Immerse yourself in the complex cultural identity of Mexico City, where pre-Hispanic, colonial, and contemporary influences collide.
On this culinary adventure, we'll explore mouthwatering local gastronomy, set against the backdrop of a vibrant megacity that thrums with the activity of a large population of regional migrants and modern transplants alike—tens of millions of souls make Mexico City what it is today. This unique trip is a celebration of the harmony as well as the dissonance that define this layered city.
On this 5-day excursion in and around Mexico City, we’ll experience moments when the city's numerous identities are expressed and aligned perfectly—for instance, enjoying a street snack of tacos al pastor while taking in a hidden Diego Rivera mural. But we’ll also be looking for the fractures, zooming in on specific influences: a heady Aztec brew, or a colonial-era mole recipe, or the unique, pre-Hispanic floating farms still in use today. We'll be sure to also head out of the center city in an attempt to isolate and better understand these culinary traditions.
From street food to contemporary Mexican dining trends, traditional restaurants to meals in local homes, our focus throughout the trip will be food and the people who make it. On the periphery of our tastebuds will be the history, art, architecture, landscape, agriculture, and street life that brings everything together.
This adventure is limited to only 12 hungry explorers.
- Agricultural visits: We'll be tracing our way back to the source of the foods we're eating, investigating the farming and production systems that feed into Mexico City.
- Hands-on demonstrations and workshop visits: Meet with craftsmen—of food, art, and otherwise—and get a close-up glimpse of the unique work they create.
- Unusual religious sites and museums: Mexico City has plenty of the obscure and the occult, and we'll be sure to explore this side of things.
- Market tours and home-cooked meals: Take guided tours through bustling city markets and be welcomed into local homes for a proper, family-style dinner.
Time-sensitive site visits
We'll be in Mexico City right at the time of the city's Day of the Dead preparations. The chaotic markets of Mexico City are always a great experience, but are particularly lively during the run-up to Día de Los Muertos, when they'll be bursting with flowers and special foods for this sacred celebration. We’ll couple market visits with a special stop at the home of the Linares, a multi-generational family who create art geared to the holiday (October 31–November 2, 2018).
INTRODUCING OUR PARTNER: CULINARY BACKSTREETS
Atlas Obscura has partnered closely with Culinary Backstreets to create and curate this unique experience. Culinary Backstreets is a global guide to local eats that publishes restaurant reviews and features on local culinary culture. They bring these stories to life on culinary tours and special events, offered in 12 cities around the world, and have extensive international experience with all things gastronomical.
YOUR MEXICO CITY CULINARY GUIDES
Paco de Santiago
Francisco de Santiago ("Paco"), one of Culinary Backstreets' Mexico Team Leaders, is a Mexico City native who has a deep passion for his country's cuisine. He is also a bit of a Renaissance man, as a former champion chess player and bullfighter. But these days, Paco focuses on the antojitos, or little culinary cravings of his hometown, which are a hallmark of a culinary tour of the city with him.
Ben, one of Culinary Backstreets' Mexico City correspondents, was born and raised in the Mexican capital. His family owned a restaurant, where he grew up, for about 40 years. In 2000, he moved to the U.S. where he lived until 2010. While in the U.S., Ben started blogging about Mexican food. The flavors and aromas of the food he cherished from his childhood memories served as his inspiration. Since his return to Mexico, he has been researching the regional foods and traditions of Mexico and has worked as a culinary tour guide and consultant for different outlets. His favorite region of Mexico is Oaxaca, which he tries to visit as often as possible.
A $300 nonrefundable deposit is required to secure your spot, as we have a very limited capacity, and we expect the trip to fill up quickly. The trip will cost $2,275—the $300 deposit plus the $1,975 final payment—and will cover all fixed costs, including all accommodations, meals, and activities listed in the itinerary below.
Please email us at trips@or call us at (646) 961-4857 with any questions about the itinerary, logistics, and payment.
Arrival & Welcome
- Arrive in Mexico City and check into our boutique bed and breakfast, located in the heart of the city, facing Alameda Park. We encourage you to plan your arrival earlier in the day to give yourself some time to relax, settle in, and wander around the neighborhood.
- This evening, we'll enjoy a lively welcome dinner at Limosneros, where chefs Marcos Fulcheri and Carlo Méndez will work with pre-Hispanic ingredients, colonial techniques, and modern creative twists to create an unforgettable meal. In a private room, we'll share our first of many meals and conversations together. Paco and Ben, your culinary guides, will introduce themselves and give you a glimpse into what the week will hold.
The Many Layers of Mexico City
- After breakfast at our hotel, we'll be spending the day in downtown’s Centro Histórico, exploring our trip's themes through food, history, and culture. Today will be a crash course in the history of Mexico City, with visits to the “obscure side” of major monuments and to sites that are hidden from view.
- We'll visit Templo Mayor, a pyramid built in the 1400s and the former site of human sacrifices. We'll explore the colonial city, built over the ruins of the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan using the same lava-stones from the Aztec temples. We'll continue through the corridors of history with a look inside one of the city's most diverse and eclectic collections at a museum that includes everything from comic books and movie posters to lithographs and toys.
- For lunch, we'll be dropping by a former dried chiles shop in the heart of one of the city’s oldest commercial districts, Barrio de la Merced. Once home to large immigrant communities of Jewish and Lebanese merchants, the area is also the birthplace of the famous Carlos Slim.
- The afternoon may include visits to the Diego Rivera murals, Bellas Artes Palace, the Blue Tiles House, Santa Muerte altar, and Zócalo Main Square, among other highlights. Ben and Paco will be sure to bring us to any special events or exhibitions taking place at the time of our visit!
- For dinner, we'll arrange a mezcal tasting activity with food pairings such as taco de cochinita piblil, guacamole con chicharrón, tostadas de flores de jamaica, and quesadillas de flor de calabaza con queso.
- Afterwards, feel free to stay out or head back to the hotel on what will be a full and happy stomach.
Culinary Heritage in Xochimilco
- Rise again to a refreshing breakfast in our hotel, before another action-packed day exploring Xochimilco. A green oasis on the southern edge of the city, Xochimilco is a highlight of the region and treasure of living Aztec culture. Unlike many pre-Hispanic-era monuments that are entombed in museums, Xochimilco is a living place with working farms and much to see, eat, and drink, all linked to pre-Hispanic Mexico.
- For lunch, we'll have a meal on board a traditional flat-bottomed boat along Aztec-era canals that have been in use for more than 2,000 years and are now a UNESCO World Heritage site. Our meal will be prepared by locals using products from the chinampas, the area’s famous “floating gardens.” You'll get a taste of pre-Hispanic Mexico via tlacoyos, a fried maza cake, and pulque, an ancient local drink made from fermented maguey.
- We'll then visit the area’s enchanting Dolores Olmedo Museum, located in a rambling hacienda from the 16th century and home to an important collection of works by Diego Rivera and other Mexican masters.
- In the evening, we'll return to the city center and set out on a taco tour. For dinner, we'll hit a number of taco stands, including this al pastor spot housed in an auto repair shop. Along with classic tacos, we’ll also have the chance to taste ones made with brains, bull’s eyes, and intestines.
Mole & Milpa Alta
- Today, we’ll head to Milpa Alta, a center of mole production on the outskirts of Mexico City. After breakfast, we'll be delving deep on the subject of all things mole. In October, there is actually a local county fair dedicated to the veneration of mole. We’ll skirt around the carnival itself and go deep on the subject of mole, learning about ingredients, production techniques, regional varieties, and how this food represents the colonial heritage of Mexico.
- During the afternoon, we'll visit private homes and markets to gain a better sense of daily life and the food that shapes and defines it.
- At night, we'll attend a Lucha Libre wrestling match followed by a visit to Mexico City's vibrant "mariachi square" for live music, dancing, and street food!
Dia de los Muertos & Departure
- On this final half day together, we’ll explore the living, cultural synthesis of the three eras of our trip with a deep look at Día de Los Muertos.
- After our last breakfast, we’ll visit a market awash in flowers, food, and crafts all related to the celebration. We’ll dabble in a light sampling of food specialties from around the market.
- Finally, to celebrate the end of our trip, we'll take an exclusive visit to the private home and workshop of the famous Linares family, considered the most important producers of Mexican folk art.
- For our last meal together, we plan to take lunch at an iconic stand just outside the market: Caldos de Gallina Don Beto. Here, we’ll have the house specialty, caldo de gallina, a hearty soup made from stewing hens, alfresco at communal tables.
- After lunch, you can return to the hotel and depart for the airport, or stay some extra days to explore on your own.
- Until the next adventure!
YOUR ATLAS OBSCURA EXPEDITION TO MEXICO CITY INCLUDES
- All lodging in a modern, well-equipped boutique hotel throughout the trip. (A limited number of single rooms are available at a supplemental cost of $280. Otherwise we'll work to place singles of the same sex together.)
- All meals and transportation during the trip, including in a private coach for visits outside the center city. Travel within the city will be by foot and public transportation.
- Two experienced, local English-speaking guides to accompany you throughout the trip.
- Admission to all proposed activities, locations, and events.
- A great group of fellow Atlas Obscura fans, excited to explore all that Mexico City has to offer!
NOTE ON FLIGHTS
For flights in and out of Mexico City International Airport (Aeropuerto Internacional Benito Juárez), we suggest you arrive anytime before 3 p.m. on October 17 and depart anytime after 6 p.m. on October 21. We are happy to book you extra nights at the group's hotel and provide suggestions for things to do and see in the city on your own.
NOTE ON ITINERARY
Itineraries and pricing are subject to change. This particular tour has been designed with specific activities and events in mind, whose schedules and availabilities may change in coming months. If any activity or attraction that is advertised is missed or not available, then we will always replace it with another activity or location of significant interest and value.
NOTE ON PHYSICAL ACTIVITY
Travelers should be reasonably fit and feel comfortable walking 3 to 5 miles each day and remaining on their feet for long periods of time. Keep in mind that Mexico City is a bustling and crowded place!
You will be charged a non-refundable $300 deposit to hold your space. The final payment of $1,975 will be due by July 23, 2018. All reservations will be final after this date and subject to our cancellation policy. By submitting your deposit, you agree to the Terms & Conditions. For travelers wishing to have single accommodations during the trip, an additional $280 will be included in the final payment.
TRAVELERS ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR
- Transportation and flights to and from Mexico City.
- Airport transfers.
- Travel insurance (optional).
- Baggage charges.
- Additional meals and drinks outside of Atlas Obscura offerings.
- If applicable, applying for a Mexican visa (not required for U.S. citizens).