Regardless of some troublesome ups and downs, Mexico continues to amaze those who really want to explore this exciting country – half way between the luxuries of the first world and the hardy third world. Rich cultural heritage, passionate people, famous beach resorts and incredible relics of the past encompass just some of the highlights. Visit the ancient ruins including Chichen Itza, jungle-enshrouded Palenque, Uxmal and the Sun & Moon pyramids of Teotihuacan. Walk the cobblestone streets in the charming towns of Oaxaca, Taxco and San Cristobal. Then sun yourself by day and play all night at the famous resorts of Cancun, Acapulco or Mazatlan. The choices are endless, and with the great variety can create one fabulous trip!
• Chichen Itza
• San Cristobal de las Casas
• Playa del Carmen
Mexico is in the northern hemisphere so seasons are opposite to ours, however there is no wrong time to visit. The hottest time of year is May- Sep (particularly on the coast) and it gets cooler and dry from Oct – Apr. Some say it is more comfortable to travel in the cooler season but that depends on how hot you like it!.
Mexico happens to be one of my stand-out all-time favourite countries and was a complete delight to visit. Not being a scholar or history buff myself, I was concerned whether I could “take it all in” given the large number of civilizations and conquests that Mexico has seen I was pleasantly surprised that Mexico City had an outstanding Archaelogical Museum which I would highly rate a visit before you visit any of the ruins, which helped me immensely in my brief social studies lesson!
Of all the ruins and sites in Mexico, my favourites would have to be Uxmal and Palenque. Of course there is Chichen Itza which is the most famous by far and you must not miss it, but it is likely to be swarming with other tourists which kind of gets in the way of your photos. Palenque was incredible – still jungle-enshrouded and as much as possible in its original state, apart from obviously the ruins themselves being kept from growing under the jungle again. You can just stand there and imagine the noises, sights and sounds of a bustling little community going about their lives. For photographers these ruins are simply the best!
But Mexico is not only ruins. The true heart of the Mayan world still remains in the highlands, and I visited the small city of San Cristobal de las Casas, whose name just is enough to send you there. Staying in a 5 star hacienda with beautiful open courtyard and historic art on the walls I spent two days walking around the central area and square visiting the cathedral, markets and cafes. A delightful little place, slow paced and full of Spanish colonial architecture and not far from there are the local Indian communities such as San Juan Chamula where you can take an excursion to their villages and visit the markets. Add the stunning Mexican Caribbean beaches of Cancun and Playa del Carmen and you will have your dream itinerary.
My favourite of the “Mayan Riviera” resorts was Playa del Carmen. Originally a traditional fishing village, the beaches were discovered after Cancun exploded into tourism. Playa del Carmen is far less busy and in my mind, a much better stretch of beach as much of Cancun’s beach is taken over by the endless rows of loungers. The accommodation too, suited my style a lot more than a high-rise resort would ever do, I stayed at the Mahekal Resort with its little cabanas and open-air bar complete with bar “swings”! Each to their own however, and Cancun is still popular if you really love a bit of nightlife, socializing and a fully catered resort. What are you waiting for? Mexico is not the quickest place to get to, but it is one you will remember forever. Ange
Currency Mexican Peso
Language Spanish is the official language of Mexico, although some 66 indigenous languages from pre-Hispanic cultures are still spoken today
Why we love it Discover some fantastic architecture in the ‘centro historico’ of Mexico City and travel about the city in the local taxis – bright green VW’s (yes, the original VW was manufactured in Mexico right up until 2003!). If you are keen on resorts, then Mexico has it all – from Caribbean resorts such as Cancun and Playa del Carmen on the Riveria Maya to Acapulco and Puerto Vallarta on the Pacific coast. Don’t forget Baja California – one of the world’s best surf spots and the location of the twin resorts of Cabo san Lucas and San Jose del Cabo. One of the most interesting reasons to visit Mexico is the awe-inspiring feeling of the archaeological sites dating back to Pre-classic, Classic and Early Classic. If it’s all a bit much working out exactly how ancient these sites are, don’t worry – just sit back and enjoy the view. We love the quaint colonial towns of Oaxaca, Merida and San Cristobal de las Casas; picture-postcard destinations with cobblestone streets, character-filled hotels and real charm. On the Yucatan Peninsula is the famous international resort of Cancun, though for Kiwi’s might prefer the laid-back almost bohemian resort of Playa del Carmen. The beach is out of this world, there are plenty of little bars and restaurants and enough shopping, but not too much. It is also the best gateway to Cozumel Island a 45-minute ferry away and the best diving spots in Mexico.
Weather Mexico is northern hemisphere so seasons are opposite to ours. The hottest time of year is May- Sep (particularly on the coast) and it gets cooler and dry from Oct – Apr. Some say it is more comfortable to travel in the cooler season but that depends on how hot you like it!
Social customs & quirks Mexican culture has been shaped from the blending of pre-Hispanic civilisations, Spanish culture and influences from the United States.
‘Futbal’ – soccer as we know it, is singularly the most popular sport in the country, followed by charreria and bullfighting. Charreria is the Mexican style of traditional horsemanship developed from the colonial haciendas, from which the American style of “rodeo” developed.
Mexican people are warm and gracious and as in a lot of Latin cultures, have a ‘manana’ (or ‘tomorrow’) attitude. A sensitive and slightly laid-back attitude will get you everywhere while travelling in Mexico.
When greeting people in Mexico it is common to shake hands. Women may also greet men or women with a kiss on the cheek. Tipping is customary – 10% on top of the bill is standard and U$1 per piece of luggage for porterage.
Festivals & events The most important date in Mexico is Independence Day on September 16th. Other important dates are the Day of the Dead (Nov 2nd), Easter, and the Virgin of the Guadelupe Day (Dec 12th)
I would like to say again that our recent trip to Mexico organized by World Journeys was extremely successful. There was nothing I could fault. The travel arrangements were excellent. The pick-ups from our hotels were always on time; we were never made to wait. The drivers and guides were helpful, well informed and friendly. We felt they were genuinely interested in us too. This is not often the case with guides who obviously get jaded and tired of going over the same ground day after day. The hotels were clean and comfortable and were taken to see all of the archaeological sites that we asked to visit. Visits usually lasted up to 3 or 4 hours so that we felt we had really seen the place in some depth. Thank you again Chris. We look forward to your planning another trip for us in the future.