Cabo San Lucas
During the past few decades Cabo San Lucas has seen a huge influx of visitors thanks to its sought-after resort getaways and exhilarating party life. What once was only a small fishing village is now home to a plethora of activities like boating, kayaking, diving, clubbing, and relaxing on the pristine beaches.Cabo San Lucas is located on the southern tip of the Baja California Peninsula and offers tons of fun to every type of traveler whether your plan includes relaxing, partying, or both! Some of the beautiful beaches include Playa Médano, Playa Solmar, and Playa del Amor, all of which provide beautiful, warm waters and shining, sandy beaches. Cabo also offers various diving excursions with some of the best spots at Roca Pelícano and the reef off Playa Chileno. Novices can find lesson providers throughout town while veterans can simply rent equipment and head out on their own. In addition to these exciting opportunities, there are also countless snorkeling, canoeing, and kayaking tours as well as water sports like windsurfing, sailing, wakeboarding, or waterskiing to name only a few. Don’t forget that Cabo was once a famous fishing village, a characteristic that still has not changed. Visitors can charter boats and rent gear at a very affordable price, and if fishing isn’t for you there are plenty of boat excursions heading out all the time to see whales, dolphins, and sea turtles. Enjoy a romantic sunset sailing or a rowdy catamaran party with delicious food and drink…the choices are many.If a party is what you’re looking for, you will surely want to visit the beachfront bars at Playa Médano or the many clubs and bars in town, all sporting impressive selections of tequila and other delicious concoctions. The in town area is also popular for its shopping with various handicraft markets sporting items from all over Mexico. Whatever you may have on your agenda, Cabo will surely leave you satisfied.
Consisting of 20 canyons carved out of the Sierra Tarahumara by a half dozen rivers, the famous Copper Canyon is four times larger than The Grand Canyon. The canyon’s deepest point is home to a subtropical climate, while its highest points are covered with evergreens and conifers at an altitude of 2,300 meters. The most popular time to visit the canyons is during spring and autumn as summer and winter can bring extreme temperatures.A favored method of exploration by most visitors is by way of the Copper Canyon Railway made up of some 39 bridges and 86 tunnels winding through the canyon all the way to the Pacific Ocean. Not only is it a popular passenger train, the railway is the most important freight transporter between Chihuahua and the coast. However, because of the stunning panoramic views it has become one of the country’s prime attractions. Passengers have two options to choose from: a first class service and an economy service. The first class train makes fewer stops and even has a restaurant and bar onboard as well as comfortable reclining seats. Economy class has food vendors and a snack bar. Both classes have air conditioning and heating, and the trip takes about 14 to 16 hours depending on your class selection.Try to sit on the right side of the train when heading inland from the coast as it will provide the best views. Around the three hour mark is when the bridges, tunnels, and mountain climbs begin providing passengers with the first truly stunning views of cliffs, canyon walls, and the river running far below. Around half way through the trip, the train will stop for a short break at one of the most popular viewpoints of the Copper Canyon in Divisadero. This is the only chance you will have to look down into the 2,300 meter deep canyon. In addition, this is where you may see some of the Tarahumara, a Mexican indigenous tribe that still inhabits the canyon and follows many of its original traditions. From Divisadero it is also possible to join a guided excursion that takes you down 1,000 meters to the River Urique. The return trip passes through many stops where you may opt to stay the night, do some exploring, and catch the train again the next day.
Though La Paz was originally founded in the late 1500s, actual establishment began 1811. However, various events during its early years kept the city from settling down into what it has become today. For example, during the Mexican-American War, La Paz was occupied by US troops for two years from 1846 to 1848. Also, William Walker, known for repeatedly attempting to take over various Latin American countries, failed in Mexico around the mid 1800s.
After this latest lapse in peace, La Paz began to calm somewhat. The coastal town developed a rich pearl industry which lasted until the early 1900s. Today, La Paz is the capital of the state of Baja California Sur and is a popular resort destination for tourists from all over the world. The city is lined with pristine beaches, beautiful palms, vacation resorts, and several colonial buildings. La Paz offers visitors a wide range of activities from shopping, to diving, to fishing and eating. Accommodations exist for all types of budgets with classy hotels in the city and high end resorts along the beach. You will surely enjoy both of La Paz’s varying settings: the bustling city and the sunny, relaxing beach.
The famous city of Guadalajara is the second largest city in the country and is the most popular attraction in the inland Jalisco area. Guadalajara is well known for its strong contribution to Mexican culture with its mariachi music, popular rodeos, broad-rimmed sombreros, and of course tequila. Like many of the large cities of Mexico, Guadalajara is home to various theaters, galleries, museums, historical buildings, exciting nightlife, and delicious cuisine.The Guadalajara that exists today was only founded after three other locations first failed between 1532 and 1542. There were various reasons for the failure of the first settlements such as lack of water or resources and hostility from indigenous tribes. After 18 years of existence, Guadalajara became the capital of the Nueva Galicia province and quickly became one of the most important cities during the colonial era. The city was centered in the middle of a very rich agricultural region and was also the starting point for many Spanish missions north and west of the city. Throughout the 1800s Guadalajara was the location of both attempted revolutions and war. By the end of the century, the city was already known as the second largest city in Mexico.After World War II, Guadalajara’s population exploded transforming the city into a huge industrial, commercial, and cultural center earning it a reputation by many as Mexico’s most Mexican city.The most famous icon of Guadalajara is the cathedral with its two high-reaching towers and surrounding plazas. Construction of the landmark took 60 years and was completed in 1618. Since its consecration various decorations have been added to the exterior of the building. In the early 1800s, an earthquake destroyed the cathedral’s towers leading to the construction of the higher, currently existing pair.In addition to the four famous plazas surrounding the cathedral are countless others scattered throughout the city with their accompanying colonial buildings, beautiful gardens, and rich atmosphere. You will also want to visit the Museo Regional de Guadalajara occupying an old Spanish seminary from the 1600s and home to an impressive collection of history and prehistory of western Mexico.
The once quiet seaside village known as Puerto Vallarta has, like many Mexican cities, been transformed into a well-known resort city visited by millions of travelers every year. This tropical paradise rests between the palm-scattered mountains and the crystal clear waters of the Bahía de Banderas. Tourism is practically the town’s only industry which has both covered its beaches with huge hotels and resorts as well as made the English language nearly as common as Spanish. However, despite the city’s tourism takeover, it is still one of Mexico’s most charming coastal towns, with its cobblestone streets and antique, white adobe buildings.As with most areas along the coast, Puerto Vallarta was likely inhabited by indigenous tribes for centuries; however, its written history only dates back to the first settlement in 1851. Nearly 70 years later the town finally had enough inhabitants to earn a spot on the map. In the early 1950s tourists occasionally began visiting the spot, and a decade later Puerto Vallarta exploded with the filming of Tennessee Williams’ The Night of the Iguana. Along with big stars and paparazzi came hordes of visitors and the creation of an internationally known tourist destination.The town is divided by the Río Cuale and has expanded to include many of the surrounding areas along the coast as well. The city center itself offers many impressive sights such as the Plaza de Armas, the Templo de Guadalupe cathedral, and a famous amphitheater. Another popular hotspot is the Malecón a stretch of bars, nightclubs, boutique shopping, and restaurants along the coast. There are also various galleries sprouting up all over town as well as museums, cafes, and more.The most popular beach spots are the two in the city center, Playa Ola Altas and Playa de los Muertos, though many gorgeous beaches may be found outside of the city to the north and south. One popular cove is Mismaloya, the site of the film that made Puerto Vallarta so popular. Today, it also has exploded into a resort hotspot with delicious cuisine and beautiful views. Other popular stops along the coast include Conchas Chinas, Estacas, Los Venados, Punta Negra, Garza Blanca, and Playa Gemelas.
Ixtapa & Zihuatanejo
Once nothing more than a small coconut plantation, Ixtapa has been transformed into one of the most popular resort destinations of the Pacific Coast. Interestingly, the hotspot did not miraculously explode like so many of the now bustling Mexican cities. Instead, the Mexican government influenced large hotel resorts to begin construction in the area in hopes of further increasing the tourism industry. After just a glance, it is plenty obvious that their plan was successful; the beaches are lined with impressive luxury hotels, restaurants, shops, and countless visitors.Zihuatenejo, on the other hand, has kept some of its small fishing village feel and is only 8 kilometers from Ixtapa. It is still a very touristy spot but with less people and a ton of beaches. The town is centered along the Bahía de Zihuatanejo making its beaches calmer than those directly along the coast. Some include the close-by Playa Madera, Playa La Ropa, with its delicious seafood restaurants and scattered palms, and Playa Las Gatas with its great snorkeling and sunbathing.In Ixtapa, the town’s largest hotels line the famous Playa del Palmar and the bordering Playa Escolleras, a popular surfing spot with impressive waves. Three of most beautiful beaches in the area are Playa San Juan, Playa Casa Blanca, and Playa Cuatas, all located west of the resort area. Further west, past Punta Ixtapa, are various beaches as well as Isla Ixtapa whose four beaches offer exceptional snorkeling.Diving and snorkeling all along the coastline are amazing because of the converging currents that have resulted in many species and brilliant visibility. Sport fishing is also very popular in the area with year-round sailfish as well as seasonal black marlin, roosterfish, wahoo, mahi mahi, and Spanish mackerel. Another great experience is a trip on one of the long sailboats or catamarans. Different companies offer cruises with snorkeling, swimming, partying, and sunset sailing. There are also various kids clubs, aquatic parks, and various beach and water sports.
Stretching along the 11 kilometer shoreline of the Bahía de Acapulco is one of the most famous resort destinations in Mexico. Acapulco has depended on tourism as its principal economy for decades and has grown to be recognized as the hotspot lined high reaching hotels, white sand beaches, exciting nightlife, delicious cuisine, and plenty of shopping. Today, Acapulco is divided into three sections, Acapulco Náutico, Acapulco Dorado, and Acapulco Diamente. Acapulco Náutico makes up the original part of the old city and is located in the western portion of the bay. Acapulco Dorado is located in the eastern part of the bay, and Acapulco Diamante is the newest luxury resort area located around the southern tip of Puerto Marqués. At the southwestern end of the bay is the Peninsula de las Playas, while further south you will find the Isla de la Roqueta. Hugging the entire bay is the well known La Costera, Acapulco principal shore-side avenue where various restaurants, night clubs, bars, shops, and of course high-rise hotels are found.Obviously the most popular pastime in Acapulco is enjoying the many beaches, and there are definitely many. The most popular beaches heading east around the bay are Hornos, Hornitos, Condesa, and Icacos. Around the south side of the Peninsula de las Playas are two small beaches, Caleta and Caletilla, located in small coves with calm waters making them favorites for families with young children. One the west side of the peninsula is Playa La Angosta also located in a small cove. And of course there are many more beaches running east and west on either side of the bay.Acapulco offers visitors more than just beach relaxation. The old city center is home to the colonial cathedral as well as parks and plazas. Near Isla de la Roqueta is the site of the submerged statue of the Virgen de Guadalupe, which has become a sort of underwater shrine. You can even visit La Quebrada, an inlet west around the bay’s southern peninsula, where the famous divers gracefully leap into the narrow gulf 45 meters below. The tradition has been stunning visitors since the 1930s. Another attraction is Parque Papagayo, an amusement park with rides, animals, and even beach access. Also, the Centro Internacional de Convivencia Infantil, or just CICI, is a water sports park offering visitors dolphin and seal shows, a wave pool, an aquarium, and even an opportunity to swim with the dolphins. In addition, the Mágico Mundo Marino is home to sea lions, crocodile, piranha, turtles, swimming pools, water slides, and even a museum.
Though Oaxaca was originally an Aztec city, the Spanish habited the area starting in 1529 quickly making it one of the most important cities of southern Mexico. Oaxaca is well known for its beautiful colonial architecture including centuries-old stone buildings, plazas, and many street-side cafes. Oaxaca is also filled with handicraft markets, galleries, and a rich culture.Oaxaca’s most well-known landmarks include the zócalo and the Alameda plaza found in front of the city’s main cathedral. The zócalo is a perfect stop to relax at a café and get a good look at the beautiful surrounding colonial structures. One popular sight is the government palace and of course the cathedral which took nearly two centuries to build.Like many cities of Latin America, earthquakes have taken their toll on the historic buildings. Massive earthquakes in both 1854 and 1931 left most of the city uninhabitable though many historic landmarks were able to be saved. Some popular buildings include the various churches scattered throughout the town such as San Juan de Dios, La Compañía, and Templo de San Felipe Neri. Another historic building is the 1903 Teatro Macedonio Alcalá with its marble staircase and five-tier auditorium.Visitors also commonly enjoy Calle Alcalá, a pedestrian street running through the city. Most of the stone buildings along the street have been restored. One such building is an old colonial house transformed into the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Oaxaca built around the year 1700. Roughly four blocks from the cathedral is the Iglesia de Santo Domingo, the city’s most impressive church built from 1570 to 1608. The church is lavishly decorated both inside and out with stunning exterior carvings and gilded and colored interior stucco.Oaxaca is also home to botanical gardens, various art institutes and museums, and much more. The city is a fantastic place to visit if you are interested in the impressive historic culture that fills Oaxaca’s streets. You may even join one of the many language schools during your visit or take a tour of the countless landmarks this beautiful city has to offer.
Famous for its relaxing hot springs, Aguascalientes is a small town originally founded in the late sixteenth century as a garrison to protect silver convoy traveling from Zacatecas to Mexico City. Since the city’s creation, the hot springs have been an important part of its growth. Today, Aguascalientes is an important industrial city with a large vehicle manufacturing plant nearby, but also relies on textiles, orchards, and vineyards as important job providers in the region.The city center is home to the Plaza de la Patria and various quaint pedestrian streets with shops, hotels, restaurants, and a few historic buildings. A famous structure in the plaza is the eighteenth century baroque cathedral, but has a more impressive interior than exterior with Miguel Cabrera paintings both above the alter and in the cathedral’s picture gallery.Near the cathedral is the Teatro Morales which was home to important political movements involving Pancho Villa, Emiliano Zapata, and Venustiano Carranza during the early twentieth century. The most notable colonial structure in Aguascalientes is the Palacio de Gobierno, also located in the main plaza. The buildings dates back to 1665 and is adorned with breathtaking courtyards and pillars.Aguascalientes is home to a number museums showcasing the stunning art that is so characteristic of Mexico. For example, one museum recognizes the art of José Guadalupe Posada said to be one of the important founders of modern Mexican art. Posada is well known for his use of satirical cartoons to criticize the government and address other social problems. The Museo de Aguascalientes is home to an exhibition by Saturnino Herrán, a native of Aguascalientes, and showcases his illustrations of Mexican people and places as well as art by other prominent Mexican figures. Other museums in Aguascalientes include the Museo Regional de Historia, the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, and the Galería de Arte Contemporáneo.Located on the eastern edge of town are some of the town’s famous hot springs, the most popular at the Centro Deportivo Ojo Caliente. The temperatures vary from warm to hot, and the prices are quite inexpensive. There are also various sports courts available including volleyball, tennis, and squash.
San Miguel de Allende
San Miguel de Allende is a beautiful colonial town that has in the past half century become a sanctuary to expatriates. Beginning in the 1940’s, many artists and writers came to study at schools in San Miguel. Today, thousands of foreigners have permanently retired in the city while some reside only during the winter months. However, the original artistic ambience that brought so many foreigners has diminished significantly leaving a simple but gorgeous Spanish colonial town where English is widely spoken.San Miguel has exceptionally preserved the colonial buildings and cobblestone streets thanks to its being declared a national monument by the Mexican government. The town was originally founded as a mission in 1542 and eventually became an important garrison along the silver route from Zacatecas to Mexico City. Over time, Spanish ranchers and crop growers settled in the area, and the city of San Miguel exploded into a commercial center.The central point in the town is the Plaza Principal, and most of the town’s landmarks are all within easy walking distance. The most dominant structure in the main plaza is La Parroquia, a church built in the late seventeenth century. However, in the late 1800s, pointed towers were added to the church that is now a prominent part of the city’s skyline. The Museo Histórico de San Miguel de Allende showcases the interesting history of San Miguel and is located in the historic residence of the town’s original founder.Another popular monument is the Templo de San Francisco, an eighteenth century church with an impressive, elaborate façade. The Capilla de la Tercera Orden is a chapel that was once part of the Franciscan monastery with a façade that shows various images of the order. Another attraction is the Oratorio de San Felipe Neri, a multi-towered church built in the early 1700s. Both the exterior façade and the interior detail with its oil paintings and decorations are an impressive sight to see. Be sure to visit the town’s many other monuments including colleges, churches, museums, and botanical gardens.
Located in Mexico’s northern central highlands is Queretaro, an Aztec town turned colonial settlement in the 1500s. Like many towns in the area, Queretaro was important to the Franciscan monks and was a base for their missions throughout Mexico. The city is now home to a quaint historic center with pedestrian streets linking a number of spacious plazas. These streets are popular spots for strolling through the city while enjoying the many priceless gems.Located in Queretaro’s main plaza is the Templo de San Francisco, an impressive church whose dome is covered with colored tiles brought from Spain in the mid 1500s. The church also maintains a collection of religious paintings from the seventeenth through nineteenth centuries. The Museo Regional is located next to the temple and showcases various artifacts from the pre-Colonial period as well as exhibits from Mexico’s revolutionary movement and a wide array of religious art. The Museo de Arte de Querétaro is located in a former monastery built in the early 1700s. The exhibits include sixteenth and seventeenth century European art that has influenced Mexican artistic movements. There are also various works from Mexican artists from the 1800s and 1900s.Located just north of the Plaza Principal is the Teatro de la República, the site of the signing of Mexico’s constitution in 1917. The theater has hosted a number of political meetings and movements. The Casa de la Corregidora, also rich with political history, is now the state government building. The Convento de la Santa Cruz is agreed to be one of the city’s most interesting sights to see and is a monastery built between 1654 and 1815. A guided tour will provide you with a rich history of the site which is now used as a religious school.
Home to winding cobblestone streets, antique plazas, and beautiful views, Taxco was founded in 1529 and became a booming silver mining town. A unique characteristic of the city has been its ability to avoid the industrial suburbs that surround so many Spanish colonial cities. Taxco has been declared a national historic monument which has led to the placement of various laws preserving its colonial heritage.The main plaza of Taxco is known as Plaza Borda and is home to the Santa Prisca church, a rose-colored baroque temple whose façade is decorated with intricate sculptures. The church was build in the 1750s and was designed by Spanish architects Diego Durán and Juan Cabellero. The Museo Guillermo Spratling is a three story museum or Mexican archaeology and history. There is an extensive collection of pre-Colombian art and artifacts including statuettes and ceramics. The Museo de Arte Virreinal is one of Taxco’s oldest colonial homes and is now host to a small religious art museum and some very interesting history. The Casa Borda, built in 1759, is today a cultural center showcasing sculpture, painting, and photos by both local and outside artists. Another museum is the Museo de la Platería which exhibits Taxco’s silverwork including prize winning pieces from local and international competitions.Finally, a popular attraction is Taxco’s Swiss cable car, the Teleférico, which leads to the Hotel Monte Taxco with beautiful views of the city and surrounding mountains. Taxco is home to various annual festivals and events definitely worth a visit.
Home to more than 20 million people, Mexico City has grown at an alarming rate, especially in the twentieth century. The city has some 350 different colonias or neighborhoods, but don’t let this scare you, the popular tourist attractions are relatively easy to find. One of these spots is surely the historic center of the city known as El Zócalo which includes the presidential palace, the cathedral, the excavated Aztec temple of Tenochtitlán, and many other colonial gems.The Palacio Nacional is home to the offices of the president and the treasury and fills the entire east side of the plaza. There was originally an Aztec palace built on the very same location, though it was destroyed by Cortés in 1521 and replaces by yet another palace that was eventually destroyed before the construction of the palace existing today. The Metropolitan Cathedral is located on the north side of the Zócalo, and built beginning in 1573. In pre-Colombian times this was the resting site of some 136,000 sacrificial skulls. Both the cathedral’s interior and exterior are very impressive and should definitely be on your list of attractions during your visit to Mexico City. The Templo Mayor, a centuries old Aztec temple, was excavated in the late 1900s and required the demolition of colonial buildings to do so. The temple is said to be the location of the sighting Mexico’s symbolic eagle with a snake in its beak. According to Aztec beliefs, this site was the center of the universe. The historic center is also home to various museums and countless other breathtaking historic structures and monuments.Less than a kilometer from the Zócalo is the Alameda Central, Mexico City’s downtown park. Surrounding the park are many impressive buildings from modern skyscrapers to antique colonial buildings. Many years ago, the park was once an Aztec marketplace. Centuries later it became the site of various colonial executions, and today it is a peaceful shelter from the busy city streets and home to many cultural events like concerts and performances. Bordering the park to the east is the famous white marble concert hall and arts center whose construction began in 1904. The hall is filled with striking murals and paintings by noteworthy Mexican artists like Rufino Tamayo, Diego Riveras, and David Alfaro Siqueros.Other nearby areas are home to countless museums, parks, plazas, monuments, markets, historic buildings, and beautiful churches. The immense size of the city brings visitors and inhabitants alike a wide range of delicious Mexican cuisine as well as gastronomy from countries all over the world. There are hotels and accommodations for all budgets, from inexpensive hostels to grand hotels located in some of the city’s most beautiful historic buildings. Shopping and nightlife in Mexico City are among the best in Latin America with something to do for every type of person.
San Cristóbal de las Casas
Located at an elevation of 2,100 meters among the pine trees of the Valle de Jovel is the quaint colonial town of San Cristóbal de las Casas. The town is a rewarding stop thanks to the long list of things to do. Visitors will enjoy the colonial architecture, the creative, artistic feel, the surrounding indigenous villages, and the lively music scene and nightlife.San Cristóbal became well known during a revolutionary uprising that took place there in 1994 by the Zapatista rebels though the overthrow was quickly doused out by the Mexican government. The area that is now San Cristóbal was inhabited by the Mayans starting one thousand years ago. The Spanish arrived in 1528 declaring the town a regional base that was generally neglected by the government. However, the late twentieth century saw a rapid influx of inhabitants, many of which are foreigners.San Cristóbal is a pleasant town to walk through with various hilly streets and sights to see. The town is located just off the Pan-American Highway which means finding the town will be no tricky feat. The town’s main plaza is known as Plaza 31 de Marzo and was originally the colonial home to various markets until the early 1900s. Today, however, visitors find the plaza a great resting point to simply sit and enjoy the pleasant atmosphere of San Cristóbal. On the north side of the plaza is the cathedral, which was begun in 1528 and rebuilt in 1693. The lavish interior is decorated with gold-leaf and baroque flare with a façade of detailed stonework. Also located in the principal plaza is the Hotel Santa Clara, the former home of Spanish conqueror Diego de Mazariegos.The most beautiful of San Cristóbal’s collection of churches is the Templo de Santo Domingo and attracts many visitors at night when its pink façade is all lit up. The church’s baroque façade maintains the double-headed Hapsburg eagle which at the time was a symbol of the Spanish monarchy. Surrounding the church is the site of various daily craft markets selling everything from textiles, leather bags and belts, jewelry, and more. One of the town’s very popular markets is the Mercado Municipal, located about eight blocks north of the main plaza. The market attracts the surrounding indigenous villages for whom buying and selling is the main reason for the visit to San Cristóbal. Another popular attraction in the city is the Café Museo Café where visitors can taste organiz, local coffee and even learn about the history of coffee growing in the Chiapas region. Also, visitors enjoy the Casa de las Artesanías de Chiapas, which showcases the rich culture of the surrounding indigenous villages.
First occupied around 100BCE and reaching its height around 600 to 700CE, Palenque was an ancient Mayan city located in the Chiapas region of Mexico. During the height of ancient Palenque, the town experienced huge expansion and the addition of many plazas and buildings. However shortly after the year 700 the city entered into various conflicts that eventually led to its abandonment. Because of its jungle location in one of the rainiest regions of Mexico, the town was quickly overgrown and was not discovered again until the 1700s.Ancient Palenque is comprised of some 500 different buildings spread over 15 square kilometers though only few have actually been excavated. The main ruins include the Templo de las Inscripciones, El Palacio, and the Grupo de la Cruz.The largest of the buildings is the Templo de las Inscripciones, constructed on eight levels with central staircase rising 25 meters. The inscription from which the temple gets its name was completed in 692 and depicts the history of Palenque and the temple itself. El Palacio houses a maze of courtyards, corridors, and rooms as well as a tower restores in 1955. The Templo del Jaguar is another famous structure where traces of ancient murals can still be seen decorating the interior walls. Grupo de la Cruz is a grouping of four temples all showcasing the same impressive Mayan culture and architecture. Be sure to visit the museums in the area or take a guided tour to learn the most about Palenque’s ancient civilization.
Though the Spanish first arrived in 1517 it took them nearly 25 years to conquer the Mayans. The city was founded as a colonial city in 1531 but was later abandoned because of the continued Mayan conflict. However, by 1540 the Spanish had enough control to found a settlement in Campeche that would survive. During the sixteenth and seventeenth century, Campeche became a favorite invasion point of pirates. For that reason various bastions were constructed around the city in the late 1600s which are today a popular tourist attraction. Other popular sights include colonial buildings such as churches and antique Spanish mansions.The walls that once stood protecting the city have since been taken down and used to build the city’s many downtown streets. Campeche is home to various beautiful parks and plazas including the Plaza Moch-Cuouh and the Plaza de la Independencia, a colonial park surrounded by a historic cathedral as well as the former Palacio de Gobierno. A popular way of experiencing the many gems of Campeche is simply by foot. Visitors can walk the area that is home to the bastions, or baluartes, where there are museums and lush gardens. There are of course many guided tours available to get the full experience of Campeche’s history.Campeche’s favorite park is the Parque Principal, where the locals spend most of the relaxation time. On the north end of the park is the Catedral de la Concepción, which was begun in the mid 1500s but not completed until the 1705. Another attraction is the Centro Cultural, an exhibit of life in the 1700s and 1800s housed in an eighteenth century building. The Mansión Carvajal, originally home to one of Campeche’s richest residents has now been turned into a sort of exhibit open to the public. Campeche is also home to a few restored forts including Fuerte de San Luis and Fuerte de San Miguel which offer visitors another taste of the town’s rich history.
Important during the Classic period between 600 and 900CE, Uxmal was a Mayan civilization rediscovered in the nineteenth century and excavated in 1929. The town’s power is a mystery as the water supply in the area was so scarce which is why tributes to Chac, the rain god, are found throughout the ruins.Built on an oval base is one of the site’s most impressive pyramids, the Pirámide del Adivino, rising 39 meters into the sky. The Cuadrángulo de las Monjas is a 74-room structure which is believed to have once been a military academy, royal school, or palace complex and is covered with images of Chac, the rain god. The building has very impressive façades that display elements of Mexican influence. Another structure takes its name from the various turtle carvings on its cornice, yet another association with the rain god, and is known as the Casa de las Tortugas. The Palacio del Gobernador is home to a 100 meter long façade that has earned the structure recognition as the most impressive in Uxmal. The walls of the palace are filled with rubble, faced with cement, and covered with thin limestone squares. Adjacent to the palace is the Gran Pirámide, a 32 meter pyramid that was never actually completed. Continuing to the west is El Palomar, whose roof comb is designed with a pigeon-hole pattern thus earning it the name House of the Pigeons. Because the structure has heavily deteriorated, archaeologists have had trouble guessing its true function.
The thriving capital of Yucatán, Mérida is a quaint city with colonial buildings, relaxing parks and plazas, and plenty of fine culture. Founded in 1540 by the Spanish, Mérida was once home to a Mayan civilization conquered by the Spanish in 1542.The center of Mérida as has been located in the same spot since Mayan times and is today known as Plaza Mayor. The plaza is surrounded by some of the city’s most impressive colonial architecture, one example being the cathedral. Located in the site of a Mayan temple, the massive cathedral was completed in 1598 and was constructed in part using stone from the Mayan temple. The cathedral’s interior is decorated with prominent historic figures as well as some religious artwork and artifacts. Located on the south side of the cathedral is the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo Ateneo de Yucatán, home to a large collection of works by famous painters and sculptors from the Yucatán region.The Palacio de Gobierno is located on the north side of the plaza and houses the state government offices. The structure was built in 1892 and maintains a collection of murals painted by local artist Fernando Castro Pacheco which portray symbolic historic events of the Mayans and Spaniards. The Palacio Municipal was originally built in 1542 and is today the location of Mérida’s city hall but is also the site of various cultural performances and exhibitions.North of Plaza Mayor is the Parque Hidalgo with several restaurants and home to several live concerts. Nearby is the Iglesia de Jesús built by the Jesuits in 1618 and the only surviving structure of a complex that once took up an entire city block. In front of the church is the Parque de la Madre home to a replica statue of Paris’ Madonna-and-Child found in the Jardin du Luxembourg. Mérida is also home to various museums and other popular attractions; visitors will have no trouble joining a guided tour through the city to truly experience the rich culture that the city has to offer.
Founded by the Spanish in 1531, Puebla today is one of the most unchanged cities in Mexico with an incredible 70 churches and at least a thousand other colonial buildings sided with the hand-painted tiles that have become so characteristic of the town. These tiles were first integrated into Puebla’s architecture in the 1600s on church domes to enhance the façade. Shortly after, inhabitants began decorating other structures with stucco and red brick which eventually led to the use of the elaborate hand-painted tiles.The center of the city, known as the zócalo, is home to the cathedral as well as many nearby restaurants and hotels. However, before the mid 1800s the city center did not resemble the now calm park-like appearance. It was once the location of busy markets, public executions, and bullfights. Today the zócalo is a peaceful place to gather with Sunday entertainers and many relaxing, street-side cafes. The gem of the plaza is surely the cathedral which maintains some of the highest towers in the country at 69 meters. The church’s construction began in 1550 though much of the construction took place in the early to mid 1600s. Another striking structure in the city center is the Casa de la Cultura, once the bishop’s palace and current home to government offices and cultural activities. The Casa de la Cultura also maintains the famous Biblioteca Palafoxiana library with thousand of antique books.Of course a city as colonial as Puebla is surely home to a priceless collection of museums. Housed in two linked colonial buildings is the Museo Amparo with elaborate exhibits of both pre-Hispanic artifacts and colonial gems. The Museo Poblano de Arte Virreinal finds itself in an old seventeenth century hospital and maintains exhibits showcasing art from the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries as well as a history of the hospital. The Museo Bello displays various arts and crafts by nineteenth century industrialist José Luis Bello. The museum also maintains a collection of porcelain from France, England, Japan, and China. The Casa de los Muñecos is another impressive sight with its exterior tiles. Inside is a museum showcasing the history of education in Puebla.Another structure surely worth a visit is the Iglesia de la Compañía, home to the seventeenth century tomb of an Asian princess who was sold into slavery in Mexico and eventually freed. She is rumored to have been responsible for the colorful Poblana costume that was so popular in the 1800s. The 1759 Teatro Principal was once of the oldest theaters in the Americas until it went up in the flames in the 1900s and had to be rebuilt.
Located in the northeastern part of the Mexican state of Michoacán is the well-preserved colonial city of Morelia full of vibrant culture and a plethora of popular tourist attractions. The city was founded in 1541 as one of the earliest cities of New Spain and attracted many families of Spanish nobility.Most all of Morelia’s interesting sights are located within walking distance of the city center, or zócalo. In addition, the central plaza itself is home to many popular attractions. For example, the central cathedral dominates the zócalo with its 70 meter high towers and impressive baroque architecture. Near the zócalo is the Museo Regional Michoacano which is located in an impressive 1700s palace. The museum maintains a large collection of pre-Colombian artifacts as well as colonial art and relics. The Museo del Estado maintains exhibits showcasing the history of the state of Michoacán dating all the way back to prehistoric times. Another very interesting museum is located in the house that was the birthplace of one of Mexico’s most important independence figures, José María Morelos. There is a large collection of Morelos memorabilia and an eternal torch.Another popular stopping point is the Palacio Clavijero which was established in 1660 as a Jesuit school. However, after the Jesuits were expelled from the Spanish dominion in the late 1700s, the building was used as a warehouse and also a prison until the 1970s. Today, the structure has been renovated and transformed into tourist offices and a public library. Occupying the Ex-Convento de San Francisco is the Casa de las Artesanías, home to dozens of stalls selling handicrafts and souvenirs. Finally, east of the zócalo is the Fuente Las Tarascas, a fountain featuring a sculpture of three Tarasco women. Beginning at the fountain and running along the Avenina Acueducto is the city’s aqueduct system built in the late 1700s to curb the growing water problem. The aqueduct is an impressive sight at night when its many arches are lit up with spotlights.
Chichén Itzá is the site of one of the most popular archaeological sites of the Yucatán Peninsula with some of the country’s best restored pre-Colombian ruins. Though the city was originally built by the Mayans, there are various signs that show that it was mysteriously abandoned and then re-inhabited by the Toltecs.El Castillo is the first building to spring up as you enter the archaeological zone of Chicen Itza. The massive pyramid stands nearly 25 meters tall and was originally built before 800CE before the original Mayan abandonment. However, the Toltecs added various sculptures representing their own rituals years later. The truly interesting characteristic of the pyramid is that it is a stone representation of the Mayan calendar with various levels and stairs representing the months and days of the year.The civilization’s principal ball court is the most impressive in Mexico with temples at either end and large stone walls with various carvings of players engaging in a soccer-like game while others are playing a game with bats. Some believe that the losing team was actually sacrificed. The court also have very impressive acoustics; it is said that a conversation at one end can be heard as far as 135 meters away at the other end.Another important structure is the Tzompantli, or Temple of Skulls which was once the platform that held the skulls of sacrificial victims. The platform is also decorated with various carved skulls and eagles eating their way through the chests of men. The Sacred Cenote is located at the end of a 300 meter long stone road and is a massive well 60 meters in diameter and 35 meters deep.Other important structures worth visiting include El Osario, the grave of the high priest, La Casa Colorada known for its red paint mural work, and El Caracol, an observatory with an interior spiral staircase and windows that align with certain stars on specific dates. An interesting bit of history is the discovery of the Grutas de Balankaché. In 1959 a guide at Chicen Itza was exploring the ruins and came across a narrow passageway leading 300 meters through a series of caves. The caves housed hundreds of Mayan ceremonial treasures placed 800 years earlier. Today, the caverns are a popular tourist attraction with various tours given all day.
Cuernavaca was originally inhabited by pre-Colombian civilization before the Spanish arrived in the early 1500s. At the time of their arrival, the indigenous inhabitants were fiercely loyal to the Aztecs and fought mercilessly until they were eventually conquered in 1521 by Cortés. Today, the city is centered around the zócalo called the Plaza de Armas. Bordering the plaza is the Palacio de Cortés, the residence of the conquistador until he returned to Spain in 1540. The palace was built on top of an Aztec pyramid that Cortés destroyed during the Spanish takeover. The central plaza is also home to the Palacio de Gobierno as well as various delicious restaurants and gardens making the zócalo a very comfortable place to relax.Cuernavaca is also home to the famous gardens known as Jardín Borda, built in 1783 as an addition to the residence of the rich silver magnate José de la Borda. An interesting option is a tour of the house and gardens which provides visitors with a good idea of how Mexican aristocracy lived. The gardens contain various terraces, paths, fountains, and several large trees.Another popular point of interest is the Recinto de la Catedral. Much like the Palacio de Cortés, the cathedral was built as a large fortress mostly to protect from what was left of the native populations in the area. The cathedral itself was knows as the Templo de la Asunción de María and is generally quite plain with a collection of Franciscan art inside. Also, Cuernavaca is home to the Museo Robert Brady, showcasing the artwork of the American artist Robert Brady who lived in the city for 24 years as well as an extensive collection by well known Mexican artists such as Tamayo, Kahlo, and Covarrubias. Cuernavaca is home to various other museums and colonial structures that will surely leave you impressed during your stay in yet another of Mexico’s gorgeous historic treasures.
Located along the Caribbean coastline of the Riviera Maya are the ruins of Tulum, famous more for their breathtaking location than for the ruins themselves. It is said that the buildings and structures were the product of a declining Mayan civilization, but regardless of that the cliff-top ruins are always an incredible sight looking over the turquoise waters and palm-lines beach below.Historians say the site of Tulum was not inhabited until as late as 1200CE which makes it a very young civilization compared to others scattered throughout Mexico. The city was first seen by the Europeans in 1518 with its buildings painted in vibrant reds, yellows, and blues. Tulum was one of the latest Mayan cities to be abandoned; its inhabitants stayed put some 75 years after the Spanish conquest.One impressive building worth visiting during your trip to Tulum is the impressive Castillo, named for its fortress like qualities including high reaching walls, a watchtower, and also impressive serpent column at the fort’s entrance. Other notable structures include the Templo del Dios Descendente and the Templo de la Serie Inicial. The latter is well known famous for the stela that was located there that at first confused archaeologists. The stela dates as early as 564CE which did not correspond to the period in which Tulum was founded. However, it has since been decided that the stela was brought to the city from Tankah, a much older Mayan civilization located only 4 kilometers to the north.
Chetumal was first inhabited by the Mayans and played an important role in the transport of gold, feathers, cacao, and copper to the northern Yucatán Peninsula. However, after the Spanish conquest Chetumal remained virtually unsettled until 1898 when the town was established to put a stop to the illegal arms and lumber trade. In 1955, the town was obliterated by Hurricane Janet and was completely re-planned and rebuilt. However, it was not until the explosive growth of Cancún that Chetumal experienced its own prosperity. Today, Chetumal is the flourishing capital of the state of Quintana Roo in the Riviera Maya.
Playa del Carmen
Once a simple fishing village, Playa del Carmen has been transformed into the Riviera Maya’s preferred resort town with many luxurious resorts, a vibrant nightlife, and outstanding beaches. Here visitors can relax on the beach listening to live bands, join in the many water sports, pass from restaurant to restaurant enjoying Playa’s delicious cuisine, and much more. Popular water sports include diving, snorkeling, fishing, and kayaking with various places to find equipment.
Surrounded by beautiful, crystal-clear waters, Cozumel is Mexico’s largest Caribbean island and one of the most popular stops for scuba diving thanks to the rich coral reefs and some 100 world-class dive sites. The town in Cozumel is called San Miguel and is home to both the ferry dock and the airport.Cozumel was originally inhabited by the Mayans from 300CE and at one point thrived as a trade center and ceremonial site. However, with the arrival of the Spanish in 1518 many were either killed by genocidal attacks or smallpox. The hidden caverns of Cozumel also hosted such famous pirates as Jean Lafitte and Henry Morgan.Today, Cozumel is a very popular Riviera Maya tourist destination, a great place to relax on the beach, dive, snorkel, or even take a tour in a glass bottom boat. There is no doubt the rich marine biodiversity will leave you impressed.