Friday 22 September 2017

Mexico - need to know

GETTING THERE

Trailfinders (01 6777 888; trailfinders.ie) has a fare of €745 return flying from Dublin via Amsterdam to Mexico City. This includes taxes.

STAYING THERE

Flat broke: The 200-year old Casa de los Abuelos, once owned by a Dominican priest, feels wonderfully authentic and has a great central location. The familyrun business offers six studio apartments with cooking facilities starting at €30 (0052 951 516 1982; casadelosabuelos.net). Minding the pennies: Ogle the art and gorge on the gastronomy at this sevenroom boutique hotel with a refreshing little pool too. Price per room including breakfast begins at €130 (0052 951 514 4173; casaoaxaca.com) Sky’s the limit: With nine sumptuous thatched villas, a great seaside location and staff that spoil you, Casa Bichu is a truly romantic and luxurious option. Prices from €220 (0052 322 221 2277; mexicoboutiquehotels.com/ casabichu).

WHEN TO GO

June to September is the rainy season, so you’ll get more space to yourself, but the coast can be stormy. December and January are the hottest (30°C) and driest months. Winter (between October and April) is driest. Temperatures peak between March and May (above 30°C). The Day of the Dead festivities in late October and Easter weekend see a spike in tourism, but are fun weekends to be in the city.

FIVE GREAT THINGS TO DO

Roam the ancient Zapotec city of Monte Alban and learn about its rich 2,500 years of history. Frequent buses leave from Oaxaca to Monte Alban (€2) and the site is open 9am to 5pm. Entry is €2 and around €15 for an English-speaking guide.

Visit the remote Zapotec village cooperatives — Pueblos Mancomunados in the forested highlands and hike or horse ride through the magical cloud forests. Expediciones Sierra Norte, based in Oaxaca, offer wellorganised trips starting at €10 a day (0052 951 514 8271; sierranorte.org.mx/home).

Learn to cook Oaxacan style, starting with a day picking out local ingredients at the market with chef Alejandro Ruiz, who will teach you how to put them together back at Casa Oaxaca (€90; email reservaciones@ casaoaxaca.com.mx). They also offer an Oaxacan art and cooking course, including gallery visits and meeting local artists.

Visit the ecotourism cooperative at Playa Ventanilla and release baby turtles into the ocean. Servicios Ecoturísticos La Ventanilla — located under a palapa by the beach — offers one-and-a-half-hour tours for €2.50, and most hotels will arrange their own, too.

Learn to surf at the worldclass beaches of Puerto Escondido, including the legendary surf break known as the Mexican Pipeline, which reaches 12m at its biggest. Several schools in the fishing town offer lessons for beginners with a ‘no stand, no pay’ policy.

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