In the capital city of San Cristobal de las Casas, visit weaving and textile cooperatives like Sna Jolobil, in the Templo de Santo Domingo complex, where handiwork by local artisans are on display and for sale. Another interesting place to visit is the museum of Mayan medicine Maya Medicine Development Center, located at Avenida Salomon Gonzalez Blanco 10. When visiting the beautiful countryside of Chiapas, prepare for jungle, waterfalls and sub-tropical forests where coffee is organically grown. Conservation-minded trips are available through hotels like the Argovia Finca Resort, which offers organic, shade grown coffee plantation tours.
Find the heart of Mexico in Tepoztlán. Dubbed an official "magic village," ancient traditions are still alive and the culinary tradition is an unbroken chain. One hour from Mexico City, the year-round, spring-like climate, with temperatures between 60 and 80 degrees, is always an appealing destination. It's rich in historical pyramids and monuments, like the archeological citadel xochicalco. Every Sunday, the cooking school Cocinar offers a "Taste of Mexico" and women from the village take guests through the markets so they can learn about food, including the important staples of chilis and corn. In an indoor/outdoor kitchen. they learn the art of handmade tortillas and sopes, as well as how to make authentic guacamole, three different salsas and a perfect margarita. Once a year, there are writing workshops with Latina authors such as Sandra Cisneros and Ruth Behar. For more information, visit http://www.cocinarmexicano.com.
Many of Mexico's other most highly regarded boutique wineries are on the Baja Peninsula. This area, termed "The Forgotten Peninsula" by naturalist Joseph Wood Krutch in 1941, used to be visited by Southern Californians to whale watch or eat lobster and fish tacos. Now the wineries, such as Monte Xanic, Casa de Piedra and L.A. Cetto, particularly in the Guadalupe Valley and valley of San Antonio de las Minas, are giving the area chic cache. Here, the vibrancy and warmth that Mexico is known for is combined with natural beauty that has a Mediterranean feel because of the rows olive trees and grape vines planted near an azure sea.
Young chefs are opening restaurants with contemporary cocina alta, or fine dining. Often referred to as "the Chez Panisse of the South," Laja uses local, organic products to create contemporary, high-Mexican cuisine. Chefs Benito Molina and Solange Muris opened the innovative wine bar and café Manzanilla, named for a kind of local olive. For more information, visit www.enswine.com.
Since Hernán Cortés arrived in the port town of Vera Cruz in the early 1500s, it has been a mélange of conquistadors, pirates, missionaries and traders. In the 1600s, the Spaniards brought slaves from six parts of western Africa. Over time, these groups mixed and melded and now Vera Cruz is known for its jarocho culture, a fusion of people from Europe, Africa and the Caribbean that gives this Mexican city its Caribbean flair. Outside of Brazil, this is the biggest Carnival celebration in Latin America.