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Mexico is a fascinating and extremely diverse country to visit. This great republic is today an assortment of Mesoamerican cultures and modern indigenous tribes, Spanish traditions and a large, vibrant, modern economy.
Mexico's history dates back as far as around 10,000 BC having been populated with the ancient civilisations of the Olmecs, Maya, Toltecs and Aztecs. The first Spaniards arrived in Mexico in 1517 and the Spanish Conquest of the Aztec Empire began in February 1519 under the hands of Hernan Cortez. The Aztec capital of Tenochtitlán was captured in 1521 by Cortez where he subsequently rebuilt Mexico City on top of the ruins of the Aztec capital. This marked the beginning of a 300 year long colonial period during which Mexico was known as "New Spain". The fusion between indigenous and Spanish cultures during this colonial period gave birth to many of today's Mexican cultural traits such as tequila (first distilled in the 16th century), mariachi (18th), jarabe (17th), charros (traditional Mexican horsemen / cowboys) (17th) and Mexican cuisine - a mixture of European and indigenous ingredients and techniques.
Mexico's diversity extends from its pleasant and warm coastal weather to snow in the Sierra mountains, rainy jungles in the southeast and its iconic cactus strewn deserts in the northwest; its unique food, art and archeology; ancient pyramids, museums and haciendas; the superb architecture of its colonial towns and 21st century cities; numerous golf courses, excellent fishing, and world-class destinations like Acapulco, Cancun, Cozumel, Los Cabos, and Mazatlan along its miles of attractive shoreline.
Mexico has the largest Spanish speaking population in the world and in addition, recognises over 60 indigenous national languages.
A common phrase in Mexico is "ahorita", translating loosely as "a little bit of right now". This could mean almost immediately, or maybe never, depending on the context. Life moves at a different pace in Mexico and the concept of time sometimes seems like it does not exist!
Mexico straddles the southern part of North America. It shares a 3,141km border with the United States of America to the north and Belize and Guatemala to the south, and is bounded by the Gulf of Mexico to the east, the Caribbean Sea to the southeast and by the Pacific Ocean to the west. The Sea of Cortez (or the Gulf of California) is positioned between Baja California and the mainland, forming the world's longest peninsula. Overall, Mexico has 9,330km of coastline. Low coastal plains rise to a central plateau of rolling hills, valleys and farmland. A desert environment surrounded by mountains is dominant in Northern Mexico whilst mountainous jungle hiding Maya and Aztec ruins is prominent in the south.
The Cordillera Neovolcánica extends from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico and includes the active volcanoes Popocatépetl and Volcán de Fuego de Colima, as well as Mexico's other highest peaks: Pico de Orizaba, Iztaccíhuatl, and Paricutín.
The Isthmus of Tehuantepec which runs through southern Veracruz and Chiapas, marks the smallest distance (200km) between the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific. The northern side of the isthmus is wide and marshy whilst lush tropical rainforests and dense jungles occupy the Gulf Coastal Plain, Chiapan Highlands, and the southern Yucatán Peninsula. These regions are hot and humid, keeping the region green and teeming with wildlife. Jungle turns to tropical savanna at the end of the peninsula.
Baja California (Baja California, Baja California Sur)
The western peninsula, which borders the U.S. state of California surrounded by stunning blue water and has an array of marine mammals, including California sea lions, elephant seals, finback whales, humpbacks, blue whales, the California gray whale, and bottle-nosed dolphins.
Northern Mexico (Chihuahua, Coahuila, Durango, Nuevo León, Sinaloa, Sonora, Tamaulipas)
Includes the expansive deserts and Sierra Madre Occidental and Oriental mountains of the border states. Southwestern Chihuahua is home to the Copper Canyon, one of the world's most majestic canyon systems, larger and sometimes deeper than the Grand Canyon in the U.S.
The Bajio (Aguascalientes, Guanajuato, Zacatecas, San Luis Potosi, Querétaro)
Historic states in a traditional silver-mining region.
Central Mexico (Hidalgo, Mexico City, Mexico State, Morelos, Puebla, Tlaxcala, Veracruz)
Centre, surrounding the capital city. Home to the famous agave americana, also known as maguey in Mexico, used to make pulque (similar to tequila) and other useful products.
Pacific Coast (Chiapas, Colima, Guerrero, Jalisco, Michoacan, Nayarit, Oaxaca)
Tropical beaches on Mexico's southern coast. Weber blue agave is the official plant used to make tequila and is mostly grown in the state of Jalisco
Yucatan Peninsula (Campeche, Quintana Roo, Tabasco, Yucatán)
Jungle and impressive Mayan archaeological sites, along with the Caribbean coast.
Mexico is a traveller's and adventure lover's paradise with a wide range of activites to choose from. Some of these include:
Mexico can be visited at any time of the year. The weather at sea level is warm to hot all year, with the most hot, humid and highest rainfall months being June to September. Hurricane season extends from June to November. The interior of the country in the highlands has a more temperate climate and can get quite cold in the winter months of November to February. Traveling in Mexico will also be busy during any of the many fiestas, during Christmas, Easter, the summer months and through the American Spring Break week in March.
The freshwater-filled limestone sinkholes known as Cenotes situated in the state of Yucatan, Mexico lead to some of the most beautiful and intricate underwater caves and caverns in the World. The natural beauty of these cenotes and caves, with its crystal clear turquoise waters, sunlight reflecting stalactites and stalagmites are truly enigmatic works of art drawing divers the world over to explore its waters. With over 3000 Cenotes, 1400 of which have been studied and recorded it's impossible to pick just one as the best. The Riviera Maya has the World's three longest running underwater Cave Sytems - Ox Bel Ha (146.7Km.), Nohoch Nah Chich (61Km.) and Dos Ojos (57.7 Km.). Cenote Dos Ojos, Cenote Tajmahal and Gran Cenote are some of the notable cenotes.
Best Cenote dives Best dive sites in the area: Moc Che Deep, Tortugas, Mama Vina, Cenote Chac Mool, Cenote Dos Ojos, Sabalos, Cenote El Pit
It is possible to dive all year round. Underwater visibility average around 30M/ 100F. Water temperatures: 26-29C/78-85F.
The Great Mesoamerican Reef(the Gran Arrecife Maya) is the second largest barrier reef in the world stretching from the northern tip of the Yucatan in Mexico all the way to the Bay of Islands in Honduras. Dive sites on this reef can be accessed from Mexico along the Mayan Riviera, the coastal stretch between Cancun and Tulum. Here you will find sites to suit divers of all experience levels. Steep walls and drifts dives will be followed by a second dive on shallow, scenic reefs. Eagle rays, turtles, nurse sharks and even whale sharks (Jun-Sep) can all be found amongst schools of smaller reef inhabitants. Then there are the cenotes (flooded limestone cave systems) which have made the Caribbean coast of Mexico world famous.
The waters around Baja California also boast some world class diving destinations. To the east lies one of the world's youngest seas, the Sea of Cortez, home to sea lions, manta rays, barracuda, whales and sharks. Guadalupe Island, 150 miles (240km) off the west coast of Baja California is world renowned for cage diving with the Great White Sharks and 240 miles (386km) south of Cabo San Lucas is Socorro island, part of the Revillagigedo Archipelago (also known as the Mexican Galapagos), a group of four volcanic islands in the Pacific Ocean. This is where you will find a high concentration of the "big stuff" such as Giant Pacific Manta rays, bottlenose dolphins, whale sharks, humpback whales, at least seven species of sharks and many pelagics.
Mexico shares a border with the USA to the north and Belize and Guatemala to the south and is surrounded by the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea andÂ the Pacific Ocean. The international country code for Mexico is +52. Mexico is 6 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (GMT)
(subject to change) Citizens of Australia, New Zealand, USS, Canada & EU countries are amongst those who do not need a visa to enter Mexico. A Tourist Card for a max. stay of 180 days is to be obtained on entry. The cost is approx. US$22 (included in your airfare if entering by air). Please check with your closest Mexican Consulate for the most up-to-date entry requirements. If travelling via the USA, an ESTA visa waiver is required.
The currency of Mexico is the Peso (100 centavos = 1 Peso). Major credit cards are widely accepted. A surcharge may apply for credit card payments or a discount given for cash. US dollars is the most easily exchangeable foreign currency.
1 AUD = approximately 13.00 Mexican Pesos (May 2016)
The official language of Mexico is Spanish with about 6% of the population speaking both Spanish and an indigenous Amerindian dialect.
Ensure that all equipment is serviced and in working order prior to departure. You will need to bring a DIN converter for DIN regulators. Check the season for wetsuit requirements. Dive operators supply tanks, weight belts and dive guide services. There will be an extra charge if equipment hire is required.