Mexico

Ancient and fascinating, a land of surprises

Mexico is an ever-fascinating country. Indeed, visitors will soon recognize the rich diversity of indigenous, European and modern North American influences that come together to create an authentic national culture enriched by a medley of regional traits.

The southernmost country in North America, Mexico features a vast and often mountainous terrain that covers almost 2,000,000 km² (770,000 sq mi), more than three times the size of France. The country has a population of about 95 million.
Mexico is a land of contrasts, with desert-like expanses and big industrial cities growing at an exponential rate, wilderness and carefully laid-out areas, modern facilities and impressive archaeological sites. In short, Mexico is an enchanting, multifaceted country with a lot to offer.

Mexico City, the nation’s capital, is one of the most populated cities in the world, with approximately 20 million people huddled in a high valley 2,240 m (7,350 feet) above sea level. It’s a fascinating place, what with its many historic and cultural treasures, great vitality and charming districts.

In the heart of the sprawling metropolis, facing the Plaza de la Constitución (more commonly known as “El Zócalo”), stands the Catedral Metropolitana, the largest cathedral in the Americas. A monumental structure built over the course of 250 years, from the 16th century onward, it’s a mishmash of architectural influences with 14 side chapels of various styles. On the east side of the Zócalo, the Palacio Nacional, built from red tezontle (volcanic rock), has been the seat of the federal government since the late 17th century. After entering the imposing building through the courtyard, you can admire the spectacular revolutionary murals of famous Mexican painter Diego Rivera, which adorn the national palace’s grand staircase.

A few blocks west is the Palacio de Bellas Artes, a gorgeous, typically Art Deco performing arts venue. A little farther along lies Parque Alameda, one of Mexico’s most pleasant parks, laid out in a simple geometrical pattern. About 2 km (1.25 mi) farther west, past the Paseo de la Reforma — a major, intermittently elegant boulevard — is the Zona Rosa, a very touristy district with scores of hotels, restaurants, shops and nightclubs. The Paseo de la Reforma then leads through the Bosque de Chapultepec, a huge park with woods, lakes, a zoo, botanical gardens and a handful of museums.

If you only visit one museum during your stay in Mexico, be sure to make it the Museo Nacional de Antropología (which is closed on Mondays, as most museums in Mexico). The absolutely wonderful national museum of anthropology houses a large collection of priceless archaeological treasures uncovered in Mexico.

Cancun
Yesterday, Cancun was a winter resort for Mayan Kings. Today, with its talcum-white beaches and turquoise waters, Cancun is for everyone.

Cancun’s powdery beaches, the best in all of Mexico, stretch for 22 km along the Caribbean side of the Yucatan coast. Very North American in its look and feel, here you’ll find many U.S. franchise restaurants, sleek shopping malls, Hollywood movies and lavish hotels. Take a look at some of the stunning luxury resorts along the Zona Hotelera. Along Cancun’s beaches, you can sail, water ski, jet ski and snorkelers will enjoy a day trip to exquisite Isla Mujeres. Visit some of the nearby many fascinating Mayan ruins. The 10th-century walled city of Tulum and the fabled pyramids of Chichen Itza are just a two-hour drive away. And then there are the mystical ruins of Coba with its jungle-covered pyramids.

Save some time for shopping. Leather and silver are good buys in the open-air markets, while the shopping centre feature fine fashions. At night, choose a stylish candlelit dinner, fine Italian cuisine or typical Mexican fare at the popular Ballet Folklorico complete with live music and dancing. Then, hit the clubs where you can dance until dawn.

Mayan Riviera
The ultimate peaceful retreat. Relax on powdery white sand beaches and swim with tropical fish in crystal-clear lagoons. If adventure is what you are after, explore some of the nearby fascinating Mayan ruins.

Just south of Cancun bordering a thick jungle lies 120 km of pristine beach. This relatively new resort area is the perfect place to get away from it all. Snorkel in clear waters, dive offshore and play a round of golf. Hotels are located along beautiful Playa del Carmen and just south in the new resort area of Puerto Aventuras. Here, singles and families alike will enjoy all-inclusive fun. And when it’s time to explore, the Mayan ruins of Tulum, Coba and Chichen Itza await. Snorkelers will love the reserve of Xcaret. Just six miles from Playa del Carmen, this 150-acre ecological park features snorkel lagoons, botanical gardens and a sea turtle nursery – all in a magnificent jungle setting. And if you ever feel like changing the pace, the shops and clubs of Cancun are an hour away.