A country of crazy contrasts and head-spinning history, Mexico has seen it all, from the rise of the mighty Mayans to the fall of the Aztec Empire. True to its clichés yet full of contradictions, you could chomp tortillas in the crush of Mexico City and slam tequilas in Cancun, or dive into sinkholes on the Yucatan Peninsula and watch whales migrate past Baja California.
What started as an Aztec town has become one of the world’s mightiest megacities. Packed with people, bursting with traffic and brimming with life, the best advice is to go with the flow, give in to the madness and let the Mexico City reveal its charms. Start in the colonial core with the National Palace and Metropolitan Cathedral, then visit the converted Aztec temple of Templo Mayor and the fantastic Frida Kahlo Museum.
Stroll along leafy boulevards, whizz around on the metro system or cycle through the streets on traffic-free Sundays. Slam tequilas in traditional cantinas, or taste huevos rancheros and listen to live mariachi music. For a break from the city, take a day trip out to the pyramids of Teotihuacán or spend an afternoon punting along the pretty waterways at Xochimilco.
Glitz and glamour and everything in-between, there’s no mistaking the party resort of Cancun. White sandy beaches stretch for miles, and you can scuba over reefs or glide around underwater sculptures. Stick to the Hotel Zone For shopping malls and tourist bars, or head downtown for Mexican markets and traditional dishes cooked in banana leaves. Afterhours, you’ll have lightshows, international DJs and some of Mexico’s best nightclubs vying for your attention.
If Cancun sounds too much, dip in for a day and spend a night on the town then escape to the coral-crushed sands of the Yucatan Peninsula. Plunge into offshore sinkholes and swim with whale sharks, explore flamingo-packed eco-parks, and capture snoozing crocodiles on camera. Just offshore sit the idyllic islands of Quintana Roo, where you can chill out on Isla Holbox or find nesting turtles on Isla Mujeres. With Mayan ruins peppering the peninsula, you’ll find ancient cities deep in the jungle and the famous Tulum temples perched on the sea-cliffs.
Stretching for more than 700-miles, Baja California is the world’s second longest peninsula. Expect everything from parched deserts to wave-pounded beaches, and dormant volcanoes to all-night parties. Rent a car and follow the Transpeninsular Highway, driving from the border city of Tijuana to San Jose del Cabo. Stay in intriguing colonial towns or throw a tent and surfboard in the back and camp beneath the stars.
Watch migrating whales or descend in a cage to see the teeth of great white sharks. Kayak around Loreto National Park or go deep-sea fishing to catch marlin and wahoo. Feast on fish tacos and sip sangrita, or tour the wineries of Santo Tomas. Rub shoulders with the rich and famous in the Baja Corridor or escape north to the ancient cave paintings of Sierra de San Francisco.