Mexico things to see and do

Tourist offices

Mexico Tourism Board in the UK

Wakefield House, 41 Trinity Square, London, EC3N 4DJ, United Kingdom
Tel: (020) 7488 9392 or 00800 1111 2266 (brochure request line).
www.visitmexico.com

Mexican Tourism Board in the USA

400 Madison Avenue, Suite 11C, New York, NY, 10017, United States
Tel: (212) 308 2110 or 1 800 446 3942.
www.visitmexico.com

Things to see and do

Beaches in Mexico

Mexico boasts a fantastic variety of beaches along both coasts. On the Baja California Peninsula, many head for Los Cabos, to San Lucas and San José. To the east, on the Caribbean side, make for Isla de Mujeres, a slender island off the Yucatán coast fringed by crushed coral sands.

Cancun

Those with a ticket to one of Cancún's 15,000-capacity beach parties will want to sleep all day as they will need all the energy they can get. Spring Break is the ultimate party period. For a more distinctively Mexican blowout, try the Pacific port of Mazatlán for Carnival (preceding Ash Wednesday).

Cenotes

The limestone terrain of the Yucatán peninsula is peppered with deep, naturally formed pools known as cenotes, ideal for swimming or diving. Some, such as Xlacah near the archaeological site of Dzibilchaltún, have ritual significance for the local Maya. Others, like Dos Ojos near Akumal, connect to underground cave networks.

Chichén-Itzá

The ceremonial city of Chichén-Itzá was built over 1,000 years ago, but the Mayan magic still draws crowds. Each spring and autumn equinox, shadows show Kukulcan (the snake) working his way up the steps. Other amazing but less-visited Maya sites include Calakmul in southern Campeche and Bonampak, with its polychromatic murals, in Chiapas.

Costa Azul

Mexican resorts offer a full range of water sports, including windsurfing, sea-kayaking and parasailing. Surfers will find plenty of point breaks down the Pacific coast, notably along the Costa Azul of southern Baja, at Sayulita, Matanchén bay south of San Blas and Puerto Escondido on the Oaxaca coast.

Cozumel

The reefs surrounding Cozumel island are prized diving spots known for their tropical marine life and unusual coral formations. Other fine spots for diving or snorkeling include Banco Chinchorro coral atoll off Yucatán's Costa Maya and Zihuatanejo on the Pacific coast.

Isla Janitzio

Janitzio, off Lake Pátzcuaro, is considered the most magical place to witness Mexico's Day of the Dead festival, with candlelit boats conveying Purépecha villagers to the tiny island where they decorate the tombs of their loved ones in an all-night vigil. Ceremonies are held on 1 and 2 November in cemeteries throughout Mexico.

Mexico City

The capital is positively brimming with historic and cultural attractions. Its gigantic main square is overlooked by the imposing Catedral Metropolitana and flanked by the remains of the Aztecs' ceremonial centre. Of the city's myriad museums, the one must-see is the National Museum of Anthropology, covering Mexico's astounding archaeological legacy by region.

Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl

The two snow-capped volcanoes east of Mexico City make for memorable hiking and climbing. 'Popo,' though still active, is ringed by a series of indigenous villages with 16th-century monasteries on UNESCO's World Heritage list. Long-dormant 'Izta' can be scaled by ambitious climbers with proper gear.

Puebla

For chic colonial-style, look no further than Puebla, nestled in the foothills of the Sierra Madre. Church domes and house walls are covered in talavera, colourful glazed tiles that are still produced by the town's artisans.

Ranches

Luxury guest ranches let you play at being cowboy, with action-packed days in the saddle and relaxing evenings of fine local cuisine and indulgent tequila tastings.

Sacred City

The sunset over Monte Albán, a sacred prehistoric city and centre of the Zapotec culture, which flourished 2,000 years ago, is a magical sight. The remarkable Central Plaza, the Ball Court, and many of the tombs are open to the public.

San Cristóbal de las Casas

An enclave of traditional Maya culture in the Chiapas highlands, the town is known for its magnificent weaving: the intricately designed huipiles (loose-fitting blouse) woven and worn by local women open a window on Maya cosmology. San Cristóbal is surrounded by fascinating indigenous villages like San Juan Chamula and Zinacantán.

San Miguel de Allende

Volcanically active central Mexico is dotted with numerous hot springs. Some of the nicest are near the colonial town of San Miguel de Allende: Escondido Place and La Gruta have various indoor and outdoor pools on attractively landscaped desert grounds. Other popular soaking destinations include Cuautla in Morelos state and Tequisquiapan, near Querétaro.

Spas

The ancients knew what was good for them and made full use of the country's countless hot springs. Follow in the footsteps of the Aztecs with a relaxing spa break.

Taxco

The ornate silver jewellery produced in Taxco is a joy to behold. Fortunes were made from the silver mines here, and one was poured back into the Church of Santa Prisca and San Sebastián, a jewel of Churrigueresque architecture.

Teotihuacán

Located 50km (31 miles) northeast of Mexico City, Teotihuacán grew to be the largest of Mexico's pre-Hispanic cities, with an estimated population of 200,000 during its prime in the sixth century AD. Its greatest building is the Pyramid of the Sun, standing at a height of 63m (207ft). It is joined on the Avenue of the Dead, Teotihuacán's main street, by another enormous building, the Moon Pyramid, which was originally part of a 'Moon Plaza'. The site was first excavated in 1884. Visitors can also see the various palaces once inhabited by the priests who ruled the city; research has brought to light many of the rituals of this ancient civilisation, including ceremonial human sacrifice and elaborate festivals.

Tepoztlán

Tepoztlán ('place of copper') is a relaxed town overlooked by steep, jagged cliffs and a pyramid dedicated to Tepoztécatl, God of the Harvest. In the centre, the imposing Convent of the Nativity (dating from 1580) is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Tequila

Home to Mexico's most popular export, this town in Jalisco state sits amidst fields of blue agave, the plant that is the basis of tequila. You can sample José Cuervo and Sauza's finest at the distilleries. The best way to arrive is by the Tequila Express, a tourist train from Guadalajara.

Tulum

Seeing the sunrise over the Mayan ruins of Tulum, near Playa del Carmen, is well worth an early start. Explore in peace then take a pre-breakfast dip in the turquoise sea - the ruins are practically on the beach.

Xochimilco

A world away from Venice, brightly painted trajineras (a type of gondola, usually accompanied by mariachi singers) can be hired to cruise the beautiful, tree-lined canals and Aztec-engineered floating gardens of Xochimilco, an indigenous town at the southern reaches of Mexico City.

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