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Mexico is a country of delicious food, that much is clear, but it’s not all tacos and tortas. In fact, the culinary scene from north to south varies wildly, although each dish remains just as delicious as the last. Whether you want carne asada or cabrito in the north, seafood on the Pacific coast in Sinaloa, hangover busting tortas ahogadas in western Jalisco or Mayan delicacies in the Yucatán Peninsula, one thing’s for sure – you’ll never be short of options.
Even though clubs in Mexico tend to blast out the tracks that are doing the rounds internationally, whether in Spanish or English, the traditional music of the country is diverse, excellent and shouldn’t be overlooked. From the emblematic mariachi groups, to the bands that blast out banda or son Jarochos, live Mexican music is far more varied than people often give it credit for, and often much better than the headline-stealing Justin Bieber remixes of reggaeton hits.
If there’s one thing everyone will agree on about Mexico, it’s that the locals are warm, welcoming and always willing to help, whether you need directions or advice on what street food stall to eat at. Even if you don’t speak Spanish, you’ll soon realise that Mexicans will go out of their way to give you the information you’re looking for, even when that means escorting you to a tourist desk or ringing their niece for advice on bus routes. So, don’t believe everything the popular press tells you about Mexico’s ‘bad hombres’.
Mexico as a whole is a breathtakingly biodiverse country. Although it doesn’t come close to rivalling Costa Rica, there are some animals you can pretty much only find in the forests, jungles and waters of this North American country. If you’re lucky, you might spot a critically endangered axolotl, or even the native Mexican mammal known as the cacomistle. Head north and you have a chance of glimpsing a Mexican prairie dog, and in the waters around Baja, you might see a vaquita porpoise.
Mexico’s booze heritage has been exported worldwide, and you can find Corona and José Cuervo in pretty much any country, but honestly? The drinks taste better in Mexico. In Jalisco, you can sample tequila that’s better than the commercial brands, whereas Oaxaca is the home of smoky mezcal that’s got a real kick. Remember that both are to be sipped leisurely, possibly accompanied by wedges of lime or orange. Pulque is the lesser known of the three, and you have to visit the country to try it, as this Mesoamerican beverage is only available in Central Mexico.
It’s no great secret that Mexico is a pretty affordable destination for most travellers coming from further afield, and even though prices are higher in heavily tourist populated areas like Cancún and Baja California, you’ll still get more bang for your buck. Due to the fluctuating Mexican peso right now, travellers from both the US and the UK can really benefit (although, sadly, locals are massively losing out). Even so, you should visit Mexico as soon as possible to take advantage!
While we’ve already mentioned the variety of wildlife in the country, it’s worth remembering the range of climates and conditions that Mexico can offer the casual traveller. Deserts dominate the dry northern states, whilst western Mexico and the states of Jalisco are often considered to be destinations of eternal spring. Head to the Yucatán Peninsula and you’ve got turquoise seas, the south has lush jungles and the Pacific is humid and hot. Plus, pretty much all of Mexico is crisscrossed by mountains and volcanoes just waiting to be explored.
While there’s plenty of options to choose from in Mexico, it’s clear that most travellers visiting the country are split between those wanting to lounge on the beach and those wanting to explore the cities and colonial towns. We have to mention the world class conditions of Mexico’s beaches, from the waters around Baja California where you can whale watch, to the crystalline seas of Cancún and pristine white beaches of Tulum. If you love surfing, Oaxaca and the southern coastline have the conditions for you.
Mexican culture is a mishmash of influences, from the Mesoamerican to the indigenous to the Spanish, and that makes the country all the more fascinating. To learn more about the native people living in rural, indigenous communities and speaking in languages other than Spanish, you can head to Oaxaca or the mountains of Jalisco and Chihuahua, whereas Spanish Colonial history can be explored in Taxco, Querétaro and Guanajuato. Pretty much the entire country shows signs of its mestizo heritage though.
Moving from culture to history, you really can’t go wrong in Mexico. The south and central regions of the country are dotted with numerous world-class archaeological sites like Teotihuacán, Chichén Itzá and the circular pyramids of Guachimontones in Jalisco. Even if you can’t make it in person, Mexico City museums like the Museo Nacional de Antropología can give you an in-depth introduction to the history of Mexico, dating from the Mesoamerican period. Basically, if you’re a history buff, you absolutely have to visit Mexico at least once in your lifetime!