Choose your friends carefully before you announce, “I’m heading down Mexico way, why don’t you join me?” Such words are bound to conjure up very different images to different folk. For every traveller who’s got the urge to explore the back streets and architectural edifices of a colonial past, there more who want to do an Indiana Jones over Mayan temples, and more still who can imagine nothing better than lounging on a Caribbean beach by crystalline seas.
Your cash will go a long way here, although prices are higher in the resorts of Cancún and Baja California. The best deals though are to be grabbed the low season, February through April, Easter excepted, and September to November. Summer is the most popular time to travel and ironically that’s when you are most likely to encounter hurricanes and tropical showers, while the winter enjoys clearer waters, and cooler temperatures, more ideal for visiting Mexico’s prestigious archaeological sites.
Whenever you travel, remember Mexico is characterised by its diversity, full of flavours, smells, traditions and experiences. With 32 distinctive states and 33 UNESCO World Heritage sites, Mexico is a destination that offers deserts in the north; mountains and volcanoes in the centre; and beautiful beaches and lush jungles in the south. Just make sure your companion has the same agenda.
Colonial Cities & Heritage Towns
If your low season adventure does overlap into Easter, it is worth noting that this is when the locals escape to the beach, leaving cities strangely quiet, with blue skies and reduced traffic. It’s a great time to explore Mexico City wandering the purple jacaranda-filled capital discovering the glorious historic centre, fascinating museums of the Bosque de Chapultepec, and the artsy Coyoacan neighbourhood, home to Frida Kahlo and Leon Trotsky. Many city centres have been designated UNESCO Sites and are well worth your time and energy. Guanajuato, the city of art, is perfect to explore on foot with its winding lanes and subterranean streets. Guadalajara has wonderfully conserved its complex cultural mosaic of colonial flair and native Tapatíos influences, and hums with mariachi music. Oaxaca enjoys an unspoiled centre and is often regarded as Mexico’s gastronomic centre, while pretty Morelia boasts a stunning Baroque style 17th century cathedral.
Incredible Archaeological Sites
It is the rare visitor who is not just a little bit impressed by the feats of design by the Aztecs in the centre and Mayans in the south. Dating back more than 2000 years, the sites comprise cities of advanced construction, well-preserved inscriptions, mysterious symbolism, secret tunnels and incredible scientific achievements. Possibly the best example is the site at Chichen Itza and its Caracol, a 1000 year old observatory whereby priests formed an accurate calendar. Other popular sites are the Aztec’s lakeside capital of Tenochtitlan; the Uxmal ruins and their impressive light and sound show; Pelenque on the Yucatan Peninsula and the stunning cliff edge fortress of Tulum, but with 40,000 archaeological sites to explore, you’ll find your own favourite.
Beaches & Resorts
With 9000 miles of coastline, exquisite azure seas and some of the best diving in the world, beach lovers will not be disappointed. The popular Mayan Riviera incorporates a beautiful stretch of the Gulf of Mexico off the Yucatan Peninsula and includes Cancún, Playa del Carmen, and the island of Cozumel, while over on the Pacific Coast, Puerto Vallarta, a playground for North Americans since the 1960s still has untouched niches. The stunning Baja Peninsula and Los Cabos boast some top class resorts, but similarly, you can find uncrowded spots on the long beaches. While all-inclusive resorts hold an appeal for many, others might want to check out smaller centres such the coconut town of Ixtapa and the former fishing village of Zihuatanejo which successfully manage to combine a tourist infrastructure with a traditional Mexican feel.