Marvelling at a 1300-year-old Maya palace at Palenque as parrots screech and howler monkeys growl in the sweaty emerald jungle around you. This is Mexico. Sliding from a palm-fringed sandy beach into the warm, turquoise waves of the Pacific at Puerto Vallarta. This, too, is Mexico. Dining on salmon enchiladas and chrysanthemum salad at a Mexico City fusion restaurant, dancing through the night at a high-energy Guadalajara nightclub, kayaking at dawn past a colony of Baja California sea lions – all these are unique Mexican experiences. Every visitor goes home with their own unforgettable images. Such a large country, straddling temperate and tropical zones, reaching 5km into the sky and stretching 10,000km along its coasts, with a city of 19 million people at its center and countless tiny pueblos everywhere, can hardly fail to provide a huge variety of options for human adventure.
Planning your first trip to Mexico? Be ready for more crowds, noise, bustle and poverty than you're accustomed to, especially if it's your first trip outside the developed world. But don't worry – most Mexicans will be only too happy to help you feel at home in their country. Invest a little time before your trip in learning even just a few phrases of Spanish – every word you know will make your trip that little bit easier and more enjoyable.
Travel Alert: The level of drug-related violence throughout Mexico is a major problem, with the states of Chihuahua, Sinaloa, Durango and northern Baja California the worst affected. Tourists are not specifically targeted, but any travellers visiting these areas, and in particular the cities of Ciudad Juárez, Nogales and Tijuana should exercise extreme caution. Check Safe Travel for current government warnings.