifi. I personally fell in love with their Macchiato con Leché – super rico!
El Pan Comido – Vegetarian food well-made
At this cute little restaurant, you get vegetarian dishes and all the one we tried have been really good. The burger was our favorite here and I did not believe that it’s meat-less. Anika had the Falafel twice, which was really good too! The owner does not serve any bottled drinks such as Coke, but the home made agua or té del dia is way better anyways. The Wifi is not as stable as in Café Dosis or other places in town but we came here for writing tasks. Other than that I used my 4G data on my mobile as a hotspot.
Note: There are two Pan Comido’s in town but we are talking about the one in Tonalá 91 in Roma. The other one should be equally good though.
El Parnita – Best Tacos we’ve had
Great restaurant with great Tacos. We liked the vegetarian ones actually better than Tacos con Pollo o Cerdo. In our case they came with Frijol (Beans) and the Mozzarella-like Oaxaca cheese and avocado. Every table has different (spicy) sauces and limes on their table to give the Tacos your last personal note. If you are in Mexico City you definitely need to go here. Just a quick heads up here: There are countless more incredible Taco places in Mexico. So, if you plan a trip to Mexico, have a look also in our in-depth article on Mexico.
Note: Among locals El Parnita is famous for its Tacos, too. So, if you go later than 3pm you better reserve a table or bring some time to wait. The kitchen is opens from 3pm until 6pm, on weekends until 7pm. The address is: Yucatán 84 Roma.
Café Dosis – Great place, great Wifi, perfect coffee
The baristas at Café Dosis already laughed when stepped into the store as we have been there quite often in during our stay in Mexico City. I worked here quite a lot and had several meetings here. The place has a great atmosphere to chill, work or just chat while having a great cup of coffee. All in all, a good place for many occasions. Café Dosis, we miss you!
Note: We were stunned by the Macchiato and the Mocha they make. You will get your daily caffeine at: Av Álvaro Obregón 24 Roma
Mexico City Travel Guide – Things to do in Mexico City
Park Chapultepec is a huge park in the north-east of Mexico City. Here you can stroll through markets, visit museums, chill out and watch traditional dancers. If you stay in Roma or Condesa you can just walk there and spend a relaxed day or discover the past of Mexico in museums. We spent a day here, had some fresh fruits and went to the National Museum of Anthropology.
National Museum of Anthropology
The entrance fee is 70 pesos per person and you will find guides in English and Spanish. If you are interested in discovering the past of Mexico and how tribes were formed and started to develop first villages, tools for hunting impressive cities in the end, you should go here.
The signs are mainly in Spanish, which is a bit annoying if you are just learning Spanish, such as I do. In the museum you can easily spend a couple of hours.
Influence of the Spanish gets really noticeable here. The old buildings from colonial times are a nice contrast to the rest of the city and worth visiting for a couple of hours. Beside some nice little cafés, you are able to do some shopping. The center is pretty busy that’s why we took it easy and relaxed an hour in a café and watched all kinds of different people passing by.
Palacio de Bellas Artes
The Palace of Fine Arts is a prominent cultural center in Mexico City’s Centro Histroico next to the Alameda Central Park. The buildings initial design and construction was done by an Italian architect in 1904. After complaints stopped the work it was resumed in 1932 by another Mexican architect.
The largest cathedral in “the Americans” is located just on top of the former Aztec sacred precinct. The cathedral was build from 1573 to 1813 (in sections). If you are in the historical center of Mexico City you will walk by the impressive building and if not in a rush it might be worth having a look inside, too.
Pyramids in Teotihuacán
The ancient ruins of Teotihuacán are located one-hour bus ride north-east of Mexico City and are one of the architecturally most significant Mesoamerican pyramids. During the first half of the first millennium, it is estimated that more than 125,000 people lived in Teotihuacán, which made it the sixth biggest city in the world, back then. When you are in Mexico City, you should definitely go to the Pyramids in Teothihuacán, we found it pretty impressive!
How to get there: Take an Uber to “Central de Autobuses del Norte”, then go to the counter at the very left and look for the sign “Teotihuacan”, buy a ticket and jump on the bus (return ticket: MX$ 60). 60 min later you will arrive at the pyramids. The way back will take, due to traffic, a couple of minutes longer.
Bookstore “El Péndulo”
You are still looking for the right book for your trip, or you bought a shitty one at the airport as I did? “El Péndulo” has a great selection of English and Spanish books. The bookstore has a nice concept where you can also buy a coffee and relax upstairs and read the first pages of a book.
Other than that there are many other things to do such as Mexico’s famous wrestling and many more sights. This post just focused on some things that might be worth doing when in this huge metropolis. Enjoy the time in “La Ciudad de México” and follow us to Puerto Escondido!
You’re planning to start your Mexico trip in the capital and you still have some questions, let us know. Also if we missed another great restaurant or bar, feel free to share it with us! We’re happy to add it to our list. Happy travels!
You are a surfer? You will love Nicaragua! It’s literally a paradise. Since I surfed the first time, Nicaragua was a dream destination for me. Now sitting in the plane back to Germany, I am thankful that I finally made it to this great country and equally sad to leave. The following article will provide you with several information to make the most of surfing in San Juan del Sur, one of the best places to surf in Nicaragua.
What you need to know about San Juan del Sur
SJDS is one of the most touristy places in Nicaragua. First that does not sound very charming but it’s understandable. It’s a pretty much perfect place for surfers. The city of San Juan itself became perceived as a party town over the last years. The Tiger Hostel hosts the biggest party in Central America every Sunday, the “Sunday Funday”. As we wanted to surf as much as possible and didn’t come to Nicaragua to party, we decided to stay close to the best and most consistent surfing beach in San Juan del Sur – Playa Maderas. Good decision!
Thanks to a huge lake in the northeast of SJDS, this area gets off-shore winds almost every day a year. The good thing about these winds is that they come from direction of the land and go off-shore, so in the direction of the ocean. That results in slow breaking waves as the wind keeps them open for a longer period. This is why surfers travel from all over the world to get here. The downside is that the wind can be really strong. It blew away my board, which resulted in $100 repairs. So be smart and put your board beneath the porch of the beach restaurants and put a weight or two on it. Secondly, the water gets colder the stronger the wind gets as the wind pushes the warm water out. I never thought I would be jealous of people wearing a wetsuit in Nicaragua. But who cares about coldish water when you can paddle simply breath-taking waves?
There are five daily shuttles leaving from Hostel Casa Oro in town to Playa Maderas. The first one leaves at 8am and the last one returns at 6pm “Nica time” from the beach. That could also mean at 6:10 or 6:20pm but nobody is stressed anyways. The price for this trip is $5 for a return ticket.
Prices in San Juan del Sur
You might remember that I wrote “pretty much perfect place”. Yes, not entirely perfect as Nicaragua, especially the more touristy areas are not as dirt cheap as anticipated. Actually we paid European prices for a lot of things. Especially coming from Mexico we were not used to pay amounts as back home. To get a feeling, here’s a list on what we’ve paid in the area around SJDS.
Surfboard per day: $10
Surf lessons: Around $30
Beach Shuttle per day: $5
Main dish lunch: $6
Tip: A great and significantly cheaper option to get lunch in town is the restaurant “La Lancha”, which is mainly visited by locals. Great “Mariscos” and delicious “Pollo a la Plancha”, de verdad!
Surfboard rental in San Juan del Sur
If you are not traveling with your own board you are dependent on surfboard rentals. At the beaches around San Juan del Sur you will find many shops that offer boards for $10 per day. You can leave them overnight at the beach, which makes your life easy as you do not need to carry them around. The big downside here: The board you rented the previous day, can be gone in the next morning and you need to get used to another board. The majority of the boards are not in the very best condition, got repaired a hundred times and are either too short or too big for your specific needs. The one I was looking for, was never in stock and when I asked for recommendations which board to surf, every board was a great board for me. So no real advice here. That resulted in frustration as I got a board which was too short for me and catching waves has been a lot harder.
A surf instructor I talked to recommended to rent boards at “Casa Oro” in town (the hostel where all shuttles leave and you are likely to arrive anyways). They have a great variation of boards at the same price at a significantly higher quality. Be prepared to leave your passport or credit card as a deposit. Feels wrong, but often it’s often required.
Sharing what I got told: The right board for you is the board you catch most waves with. You need to have a high frequency of waves in order to improve. Don’t go too short too fast!
Surfing at Playa Maderas – Great for intermediates
Just thinking about it, gives goosebumps. I fell in love with this beach and it was definitely the best surf spot I surfed so far. The long, pretty much sandy beach (a couple of rocks are here and there) offers a great variety on lefts and rights. Due to the moving sand below the water, waves are always breaking on slightly different places. Sometimes you will see more surfers on the left hand side, and five minutes later all of them are paddling to the right or vice versa. This in combination with a high frequency of more or less perfect waves, you will paddle a lot. After one hour I caught at least six waves, paddled let’s say nine and paddled out hectically twice as a bigger set was about to hit me. The mentioned offshore wind kept the waves open longer than I have ever seen before and it felt like a slow motion wave. When you made your way over a wave that didn’t break yet, the offshore wind blew water in your face. Amazing feeling!
Even when it got crowded not all surfers hang on one spot as many different waves break. That makes surfing very enjoyable. Less competition, no over-crowded line-ups and plenty of waves for everybody.
Surf tip: If you are an intermediate surfer as I am, position yourself in the inside section as you will catch more waves here. Just watch out for the bigger sets. They are likely to break behind you :) So either paddle out, duck dive or crocodile roll you out of the “danger-zone” but in the end one or two bigger ones will hit you.
Where to stay in San Juan del Sur
Before traveling to Nicaragua we researched a lot and found great articles on San Juan del Sur. The main question we had was whether we should stay in town or closer to one of the beaches while backpacking in Nicaragua. The answer heavily depends on what you want to do. As we wanted to relax and surf, staying at the beach was the best decision. If you want to go out and meet backpackers from all over the world, the city might be a better option for you.
Staying in town – Casa Oro
Many people we have met stayed in Casa Oro* really liked the vibe here. It offers clean dorm rooms for $10 including a good breakfast and water refill. The big plus here is a very central location and shuttles to the beaches that just leave at your doorstep. As already mentioned in the article Casa Oro also offers surf boards.
We stayed at Casa Maderas* and got a private room for 39 Dollars per night. Shared by two, completely fine. The place, an exhausting ten-minute walk (hill up and down) or a three-minute shuttle ride (included in the rate for the rooms here) away from Playa Maderas, also offers dorm rooms for $13. Casa Maderas has great facilities such as a pool where you can enjoy a Nica-Mule, Nicaragua’s answer to Moscow-Mule, at night or wash off the salty water from your skin. We really enjoyed our stay.
The downside of this hostel is that it does not offer a fridge for backpackers or a shared kitchen. Due to that you are always depended on the kitchen, which will get expensive on the long run. The food is good but not very much, especially after surfing I could have eaten way more and the prices are more European than Mexican.
Close to Casa Maderas, also just a view minutes walk from the famous surf beach Playa Maderas you will find Clandestino*. The hostel offers cabanas (double room with shared bathrooms $20) and dorm rooms ($15) in the jungle. Water refill, coffee and Wifi are included in the rate. Friends stayed there and loved it. So definitely recommended for travelers who look for a cool place very close to San Juan’s best surfing beach.
So, all in all Nicaragua is more expensive than we expected but an amazing country! The waves make me come back at some stage. Better sooner than later. For a longer stay a hostel with a kitchen and a shared fridge would be a must-have. For a short time being dependent on the kitchen is fine and frankly speaking quite comfortable.
You have some more tips on surfing in San Juan del Sur? Leave a comment and let us know!
*Affiliate-Link: When you book via this link we will receive a small commission. But don’t worry, there won’t be any additional costs for you.
The pyramids of Mexico City or actually correct “Pyramids of Teotihuacán” are mysterious ancient ruins located 40 kilometers (25mi) northeast of Mexico City. They count as one of the most architecturally significant Mesoamerican pyramids built in the pre-Columbian America. The so called City of the Gods will amaze you with impressive constructions. So, if you are more than two days in the capital, the pyramids of Mexico City should be on your list.
The complex is hold together from the “Avenue of Death”, which could be called a wide, 2.5 mile long sandy street that connects the two main buildings the Pyramid of the Moon and the Pyramid of the Sun. The mentioned Pyramid of the Sun stands out as the biggest pyramid of all in the archaeological complex. You can climb up all 243 steps and have a great view on the other ancient ruins. During our stay at Teotihuacán we climbed the Pyramid of the Moon, as we wanted to enjoy the view on the huge pyramid beside it, the Avenue of Dead and additionally we were quite lazy due to extreme heat.
When you climb down the stairs of the Pyramid of the Moon you will see “Quetzalpapalotl” (divine butterfly) to your right, where you can see another great archaeological zone with well-preserved cravings. Have a look and just think of the insane amount of work, people put in this artwork.
History of Teotihuacán
This mysterious place was formed between 150 BC and 200 AD and benefited greatly from its plentiful water supply. The largest structures at the site were completed before the 3rd century CE. In the 4th century the population peaked with up to 200,000 inhabitants, which made it the sixth biggest city in the world.
Due to the water system (Chinampa) the constructors built, floods filled the fields and various fruits and vegetables were able to grow. These vegetables were grown and sold or exported by the citizens. At its peak time the city most likely controlled – with their feared – warriors vast parts of the Mexican highlands. Around 600 a fire destroyed the city but the pyramides remained populated for a century or two, until it got fully abandoned for mysterious reasons.
While traveling we talked to many Mexican people about the potential reasons. The most reasonable theory is a dry period that ruined their fields and the lack of drinking water made the inhabitants flee their impressive home.
Further infos for the Pyramids in Mexico City
Besides the very interesting history there are some things which might be good to know. The following will cover tour guides, the price and some camera equipment questions.
Tour guides for the Pyramids of Mexico City
As in almost any ancient place you can get tour guides in a lot of different languages. Most likely the tours will provide you with a lot of interesting insights of the history. Here and there we sneaked into some tours and listened for a couple of minutes and it sounded really interesting. As we were on a quite long trip through Mexico and Nicaragua we cannot start taking tours in any sight we visit without spending a fortune on the long run. To get a better picture of the pyramid complex and to picture scenes from earlier times while standing on top of the pyramid in the roasting heat we just watched a documentary a night prior our half-day trip.
Through this you get a big picture why and how it was built and abandoned without spending money on a tour guide.
Price and Camera Equipment
The entrance fee is 70 pesos (USD$3.50). The website says, camera equipment costs extra and would be controlled at the entrance. We have not been controlled and everybody we were in a queue with just paid 70 pesos. Additionally, we have heard that “professional equipment” needs to be registered at an official ministry in Mexico City. As we carried an Xiaomi Yi Action cam with us, a selfie stick, a Nikon DSLR with two lenses and a stand, we have been a bit worried. We have not been asked at the entrance and nobody else had a problem at the entrance. So, we would say – all good. Bring your camera equipment and take some nice photos.
How to get to the Pyramids of Teotihuacán
Getting there is pretty easy and takes approximately 1.5 hours from the city center of Mexico City. In our Mexico City travel guide we already recommended taking Uber for various reasons. You hop on an Uber, drive to “Station de Autobuses del Norte”, go to the counter at the very left and buy a ticket (50 pesos) to the pyramides. The bus will take you to the main entrance of Teotihuacán, which roughly takes 45 minutes.
If it somehow suits your busy travel schedule, try not to go on Sundays. Here, the entrance fee is free of charge for Mexicans thus the Pyramids of Mexico City can get pretty crowded.
Side Note: Try to be there early. Even though Mexico City was not very hot in January it became really hot during the day at the pyramids of Mexico City. Sunscreen might be a good idea too. We got our first sunburn in one hour on the pyramids.
Turquoise water, white, powdery beaches beneath your feet and background noise that solely consists of birds? On the Caribbean Island Isla Holbox you will find exactly this paradise feeling. Holbox Island is the perfect place to close your eyes, listen to the sound of the ocean and relax. To make your stay even better, we bundled some helpful tips around the hidden gem of Mexico.
Isla Holbox. A little Caribbean Island 15-minute ferry ride from the Yucatán peninsula, approximately 27 miles long and only 1.2 miles wide. Literally a little paradise island. The name comes from the Mayan language and means translated “Black Hole”. You will not encounter any disturbing car sounds as the only means of transportation are bikes, golf cars and scooters. Beside a couple of trucks which deliver food and drinks you will not see any cars. What you definitely will encounter is a long coast with crystal clear water and palm trees as far as you can see. Here and there you will spot some pelicans sitting on a wooden stake looking for a snack. Time to switch your personal relax mode on.
How to get to Isla Holbox?
The island is located in the north of the Yucatan peninsula. Basically, you have two options to get to to Isla Holbox, from which one is quite costly.
Reach Isla Holbox by plane
This is a pretty costly, but probably also a pretty cool option. Aerosaab offers private flights departing from Playa del Carmen, Cozumel and Cancun. Leaving the island is possible to the mentioned cities and additionally Tulum. Here you have the choice between five-person propeller plane and a slightly bigger plane which can accommodate up to 13 passengers. Prices vary between USD $450 and $522 depending on if you pay in cash or not. This price is per plane. If you are eager to arrive in Isla Holbox by air, just visit this site.
Reach Isla Holbox by ferry
The most common way to reach Isla Holbox is the ferry. Arriving with the bus in Chiquila you just continue walking to the harbor where you will be welcomed with the words “feeeeery tickets?”. Here you can just buy a one-way ticket, which costs 140 Pesos per person. Here you can find ferry schedules to Isla Holbox (mostly half hourly, first ferry departs at 5am).
Tip: If you travel with a rental car you can park it in Chiquila directly at the harbor for 6 US-Dollars per day.
Prices on Isla Holbox
Compared to the rest of Mexico, especially Oaxaca and Chiapas, you should be clear that Isla Holbox is more expensive. Here a short list to get a feeling on what to spend.
Sleeping in a Hammock: 10 USD
Hostel: 30-50 USD
Apartment: ca. 50-70 USD
AirBnB: 50 USD and more
Resort: 250 USD
Traditional Food: Fish ca. 11-13 USD
European / Western Food: 7 USD and more
Cocktails: ca. 5 USD
Bike rental: ca. 2 USD per hour | ca. 10 USD per day
Golfcarts rental: ca. 50 USD per day
Where to stay in Isla Holbox?
As soon as you leave the ferry you will notice that the main ways of transportation are bikes and golf carts. As you are quite likely carrying a lot of baggage, just hop on a cart and enjoy the first ride on this little paradise.
Beach vs. Town As in every other destination you will find accommodations in very different price categories. Now you face the question: “Hotel or Hostel”? Are you willing to spend more money for a fancy place directly at the beach or would something cheaper and less fancy suit your budget better?
Hostels & Camping
For backpackers, hostels are normally the go-to place. While staying in a hostel you save valuable money for you onwards journey. The cheapest possibilities to stay on Isla Holbox are:
While booking we actually expected a hostel but without knowing we got an apartment. In the end it was a tiny bit more expensive than a hostel but for fours nights a great place to stay and still did not ruin us financially, as the bill was split by two. Apart from that, hostels are not too cheap either on the island.
Credits: Casa Frida Holbox
We chose Casa Frida*. The accommodation is located close to the ferry, not directly at the beach but within a five minute walk you will be in the lukewarm ocean. For us this was the perfect alternative to an overpriced accommodation directly at the beach. We had a big kitchen, in which we could prepare our own meals – which is also great to save some bucks – a great shower and very comfortable bed with air conditioning. So definitely more than enough! Casa Frida has five apartments, a little garden and some hammocks where you can relax while reading a book in the shade.
You will not be welcomed by a receptionist, as there is no reception but from a friendly letter with your name written on. We were positively surprised when we stepped in our three room apartment. Apart from the above mentioned you will also find fresh towels, organic shampoo and conditioner in a simply great and clean place. Perhaps you can tell already, we were super delighted.
Price per night for 2 people: 60 USD
AirBnB If you have a look on AirBnB you will find many accommodations. Prices start at 40 bucks per night.
Especially at the beach you will find many hotels and resorts with private beaches. The prices obviously exceed hostels or apartments in town by far. If you are willing to spend a couple of bucks more, check these out:
Tip: Book your accommodation in Isla Holbox a few days, or even better a few weeks, in advance as it is often quite busy. According to the Holboxeños there is no low season anymore and thus often fully booked.
Best food on Isla Holbox
On Mexico’s little paradise island, you will find countless restaurant and cafes. Some are very present, others more hidden in a side road. Here a few food recommendations.
Breakfast is not included in your hostel? This French bakery offers everything what you crave for after getting out of bed. From nice coffee to huge fruit platters and fresh croissants – you will be served well for sure.
Café El Encanto
The rustic Café “El Encanto” is located on a “roof-topesque” terrace on the first floor. Beside a great view it offers a nice atmosphere which can be perfectly enjoyed together with your daily dose of caffeine. The small café was surprisingly closed every time when we wanted to
go up, so you need to test your luck and just pop in.
Tierra y Mar Juice & Coffee
The tiny café on the sandy street invites to chill with a café or a smoothie. A perfect place to watch the happening and observe all the different people passing by. Definitely try the smoothies.
Casa de Tortilla Espanola
This Tortilleria offers a great distraction to all the Tacos and fish – Spanish omelet. On the menu you will find various different egg variations, with many different ingredients. So you will find something whatever you are in the mood for. After this little culinary excursion you will get super excited for the next Tacos, promised :)
El Taco Gordo
Speaking of Tacos! El Taco Gordo (engl.: “The Fat Taco”) has some really good Tacos. Their Tacos “Al Pastor” are definitely our favorite on Isla Holbox. The best of all: One of the cheapest restaurants we have found on Isla Holbox. Amazing! The Tacos come either with Maiz (corn) or Harina (wheat) tortillas.
The small family-owned restaurant offers a great variety on Mexican food. From tostadas to sandwiches to tacos and soups with meat or suitable for vegetarians. At “La Sirenita” everybody will get a full belly. The restaurant just opens in the evening.
Ukulele unites good food and sport events. The wide restaurant is split in two areas. Downstairs you can enjoy fancy hamburgers or vegetarian food and upstairs you can chill with a beer watching NHL, NFL or Champions League.
You will first notify the greenish bully from “Et Voilá”. The restaurant offers some seats close to the street and also has some possibilities to eat and listen to live music in a yard. We had baguettes with meat and many vegetables, which was really good. The band played some amazing music which made it quite easy for us to sit and relax.
Raices Beach Club
“Raicies” is basically located on the beach and offers a great variety of fresh fish and fruity cocktails. Especially the fish with garlic was super yummy. So if you are into fish, definitely have a look at the menu.
You are looking for something a bit fancier as you have a special occasion? Then “Milpa” is most likely the best place for you. It offers finest Mexican cuisine and you will be able to choose from many different meat, fish or sea fruit meals. The stylish restaurant is nothing for a quick visit but more a place to spend a bit of time. We have heard the best about the Bourbon Caribeño-Cocktail, which is a mixture of Jack Daniels, banana, peach and pineapple juice.
Prices for main dishes start around 200 Pesos.
Shopping on Isla Holbox
Leather bags, colorful beach towels and jewelry. The island offers a few options to buy souvenirs for your friends or yourself but everything is quite costly and a lot of vendors or stores offer very similar things. Having that said, here are two of our favorite stores.
The small fashion store has some great dresses and shirts for women to sell. Other than that, they also offer nice beach fashion. If you fall in love with one of the hand-made cardigans there is just one issue: It’s quite costly (USD$ 50+), especially for people who travel for more than a couple of days and need to watch where to spend their money. But “We Love” is the go to place to treat yourself. Beside the nice and quite costly clothes they also sell beautiful bracelets, which might be a nice souvenir or something for yourself, where you can think of the good time you had in Mexico.
A beautiful little boutique with stuff you do not see every day. Besides beach wear they also have perfumes and jewelry. Definitely worth checking out.
Activities on Isla Holbox
Traveling to an Island always comes with relaxation. You might want to forget everything around you? Then a massage at the beach might be the right fit for you.
Besides all the relaxation the island also offers some sporty activities such as snorkeling, cycling or stand-up paddling. We fell in love with the bike rental, got a bike for a couple of hours, explored the island on two wheels and enjoyed the sunset. Through this you can relax and do some sport at the same time.
As well as that, you can learn kite-surfing. On Isla Holbox you will find two possibilities. Personally we did not try kite surfing on Isla Holbox but just watching the surfers has been a lot of fun. If you are not into kite surfing, just rent a snorkel and go on a trip. Unfortunately, we have not been in the “right” time on Isla Holbox but from May to September you can see the impressive whale sharks while snorkeling. If you are at Isla Holbox in this time, please go for a trip and share the photos with us.
Tip: On this page you are always in the loop with upcoming events. Yoga classes, salsa dance, live music, and much more. You will definitely find something suitable for you!
Good to know
Besides three pharmacies – Utstal, Farmacia Jessy and Farmacia Pepe – the island also has a health center (Centro de Salud). If you need to see a doctor or a pharmacy just ask someone on the street, people are happy to help with directions.
Leaving Isla Holbox
As mentioned above, you have two possibilities to leave the island. Either with a plane or the more economical option, via ferry. If you decide for a ferry, you can check departure times here.
We hope you enjoyed our insights for Isla Holbox and you liked it as much as we liked Mexico’s hidden gem. If we missed out on something or you want to share your experiences with us, please leave a comment. Have fun in the Caribbean.
Backpacking in México - together with wavesnbackpack - YouTube