By Anna Maria Espsäter | January| 5 minute read
Caribbean and Pacific coastlines mean plenty of accessible beaches; the colonial architecture is some of the best in the Americas; ancient ruins abound and there’s world-class cuisine to sample at every turn. And with more flight connections between Mexico and Europe than ever and many tour operators featuring new tours and cruises for 2017-18, there is more choice for those selling Mexico than ever before.
“From January to March, Mexico celebrated a significant growth in tourism arrivals. The development of new tourism infrastructure has driven interest in the destination and diversified the accommodation options”
COLIN STEWART, CHAIRMAN OF THE LATIN AMERICAN TRAVEL ASSOCIATION (LATA)
Tacos, tortas and tamales: Mexican cuisine, part of UNESCO’s heritage list since 2010, is famous for good reason. Tuck into traditional tacos and many more tasty treats
A bit of magic: The ‘pueblos mágicos’ programme, started in 2001, highlights villages of particular cultural or historical significance across Mexico. With 111 of them, you’re spoilt for choice
The big smoke: The hulk that is Mexico City is hard to beat for sheer variety: history, culture and cuisine jostle with markets, museums and murals
Beach bumming: Mexico is blessed with abundant beaches. In the north, from Los Cabo the Pacific coast runs the length of the country. In the south, on the Caribbean side, hot spots include Cancún and Riviera Maya
Wildlife viewing: Mexico is the winter sanctuary of the Monarch butterfly – 600 million of them annually descend on Michoacán. There is also bird- and marine-life, including as whales in Los Cabos
Royal ruins: To get up close and personal with Mexico’s ancient heritage, head south for Mayan ruins on the Yucatán Peninsula and in Chiapas. The centre is home to Aztec sites, while Oaxaca and Veracruz offer Zapotec and Totonac heritage
Party on down Mexico way: Every village has its own saint, so Mexico is not short of festivals. The ‘big ones’ include Easter/Holy Week, Day of the Dead and Day of the Virgin Guadalupe, patron saint of Mexico
Local brews: Tequila is the national tipple but don’t miss Baja California’s excellent wines and mezcal from Oaxaca – but go easy on raicilla (from Jalisco) and sotol (found in north Mexico)
Natural wonders: Mexico has 67 ‘protected’ areas, covering everything from volcanoes to deserts. Even mega-metropolis Mexico City has national parks
Mexican market marvels: To experience the colourful culture of Mexico head to the local markets, selling fruit, vegetables and area-specific handicrafts
Driving Baja California
The drive from coast to coast is pleasantly swift with stunning mountain and desert scenery all around me.
I’d started out from La Paz, on the Sea of Cortéz, and just over an hour later stretched out in front of me is the bright blue of the Pacific Ocean.
A roof terrace, in the colonial gem of Todos Santos, provides me with a lovely bird’s eye view of the high street and the sea beyond – it’s the perfect place for a margarita.
I am on a grand tour of Baja California Sur in northern Mexico and the February weather is not disappointing – an average temperature of 77F/25C° means swimming and sunbathing are irresistible options.
Todos Santos lies roughly halfway between state capital La Paz and the beach resorts of Los Cabos, further south, making it a great stopping-off place for lunch, or for a longer stay exploring the colonial architecture, arts and crafts. Reaching the recently-opened resort hotel Gran Velas in the late afternoon, I am set for a true culinary treat.
Starting off in hardcore fashion with a tequila- and mezcal-tasting, I love the accompanying signature salts, flavoured with hibiscus, ant, grasshopper and worm. Despite the variety of ground-up beasties, they are a surprise taste sensation. My post-sampling dinner includes langoustine with chocolate, veal tongue and sea urchin at the Cocina de Autor restaurant. There are less interesting ways to end a day in Mexico.
Sights: Ichkabal Mayan, a newly-discovered archaeological site in southern Quintana Roo, should finally open in 2018. Dating back to 300 B.C. and spreading over 30 km², the site is deemed one of the most important political centres from the Pre-classic era.
Events: Mexico City is the World Design Capital in 2018.
Tour operators: Kuoni has added two new resorts in its 2017/18 brochure: Dreams Playa Mujeres near Cancún and Hotel Xcaret on the Riviera Maya.
Journey Latin America has launched a cruise itinerary in Baja California.
Palladium Hotel Group is opening a five-star development on Costa Mujeres, north of Cancún, next autumn.
What the experts say
“Visitor numbers are holding up well for us and fortunately Baja California was not troubled by the October earthquakes that struck the Mexico City area (although tourism infrastructure in the country’s capital was unaffected).
“The wedding and honeymoon market is a particular focus for Baja California and Los Cabos at present and the area is gearing up for the International Wedding Planners Convention in 2018.
“A number of UK tour operators are now featuring more tours and cruises to Baja California, including Scott Dunn, focusing on the wedding and honeymoon market. Security is a top priority and a lot is being invested in keeping visitors safe. There have been a few violent incidents in the past but security remains good.”
MANUEL DIAZ-CEBRIAN, DIRECTOR, LOS CABOS TOURISM BOARD
Where to book it
A 14-day Sea of Cortéz cruise with Journey Latin America is from £5449pp, including a luxury cruise, all meals, excursions, transfers, visits to the Copper Canyon and Mexico City but not international flights.
A seven-night all-inclusive stay at Dreams Playa Mujeres with Kuoni starts from £2558pp in high season. The price includes Virgin flights from Gatwick to Cancún, junior suite, transfers, choice of bars and restaurants.
Cox & Kings’ 11-day Yucatán Discovery tour is from £2995pp, including flights to Cancún, accommodation, breakfasts, transfers and guide.