Why Mexico is the Perfect Destination for Winter Sunshine – Plus 15 Vacation Suggestions
Mariachi, tequila, sombrero, burrito: only the most effervescent cultures produce stereotypes familiar the world over. Mexico overturns the truism that all Latin American countries are only alike or different in nuanced ways. This huge nation has more color and a richer Indigenous culture than any other country in the Americas, and its cuisine ranks alongside Chinese and French for complexity and sheer flavor.
Traveling from one end of Mexico to the other is like going from Galway to Istanbul, and there are as many landscapes in one country as in all of Europe. The Yucatán Peninsula is a stifling, low limestone plateau, full of chasms and bordered by white sandy beaches; Mexico City sits in the midst of a voluptuous seismic zone of snow-capped volcanoes and high plains. The north is dominated by the dry deserts of Sonora and Chihuahuan. Chiapas is known for the Lacandón rainforest, which extends south to Guatemala.
This is all wonderful, but it does mean that you need a map to plan a visit. Flying is quite easy, if your consciousness can handle it, but you can also choose an area and explore in depth. For example, look at where Oaxaca is and trace a finger south and you will come to the pretty resort town of Puerto Escondido on the Pacific coast. San Cristóbal de las Casas is convenient for Palenque, a jungle-laden Mayan site far south of the main circuit. Fancy a beach vacation near Puerto Vallarta? Then, opt for a day or overnight trip to Guadalajara, the city that claims to have invented mariachi and is also close to the source of your worst hangovers i.e. the city of tequila.
Mexico has great roads, affordable car rentals, great hotels, and you can eat amazingly well for pennies. It’s easy enough to see Mexico City’s murals and museums, or Cancun’s beaches, regardless. But if it’s your first time and / or you’re a little nervous about a long vacation abroad after the pandemic, one of the routes here should be good for beginners. Most operators will be happy to add excursions and prepare a memorable Mexican getaway for you.
One of Latin America’s most dynamic capitals, Mexico City – known here as Ciudad de Mexico or CDMX – is a powerhouse of food, art, design, architecture, music and fashion. Its 22 million people are spread over an area the size of a small country, and while it may seem overwhelming, it’s easy to chart a route through the urban sprawl. In the heart of the city is the Zócalo, a huge central square on which the Cathedral and the Aztec Templo Mayor stand. The surrounding city center, where colonial churches and Republican-era palaces rub shoulders with soaring skyscrapers, is within walking distance and dotted with cafes and cantinas. The leafy Polanco, Condesa and trendy Roma are the best places to find a hotel. The National Museum of Anthropology is world class and worth at least half a day. Teotihuacan, one of the most beautiful Aztec cities in existence, is just 30 miles from the city center. CDMX is a great place to start and end a visit.
How to do: Cox and Kings (020 3930 2976; coxandkings.co.uk) offers a 14-day highlights tour that combines Mexico City and Teotihuacan with Oaxaca and Yucatán, exploring the legacy of the Aztec, Mayan and Spanish empires. From £ 2,895 per person, including return flights from London, excursions, 12 meals and five lunches. No single supplement on certain departures