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Did you know … ?

  • Mexico City’s bullring, seating about 55,000, is the world’s largest.
  • Mexico produces about a sixth of the world’s silver, making it the biggest producer.
  • More than 5 million Mexicans speak an Indian language, such as Maya.
  • America uses these Mexican words: canyon, corral, desperado, rodeo and stampede.
  • Quetzalcoatl at Cholula is the world’s largest pyramid.

From Mayan temple to beach resort

Mexico offers other North Americans a close-to-home destination that is as exotic or as familiar as each visitor wants.

On the exotic side:  We know it for the fascinating Mayan, Aztec and other cultures topped off by the Spanish colonial influences, with the result there are stone gods, temples and pyramids to admire and numerous Spanish cities to frequent.

By contrast, modern full-service resorts line sandy beaches, facing the Caribbean and the Pacific, and golf courses abound. At the heart of it all is a huge metropolis — Mexico City — where old and new converge big time.

Americans flock to Mexico because it offers so many choices for warm-weather escapes from winter’s furies — as well as the attractions associated with the Spanish colonial period and various preconquest civilizations. The prices are good, tour packages make it easy to book a trip and Americans feel welcome.

In addition, the choices for active travelers include mountain biking (Mexico isn’t just beaches), as well as activities like whitewater rafting, parasailing, scuba diving, surfing and even bungee jumping — and the list goes on.

Mexican culture is also bound up in its food, even to the extent that the government considers Mexican cuisine a Masterpiece of the Intangible Heritage of Humanity. In reality, spicy food is not for everyone, but hotels and resorts accommodate their guests while still serving Mexican food cooked for the local palate.

Mexico is a year-round destination, but for obvious reasons, peak season for the low-altitude coastal areas is winter. On the other hand, plateaus and high mountains cover more than two-thirds of the country. In those areas, the climate varies widely, but with cooler nights and cold winters.

There are well-publicized crime-related hazards for visitors to areas near the U.S. border, but they are quite distant from tourist meccas. Mexico’s tourist office advises that driving on local roads requires extreme caution because those roads are narrow and curvy; it also recommends not driving on such roads at night. The U.S. State Department urges against driving any Mexican road at night for safety reasons.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Eat Mexican specialties. If you are venturesome about food, try insect tacos. They are stuffed with grasshoppers, maguey worms or ant roe and are served with beans and guacamole. Or, look for a variation on that: maguey worms in salsa or fried grasshoppers, also served in tacos. (Learn to read these menu items in Spanish before you leave home!)
  • Join an archaeological dig.
  • Get a close-up look at the Mayan ruins you have seen in photos. Make one choice the Mayan ceremonial center of Palenque, and that will take you to Chiapas, a state that is less Europeanized than most of Mexico.
  • Practice kite surfing at Playa del Carmen; or, go mountain biking or paragliding at Puebla.
  • Or, make that parasailing, hang gliding or bungee jumping at Puerto Vallarta. In fact, each activity is available in more than one place.
  • Sample tequila in the land of its birth. Before the Spaniards arrived, it was the native alcoholic beverage pulque.

Things to do for Centrics

  • Board the Chihuahua-Pacifico train for the fabled Copper Canyon trip. You will travel at 7,920 feet above sea level, then descend through canyons, tunnels and ravines for your view of the spectacular Copper Canyon. The train crosses 37 bridges and passes through 86 tunnels.
  • Attend Day of the Dead celebrations on the island of San Juan Janitizio in Lake Patzcuaro in the state of Michoacan. This is said to be the most beautiful of the celebrations, which occur on Nov. 2 across the country to welcome the dead back to the world of the living for one day.
  • Improve your Spanish in language classes, available in several cities.
  • Learn to grind corn for tortillas, or make tamales and mole sauces and even fried grasshoppers in cooking classes in Oaxaca.
  • Go to Mexico from California by schooner on a voyage of several days, to allow time for diving, dolphin spotting, fishing, kayaking, surfing — or just enjoying the breezes.
  • Hunt black buck antelope, elk (or wapiti), red deer and white-tailed deer in the northern border states of Coahuila or Tamaulipas. A license is required and the size of game herds is controled.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Stay in one of the historic haciendas that have been converted into hotels.
  • Enjoy mariachi music. In Mexico City, listen for it at the Plaza de Garibaldi, which is called a mariachi plaza.
  • Go whale watching in Baja California.
  • Visit one or more of Mexico’s much-vaunted colonial cities. Guanajuato is a particular cultural treasure because its mines once produced one-third of the world’s silver; clearly, some of the riches were spent locally.  Also, see Campeche for its fortifications for protection from pirates, Puebla for its wedding-cake churches and Zacatecas for its outstanding cathedral.
  • Shop for silver in the colonial cities or anywhere you see it offered.
  • Take a spiritual journey to Teotihuacan, ancient home of the Toltecs, and to points beyond.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult the Mexico Tourism Board at