From the lush vegetation of the Mayan Riviera to the cool, arid, desert-like landscape of Los Cabos and Loreto rimmed by the Sierra Madre mountains, Mexico has something for everyone. Just think, you could be lying on a pristine white sand beach in Cancun in just over four hours, cooling off from time to time in the crystal clear, aquamarine waters of the Caribbean. Just a short drive away is the exciting Mayan Riviera, scattered with such monuments of a year gone by as Chichen-Itza, Tulum and Coba. Charming Cozumel, just a 45 minute boat ride away, offers some of the world's best diving.
Famous Acapulco Bay is alive with activity. Rimmed with grand hotels, shops, restaurants and nightlife, this is the place for fun in the sun. Don't miss the daring cliff divers of La Quebrada, and make sure you take advantage of the great prices on silver and precious gems available all over town.
Puerto Vallarta with its quaint cobble-stone streets and old village charm has everything from exciting beaches to scintillating nightlife.
Physically, Mexico resembles a vast horn, curving away south and east from the US border with its final tip bent right back round to the north. It is an extremely mountainous country: two great ranges, the Sierra Madre Occidental in the west and the Sierra Madre Oriental in the east, run down parallel to the coasts, enclosing a high, semi-desert plateau. About halfway down they are crossed by the volcanic highland area in which stand Mexico City (or Mexico) and the major centers of population. Beyond, the mountains run together as a single range through the southern states of Oaxaca and Chiapas. Only the eastern tip - the Yucatan peninsula - is consistently low-lying and flat.
Mexico enjoys a cultural blend that is wholly unique: among the fastest growing industrial powers in the world, its vast cities boast modern architecture to rival any in the world, yet it can still feel, in places, like a half-forgotten Spanish colony, while the all-pervading influence of native American culture, five hundred years on from the Conquest, is extraordinary.
Indigenous markets, little changed in form since the arrival of the Spanish, thrive alongside elaborate colonial churches in the shadow of the skyscrapers of the Mexican miracle. The people of Mexico reflect it, too; there are communities of full-blooded indigenas, and there are a few - a very few - Mexicans of pure Spanish descent. The great majority of the population, though, is mestizo, combining both traditions and, to a greater or lesser extent, a veneer of urban sophistication.
Despite encroaching Americanism, a tide accelerated by the NAFTA free trade agreement, and close links with the rest of the Spanish-speaking world (an avid audience for Mexican soap operas), the country remains resolutely individual. Its music, its look, its sound, its smell rarely leave you in any doubt about where you are, and the thought "only in Mexico" - sometimes in awe, sometimes in exasperation, most often in simple bemusement - is rarely far from a traveler's mind. The strength of Mexican identity perhaps hits most clearly if you travel overland across the border with the United States: this is the only place on earth where a single step will take you from the "First" world to the "Third". It's a small step that really is a giant leap.
You have to be prepared to adapt to travel in any country that is still "developing" and where change has been so dramatically rapid. You simply have to accept the local temperament - that work may be necessary to live, but it's not life's central focus, that minor annoyances really are minor, and that there's always something else to do in the meantime. For the most part, this is an easy, a fabulously varied, and an enormously enjoyable and friendly place in which to travel.
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