I underestimated Mexico.
I scheduled a five-week trip with few expectations, but quickly discovered it wasn't nearly enough time.
My itinerary took me from Puerto Vallarta on the Pacific coast, through the capital of Mexico City, to Cancun and the famed Riviera Maya.
Here's a look back at the stories and photos from my biggest adventure of 2013, broken up by region.
I began my trip in Puerto Vallarta because I wanted to visit my friends Christine and Drew Gilbert.
As luck would have it, another friend and Shannon O'Donnell, was wrapping up a three-month stay in San Pancho. Shannon was recently named National Geographic's 2013 Traveler of the Year.
A week after arriving in PV, it was time to strike off on my own. I had a G Adventures tour to join in Mexico City, but wanted to see a little of Mexico's second largest city along the way.
This is where I kicked off my run of 12 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, starting with a tequila tour.
- Scenes from Guadalajara's Historic City Center
- Hospicio Cabanas, and the Murals of Jose Clemente Orozco (UNESCO)
- Tequila Tour: Agave Landscape and the Industrial Facilities of Tequila (UNESCO)
Mexico City was overwhelming, not just in size, but in things to do.
I crammed as much as I could do into my three days, including a fantastic lunch at one of the world's top restaurants, and visits to three UNESCO World Heritage Sites in a single day (not recommended).
Mexico City is one of the few mega-sized Latin capitals where I'd like to go back and spend more time.
- The Central Campus at Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico (UNESCO)
- Architect Luis Barragan's House and Studio (UNESCO)
- The Time I was Ripped Off By a Taxi in Mexico
- Pujol Restaurant: The Best Mexican Food on the Planet
- Casa Azul: The Former Home and Studio of Frida Kahlo
- Teotihuacan: The Ancient Pyramids of a Lost Civilization (UNESCO)
- 48 Hours in Mexico City (UNESCO, G Adventures blog)
Puebla was the first stop on my Ancient Civilizations tour with G Adventures.
The highlight was playing Cards Against Humanity for the first time, followed by watching live Mexican wrestling.
- Discovering Puebla's Historic City Center (UNESCO, G Adventures blog)
- Lucha Libre: Monday Night Wrestling
Oaxaca was all about the food for me, and I couldn't get enough of the moles. I could've spent a few weeks here, eating my way through every restaurant menu.
- A Taste of Oaxaca
- Top 10 Things to Do in Oaxaca (UNESCO)
- Visual Adventure: Oaxaca, Mexico (G Adventures blog)
San Cristobal de las Casas
The highlight of San Cristobal de las Casas was the Mayan village tour, and specifically, the church and religious practices of the residents in San Juan Chamula.
So many ruins, so little time. I struck off from my group on a few occasions to see less-visited ruins like Monte Alban near Oaxaca, and Uxmal south of Merida. As a result of the latter, I never did visit a cenote (underground pool).
- Palenque (UNESCO)
- Uxmal (UNESCO)
- Chichen Itza (UNESCO)
- Top 5 Archaeological Ruins Between Mexico City and Playa del Carmen (UNESCO, G Adventures blog)
The group tour finished in Playa del Carmen, a town I was evaluating as a potential place to camp out and work for a few months at a time.
I loved Playa, but I think it may be best reserved as a vacation spot, which is the same way I think ok Thailand. I managed a day trip to Cozumel, and overnight trip to Tulum, before finishing my trip with some fun activities in Cancun.
- Playa del Carmen: Fish Tacos and First Impressions
- Cozumel Day Trip: An Afternoon at Playa Palancar
- Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve (UNESCO)
- Snorkeling with Whale Sharks in Cancun
- Exotic Rides Cancun: Racing a Ferrari F430
- Swimming with Dolphins on Isla Mujeres
- Exploring Mexican Cuisine, One Taco at a Time (G Adventures blog)
Overall, I had a fantastic time in Mexico, and despite all I've seen and written, I know there's much more to the country.
I can even picture myself living there one day.