Mexico is a traveller's paradise, crammed with a multitude of opposing
identities: desert landscapes, snow-capped volcanoes, ancient ruins, teeming
industrialised cities, time-warped colonial towns, glitzy resorts, lonely
beaches and a world-beating collection of flora and fauna.
Mexico was inhabited for centuries by pre-Columbian civilizations, including the
Aztec, Olmec, Maya and Toltec, then ruled by the Spanish for 300 years. It
finally gained its independence from Spain on September 16, 1810.
Coastal resort cities like Acapulco, Cancun and Puerto Vallarta, as well as Isla
Cozumel and the Baja Peninsula, have transformed Mexico into one of the most
popular tourist destinations on the planet.
The massive Mexico City metro with its hordes of people (over 21 million),
tasty food, infectious music and Spanish history, is quite possibly the most
fascinating city in the world.
Mexico is mostly a mountainous land, dominated by ranges of the Sierra Madre,
and their numerous volcanos. Exceptions include the desert conditions in the
far-northwest, the generally flat Yucatan Peninsula, and the tropical rain
forests of the far-southeast.
Mexico is bordered by the United States to the north, and Belize and
Guatemala to the southeast. Mexico is about one-fifth the size of the United
States. Baja California in the west is an 800-mile (1,287-km) peninsula and
forms the Gulf of California. In the east are the Gulf of Mexico and the Bay of
Campeche, which is formed by Mexico's other peninsula, the Yucatán. The
center of Mexico is a great, high plateau, open to the north, with mountain
chains on the east and west and with ocean-front lowlands lying outside of them.
Mexico is the world's most populous Spanish speaking country,
and the colorful diversity of its many cultures is by far its most valuable
This mix of modern and traditional, the clichéd and the surreal, is the key
to Mexico's charm, whether your passion is throwing back margaritas, listening
to howler monkeys, surfing the Mexican Pipeline, scrambling over Mayan ruins or
expanding your Day of the Dead collection of posable skeletons.
Modern Mexico is dominated by massive Mexico City, home to
some 20 million inhabitants, and other sophisticated urban centres such as
Guadalajara, (cradle of the all-pervasive mariachi music) which contrast so
vividly with life in the rural economy and small colonial outposts.
Holidays taken in Mexico can include everything from whale
watching in Baja California, jungle walks in Palenque, relaxing in luxurious
converted haciendas, to happy hour in a Cancϊn bar.You will not want to miss, however, the stunning
archaeological sites of the Aztec and Mayan civilizations – Teotihuacαn,
Chichιn Itzα, Palenque and Tulum being the most famous.
One look at this country is enough to remind visitors that there is nothing
new about the so-called New World. Despite the considerable colonial legacy and
rampant modernisation, almost 60 distinct indigenous peoples survive, largely
thanks to their rural isolation.
To entice the visitor, Mexico offers a mix of impressive
archaeological sites, fascinating colonial towns, beautiful beaches and resorts,
and traditional artisan markets. It is a country of great contrasts, where
indigenous agricultural communities co-exist side by side with modern
Owing to an efficient airline and highway network, it is not
difficult to get around this enormous country, which spreads south from the
desert close at the US border through mountain ranges and valleys to the
tropical forests and scrublands of the Yucatαn Peninsula.