From the celebrity-soaked beaches of Cabo, to the pulsating nightlife of Puerto Vallarta, to the sheer luxury of yacht charter in Cancún, Mexico already offers enough adventure to fulfil a lifetime of dreams. However, travellers who dig deeper discover a huge, complex country that nourishes the soul with gossamer cloud forests, mysterious jungles, vibrant coral reefs, snowy peaks and dramatic, bone-dry deserts. It’s a land of timeless myths and legends, populated by mysterious stone ruins that guard their memory. From ancient archaeological sites to the up-to-the-minute metropolis of Mexico City, the country combines thousands of years of fascinating history with abundant modern style. Take a trip to the Caribbean coast of the Yucatan peninsula to see the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza, travel to the valleys of Oaxaca for the best food in the country, if not all the Americas, soak up the sun and ride the glorious waves on the many glittering Caribbean beaches. But whatever other adventures you embark on, do make sure you leave cliff-diving in Acapulco to the experts…

People

With a population of about 119 million (making it the largest Spanish-speaking country in the world) and sixty two native languages, Mexicans draw on rich cultural and social roots - the rich Maya heritage along with descendants of the Miztecs, Oaxaca, Hidalgo, Otomi and Nahua cultures. But however diverse their descent, kindness, courage and a strong festive spirit are three attributes true Mexicans have in common. And it’s these that have made the country what it is today. A courageous spirit drove Mexicans to fight for their independence, the love of a good fiesta means every holiday in Mexico - whether national, religious or specific to a region - has a festival of its own, and a kind heart inspires Mexicans to incorporate other communities into their country and to extend the warmest of welcomes to more fleeting visitors.

Places

Pacific and Caribbean coastlines, idyllic beaches, adrenaline-fuelled adventure, exquisitely-spiced cuisine, teeming cities, fiesta fireworks, show stopping nightlife : Mexico has it all…and here are our 5 best places to enjoy it.

Mexico City
There’s really no more fascinating city in the world than Mexico's capital. Humming with eclectic energy, its historic architecture, booming gastronomy, and cutting-edge cultural scene combine to ensure that the city is now uttered in the same breath along with Paris, London, Tokyo, and New York. Check out the old city centre or Centro Histórico, find Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera at the stunning contemporary Museo Nacional de Antropología and don’t forget to take in a Lucha Libre wrestling match at the arena - you’ll believe men really, truly can fly…

Cancún
With 14 miles of pristine white beaches and sparkling crystalline waters, Cancún is two worlds wrapped in one. There's the unabashed luxury of high-end hotels, the hedonism of a flamboyant party scene and the sophistication of multi-starred restaurants. And then there's the actual city itself. Explore this for a taste of local flavour at a popular local neighborhood taco joint and a chat and a Negra Modelo with locals. Better yet, explore more of the area. Just a day away lies the Mayan metropolis of Chichén Itzá and Isla Holbox, where swimming with massive whale sharks has become all the rage.

Oaxaca
Situated 5,000 feet above sea level and surrounded by the famed Sierra Madre del Sur mountain range, this colonial city is centred around a traditional town square and its incredibly delicious cuisine, vibrant markets and authentic native customs make it an ideal place to immerse yourself in the country's culture. Oaxaca is also renowned for having one of the best Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) festivals in Mexico. Here, the it starts at the end of October when families prepare the tombs for the return of the spirits.

Tulum
Offering the perfect combination of relaxation, fun and adventure, you’ll not only find some of the best best beaches in Mexico here, but also the country’s most picturesque ruins - those of the ancient Mayan walled city of Tulum. In addition you can check out the numerous spectacular cenotes (subterranean bodies of water), superb diving and snorkelling opportunities, stunning nature reserves, fun-packed water parks, and amazing street art just a few feet away. Downtown Tulum is the perfect place to escape overly crowded tourist locations and enjoy a relaxing time with locals.

Guanajuato
Two words best describe Guanajuato: utterly gorgeous. Spilling across cliffs and down hillsides this glorious town of 16th-century cathedrals, laurel tree-shaded plazas, vividly-coloured houses and inviting pavement cafés is perhaps best visited during October's cultural extravaganza - the Festival Cervantino. But at any time of year it's a great hub for laid-back colonial life. Be aware, though, that he city's street plan is nearly incomprehensible — streets never seem to go where you'd expect, and are crisscrossed by countless narrow alleys. On the bright side, getting lost for a few hours is sure to be an adventure rather than a nuisance.
 

Pleasures

Spicy as a chili pepper, intoxicating as the finest tequila and surreal as a Frida Kahlo painting, the nightlife in Mexico fills the senses, stirs the blood and gets the heart (and feet) pounding. In the cities you’ll find an impressively diverse array of bars, pubs, clubs and charminly tacky cabarets, packed to the brim with Mexico’s party-loving citizens (chilangos). Be serenaded by mariachis, slam down tequila shots in spit and sawdust cantinas and gyrate to salsa and cumbia in the clubs and bars from dusk ’til dawn when the cafés open for breakfast - it’s a rite of party passage.
You’ll also find the most diverse shopping options - from exclusive shopping malls to local shops selling fine crafts to intriguing curio markets. Unsurprisingly, Mexico City is the mecca for the dedicated shopper. In the Centro Histórico you’ll find beautiful, authentic wooden, iron and silver handicrafts. In the Polanco neighborhood, on Mazaryk Avenue on the other hand, you’ll find stores selling some of the world’s most prestigious designer brands.
As well as loving a good fiesta, Mexicans love food - especially their own. And it’s easy to see why. When you visit, ask a local where to find, for example, the best tacos in Mexico City, or the best mole (chocolate chilli sauce) in Oaxaca, sit back and prepare for a fervent, wide-ranging, well-informed and lengthy discussion. For many visitors, the first experience with real Mexican food comes as a surprise – there are no chocolate margaritas, hard-shell tacos or canned-cheese nachos on the menu. Authentic Mexican food is fresh, simple and most often grown locally. The menus vary by region, but in most cases you can find food made with a few staples: corn, an array of dry and fresh chillies, and beans. For a true taste of Mexico, try birria, steamed beef, goat, veal, pork, or maybe lamb which is steamed slowly in a pool of spices and served up as an extra-moist and tender stew. In the mood for eggs? Huevos tirados (thrown eggs) is basically scrambled eggs with beans which vary by region and whilst the dish looks like a mess, the taste more than makes up for it. Then there’s Tikin xic (pronounced “teekeen chic”). Achiote seed, garlic, chilies, citrus juice and spices like cumin and cloves are pounded into a bright red paste and rubbed onto fish or seafood then traditionally steamed in banana leaves. (Try it. You will thank us.) For the particularly peckish snacker, chow down on a tamale or two, Steamed masa (starchy corn dough) is filled with meat, cheese, vegetables, peppers or even fruit for a delicious traditional treat. And whatever you do, don’t leave Mexico without trying a street vendor taco. You might think you know tacos, but until you’ve tried these, you don’t. Usually served on very small, circular tortillas, they generally contain nothing more than meat and taste incredible. Just pay a couple of pesos for for the meat and get all the tortillas and fixings you want.
One last thing. If you’re on the hunt for fine dining and ask a local to name the best chef in town, be prepared for the same answer every time: mi madre – ‘my mother’.


Do

Remember Mexico is a Catholic country with a strong religious belief system.
Learn a few phrases in Spanish before you go and say ‘Salud’ when someone sneezes. Not to do so is considered rude.
Photocopy your passport before you go and leave one copy with family or friends. Pack the second copy in a separate case from your actual passport.
Take off sunglasses and hats when entering a church.
Bring small denomination currency. US dollars are accepted throughout the country so having plenty of $1, $5 and $10 bills will be useful.
Rest your wrists on the edge of the table when dining and understand that only men give toasts in Mexican culture.
Tip with 10% - 20% of service charge.
Take life as it comes and be patient - the mañana attitude still prevails to some degree.
 

Don’t

Drink water from the tap if you’re out and about. Buy purified bottled water instead.
Exchange currency anywhere other than an official currency exchange or a bank. While local shops and outlets will happily exchange your money, the rate will definitely be to their advantage and not yours.
Use the words ‘no’ or ‘I don’t know’ to Mexicans. It’s not done in their culture and will come across as unsupportive and rude. Instead, find excuses and keep saying ‘thank you’ again and again.
Wear shorts if you wish to blend in. They’re very seldom worn by Mexicans.
Wear expensive designer clothing and jewellery or take large sums of money out with you.
Be early or on time if invited to someone’s home - it’s seen as rude. Instead, arrive a fashionable 30 minutes late.
 

Best time to go

Mexico is a vast country with two distinct coastlines and, as a result, the weather varies by season and region. Summer (June to October), is theoretically the rainy season, but just how wet it gets varies enormously. In the heartlands, you can generally expect a heavy but short downpour almost every afternoon, whilst in the north hardly any rain ever falls. Along the beaches, September to mid-October is hurricane season – you’ll usually get wet weather, rough seas and swarms of mosquitoes, if not a full-on tropical storm. Between December to April, there is virtually no rain and these months are generally considered the best time to visit, with November being the favourite choice of Mexico travel aficionados.
 

Best way to go

What better way to explore two stunning coastlines than by boat? There are many main ports you can choose to start your journey from: Acapulco, Cabo San Lucas, Cozumel, Manzanillo, Mazatlán, Puerto Vallarta, Tampico and Zihuatanejo/Ixtap. Wherever you choose, no problem. Your boat will take you exactly where you want to go, when you want to go. And should you decide to rent a car and drive inland to whichever destination you fancy, no problem either. Your boat can pick you up anywhere along the coast and drop you off wherever you decide, meaning your trip is completely customisable. Your boat’s customisable too…just choose from any of the beautifully equipped vessels.
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Mexico