A QUICK GUIDE TO THE REST OF MEXICO

As the third largest country in Latin America, and by far the most populous Spanish- speaking country anywhere, Mexico's popular image in Europe as a baby brother hiding in the shadow of the United States is highly misleading.

And despite the evident fascinations of the capital (see above), Mexico City offers just a tiny fraction of the total attractions the country has to offer. Under the hot Mexican sun, you'll find not only small men in big hats, but also Aztec monuments, cacti-filled deserts, tropical jungles, colonial towns and beach resorts. Travelling through the country on improbable mountain railways is also recommended (for example the daily train from Chihuahua to Los Mochis). Although the highlight of many Mexican journeys turns out to be something quite random - say, a mangy dog and a crumbling baroque church in the desert scrub - the following are a few of the more obvious attractions:

Guanajuato

North of Mexico City, this is one of the nicest cities in Mexico, with a small population and a decidedly Alpine location at over 2,000 metres. Set in a narrow gorge amid striking scenery, the streets of the town are so steep and narrow that kisses can be exchanged from opposite balconies in certain streets. The city also has an abundance of 17th- and 18-century churches as well as curious subterranean streets.

Oaxaca

This southern, medium-sized town is one of the most strongly Indian in Mexico. Come here for colourful markets and elegant old shopping arcades; the central Zcalo area is a delightful traffic-free zone full of music and dance.

Baja California

Dangling all the way down the west coast of Mexico, this strange finger of land is for the most part a desert wilderness. Nevertheless it is a great refuge from the human-torture chamber of southern California, and the border town of Tijuana claims to be the world's most visited city - with 35 million people crossing the border here annually. Americans come here for cheap dentistry, duty-free bargains and night-clubs, but if you are from Britain you might as well head further south to see the dolphins of Ensenada, the whales of Laguna Ojo de Liebre, or the wild, rugged interior.

Yucatan Peninsula

This great bulge of land projects north out of the southeastern part of Mexico near Belize and is one of the most heavily visited parts of the country. Tourists are tempted here en masse by the much-touted combination of Maya archaeology and beach resorts surrounded by coconut palms. The beach resorts in the Cancn area have been so swamped by tourism that they now have few if any Mexican characteristics left at all. They are also the most expensive parts of the country. To call Cancn the Torremolinos of Mexico would not be a travesty. Rather nicer is the offshore island of Cozumel which offers great snorkelling and scuba-diving, weird endemic wildlife and abundant Maya remains.

Pacific Coast

There is a string of ports and resorts of varying interest down this coast, and Puerto Vallarta is probably the most notable of the resorts. It's touristy but apart from the odd monstrous condominium, you'll find good beaches and a lively strip of bars and restaurants along the shore. Upmarket water-sports such as shark-fishing and parachute-water-skiing are available.

JEREMY ATIYAH

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Car Sales Executive - Franchised Main Dealer

    £30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

    Recruitment Genius: Group Sales Manager - Field Based

    £21000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Located on the stunning Sandban...

    Guru Careers: Email Marketing Specialist

    £26 - 35k (DOE): Guru Careers: An Email Marketing Specialist is needed to join...

    Recruitment Genius: Tour Drivers - UK & European

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity to join a is a...

    Day In a Page

    Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

    Isis hostage crisis

    The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
    Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

    The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

    Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
    11 best winter skin treats

    Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

    Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
    World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

    Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

    The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
    Why the league system no longer measures up

    League system no longer measures up

    Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
    Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

    Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

    Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
    Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

    Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

    The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert