Mexico — Attractions
Outside of spring breakers, the biggest attraction for most visitors to Mexico is the rich and enchanting history bestowed in the many ancient ruins and monuments located throughout the country’s varied landscapes. Major highlights include the primal Maya palace nestled in the jungles at Palenque, and the impressive pyramid complex at one of the Americas once great cities, Teotihuacan. Even within Mexico’s current major cities, especially the capital, the history of this mesmerizing country is never far off.
Construction of the continent’s largest cathedral was started by the Spanish conquistadors in 1573. However, it took around 250 years for this behemoth structure to be completed. The capital city’s most symbolic icon incorporates a myriad of architectural styles including Renaissance, Baroque, and Neoclassic. Overlooking the Zocalo, one of the world’s most famous plazas, the cathedral is one of Mexico’s most culturally significant buildings.
Address: Zocalo, Mexico City
National Museum of Anthropology
Dedicated to the pre-colonial civilizations of Mexico, the National Museum of Anthropology is a vast, 12-hall complex exhibiting some of the country’s most significant archaeological discoveries. The most notable artifacts on show include a 16th century statue of Xochipilli, the Aztec god of art and beauty, and the Piedra del Sol, a Mexican calendar stone discovered in 1790. It is Mexico’s most visited museum; welcoming around two million people each year, but don’t let the crowds deter you from this valuable look into history.
Address: Paseo de la Reforma Mexico, Mexico City
A truly remarkable pyramid complex located 30 miles north of the capital city in the mountainous Valle de Mexico, this outstanding feat stands as a tribute to the technological genius of the Teotihuacan civilization. It was once one of the greatest cities in the Americas and is believed to have been constructed at the turn of the 1st millennium CE. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the complex includes the remains of large residential areas, preserved murals, and the Avenue of the Dead, which connects the two great pyramids – the Pyramid of the Sun and Pyramid of the Moon.
Address: north of Mexico City
Perhaps the most renowned of Mexico’s restored Mayan sites, Chichen Itza was voted one of the new Seven Wonders of the World. A ceremonial city built by the great Mayan civilization over 1,000 years ago, the most significant of the restored ruins is El Castillo, or the Temple of Kukulkan (feathered serpent god). The centerpiece of the site is the 30-meter high step pyramid,, which draws huge crowds during the spring and fall equinoxes. As the sun moves around the pyramid, the northwest corner casts a shadow on the stairs, resembling a feathered serpent wriggling down.
Address: Tinum, Yucatan
A beautiful island located in the Caribbean Sea, Cozumel offers a great escape from the mainland. Hugely popular with divers due to its impressive barrier reefs and turquoise waters, the area is also to home to a number of small Mayan ruins. One of the best times to visit is around the end of April, when the five-day El Cedral Festival is held. Celebrations include bullfights, music, rodeos, and authentic feasts.
Address: Quintana Roo State
Yet another one of Mexico’s many World Heritage sites, the ancient city and national park of Palenque is perhaps the most mystical of all the primal ruins. This Mayan city was lost to the jungle for centuries, until it was rediscovered in 1840. The excavated area only stands at around one square mile, which is believed to be less than 10 percent of the city. The site has some of the best examples of Mayan architecture found in Mexico, including some incredible sculptures, bas-relief carvings, and roof combs.
Address: Southern Mexico
Located in Chihuahua State, the impressive Copper Canyon is actually a group of six canyons which form a network several times larger than the famous Grand Canyon. It is home to some of the country’s most stark and stunning scenery, which include 23 different species of pine trees and 200 different species of oak in addition to hard-to-spot, endangered cougars. There are a number of great ways to explore the canyon network and surrounding landscape, including trekking tours and a train ride.
Address: Chihuahua State, Southern Mexico
Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel de Barrera
Located on the outskirts of the vibrant Guanajuanto, the Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel de Barrera is a stunning colonial house which now operates as a museum, making it a great excuse to get out of the city and experience some of Hispanic Mexico’s sumptuous architecture. Originally home to Captain Gabriel de Barrera who made his fortune mining, the 17th century building became a museum in 1979 and offers insight into the opulent lifestyle of the former colonial residents. The surrounding grounds are an attraction in themselves with bucolic gardens laden with fountains, pavilions, and pools.
Address: Camino Antiguo a Marfil, near Guanajuato, Guanajuato State