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Mexico

Contents

Plan Your Trip

Welcome to Mexico

Mexico's Top 21

Need to Know

First Time Mexico

What's New

If You Like...

Month by Month

Itineraries

Eat & Drink Like a Local

Exploring Mexico's Ancient Ruins

Travel with Children

Regions at a Glance

On The Road

Mexico City

Mexico City Highlights

History

Sights

City Walk

Activities

Courses

Tours

Festivals & Events

Sleeping

Eating

Drinking & Nightlife

Entertainment

Shopping

Around Mexico City

Around Mexico City Highlights

North of Mexico City

Tepotzotlan

Tula

Teotihuacan

Pachuca

Around Pachuca

East of Mexico City

Puebla

Cholula

Popocatepetl & Iztaccihuatl

Tlaxcala

Cacaxtla & Xochitecatl

La Malinche

Huamantla

Cantona

Cuetzalan

Yohualichan

South of Mexico City

Tepoztlan

Cuautla

Cuernavaca

Taxco

Parque Nacional Grutas de Cacahuamilpa

West of Mexico City

Toluca

Nevado de Toluca

Valle de Bravo

Malinalco

Ixtapan de la Sal

Veracruz

Veracruz Highlights

Veracruz City

Central Veracruz

Central Coast

Xalapa

Around Xalapa

Cordoba

Fortin de las Flores

Coscomatepec

Orizaba

Pico de Orizaba

Northern Veracruz

Tuxpan

Papantla

El Tajin

South of Papantla

Southeast Veracruz

Tlacotalpan

Santiago Tuxtla

Tres Zapotes

San Andres Tuxtla

Catemaco

Reserva de la Biosfera Los Tuxtlas

Yucatan Peninsula

Yucatan Peninsula Highlights

Quintana Roo

Cancun

Isla Mujeres

Isla Contoy

Isla Holbox

Puerto Morelos

Playa del Carmen

Isla Cozumel

Akumal

Tulum

Around Tulum

Mahahual

Xcalak

Laguna Bacalar

Chetumal

West of Chetumal

Yucatan State

Merida

South of Merida

Celestun

Dzibilchaltun

Progreso

Izamal

Chichen Itza

Valladolid

Ek' Balam

Rio Lagartos

Campeche State

Campeche

Around Campeche

South of Campeche

Xpujil

South of Xpujil

Chiapas & Tabasco

Chiapas & Tabasco Highlights

Tuxtla Gutierrez

West of Tuxtla Gutierrez

Chiapa de Corzo

San Cristobal de las Casas

Around San Cristobal

Ocosingo

Tonina

Agua Azul & Misol-Ha

Palenque

Bonampak, Yaxchilan & the Carretera Fronteriza

Comitan

Around Comitan

El Soconusco & Beaches

Tapachula

Around Tapachula

Tabasco

Oaxaca

Oaxaca Highlights

Oaxaca City

Valles Centrales

Monte Alban

Valle de Tlacolula

Valle de Zimatlan

Valle de Etla

Sierra Norte

Pueblos Mancomunados

Western Oaxaca

Yanhuitlan, Coixtlahuaca & Teposcolula

Oaxaca Coast

Puerto Escondido

Around Puerto Escondido

Pochutla

Puerto Angel

Zipolite

San Agustinillo

Mazunte

La Ventanilla

Bahias de Huatulco

Barra de la Cruz

Isthmus of Tehuantepec

Salina Cruz

Tehuantepec

Juchitan

Central Pacific Coast

Central Pacific Coast Highlights

Mazatlan

Mexcaltitan

San Blas

Tepic

Around Tepic

Chacala

San Francisco

Sayulita

Punta de Mita & Around

Puerto Vallarta

Costalegre Beaches

Bahia de Navidad

Manzanillo

Boca de Pascuales

Michoacan Coast

Lazaro Cardenas

Troncones

Ixtapa

Zihuatanejo

South of Ixtapa & Zihuatanejo

Pie de la Cuesta

Acapulco

Costa Chica

Western Central Highlands

Western Central Highlands Highlights

Guadalajara

Around Guadalajara

Tequila

Amatitan

Lago de Chapala

Zona de Montana

Inland Colima State

Colima

Around Colima

Inland Michoacan

Morelia

Reserva Mariposa Monarca

Angangueo

Zitacuaro

Patzcuaro

Around Patzcuaro

Uruapan

Around Uruapan

Angahuan

Northern Central Highlands

Northern Central Highlands Highlights

Queretaro State

Queretaro

Tequisquiapan

Northeast Queretaro State

Guanajuato State

Guanajuato

Leon

Dolores Hidalgo

San Miguel de Allende

Around San Miguel de Allende

Aguascalientes State

Aguascalientes

San Luis Potosi State

San Luis Potosi

Matehuala

Real de Catorce

La Huasteca Potosina

Ciudad Valles

Rio Verde

Zacatecas State

Zacatecas

La Quemada

Around Zacatecas

Baja California

Baja California Highlights

Northern Baja

Tijuana

Playas de Rosarito

Ensenada

La Bufadora

Parque Nacional Constitucion de 1857

Mexicali

Southern Baja

Guerrero Negro

San Ignacio

Around San Ignacio

Santa Rosalia

Mulege

Around Mulege

Loreto

Around Loreto

La Paz

Around La Paz

La Ventana

Los Barriles

Cabo Pulmo

Reserva de la Biosfera Sierra de la Laguna

San Jose del Cabo

Los Cabos Corridor

Cabo San Lucas

Todos Santos

Copper Canyon & Northern Mexico

Copper Canyon & Northern Mexico Highlights

The Copper Canyon & Ferrocarril Chihuahua Pacifico

Ferrocarril Chihuahua Pacifico

El Fuerte

Cerocahui

Urique

Areponapuchi (Posada Barrancas)

Parque de Aventura Barrancas del Cobre

Divisadero

Creel

Around Creel

Batopilas

Northwest Mexico

Puerto Penasco

Bahia de Kino

San Carlos

Alamos

Los Mochis

Chihuahua & Central North Mexico

Chihuahua

Nuevo Casas Grandes & Casas Grandes

Mata Ortiz

Hidalgo del Parral

Durango

Around Durango

Northeast Mexico

Saltillo

Parras

Cuatro Cienegas

Monterrey

Around Monterrey

Understand

Understand Mexico

Mexico Today

History

The Mexican Way of Life

The Arts

The Mexican Kitchen

Landscapes & Wildlife

Survive

Directory AZ

Accommodations

Activities

Customs Regulations

Discount Cards

Electricity

Embassies & Consulates

Food

Gay & Lesbian Travelers

Health

Insurance

Internet Access

Language Courses

Legal Matters

Maps

Money

Opening Hours

Photography

Post

Public Holidays

Safe Travel

Telephone

Time

Tourist Information

Travelers with Disabilities

Visas & Tourist Permits

Volunteering

Women Travelers

Transportation

Getting There & Away

Getting Around

Language

Behind the Scenes

Our Writers

Welcome to Mexico

Palm-fringed beaches, chili-spiced cuisine; steamy jungles, teeming cities; fiesta fireworks, Frida’s angst: Mexico conjures up diverse, vivid dreams. And the reality lives up to the imagining.

An Outdoor Life

With steaming jungles, smoking, snowcapped volcanoes, cactus-strewn deserts and 10,000km of coast strung with sandy beaches and wildlife-rich lagoons, Mexico is an endless adventure for the senses and a place where life is lived largely in the open air. Take it easy dining alfresco beside a Pacific beach or strolling Guanajuato's colonial streets. Or get out and hike Oaxaca's mountain cloud forests or snorkel warm Caribbean reefs.

Art & Soul of a Nation

Mexico's pre-Hispanic civilizations built some of the world’s great archaeological monuments, including Teotihuacán’s towering pyramids and the exquisite Maya temples of Palenque. The Spanish colonial era left beautiful towns full of tree-shaded plazas and richly sculpted stone churches and mansions, while modern Mexico has seen a surge of great art from the likes of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. Top-class museums and galleries document the country's fascinating history and its endless creative verve. Popular culture is just as vibrant, from the underground dance clubs and street art of Mexico City to the wonderful handicrafts of the indigenous population.

Travel for All

Travel in Mexico is what you make it and the country caters to all types of visitor. Stay in pampering resorts on the Riviera Maya, budget beach huts on the Pacific or colonial mansions in the highlands. Eat gourmet fusion food in chic city restaurants or equally delicious grandmothers' recipes at a busy market comedor (food stall). Getting from A to B is easy with comfortable buses running almost everywhere and an extensive domestic flight network.

Los Mexicanos

At the heart of your Mexican experience will be the Mexican people. A super-diverse crew, from Mexico City hipsters to the shy indigenous villagers of Chiapas, they’re renowned for their love of color and frequent fiestas, but they're also philosophical folk, to whom timetables are less important than simpatía (empathy). You'll rarely find Mexicans less than courteous. They’re more often positively charming, and know how to please guests. They might despair of ever being well governed, but they're fiercely proud of Mexico, their one-of-a-kind homeland with all its variety, tight-knit family networks, beautiful-ugly cities, deep-rooted traditions, unique agave-based liquors and sensationally tasty, chili-laden food.

Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel, San Miguel de Allende | VISUALS BY ANDRÉ ARAIZ/GETTY IMAGES ©

Why I Love Mexico

By John Noble, Writer

I first felt Mexico's pull when reading, as a teenager, the barely credible story of Cortés and the Aztecs. My first visit was three months' backpacking from Ciudad Juárez to Ciudad Cuauhtémoc, and I found a kind of spiritual home in the misty, mysterious highlands of Chiapas. Since then I've wandered over most parts of Mexico on many trips and come to love its coasts, jungles, volcanoes and cities – and its superbly tasty food, spectacular ancient civilizations, inspired art and handicrafts and, most of all, its charming, hospitable, so very real people.

Mexico’s Top 21

Peerless Palenque

Gather all your senses and dive headfirst into the ancient Maya world at exquisite Palenque, where pyramids rise above jungle treetops and furtive monkeys shriek and catapult themselves through dense canopies. Seek out the tomb of the mysterious Red Queen and her sarcophagus, wander the maze-like palace, gazing up at its iconic tower, then scale the stone staircase of the Temple of the Inscriptions, the lavish mausoleum of Pakal (Palenque’s mightiest ruler), to survey the sprawling ruins from its summit.

Templo de las Inscripciones | BY: FER GREGORY/SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Top Experiences

Mexico City, Cultural Capital

The nation's long-standing political capital clearly stands at the forefront of Mexico's cultural scene as well. Remember that this is where many of the country's top muralists left behind their most important works, such as Diego Rivera's cinematic murals in the Palacio Nacional and the social-realism work of José Clemente Orozco in the Palacio de Bellas Artes. Art, music, dance and theater are everywhere – even a gondola ride along the ancient canals of Xochimilco wouldn't be complete without taking in a fervent mariachi ballad.

Monumento a la Independencia | FITOPARDO.COM/GETTY IMAGES ©

Top Experiences

Mexico’s Last Train Journey

The Ferrocarril Chihuahua Pacífico (Copper Canyon Railway) remains one of Latin America’s best rail trips. Trains climb from sea level at Los Mochis to Chihuahua’s high desert plains via the sensational rocky landscapes of the Copper Canyon. Vistas from your window include alpine forests, subtropical valleys and glimpses of some of the world’s deepest canyons. Alight at a photogenic stop for 15 minutes, or stay for days of exciting exploring, hiking and biking.

BRUCE RAYNOR /SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Top Experiences

The Pyramids of Teotihuacán

Once among Mesoamerica’s greatest cities, Teotihuacán lies just an hour out of Mexico City. The immense Pirámide del Sol (Pyramid of the Sun) and Pirámide de la Luna (Pyramid of the Moon) dominate the remains of the metropolis, which even centuries after its collapse in the 8th century AD remained a pilgrimage site for Aztec royalty. Today it’s a magnet for those who come to soak up the mystical energies that are believed to converge here.

Pirámide del Sol | ANNA OMELCHENKO/SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Top Experiences

Oaxaca City

This highly individual southern city basks in bright upland light and captivates everyone with its deliciously inventive version of Mexican cuisine, gorgeous handicrafts, frequent colorful fiestas, handsome colonial architecture, booming arts scene and fine mezcals distilled in nearby villages. Within easy reach are the superb ancient Zapotec capital, Monte Albán, dozens of indigenous craft-making villages with busy weekly markets, and the cool, forested hills of the Sierra Norte, perfect for hikers, mountain bikers and horseback riders.

Oaxacan dessert stall | JUSTIN FOULKES/LONELY PLANET ©

Top Experiences

Marvelous Mérida

The cultural capital of the Yucatán Peninsula, this large but manageable city has a beautifully maintained colonial heart. It's veined with narrow cobbled streets and dotted with sunny plazas, with a wealth of museums and galleries and some of the best food in the region. Just out of town are wildlife reserves, graceful haciendas (estates) and jungle-shrouded cenotes (sinkholes) to swim in. A little further afield, the little-visited Maya sites along the Ruta Puuc allow you to step back in time without the tour groups.

MARK D CALLANAN/GETTY IMAGES ©

Top Experiences

Shopping for Artisan Crafts

Mexico’s super-bright, infinitely varied artesanías (handicrafts) are today’s successors to the lavish costumes and beautiful ceramics of the pre-Hispanic nobility, and to the everyday handcrafted clothes, baskets and pots of their humbler subjects. Everywhere you go – whether browsing city stores, wandering through markets, or visiting artisans in their village workshops to purchase textiles, silver and turquoise jewelry, ironwood carvings, bead-inlaid masks and more – the skill, creativity and color sense of potters, weavers, metalsmiths, carvers and leather workers delights the eye and tempts the pocket.

FALON KOONTZ/500PX ©

Top Experiences

Magical San Cristóbal

Saunter the cobblestone streets of hill-ringed San Cristóbal de las Casas, the high-altitude colonial city in the heart of indigenous Chiapas. A heady mix of modern and Maya, with cosmopolitan cafes and traditional culture, it’s also a jumping-off point for Chiapas’ natural attractions and fascinating Tzotzil and Tzeltal villages. Spend sunny days exploring its churches and bustling markets, or riding a horse through fragrant pine forest, and chilly evenings warmed by the fireplace of a cozy watering hole.

GUMBAO/SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Top Experiences

Chichén Itzá

There’s a reason why this Maya site was declared one of the new Seven Wonders of the World – it is simply spectacular. From the imposing, monolithic El Castillo pyramid (where the shadow of the plumed serpent god Kukulcán creeps down the staircase during the spring and autumn equinoxes) to the Sacred Cenote and curiously designed El Caracol, the legacy of Mayan astronomers will blow your mind.

Cenote Sagrado | AGUSTAVOP/GETTY IMAGES ©

Top Experiences

Relax on the Oaxaca Coast

After a few days on this 550km sequence of sandy Pacific beaches you’ll be so relaxed you may not be able to leave. Head for the surf mecca and fishing port of Puerto Escondido, the low-key resort of Bahías de Huatulco, or the ultra-laid-back hangouts of Zipolite, San Agustinillo or Mazunte. Soak up the sun, eat good food, imbibe in easygoing beach bars and, when the mood takes you, have a swim, surf or snorkel, or board a boat to sight turtles, dolphins, whales, crocs or birdlife.

Puerto Escondido | FELIPE CARRAL/500PX ©

Top Experiences

Savor the Flavors

Mexican cuisine is like no other, and every part of the country has its own regional specialties, based on seasonal local ingredients and what’s fresh on the day. For the tastiest travels, try local dishes from restaurants and busy market and street stalls – you’ll lose count of the delicious culinary experiences you encounter. When it’s time for fine dining, seek out some of the legion of creative contemporary chefs who concoct amazing flavor combinations from traditional and innovative ingredients.

Street vendor with tlayudas | JUSTIN FOULKES /LONELY PLANET ©

Top Experiences

Huasteca Potosina, San Luis Potosí

Gorgeously green, lush Huasteca Potosina, a subregion of San Luis Potosí (and the wider Huasteca area), offers ruins, fascinating cave visits and wild and wet experiences. You can plunge into, boat to or ogle at a number of stunning waterfalls and rivers. As for color? The turquoises, aquas and greens are as vibrant as any manipulated image. Huastec culture is strong here: don’t miss trying a local zacahuil, a massive tamal. The region, too, is home to surrealist garden, Las Pozas, where gigantic Dalí-esque structures ‘strut’ their quirky stuff.

Cascada de Tamul | SUNSINGER/SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Top Experiences

Volcán Paricutín

As volcanoes go, Paricutín is still in its kindergarten years. Blasting out of a Michoacán maize field in 1943, it’s one of the youngest volcanoes on Earth and the only one whose life cycle has been fully studied by scientists. Miraculously, Paricutín is also relatively easy to climb. Some rock hop across barren lava fields to bag the peak, others ride horses through hot black sand before dismounting for the final summit scramble. The goal’s the same: a chance to stand atop a veritable geological marvel, viewing nature at its rawest and best.

JACOBO ZANELLA/GETTY IMAGES ©

Top Experiences

Cabo Pulmo

Rediscover the magic of old Baja by visiting the largely undeveloped east coast, discovering world-class diving off Cabo Pulmo, the only coral reef on the west coast of North America and, at 71 sq km, one of the largest and most successful marine protected regions in the world. In this beautiful place you can see expect to see black coral bushes, schools of trigger fish, yellowfin tuna and snapper. Depending on the seasons and currents, you may also spy hammerhead sharks, huge manta rays and whale sharks.

LEONARDO GONZALEZ/SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Top Experiences

Pico de Orizaba

Touch the sky high above Mexico on the gruelling climb to the 5611m summit of Pico de Orizaba, the snowcapped highest mountain in the country. The trek is no walk in the park. You’ll need the help of an experienced local trekking operator, clothing for extreme cold and a sense of adventure as big as the mountain itself. If this all sounds a bit extreme for you, enjoy any number of less-demanding trails on the peak's lower slopes.

WITOLD SKRYPCZAK/GETTY IMAGES ©

Top Experiences

Costa Maya

Do yourself a favor and get to this region while the going's still good. Unlike the overdeveloped Cancun and Riviera Maya, you can still find quiet fishing villages on the Costa Maya that put a premium on sustainable development, such as Mahahual and Xcalak, both of which boast some of the best dive sites on the Caribbean coast. Then head inland for Laguna Bacalar, a laid-back lakeside town known for its mesmerizing scenery, a 90m-deep cenote and an old Spanish fortress.

Laguna Bacalar | DEMETRIO CARRASCO/GETTY IMAGES ©

Top Experiences

Monarchs in their Millions

Canopies of golden-orange butterflies cover the forests and hillsides in the Reserva Mariposa Monarca (Monarch Butterfly Reserve), perhaps Mexico’s most astonishing yearly natural phenomenon. It’s the kind of annual event to plan your trip around – between November and March the migrant monarchs cover every surface, weighing down tree branches and changing the landscape into a permanent sunset as the butterflies winter far from the freezing Great Lakes during one of the planet’s most spectacular migrations.

MARCIO JOSE BASTOS SILVA/SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Top Experiences

Guanajuato City

The glorious World Heritage–listed city of Guanajuato packs a huge amount into its narrow valley. The former mining town turned colorful university city is a feast of plazas, fun museums, opulent colonial mansions and pastel-hued houses. Snake your way along pedestrian alleyways, people-watch in the squares, mingle with marvelous mariachi groups, or party hard at estudiantinas (traditional street parties) and in the many student bars. The underground tunnels – the town’s major transport routes – make for a particularly quirky way to get around.

ROBERT POWALS/500PX ©

Top Experiences

Pacific Coastline

Running from the desert islands of Baja California to verdant coves backed by lush tropical mountains, and from untrammeled expanses of sand to mangrove-fringed lagoons teeming with birdlife, Mexico’s Pacific coastline is stunning in its natural beauty. Punctuating this primordial grandeur is a series of lively resort towns – Mazatlán, Puerto Vallarta, Manzanillo, Ixtapa, Zihuatanejo and Acapulco – interspersed with world-class surf spots such as Barra de Nexpa, Boca de Pascuales, Troncones and Puerto Escondido, where clear barrels of awesome power batter the shores.

Acapulco | RAFAL KUBIAK/SHUTTERSTOCK © ROBERT POWALS/500PX ©

Top Experiences

Gregarious Guadalajara

Mexico’s second-largest city manages to dazzle despite being more a collection of pueblos than a great metropolis. This charmer gets under your skin with colonial buildings, lofty churches, labyrinthine markets, awesome public spaces and wonderful craft shopping in the arty suburbs of Tlaquepaque and Tonalá. The young and middle class party all weekend in smart bars and heaving dance clubs, and there’s nowhere better in western Mexico to eat out, whether you're after local specialties such as spicy goat stew, or chic Mexican-French fusion cuisine.

GREG ELMS/GETTY IMAGES ©

Top Experiences

Espíritu Santo

Espíritu Santo island is spectacular in every way. Pink sandstone has been eroded by wind and waves into finger-like protrusions, each harboring a beautiful cove. And if this otherworldly beauty isn't enough then you can descend into the endless blue with whale sharks, dive the many colorful reefs, camp under a canopy of stunning stars, watch frolicking sea lions at their island colony and paddle your way along myriad azure bays.

PIPOJACKMAN/SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Need to Know

Currency

Peso (M$)

Language

Spanish; also about 70 indigenous languages.

Visas

All tourists must have a tourist permit, available on arrival. Some nationalities also need visas.

Money

ATMs and exchange offices are widely available. Credit cards accepted in many midrange and top-end hotels.

Cell Phones

Many US and Canadian cellular carriers offer Mexico roaming deals. Mexican SIM cards can only be used in unlocked phones.

Time

Most of Mexico is on Hora del Centro (GMT/UTC minus six hours). Six northern and western states are on GMT/UTC minus seven or eight hours. Daylight savings applies in most of Mexico from April to October.

When to Go

High Season (Dec–Apr)

A The driest months over most of Mexico, bringing winter escapees from colder countries.

A Christmas and Easter are Mexican holiday times, with transportation and coastal accommodations very busy.

Shoulder Season (Jul & Aug)

A Vacation time for many Mexicans and foreigners. Hot almost everywhere and very wet on the Pacific coast. Accommodations prices go up in some popular areas.

Low Season (May, Jun, Sep–Nov)

A May and June see peak temperatures in many areas.

A September is the heart of the hurricane season, which doesn't always bring hurricanes but does bring heavy rains on the Gulf and Pacific coasts.

Useful Websites

Mexico Cooks! (http://mexicocooks.typepad.com) Excellent blog on Mexican life.

Lonely Planet (www.lonelyplanet.com/mexico) Destination information, hotel bookings, traveler forum, videos and more.

México (www.visitmexico.com) Official tourism site with plenty of helpful ideas.

Planeta.com (www.planeta.com) Articles, listings, links, photos and more.

Geo-Mexico (http://geo-mexico.com) All sorts of informative and surprising stuff about Mexico.

Mexico Travel (http://gomexico.about.com) Travel news and info.

Important Numbers

Exchange Rates

Daily Costs

Budget: Less than M$700

A Hostel dorm bed: M$180; double room in budget hotel: M$350–600

A Comida corrida (fixed-price lunch) in economical restaurant: M$60–80

A 250km bus trip: M$220

Midrange: M$700–M$2000

A Double room in midrange hotel: M$600–1200

A Good dinner with drinks: M$200–300

A Museum admission: M$10–70

A City taxi ride: M$30–60

A Hiking/rafting/mountain-biking day trip M$900–2000

Top End: More than M$2000

A Double room in top-end hotel: M$1200–5000

A Fine dinner with drinks: M$300–500

A Personalized day tour: M$1500–2000

A Two-hour horseback ride: M$1000

Opening Hours

Where there are significant seasonal variations in opening hours, we provide hours for high season. Some hours may be shorter in shoulder and low seasons. Hours vary widely but the following are fairly typical.

Banks 9am-4pm Mon-Fri, 9am-1pm Sat

Stores/Shops 9am-8pm Mon-Sat (supermarkets and department stores 9am-10pm daily)

Restaurants 9am-11pm

Cafes 8am-10pm

Bars 1pm-midnight

Arriving in Mexico

Mexico City airport Authorized taxis, with ticket offices inside the airport, cost M$235 to central areas. Metrobús buses (M$30 plus M$10 for a smart card sold by machines inside the airport) serve some central areas. The metro (subway; M$5) operates from 5am (6am Saturday, 7am Sunday) to midnight; its Terminal Aérea station is 200m from the airport's Terminal 1.

Cancún airport Airport shuttles to downtown or the hotel zone cost around M$160 per person; taxis cost up to M$500. ADO buses run to downtown Cancún (M$64), Playa del Carmen and Mérida.

Getting Around

Bus Mexico's efficient, comfortable and reasonably priced bus network is generally the best option for moving around the country. On average you pay about M$1.10 per kilometer on 1st-class buses, covering around 75km per hour. Services are frequent on main routes.

Car A convenient option giving maximum independence. Roads are serviceable, with speeds generally slower than north of the border or in Europe. Rental rates start around M$600 per day, including basic insurance.

Air Over 60 cities are served by domestic flights, which are well worth considering for longer inter-city trips. Fares vary widely depending on the airline and how far in advance you pay.

First Time Mexico

For more information, see Survival Guide

Checklist

A Check that your passport is valid for at least six months beyond your stay in Mexico

A If flying, make sure you have a return ticket

A Organize travel insurance

A Make bookings (for accommodations, travel, restaurants)

A Inform your credit/debit card company

A Check if you can use your cell phone

A Get necessary immunizations well in advance

A Check your government’s Mexico travel information

What to Pack

A International electrical adaptor (for non-North Americans)

A Swimming and beach gear

A Flashlight (torch)

A Driver’s license (if driving)

A Sun hat and shades

A Sunscreen

A A waterproof garment

A Sturdy footwear

A Warm clothing

A Charcoal tablets to treat Montezuma's Revenge

A Phrasebook

Top Tips for Your Trip

A Expect the unfamiliar. If the strangeness of a foreign land starts to get to you, stay somewhere where you feel comfortable. International cuisine is available in almost any town.

A Get out of the cities and coastal resorts into the countryside and smaller towns and villages, where you'll see a side of Mexican life that many tourists miss.

A Book a top restaurant for a truly memorable meal.

A Try not to worry too much. Mexico's much-reported drug-gang violence happens mostly in a small number of places, chiefly in border towns, and tourists are rarely targeted. The country's most visited areas are little touched by the violence.

A Accept that things won't run like clockwork; live on zen time.

A Don't spread yourself too thin; pick a part of Mexico that you particularly want to explore.

What to Wear

In beach towns, shorts and short skirts are common; sleeveless tops are fine. Take some sleeves and long pants/skirts to protect against sun and mosquitoes, and for evenings or non-beach towns. Dress conservatively when visiting churches. Pack a sweater or warm jacket for cooler inland areas and air-conditioned buses or planes. A sun hat is essential; good, inexpensive ones are sold in Mexico.

Sleeping

Reserve accommodations for your first night in Mexico, if you’re arriving somewhere at night, and if you're traveling during busy seasons.

A Hotels These cover the spectrum, from basic budget establishments to chic boutique hotels and luxurious five-star resorts.

A Hostels These exist in most places where budget travelers congregate. Many have good facilities and often have private rooms as well as dorms.

A Cabañas Cabins and huts, mostly found at beach destinations, ranging from very basic to positively luxurious.

A Camping & Hammocks In more budget-oriented beach spots, you can often sleep in a hammock or pitch a tent very cheaply.

Money

Plan on making cash purchases with pesos. Few businesses accept US dollars. It’s easy to get pesos from ATMs using a major credit or debit card; all international airports have ATMs. Take a small reserve of cash (US dollars or, second-best, euros) to exchange at banks or casas de cambio (exchange offices) if ATMs prove unavailable. You can pay with major credit and debit cards at many airlines, midrange and top-end hotels, restaurants and stores.

Bargaining

It's worth asking if discount is available on room rates, especially if it's low season or you're staying more than two nights. In markets some haggling is expected. Unmetered taxis will often shave some pesos off their initial asking price.

Tipping

Many service workers depend on tips to supplement miserable wages.

A Restaurants Tip 10% to 15% unless service is included in the check.

A Hotels It’s nice (though optional) to leave 5% to 10% of your room costs for those who keep it clean and tidy.

A Taxis Drivers don’t expect tips unless they provide some extra service.

A Porters Airport and hotel porters usually get M$50 to M$100.

A Attendants Car-parking and gas-station attendants expect M$5 to M$10.

Etiquette

Mexicans are not huge sticklers for etiquette. Their natural warmth takes precedence.

A Greetings Mucho gusto’ (roughly ‘A great pleasure’) is a polite thing to say when you’re introduced to someone, accompanied by a handshake. If it’s a woman and a man, the woman offers her hand first.

A Pleasing people Mexicans love to hear that you’re enjoying their country. They are slow to criticize or argue, expressing disagreement more by nuance than by blunt contradiction.

A Visiting homes An invitation to a Mexican home is an honor for an outsider; you will be treated very hospitably. Take a small gift, such as flowers or something for the children.

Language

Mexico's main language is Spanish. Many Mexicans in the world of tourism also speak some English, often good English. In any accommodations catering to international travelers, you can get by with English. Still, it’s useful and polite to know at least a few words of Spanish – Mexicans appreciate being greeted with ‘Buenos días’ and appreciate you making the effort, even if they break into fluent English.

What’s New

Las Palmitas

Mexico’s largest mural is a jigsaw puzzle of rainbow-painted houses, bringing a community spirit and a pop of color to a flagging neighborhood in Pachuca.

Acuario Inbursa

Mexico City's new aquarium is one of the world's biggest and showcases manta rays, piranhas and crocodiles, with sand shipped in from Florida and seawater from Veracruz.

Mazatlán–Durango Highway

This incredible new highway through the Sierra Madre Occidental is one of the most scenic drives imaginable and includes the Americas' highest bridge, the Puente Baluarte, which soars 402m above the valley floor.

Mercado Roma

Mexico City's Roma neighborhood has taken your local market and spun it into gourmet food-hall gold at this trendy hangout, bringing together top-notch nibbles and ingredients from around the capital and the globe.

Síijil Noh Há

The wooded grounds at this sublime ecotourism center near Felipe Carrillo Puerto, run by the local Maya community, overlook a quiet lake with a swimmable freshwater spring.

Museo de la Ballena

La Paz' well-designed new museum covers everything you could want to know about the gray whales that live and breed in the local waters.

Pasaje Rodríguez

This atmospheric arty alley reflects Tijuana's growing urban art scene. The vibrant graffiti-style murals are the perfect backdrop to the boho-style cafes, music bars, bookstores and craft shops.

Drinking Revolution

Mexicans' taste for alcoholic beverages from small-scale artisan producers is taking off big time. Dozens of micro- and nano-breweries are challenging the industrial beer giants with tasty ales, stouts and other cervezas artesanales (craft beers), available in most cities, especially in bars with a younger clientele. Also fashionable are quality artisan versions of the agave-based spirit mezcal, the capital of which is Oaxaca. Fashionable mezcalerías (bars specializing in mezcal) are sprouting like cacti after rain in Oaxaca, Mexico City and elsewhere.

For more recommendations and reviews, see lonelyplanet.com/Mexico

If You Like…

Beach Resorts

Puerto Vallarta Pacific resort and LGBT capital with dazzling beaches, stylish restaurants and hot nightlife.

Playa del Carmen The chicest, hippest resort on the Caribbean coast.

Zihuatanejo Combines a livable feel and characterfully intimate center with pleasant beaches and great nearby coastline.

Cancún North of the megaresorts you'll be pleasantly surprised to find Cancun's quiet side: Isla Blanca.

Cabo San Lucas Three main family-friendly beaches, excellent facilities, numerous bars and restaurants and water sports.

Mazatlán Attractively renovated colonial center, an old-time 1950s promenade and fun-in-the-sun beach-resort strip.

Bahía de Kino For the best stretch of sand in the north, head to these dazzling beaches.

Getaway Beaches

Oaxaca Coast International budget travelers make a beeline for blissed-out Mazunte, San Agustinillo and Zipolite.

Xcalak Timeless Caribbean coast with a wonderful barrier reef.

Playa Maruata Tranquil, low-budget Michoacán fishing village beloved by beach bums and sea turtles.

Barra de Potosí Palm-fringed white sands, calm waters and a lagoon full of birds and crocs.

Isla Holbox Escape the Riviera Maya and wander the sandy roads of this palm-fringed Gulf coast getaway.

Playa Tecolote Shallow waters, a pristine sandy beach and boat trips to Espíritu Santo.

Los Tuxtlas These mountain-backed beaches are the Gulf of Mexico’s ultimate dropout spot.

Luxury Spas & Hotels

Casa Oaxaca Boutique Oaxaca hotel dedicated to art, with gorgeous contemporary rooms and a colonial patio.

Banyan Tree Cabo Marqués Asian-influenced seclusion at this exclusive coastal retreat near Acapulco.

Posada La Poza Pacific-side retreat at Todos Santos with lush gardens, saltwater pool and Jacuzzi and superb restaurant.

Present Moment Combine the relaxing Troncones beach vibe with yoga, art and luxury dining.

Bungalows Breakfast Inn Luxurious, hammock-hung Cabo San Lucas bungalows surrounding a pool, delicious breakfasts and superb service.

Pueblo Lindo A rooftop pool overlooks the white houses of Taxco scattered across the hills.

Siete Lunas Stroll through jungle from fashionable Sayulita to reach this romantic cliff-top retreat.

Hacienda de los Santos An almost unbelievably beautiful hotel in the colonial town of Álamos.

Amuleto Perched high over Zihuatanejo, this boutique retreat offers the ultimate in de-stress.

Le Blanc ( gR-1) Adults-only, all-inclusive Cancún resort offering over-the-top luxury, including your own personal butler.

Pyramids & Temples

Palenque Exquisite Maya temples backed by jungle-covered hills.

Chichén Itzá Vast Maya temple complex, its step-pyramid design testimony to the Maya's exceptional astronomy skills.

Uxmal Set in hilly Puuc, this large Maya site is a riot of fascinating carved-stone ornamentation.

Yaxchilán Impressive temples in a Chiapas jungle setting, reached only by river.

Monte Albán The ancient Zapotec capital sits on a peerless hilltop site outside Oaxaca.

Tulum These late Maya temples and pyramids sit right on a rugged stretch of Caribbean coast.

Calakmul High pyramids in a huge, remote Maya city, still largely hidden in protected rainforest.

Teotihuacán Massive Pyramids of the Sun and Moon, and mural-decked palaces in Mexico’s biggest ancient city.

Tzintzuntzan Atmospheric Tarascan ruins with fantastic Lake Pátzcuaro views, few crowds and unusual rounded temples.

Edzná Marvel at the fine carvings at the Templo de Mascarones (Temple of Masks).

Uxmal archaeological site | FITOPARDO.COM/GETTY IMAGES ©

Historic Colonial Towns

Guanajuato The opulent mansions and winding streets of this university town squeeze into a picturesque valley.

San Miguel de Allende Artsy town of cobblestone streets and lovely stone architecture, with many foreign (mostly US) residents.

Oaxaca Gorgeous southern city with an indigenous flavor and stunning art and artisanry.

Zacatecas The magnificent cathedral in this former silver-mining city is the ultimate expression of colonial baroque.

Mérida Even if you're not big on architecture, the stately mansions here never cease to impress.

Álamos Wander the cobbled streets of northern Mexico’s colonial jewel.

Todos Santos This former cane-milling town has streets lined with handsome 19th-century brick-and-adobe haciendas.

Puebla Dense with restored colonial churches and mansions, sparkling with azulejos (painted ceramic tiles).

Morelia Unesco-listed since 1991, Morelia is anchored by one of Mexico’s most spectacular cathedrals.

San Cristóbal de las Casas A very indigenous highland town with winding cobblestone streets and old churches aplenty.

Shopping

Mexico City Everything from craft stores to boutiques to fashion, flea and food markets.

San Miguel de Allende A mind-boggling array of folk art from all over Mexico.

Guadalajara The artisans’ suburbs of Tlaquepaque and Tonalá are replete with classy ceramics, furniture and glassware.

Tepotzotlán Colourful beaded jaguar heads and animal forms made by the Huichol people.

Taxco One of the best places in Mexico for silverwork, especially jewelry.

Oaxaca prizes its black clay pottery, while Puebla is famous for colorful Talavera ceramics.

For the best woolen crafts and colorful textiles, head for San Cristóbal de las Casas and Tuxtla Gutiérrez.

León Buy your shoes, belts and bags at this leatherworks capital.

Mérida The one-stop shop for hammocks, guayaberas (men's shirts), huipiles (long, sleeveless tunics) and handicrafts.

Cowboy boots, Mercado San Juan de Dios, Guadalajara | DANITA DELIMONT/GETTY IMAGES ©

Mexican Cuisine

Mexico City Unrivaled countrywide fare, from fusion restaurants serving nueva cocina mexicana to the world's best tacos.

Seafood Baja California’s fish tacos, Veracruz’ huachinanago a la veracruzana and ceviche in Barra de Navidad.

Oaxaca Famed for its seven moles (chili-based sauces) and some of the country's best contemporary restaurants.

Cooking classes Prepare your own Mexican feasts under expert guidance in Oaxaca, Zihuatanejo, Tepoztlán and Tlaxcala.

Antojitos These ubiquitous 'little whims' made with masa (corn dough) include tacos, quesadillas, enchiladas and tamales.

Guadalajara Mexico’s second city pitches forward-thinking fusion food against old staples such as birria (spicy-hot soup) and tortas ahogadas (chili-soaked pork sandwiches).

Baja Med Feast on Mexican-Mediterranean mélange cuisine in Tijuana and elsewhere in Baja California.

Yucatán Peninsula Flavorful dishes rooted in Maya culture, such as cochinita pibil (slow-roasted pork).

Coatepec Smell the coffee in the home of Mexican brew.

Museums & Galleries

Museo Nacional de Antropología Mexico City's National Anthropology Museum is chock-full of stupendous relics from pre-Hispanic Mexico.

Museo Frida Kahlo The poignant Mexico City home of the haunted artist.

Palacio Nacional Diego Rivera’s famous Mexican history mural in Mexico City.

Museo Nacional de la Muerte All things related to death in this Aguascalientes museum, but far from macabre.

Museo de Antropología A superbly designed Xalapa space with a marvelous archaeological collection.

Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca Excellent Oaxaca museum in a beautiful ex-monastery demonstrates continuities between pre-Hispanic and contemporary culture.

Museo Jumex One of Latin America’s leading contemporary-art collections at this Mexico City museum.

Horno3 Outstanding Monterrey museum in the gigantic shell of a former blast furnace.

Gran Museo del Mundo Maya World-class museum in Mérida showcasing more than 1100 well-preserved Maya artifacts.

Museo de la Ballena Excellent La Paz museum featuring the California gray whale and related conservation efforts.

Diving & Snorkeling

Mexico's Caribbean coast, with the world's second-largest barrier reef, is world famous for its abundant coral and tropical fish.

Banco Chinchorro Wreck-studded coral atoll off the southern end of the Caribbean coast.

Isla Cozumel Diving and snorkeling for all abilities at the island's 65 reefs.

Bahías de Huatulco A string of beautiful Pacific bays with several coral plates and more than 100 dive sites.

Xel-Há This eco-park on the Riviera Maya offers snorkeling in a beautiful natural aquarium.

Laguna de la Media Luna Has an underwater cave ideal for advanced diving.

Cabo Pulmo A magnificent coral reef and spectacular diving and snorkeling experiences.

Espíritu Santo Swim and snorkel with whale sharks, the world’s biggest fish.

Surfing

Puerto Escondido The Mexican Pipeline beach break is world famous, but Puerto has intermediate and beginners' waves, too.

Boca de Pascuales Legendary hollow, hard-breaking barrels – strictly for experts.

Troncones A long, strong, world-class left-point break and some excellent beach breaks.

Sayulita Dependable, medium-sized waves, good for practicing or learning, with a mellow party vibe.

Ensenada There's a wonderful point break at San Miguel.

Barra de Nexpa One of several spots with healthy waves along the little-touched Michoacán coast.

San Blas For intermediates and beginners, with many beach and point breaks, and one of the world’s longest waves.

Todos Santos The beaches surrounding this town offer some of the best swells in Baja.

Hiking, Mountain Biking & Horseback Riding

Copper Canyon Bike down incredible trails, hike through extraordinary landscapes, or let the horse take the strain.

Pueblos Mancomunados These Oaxacan mountain villages are linked by a scenic trail network.

Oaxaca Outstanding short- or long-distance rides with Horseback Mexico and, by bike, with Bicicletas Pedro Martínez.

Rancho El Charro Horse treks into jungle-covered mountains behind Puerto Vallarta.

Bici-Burro Great mountain-bike outings from San Miguel de Allende.

Real de Catorce Explore the desert hills on foot, bike or horse from this magical old silver town.

Parque Nacional Bahía de Loreto ( h8:30am-2pm Mon-Fri, 9am-1pm Sat) This beautiful national park is a world-class destination for a wide range of activities.

Pico de Orizaba Hikes in Mexico don’t get more breathless or challenging than scaling the country's highest mountain.

Cañón del Sumidero Skip the bus and pedal 86km from San Cristóbal to this Chiapas landmark.

Hiking trail, Copper Canyon | RYAN HEFFERNAN/GETTY IMAGES ©

Wildlife

Whales Watch whales in Baja California’s lagoons off Mazatlán, Puerto Vallarta or Puerto Escondido (December to March).

Butterflies The trees in Michoacán's Reserva Mariposa Monarca turn orange in winter with millions of monarch butterflies.

Sea turtles Cuyutlán, Playa Colola, Playa Escobilla, Tecolutla and Xcacel-Xcacelito beaches are all major sea-turtle breeding grounds.

Birds Mexico’s forests and coastal lagoons thrill bird-watchers. For flamingos head to Río Lagartos or Celestún.

Parque Nacional Sierra San Pedro Mártir Look for Caifornia condors circling above, and bobcats, deer and bighorn sheep at ground level.

Reserva de la Biosfera Los Tuxtlas Explore the Americas' northernmost tropical rainforests in this impressively diverse reserve.

Kayaking & Rafting

Sea of Cortez The islands and estuaries off Baja California's east coast are the stuff of kayakers' dreams.

Pacific Coast Kayak along the lagoons or islands off the Pacific Coast from Puerto Vallarta and Troncones.

Veracruz rafting Ride the white-water rapids plunging down from the Sierra Madre Oriental from Jalcomulco.

Oaxaca rafting Rivers near Bahías de Huatulco have waters suitable for everyone from beginners to experienced rafters.

Mulegé Enjoy the mangrove- and palm-lined Río Mulegé via a kayak or raft.

Lagos de Montebello Paddle around these turquoise Chiapas lagoons in a traditional wooden cayuco (canoe).

Tequila & Mezcal

Oaxaca The world mezcal capital boasts atmospheric mezcal bars ranging from hip hangouts to connoisseurs' cantinas.

Bósforo Duck into this Mexico City hideaway for the finest mezcals in town.

Tequila Visit the distilleries of the Jalisco town that the drink is named after.

Expo Tequila A prime Tijuana place to taste and rate tequila from all over Mexico.

La Fundación Mezcalería Mérida bar pours organic mezcals with nightly live music.

Month by Month

Top Events

Día de Muertos, November

Carnaval, February

Día de la Independencia, September

Monarch butterfly season, February

Guelaguetza, July

January

It’s warm in coastal and lowland areas, cool in the highlands and dry everywhere, attracting flocks of foreign tourists. The first week is Mexican holiday season, with transportation booked up and coastal resorts very busy.

z Día de los Santos Reyes

January 6 (Three Kings’ Day or Epiphany), rather than Christmas, is the day when Mexican children traditionally receive presents, commemorating the Three Kings’ gifts for the baby Jesus. Mexicans eat rosca de reyes, a large oval sweetbread decorated with candied fruit.

2 Migratory Bird Season

January is the peak season for migratory birds along Mexico’s Pacific coast. Lagoons and rivers at places such as Laguna Manialtepec and Lagunas de Chacahua are packed with fowl, and San Blas even holds an International Migratory Bird Festival.

z Mérida Fest

Between January 5 and 28, Mérida celebrates its diverse culture with daily dance, music, theater, art, acrobatic shows and other cultural events.

Dancer, Mérida Fest | TONY ANDERSON/GETTY IMAGES ©

February

Temperatures are marginally higher than in January, but it remains dry, making this a great month to be in much of Mexico, though it can still be cold in the north and at high altitudes.

2 Whale-Watching Season

Magnificent gray whales calve in bays and lagoons around Baja California from mid-December to mid-April. Whales can also be spotted along the whole Pacific coast during this period. Best months for Baja whale-watching are February and March.

z Día de la Candelaria

Candlemas (February 2), commemorating the infant Jesus’ presentation in the temple, is widely celebrated. In Tlacotalpan several days of festivities feature bull-running in the streets and a flotilla of boats following an image of the Virgin down the Río Papaloapan.

z Carnaval

A big bash preceding the 47-day penance of Lent, Carnaval happens during the week leading up to Ash Wednesday (March 1, 2017; February 14, 2018). It’s wildest in Veracruz, La Paz and Mazatlán, with parades and plenty of music, drinking, dancing, fireworks and fun.

2 Monarch Butterfly Season

From mid-November to March the forests of the Reserva Mariposa Monarca (Monarch Butterfly Reserve) turn bright orange as millions of large monarch butterflies winter here. The best time to watch them is on a warm, sunny afternoon in February.

March

It’s getting steadily warmer all over Mexico, but it’s still dry and the winter season for foreign tourism continues.

z Festival de México

Mexico City's historic center hosts music, theater, dance and literary events featuring talent from Mexico and abroad – the capital's biggest cultural bash of the year.

2 Vernal Equinox

Visitors mob Chichén Itzá for the spring (March 20 to 21) and autumnal (September 21 to 22) equinoxes, when shadows resemble a serpent ascending or descending El Castillo pyramid. Almost the same effect happens for a week preceding and following each equinox.

z Festival Internacional del Cine

Mexico’s biggest film event of the year draws top international actors and directors to Guadalajara for 10 days each March, with more than 250 films screened to more than 100,000 viewers.

3 Spring Break

US students get a week’s break in late February or March (dates vary between colleges) and many head to Mexican resorts such as Cancún, Puerto Vallarta or Cabo San Lucas for days of over-the-top partying.

April

Temperatures continue to increase, but it stays dry. Semana Santa (Easter Week), which can be in March or April, is Mexico’s major holiday week of the year, with tourist accommodations and transportation packed.

z Semana Santa

Semana Santa is the week from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday (April 16, 2017; April 1, 2018). Good Friday sees solemn processions in many places, and enormous crowds attend a re-enactment of the Crucifixion in Iztapalapa, Mexico City.

z Feria de San Marcos

Millions of people attend the exhibitions, bullfights, cockfights, rodeos, concerts and other events of Mexico’s biggest state fair, in Aguascalientes. It lasts about three weeks from mid-April, with the biggest parade on April 25.

May

Temperatures reach annual peaks in cities such as Mérida (average daily high 35°C), Guadalajara (31°C), Oaxaca (30°C) and Mexico City (26°C). It’s low season for tourism, meaning cheaper accommodations prices.

z Feria de Morelia

This three-week fair sees regional dance performances, bullfights, agricultural and handicraft exhibitions, fireworks and plenty of partying in the Michoacán capital.

z Feria de Corpus Christi

Papantla’s big bash features spectacular voladores (fliers) performances and indigenous dances, plus charreadas (Mexican rodeos), parades and bullfights.

z Expo Artesanal

Taking place at the Centro Cultural Tijuana, this superb arts-and-crafts festival (May 20 to 24) features handicrafts for sale from all over Mexico.

z Cinco de Mayo

Celebrating the battle (May 5) in 1862 when Mexican forces defeated French troops, the streets of Puebla, where the fighting happened, close for a huge parade of floats with the military, performers and dancers entertaining more than 20,000 people with re-enactments and celebrations. The following two weeks feature other events.

June

The rainy season begins, bringing heavy downpours in the southeast, in some places along the Pacific coast and in the central highlands. Tourist numbers and hotel prices remain low.

z Festival del Mole Poblano

Puebla celebrates its most famous contribution to Mexican cuisine, the chocolatey mole poblano sauce, in early June.

2 Surf’s Up

Countless spots along the Pacific coast, including Puerto Escondido with its legendary Mexican Pipeline, enjoy superb swells from April/May to October/November. June to August generally see the biggest waves. Beginners can learn to surf almost year-round.

July

It’s rainy in the southeast, central highlands and along the Pacific coast, but this is a summer vacation month for both foreigners and Mexicans, bringing busy times and higher prices at many tourist destinations.

z Guelaguetza

Oaxaca is thronged for this fantastically colorful feast of regional dance on the first two Mondays after July 16, with plenty of other celebratory events accompanying it.

2 Swimming with Whale Sharks

Massive whale sharks congregate to feed on plankton off Isla Contoy between mid-May and mid-September. The best time to swim with these gentle giants is mid-June to July.

August

The summer holiday season continues, as do the rains, although they’re less intense in most areas. June to August are brutally hot in the north.

z Feria de Huamantla

Huamantla, east of Mexico City, lets rip over a few days and nights during its mid-August fair. On August 14 the streets are carpeted with flowers and colored sawdust. A few days later there’s a Pamplona-esque running of the bulls.

z La Morisma

Zacatecas stages a spectacular mock battle with 10,000 participants, commemorating the triumph of the Christians over the Moors in old Spain, usually on the last weekend of August.

September

It’s the height of the hurricane season on the Yucatán Peninsula and Mexico’s coasts. It’s also rainy in most places, with poor visibility for Caribbean divers.

z Día de la Independencia

On Independence Day (September 16) patriotic celebrations mark the anniversary of Miguel Hidalgo’s 1810 call to rebellion against Spain, the Grito de Dolores. On the 15th, the Grito is repeated from every Mexican town hall, followed by fireworks. The biggest celebrations are in Mexico City.

October

Low season for tourism, with the possibility of hurricanes, but the rains ease off everywhere except the Yucatán Peninsula.

z Festival Internacional Cervantino

Guanajuato’s two- to three-week arts festival, dedicated to Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes, is one of the biggest cultural happenings in Latin America, with performances by worldwide music, dance and theater groups.

z Festival Internacional de Música

This classical-music festival takes place in Morelia and is befitting of a city that is home to the oldest music conservatory in the Americas. Performances are held in various plazas, churches and theaters.

2 Copper Canyon Season

October, along with November and March, is one of the best months to visit northwest Mexico’s spectacular canyon country, with temperatures not too hot at the bottom of the canyons, nor too cold at the top.

November

A quiet month. The weather is mostly dry and temperatures are subsiding. Snow tops the high peaks of the central volcanic belt.

z Día de Muertos

On the Day of the Dead (November 2) cemeteries come alive as families decorate graves and commune with their dead, some holding all-night vigils. Special altars appear in homes and public buildings. Associated events start days before, notably around Pátzcuaro and Oaxaca.

Día de Muertos souvenirs | CULTURA RM EXCLUSIVE/BEN PIPE PHOTOGRAPHY/GETTY IMAGES ©

z Feria de la Plata

Some of Mexico’s best silverwork is on show during the week-long national silver fair in Taxco in late November or early December. Charreadas, concerts, dances and donkey races add to the fun.

December

A dry month almost everywhere, and as cool as it gets. International winter tourism gets going and the Christmas–New Year period is Mexican holiday time, with accommodations busy and prices high.

z Día de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe

Several days of festivities throughout Mexico lead up to the feast day of the Virgin, the country’s religious patron – the Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe (December 12). Millions converge on Mexico City’s Basílica de Guadalupe.

z Christmas

Christmas is traditionally celebrated with a feast in the early hours of December 25, after midnight Mass. Pre- or post-Christmas events in some towns include pastorelas (nativity plays), as in Tepotzotlán and Pátzcuaro, and posadas (candlelit processions), as in Taxco.

Itineraries

Riviera Maya & Costa Maya Getaway

10 Days

This journey showcases the best of Mexico's Caribbean coast, from the bustling beaches and frenetic nightlife of the Riviera Maya to the soporific charm of seaside villages along the Costa Maya. Some wonderfully scenic Maya ruins, caves and terrific diving and snorkeling add some action to a beach vacation.

Fly into Cancún and head straight for relaxed Isla Mujeres' beaches and snorkeling, taking a side trip to Isla Contoy, a national park with superlative bird-watching and, June to September, the chance to swim with whale sharks that congregate nearby.

Alternatively, opt for hip Playa del Carmen, with its own fine beaches, underwater activities and lively nightlife. 'Playa' is also the jumping-off point for the world-famous dive sites of Isla Cozumel. If you have kids, spend a day at the turtle farm on Isla Mujeres, one of the nearby ‘eco-parks’ such as Selvática with its 12 jungle zip-lines, or Crococun in Puerto Morelos, an interactive zoo with crocodiles and wild monkeys. Next stop: Tulum, with one of Mexico’s most perfect beaches and most spectacularly located Maya sites. Nearby are the pyramids and temples of Cobá, as well as the wildlife-rich Reserva de la Biosfera Sian Ka’an. South of Tulum the Costa Maya is less developed and less touristed than the Riviera Maya. Head to Mahahual, a laid-back village with snorkeling and diving at the coral atoll Banco Chinchorro, or the tiny fishing town of Xcalak, another excellent water-sports base. After three nights chilling at either of these, opt for a fourth night or, if you're worried that you missed out on Cancún's nightlife, spend your last night there.

Maya ruins, Tulum | FLORIAN TROJER/GETTY IMAGES ©

Itineraries

Beaches, Cities & Temples of Mexico’s South

1 Month

This classic journey leads south from Mexico’s central heartland to its glorious Caribbean beaches, and gives a superb sampling of what makes the country so fascinating.

Start by exploring the exciting megalopolis of Mexico City, key to any understanding of the country. Take a side trip to the awesome pyramids at Teotihuacán, capital of ancient Mexico’s biggest empire. Then head east to the fun-loving port city of Veracruz, before crossing the mountains southward to Oaxaca. This cultured colonial city, with Mexico’s finest handicrafts, sits at the heart of a beautiful region with a large indigenous population. Don’t miss the ancient Zapotec capital, Monte Albán, nearby.

Head to one of the relaxed beach spots on the Oaxaca coast, such as Puerto Escondido, Mazunte or Zipolite, for a few days' sun, surf and sand, before continuing east to San Cristóbal de las Casas, a beautiful highland town surrounded by intriguing indigenous villages. Move on to Palenque, perhaps the most stunning of all ancient Maya cities, with its backdrop of emerald-green jungle, and Yaxchilán, another marvelous Maya city, accessible only by river.

Head northeast to Campeche, an attractive mix of colonial city and bustling modern town, detouring to the ancient Maya city of Calakmul en route. Move on to colonial Mérida, the Yucatán Peninsula's lively cultural capital and the base for visiting the superb ruins of Uxmal and the Ruta Puuc. Next stop: Chichén Itzá, the most celebrated of all the Yucatán's Maya sites. From here it's on to Tulum on the Caribbean coast, another spectacular Maya site set beside a glorious beach. Finally make your way northward along the Riviera Maya to the hip beach town of Playa del Carmen, with a side trip to Isla Cozumel for world-class snorkeling and diving. End at Mexico’s most popular and unabashed coastal resort, Cancún.

Palenque archaeological site | WITOLD SKRYPCZAK/GETTY IMAGES ©

Itineraries

Baja from Tip to Toe

10 days

The world's second-longest peninsula seems tailor-made for road tripping, with 1200km of road snaking through picturesque villages, along dramatic coastline and past otherworldly rock canyons. Baja's charms are further enhanced by its appealing colonial towns, world-class diving and some of the best fish tacos you'll ever taste.

Enjoy a full-on day of Mexican life-on-the-streets in Tijuana before heading south via the Valle de Guadalupe winery route, stopping to tour the vineyards and taste the terrific tipples. Then make a stop in Ensenada for great fish tacos and a stroll through the shopping streets before heading south via the Carretera Transpeninsular’s spectacular desert scenery. If it’s migration season (December to April), book a whale-watching tour at Guerrero Negro. Alternatively, continue south and detour to Sierra de San Francisco to view ancient petroglyphs in the local caves.

Further south, pass through San Ignacio and stop in Mulegé for a tranquil paddle in the cerulean Sea of Cortez. The highway then hugs the coast en route to Loreto, where you can spend a day or two discovering the artisan shops, great restaurants, historic architecture and 17th-century mission. Heading south again, the road passes several stunning beaches before ducking inland and leading you to the unspoiled charms of La Paz. Spend a day kayaking and snorkeling off the island of Espíritu Santo, or go swimming with whale sharks (October to March).

Next, stop at Todos Santos, a gorgeous little town with picturesque old sugar mills, before you hit wild Cabo San Lucas. Indulge in banana-boating, parasailing and other beach activities before hitting the bars, and don't forget to take a boat to Land's End for a glimpse of the magical stone arch. If you need a respite, head for San José del Cabo, Cabo's tamer twin, with its appealing colonial church, art galleries and a clutch of good restaurants, or go underwater for a closer glimpse of the reef at Cabo Pulmo.

Tijuana | F8GRAPHER/SHUTTERSTOCK©

Itineraries

Plan Your Trip

Eat & Drink Like a Local

Mexican cuisine is far more tasty, fresh, varied, carefully prepared and creative than you could ever imagine before you start trying it. Venture into the flavors of Mexico, anywhere from simple street taco stands to refined contemporary fusion restaurants, and eating will be a highlight of your trip.

Oaxacan desserts | MARK READ/LONELY PLANET ©

Must Try Dishes

Traditional dishes that will leave you with the taste of Mexico:

Chiles en nogada

Chiles en nogada comprises green, white and red ingredients, the colors of the Mexican flag: poblano chili, stuffed with minced meat and flavored with spices, topped with a cream sauce and sprinkled with pomegranate seeds.

Tacos al pastor

One of the country’s favorites, tacos al pastor (‘in