Mexico is a traveler’s paradise, crammed with a multitude of opposing identities: desert landscapes, snow-capped volcanoes, ancient ruins, teeming industrialized cities, time-warped colonial towns, glitzy resorts, lonely beaches and a world-beating collection of flora and fauna. 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 skeletons. Despite the considerable colonial legacy and rampant modernization, almost 60 distinct indigenous peoples survive, largely thanks to their rural isolation.
Travel to Mexico to experience a nation rich in history, tradition, culture, and natural beauty. The inhabitants of this modern country use their land and other resources to create unrivalled handicrafts and a varied and colorful cuisine. Mexico’s tourism industry is strong, with every state offering a unique travel experience.
To understand Mexico’s history, one can go to a library, do some internet research or, better yet, visit the country’s central area. Here, the traveler will find cities as diverse as Zacatecas, Aguascalientes or San Miguel de Allende, which all have a common denominator: they participated in the Mexican Independence and Revolution wars, they witnessed the fall of an empire and the birth of a nation. They all show traces of a memorable past in their walls, streets and churches.
The rich natural resources, privileged geographic location and biodiversity make Mexico an excellent territory to explore. You can do so by train, on foot, on horseback, in a kayak or you can go camping and mountain climbing. Visitors will be truly overwhelmed as they admire the unique landscape and observe indigenous flora and fauna. In the state of Chihuahua, the Copper Canyon offers an amazing experience. As you travel through mountains and narrow passes you can admire the spectacular beauty of the Sierra Madre Occidental.
The canyons, plateaus, waterfalls and rivers are ideal for trekking, mountain biking, horseback riding, hunting, rock climbing and rappelling. Yet if you prefer to explore some of the most fascinating ecosystems in the nation and admire the beautiful landscape inhabited by birds, crocodiles, turtles, fish, reptiles and wide variety of plant life, you should head to the Mayan Riviera.
There you can go scuba diving, kayaking, fishing, camping and horseback riding on the beach or in the jungles. You’re also guaranteed a gratifying experience when visiting the Celestun Biosphere Reserve and the Ria Lagartos Sanctuary, in Yucatan and Campeche. There you’ll see thousands of pink flamingoes, sea turtles, crocodiles and indigenous plant species that you can capture on film on a photo safari, or you can take a boat tour through the mangroves and wetlands.
For those who prefer fishing, whale-watching, scuba diving, windsurfing, an underwater photo outing, or visiting vineyards and valley regions, Ensenada, in Baja California, is the ideal place. But if you want to enjoy a walk or hike through a region known for its beautiful clouds and flowers, you should visit Xalapa, in the state of Veracruz, where the Cofre de Perote National Park and the Cerro Macuilteptel invite you to camp and rock climb in an area surrounded by lush vegetation.
Mexico has 110,000 monuments, 29,000 archeological sites, 31 UNESCO World Heritage sites, 62 distinct ethnic language groups and one of the five best cuisines in the world.
What to Do
Take a break from the beach on your next visit to Mexico. Head inland and discover natural beauty, archaeological treasures, and good old-fashioned fun everywhere you turn.
For example, why not join a bilingual guide and explore some of Puerto Vallarta’s hillsides, valleys, villages and jungle—on horseback! For centuries, Mexican cowboys (charros) have relied on their four-footed steeds and now you can follow in their footsteps and beyond. Experience beaches, such as Xcaret and Tres Rios parks in Cancun, river banks and lush forests, with stops along the way for traditional meals, a cooling splash in the river and historic highlights. See mysterious desert landscapes, tropical flowers and picturesque haciendas. Ride for a morning, a day, or take off into the remote countryside on a multi-day tour.
Horses too tame for you? Hop on the back of a Harley Davidson and roar away on a motorcycle tour of the back roads of Cancun. Set your own pace. Stop for a stroll through a village church or cobblestoned marketplace. Spread a picnic in a shady spot overlooking the blue waters below. Take in the sound of mariachis and enjoy the rush of fresh air on your skin.
Or how about testing some rugged trails on an all-terrain vehicle (ATV)? Breathe in the pure mountain air while your eyes and spirit are treated to spectacular views. Discover a magnificent waterfall and relax for a while in the middle of nowhere! Visit a private ranch and pick a fresh mango, papaya or banana right off the tree. Head to the beach or ride through jungle paths, swim in a clear 60 foot deep cenote, explore caves and climb ancient Mayan ruins. Try the Playa del Carmen jungle tour, or a Vallarta back roads tour.
Visit a natural warm spring, such as Oaxaca’s Hierve el Agua, in use for more than 2,400 years. As the water runs off of the edge of the nearby cliff, minerals create a petrified waterfall, one of only two such sites in the world, the other being in Turkey. Or see the thundering Cascada de Eyipantla in Veracruz, with its 246 descending steps (you might recognize it from one of the dozen movies filmed there).
Try biking, trekking, or birdwatching (some 950 species on view in Baja and the Yucatan!). Visit private homes or artists’ studios in Puerto Vallarta or San Miguel de Allende. Go mountain-climbing on Mexico's volcanoes. Explore lost cities, pre-Columbian rock-art sites near Merida, Playa del Carmen and Cancun, sub-tropical rain forests and pristine Caribbean beaches while soaking up the culture of Mexico's indigenous cultures. There’s so much to do—and so many ways to do it—you’ll be planning your next trip before you ever leave!
Learn More About Mexico’s World Heritage Highlights:
Mexico’s charms are nowhere more evident than among its World Heritage sites, designated by UNESCO as those places of significant cultural and natural heritage—sure to lure and enhance any Mexico trip.
Should your travel sights be set on the Baja Peninsula, Sierra de San Francisco in the El Vizcaíno reserve is home to a spectacular assemblage of rock art paintings. Some dating back 5,000 years, the depictions of animal and human figures embellish hundreds of locations.
Heading to Puerto Vallarta? A side trip to Guadalajara offers the imposing Hospicio Cabañas. Built in the early 1800s as an orphanage, the cabañas are now a wonderful music and art center adorned with the murals of Mexican master Orozco.
Built atop the site of the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan, populous Mexico City claims temple ruins, the continent’s largest cathedral and superb 19th and 20th-century architecture. South of the capital, Xochimilco is known for its 16th-century structures and chinimpas, or floating gardens.
Near the city of Oaxaca, Monte Albán is a complex of stone pyramids, platforms and mounds. Take care climbing the structures’ steep steps! The Historic Center of Oaxaca boasts five-hundred-year-old edifices that include the baroque-style Cathedral of Oaxaca. A day trip here is a “must” for guests on holiday in coastal Huatulco.
On the slopes of Popocatepetl, the famous snow-capped volcano, the country’s earliest monasteries stand. All fourteen structures, built along the Convents Route and once occupied by Franciscan, Dominican and Augustinian missionaries, are excellently preserved.
Complement your Cancun nights with a tour of pre-hispanic Chichén-Itzá in the Yucatán. The stone carvings that decorate the Temple of the Jaguars, the Platform of Venus and more are fascinating examples of Mayan-Toltec artistry. South of Cancun, Sian Ka'an is a splendid bio-reserve of tropical rainforests, wetlands and the world’s second largest barrier reef.
In historic Puebla, southeast of Mexico City, see dozens of 16th and 17th-century churches and the eccentric Alfeñique House, whose plaster work resembles meringue candy—then shop for armloads of brightly colored Talavera tile and dishware.