Dense with forests, ruins, and beaches, the Yucatan Peninsula is clearly different from the rest of Mexico in geographical and cultural terms. It was the heartland of Mexico's Mayans, as the ruins at Tulum, Uxmal, and Chichen-Itza amply testify. Almost half of Mexico's major archeological sites reside there. The Yucatan Peninsula rests on a massive limestone plate, and for centuries locals have drawn their water from amazingly clear limestone wells called cenotes. The resort sprawl of Cancun is by far the most visited spot. But besides Cancun a visit to this region must include, at least, the diver's paradise of Cozumel, the colonial cities of Campeche and Merida, and its amazing natural reserves.
The Pacific Coast & Guadalajara
The Pacific Coast, long and well-developed, is Mexico's national and international playground with famous resorts like Puerto Vallarta, Ixtapa, Acapulco, Huatulco and Manzanillo. The beaches, snorkeling, fishing, and weather are excellent. A few hours inland from Puerto Vallarta is Guadalajara, Mexico's second largest city with a population of over 3 million people. Despite its size, Guadalajara retains a charming intimacy, and its weather is reputed to be the best in the hemisphere with a year- round average of about 70F. The city has always been independent in spirit. It is the birthplace of mariachi music and a modern religion center, which is evident by many Cathedrals.
Mexico City & The Central Highlands
As if not wishing to leave any doubt as to where the nation's capital is, the Distrito Federal has become the world's largest city. Mexicans affectionately refer to it simply as DF, "De Efe," and one in six Mexicans live there. It was built literally on top of the old Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan. It is one the most important cultural centers in the hemisphere, awash in cathedrals, museums, monuments, markets, art galleries, parks, squares, and more. But there’s no reason to be intimidated by its size: many of the attractions reside in the Old City. Surrounding Mexico City are the Central Highlands, six states beaming with colonial splendor: Guanajuato, Queretaro, Aguascalientes, Zacatecas, San Luis Potosi, and Michoacan. Many of the large highland cities, such as Guanajuato, are beautifully set into the mountains like elaborate colonial inlays.
Mexico's North, a large area of deserts, farmlands, and mountains, is the country's most sparsely populated region. The vastness of the region has always given its people an independent, frontiersman spirit. During the Revolution, the North produced many of the rebel leaders: Villa, Obregon, Madero, and Carranza were all “norteños”. Along the 2,000-mile US-Mexican border, the towns are an interesting mix of both cultures. Chief among these is Monterrey, Mexico's third largest city and one of its most important manufacturing centers.
The southern states of Oaxaca, Tabasco, and Chiapas are indigenous country. In Oaxaca, most indigenous are either Zapotec or Mixtec, and their culture is visible in an astonishing array of color and art unlike anywhere else in Mexico. Some of Mexico's most important archeological sites are also here, including the mountaintop city of Monte Alban, and Mitla. Chiapas, further south, hosts what many consider the most important Mayan site, the city of Palenque.
The Gulf Coast