You’d be Mad to Miss Mexico
Mexico, the country of tequila and tacos, is becoming an increasingly hot tourist spot. People come for the gorgeous weather, picturesque countryside and stunning sandy beaches; the rich cultural heritage and ancient Aztec and Mayan sites; and the vibrant music, dancing and culinary traditions. Mexico has a fascinating mix of native people and Spanish colonial influence, a rich spread of flora and fauna, and a landscape that varies from arid deserts to lush rainforests.
The best coastline: Cancun and the Mayan Riviera
The Mayan Riviera is a stunning stretch of coastline, consisting of Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Cozumel island. The wide beaches and crystal clear water gives visitors plenty of space, despite the high volume of visitors. Get out diving to the underwater sculpture museum, go snorkelling on the reefs, or swimming with dolphins and rays.
The ancient Mayan ruins are not far away, with Chichen, Itza and Tulum only a few hours away. Other ruins, smaller and less famous, are within walking distance of the beach.
The best for scenery: Copper Canyon
This is Mexico’s version of the Grand Canyon, but it is actually larger and deeper than its US counterpart. It takes its name from the copper green colouring on the walls, formed by six rivers converging in the Rio Fuerte.
This area of outstanding natural beauty is not to be missed, and there are numerous options available to visitors. See it on a scenic rail trip, by bike, or on horseback! The Copper Canyon is in Chihuahua, Mexico’s most northerly state, sharing the border with New Mexico.
The best city: Mexico City
The glorious capital city is home to many world-class museums, art galleries and attractions. It’s worth just focussing on the historic centre, which is where most of these attractions are. The ‘Centro Historico de la Ciudad’ is 15 square kilometres of UNESCO World Heritage site: one huge living museum.
16th to 19th century colonial buildings are around every corner, Constitution Square at the bustling centre, and many sites are nearby including the National Palace, Metropolitan Cathedral, and Templo Mayor, which houses Aztec relics. Huge mountains overlook the city, and it’s possible to explore these Highlands.
The best ancient site: Chichen Itza
‘The Mayan Metropolis’ of Chichen Itza is top of the list of the multitude of ancient sites and temples that grace the land of Mexico. As the biggest and best preserved, this Mexican icon deserves its World Heritage status.
Highlights include El Castillo, the 30 metre high Pyramid of Kukulkan; the Caracol observatory, proving how advanced the Mayans were 1,000 years ago; and the Mayan Chacmool statues, which protect these ancient temples, still holding their sacrificial vessels.
The best for authentic Mexico: Oaxaca
If you want a taste of the real Mexico, look no further than Oaxaca. This city has remained largely untouched by the development of the rest of the country, and retains a mix of Spanish and Indian influences. It was given UNESCO World Heritage status due to the unspoiled old city centre, traditional architecture, and its numerous events and festivals.
Guelaguetza is a spectacular indigenous festival in July every year. Visit during this time to see traditional dancing, costumes, music, food, arts and crafts. Around the city is wonderful scenery, and ancient ruins such as Monte Alban.