The Wanderlust guide to the best of Mexico

Hot as a habanero chilli, cool as a dip in the Pacific, ancient as the Mayan temples and new as Mexico City's bars and restaurants – this is your ultimate guide to Mexico

6 mins

From the vivid wall paintings at Bonampak to the mighty temples of Chichén Itzá, the sheer variety of archaeological sites in Mexico is astounding. Add to this the brilliance of the Caribbean Sea, huge canyons and dense jungles and you have an invigorating cocktail of culture and landscapes.

Congested, polluted and gloriously manic, Mexico City was originally founded by the Aztecs. Beyond the capital, the pace slows. Colonial cities, founded on the wealth of silver mines, rest assuredly on their architectural laurels. Within easy striking distance of Mexico City, the mountains and desert plains of Querétaro are another world:  people quietly go about their business as they always have, farming and producing crafts for sale at the local markets.

The city of Oaxaca is the jewel in Mexico's gastronomic crown, home to colourful markets and a wide array of restaurants and street stalls serving regional specialties such as mole amarillo and empanadas stuffed with courgette flowers and molten quesillo (a mozzarella-like cheese). Sign up for one of the cookery courses and market tours offered by many restaurants around town.

Adventurers flock to Mexico to climb the volcanic peaks, to descend into the deepest cenotes or to spill down the white waters of the Antigua and Pescado rivers. The Caribbean offers superb diving off the Quintana Roo coastline, while on the west coast surfers ride the giant rollers beside the beautiful beaches of the wild Pacific and Baja California. In the far north-west, the Sea of Cortéz is one of the planet’s richest marine feeding grounds – where, if you’re lucky, you’ll spot hammerhead sharks, dolphins and California grey whales.

Whale (Mark Carwardine)
Photo: Mark Carwardine

Looking for inspiration?

From the scorched northern deserts to the humidity of the southern rainforests, Mexico is an invigorating blend of influences as diverse as its landscape. Which begs the question – which is the Mexico for you? Peter Hutchison has put together a handy guide to four unmissable trips in Mexico, covering the Yucatan Peninsula, Colonial Mexico, Mexico City and the South, and ‘Big’ Mexico in the north. Choose one. Choose all four. Just make sure you read Peter’s article first.

If following in the footsteps of the ancients takes your fancy, you’ll want to read Alex Robinson’s suggestions on four different ways to tackle the legendary Maya Route.

The Copper Canyon Railway is rightly regarded as one of the world’s great train journeys. But what do you do when the ride is over? Richard Grant has the lowdown on what else to see and do in Copper Canyon country.

All a bit too strenuous? Then put on Baja Sessions by Chris Isaak, slip down Mexico way and tickle some whales in San Ignacio Lagoon with Lyn Hughes. You know you want to.

More information

Mexico Travel Blueprint: 4 unmissable trips – Peter Hutchison

Four ways to travel the Maya Route ­ – Alex Robinson

Mexico: Copper Canyon country – Richard Grant

Whale watching in Baja California – Lyn Hughes

Palenque (From

Mayan temple in Palenque (Shutterstock)

Mexico’s secrets revealed

Have you heard of Mexico’s Island of the Dolls? It’s just outside Mexico City and is covered in the weathered remains of plastic dolls. Thomas Rees went in search of the island and the story behind it and recommends a visit.

Dan Linstead, meanwhile, ventured into Mexico’s remote Chiapas region. Once the home to bandits and revolutionaries, it is now opening up to travellers, offering an insight into the life and traditions in the south. He also discovered a number of green homestays in the region that offer a charming, unique – and eco-friendly – place for you to rest your weary head.

More information

Mexico’s Island of the Dolls – Thomas Rees

Chiapas: Mexico’s hidden corner – Dan Linstead

Green stays in Mexico – Dan Linstead

Day of the Dead display. From

Day of the Dead display (Shutterstock)

Time for a fiesta!

Mexicans will hold a fiesta at the drop of a very wide-brimmed hat. No matter what day it is, it will be some saint’s birthday somewhere and the fireworks and colourful costumes will be dutifully brought out.

The biggest festival, held at the start of November each year, is Día de los Muertos – the Day of the Dead. Locals head to the nearest cemetery to commune and party with long-deceased relatives. Daisy Cropper reveals how you can join in too.

If you find yourself at a loose end in Mexico City on a weekend, Elaine McArdle says head to the Floating Gardens of Xochimilco. Open air gondolas, mariachi bands, colourful flowers and delicious Mexican food – all in abundance.

Of course, no fiesta is complete without a feast. Check out Richard Sterling’s guide to the very best of Mexican cuisine.

More information

Día de los Muertos – Day of the Dead – Daisy Cropper

All aboard Mexico City’s floating fiesta – Elaine McArdle

Hole mole! Mexican cuisine is here – Richard Sterling

Mexican dancers. From

Dancers celebrating Cinco de Mayo (Shutterstock)

Capturing it all on film

There’s nowhere on the planet quite as colourful and vibrant as Mexico. Every day seems like a fiesta, soundtracked by a mariachi band. But how do you capture that with your camera?

Thankfully, our resident photography guru, Steve Davey is on hand with tips and advice on taking ‘positive’ pictures, images that convey the joy and energy you’ll come across in town squares across the country.

If it’s inspiration you’re after though, look no further than the images captured by our readers on their travels to Mexico.

More information

Photography tips: Take positive pictures – Steve Davey

Readers’ photos of Mexico

Colonial Church. From

Old colonial church, San Miguel de Allende (Shutterstock)

Everything you need to know

Ready to start planning your trip? Our Mexico Travel Guide is the place to start. Make sure you drop by our Mexico Essential Info page as well, for more everyday (but equally vital) information. And we’ve rounded up the latest travel news from Mexico too.

If you have a particular question about Mexico, pop over to the myWanderlust Forum where our knowledgeable community are ready to spring into action and share all that they know. Or check out the questions that have already been asked about Mexico. The answer to yours might already be there.

More information

Mexico Travel Guide – Wanderlust Team

Mexico Essential Info – Wanderlust Team

Latest news about travel in Mexico

Forum posts about Mexico

Readers’ content about Mexico

Tulum ruins. From

Tulum ruins (Shutterstock)

Ready to go?

Here’s a selection of fantastic tours offered by our partners. From intense wildlife encounters with butterflies and whales to trips that take in colourful colonial towns, ancient Mayan ruins and brooding volcanoes, there’s something to suit every taste and budget.

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Our Trip Finder can help you find adventures in Mexico

Main Image: Colourful skulls on the Day of the Dead (Shutterstock)

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