By: Jim Bamboulis
When I landed in Monterrey, the Customs agent looked at my customs card, looked up at me and asked: “You’re here for business, correct”?
“No. I’m here for pleasure”, I responded.
She was about to stamp my card but hesitated. Taken a bit aback I guess. She looked back up at me, smiled slyly and responded by saying, ” Oh, wow. That’s not something I hear often from visitors to Monterrey”. She stamped my card and added, “Enjoy your stay”.
You see, Monterrey, considered to be the most “Americanized” city in Mexico, isn’t known to be a tourist haven. Located just over 200 kilometres from the US border, it’s very much still a tech, commercial and industrial town. People that visit are usually suits, contractors and engineers.
I was none of those things.
A simple dude on a simple trip to what is Mexico’s somewhat looked over northeast, ready to explore some gems.
1 – Fundidora Park
For more than 80 years, this area was a steel foundry and arguably one of the main economic engines of Mexico. Today, it’s a public park and Archeological Industrial site of Mexico.
This gem in the city contains one giant artificial lake complete with a serene boat ride throughout a good chunk of downtown, wide and long walking paths, several cultural buildings, a convention centre and a hotel.
Of course, you would expect something like this in a city that has a history of creating, molding and executing such massive construction projects.
Monterrey is very much a city that is transitioning from hard core industrial past to less industrial, even more artistic present and future. It has done a pretty solid job transforming what would otherwise be dilapidated and potentially abandoned factories and turned them into places where people feel comfortable enough congregating, taking a walk, even having a picnic.
2 – Instituto Tecnologico de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey (ITESM)
Locals and even former students are often confused as to why exactly their university is listed as a popular attraction.
But the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education is and it’s a valid distinction.
Mexicans and especially alumni take great pride in knowing that this university became the first university connected to the Internet in Latin America and the Spanish-speaking world.
Getting in is tough and surviving the programs is tougher. But we’ll leave that for the students to worry about.
ITESM is a great place to take a walk and explore some beautiful art throughout the campus. Use any of the 3 entrances and make sure you visit during normal business hours. Getting past security can be tricky otherwise.
3 – Sierra Madre Mountain Ridge surrounding Monterrey
The Chipinque Ecological Park is a popular attraction in that you hike up the mountain and get a lovely view of Monterrey. Fresh air, plenty of trees and wildlife greet families that are bold enough to climb to the top. The fact that it’s accessible and close to the city itself doesn’t hurt.
But if you have some transport and are looking to head a bit out of the city, say about 30 kilometres west, consider the Grutas (Caves) de Garcia.
Getting to the caves is the fun before the fun. You have to take a ride on an aerial tram, so if you’re afraid of heights, this can be a tricky 5 minutes.
Once you get in, you find what looks like a rocky, dry desert with paths that take you through 50-60 million years of a moulded, carved out natural history.
If you have other top sites to see in Monterrey, Mexico, take the time to share.