Latin American colours, sounds and culture, ancient pyramids and glorious sands


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.

Low Season Months

Jan Feb Mar
May Jun Jul Aug Sep

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Top Experiences

Whale Migration

Between November and March, thousands of grey and humpback whales travel from Alaska and Canada to the warm Mexican Pacific coast off Baja California. In fact, the region is known as one of the best places in the world to view these magnificent mammals. Watch from the beach or for a more close-up experience book a tour with experienced guides.

Day of The Dead Festivities

Falling in the low season of early November, the renowned celebration (yes, death is perceived as a time of joy) avoids the peak tourist period, but you certainly will mix with large crowds of locals as you immerse yourself in this colourful indigenous cultural phenomenon. The main event is in Pátzcuaro, but there are celebrations throughout the country.

Chichen Itza Mayan Metropolis

Of all the impressive sites, this remains the most magnificent and best restored, renowned for El Castillo, the 30 metre tall stepped stone Pyramid of Kukulkan, which dominates the site. A day trip from Cancún and Playa del Carmen or the White City of Merida, it’s best visited during the cooler winter months but avoid Sundays when Mexicans enter for free.

Insider Tips

  • Spanish is the national tongue, but this is far from the Costa del Sol. English is taught is many schools but is spoken by just an estimated 5% of the population, so for taking public transport or Ubers, shopping or getting directions, try español.
  • Similar to the US, tipping here is expecting. Service staff earn little or no base salary and rely on tips for a living wage. These include porters, hotel staff, bagging assistants in shops, salon workers, airport transfer drivers and taxi drivers.
  • The winter season is the time to visit the astonishing Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve in the heights of Michaoacán state. Millions of butterflies arrive in this UNESCO World Heritage Site from North America creating a magical phenomenon.

Good To Know

  • Depending on your home network, you might consider buying a Mexican sim for your phone. It is easy to do, doesn’t require any ID and having data to access maps while you explore can save many a lost person or lost temper.
  • For terrific views of Mexico City, climb to the top terrace of the Museo Nacional de Historia. This national museum is located at Chapultepec Castle and is itself a stunning building in lovely grounds. Well worth the effort!
  • Domestic flights cover ground quickly, but do consider Mexico’s decent bus network. Luxury primero and platino buses whisk through beautiful countryside in style, while colectivo shared minibuses are great for shoestring travellers.

Food & Drink

Mexican weekend breakfast


There is no one specific dish but Mexican breakfast is a very important event at the weekend. Dishes are generally based on eggs with all sorts of sauces including meats, vegetables and a spicy tomato stew. Fresh fruit and natural juices are always on tap too.

Pacific Coast Seafood


Baja California favourites include marlin, swordfish, snapper, tuna, shrimp and octopus prepared with lemon, fresh chillies, tomato, cilantro or onion; or ceviche, raw fish cured in citrus juices. Try them at local cantinas or in the region’s high end eateries.

Pan Dulce


Try Mexico’s delicious sweet breads including the traditional Pan de Muerto in October and November or Rosca de Reyes in January or any fresh bread from traditional local bakeries, to be enjoyed with a cup of hot chocolate at breakfast or dinner.

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