From its gorgeous beaches to its lush jungles and breathtaking deserts, Mexico is a source of continual delight and surprise. While exploring the country, visitors can take it easy on the beach, trek through pristine national parks, immerse themselves in urban culture, and see some of the world's most important historical sites–all within a few short days. Add the legendary hospitality and warmth of the Mexican people to incredible culinary pleasures, and you have the ingredients for an amazing Latin American adventure.
Mexico City is one of the largest cities in the world, but don't let the city's size overwhelm you. Many of its most intriguing sites are located in the historic center and can be covered in a day or two. Be sure not to miss the National Palace, Metropolitan Cathedral, or the fantastic Plaza Garibaldi, which is one of the best places to catch authentic live mariachi music. When you're tuckered out from sightseeing, relax in Chapultepec Park, Mexico City's largest and most popular park. In the evening, try one of the upscale restaurants in the Art Nouveau-style Condesa district.
The ruins of one of Mesoamerica's greatest cities, Teotihuacan, are just 35 miles northeast of Mexico City. The city was first established around 100 BC, and it quickly became the largest city in the Americas. The identity of its inhabitants is a hotly debated topic, but Teotihuacan has been tied to Toltec, Aztec and Mayan cultures throughout its history. This incredible complex of pyramids is a must-see for guests, and is one of the region's most-visited attractions. Farther south, on the Yucatan Peninsula, the Palenque Ruins offer a fascinating glimpse into Mayan history. The area's exquisite architecture covers over 15 square miles, but an easily explored central core has been excavated.
Mexico typically has warm, dry winters and hot, rainy summers, but altitude and proximity to the coast will also play a big role in temperature. Lower coastal areas tend to be more temperate than the interior, and inland desert areas can see extreme temperature changes from day to night.
Overall, the best time to visit Mexico is during the dry season, from October to mid-May. If you plan to head into the mountains or any high-elevation areas, be sure to bring warm clothing. Temperatures in the mountains can plunge to near-freezing on particularly cold mid-winter nights, even when sea-level temperatures are mild.
If you're planning to visit Mexico City, March, April, and May are when the city really shines. Mexico City is in the mountains and can get a little chilly in the winter, but temperatures become ideal towards March. In these months, you can expect reasonable hotel rates and all the city's gardens in full bloom, but streets are often crowded as everyone wants to go outside and enjoy the weather.
Mexico is generally a safe country to travel in, but if it's your first time there and your Spanish is minimal, booking hotels in tourist-oriented areas is recommended. Luckily, Mexico has many tourists every year, so finding great accommodations isn't difficult. Mexico hotels tend to be less expensive than hotels in many other western countries, and you can usually find a great room for around $100. The hotels around the main plaza, Zocalo, in Mexico City are especially nice.
Outside of Mexico City, accommodations are generally modest and less expensive, except on the coast. Mexico's coastal areas have hotels to suit every type of visitor, and if you want to splurge on one aspect of your trip, a lavish beachfront hotel is an excellent choice. Many mid- to high-range hotels on the coast and in Mexico City offer amenities like wireless Internet, room service and swimming pools, but don't plan for hotels in more remote areas to have much more than a comfortable room and a gorgeous view.