LIFESTYLE An Unexpected Time at the Carrera Panamericana

6 min

As the Official Timekeeper, TAG Heuer is joining the crowd to cheer on the intrepid pilots of the 2021 Carrera Panamericana. We’ve put together a special edition of our ‘Unexpected Time In…’ series to celebrate the famous race course through Mexico along the legendary PanAmerican highway.

This year’s route moves from southern to northern Mexico, starting on the 15th of October from Oaxaca to Veracruz, Mexico City, Morelia, Aguascalientes, Durango and finishing with a loud cheer in Saltillo on Thursday 21 October. Unlike other endurance races around the world, the Carrera Panamericana is uniquely accessible to audience spectators; get up close and personal with some fairly sensational cars, meet the drivers living their dreams (and yours), and encourage the contestants as they arrive, dusty and full of ‘esprit’ at the end of each leg of this week-long race. And if that’s not enough excitement for you,  we’ve brought you some unexpected destinations along the way to tickle your tastebuds and revive your sense of wonder… with all that Mexico has to offer. 


The race begins in Oaxaca, Mexico’s famed Southern state beloved by holidaymakers and sunseekers.  But there’s more to this stunning location than meets the eye; after you’ve explore the ‘Zocalo’, or central part of the city (check out the main square, the Baroque Templo San Domingo, and Benito Juarez food market for local colour and history), you might like to sweat it all out again in a ‘temazcal’.  This pre-colonial sweat lodge ceremony boasts reported benefits from better respiration to improved athletic endurance. Taking many forms depending on where you attend, Oaxacan temazcals tend to draw on indigenous Zapotec traditions and involve being enclosed in a windowless cavern, surrounded by thick steam billowing from volcanic rocks and burning herbs.  Hotels and spas such as the Hotel Casa Catrina offer appointments for visitors.  Claustrophobics, obviously, need not apply.

Carrera Panamericana 2019


Veracruz is known to be both welcoming and vibrant,  with afro-Caribbean influence and fascinating history as a port city.  Stroll the Malecón (boardwalk/promenade), explore ruins and nearby world heritage sites, and refuel for the arrival of the Carrera competitors at Impetus; this ‘third-wave’ coffee house is famed for their cold brew, served in a cut glass with giant ice cubes made from frozen coffee. Finish the night with a sensational meal at ‘Dos’, widely considered the best restaurant in the city. Chef Erik Guerrero sources the produce for his inspired contemporary Mexican cuisine from across the state, transformed into a six-course tasting menu that elevates simple dishes such as tacos and enchiladas to new heights. 

Mexico City (CDMX)

From the ruins of the Centro Historico, to the labyrinthine art markets in San Angel, to the  charming cafe culture of Roma and Condesa, Mexico City is a place you could visit a thousand times and never see in the same way twice. But it’s also known as one of the world’s most impressive destinations on the planet for one thing in particular: the food. If your flight lands late and you’re tired and hungry – or if the day’s high-octane excitement and you’re ready for music and night-life, head to the Roma district and check out Páramo. Here, you will find delicious food served late, along with decadent cocktails and a stylish crowd. If you have time to splurge, you might upgrade your dining experience to one of the world’s most famous restaurants: Pujol, located in the middle of Polanco, is an exquisite, low-ceilinged temple to taste. Populated by the most glamorous of gourmands and staffed by a troupe of well-choreographed waiters, it offers delicious tasting menus, created from traditional ingredients including a Mole sauce that has been kept cooking continuously since 2013. Reservations are open a year in advance – need we say more?

Carrera Panamericana El Comander

Morelia / Guanajuato

If you have a little time to spare in Morelia, a visit to the Rincón de Parangueo Crater might just take you to another world. A mysterious natural phenomenon, the crater is reached by navigating your way through a dark tunnel illuminated only by lights carried by local children, who cheerfully guide you through the inky channel. Emerging on the other side, you’ll find a stunning white desert straight out of sci-fi; marked only by a rust-coloured lake and a green hill, surrounding the ghostly attraction that is the natural lake crater. Myths about the landmark abound – from UFO sightings to giant vegetables, ancient rock paintings, and water that changes colour to warn of coming trouble. Whatever its powers, it’s well worth a trip. 


Known for the bullfights and cockfights of its ‘Feria de San Marcos’, Mexico’s largest national fair, the city of Aguascalientes also holds a strange open secret: it’s a hotbed of Automaton clocks. Spread throughout the city, the clocks often reflect the local culture – including bullfighting! One memorable example is the clock tower of the Hotel Fiesta Americana: opening its doors at 12:00, 15:00, 17:00 and 19:00 hours, important times of day in the bullfight tradition, the clock does an intricate dance.  As the song, “Paso Doble of Silverio Pérez” plays, a bull appears, and moves around a tiny bullfighter. Ready to get involved like a local?  The tradition is to shout “Olé!” when the bull charges the bullfighter’s coat.

Carrera Panamericana 2019


Take ‘underground’ experience to the next level in Durango – with an exploration of the subterranean passage that snakes below the city’s downtown. The Paseo Túnel Minería Durango (Durango Mining Tunnel Walk) is a maze of dark corridors filled with artifacts from the local mining industry – and legendary terrors that once haunted the city. The museum tour is peppered with the mystery and myth so abundant in Mexico – and is sure to entertain, if not quite terrify. Apart from precious stones, mining gear, explosives, and other historical detail, the spooky side-dishes include mummies, vampires, ghostly bulls, giant scorpions and deadly curses. Fingers crossed you’ll make it out alive…

Parras de los Fuentes

Parras de La Fuente, also known simply as Parras, was founded in 1598 – one of the first towns in the state of Coahuila. Famous for natural wonders such as the Lima Canyon with its 12-meter blue stone walls, Parras is also the location of the very first winery in the Americas. A sort of oasis in the otherwise arid state, Parras has sprung an impressive number of vineyards from its cool, verdant micro-climate – including several of the oldest wineries in the world.  We recommend Don Leo, a short drive from the center of Parras, with its panoramic views and fabulous vintages.  A tasting will offer you a wide variety, from  Sauvignon Blanc to Cabernet Sauvignon (which, last year, won gold in the International Cabernet Competition) and Syrah.

Carrera Panamericana 2019


A trip to Saltillo wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the ‘Museo de Aves’, or Museum of Birds.  Stay with us here – this is not just a novelty destination for birdwatchers and taxonomy nerds. The museum is home to over 2000 species of birds – about three quarters of the species of birds in Mexico. What’s more, it’s the ONLY collection in the world dedicated to presenting all the birds of one country, and Mexico doesn’t disappoint when it comes to breathtaking birdlife. From life-size recreations of ancient giant birds, to spectacular taxidermy, eggs of every size, shape and colour… their strange and lovely collection ranges from the enormous ‘Harpy Eagle’ to the miniscule ‘Bumblebee Hummingbird’. 

Whatever your Carrera Panamericana experience brings, it’s sure to be an adventure… and the only thing that can make such an adventure even more delicious is a reliable friend to share it with. A streamlined TAG Heuer Carrera watch will take you all the way from the blazing heat of a ‘temazcal’ to the swish cool of Mexico City’s legendary nightlife… and everywhere in between.