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Mexico

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With a Native American heritage and a distinct Spanish flavour, Mexico is vibrant, colourful and unique. Its varied terrain ranges from cactus-studded deserts to white sandy beaches and blue waters, tropical rainforest and jungle-clad hills to steep rocky canyons and narrow gorges, and from snow-capped volcano peaks to huge, bustling cities. The extraordinary history of the country is visible in the ancient Mayan temples strewn across the jungles, the ruins of Aztec civilisations, rural indigenous villages, Spanish colonial cities, silver mining towns, and traditional Mexican ports.

Besides a combination of unique culture and fascinating cities, Mexico also boasts several hundred miles of coastline extending down through both the Pacific and the Caribbean, which has branded the country as an extremely popular beach resort destination. Beach resort cities such as Acapulco, Cancun and those of the Baja California peninsula are accepted vacation havens. The countryside enclosing these summer retreats is also rich in archaeological treasures with pyramids, ruins of ancient cities and great stone carvings of ancient gods standing as testament to a country once ruled by the Aztecs and Mayans.

Cancun

Located on the northeast coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, the world-famous beach resort hub of Cancun was once a humble fishing village but has blossomed into a city which caters mostly to tourists in search of sand, sun and surf. The city is dominated by the hotel zone, blessed with all the amenities visitors could possibly desire, and Cancun’s downtown area, home to the locals, is often overlooked by foreigners. Downtown Cancun is less glamorous than the glitzy beachfront, but it does allow travellers to experience a more authentic Mexican community, with bustling markets, cheap and friendly restaurants, vendors and street performers.

As a beach resort Cancun is inexhaustibly popular and its reputation is well deserved: the powdery white sand and clear waters make for a Caribbean paradise where watersports are the main diversion. Scuba divers and snorkellers flock to the region for some of the best coral reef diving in the world (particularly around the island of Cozumel). The variety and quality of accommodation in Cancun is superb and the nightlife is extremely energetic, making it a great favourite with young Americans. The city offers splendid shopping and eating out venues and there are some remarkable Mayan ruins nearby for a touch of culture and history on a beach holiday. The only real disadvantage of Cancun as a holiday destination is the crowds that descend on the small coastal city: Spring Break (March and April) is best avoided.

Mexico City

Sprawling across a valley encircled by ice-capped volcanoes and mountains, atop an ancient Aztec civilisation, Mexico City is North America’s highest city, and one of the worlds most densely populated. With a long and fascinating history that runs from ancient native civilisations through to the invasion of the Conquistadors and subsequent colonial rule, Mexico City has a vast number of fascinating sights and attractions.

It has some world-class museums and galleries, a remarkable architectural legacy and elegant buildings, palaces and cathedrals, green open spaces and colonial suburbs, historical ruins, attractive squares, modern skyscrapers and great economic, cultural and political importance.

Baja California

Baja California is a long thin peninsula running parallel to the west coast of the Mexican mainland, separated by the Gulf of California or Sea of Cortez. It is divided into two states, Baja California Norte in the north and the southern region of Baja California Sur, and extends from Tijuana on the American border down to Cabo San Lucas at the peninsula’s tip.

Baja is one of the least humid places on earth with an intensely dry climate. It is a diverse geographical area providing remarkable contrasts. This is a wildly beautiful place of unusual scenery and dramatic colour changes, of exquisitely azure bays and miles of fine white beaches, rocky cliffs giving way to dry mountainous slopes covered in a stunning display of cactus plants. The interior is harsh and undeveloped, while the coast is dotted with attractive resorts and modern towns. The protected gulf is home to more endemic species than anywhere else in the world; the warm waters are rich in marine life, and the protected waters on the Pacific coast are an important breeding ground for whales.

Guadalajara

Guadalajara is considered one of the most stereotypically ‘Mexican’ cities in the country. The birthplace of mariachi music, tequila, and charros (Mexican cowboys), Guadalajara is the second-largest city in Mexico and a major cultural centre. The historic centre of Guadalajara has a plethora of stunning churches and other grand buildings, including must-sees like the Guadalajara Cathedral, the Palacio de Gobierno, and the Templo Expiatorio. A number of parks and monuments also contribute to making Guadalajara a very attractive place.