Monday, 23 January 2012

Mexican Celebrations: Part One- Dia De Los Muertos

Mexico is a country that is very near and dear to my heart. I have spent so much time there and I could write forever about the warm people, captivating historical sites, the delicious food, the beautiful beaches...well you get the picture.

I recently had an enquiry from a client who wanted to travel to Mexico to experience Dia De Los Muertos or in English, Day of the dead. This is a holiday celebrated throughout Mexico and around the world in other Latin American cultures. The Mexican people celebrate this day by paying homage to their loved ones who have passed away. Traditionally they celebrate by building altars to honor the dead. They build these altars using marigolds, sugar skulls, and the favourite foods and drinks of the deceased. Next they visit the gravesite where their loved one is buried and they bring the altars they have made, and offer it as a gift. This holiday is celebrated at the beginning of November, which is probably the only time of year that I haven't travelled to Mexico, so I had to do some research.

I wasn't even sure what part of Mexico my client should be in to participate in the celebrations, so I decided to ask some advice from a good friend of mine, Mark Winter. Mark told me, "(this year) the Dia de Los Muertos is on November 2nd 2012. It is celebrated throughout Mexico in all of the zocalos in the major cities."(zocalos are a public square, usually in the city centre). Mark continues, "the celebrations in the state of Michoacan are especially colorful and 100% traditional. They have great celebrations in the riviera of the Patzcuaro Lake at Ihuatzio and Cucuchucho towns as well as the other Pueblitos around the lake." (A pueblito is essentially a little community)

The problem is that Mexico's huge drug war is especially bad in the state of Michoacan, and it's not a place that I would even send my worst enemy! Mark expressed this concern to me as well, and advised me that I might want to instead send my client to Mexico City where they also have a big celebration.

Aaah Mexico City, a gigantic hustling and bustling metropolis. The first time I flew to Mexico City it was at night and I was gob-smacked by the seemingly never ending lights; this city is monstrous. The Zocalo in Mexico City is a huge square, surrounded by buildings and a very large cathedral (Catedral Metrapolitana de la Asuncion de Maria) A gigantic Mexican flag waves in the middle - a reminder that this very spot was once the ancient marshland where the Aztecs decided to build their capital city; Tenochtitlan.

Flights: Travelling from Western Canada to Mexico city, you should budget approximately $525-$860 depending on the time of year, how far in advance you book, and the airline.  There are several airlines that fly there; Air Canada has a direct flight from Vancouver which is nice because you won't have to stop in the U.S.A.  Other airlines have connections in destinations like Phoenix, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Chicago, and San Francisco.

Transportation from the Airport:When you arrive in Mexico City, as soon as you come through customs and pick up your luggage there is a little booth to buy a ticket for the taxi.  After you purchase your ticket for the taxi you will walk out to the right where the line of taxis awaits.  If you are not confident that you will be able to purchase tickets (in Spanish) for a taxi, you can also pre-book hotel transfers with Grayline.  One way shared shuttle transfers are $27, or if you want to get fancy, you can book a private car transfer for $284!

Hotels: I know of an excellent hotel that I can recommend to my customer, The Best Western Majestic. I have stayed here before and I love this hotel because it is right at the zocalo. The rooms are clean and I can always find great rates with my travel suppliers. It has a beautiful rooftop restaurant with panoramic views of the zocalo; a great spot to enjoy a leisurely breakfast. This hotel would work well for my customer, but I would not recommend it to someone with mobility issues as there are lots of stairs to climb. The hotel rates at the Best Western Majestic are typically around $85 USD per night.

Packages: Air Canada Vacations offers air and hotel packages to Mexico City.  A 7 night package, staying at the hotel mentioned above, starts at $750 plus taxes per person from Vancouver, and $980 plus taxes from Edmonton, Calgary, and Kelowna.

Day Tours: Without straying too much from the topic of travelling to Mexico City during Dia De Los Muertos, I cannot in good conscience write about travelling to this destination without letting you know about some "must see" day tours.  One of my absolute favourite tours is the "Teotihuacan Pyramids and Shrine of Guadalupe"  I usually book this tour with Viator, and the cost is $37.99 USD for the 7 hour tour.  It includes pick up and drop off from your hotel.  For full details of the tour please visit: 
Fully Guided Tours:  If you do not speak any Spanish, you may find Mexico City a little difficult to navigate.  This is not your typical Mexican-beach-resort vacation where everyone speaks English.  In this case, you may want to book a guided tour instead of traveling on your own. For a basic no-frills tour, Intrepid Travel offers a great 15 day tour called Mexico Unplugged. It starts in Mexico City, and then visits several colonial cities and historic sites. The tour culminates on the beach in Playa del Carmen. The cost for this tour is $1045 per person and includes transportation, 13 nights hotel, and sightseeing. It does not include any meals, so budget around $300 for food.  You will find the full-itinerary here:

If you have any questions about travel products you have seen here, or would like to enquire about booking a trip, please e-mail me at

Stay tuned for my next blog post - Mexican Celebrations Part Two: Oaxaca - Dia De Los Muertos and La Guelaguetza

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