The Authentic Mexican Interior: From the Spectacular Coast to the Diverse Nature

You will have the time of your life. If you travel to Mexico you will have much more than just a vacation. You will have a whole world to discover.

The Authentic Mexican Interior: From the Spectacular Coast to the Diverse Nature
Chichen Itzá. Photo by Austin Distel / Unsplash

For years, Mexico's best-known image has been that of its 10,000 kilometers (6,214 miles) of coastline facing the Pacific, the Caribbean, and the Gulf of Mexico, which fascinates every traveler who visits it. It is very easy to be attracted by this chain of beaches bathed by the most crystalline waters and that house resorts capable of satisfying all needs.

But Mexico does not end here. If the coast is splendid, the interior attracts with the force of authenticity. As you set out on your journey, you will encounter the civilizations that have given life to this country. You will experience the splendor of the past as you visit the remains of pre-Hispanic cultures and see that many of their traditions are still alive.

Strolling through the cobblestone streets of the silver cities, you will find living museums of the best colonial architecture. At the same time, you will come in contact with the most diverse nature imaginable, from snow-capped mountains and spring-blooming deserts to tropical forests and temperate valleys.

When you explore this world you will find a unique spectacle where you can see deer or jaguars, and where the color is given by millions of butterflies or the shining wings of the quetzal, the most beautiful bird in the world. You can also discover one of the most excluded and elaborated gastronomies, where flavors, smells, and textures are mixed to give as a result unique dishes.

Or marvel at the talent and creativity of the artisans, who with their hands give life to all kinds of materials. Enjoy the music that has crossed borders to conquer the world. You will have the time of your life. If you travel to Mexico you will have much more than just a vacation. You will have a whole world to discover.

General and tourist information

The United Mexican States has an area of 1,972,547 km2, almost three times the size of Chile. Spanish is the official language of Mexico. Some 50 indigenous dialects are also spoken in regions of the country. In tourist places, it is common to find people who speak English.

No visa is required, only a valid passport. On the plane, you will be provided with an immigration form and customs declaration to fill out, which will be given to you upon arrival at the airport of entry to Mexico. No vaccinations are required for travel to Mexico. If you travel to the humid areas of the south, an antimalarial treatment may be advisable. Consult with the foreign health service before you travel concerning COVID-19 vaccination status.

The climate is very varied and depends mainly on latitude and altitude. The central plateau is dry and temperate, with the highest mountain peaks often covered with snow. The coastal lowlands, especially in the southern half, are warm and humid. The hottest months are from May to October.

The Mexican holiday calendar is one of the main attractions of the country. Whether they are national or local holidays, it will be difficult for your stay not to coincide with at least one celebration. Some of the main holidays are Carnival (February or March), Holy Week (March or April), Independence Day (September 15 and 16), Day of the Dead (November 1 and 2), Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe (December 12) and Christmas (December 25).

Mexican cuisine is one of the most varied and succulent in the world. You may find some of the dishes a little spicy at first, but there is no doubt that you will appreciate their flavor. It will be rare that in a typical meal you will not find any of the three fundamental ingredients of the Mexican table: tortillas, beans, and chili peppers.

Mexican handicrafts reflect inexhaustible creativity. Most of the objects are made for daily use or parties. You can choose from infinite possibilities of textiles (huipiles, blankets, sarapes, shawls), ceramics (tiles, plates, jars), jewelry (gold, silver, copper), paintings (on amate paper), and wooden objects (masks, musical instruments).

The currency is the Mexican peso, which can be exchanged at banks, exchange houses, and some hotels. International credit cards are accepted in most hotels, restaurants, stores, and travel agencies. The telephone prefix is 52.  Voltage is 110 volts, 60 hertz.

Suggested tourist routes with distances

Mexico City and its surroundings

Mexico City - Teotihuacan: 53 km (33 miles)
Mexico City - Tula: 84 km (52 miles)

Oaxaca - Huatulco

Oaxaca - Puerto Angel: 252 km (157 miles)
Oaxaca - Puerto Escondido: 313 km (194 miles)

Cancún - Chichén Itzá

Cancún - Valladolid: 160 km (99 miles)
Valladolid - Chichén Itzá: 41 km (25 miles)
Chichen Itzá - Izamal: 50 km (31 miles)
Izamal - Mérida: 68 km (42 miles)
Mérida - Uxmal: 80 km (50 miles)
Cancún - Tulum: 119 km (74 miles)
Tulum - Coba: 45 km (28 miles)

Mayan World

Cancun - Tulum: 119 km (74 miles)
Tulum - Chichén Itzá: 145 km (90 miles)
Chichén Itzá - Izamal: 68 km (42 miles)
Izamal - Uxmal: 148 km (92 miles)
Uxmal - Palenque: 412 km (256 miles)
Palenque - Villahermosa: 400 km (249 miles)
Palenque - San Cristóbal De Las Casas: 215 km (134 miles)

Colima - Puerto Vallarta

Colima - Morelia: 386 km (240 miles)
Morelia - Guanajuato: 198 km (123 miles)
Guanajuato - Guadalajara: 297 km (185 miles)
Guadalajara - Puerto Vallarta: 352 km (219 miles)

Acapulco -Taxco - Cuernavaca

Acapulco - Taxco: 266 km (165 miles)
Taxco - Cuernavaca: 120 km (75 miles)
Acapulco - Ixtapa: 245 km (152 miles)

Colonial cities

Mexico City - Queretaro: 220 km (137 miles)
Queretaro - San Miguel de Allende: 100 km (62 miles)
San Miguel de Allende - Guanajuato: 94 km (58 miles)
Guanajuato - San Luis Potosi: 211 km (131 miles)
San Luis Potosi - Zacatecas: 191 km (119 miles)

Barrancas del Cobre and Los Cabos

Chihuahua - Creel: 233 km (145 miles)
Divisadero - Bahuichivo: 46 km (29 miles)
Bahuichivo - Los Mochis: 252 km (157 miles)
San Jose del Cabo - Cabo San Lucas: 33 km (21 miles)

Diversity: Mexico City and its surroundings

Mexico City is the essence of a country rich in culture and history, an inexhaustible city that vibrates at the forefront of the 21st century with the confidence of its pre-Hispanic and colonial heritage. Those who visit it are surprised by its Aztec temples, its baroque churches, and its modern financial centers, which make it one of the most exciting and cosmopolitan cities in the world. Don't miss it. The Mexican capital is so varied that it is impossible to get to know it in just a few days.

Any tour should start in the Historic Center. The Zócalo is the most important point, as it was in pre-Hispanic Tenochtitlán and around which the most opulent buildings of the Colony were built. Its dimensions make it the second-largest square in the world. Nearby there are several museums, palaces, and churches that speak of the wealth of past centuries.

It is also essential to visit the Alameda Park, next to which is the Palace of Fine Arts, the best stage of Mexican culture. And the Bosque de Chapultepec is an immense park with splendid museums, such as the National Museum of Anthropology, which is the most important in the country.

For a change of style, you can visit the Zona Rosa or Colonia Polanco, two of the areas famous for their stores. You should also take a stroll through Coyoacán, a colonial neighborhood with cafes, bookstores, and museums. Or San Angel, where the Bazaar Sábado is located. It will be unforgettable to sail through the canals of Xochimilco, where crops are still grown in shallow ponds, as the Aztecs did more than 500 years ago.

And visit the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, patron saint of Mexico, where every December 12 the great procession is held, attracting more than a million pilgrims from all corners of Mexico.

The surroundings of the city can be explored on short day trips. You will have the opportunity to immerse yourself in the mystery evoked by the pyramids of Teotihuacan, one of the most impressive archaeological sites in the world, with the pyramids of the Sun and the Moon.

Enjoy the colonial architecture of Taxco, Puebla or Tepotzotlán. Admire the Atlanteans, gigantic pre-Columbian statues that tower over the temple of Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli, in Tula. Or you can set off in search of nature at the Popocatepetl volcano.

Take advantage of your stay in the capital to discover the flavors of Mexican cuisine, enjoy the concerts of the National Philharmonic Orchestra at the Palacio de Bellas Mes, and listen to the mariachi groups in Garibaldi Square. Don't miss the markets to buy the most varied handicrafts you can imagine.

Beautiful Bays: Oaxaca - Huatulco

The state of Oaxaca vibrates with its indigenous soul. Some of the most important pre-Hispanic civilizations flourished here and it is the ideal place to get to know part of their millenary culture. You will feel its presence in the colorful dresses, in the bustling markets, in its fascinating celebrations, in its extraordinary handicrafts, and its succulent gastronomy.

Start your tour in the city of Oaxaca, the capital that reflects the mixture of both indigenous and Spanish heritages. You can stroll through its cobblestone streets where dozens of baroque churches stand, stop at the terraces of the cafes while the music of the marimbas resounds in the distance, and lose yourself among hundreds of handcrafted products.

Oaxacan cuisine is one of the tastiest in the country. Everything takes on a different taste with the typical moles of the region, the sauces that enhance the flavor and texture of traditional dishes. The state of Oaxaca is famous throughout Mexico for its indigenous handicrafts, a unique treasure that is increasingly in demand. Each village around the city has a specialty craft that is fascinating to discover.

Oaxaca's attractions do not end in the capital. You have to visit the entire Valley of Oaxaca, where the fabulous archaeological zone of Monte Albán is located, which was inhabited since 700 B.C.E. Despite the centuries that have passed, it is very easy to penetrate the splendor of the ancient capital of the Zapotecs, with its great temples and monumental palaces lined up around the Great Plaza. Another important pre-Hispanic city is Mitla, for its buildings are adorned with magnificent fretwork.

Don't miss the El Tule tree, the widest in the world. Nor Teotitlán del Valle, one of Mexico's most famous textile centers. The best compliment to the Valley of Oaxaca is the beaches of the same state, on the shores of the Pacific Ocean. Hidden places at the bottom of almost deserted bays, a warm tropical temperature all year round, good restaurants, and suggestive nightlife, have been attracting true connoisseurs for years. You will like it for sure.

The beaches of Huatulco Bays stretch for 10 kilometers. The surrounding hills are covered with vegetation, forming an ideal setting for the beaches. Huatulco offers all the possibilities to enjoy the sea in a modern and functional resort. And if you want a change of scenery, the beaches of Puerto Escondido are ideal for surfing.

Caribbean Sea: Cancun - Chichen Itza

If you want to imagine paradise for a beach vacation, think of the Caribbean, a narrow and elongated island that opens to the sea on one side and forms a lagoon between it and the mainland on the other. Surround it with crystal clear waters, tropical temperatures, and lush vegetation. Add all the luxury hotels you want. And as something unique, fine white sand that does not heat up with the sun that shines permanently.

If you want to spend your vacation there, come to Cancun, a place that offers a lot of surprises. Cancun is a tourist development conceived exclusively to enjoy the sea and the sun. Here you have to choose between all forms of fun. From lying in a hammock with a cocktail of exotic fruits in one hand to dozens of aquatic and land activities.

And then there are day trips to nearby Mayan ruins or colonial cities. A very popular excursion is the one to Isla Mujeres, a small Caribbean island where you can breathe the relaxed and tropical atmosphere of the quiet places. The great attraction of the Yucatan Peninsula, besides its beaches, is the heritage of the Mayan civilization that developed in these lands 3,000 years ago. There are fabulous cities that call us from the mysterious past, lost in the jungle or on the edge of the sea. Like Tulum, perched on a promontory overlooking the Caribbean, or Coba, located on the shore of a lake.

The great destination of the region is Chichón Itzá, the most famous and best restored Mayan city. Here you will find some of the greatest monuments of this civilization, such as the great pyramid known as El Castillo, the best-preserved Mayan Ball Game, the Temple of the Warriors, with the well-known reclining figure of the god Chaac in front of a forest of columns, and El Caracol, an astronomical observatory. Approach the sacred cenote, an immense well where sacrifices were made.

Continuing along the road you can stop in Izamal, a place where colonial architecture (in a 17th-century convent) and Maya architecture (in several pyramids) come together. Further on is Ménda, a town with a large number of colonial monuments and plazas. It is the most important handicraft center of the region and the best place on the route to buy Panama hats, huipiles, and, above all, the famous hammocks.

If you continue south you will arrive at Uxmal, another of the great jewels of the Maya Route. Among its buildings is the Pyramid of the Soothsayer, a curious structure almost 40 meters high. And the incredible Quadrangle of the Nuns, with a fantastic decoration of stone carved like a grid.

Millenary Civilization: Mayan World

The southeast of Mexico is the cradle of the Mayas, one of the great civilizations of mankind. This fascinating culture, which evokes all the mysteries of history and legend, arose in the area 3,000 years ago. But the most exciting thing is that the Mayan World has not completely disappeared, and their descendants still live and maintain their primordial culture.

Knowing the Mayan World is a journey through time. The cities of this ancient culture call us with the force of living history. In addition to Tulum, Chichen Itza, and Uxmal, mentioned in the route of the Caribbean Sea, there are dozens of archaeological sites already excavated and open to tourism.

One of them is Palenque, in the state of Chiapas. Among its constructions, the Temple of the Inscriptions stands out, where a crypt is hidden that kept a real treasure discovered in 1952. It owes its name to the tombstones covered with hieroglyphs that form one of the longest Mayan inscriptions known. In front of it is the Great Palace, which has the most beautiful stucco bas-reliefs of pre-Columbian America.

Another archaeological site you can visit is Bonampak, one of whose temples are the most important mural paintings of the Mayan civilization. Dzibilchaitun, with its 5th century Temple of the Seven Dolls, and Mayapan, which has a large pyramid and an observatory. In the Chiapas Highlands, San Cristobal de las Casas is the best place from which to explore Mayan communities that preserve the traditions, religion, dress, and even language of their millenarian ancestors.

Zinacantan Larainzar, Amatenango, and Cenanho are just a few of these villages, whose inhabitants also produce beautiful handicrafts and textiles. One of the main attractions of this area is the potters and lacquer artisans of Chiapa de Corso, who for generations have been turning wood into beautiful and ingenious toys and dolls.

The current Maya generations, like their ancestors, are endowed with a special ability when it comes to drawing with the brush, handling the chisel, or weaving on the loom. Each work they do in these categories can be considered a highly valued work of art in many parts of the world.

Rest in the Sun: From Colima to Puerto Vallarta

You can start your tour from the quiet city of Colima to the lake of Patzcuaro, full of attractions and known for the traditional fishing nets that are shaped like butterfly wings. The city of Patzcuaro itself has the splendor of colonial architecture and the magic of indigenous traditions, inherited from ancient pre-Hispanic cultures.

But if you want to be amazed, come witness the Day of the Dead ceremony, which is celebrated around the Janitzio lais in the middle of the lake all night long from November 1 to 2 with processions, dances, and candlelight prayers. The festival attracts visitors from all over the world.

A short distance away you will marvel at the atmosphere of Morelia, a city that has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its colonial architecture constitutes a true living museum in which ancient palaces, baroque churches, and civil buildings in carved pink quarry abound.

Guanajuato is another colonial city that will enchant you with its ancient atmosphere. Here you can lose yourself in its labyrinths of subway passages and narrow streets while you observe the forged balconies of the palaces or the baroque facades of the churches. Everything speaks of the past splendor of the area when one of the richest silver mines in the world was exploited.

But if you want to live the essence of Mexico, you can't miss Guadalajara, the most Mexican city of all. Many of the country's typical traditions come from here, such as the charreadas (horseback riding exhibitions), the Jarabe Tapatio (regional dance), not to mention the mariachi music, tequila, and the famous wide-brimmed hat. You will be surprised by the number of beautiful plazas that brighten up the city center.

Here you will find the old buildings that give Guadalajara its character, several museums, and the famous Teatro Degollado and Hospicio Cabañas. Plaza Tapatia is the place to let the hours pass listening to a musical performance, browsing in the stores, or enjoying a good restaurant.

Puerto Vallarta, on the Pacific coast, is located at the bottom of Banderas Bay, the largest in Mexico. It is a beautiful place where you can enjoy beaches, the sea, and the sun, play golf and shop for handicrafts in the boutiques of the picturesque town. At sunset, the lights of Puerto Vallarta shine along the bay, which has become one of the best-equipped resorts on the Pacific coast. Here you will find bustling beaches, but you can also choose quiet corners at the bottom of hidden coves, and enjoy the solitude. For dinner, visit one of the many seaside restaurants, usually accompanied by mariachi music.

A Sea Of Fun: Acapulco - Taxco - Cuernavaca