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Mexico, with its stunning beaches along the vast coastline spanning the Pacific Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean Sea, is undeniably a paradise for beach lovers. However, the country’s charm extends far beyond its exceptional sand and surf.

While the coastal regions of Mexico are undoubtedly stunning, including popular beach resort locations like Cancún, Playa del Carmen, or Puerto Vallarta, which are undoubtedly breathtaking, the real gems may lie off the beaten path, away from the tourist crowds.

Mexico is rich in diversity and cultural heritage, home to vibrant colonial cities hosting cultural festivals, important archaeological sites, culinary hotspots, and abundant natural wonders. And, with a travel insurance policy, you might take comfort in knowing that you could be covered for adventure activities the country offers, including whitewater rafting, kayaking, jungle trekking, mountain biking, ziplining, and hot-air ballooning.

Mexico City

Mexico City, the bustling capital city of Mexico, is an intriguing mix of the old and present-day. It’s a city where ancient ruins coexist with world-class museums and lively neighbourhoods such as Condesa and Roma. The city’s roots trace back to the Aztec civilization, with remnants like the Templo Mayor still standing as a testament to its rich history.

As a melting pot of cultures, from indigenous to Spanish colonial influences, Mexico City is a foodie’s paradise. Here, you can indulge in authentic Mexican dishes such as mole, pozole, and chilaquiles. Must-visit museums include the National Museum of Anthropology, the Frida Kahlo Museum, the Palacio de Bellas Artes, and the Museo Soumaya.

Take a leisurely stroll through the vibrant streets of neighbourhoods, including Coyoacán and San Ángel. You’ll find that the streets of Mexico City are always buzzing with activity, from street performers to local markets such as La Ciudadela and Mercado de la Merced. What’s more, the city is surprisingly rich in parks and green spaces, such as Chapultepec Park.

And if all this wasn’t enough, basing yourself in Mexico City allows you to easily arrange day trips to visit nearby attractions such as the ancient city of Teotihuacan or Xochimilco’s famous canals and artificial islands known as chinampas, on colourful trajineras boats.

Tulum

Yes, the beach town of Tulum on the Riviera Maya is famous for its stunning Caribbean Sea beaches, but there’s so much more to enjoy beyond its coastline. Start by exploring the well-preserved temples and palaces of the ancient clifftop Mayan ruins of Tulum. After immersing yourself in history, cool off in nearby underground rivers and cenotes such as Gran Cenote, Dos Ojos, and Cenote Calavera.

Next, embark on an exploration of the vibrant town of Tulum Pueblo, either by bike or on foot. This vibrant town is a treasure trove of art galleries and cafes, where you can savour traditional dishes like cochinita pibil and ceviche. Don’t miss the Tulum Art Walk, a specially curated route that highlights local contemporary art, photography, and indigenous crafts.

For a nature-filled adventure, you may also consider taking a day trip to the nearby Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve, one of the largest protected natural areas in Mexico. Here, you can encounter a wide range of exotic animals including jaguars, tapirs, tamanduas, toucans, crocodiles, and spider monkeys in the reserve’s tropical forests, mangroves, and wetlands.

Another fantastic day trip from Tulum is a journey westward to Chichen Itza, one of Mexico’s most iconic and well-preserved Mayan archaeological sites. Chichen Itza is renowned for its remarkable structure, including the Pyramid of Kukulcán, a testament to the architectural prowess of the ancient Mayans. Interestingly, it is home to the largest and most well-preserved Mayan ballcourt in Mesoamerica, offering a unique glimpse into the sports and recreation of this ancient civilisation.

Chiapas

Chiapas, Mexico’s southernmost state, is known for its mix of stunning natural beauty, colonial sites, and ancient ruins. Here, you can explore several Mayan Ruins, including Palenque, Yaxchilán, and Bonampak, each offering a unique window into ancient history.

Chiapas is a natural paradise, boasting dense rainforests, mountains, cascading waterfalls, and serene lakes. Top sites to visit include Sumidero Canyon, Agua Azul Waterfalls, Montebello Lakes, and the El Chiflón Waterfall.

The state is home to a diverse array of indigenous communities, each with its own unique culture, language, and traditions that can be experienced by visiting local indigenous villages. Additionally, explore colonial cities and towns like San Cristóbal de las Casas, Comitán de Domínguez, and Chiapa de Corzo to get a taste of the region’s historical charm.

For outdoor enthusiasts, Chiapas is a top destination, offering up jungle hikes, birdwatching in the Biosphere Reserve of El Triunfo, rafting and kayaking on Lacandon River, zip-lining, and boat tours in the Sumidero Canyon.

Don’t miss the opportunity to visit a coffee plantation. As one of Mexico’s leading coffee-producing regions, Chiapas offers visitors the chance to learn about the coffee production process and sample delicious coffee crafted from high-quality Arabica beans in regions like Soconusco.

Oaxaca

Oaxaca, located in the south, offers up diverse Mesoamerican indigenous cultures like Zapotec and Mixtec communities. Each of these communities boasts unique traditions, languages, and art. Visitors can immerse themselves in the vibrant local culture through festivals, markets, and visiting indigenous communities.

The Guelaguetza, also known as the "Festival of Indigenous Cultures”, is arguably the most popular festival in Oaxaca. Celebrated each summer, it features traditional music and dance performances, and participants get the opportunity to wear elaborate costumes. Not to be missed is the annual Día de los Muertos or “Day of the Dead” celebrations in November, a significant tradition where locals honour their loved ones with elaborate altars, parades, and offerings of food and flowers in cemeteries.

Oaxaca is an architectural delight, brimming with colonial architecture such as beautiful churches, monasteries, and palaces. The city’s UNESCO-listed historic centre is a testament to this grandeur, featuring gems like Santo Domingo Church and Oaxaca Cathedral.

Oaxaca is a haven for artisans, known for its intricate handicrafts such as textiles, pottery, and colourful woodcarvings known as lebrijes, depicting mythical beings. Be sure to visit markets such as Mercado de Benito Juárez and Mercado 20 de Noviembre for authentic Oaxacan crafts, souvenirs, and local delicacies.

Oaxaca’s archaeological sites, including Mitla, Yagul, and pre-Columbian Monte Albán, offer a glimpse into the region’s rich past through its pyramids, tombs, and intricate stone carvings. For nature lovers, the Sierra Norte mountains provide ample opportunities for eco-tourism activities such as hiking, mountain biking, and birdwatching. Another recommendation is to visit Hierve el Agua’s petrified waterfalls and mineral springs.

Guadalajara

Known as the "Pearl of the West," Guadalajara is Mexico's second-largest city. Begin by admiring the colonial architecture, with must-see landmarks such as the Cathedral of Guadalajara and the Government Palace on offer. For a breath of fresh air and panoramic city views, head to the scenic hilltop Parque Mirador Independencia.

One of Guadalajara's most iconic cultural attractions is the Hospicio Cabañas, a UNESCO World Heritage Site famous for its neoclassical architecture and murals by famed Mexican artist José Clemente Orozco. Here, you can have the opportunity to delve deeper into Orozco's legacy, by visiting his former studio, Casa-estudio José Clemente Orozco, in the Colonia Americana neighbourhood, which showcases his life and work, including sketches, paintings, and other artefacts.

Immerse yourself in the vibrant energy of Guadalajara’s Mercado San Juan de Dios, one of Latin America's largest indoor markets. Here, you’ll find everything from fresh produce and spices to colourful clothing, handicrafts, and traditional Mexican treats.

After exploring the market, head to Plaza de los Mariachis. This lively square is alive with the sounds of traditional Mexican music. Mariachi bands, clad in their ornate charro suits, perform a variety of songs, from heartfelt serenades to lively son jalisciense, capturing the spirit of Jalisco and offering a true taste of Guadalajara's rich cultural heritage.