has some astonishing historical sites to discover.
In fact, it has more UNESCO World Heritage sites than any other country in the Americas.
It’s hardly surprising when you consider that the country has been populated for at least 13,000 years – some say it’s four times that number – and produced advanced cultures which developed their own civilisations, using the technology of the time to its utmost.
Tragically, much of this pre-Spanish history has been lost forever after the conquistadores rampaged through the country in the 16th century, disgracefully burning the codices and written records of Mayan and Aztec civilisations. But what Hernán Cortés and his bearded aggressive ilk couldn’t extinguish were the very stones that make up, today, some of the most awe-inspiring sights and sites on the planet.
Chichen Itza, in the
Yucatán Peninsula, is an incredible pre-Columbian archaeological site of the Maya. There are a variety of styles on show in the complex, architecturally-speaking, from the sacbeob roads that bisect the city to the iconic Temple of Kululkan (El Castillo), a step pyramid which actually sits atop an even more ancient hidden temple. For soccer fans there’s also a Great Ball Court – where the winning team in the Mesoamerican ball game would, in certain ritual games, be gladly sacrificed to the gods. Puts Christiano Ronaldo’s writhing around on the floor every time someone breathes on him into some perspective.
When you add the Templo de los Guerreros, the Ossario Group and El Mercado into the equation it’s easy to see why this amazing city is considered one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Clever people, those Mayans: if you stand in front of the main pyramid and make a single hand clap, the echo is said to be an exact representation of the chirp of the
Respendant Quetzal bird, sacred to the Maya.
Of many highlights, try the Platform of the Eagles and the Jaguars, a combination of Maya and Toltec styles, the Platform of Venus and the Ceneto Sagrado – 200ft in diameter with sheer cliffs dropping down to the water nearly 90ft below.
Of the central group of structures, the Puuc architectural style is represented beautifully by Las Monjas whilst the observatory temple El Caracol shows the Mayans’ flair for reading the skies. Chichen Itza is truly a treasure.
If you are looking for something that combines history and fast-paced nightlife, the second largest city in Mexico is for you. The colonial era buildings of the historic centre are gorgeous, of course, but this is also the birthplace of tequila. You’re going to find literally hundreds of different varieties here and whilst you get the slammers going (possibly on the unique Tequila Express train ride), you can swing your hips to mariachi sounds that pervade the very walls of the city. There are museums, art galleries and legendary murals. One reason for the lively nightlife is the large number of students in the city; practice your Spanish on some of the good looking locals and you never know what could happen. And if nothing happens, there’s always the largest zoo in Mexico to cheer you up.
Guadalajara’s architecture is very European in style, with the Metropolitan Cathedral an excellent example of neoclassical. But there’s a lot more to the city and you can find a number of styles and movements from Baroque and Viceregal to Modern, Eclectic, Art Deco and neo-Gothic.
Although well-known as a financial centre, Monterrey is also the City of the Mountains, with stunning marble architecture including the famous Palacio de Gobierno and even a glass museum. You might want to sit back and watch the universe swirl around you (even without a bottle of tequila inside you) at the IMAX dome of the ALFA Planetarium. Surprisingly relaxing after a long day shopping in Macro Plaza. Out of the city there’s the incredible Chipinque National Park, which is brilliant for hiking, biking and generally liking. There’s caving, mountains, and of course that incredible mountain backdrop. No wonder it’s so popular with honeymooners.
The Cerro de la Silla mountain towers over a city teeming with life. Try walking down the Santa Lucia Riverwalk – an artificial river joining the Fundidora Park with the Macroplaza, one of the largest plazas in the world and the cultural and admin heart of the city. Look up at night to see the Faro del Comercio shooting out green light. The Barrio Antiguo is the place to be for of bars, cafes, art galleries and restaurants and the Museum of Modern Art is a postmodern treat. Then there’s the
Cervecería Cuauhtémoc Moctezuma, with the baseball hall of fame and oodles of 19th Century Buildings to delight anyone. Needless to say, it’s a city with much to recommend it.