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Discover Mexico with Timothy Tye

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Day of the Dead decorations on sale in MexicoDay of the Dead decorations on sale in Mexico
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Mexico is a constitutional republic geographically located in North America. It is bordered by the United States to the north, and on the southeast by Guatemala and Belize. The Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea are on the east coast of Mexico while the Pacific Ocean is on the west coast.

Mexico covers an area of 1,972,550 square kilometers (761,606 square miles), about 16% bigger than Alaska. It has a population of 111 million people. It is the fifth most populous country in the world, and the most populous Spanish-speaking country. The country is composed of 31 states and one federal district. The capital, Mexico City, is the largest city in Mexico and one of the largest in the world.

Cities of Mexico

  1. Mexico City
    One of the biggest cities in the world with a history going back to Pre-Columbian times.
  2. Acapulco
    Major beach destination with well-developed tourist infrastructure. As one of the earliest resort destinations, some parts are beginning to age.
  3. Cancun
    The most popular beach resort in Mexico, with a numerous recreational facilities.
  4. Ciudad Juarez
    Mexican border town across from El Paso, Texas.
  5. Guadalajara
    Home to mariachi music and tequila, this is the quintessential Mexico.
  6. Mazatlan
    Port city on the Pacific coast, a major shipping hub for Mexico. It is also developing as a beach resort destination.
  7. Monterrey
    The commercial and industrial hub in northern Mexico.
  8. San Luis Potosi
    The colonial mining city, where silver was once mined in large quantities. Today its economy is based on manufacturing.
  9. Taxco
    Another silver mining town, Taxco is the place to shop for decorative silver items and elegent jewelry.
  10. Tijuana
    Border town between Mexico and the United States, a place to shop for cheap items at low prices.

Skyline of Mexico CitySkyline of Mexico City
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authorshipAlejandro Islas Photograph AC
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Mexico traces its history back to Pre-Columbian times. Even before the arrival of Christopher Columbus to the New World, several advanced civilizations have flourished at one time or another in Mexico, among them the Olmec, the Toltec, the Teotihuacan, the Zapotec, the Maya and the Aztec. The arrival of Spanish conquistadors changed the face of Mexico. The country gained its independence from Spain in 1821, and despite an often volatile political scene and unstable economy, is generally considered a newly industrialized country with the 13th largest nominal Gross Domestic Product in the world.

Mexico is rich in culture, heritage, history and cuisine. It has 29 World Heritage Sites, more than any other country in the Americas. It also has fantastic beaches and a vibrant art scene.

Palenque, MexicoPalenque, Mexico
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authorshipPeter Andersen
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Fast Facts about Mexico

  • Official Name: Mexico
  • Capital: Mexico City (18,100,000)
  • Population of Mexico: 106,203,000
  • Languages: Spanish, indigenous dialects
  • Currency: Mexican peso (MXN)
  • Religions: Roman Catholic (89%), Protestant (6%), others
  • Size: 1,972,550 sq km (761,606 sq miles)
  • Region: North America

Sculpture in front of Torre del Caballito in Mexico CitySculpture in front of Torre del Caballito in Mexico City
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Planning your trip to Mexico

Visitors from the countries I'm about to mention below can arrive in Mexico, fill up a tourist card (FMT) at the border or airport for a nominal fee, and enter Mexico with a valid passport, for fewer than 180 days, for tour, or 30 day for business. The countries are Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Costa Rice, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Ireland, Iceland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the United States, Uruguay and Venezuela. If you're not from the aforementioned countries, please contact the nearest Mexican consulate for details.

Chac Mool, ancient Mayan godChac Mool, ancient Mayan god
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By Plane
The main airport for Mexico City is Benito Juárez International Airport (MEX). It receives flights from major cities all over the world. If you are visiting the Yucatan peninsula, then the main airport is the Manuel Crescencio Rejón International Airport (MID) in Mérida. If you're going to the resort city of Cancún, it has its own international airport too. By Train
If you're coming from the United States, you can take the San Diego Trolley from downtown San Diego right to the Mexican border - and then walk across. No train actually crosses the border between the United States and Mexico.

By Bus
Yes, you can enter Mexico by bus. There are a good number of Mexican buses going between the United States and Mexico. However, they cater mostly to Mexican workers in the United States rather than tourists, so expect everything to be in Spanish.

Travel within Mexico

The most practical way to travel in Mexico is by either public bus or self drive. There are hardly any trains in Mexico. Most tourist however confine themselves to specific travel destinations in Mexico where their transfers have been arranged by the tour operators.

Maya lintel at Yaxchilan, MexicoMaya lintel at Yaxchilan, Mexico
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authorshipMichel wal
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Specialty Sights of Mexico

There are tourist destinations that cater to specific niches.

  1. Mexican Riviera
    One of the world's most visited destinations spots for vacationing.
  2. Sea of Cortez
    A place to go whale watching and to swim with dolphins.
  3. Sumidero Canyon
    A nature site rich in wildlife as well as gorgeous landscape.

Archaeological Sites of Mexico

Visitors can now re-live Mexico's past civilizations by visiting some of its top archaeological sites, many of which are today World Heritage Sites:
  1. Teotihuacan
    Ruins of a Pre-Columbian city located close to Mexico City.
  2. Chichen Itza
    One of the best preserved and most famous Mayan city.
  3. Ek Balam
    Mayan site famous for its elaborate stucco and stone temples.
  4. El Tajin
    Archaeological site of the ancient Totonac civilization, with ruins of sacred buildings and religious sport sites.
  5. Palenque
    Ancient Mayan city famous for its elaborate Mayan paintings.
  6. Uxmal
    Ancient Mayan city-state and major archaeological site.
  7. Monte Alban
    Archaeological site of the ancient Zapotec civilization, located in Oaxaca state.
  8. Tulum
    Coastal site of ancient Mayan ruins.

World Heritage Sites in Mexico

  1. Historic Centre of Mexico City and Xochimilco (1987)
  2. Historic Centre of Oaxaca and Archaeological Site of Monte Albán (1987)
  3. Historic Centre of Puebla (1987)
  4. Pre-Hispanic City and National Park of Palenque (1987)
  5. Pre-Hispanic City of Teotihuacan (1987)
  6. Sian Ka'an (1987)
  7. Historic Town of Guanajuato and Adjacent Mines (1988)
  8. Pre-Hispanic City of Chichen-Itza (1988)
  9. Historic Centre of Morelia (1991)
  10. El Tajin, Pre-Hispanic City (1992)
  11. Historic Centre of Zacatecas (1993)
  12. Rock Paintings of the Sierra de San Francisco (1993)
  13. Whale Sanctuary of El Vizcaino (1993)
  14. Earliest 16th-Century Monasteries on the Slopes of Popocatepetl (1994)
  15. Historic Monuments Zone of Querétaro (1996)
  16. Pre-Hispanic Town of Uxmal (1996)
  17. Hospicio Cabañas, Guadalajara (1997)
  18. Archaeological Zone of Paquimé, Casas Grandes (1998)
  19. Historic Monuments Zone of Tlacotalpan (1998)
  20. Archaeological Monuments Zone of Xochicalco (1999)
  21. Historic Fortified Town of Campeche (1999)
  22. Ancient Maya City of Calakmul, Campeche (2002)
  23. Franciscan Missions in the Sierra Gorda of Querétaro (2003)
  24. Luis Barragán House and Studio (2004)
  25. Islands and Protected Areas of the Gulf of California (2005)
  26. Agave Landscape and Ancient Industrial Facilities of Tequila (2006)
  27. Central University City Campus of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) (2007)
  28. Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve (2008)
  29. Protective town of San Miguel and the Sanctuary of Jesús Nazareno de Atotonilco (2008)
  30. Camino Real de Tierra Adentro
  31. Prehistoric Caves of Yagul and Mitla in the Central Valley of Oaxaca (2010)

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