Here are our Must See Mexico Destinations
Acapulco is located on Mexico’s Pacific coast, at the foot of the Sierra Madre del Su. It is a famous sun-blessed seaside resort that is approximately 400 km (250 mi) south of Mexico City. The main Acapulco resort lies on the the shores of the Baha de Acapulco, which is a large crescent-shaped bay, with white beaches, blue seas and green hills making it a scenic paradise.
Tourist activity is concentrated along the Avenida Costera Miguel Alema¡n where most of the main shops, restaurants, hotels and nightclubs are located. Other highlights include the Moorish-Byzantine-style cathedral in Acapulco’s main square, which dates from the 1930s. There is a culture and congress centre (Centro Cultural y de Convenciones) in the east of the city, with displays of folk crafts (some for sale), theatres, conference halls and a small archaeological museum.
Chichen Itza, 116 km (72 mi) east of Merida, is one of the country’s largest and best restored archaeological zones. This UNESCO world cultural heritage site was a sacred Mayan site for over 700 years, and in the 11th and 12th centuries was the religious and political capital of a renascent Mayan empire under Toltec rule.
The archaeological zone covers an area of almost 8 sq km (3 sq mi), and features a stepped pyramid, chacmool figures, a ballcourt and dramatic snail-shaped observatory. Each spring and autumn equinox, at the rising and setting of the sun, the corner of Temple of Kukulcan casts a shadow in the shape of a plumed serpent (Kukulcan, or Quetzalcoatl) along the side of the North staircase. On these two days, the shadows from the corner tiers slither down the northern side of the pyramid with the sun’s movement.
Copper Canyon Railway
Board the train, then settle back for a scenic – and often heart-stopping – 13-hour ride, from the west coast into the Sierra Madre.
Mexico’s second largest city, Guadalajara lies on a low hill in the fertile high valley of Atemajac. Due to its period of isolation from the Mexican capital, it has managed to retain its own independent character and traditions with something of a European atmosphere. The city has carefully-tended parks, broad avenues and attractively light-coloured buildings. The town is also a centre of ‘mariachi’ music and a stronghold of ‘charreadas’ (the Mexican version of the rodeo), which is held every October. In addition, the popular folk dance – Jarabe Tapatio (Mexican Hat Dance) – originated in this area.
Set beneath two snow-capped volcanoes at a dizzying altitude, this heavily-polluted yet fascinating urban sprawl is a throng of people and a centre of art, politics and culture. There’s a colonial feel about the place, while everything bustles around the Zocalo, the huge central square, surrounded by Aztec ruins, the Palacio National and Catedral Metropolitana – one of the biggest churches on earth and the first to be built in the ‘new world’.
Visitors should take plenty of time to explore the National Museum of Anthropology (Museo Nacional de Antropologa), whose exhibits cover 20,000 years of human life. Visits to any of the country’s pre-Colombian sites are more meaningful after seeing and understanding the priceless art on show here, such as the 3,000-year-old Tlatilco Acrobat. Other highlights include the Museo de Arte Moderno (Museum of Modern Art) and the Bosque de Chapultepec with its botanical gardens, zoo and the Castillo de Chapultepec.
Lively night-life can be enjoyed in the Plaza de Garibaldi, where mariachi bands play.
One of Mexico’s most famous archaeological attractions is the ruined site of Mitla, which is situated on the edge of the village in the state of Oaxaca of the same name. The area includes five important groups of buildings and a large number of houses and tombs decorated with striking murals. One curious relic is the Column of Life; if a person hugs the column, one myth says that the distance separating their hands will tell them how long they will live, whilst another says that this will tell them how many children they will have.
This Maya archaeological site is located near the Usumacinta River in the state of Chiapas, about 130 km south of Ciudad del Carmen. It is a medium-sized site, but it contains some of the finest architecture, sculpture and bas-relief carvings the Maya produced. In contrast to the Mayas of North Yucatan, who liked to site their buildings around open squares, the architects of Palenque chose a more enclosed layout which suited the hilly site.
The archaeological zone measures approximately 500 m (1,641 ft) from north to south and 300 m (985 ft) from east to west. However, this is only a fraction of the entire area of Palenque, and it is thought that the area extends for between 89 km (56 mi) in an east-west direction. Important structures include the Aqueduct, which was constructed with great stone blocks with a 3-metre high vault to make the Otulum River flow underneath the floor of Palenque’s main plaza; the Temple of The Lion (featuring an elaborate bas-relief carving of a king seated on a throne in the form of a jaguar); along with the Temple of the Cross, Temple of the Sun, and Temple of the Foliated Cross – a set of graceful temples atop step pyramids, each with an elaborately carved relief in the inner chamber.
Puebla de Zaragoza
Puebla, the capital of the state of the same name, lies in a fertile high valley surrounded by volcanoes and snow-capped mountains, slightly over 110 kilometres southeast of Mexico City. The historic centre of the city still contains much Spanish Colonial architecture and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city is famed for its use of talavera (colourful glazed tiles produced by the town’s artisans), which cover the house walls and church domes.
The main square (Zocalo, Plaza de la Constitucion) forms the busy centre of the town, and is home to tall trees, flower beds and fountains, and lined with arcades (Portales). Some of the most impressive of the colonial buildings include the Puebla Cathedral, which was built in a mixed neoclassical style and the gold-covered Rosario Chapel in the nearby Iglesia de Santo Domingo. Other highlights include El Barrio del Artista (the Artist’s Neighbourhood) where local arts are produced.
Teotihuacan (birthplace of the gods) is situated in the San Juan Teotihuacan municipality, approximately 48 km (30 miles) northeast of Mexico City. It is the largest pre-Columbian site excavated in Meso-America; the archaeological zone extends over an area of more than 20 sq km (8 sq mi), with the actual ceremonial centre occupying 4.2 sq km (1.5 sq mi).
The city’s broad central avenue, called Avenue of the Dead (from the Nahuatl name ‘Miccaotli’), is flanked by impressive ceremonial architecture, including the immense Pyramid of the Sun (second largest in the New World after the Great Pyramid of Cholula) and the Pyramid of the Moon. Further down is the area known as the Citadel, containing the ruined Temple of the Feathered Serpent. This large plaza area was surrounded by temples that formed the religious and political centre of the city.
Tulum (also known as Tuluum) is the site of a Pre-Columbian Maya walled city located on the east coast of the Yucatan Peninsula on the Gulf of Mexico. Set on a 12 m (39 ft) high cliff overlooking a stunning stretch of white sandy Caribbean beach and turquoise ocean, it is the only well-known fortified Maya town to be situated by the sea.
The site may have been formerly also known by the name Zama, or the city of Dawn. Tulum is also the Mayan word for fence, trench or wall and indeed, the walls surrounding the site allowed Tulum fort to serve as a defence against an invasion. From the many depictions in murals and other works around the site, Tulum appears to have been an important site for the worship of the Descending God.
Although Tulum has no special architectural importance in comparison with other Maya sites, it is nevertheless, thanks to its unique position and its wall paintings, one of the most fascinating ruined towns on the Yucatan Peninsula.
Located on the southern outskirts of Mexico City on the far side of the Anillo Periferico Sur, is the little town of Xochimilco (Nahuatl, ‘place of the flower-fields’). Xochimilco is best known for its tree-lined canals and Aztec-engineered floating gardens, formed from small rafts held together by interwoven reeds. Visitors can sail along these waterways on brightly-painted and flower-decked trajineras (gondolas), accompanied by other boats bearing bands of mariachi musicians or selling food, drinks and handmade articles.