Mexico is the 13th largest country in the world and one of the most popular global resort destinations. The United States borders it to the north and the countries of Belize and Guatemala to the south. There is a misconception that Mexico is part of Central America. It is part of North America, which includes Canada and the US.
Once home to the ancient civilizations of the Aztecs, Incas, Mayans, and Toltecs, Mexico is a land steeped in rich history and culture. The well-preserved ruins of these once great people are scattered about the country and are visited by millions of tourists each year.
This diverse country is known for its crystal clear turquoise waters on the east coast and its deep blue cooler waters on the west coast. The Sierra Madre Mountains span Mexico from North to South. Any terrain imaginable is here to explore from mountains and beaches to desserts and rainforests. The capital, Mexico City, contains many churches, museums and galleries.
The Mexican people are warm and inviting. They are passionate about their customs and enjoy sharing them with visitors. They are family oriented and good manners are always appreciated. Be sure to stop at one of the marketplaces where a large selection bright colored handmade textiles and wood carved items are plentiful. Shops and markets close daily for the all important and restful “siesta” so plan your visits accordingly. Over 90% of thepeople practice Catholicism and church services are well attended on Sundays and Holy Days.
In the cities, the people dress casually, in modern clothing. As you venture into the countryside, women often wear flowing skirts with sleeveless tunics called “huipil.” The men wear “sarape”, a large woven blanket-like cape with trousers and boots. On festive occasions, the popular sombrero hat adorns the heads of many Mexican people. Spanish is the main language, but there are up to 50 other languages represented by its population.
Best Time to Travel - Weather
The weather in Mexico is as diverse as the topography. It’s important to know which part of Mexico you are traveling to, as the country sits close to the Tropic of Cancer. In the Northern part of the country, it is hot and dry during the day. It’s mostly desert, so days may be as hot as 104 degrees and drop into the 60s at night. The Sierra Madre Mountains span from North to South. In the mountain ranges, weather is variable. The cities that lie in the mountain valleys average 60-65 degrees Fahrenheit year round. Mountains may be snow capped at times, but receive small amounts of snow per season.
The Southern part of the country is hotter on average and has some tropical rainforests. Be prepared for rain. Temperatures average 75-82 degrees Fahrenheit in both summer and winter months. During hurricane season, June through November, Mexico’s bi-coastal areas are vulnerable to these weather patterns. If you plan on traveling to this region during hurricane season, be certain to watch weather channels for up to date information and plan accordingly.
Food and Drink
There are many types of Mexican foods to discover. If you enjoy corn-based foods, it’s here for your enjoyment. Mexicans enjoy infusing their foods with corn meal and corn flour. You will find tortillas, which are round, flat unleaved corn or white flour stuffed with foods of the region. On the coasts, fish is often placed inside a tortilla along with vegetables, cheeses and lime and rolled into a tube shape. They may be covered with a special sauce. Many of the dishes are very spicy, so inquire about the chilis used in the cooking and flavorings of many dishes. Sauces include a savory chocolate based, called a mole, flavored with intense and delicious spices. Salsa Verde, a green chili sauce is available and a must try.
Tamales are a staple dish of the country. These are soft, corn-based meal packets filled with shredded, tender meats including chicken and pork. Try another dish called “cecina”, a thinly sliced salted meat served with black beans. If you are looking for a drink to try, Mexico is known for their tequila. It’s made from the plentiful agave plant. Avoid the cheaper versions, which may leave you with an unintended headache. Margaritas, a tequila based drink infused with lime, is refreshing and served frozen or over ice. Mexicans love their coffee, and pride themselves on the “best coffee in the world.”
Popular Destination Spots
Baja: if you are interested in being close to the deep blue Pacific Ocean waters, Baja has it all, especially Southern Baja. This is a place where desert meets to ocean. Thick, green cacti overlook the white sand beaches. This is “the” place to go whale watching, so be sure to look at the offered tours. The elusive whale shark lives in these waters. If you are an avid scuba diver, you may get to view one of these majestic creatures in the wild. Sea lions dot the coastline and are easily viewed from many locations. This is a prime hiking and camping area if you enjoy the outdoors.
Cancun: searching for an elegant resort? Cancun sits on the YucatanPeninsula, a place revered for it’s crystal clear waters, spas and family resorts. Water activities such as kayaking, waterskiing, snorkeling, swimming and scuba are popular here. There are exclusive resorts along this area, and popular celebrities often choose this vacation destination. Rent a car or take a guided tour and visit the Chichen Itza, one of the Seven Wondersof the World. Here, you may explore ancient Mayan ruins and the remnants that once was a bustling epicenter of Mayan life. The 181- foot pyramid is the main attraction.
Puerto Vallarta: this west coast resort town is one of the most popular holiday destinations for travelers to the country. Don’t miss the infamous Maleon Boardwalk, full of restaurants, shops andupscaleart galleries. Stay and enjoy the cultural and entertaining street performers. The main beach, Playa de los Muertos is the perfect place to relax, and enjoy the magnificent sunsets. Sport fishing, snorkeling, golf and many other resort and water activities are widely available for your pleasure.
Tulum: this enchanting area is a must do if you have the chance. View ancient, well preserved Mayan ruins in the jungle. Visit the Labna Ha Eco Park for a truly unique experience. Explore the vast underwater cave system complete with crystal clear water and cool caverns. Swim, snorkel or scuba dive in the underground river and see the bat cave, a refreshing reprieve from the hot sun.
The main currency is the Peso. US dollars are accepted in some places, particularly along the Northern border. It is recommended to use traveler’s cheques and exchange money in your country of origin. ATM’s are widely available but be prepared to pay a premium for currency exchange. All major credit cards including Visa, MasterCard and AmericanExpress are widely accepted. Keep small amounts of Pesos for use in the marketplaces and exchange for goods with small vendors. Tips are appreciated in restaurants; ten to fifteen percent is customary. There is no requirement to tip for taxi service, but small tips for baggage and hotel maid service is acceptable.
If you wish to get around the larger cities, public transportation by bus is available. Schedules are often loose, so patience and flexibility is a must. If you wish to use a taxi service, only use the ones approved by the city governments. Private taxi services can be dangerous. Be sure to keep valuables locked in your hotel safe, and avoid areas that are deemed unsafe, especially along the borders.
Be sure to bring plenty of sunscreen, as sunburns are easy to get. Drink plenty of water, but pay attention to what type of you ingest. In general, bottled water is best, and avoid iced drinks as sanitation is a concern in many areas of the country, especially in the mostruraloutposts. Mosquito repellent is a necessity if you are visiting the jungle areas. Wear flat shoes if you intend on walking, especially among the ancient ruins. Most of all enjoy your stay. There is much to see and do as you travel to this diverse and cultured country.