Mexico holidays

Experience Mexico

Best Places to Visit

A country the size of Mexico obviously has thousands of destinations, each with their own appeal. One of the best has got to be the Monarch butterfly breeding grounds found in the state of Michoacan. Head to the highlands between November and March, and you're in with the chance of seeing millions of butterflies all in one place. Sadly the numbers have been in decline for some time, so if this is a sight you want to see, it should be near the top of your list. The areas where the butterflies congregate are protected, so check before entering the area if you're not sure where you're allowed to go and what you're allowed to do there.

The Sea of Cortez is always popular among swimmers and sunbathers. Its warm waters are located east of the Baja California peninsula, close to La Paz. You can swim with dolphins, spot whales in the waves and set out in a sea kayak to pit your paddling strength against the pull of the ocean tides. While in the area, head to San Carlos or Puerto Penasco and look to the west at the end of the day; the golden sun setting into the ocean at dusk is a sight to behold.

For the party revellers heading on holidays to Mexico, try taking a trip to Guadalajara. This is where many of the most iconic aspects of Mexican culture originate, and the state capital of Jalisco is home to mariachi bands that play celebratory tunes and provide the soundtrack to many Mexican festivals. The city is also one of the best places to sample some authentic Mexican tequila, while downtown Guadalajara still retains much of its colonial heritage. The city has a climate all of its own, reinvigorating even the most tired of souls and leaving visitors feeling renewed and energised - and not just because of the tequila.

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Top Landmarks

Copper Canyon is situated in northern Mexico, and is a series of massive canyons in the Sierra Madre Occidental Mountains. The route to the canyon itself is a little rough, which perhaps dissuades some tourists from trying to get there. However, once there, the Copper Canyon Railway offers views to remember, climbing steeply through the mountains. Be sure to book tickets in advance, especially if you want to travel First Class, which has the advantage of letting you alight and re-board until your ticket is used-up, even if you don’t complete your journey in a single day.

There are more archaeological sites in Mexico than the average person could realistically fit into a lifetime of package holidays, but one particularly worthy of a trip is the Mayan city of Chichen Itza. Since 1988 this has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site, giving it extra protection for future generations who want to visit and enjoy this spectacle. It was also one of the 'modern-day' marvels placed on a newly compiled list of Seven Wonders of the World, inspired by the ancient equivalent but limited solely to structures that are still standing. There are many other Mayan sites to visit on Mexico holidays, including Palenque with its ornate paintings, and Ek Balam, which gains the most attention for its stone carved temples and decorated stucco walls.

Entertainment

There are plenty of active pursuits to enjoy on package holidays to Mexico, depending on where in the country you are. The coastal regions are the place to be if you want to take to the ocean. Enjoy a whale-watching boat tour or plunge beneath the surface of the sea for some snorkelling and scuba diving. Baja California is one of the most popular destinations for surfers, along with Oaxaca and Vallarta . The Peninsula can also cater for any hidden desire to become a master and commander of your own vessel—albeit on a fairly small scale—as you can go kayaking on the open sea.

Away from the water, there is still a seemingly endless list of other activities to try. Try trekking in Baja California and you gain the chance to stumble upon ancient cave paintings. There are volcanoes to visit in certain parts of the country, horseback excursions and the Copper Canyon Railway - a rare opportunity to ride the rails in a country with a limited a passenger railway network. The possibilities are almost limitless, it all really depends on where you’re situated in the country. In the north, visitors are much more likely to find activities dominated by the mountainous terrain, while hilly areas may provide the opportunity for river rafting. The latter may also have the added challenge and excitement of white water and rapids on the faster-flowing water courses.

Dining Out

Mexican cuisine is probably one of the few world cuisines where it's fair to say that tourists' expectations are not too far from the mark. Tacos and enchiladas both involve stuffing soft tortillas with meat and spices, although if you're more familiar with crispy taco shells, you may be surprised to find that these are largely absent within Mexico itself. Quesadillas are similar, again making use of tortillas, but this time the meal is a cheese feast, with a smaller quantity of other ingredients including meat and vegetables.

Tamales are well worth a try - these consist of a corn dough shell wrapped around a variety of different fillings. Similar to pancakes, the contents can be either savoury or sweet. In general, most Tamales will probably contain either meat or a selection of vegetables. In some cases though, the contents will be nuts, fruit, or a combination of the two, and these are typically called Tamales Dulces.

Look out for certain words if you're squeamish about which parts of an animal you're willing to eat. Tripa is a fairly familiar word, equivalent to tripe and made from a cow's digestive system. Sesos are the brains of an animal, typically pigs or cattle, while cabeza is meat obtained from a cow's head. If this is too far out of your comfort zone, you're sure to find plenty of other appetising dishes on holidays to Mexico.

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Need to know

Language

Mexico has a huge number of indigenous languages and local dialects, but generally it is Spanish that is used most often. English is the most common foreign language used, especially close to the border with the USA, and naturally you can expect to encounter more of an American dialect than English. Major tourist centres are more likely to have English-speaking staff too, whereas if you are heading away from these, you're more likely to need at least a basic understanding of Spanish. If you're planning on booking package holidays to Mexico, it might be worth investing in a small phrase book.

Currency

The Mexican currency is the Nuevo peso, but everybody just calls it the 'Peso'. Think of it as being like the way the UK had 'new pence' after decimalisation, but now people just refer to pennies as they did before. Cash can be exchanged at banks and at bureaux de change, but you might find it easier to exchange US dollar banknotes. There are ATMs where you can use major UK debit and credit cards though, and card payments are widely accepted in businesses - just beware of any fees for using your card abroad.

Visas

You may not need a visa for Mexico holidays. The UK is one of many countries on an approved list which permits that, if you arrive by air, you can simply fill out a form upon landing and obtain a tourist card. You will of course need to present a valid passport on arrival, and it is always worth checking that this rule is still in place, before you make the long trip to Mexico without a visa. A word of warning, if you lose your tourist card you will be required to pay for a replacement, as one is needed to leave the country.

Climate

Unlike the USA, Mexico has fully adopted the metric system, which means all weather forecasts should provide temperatures in Celsius, just as they do in the UK. It's worth checking in advance what the temperatures are likely to be in the region you intend to visit, as they can vary considerably. This is partly due to the large size of the country and its mixture of different landscapes. Even on the Baja Peninsula alone, the climate varies from Mediterranean in the north-west, to arid on the side that faces the Sea of Cortez. Near Cancun, conditions are more tropical, and this is the case along mainland Mexico's Pacific coast too. This is also true in the north of the country, where the mountainous terrain can lead to lower temperatures.

Main Airports

Mexico City International Airport is the main commercial airport serving Greater Mexico City. It's possible to fly directly to Mexico from major European cities including London, as well as Paris, Madrid, Frankfurt and several others on the continent. If you do fly direct, you can typically arrive at Mexico City and, from there, get flights to destinations such as Cancun, Mazatlan, Los Cabos and Monterrey.

Flight Options

With the long-haul flight taking around 11 hours, some passengers may want to consider adding a stop-off point along the way. An alternative is to travel to the USA first and then enter Mexico via one of the many scheduled flights from there. This has the advantage of splitting the journey time, as well as giving you a chance to see part of the USA for a short period of time.

Travel Advice

If you choose to break your journey up by stopping at destinations such as the USA, remember it does mean going through Customs and Immigration more - not only on arrival into the USA, but also at your first port of call in Mexico. Even if your plane is travelling onwards to a different domestic airport in Mexico, it is likely that you will be processed in full, including going through baggage claim, before having to check back into the next part of your journey. Consider all options before deciding how to travel to Mexico.

Other Transport Options

Border formalities can prove complicated in some areas of Mexico, but if you’re travelling to the country from a stop in the USA, driving is one of the best ways to experience more of your destination. Travelling to Mexico from the USA also opens up train, bus and water travel, with several cruise lines stopping here.

Getting Around

Much of Mexico's rail network is reserved for freight trains, so this makes buses and cars more convenient for land travel. Domestic flights are also available if you want to make a longer journey by air.

Bus

Buses are a great way to travel between destinations in Mexico, as it is both comfortable and good value. You can choose between Business and First class options, with the latter offering air con, refreshments, television and reclining seats.

Train

The rail service in Mexico is limited to one passenger train: El Chepe. This can be used to visit smaller destinations in the mountains, as well as the impressive Barrancas del Cobre.

Air

A good number of airlines operate flights around Mexico, so if you need to travel a long way between cities this may be your best option. There are several low-cost airlines, so compare ticket prices on the route you need and there may be a bargain to be had.

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AVERAGE RAINFALL (mm)

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FACTS

  1. Mexico's full official name is the United Mexican States, or Estados Unidos Mexicanos in Spanish.
  2. Visitors from Europe can usually be found in the colonial towns of Mexico, including Guanajuato and San Cristobal de las Casas, as well as the southern resort of Playa del Carmen.
  3. American tourists, on the other hand, head for the modern resorts of Puerto Vallarta and Cancun, as well as the Baja Peninsula.

FACTS

  1. Mexico's full official name is the United Mexican States, or Estados Unidos Mexicanos in Spanish.
  2. Visitors from Europe can usually be found in the colonial towns of Mexico, including Guanajuato and San Cristobal de las Casas, as well as the southern resort of Playa del Carmen.
  3. American tourists, on the other hand, head for the modern resorts of Puerto Vallarta and Cancun, as well as the Baja Peninsula.

Where to go in Mexico

Cities

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