High-profile beach resorts may be the first thing that comes to mind when Canadian holidaymakers think about Mexico. But that’s a very narrow picture of a country that in fact boasts an astonishing variety of destinations.
Mexico is home to multiple ecosystems and an alluring geography that includes rainforests, deserts, beaches, magical old towns, forests, cliffs and spectacular vistas.
As for its cultural wealth, a mosaic of cultures left behind monuments, spiritual traditions and rituals that spark the imagination. In fact the country has so much to offer that the choice can be bewildering. Here’s a rundown of some of Mexico’s most exciting destinations:
A coastal paradise on the Pacific Ocean in the state of Oaxaca, Huatulco is the perfect spot for diving and snorkelling. The coastline has nine protected bays and 36 beaches, all part of the Bahias de Huatulco National Park.
Main tourist centres include Tangolunda Bay and Santa Cruz Bay; the latter has spectacular coral reefs teeming with marine life and hosts the annual Torneo de Pesca de Pez Vela (Sailfish Fishing Tournament) in April and May.
About two hours away from Mexico City, Tepoztlan is a place full of mystery and tradition. During the spring equinox, thousands of people visit the mountain of Cerro del Tepozteco because they believe it will charge them with energy. A highlight is the remains of a pre-Hispanic temple at the mountain’s summit; tepoz.com.mx.
The place where men became gods, this is one of the most important archaeological zones in Mexico and a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The highlights of this metropolis — thought to have been built between the first and seventh centuries AD — are the Temple of Quetzalcoatl and the Pyramids of the Sun and the Moon, vast monuments that flank the city’s central avenue. The site is 40 kilometres northeast of Mexico City.
Barrancas del Cobre
A national park located in the northwestern state of Chihuahua, Barrancas del Cobre or Copper Canyon is an enormous net of canyons four times the size of the Grand Canyon. It also has one of Mexico’s most impressive arrays of flora and fauna.
The best way to explore this natural jewel is by train on the Chihuahua-Pacifico railroad or CHEPE, chepe.com.mx, which offers spectacular views of rivers, cactus forests, pine woodland and narrow gorges from above and below. Stop off and you can enjoy trips downstream, horse riding, rock climbing, guided nature treks and visits to the reclusive Tarahumara Indians, barrancasdelcobrewebsite.com.
Valle de Bravo
About 150 kilometres southwest of Mexico City, on the hills rising from the shores of beautiful Lake Avandaro, this pretty little town is a magnet for tourists, many of whom are drawn by the Sanctuary for the Monarch Butterfly. Every winter, millions of Monarchs journey from North America to the local forest.
Valle de Bravo is also home to the Velo de Novia (Bride’s Veil) waterfall and the Natural Reserve of Monte Blanco; valledebravo.com.mx.
Real de Catorce
Real de Catorce is a beautiful, tranquil village high in the Sierra de Catorce mountains in the state of Zacatecas. Silence and pure air are its main attributes.
Founded in 1779, this once booming silver-mining town was later abandoned and many original buildings still stand, which is why it’s a popular backdrop for Hollywood movies.
It’s also a spiritual place, with pilgrims visiting every year for various festivals. Its tourist infrastructure is improving, but accommodation is limited. There are no banks, and only one hotel and restaurant accepts credit cards; vivarealdecatorce.com.