A Guide to Responsible Travel in MEXICO

3 min to skim, 10 min for in-depth info | April 2023


Embarking on a journey through Mexico offers travellers a unique opportunity to immerse themselves in a land of vibrant cultures, ancient ruins, and breathtaking natural wonders.

This comprehensive guide is designed to help you navigate the diverse landscapes and rich heritage of Mexico responsibly, ensuring that your adventures contribute positively to local communities, preserve cultural traditions, and support conservation efforts. 

Here’s how you can explore Mexico with purpose, making your travel experience both enriching and sustainable.  


Mexico’s Cultural and Historical Heritage

Guadalajara Cathedral in Guadalajara, Mexico

Guadalajara Cathedral, Guadalajara, Mexico

Mexico’s heritage is shaped by indigenous civilizations, Spanish colonization, and the spirit of its people; woven together by threads of ancient societies, colonial influences, and contemporary cultures. It’s as complex as it is captivating. 

Before the arrival of the Spanish, advanced civilizations such as the Maya, Aztec, and Zapotec thrived all over Mexico. These societies were sophisticated in arts, architecture, mathematics, and astronomy. 

Visiting sites like Palenque, Edzná, Cuicuilco, Xochicalco, and Uxmal offers a glimpse into these ancient worlds. Not to mention the more popular sites like Chichén-Itzá and Teotihuacan. Understanding the achievements and traditions of these cultures will deepen your appreciation for the ruins and artefacts you’ll encounter all over Mexico. 

Fast forward quite a few years and you’ll see that the Spanish conquest in the 16th century introduced many new societal influences. New architectural styles, languages, cultural and religious practices, skills, and knowledge [just to name a few] all created a fusion of cultures that is evident across most of Mexico now.

Recognizing the impacts of colonization – both positive and negative – is crucial for grasping the full scope of Mexico’s identity. Today, it is a blend of indigenous roots, Spanish influence, and a strong sense of national identity that’s celebrated in its music, food, and art. 

Icons like Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera capture this blend in their work, which can be seen in museums across the country. While you’re in Mexico, don’t forget to also engage in it’s contemporary culture too – whether through street food, music, or art – it offers a window into the heart of its people. 


Where to Search in Mexico for…

Xcaret Park, Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Xcaret Park, Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Exploring Ancient Civilizations: 

Check out Mexico’s plethora of archaeological sites, like the majestic pyramids of Teotihuacán or the ancient city of Chichén-Itzá. Even the ones we mentioned above all offer insights into the country’s pre-Columbian past. 

Be sure to engage with these sites respectfully by staying on marked paths, never removing artefacts, and choosing eco-conscious tour operators who offer guided tours that emphasize historical context and conservation.

Participating in Cultural Festivals:

Look to the local calendars in Mexico that are typically filled to the brim with festivals that showcase the country’s vibrant traditions and communal spirit. From the Day of the Dead in Oaxaca to Semana Santa; cities, towns, and villages all over Mexico honour their traditions and heritage with beautiful ceremonies and events throughout the year.
When attending these festivities, always remember to approach with sensitivity to the cultural and religious contexts. Taking photos respectfully, dressing modestly, and participating only where appropriate or invited are great ways to both honour and participate in these traditions as a traveller. 

Supporting Local Artisans:

Check out local markets, fair trade shops, cooperatives, and artisan workshops all over Mexico. 9 times out of 10 you’ll also likely get a chance to meet the makers and learn about the processes behind their work. From the textiles of Chiapas to the pottery of Puebla, to the intricate silverwork you’ll find in Taxco; the handicrafts you see across this beautiful country pay homage to ensuring that these traditions continue to thrive for future generations. 

A souvenir from any one of their shops no matter how big or small, is well worth the story you get to take with you when you return home. Not to mention the recognition each artist gets from their efforts when you share those pieces with your friends and family.

Experiencing Eco-Conscious Adventures:

Look for eco-conscious tour operators and organizations across Mexico that are certified by environmental organizations like Cabo Pulmo Eco Adventures. They’ll take you to places like the Riviera Maya to go snorkelling, or to El Rosario to witness the majestic monarch butterfly migration.

Whichever tour operator you choose to go with for your thrill-seeking adventures always check to see if they offer eco-friendly tours that minimize environmental impact and support conservation efforts. Now more than ever it’s important to actively contribute to the preservation of the ecosystems we explore. 

Contributing to Conservation Efforts:

Check out conservation-focused organizations that offer programs where tourists can get involved in different conservation activities like coral reef restoration, sea turtle conservation, or reforestation projects. Organizations like Ocanus A.C. allow travellers to volunteer with them while they’re in Mexico to help protect the country’s valuable ecosystems.

Many of Mexico’s natural wonders face threats from climate change, pollution, and over-tourism. When you choose to spend, even just a portion of your vacation time towards conservation-focused tours and/or volunteer projects, you’ll be surprised at how much that small effort actually adds up.

Community-Based Tourism Experiences: 

Immersive experiences like homestays, cultural workshops, and locally guided tours are going to be the path toward deeper insights into Mexico’s diverse communities. Programs like Co’ox Mayab combine cultural immersion with visits to archaeological sites which helps to foster a deeper understanding and appreciation of contemporary Mayan culture as it relates to today. 

Understanding and respecting local customs, traditions, and etiquette are the best ways we can show respect for these important communities and traditions. This knowledge can also enhance your interactions and experiences with locals; an essential aspect of travelling responsibly. 

Exploring Mexico’s Culinary Delights: 

Look for locally-owned restaurants, cooking classes, farms, vineyards, and street-side eateries that prioritize local sourcing, traditional cooking methods, and sustainability on top of their authentic taste. Places like Fauna in Valle de Guadalupe exemplify the farm-to-table movement, serving dishes made from locally sourced, seasonal ingredients. Many of these fine establishments often work directly with small farmers, which supports local agriculture and reduces the carbon footprint associated with food transportation. 

These types of experiences will deepen your appreciation for Mexico’s culinary diversity and the efforts needed to sustain it. Choosing to eat at locally-owned restaurants, street food stalls, and markets not only enriches your travel experiences with authentic flavours, but it also contributes to the wellbeing of the locals you’re visiting. A win-win if you ask us! 


How to Craft a Sustainable Story in Mexico...

Querétaro, Mexico

Querétaro, Mexico

Travelling through this beautiful country with a focus on sustainability and respect for local cultures offers travellers the opportunity to engage with the heart and soul of Mexico. Opt in for eco-conscious water activities, participate in workshops that preserve traditional crafts, adopt a plastic-free journey, and travel during off-peak seasons also ensures your visit to Mexico gives back in a meaningful way.

This guide is designed as a loose set of advice for navigating through Mexico’s diverse landscape in a way that positively contributes to their environment, supports local economies, and preserves their cultural heritage.

As you prepare for your trip, keep this guide with you as a quick reference for making thoughtful decisions that align with the principles of responsible travel. And as you plan your next journey, whether it leads you to Mexico or somewhere else, remember that you're part of a community of fellow travellers too. 

Our community of like-minded travellers is dedicated to responsible exploration. Together, we can positively impact the places we visit and the people we meet. If you’d like to join us our journey as we share sustainable travel insights; type your email in the box at the bottom right corner of this web page. 

And be sure to explore our other Travel With Purpose articles on our blog, including Laos, the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, India, Cambodia, & Nauru

Happy Adventuring!

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