Mexico is the fifth largest country in the Western Hemisphere. Its geography includes volcanic peaks, snow-topped mountains, tropical rain forests, and internationally renowned beaches.
Mexico City, the capital, is a vast metropolitan area that is the central hub of the country’s transportation and dominates the rest of the country’s culture, economy, and politics. Nearly one-fifth of the nation’s population resides in the immediate vicinity of the capital.
In the early 1500s, many advanced Native American civilizations existed in Mexico. Among the most important were the Maya, who resided in the southern and southeastern part of what is now Mexico and central Mexico was controlled by the Aztecs, who had developed a widespread capital beside a lake at Tenochtitlan, Mexico City’s present site. Therefore, one of the main attractions of Mexico is to explore the many ancient ruins that are left there. Of course the spectacular beaches under the hot Mexican sun are an immense attraction also.
The shoppers revel in the hand made wares of copper, silver, turquoise, and even pottery, blankets, ponchos or straw hats and baskets. The food of Mexico is quite distinctive with maize [corn], chili and beans being the staples of the Mexican diet. The music and dancing are fiery and colorful anytime but especially at their many festivals. Mexicans enjoy many of the leisure activities found in the United States, including television, movies, rock concerts, and sports. Soccer is the most popular national sport, and many Mexicans attend traditional bullfights.
Whether your passion is throwing back margaritas, listening to howler monkeys, surfing the Mexican Pipeline, scrambling over Mayan ruins or expanding your Day of the Dead collection of posable skeletons, Mexico is the place to visit.
Bungee Jumping: Challenge yourself to bungee jump over the emerald green waters of Puerto Vallarta's Banderas Bay, a thrilling 120-foot drop from a permanent cliff-side structure.
Dolphin Adventures: The Swim with Dolphins, Dolphin Encounter, and Trainer for a Day programs at Dolphin Adventure are exciting family activities that give you another reason to come to Puerto Vallarta Mexico. In nearby Nuevo Vallarta, Dolphin Adventure is one of the few dolphin educational centers in the world that offer people of all ages the opportunity to experience up-close and personal experiences with Pacific bottle nose dolphins.
Ixtapa Zihuatanejo: In recent years the sleepy fishing village of Ixtapa Zihuatanejo , has come alive with a sport fishing community. Ixtapa Zihuatanejo has become one of the most popular fishing destinations in Mexico. First and foremost are the schools of abundant game fish, which inhabit these waters. The most prolific species is the Pacific Sailfish which is available all year long and whose numbers can rival those found anywhere else in the world. Less prevalent but much larger are the Blue and Black Marlin, which come into the area from January through July. These giants of the billfish family average 300-400 lbs, but marlin over 1000 lbs have been landed. The offshore species also includes the Dorado (mahi-mahi) as well as yellow fin tuna. Many local restaurants are willing to prepare an angler's catch of the day in many authentic Mexican dishes.
Mexico City's Historic Center: It's the crown jewel of Latin America. Embodying centuries of history and refinement, Mexico's historic city center has more than 1,500 buildings that constitute the beating heart of the country. The center is now recovering its lost splendor. So far, buildings spanning 34 blocks have been renovated.
Teotihuacan: Take a trip for about one hour north of Mexico City for a fascinating visit to the ruins of the ancient city of Teotihuacan. The Avenue of the Dead divided the symmetrical city into two sections that contained apartment compounds with pyramidal structures. Today, you can travel on the avenue to see the ancient Moon and Sun Pyramids which are both massive and mysterious.
Tulum: Located directly along the shore just south of Akumal, overlooking the rough coast, the shores of Tulum are washed by the clear waters of the Caribbean Sea. Here you can see the ruins of the remains of this city. Tulum is recognized as the most beautiful and extraordinary archaeological site of the Maya civilization because of its amazing location close to Cancun and its impressive structures.
Xochimilco: The “Floating Gardens” came into existence 700 years ago, when the Aztecs created man-made islands south of Mexico City, near Xochimilco. For a relaxing afternoon, take a small boat through the wonderful canals to reach these ancient islands.
Restaurants & Cuisine:
Antigua Hacienda de Tlalpan: This restaurant proudly upholds the centuries-old tradition of the Mexican cuisine featuring dishes with the special flavors derived from the regional recipes of the country.
Bay Club Restaurant: Enjoy fine dining in a simple but elegant, open air restaurant overlooking Zihuatanejo Bay serving international and continental cuisine in an outdoor setting of beautiful gardens and fresh flowers.
Bernardo's Cafe: A French/Caribbean restaurant in Puerto Vallarta. This ocean view restaurant is perfectly located just one block from the beautiful beach of Bucerias in Puerto Vallarta. Bernardo's offers excellent dining. Burros Bar: Whether you're in the mood for a seafood cocktail, ceviche, traditional Mexican cuisine, a sandwich with french fries, or a full-course fresh seafood dinner, their gourmet chef will prepare your meal and their friendly waiters will serve you in Puerto Vallarta.
Cafe Bohemio: Experience fine dining and classic cocktails at Cafe Bohemio located in Old Town Puerto Vallarta's Romantic Zone. Standard dishes include shrimp wrapped in bacon, coconut shrimp, Mexican dishes, fajitas, BBQ combination, grilled fish of the day or the "Carne Especial" with a choice of chicken, beef or pork, pan seared in your choice of orange sauce, satay peanut sauce, green mole sauce or salsa ranchera.
El Viejo Gaucho: This restaurant with South American cuisine in Patzcuaro is an excellent place for dinner, offering great appetizers, salads, hamburgers, pizzas, pastas and its specialty, steaks.
Hacienda Xcanatun: A small affordable luxury hotel in Merida. The on-premises
Gourmet Restaurant,: Gourmet Restaurant Casa de Piedra, is considered one of the Merida's best dining experiences. It offers delicious local cuisine with a touch of Caribbean flavor.
La Casita: La Casita Restaurant is a unique charming romantic place to dine in
Puerto Vallarta.: La Casita offers only the freshest products to produce the finest international & seafood cuisine.
La Palapa: This restaurant combines gourmet cuisine, friendly service, and the tropical setting of Los Muertos Beach to achieve the perfect balance between fine dining and the warmth and charm characteristic of Puerto Vallarta. La Palapa's daily menus feature savory entrees and appetizers complemented by deliciously prepared desserts and an impressive selection of wine & spirits. Using only the freshest ingredients, Chef Eusebio Cuevas blends fresh seafood with regional fruits and spices to create innovative and imaginative dishes that have earned the restaurant international recognition and awards.
Los Danzantes: You will find Los Danzantes in the old Villa of Coyoacán, in the South-west of downtown Mexico City. Their service also combines the old and the new: traditional Mexican hospitality with a young, cultured beat.
Juanito's Restaurant: Watch T.V., sports or movies, phone home, send a fax, make a copy, check your E-mail, all this while sitting in our fan-cooled dining area, munching on a delicious breakfast, burger, or crispy chicken tacos, and sipping on a cold beer, milkshake, or fresh fruit smoothies.
Mariscos El Ausente: Mariscos El Ausente Sea Food Restaurant in Guanajuato has maximum quality and first class service in sea food and American cuts. If you feel like having an Arrachera, fajitas norteñas or tomato steak, this is the best place.
Mundo Marino: A seafood restaurant & bar in Puerto Vallarta where you can choose from lobster, shrimp, fish fillet, mussels, octopus, calamari, scallops or crab prepared the way you like it.
January: Dia de los Reyes Magos (Epiphany)- This is the day that gifts are traditionally exchanged as it represents the day that the Three Kings arrived at the Nativity to give their gifts to the baby Jesus. This is also a day when Rosca de los Reyes (King's Loaf) is served (a round, doughnut-like cake) which contains a little plastic doll somewhere inside. By tradition, if you are served the slice that contains the doll, you must host a party on Dia de la Candelaria in February.
February: Dia de la Candelaria (Candlemass)- This day is celebrated nationally with dance, food and music as well as other local festivities to mark the passing of winter. Those who were served the plastic doll in their Three Kings Loaf (see January) will host a party on this day, serving the Mexican drink of Atole and the typical Mexican food of Tamales.
March: The Festival del Centro Histórico – This festival is a three-week festival of the arts in Mexico City. The Festival del Centro Histórico is a celebration of classical music, popular music, dance, art, theater and many cultural events.
April: Men's and Women's Team Tennis Tournament - An international competition in beautiful Cancun, Mexico.
May: Holy Week- From Ash Wednesday (beginning of Lent) through to the week after Easter Sunday is the busiest time at all of Mexico's key attractions. Everywhere you go there will be processions, festivals, parties, fireworks and more.
June: Corpus Christi- Dates Vary. Celebrated nationally, this event honours the body of Christ, and is marked with processions, celebrations, music food and dancing. If you are near the Archaeological site of El Tajin, you'll have a chance to see the famous Voladores de Papantla, or flying dancers, perform. In Mexico City, celebrations centre around the Zocalo, Cathedral and National Palace.
July: Guelaguetza Dance Festival- One of two big festivals in Oaxaca, this dance festival features local costume, music, dance and food. If you are planning a trip to Oaxaca at this time, book early as the festival is experienced by many Mexicans and people world-wide, who descend upon Oaxaca in July.
August: Dia de la Asuncion de la Virgen Guadalupe (Assumption Day)- Celebrated nationally, this is one of Mexico's most important religious events. The Virgin Guadalupe is extremely important and revered by Mexican Catholics - her image, almost without exception next to a crucifix, is everywhere in Mexico. Special masses and processions take place nationwide, with a huge mass at the Basilica de Guadalupe (where the original image is hosted) in Mexico City. December 12, 1531 was the day the Virgin appeared to Juan Diego, a Mexican Indian. The original shrine (Basilica) was finished in 1709 but became dangerous when it started sinking on it foundations. A new round shrine was built from 1974-76 and the image of the Virgin can be seen from anywhere in the church. In the colonial city of Aguascalientes, a monument in honour of the Virgin Guadalupe is decorated and the city hosts a special Mass and processions take place downtown in which all of the city's churches are represented.
September: Día de la Independencia (Independence Day)- Indisputably Mexico's most important and most revered National Holiday. During this time Fiestas take place nationwide. From the evening of September 15th, parties begin. At 11pm, the President of the Republic shouts the Cry of "Viva Mexico" from the balcony of the National Palace, an event televised and broadcast on radio to every corner of the nation, as Mexicans cry back with "Viva!" in an emotion-packed traditional annual ritual. The Zocalo in Mexico City brims and buzzes with sheer excitement. Celebrations are particularly lively at the revolutionary Colonial centres, especially Queretaro and San Miguel de Allende - important and significant places before, during and after the war of Independence from Spain. This is a great time to be in Mexico if you like celebrations, parties and a buzzing atmosphere.
October: Day of the Race- In 1918, philosopher Antonio Caso took October 12th as an opportunity to praise the "Mexican mestizo race", La Raza, the rich mixture of Spanish and indigenous cultures which characterizes them. He was perhaps the first to coin the term La Raza, which has now been adopted by Latinos from all across the continent. Ten years later, the Día de la Raza was declared an official national holiday by Congress.
November: The Day of the Dead- This colorful event is also uniquely representative of the mixture characterizing the culture. The Day of the Dead in Mexico is a time to remember those who have gone before us, thank them for enriching our lives, and contemplate our own mortality, both with reverence and with humor.
December: Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe- The place where the Virgin appeared to the Mexican People. On this day people from all parts of Mexico make their way to Mexico's chief religious center at the Basilica of the Virgen of Guadalupe, located in Mexico City. The holiday is a national fiesta that includes traditional music and fun attractions. Pilgrims bring presents to the virgin, usually bouquets of flowers while other visitors will perform dances and song for her. Some pilgrims walk on their knees on the stone street leading to the Basilica, asking for miracles or giving thanks to the virgin for a petition granted.
Castillo de Chapultepec: Resting on Grasshopper Hill in Mexico City, this grand castle has served a variety of functions throughout Mexican history. The castle has been the home of Emperor Maximillian and several Mexican presidents. Since 1939 it has served as the Museo Nacional de Historia, where visitors can see exhibits showing the rise and fall of Nueva Espana, the establishment of Mexico as an independent nation, and the Mexican Revolution. There are fantastic murals by O'Gorman, Orozco, and Siqueros decorating the first floor and the area where Maximillian once resided can be entered from a garden walkway.
Metropolitan Cathedral: The oldest and largest cathedral in Latin America was built over three centuries, beginning in 1573. The result is a structure of various styles and containing five altars and 14 chapels in Mexico City. An endless amount of beautiful paintings, statues, and altarpieces decorate the interior.
Palacio de Bellas Artes: President Porfirio Diaz commissioned this stunning white-marble concert hall and arts center in Mexico City. The palace contains some of Mexico's finest murals, including works by Rufino Tamayo, Diego Rivera, and David Alfaro Siqueiros. Inside, there is a spectacular stained-glass stage curtain, which contains nearly one million pieces of colored glass. The theater is home to productions by international and national artists, including the Ballet Folklorico de Mexico.
Templo Mayor: In 1978 when Mexico City telephone repairmen accidentally discovered an eight-ton stone carving of the Aztec Goddess, Coyolxauhqui, the excavation of this site began. The vast ruins, including the Templo Mayor, are now an extremely significant archaeological site in the historic center of Mexico City. Decorated with 240 skulls, this temple was dedicated to the Aztec cult of death and was the location of thousands of human sacrifices made to Huitzilopochtli, the god of war. An incredible collection of Aztec artifacts including ceramic warriors, stone carvings and knives can be seen at the Museo del Templo Mayor.
Museums and Exhibits:
Museo de Arte Moderno: This museum contains an excellent collection of modern art focusing on the works of Mexican artists. Exhibits include Mexican painting, lithography, sculpture, and photography.
Museo Rufino Tamayo: In Mexico City this museum holds Tamayo's fine collection of art that includes paintings and sculptures from Picasso, Miro, and Warhol, as well as works by the renowned Mexican muralists.
Museo Templo Mayor: This museum contains over 3,000 pieces unearthed from this site and from other sites in central Mexico. The centerpiece is an 8 ton disk discovered at the Templo Mayor depicting the moon goddess Coyolxauhqui.
The National Museum of Anthropology: It is the most widely-known museum in Mexico City, and an obligatory stopover for first-time visitors to la capital. Its installations and collections also make it the most outstanding museum in the entire country. The installation of the museum's exhibits themselves proved to be an extraordinary experience which took full advantage of every available technical resource and the remarkable skill of the Mexican artisans, particularly in the construction and mounting of the exhibit rooms. Thus, huge areas of floors and cased walls were rendered in the masterful craftsmanship of these exceptional artisans. For example, Indigenous groups from different regions of the country created, with utmost precision, exact reproductions of their own dwellings for the ethnographic exhibits. See the well-known Aztec sun stone, among the extraordinary collection of artwork from the indigenous population.
Panteon de Belen: The ghosts of Panteon de Belen, once a hospital cemetery, now a museum. You can walk the carefully manicured lawns in Guadalajara. The air seems thicker inside, cooler even, as you pass through the front gates. Looking down, are stone reliefs of two boys sitting at the ends of a tomb, heads down and crying, and an old man with sweeping, angelic wings soars above them. Youth and Age represent the passage of time.
Required Travel Documents: A valid passport and Tourist Card are the standard acceptable travel documents. However, if you're an American or Canadian citizen, the following items are also acceptable: An original birth certificate, U.S. naturalization papers, a notarized affidavit of citizenship or, a valid voter registration card. Each of these must be accompanied by a photo ID such as a valid Driver's License.
Local Language: Spanish control of Mexico led to the dominance of Spanish, the official language. As many as 100 Native American languages are still spoken in Mexico, but no single alternative language prevails. About 8 percent of all Mexicans speak an indigenous language.
Electricity: In Mexico you will find an electrical current of 110 Volts, 60 cycles AC. The entries of the plugs are two flat thin plates without polarization. This voltage is half as much as in most European and Asian countries, so visitors from those countries will need a plug adapter and a power transformer to operate their appliances.
Calling Codes: The country code of Mexico is 52. The telephone system in Mexico is not very good so most people use cell phones.
Time Zones: Most of Mexico is on Central Standard Time (Greenwich Mean Time minus six hours). The states of Sonora, Sinaloa, and parts of Nayarit are on Mountain Standard Time (Greenwich Mean Time minus seven hours), while the state of Baja California Norte is on Pacific Time (Greenwich Mean Time minus eight hours). Mexico observes daylight savings time.
Climate: The climate in much of Mexico is high temperatures and moderate to low rainfall. The highland climates vary noticeably with elevation, but the central plateau generally has a moderate climate with few extremes of hot or cold. Mexico City, for example, has an average July high temperature of 74°F (23°C) and an average January high temperature of 70°F (21°C). Cities at lower elevations on the plateau have warmer climates. Much of southern Mexico has a tropical climate with distinct rainy and dry seasons. Temperatures in the coastal regions range between 70 and 80°F (21 and 27°C) during the year. The extreme southern part of Mexico, including the Chiapas Highlands and the southern regions of the Yucatan Peninsula, is rainy and tropical. The climate in this region is generally hot and humid, with annual average temperatures of more than 75°F (24°C).
Potable Water: The water pollution in Mexico is one of the main problems, a high priority for the government. However, bottled water is available.
Currency/Money: The currency in Mexico is the peso. There are about 11 pesos in one US dollar