The Mexican peso is the official currency of Mexico. Many businesses in high tourism areas will also accept US currency. The country’s ATM network is very large, so you’ll be able to take cash out in most parts of the country.
The official language is Spanish. However, the Mexican state also recognizes dozens of Indigenous languages, such as Nahuatal (the second-most spoken Indigenous language in Mexico), Mayan, Tzeltal, Mixtec, Tsotsil, Zapotec, Otomi, Totonac, Chol, and Mazatec.
Best Time to Go
The best time to visit Mexico is during the months of December to April, since this is the dry season and the temperatures are cooler. If you are planning to visit the Mayan Riviera on the Yucatan Peninsula, it is important to consider that the rainy season, complete with the chance of hurricanes, lasts from May to November, so it is less recommended. The same advice generally applies to the centre of the country including Mexico City and Oaxaca. September and October can be a good time to visit these areas, however, with a noticeable dip in tourist crowds, unless of course you're coming for Día de los Muertos!
There are four climates in Mexico: tropical, semi-humid and warm, temperate, and dry. The Tropic of Cancer divides the country into temperate and tropical zones. The northern part of the country experiences lower temperatures during the winter months (December-March). In the central and southern parts, the temperatures are quite constant throughout the year and vary only depending on elevation. Even taking in account regional and seasonal differences, temperatures throughout the country typically range between 10°C/50°F and 33°C/90°F.
Mexico is a magnificent and highly varied tourist destination offering ancient cultures, celebrated gastronomy, fascinating archaeological sites, and popular beaches. Oaxaca and Palenque in the south and the Mayan Riviera on the Yucatan Peninsula appeal to beachgoers, while Mayan history and ruins on the peninsula fascinate history buffs. Mexico City itself is a cultural mecca, with its own wealth of historical sites. The beaches are a highlight of course, but Mexico also has much to offer foodies, history buffs, and culture seekers.
Getting There From North America
Most major Mexican cities receive direct flights from the United States and Canada. The main airports in Mexico are Benito Juarez International Airport located in Mexico City, Cancun International Airport (Riviera Maya), Guadalajara City International Airport, and Monterrey International Airport.
Major Air Routes from the United States
Nonstop flights to Mexico from major cities In the United States are abundant. New York, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, Atlanta, and San Francisco have direct flights to Mexico City, Guadalajara, Cancun, and Monterrey.
Major Air Routes from Canada
Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal have direct flights to Mexico City. You will also find direct routes from many smaller cities to popular tourist destinations like Cancun and Puerto Vallarta.
Essential Sights in Mexico
Mexico City is one of the largest cities in the Americas. Its historic centre, known as the Zocalo, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This spectacular city mixes modern cosmopolitan fixtures with colonial architecture and pre-Columbian history, making it one of the most interesting places in Mexico. You’ll find many museums, art galleries, eateries, and endless activities to enjoy during a visit. About an hour out of the city, you’ll also find the Teotihuacan pyramids, one of the largest archaeological sites in the Americas, the highlight of which are two pyramids dedicated to the sun and moon.
Encompassing the states of Quintana Roo and Yucatan, this immense region located on the Yucatan Peninsula is home to Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum, among other popular sites. Cancun and Playa del Carmen are widely known for their beaches and resorts, while the archaeological sites of Tulum and Chichen Itza feature Mayan ruins and pyramids. Merida is the peninsula’s cultural capital and particularly impressive for its colourful buildings and rich Indigenous heritage.
This southern state is renowned for its strong Indigenous history and long coastline. The capital, which also goes by the name Oaxaca, is famous for its Baroque-style architecture, while elsewhere you’ll also find pre-Columbian archaeological sites such as Mitla, Yagul, and Monte Alban, the Zapotec capital that dates back to around 500 BC. The region also boasts a beautiful Pacific coastline, with many resorts centring on the popular towns of Puerto Escondido and Mazunte.
Located in the country’s west, Guadalajara is famous for its tequila and Mariachi music. The city’s historic centre has beautiful colonial architecture, and there’s also a popular zoo, art museum, and cultural attractions relating to tequila. Guadalajara is also only four hours away from Puerto Vallarta, making it a great pairing with a stay on the Pacific Coast.
Other Highlights of Mexico Off the Beaten Path
Puerto Vallarta is a unique place on the planet due to its startling biodiversity. Located on the Pacific Coast in the state of Nayarit, this coastal city attracts visitors with the cobbled streets of the Malecon. It’s also a great wildlife viewing spot, with tours out on the water showcasing humpback whales and dolphins. You can also easily visit the nearby Marietas Island.
Palenque is a remarkably-preserved Mayan archaeological site in the middle of the rainforest. Located in the northeast state of Chiapas, these ruins were only discovered in 2005, and it is estimated that only 2% of the total surface of this Mayan city has been uncovered. In addition to the many temples, you can also visit nearby Catazaja Lagoons, the Misol Há Waterfall, and the Agua Azul Waterfalls, all renowned for their deep blue waters.
San Miguel de Allende
San Miguel de Allende is a UNESCO World Heritage Site renowned for its beauty and colonial preservation. This colourful city has cobbled streets and colonial buildings in the old town, fascinating craft markets, and stunning old churches. It’s located only four hours from Mexico City and is very affordable, even by Mexican standards.
San Cristobal de las Casas
Located in the state of Chiapas, San Cristobal de las Casas is known for its cobblestone streets, old markets, celebrated restaurants, and bohemian atmosphere. If you climb the hilltop viewpoint at sunset, you’ll enjoy stunning views of the colonial old town. You can also arrange for visits to nearby Sumidero Canyon and the church of San Juan Chamula.
Top Activities and Experiences in Mexico
See a Wrestling Match
Mexico is famous for its wrestlers, known as luchadores. Every weekend at the Mexico Arena in Mexico City, these masked men gather for epic battles in front of sold-out crowds. The environment is safe and friendly, and often a good showcase for Mexican food and beer as well.
Listen to Mariachi in a Canteen
Mexico is famous for its cantinas and Mariachi music. Throughout the country, you can find places where you can delight in this beautiful music, enjoy tequila, and toast to new friends in the unique environment. In Mexico City, you’ll find many cantinas in and around Plaza Garibaldi, while Guadalajara showcases many places that are linked to the history of tequila production.
Travel by Balloon over Teotihuacan
This unique means of transportation is an unforgettable way to see this massive pre-Aztec and pre-Toltec archaeological site. From above, take in the size and magnificence of this pre-Columbian city and ponder the story of it still-unknown creators.
Stroll through Xochimilco
Located in Mexico City, Xochimilco is renowned for its gondolas that run through the Aztec canals. Visitors often go for a walk alongside the boats on the canals and shop for food and artisanal crafts while enjoying Mariachi music. The atmosphere in Xochimilco is festive, particularly on weekends.
Visit Xcaret Park
Located in the Mayan Riviera, Xcaret is a great park where visitors can navigate crystal-clear water channels, interact with animals, and enjoy the natural attractions of the peninsula.
Essential Mexican Foods to Try
This spectacular soup is made with meat (chicken, pork, or beef, depending on the region) and a unique type of big grain corn known as cacahuazintle, which has to be cooked for several hours during separate phases of preparation. Once the corn is cooked, meat is added along with various seasonings, spices, vegetables, and other toppings including chili sauce or powder, avocado, lettuce, radish, cheese, and pork rinds.
One of Mexico’s most popular dishes, mole is made from a mixture of chillies and varies depending on region. The most famous style is Mole Poblano, which mixes chillies and bitter cocoa on top of meat.
A delicious dish consisting of a base of corn tortillas stuffed with beef, chicken, turkey, or pork and cheese. The tortillas are topped with some sauce, which can consist of beans, chilies, more cheese, cream, and some type of mole. Enchiladas are served alongside fresh vegetables such as tomatoes, strips of lettuce, chopped onion, and guacamole.
A delicious dish of pork confit in fresh chili sauce. The pork is a common topping on tortillas.
The most representative food in Mexico is the taco, which varies between regions, but usually consists of corn tortilla topped with a variety of cooked meats and vegetables and spicy sauces. Popular toppings include al pastor, deep-fried fish and shrimp, cochinita pibil, stewed meats, and shredded pork. You’ll find tacos at street stalls and fancy restaurants alike.
Tips for Sustainable Travel
Try to support the local economy by buying local products and helping local businesses. Use reusable water bottles and avoid producing waste during your visit. In some cities, such as Mexico City and Guadalajara, you can rent a bicycle to tour the city, which reduces your carbon footprint. Also make sure that when you’re buying local souvenirs and other goods, you do not buy objects made from animals skins, shells, and other unsustainable products, so as not to encourage potentially destructive industries.
Where to Go Next
After Mexico, you can continue discovering the Mayan Empire that existed in Central America by easily moving on to Guatemala or Belize. In Belize, you’ll find many excellent coastal destinations that are perfect for a relaxing vacation. Guatemala is renowned for the Mayan archaeological site of Tikal and so is a perfect pairing to a visit to the Yucatan Peninsula.
Most Popular Itineraries for Mexico
Discover the Yucatan & Cancun offers travellers a taste of the Yucatan Peninsula and Mexico’s famous beaches. It includes a beach stay in Cancun as well as cultural visits to Merida and Coba, as well as the famous archaeological site of Chichen Itza. Colonial Mexico delves into Mexico’s Spanish colonial history in Mexico City and beyond. Spend your days in gorgeous colonial town squares and learn about the past 500 years of Mexican history. Oaxaca Long Stay is a great option for travellers who want to escape the worries of work for a few weeks. Over 21 days, immerse yourself in the local culture and enjoy the freedom to explore the coastline or Oaxaca’s many historical sites.
16 Jul 2020, 7:41 p.m.