Mexico is a country between the U.S. and Central America that’s known for its Pacific and Gulf of Mexico beaches and its diverse landscape of mountains, deserts and jungles. Ancient ruins such as Teotihuacán and the Mayan city of Chichén Itzá are scattered throughout the country, as are Spanish colonial-era towns. In capital Mexico City, upscale shops, renowned museums and gourmet restaurants cater to modern life.
Capital: Mexico City
Dialing code: +52
President: Enrique Peña Nieto
Population: 122.3 million (2013) World Bank
Currency: Mexican peso
Top things to do:
Tulum is a resort town on Mexico’s Caribbean coast, around 130 km south of Cancún. The 13th-century, walled Mayan archaeological site at Tulum National Park overlooks the sea. It incorporates the clifftop Castillo, built as a watchtower, and the Templo de las Pinturas, with a partially restored mural. Inland, the Cobá archaeological site has pyramid-shaped temples with views over the surrounding jungle.
Tulum’s spectacular coastline – with all its confectioner-sugar sands, jade-green water and balmy breezes – makes it one of the top beaches in Mexico. Where else can you get all that and a dramatically situated Maya ruin? There’s also excellent cave and cavern diving, fun cenotes, and a variety of lodgings and restaurants to fit every budget.
Some may be put off by the fact that the town center, where the really cheap eats and sleeps are found, sits right on the highway, making the main drag feel more like a truck stop than a tropical paradise. But rest assured that if Tulum Pueblo isn’t to your liking, you can always head to the coast and find that tranquil beachside bungalow.
Exploring Tulum’s surrounding areas pays big rewards: there’s the massive Reserva de la Biosfera Sian Ka’an, the secluded fishing village of Punta Allen and the ruins of Cobá.
2. Chapultepec Park
Covering an area of more than 1,600 acres, Bosque de Chapultepec (Chapultepec Park) is Mexico City’s largest oasis and one of the loveliest places to visit. Chapultepec Park, divided into three sections, is home to forests, lakes and several important sights and attractions, most of which are located in the first section near the Paseo de la Reforma, Mexico City’s main thoroughfare.
Situated at the end of a long paved path near the main entrance to the park, the Monumento a los Niños Heroes (Monument of Young Heroes) is one of Mexico City’s most important monuments. Built in 1952, it honors six young cadets who refused to surrender to American troops during the Battle of Chapultepec in 1847.
From the monument, follow the road leading to the top of Chapultepec Hill and you’ll arrive to the Castillo de Chapultepec (Chapultepec Castle), formerly an imperial palace and presidential residence. Today, Chapultepec Castle houses the country’s National History Museum. Outside you’ll have marvelous panoramic views overlooking Mexico City.
More attractions located within this first section of Chapultepec Park include the Chapultepec Zoo, Botanical Gardens and several interesting museums such as the Modern Art Museum, Tamayo Museum and National Museum of Anthropology. The greatest museum in Mexico—and arguably one of the finest archaeology museums on the planet—the National Museum of Anthropology is so vast that it’s often difficult to tour all of the exhibits during a single visit. Plan accordingly.
Another of the top tourist attractions is a cultural performance known as the rite of the voladores (flyers). This ancient ritual, believed to have originated in the state of Veracruz, is performed daily just outside the main entrance to the National Museum of Anthropology. It involves four men wearing traditional costumes and playing instruments while “flying” from the top of a tall pole to which they are attached by ropes. A fifth man remains at the top of the pole playing a flute and drum.
After visiting Chapultepec Park, enjoy a leisurely stroll along the Paseo de la Reforma. Several interesting Mexico City sights and attractions are located along this main boulevard including the Monumento a la Independencia, La Diana Cazadora and El Caballito, as well as numerous high-rise buildings, luxury hotels, shopping centers and the U.S. Embassy. A wide pedestrian promenade extends along the middle of the boulevard, making it easy to explore this area of the city on foot. On Sunday mornings the Paseo de la Reforma is closed to traffic to accommodate the city’s cyclists.
3. Xel-Ha Park
Xel-Ha Park is a commercial aquatic theme park and ecotourism development located on the Caribbean coast of the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico, in the municipality of Solidaridad.
Xel-Há is a true paradise for nature lovers and an amazing natural aquarium. It is located in the Riviera Maya, Quintana Roo, Mexico, and since 1995 it is a model for sustainable tourism development, with unique family attractions.
The ancient Mayas baptized this wonderful site with the name Xel-Há, which in the Mayan language means “where the water is born”.
Due to its privileged location, during pre-Hispanic times Xel-Há served as an inner port, trading center, place of pilgrimage and shelter for sailors, as well as being a food reserve during bad weather.
According to legend, Mayan gods joined together their wisdom, illusions and love for beauty to create a place that would bring together the best of nature, and that place was called Xel-Há. Once created, the gods were so pleased with this heavenly place that they decided to permit the entry of all mortals. To take care of it and the elements that surround it, the gods appointed three guardians: Huh, the Iguana, Guardian of the Land, Chuc Kay, the Pelican, Guardian of the Air, and Kay Op, the Parrotfish, Guardian of the Water. It is said that these guardians still protect and care for the Park and everyone who comes to visit.
This Natural Wonder is an unparalleled place of beauty. Swim and snorkel among tropical fish that have made the inlet of Xel-Há their home. Discover the jungle trails of this paradise by foot, bicycle or mini train. Admire different species of flora and fauna in their natural habitat during your tour. Enjoy an unforgettable experience in an All Inclusive Park. Indulge your taste buds with traditional Mexican dishes in any of the four restaurants or enjoy popular flavored drinks or a refreshing cocktail here at Xel-Há.
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