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DF, Mexico City and Outlying Areas

Region 8: Mexico City and Surrounding Areas

Related MedToGo Articles: Reviewed Cities:

This region includes Mexico City and ranges from Veracruz on the Atlantic coast to Acapulco on the Pacific coast. A transportation hub, it is the most densely populated area in Mexico. Its population spans both privilege and poverty, and offers a fairly up-to-date communications system. The region comprises the small state of Morelos, to the south of Mexico City; the large and rugged Pacific state of Guerrero to the south and southwest; the large inland state of Puebla to the east; Veracruz state, still farther east on the Gulf; and the state of Oaxaca, in the southeast of the country on the way to Chiapas.

Mexico City, known in the country both as México and as “DF” (for Distrito Federal or Federal District), is one of the most populous cities in the world. It is notorious for escalating violent crime, traffic tangles, and air pollution, although the latter has seen notable improvements over the last decade. With a high cost of living compared to most other Mexican cities, it is also the nation’s cultural and financial epicenter, where huge numbers of shanty towns on the periphery—especially to the east—contrast with the nation’s finest museums and wealthiest neighborhoods.

Cuernavaca, the capital of the state of Morelos, has long been appreciated for its climate of “eternal spring.” Founded by Aztec emperors who built palaces and botanical gardens here, the area now invites wealthy U.S. citizens, such as Woolworth heiress Barbara Hutton, to build mansions in its balmy climes. It is now best known to foreign visitors for its exceptional weather, colonial architecture, universities, and language schools. Droves of international students converge on Cuernavaca yearly to study Spanish and immerse themselves in Mexican culture. Over the years Cuernavaca’s population has slowly grown, as many wealthy city dwellers began to tire of big city life.

Puebla is a stately and exquisitely preserved colonial city, the fourth-largest in the country. Just over an hour’s drive from the capital, it is cosmopolitan, conservative, wealthy, and efficient as well as elegant, artistic, historic, and quaint. World-renowned for its cathedrals, colonial architecture, talavera ceramics and, mole poblano (a sort of chocolate curry sauce with nuts), it is for many tourists, especially seniors, the ideal inland Mexican city close to the actual capital.

Veracruz, site of vicious pirate raids in the sixteenth century and awash with romantic, marine history, is a leading port and an attractive coastal, Spanish colonial enclave. So far it draws mostly Mexican tourists, but foreigners who visit the city and state are immediately impressed by their characteristic warmth and easygoing welcome. Four hours drive east of Mexico City, its nostalgic, sensual appeal is a magnet for music lovers, lovers of regional cuisine, and seafaring culture, with a dash of tropical humor and insouciance. Xalapa, the state capital of Veracruz, is a beautiful university town full of tradition and only about an hour’s drive northwest.

Three hundred miles south of Mexico City, and a five-hour drive, is the internationally recognized colonial settlement of Oaxaca (“wah-ha-ka”). A U.N. World Heritage Site, this is the apex of Mexico’s cultural tourism, regularly mentioned in the top ten of Condé Nast Traveler’s best cities in the world. Oaxaca’s archeological sites, art colony, world-class museums and art galleries, splendid regional cuisine, town markets, and vibrant and visible indigenous communities have made it one of the great success stories of Mexican tourism.

Paradoxically, the state of Oaxaca is one of the country’s poorest and even the capitol, Oaxaca City, remains surprisingly isolated, both in transport access and medical facilities. The state’s beach destinations on the Pacific coast (quick to fly to, but interminable distances by mountain roads, although new highways are being completed at this time) are Puerto Escondido, Puerto Angel, and the Bahías de Huatulco. Puerto Escondido, a surf ’n’ sun paradise, has a significant and growing foreign community and is a major draw for younger North American tourists in particular.

Legendary Acapulco, with the beautiful deep-water bay of Santa Lucia fringed by the forested hills at the edge of the Sierra Madre, was one of the continent’s first tourist beach resorts, dating back to the 1930’s. Made famous in the fifties and sixties by Hollywood stars, from John Wayne to Liz Taylor, its sumptuous reputation was kept alive by the international jet set until the mid-eighties, when the international success of Cancún began to take its toll. As it is only four miles by car from the capital in the state of Guerrero, most of its tourists today are Mexican, but North Americans and “spring breakers” come every year to enjoy its unique fun-loving ambiance and warm weather.

Zihuatanejo—also in Guerrero state—is an ancient settlement, former fishing village, and picturesque bay resort, about a three-hour drive north from Acapulco. Now coupled with the neighboring open-sea resort of Ixtapa, this is an appealing destination that draws foreign visitors and some cruise ships, along with American entrepreneurs and seasonal visitors. It has become a welcoming, scenic and sunny spot for visitors.

Taxco is a charming, colonial silver-mining town carved out of the mountains just under three-hours drive southeast of Mexico City. This is Guerrero’s inland jewel, brimming with tradition and ornate or mysterious churches and chapels. Tourists visit primarily for the numerous silver shops lining its narrow streets, filled with shoppers seeking a variety of unique jewelry and hand-crafted artwork.

Mexico City & Outlying Areas – Safety

Although Mexico City calls for specific safety considerations (see the city introduction), this region, large and varied, requires visitors to be well-informed about each destination and act appropriately. High-spirited and unguarded behavior tend not to be encouraged in residential inland destinations such as Cuernavaca and Puebla, while tourist revelry is expected and accepted in beach resorts such as Acapulco, Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo, and Puerto Escondido.

Outside Mexico City, foreign visitors need not be concerned about major crimes, but should be alert to price inflation and pickpockets. In Morelos especially be sure to take taxis only from reliable taxi stands (sitios). On a positive note, visitors to Veracruz and Oaxaca may be surprised by the generosity of street vendors and shoppers, and enjoy their unconditional hospitality.

Heavy winds, called “El Norte,” occur in the winter months and are normal on the Gulf Coast near Veracruz. Although rarely a cause for concern, they do require that you prepare for winds and rain by keeping a change of clothes and extra dry footwear with you.

Tropical storms or cyclones take place during the summer on the Pacific coast for brief periods every year. Visitors should not worry, but if rains are heavy (usually they last only two hours) it is advisable to wait until road flooding has subsided before continuing on a journey. Hotels and locals who are familiar with road conditions are always forthcoming with advice. It may help to remember that this is part of normal life in the tropics.

Thanks to an underwater canyon formed by the convergence of tectonic plates, the waves off Puerto Escondido’s Zicatela Beach are magnified to massive proportions. This, along with a heavy sand-bottom barrel and clusters of surfers battling for waves, has made it extremely dangerous—and at times, deadly. Swimmers and inexperienced surfers should stay out of the water.

Testimonial » view all

Dr. Greig completed a total knee replacement on my right knee in Puerta Vallarta, Mexico on April 4, 2014. Logistics and coordination for the surgery was done by Robert Page with MedToGo in Phoenix, Arizona.

The entire experience, for me, was outstanding. Dr. Greig’s skill, professionalism, and very personable manner resulted in an excellent result. With a lot of help from Adriana, Dr.

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Don Anderson - Total Knee Replacement Testimonial