Mexico

Mexico offers travellers a tantalising smorgasbord of nature, history, cuisine and culture. Aztec and Mayan archeology, tequila, charming colonial cities, Mexican food and beach culture…all these features and more make up this tourist and historical hub. Culture vultures will be bowled over by the impressive sites of ancient civilizations that moulded Mexico’s great pre-Columbian history, while nature lovers will be in their element on the pristine beaches along its 10 000km coastline, or exploring the country’s rainforests, mountain peaks and mangrove lagoons. And for foodies, there’s of course the distinctive cuisine that has become famous the world over.

What’s on offer in Mexico?

Acapulco - Mexico

Acapulco

Made famous by Hollywood’s finest in the 1950’s, Acapulco is one of Mexico’s oldest seaside resorts and also the country’s largest. The city is divided into two, with the northern side considered the ‘original’ Acapulco. Here visitors can spend the night in hotels once visited by the likes of John Wayne and Zsa Zsa Gabor, experience local culture in the town square or ‘Zócalo’, or take in some history at the Fuerte de San Diego – the only remaining colonial building in the city. Although Acapulco is popular for its energy and buzzing nightlife, it also offers beautiful beaches and scenery, as well as a number of exciting water sports.

Chichen Itza - Mexico

Chichen Itza

The most famous Mayan archaeological site in Mexico, Chichen Itza transports visitors back to between the 9th and 12th centuries CE, when the ancient city was at its height. One of the largest Mayan cities in Central America, Chichen Itza’s highlights include the Kukulkan Pyramid and the sacred Cenote (a natural fresh water well that plunges 22 metres and was a key water source for the first settlers and farmers of the city). Kukulkan Pyramid, called “El Castillo” (the castle) by the Spanish, towers 30 metres above the ground, and once served as a temple to the god Kukulkan.

Cancún - Mexico

Cancún

The jewel of Mexico’s beach resort destinations, world-famous Cancun is set on a small sliver of island real estate in the northeast corner of the Yucatan peninsula. The development of the famed beach resort started in the 70s, when the Mexican government built a causeway connecting the island to the mainland. Each year thousands of travellers visit Cancún to enjoy its clubbing, beach parties and bikini contests. Culture seekers should head to the various Mayan ruins in the region, such as the ancient settlements of El Meco and El Rey, and Yamil Lu’um, a Mayan temple dating back to the 14th century.

Tulum - Mexico

Tulum

In the coastal town of Tulum you will find Mexico’s only archaeological site overlooking the sea. The Tulum Ruins were once an ancient Mayan fortress and now offer tourists the chance to soak up some history before dipping into the water at one of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean. While the ruins are the main attraction, there is also plenty to be seen and done in the rest of Tulum. Ocean lovers can spend time diving, snorkelling and exploring cenotes – natural swimming holes that the Mayans considered sacred – and the quaint town offers a selection of small hotels, restaurants and stores that provide dining, shopping and entertainment opportuities.

Playa del Carmen - Mexico

Playa del Carmen

Formally a small fishing town in the Yucatán peninsula, Playa del Carmen has grown into one of the region’s most fashionable locations. Playa, as it’s commonly referred to, offers visitors a trendy getaway ideal for shopping, sampling mouthwatering cuisine at fine restaurants and dancing the night away at any of its many beach clubs. A trip to Playa is incomplete without a walk down the town’s very own 5th Avenue, Quinta Avenida, a cobblestone street where locals and tourists come to play. Those in search of quieter activities can take in the reefs and ocean life whilst diving and snorkelling, or spend some time on a local fishing boat.

Merida - Mexico

Merida

Due to its isolated geographic location, the capital of Yucatan has fostered a unique cultural and political identity. Merida was built on the site of the ancient Maya city T’ho, but many of the existing Mayan pyramids were knocked down by the Spanish to build the large colonial buildings you see today. The city is the second-largest historic centre in Mexico, after Mexico City itself, and has a host of trendy museums, art galleries, restaurants and boutiques. Don’t miss a visit to the famous avenue Paseo de Montejo to view the beautiful sculptures which line the road. The sculpture installation changes every year.

Palenque - Mexico

Palenque

Considered one of the best-preserved examples of Mayan architecture, the ruins of Palenque can be found in the dense jungle of Mexico’s Chiapas state. The city flourished between 500 and 700 AD, after which it disappeared into the rainforest until its rediscovery in 1746. Spread over 15 square kilometres, the area is home to hundreds of temples and palaces that were constructed without the help of metal tools, wheels or animals. Adorning the structures are relief carvings illustrating Mayan mythology, and the site is dotted with sacred cieba trees which the Mayans believed to connect the underworld, the earth and the heavens.

San Cristóbal de las Casas - Mexico

San Cristóbal de las Casas

Known by many as the cultural capital of Chiapas, San Cristobal de las Casas is an old Spanish colonial town set in Mexico’s Central Highlands. The charming town is divided into barrios that are home to specific trades or customs, and the colonial grid layout allows tourists to easily explore these neighbourhoods on foot to discover the old architecture, craft markets and rich cultures in the area. San Cristobal de las Casas also lies in the centre of the country’s most indigenous regions, and curious visitors can venture into the surrounds to experience traditional Tzotzil and Tzeltal villages.

Oaxaca - Huatulco Harbor - Mexico

Oaxaca

Mexico’s southern state is known for its diverse natural landscapes. Mountain peaks, canyons, pristine beaches and tropical rainforests have shaped its topography, creating a fertile platform for rich biodiversity – the state is endowed with 50% of all Mexico’s plant and animal species. Oaxaca City offers a rich colonial charm and is located only nine kilometres from Monte Albán, a Maya city founded in 500BC, which is dotted with several hundred artificial terraces. Holidaymakers flock to Oaxaca’s pacific coast for its good surf, the string of vibrant holiday resort towns, and stretches of pristine coastline where sea turtles come to nest.

Mexico City - Mexico

Mexico City

Mexico City, one of the largest metropolitan areas in the world, sprawls across the Valley of Mexico. Originally the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan, the city was constructed over the ancient Lake Texcoco. The arrival of the Spanish saw the demolishment of most structures, however some ancient canals and ruins can still be found. Head to the historic centre to see a host of architectural and cultural attractions, including the Plaza de la Constitucion, National Palace, Metropolitan Cathedral, Templo Mayor, Palace of Fine Arts and Alameda Park. Top attractions such as Chapultepec Castle, the Modern Art Museum and the National Museum of Anthropology can be found in Chapultepec Park.

Veracruz - El Tajin - Mexico

Veracruz

Mexico’s oldest European settlement, the city of Veracruz was founded by Cortés in 1519 and grew to become the country’s most important Caribbean and Atlantic port. Although French and American invasions destroyed much of the original architecture, a few colonial gems can still be found whilst the indigenous, Spanish and Afro-Cuban heritage is evident in the town’s food and music. A cultural hub in the area is the lively main plaza, known as the Zocalo, where the traditional Cuban danzón is performed every evening, and during the month of February visitors can indulge in the pre-lent carnival celebrations.

Guanajuato - Mexico

Guanajuato

Set in a narrow valley bordered by the Sierra de Guanajuato Mountains, the charming city of Guanajuato is made up of narrow, cobblestone streets that wind in-between colourful buildings and up mountainsides. Many of these streets are far too small for vehicles to pass through, and the resulting underground network of tunnels is just one of the features that make the city a unique destination. Visitors to the historic mining town are also treated to magnificent neo-classical and baroque buildings, vibrant plazas, and a host of cultural events and activities all year round – including the famous Festival Internacional Cevantino, one of the world’s premier art and culture extravaganzas.

Fast Facts

BEST TIME TO VISIT: Mexico’s size and geography means that the weather varies dramatically across the country. The Yucatan Peninsula is hot and humid throughout the year, with the chance of heavy rains between Jun-Sep. Hurricanes are a possibility during this period.

TIME DIFFERENCE: GMT -6 hours (Central), GMT -7 hours (Mountain), GMT -8 hours (Pacific Standard Time).

VISAS: British Passport holders do not require a visa for stays up to three months.

LANGUAGE: The official language is Spanish. English is widely spoken in tourist resorts.

CURRENCY: Mexican Peso.

FLIGHT INFORMATION: Mexicana and British Airways have direct flights to Mexico City with regular connections to Cancun; Virgin Atlantic or British Airways fly to Miami and connect directly to Cancun. Iberia, KLM, Air France, Lufthansa and American Airlines fly via their respective hubs.

FLYING TIME FROM UK: Approx. 11 hours 30 mins to Mexico City.

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