Culture

10 ‘Instagram Vs. Reality’ Photos Of Mexico’s Most Instagrammable Places To See Before You Book Plane Tickets

It’s no secret that Instagram is the highlight reel of life, but it doesn’t hurt to be reminded from time to time. Sometimes we forget that influencers, celebs, brands —and even ourselves— are guilty of editing and filtering photos so heavily that they end up looking nothing like the real life version. In the search for the perfect “Instagram-worthy” shot, we lose perspective of what things looked like in reality. 

These places are still beautiful —just a little different than you might expect. 

This is why we thought we’d round up Mexico’s most “Instagrammable” spots according to social media users and show you the curated, edited and heavily filtered version, as opposed to the everyday scenario. And don’t get me wrong, all of these places are beautiful in their own way. I simply thought you might want to know that there can be crowds, it can get hot and humid, and Instagram won’t show any of that. 

1. Hierve el agua 

Instagram

Credit: @theminimalistmodel / Instagram

Reality 

Credit: mrs.fade / Instagram

Hierve el Agua is a set of natural rock formations in the Mexican state of Oaxaca that resemble cascades of water. There’s no denying that this place is a wonder of nature —but be warned; it will get crowded and the water isn’t always crystal clear. Depending on the season, the pools get a little opaque, just letting you know.  

2. Islas Marietas

Instagram 

Credit: trip_and_trip / Instagram

Reality

The Marieta Islands are a group of small uninhabited islands a few miles off the coast of the state of Nayarit, Mexico. Playa del Amor, commonly known as the Hidden Beach, is thought to be —because of deceiving IG posts— “a lovers’ beach, tucked below the surface of the island, provides a safe haven for romance.” In actuality, the beach is only accessible via boat —and you have to swim to get to the hidden beach. Once there, there are crowds and crowds of people in orange life-vests (these are mandatory unless you want to risk a ticket and fine). The place is still beautiful, but getting an insta-worthy shot might be close to impossible unless you make it out there before 9am.

3. Las Coloradas

Instagram

Credit: omgitsjustintime / Instagram

Reality 

Credit: jorbaez22 / Instagram

The viral cotton candy pink lakes located in Yucatan, Mexico are really a sight to be seen. The vibrant pink color of these lakes is due to red-colored algae, plankton, and brine shrimp that thrive in the salty environment. As the water evaporates, these organisms become more concentrated, glimmering pink in the bright Mexican sunlight. Unfortunately this is a not a year-round event —sometimes the organisms that give color to the lakes run low, and so the water takes on the regular murky color of a good old lake.

4. Grutas Tolantongo

Instagram 

Credit: ilikemexico/ Instagram

Reality

Credit: bellacicero52018 / Instagram

Tolantongo is a box canyon and resort located 17 kilometres from Ixmiquilpan on Route 27 in the Mezquital Valley, State of Hidalgo in Mexico, It is about 1.5 hours northwest of Pachuca and 198 km or three-to-four hours northwest of Mexico City —aka. it’s a looong drive into the country. The place no doubt, is beautiful and well worth the drive. But you might have to wait a bit to grab a pool due to the large groups of tourists that flock to the area as soon as spring and summer hits Mexico.

5. Jardín Escultorico Las Pozas 

Credit: Mariana.14es / Instagram

Reality

Credit: ankakubacha / Instagram

Las Pozas is a surrealistic group of structures created by Edward James, more than 2,000 feet above sea level, in a subtropical rainforest in the mountains of Mexico. The place is comprised of over 80 acres of land —so you best bring a tour guide, lots of water and a change of clothes, because it will get sweaty. Oh, and don’t forget the mosquito repellent, it is the rainforest after all.

6. San Miguel de Allende

Instagram 

Credit: viajeras_mexicanas / Instagram

Reality

Credit: elidolo2 / Instagram

San Miguel de Allende, a colonial-era city in Mexico’s central highlands, is known for its baroque Spanish architecture, thriving arts scene and cultural festivals. In the city’s historic, cobblestoned center lies the neo-Gothic church Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel. Keep in mind that this city was first built in the 16th century so it wasn’t planned with cars and crowds in mind. The place can get pretty hectic and busy, so set a meeting point for your friends and/or family to meet in case you get lost in the crowds.

7. Ruinas de Tulum

Instagram

Credit: onelove.ourlove / Instagram

Reality

The trendy town of Tulum was built next to the Mayan ruins. The 13th-century, walled Mayan archaeological site at Tulum National Park overlooks the sea. It incorporates the clifftop Castillo, built as a watchtower, and the Templo de las Pinturas, with a partially restored mural. The place is truly magical, you’ll get a chance to swim in the crystal clear waters of the Mexican Caribbean after you tour the ruins —but a word of caution: the walk from the parking lot into the archaeological site es LONG, and it’s HOT in Quintana Roo, so if you can, take the shuttle. Bring lots of water and if possible, a parasol or hat to to get some respite from the sun.

8. El salto del Meco 

Instagram

Reality 

Credit: josuegomzz / Instagram

If you visit this waterfall in dry season (May-September), you might find it empty, because a company located next to it, takes all the water to provide energy for the region. But although the waterfall itself is just visible in rainy season, the beautiful green natural pools are always there to amaze you.

9. Sayulita

Instagram

Credit: latravelgirl / Instagram

Reality

Sayulita is a village on Mexico’s Pacific coast backed by the Sierra Madre Occidental mountains. It’s known for beaches with strong surf, like the central Sayulita Beach and for its brightly decorated streets. Yes, the place is beautiful but remember that filters and editing can make a place look much more ‘enhanced’ than it might look like IRL.

10.Mercado de la Ciudadela

Instagram

Credit: nastasiaspassport / Instagram

Reality

The Ciudadela Market is a traditional style Mexican market which specializes in the sale of Mexican handcrafts and folk art, located in the southwest corner of the historic center of Mexico City. The place is ideal if you need to buy some souvenirs, other than that, it’s just a good old Mexican ‘mercado’.

Our Tías’ Nacimientos Will Never Be The Same Since Mexico Has Outlawed Buying And Selling The Moss

Culture

Our Tías’ Nacimientos Will Never Be The Same Since Mexico Has Outlawed Buying And Selling The Moss

sony_a6000photos / Instagram / Pinterest

Growing up Mexican I looked forward to the Christmas season yes, tbh mostly because of presents but also because it was the time when mom and I got to go way overboard with our Nativity Scene decorations. If you’re Latino, putting up a nacimiento is just as essential a part of Christmas, as putting up a tree. If there’s one cliche that has proven to be true, time and again, it’s that Latino moms tend to be extra AF in everything they do. The representations of Jesus’s birth vary from minimal, to OTT baroque, to hyper-realistic. There’s one element that remains the most important aspect of the nacimiento across the board, in Mexico at least, the moss and other dense green clumps are usually used to adorn the decoration. So, what if we told you that buying and selling moss is actually illegal in Mexico?

Nacimiento, Pesebre, or Belen, are the names that different Latin American countries give to the traditional Nativity Scene representation under the Christmas tree.

Credit: Pinterest

The representation of Jesus’s birth, known as nacimiento in Mexico, pesebre in Colombia and other South American countries, or Belen in Spain, is a centuries-old tradition in the Catholic world. All you really need to tell the story are three basic figures: Virgin Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus. But why limit yourself? 

You could make the case that the three wise men and the star that guided them to the newborn baby are also essential. Jesus was born in a stable because there was no place at the inns in Bethlehem, so naturally, there should be farm animals around, and hay, and moss —and why not a stream made of cellophane, while you’re at it? 

Nativity Scenes are usually elaborate, over the top extravaganzas that families work tirelessly on for the holiday season.

In Mexico and many other countries of Latin America, nacimientos can turn into elaborate extravaganzas, populated by all manner of animals and plants that you would never find side by side in the real world. Some scenes display pump-operated rivers with real water, others feature waterfalls and ponds. Some include whole cities built around the manger where Jesus was born. The creative license extends to the characters, which range from unrelated biblical figures such as Adam and Eve to random shepherds, farmers, and the devil. It’s clearly not an exercise in authenticity, but it’s festive and fun.

Part of the fun is the use of moss and other types of grass to add to the ‘look’. 

Credit: Pinterest

Moss is used to decorate the scene, but it also has a special symbolism. Spanish moss is of particular importance in the catholic representation of baby Jesus’s birth. A little patch of the gray grass is always placed underneath Satan —to highlight his presence and set him apart from the rest of the crowd. According to tradition, Satan should always be present in a nacimiento to remind us that although the birth of Jesus offers love and the possibility of redemption, sin and evil are always present in the world —and moss plays a big part in his representation.

As soon as November starts drawing to an end and December is around the corner, every mercado in Mexico is flooded by vendors who sell the coveted greenery of the season. 

Credit: @jjoel777 / Twitter

Every city and town has a market where, for about a month between the end of November and the first week in January, a large number of vendors offer items, especially for Christmas.  Some larger cities, like Mexico City, Guadalajara, Morelia, and others, offer several tianguis navideños (Christmas markets) where literally hundreds of vendors set up shop, to sell the infamous moss. 

But as it turns out, selling and/or buying moss is illegal.

Credit: losconfites_organicfarm / Instagram

This type of grass is essential for the survival of Mexican forests. The species is protected by the country, which makes its trade ilegal —and you might want to think twice before you buy it. 

Mosses are actually essential for the health and wellbeing of many ecosystems and all the organisms that inhabit them.

Credit: sony_a6000photos / Instagram

The term moss encompasses any of at least 12,000 species of small land plants. Mosses are distributed throughout the world except in saltwater and are commonly found in moist shady locations. They are best known as those species that carpet woodland and forest floors. Ecologically, mosses capture water and filter it to underground streams, or substrata, releasing nutrients for the use of more complex plants that succeed them. They also aid in soil erosion control by providing surface cover and absorbing water, and they are important in the nutrient and water economy of some vegetation types. Essentially, they are the pulse of forests and ecosystems everywhere.

Protection and conservation are relatively novel concepts in Mexican bryology, the branch of botany that studies mosses. 

Credit: @elbigdatamx / Twitter

Mexico is home to more than 900 recorded species of moss —and much of the country’s territory is yet to be explored thoroughly for more flora. However, local mosses face habitat destruction and over-harvesting as their major threat. 

In 1993, a diagnostic study of mosses that required protection Mexico was conducted, and supported by the federal government as well as other international agencies. At the time, six species were recognized as ‘rare’ or ‘endangered’ and were placed under official protection. 

The Secretariat of Environmental and Natural Resources of Mexico regulates the extraction and trade of moss. 

Credit: @iinfodeac / Twitter

In order to extract moss from its natural habitat, and furthermore, to commercialize it, vendors must follow strict requirements in order to attain a license. According to Mexican Forest Law 001 expedited by SEMARNAT (The Secretariat of Environmental and Natural Resources of Mexico), the extraction of moss is only permitted when the plant is in a mature state and ready for harvest, other conditions require that moss must be extracted in parcels of no more than 2 meters of width and that only 50 percent of each patch of moss may be extracted, etc. 

During this time of year, Mexican police are on high alert. 

Credit: @mimorelia / Twitter

Around the holiday season, police in Mexico double up on their patrolling. Authorities will be on high alert, inspecting those establishments who are authorized to sell moss and searching for those who aren’t. The Secretariat of Environmental and Natural Resources and the Federal Attorney for Environmental Protection will be watching —so you might want to tell your mom and tias to avoid shopping for moss in Mexico this year.

READ: Check Out Some Of The Most Tiny And Adorable Nacimientos

Dominican Republic Launches #TheRealDR to Combat Negative Press

Things That Matter

Dominican Republic Launches #TheRealDR to Combat Negative Press

@GoDemRep / Twitter

After a year of the negative press focused on the suspicious American deaths that occurred in the Dominican Republic earlier this year, the country is launching an integrated marketing campaign aimed to rebuild tourists’ trust in the country. The Dominican Republic had confirmed that the autopsies and toxicology reports were “consistent with natural causes.” The  FBI opened its own investigation into the deaths because of the number of American deaths and concluded that they were “consistent with the findings of local authorities,” according to a statement from the Office of Consular Affairs of the State Department, reported by The Hill. Many suspected methanol poisoning from alcohol in the minibar, but the FBI ruled it out and found the American deaths were from natural causes.

Now, the country is seeking to reclaim its reputation, and it’s looking at Canada.

Canada is the Dominican Republic’s second most important international market after the United States.

Credit: @GoDomRep / Twitter

Cosette Garcia, director of the Dominican Republic’s Tourist Office in Montreal, Canada, told Travel Pulse that Canada’s importance to the Dominican Republic is because it’s a “tour operator” market. “That is to say that almost 100 percent of Canadians who go to the Dominican Republic are tourists,” Garcia says. “For us, this market is therefore of paramount importance.” Basically, the Dominicans that have moved to the United States will continue to return to the island to visit family. Those Dominican-American’s are also far less likely to stay at expensive resorts and spend as much money. It’s a family trip, not a Caribbean vacation like it would be for Canadians.

The country’s Ministry of Tourism office will be promoting its clear ocean waters and luxurious resorts on all platforms.

Credit: @GoDomRep / Twitter

The office has arranged for Canada’s top travel news outlets to travel to Punta Cana, in the hopes that it will revitalize tourism from Canadians this winter. Compared to last year, the country lost 100,000 visitors between January and September of this year. Sensational media reports discredited the Dominican Republic’s investigations into the deaths, fanned by confused and grieving family members calling for the media to investigate. One couple was found dead in their hotel room, and both were determined to have died of respiratory failure. Another grieving family member called on Senator Menendez (NJ) to demand justice for his brother, Joseph E. Allen III. All the while, Dominicans were taking to social media to make sure people stopped trying to cancel the Dominican Republic.

“These are unfortunately sad events, but these are things that happen in every normal tourist destination that receives more than seven million tourists each year,” Garcia told the outlet. “It’s normal to have natural death statistics.”

Officials maintained that the Dominican Republic was “no less safe than it was before,” according to a CNN report.

Credit: @GoDomRep / Twitter

“In the last five years, over 30 million tourists have visited the Dominican Republic, but this is the first time the international media report such an alarming situation,” Tourism Minister Francisco Javier Garcia responded. “These are isolated incidents and the Dominican Republic is a safe destination.” The tourism office is now promoting videos of “real tourists” who are talking about how great their vacation to the island has been.

Even though the FBI has corroborated the Dominican Republic’s credibility, the public still needs some winning over.

Credit: @SoonerManiac / Twitter

The public wants to hear about the minibars, and the country is hoping to quell some irrational fears. “The FBI has debunked all of the false rumors put out by the mainstream media and I’m thankful to be here with companies combatting the issues hurting this destination,” tweeted journalist Paul Smith of Travel SmithsMainstream media created a tourism crisis for the country, and now, the Dominican Republic is marketing both toward tourists and mainstream media alike with a new campaign.

Now, the Dominican Republic is launching its own hashtag campaign: #TheRealDR. 

Credit: @GoDemRep / Twitter

It’s tough because, no matter what Dominican Republic officials said, the families of the deceased didn’t trust it, and that was communicated to the rest of the world. Critics are already using the hashtag to tweet, “#TheRealDR So you’ll see the REAL Dominican Republic by staying at an all-inclusive resort where the staff hates you so much they put poison in the booze and murder you. Great ad, DR.”

“This campaign offers a level of transparency and authenticity like nothing we have ever done before,” Magaly Toribio, the Marketing Advisor for the Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism, told Dominican Today. “We are looking forward to sharing the beauty and culture of our country through the words and first-person experiences of our tourists.”

READ: New Safety Measures In The Dominican Republic Following American Deaths