Mexico is one of the world’s most popular vacation destinations with over 20 million foreign visitors a year. Famous for its tequila, the Aztecs and the Mayas, Salma Hayek, Day of the Dead, drug wars, Lucha libre, Corona beer and the beach resorts on the Pacific and Caribbean side, Mexico can offer something for every sort of traveler.
A popular destination among spring breakers, Acapulco is the largest city in the state of Guerrero. This large beach resort city is situated on a semi-circular bay that is characterized by traditional architecture on one side and luxury high-rise hotels on the other side.
Beautiful beaches are Acapulco’s primary crowd-puller. Most of the popular beaches like Hornos, Icacos, Papagayo and Tamarindos are found along the bay area known as Las Costera. Favored for their cleanliness and direct location on the ocean, the beaches of Langosta and Caleta are good choices as well.
Those who desire more than just the beaches may find the Fort of San Diego an interesting visit for its historic buildings and on-site museum that details the history of the area. Another good museum is the House of Masks, which showcases a collection of masks from all over the world. Shaded by palm trees, the city’s main square, ZÛcalo, is where tourists can visit a stunning cathedral, watch street performers, dine in cafes, shop and experience the local culture. The CICI is a fabulous water park where the whole family can splash, play and swim with dolphins.
A must-do in Acapulco is watch the city’s famous La Quebrada Cliff divers plunge 147 feet into a shallow inlet. A tradition since 1934, this spectacle can be viewed from a platform on the cliff tops or from nearby restaurants. Acapulco’s buzzing nightlife scene is another of its main attractions, offering a wide variety of bars, nightclubs and discotheques.
Nestled in the mountains of the Sierra de Guanajuato lies the beautiful colonial city of Guanajuato. The city was founded in 1554 next to one of the richest silver mining areas of Mexico. The 16th-century mining boom led to the construction of beautiful haciendas and fine colonial buildings. Guanajuato streets and many colorful alleyways spread out in every direction while most of its traffic is served by a network of underground tunnels making it an excellent city for pedestrians.
DÍA DE LOS MUERTOS. OAXACA
The city of Oaxaca is well-known for having one of the best Dia de Los Muertos festivals in Mexico, a holiday celebrated in many parts of Latin America. In Mexico the festival can be traced back thousands of years ago to indigenous cultures such as the Zapotec and Aztec. In Oaxaca the Day of the Dead Festival starts at the end of October when families prepare the tombs for the return of the spirits. During this time tombs and home altars are decorated with flowers and families leave offerings for the spirits in the cemeteries.
Located in the Caribbean Sea on the Yucatan Peninsula, the thirty-mile island of Cozumel is one of the top diving destinations in the Western Hemisphere. For this reason, dive shops abound all over the island.
Except for the calm beaches at Chankanaab National Park, the island’s ocean current and wind conditions are not ideal for swimming, but Cozumel’s beaches are ripe for surfing, kite surfing and parasailing. However, there are many beach hotels that offer outdoor swimming pools. Other water activities include deep-sea fishing and glass-bottom boat tours.
Cozumel is one of Mexico’s most visited cruise port-of-calls, and tourists will find the cruise docks bustling with vendors selling a variety of souvenirs from t-shirts to jewelry, tequila and Cuban cigars. Cozumel’s main town, San Miguel, offers a myriad of shops, entertainment venues and restaurants featuring a wide selection of international cuisine.
In addition to beach fun, Cozumel offers other fascinating attractions such as the Mayan archaeological sites of San Gervasio and El Caracol. Chankanaab National Park is a great place to explore nature trails, stroll along beautiful botanical gardens and view numerous iguanas.
For nightlife and cultural choices, downtown San Miguel is where to find a number of bars, discotheques, theaters and cinemas. What’s more, the island hosts lively events throughout the year such as Carnival, Feast Day of St. Michael Archangel and the Sacred Mayan Journey.
Cozumel has an airport and can be reached by plane, cruise ship or ferry from Playa del Carmen. While walking is easy on the island, car rentals, taxis and scooters are also available.
Los Cabos is a lively 20 mile beach area at the southern tip of the Baja California peninsula. The white sandy beaches backed by sophisticated resorts, restaurants, bars and other attractions run from spring break destination Cabo San Lucas down to the quieter San José del Cabo. Los Cabos is a great destination for water sport aficionados with some of the best all-around sport fishing in the world. In the winter, whales can be observed in the Pacific ocean.
LAS RUINAS MAYAS DE PALENQUE
The Maya ruins of Palenque, are dramatically situated at the foot of the northernmost hills of the Chiapas highlands in Mexico. The Palenque ruins are widely regarded as the most atmospheric of all the Mayan sites in Mexico. Palenque’s monumental stone temples are famed for their architectural sophistication and fine sculptures, and are made even more interesting by the detailed knowledge of its history that archaeologists have recovered from its inscriptions.
Anciently known as Lakamha’s (“great water”), Palenque’s was already a regional capital between 300 BC and 250 AD. Much of what is known about Palenque rulers comes from the lengthy text found inside the Temple of the Inscriptions. This temple was built as a funerary monument for Pakal the Great, who recorded detailed information on three tables about his dynastic forebears. Because of these tablets we know that the Palenque dynasty was founded on March 10, 431 by K’uk’ Bahlam (“Quetzal Jaguar”). We also know that Palenque had a queen, Yohl Ik’nal, who reigned for some 20 years between 583 to 604.
The first European to visit the Palenque ruins was Priest Pedro Lorenzo de la Nada in 1567. By then the ruins were already abandoned for centuries and absorbed by the jungle. The Mayan ruins are about 4 miles (6 km) from the town of Palenque and minibuses run between the town and ruins every 10 to 15 minutes during the day.