Cenote Ik Kil © Vicente Villamon
Mexico is vibrant, colourful and unique. Its varied terrain ranges from cactus-studded deserts to white sandy beaches and blue waters, tropical rainforest and jungle-clad hills to steep rocky canyons and narrow gorges, and from snow-capped volcano peaks to huge, bustling cities. The extraordinary history of the country is visible in the ancient Mayan temples strewn across the jungles, the ruins of Aztec civilisations, rural indigenous villages, Spanish colonial cities, silver mining towns, and traditional Mexican ports.
Since the height of the Mayan and Aztec civilisations, Mexico has suffered the destructive force of the Conquistadors, European colonial rule, civil and territorial wars, rebellions, dictatorships, recessions and earthquakes. Despite all this, Mexico's people are warm and friendly, much of the countryside remains unspoilt by development, and its cities have a unique blend of architecture. Mexican Buildings display a striking combination of colonial and pagan architecture, blending together Art Nouveau, Baroque, Art Deco and Native American design in churches and public structures. The country's culture is a similar blend of the traditional and modern, where pagan meets Christian in a series of festivals, or fiestas, throughout the year.
Mexico also has several hundred miles of coastline extending down through both the Pacific and the Caribbean, home to numerous extremely popular beach resorts. Resort cities such as Acapulco, Cancun and those of the Baja California peninsula are vacation havens. The countryside enclosing these summer retreats is also rich in archaeological treasures with pyramids, ruins of ancient cities and great stone carvings of ancient gods standing as testament to a country once ruled by the Aztecs and Mayans.
Violence linked to the drug cartels is widespread but seldom aimed at tourists. Despite recent reports of drug wars and safety issues, Mexico remains a hugely popular and predominantly safe tourist destination.