Mexico enjoys a deserved reputation as a favourite holiday destination. And while the whole of Latin America also attracts tourists from every corner of the world, provided tourists observe the basic tips on personal safety, Mexico can offer a more varied and tourist-friendly mix than many of its regional rivals.
It’s also true that, in so many ways, Mexican culture has already become part of our everyday lifestyle experience: Most people will have experienced Mexican foods such as chilli, tacos, tortillas and nachos; and most will already know something of the rich and colourful history of Mexico’s early Mayan and Aztec civilizations. Of course, that’s also one reason why Mexican-influenced casino slots are always so popular. In fact, you could get in the mood for a little Mexican adventure by playing titles such as Beautiful Bones, Mayan Princess and Amazing Aztecs, and if your luck holds, you might just scoop a major jackpot prize which could pay for your Central American trip outright. Meanwhile, here’s some more information about the best places to see in the country many natives call ‘República Mexicana’, and which is informally known as just ‘Mex’.
Facing the turquoise-blue Caribbean Sea, the Riviera Maya lies on the Yucatan Peninsula and is renowned for its white sand beaches, coastal scenery and abundant lakes. There is no shortage of tourist resorts with enduring appeal, and the largest of these is undoubtedly Cancún. Facilities range from top-end luxury travel options such as luxury villa rentals and yacht charters, through all-inclusive packages offered by large commercial hotels to smaller boutique hotels which usually offer a more adaptable niche holiday experience. The tourist city of Playa del Carmen and its surrounding area is an interesting destination, though some may choose to look for accommodation in more understated locations. However, even though it is one of the more populous regions of Mexico, the Riviera Maya still harbours some authentic historical treasures such as the archaeological remains of the Mayan settlement of Chitzen Itza. There are also a host of active leisure opportunities on offer, such as jet-skiing, snorkelling, scuba diving, swimming, horse riding and sailing, to name just a few. And if retreats and meditation are your thing, Tulum on the coast has become a centre for those wishing to explore a range of yoga and mindfulness options.
Constructed above the remains of Tenochtitlan, an ancient Aztec city, present-day Mexico City is one of the oldest cities in the Americas. And with a population of more than 20 million citizens, it is also one of the largest. It’s the place to see stunning colonial architecture, enjoy iconic artworks, savour spicy Mexican cuisine, and become immersed in a rich cultural environment visited by tourists at any season. Try the Templo Mayor Museum if you’re looking for a popular Aztec site, enjoy a trip to the outdoor oasis of Bosque de Chapultepec, or visit Puebla, an enchanting historical city at the foot of Popocatépetl, the famous snow-capped volcanic mountain. And if you want to witness the world-famous ‘day of the dead’ celebrations, then arrange your trip to coincide with this festival, which takes place at the end of October.
Close to the US border, the Baja California Peninsula is a desert area of wonderful beaches, beautiful landscapes and rich marine life. Stretching out into the turquoise waters of the Pacific Ocean, this peninsular region is full of contrasts: Vibrant towns such as Todos Santos capture the unique spirit of the region, the waters surrounding the Coronado Islands are a snorkelling paradise teeming with marine life, and the scenic Bahia Concepcion has glorious uncrowded and unspoilt beaches beside the magical blue Sea of Cortez. Places like Espiritu Santo, Valle Guadalupe or the old mountain town of Loreto are well worth a visit, and there are numerous luxury hotels ready to accommodate wealthy tourists looking for an authentic Mexican experience.
Lying in the south of Mexico, the beautifully elegant city of Oaxaca has its own distinctive feel. Visitors will find that many of the city’s best-known tourist locations can be found in the area between Zocalo and Oaxaca’s main plaza. This means that several must-see sites like the stunningly beautiful Santo Domingo church and the vibrant Benito Juarez market are all well within walking distance. Oaxaca has a vibrant arts and crafts scene and a magical, laid-back atmosphere which instantly puts visitors at their ease. The nearby Sierra Norte is a great place to walk, bike and ride horses amid verdant mountain landscapes. Oaxaca’s sumptuous tropical coast lies further south and offers pristine sandy beaches, Pacific surf, and seas where dolphins and turtles swim.
A casual stroll along Puerto Vallarta’s Malecón (promenade) at sunset is an experience which every visitor should try to manage during their stay. Though this buzzy little coastal town is certainly a tourist venue, it still retains plenty of echoes of its past, including some exquisite cobbled streets. Be sure to look out for the Rotonda del Mar bronze statues you can find on the Puerto Vallarta waterfront. Many visitors come to the town to enjoy diving and deep-sea fishing, but there really is something for everyone. Boat trips out to the Islas Marietas are always very popular, or you could just enjoy a day on the beach with the chance to cool off and swim in the Pacific Ocean. In the evening you could dine in a local restaurant, where the local Pacific ‘red snapper’ is a regional delicacy which simply must be tried.
Veracruz is an old seaport which was designated a city as far back as 1615. An important tourist destination, Veracruz has a hot humid climate and is a very popular location for weekend visitors travelling from Mexico City. Many of its attractive buildings date from colonial days, and the city is also a venue for those seeking traditional regional cuisine or wishing to explore Mexico’s indigenous cultures. As well as being a thriving commercial fishing port, Veracruz can also offer good beaches and a range of water sports activities.