The Mexican Plateau dominates the interior of the country and is enclosed by two mountain ranges, which are an extension of the Rocky Mountains; the Sierra Madre Oriental (east) and the Sierra Madre Occidental (west) – these run parallel to each other from north to south. A third mountain range, the Sierra Madre del Sur, joins the two larger ranges at the southern tip of the country – the lowlands at the foot of these ranges merge into the coast.
The Sonoran Desert spreads from the US into the northwestern states of Mexico. Desert then becomes forest, as the altitude increases towards the east in the Sierra Madre Occidental mountain range. There are two major rivers in Mexico and both originate in Colorado. The Rio Grande flows south, sticking to the U.S/Mexican border until it enters the Gulf of Mexico, and the Colorado River, which runs south-east towards the Gulf of California.
Central Mexico is higher and has a more stable temperate climate. In contrast, the coast has a tropical climate experiencing hotter and wetter conditions. July and August are peak tourist seasons, although humidity rises in June and stays high until October. Between November and January, the higher areas of the country experience much cooler temperatures.
With a high population density and multi-billion dollar tourist industry, Mexico has large cities and many international airports. The major urban areas are Mexico City (Mexico’s capital), Guadalajara, Toluca, Puebla – all found in valleys between the mountain ranges; Cancun (on the Yucatan Peninsula), Monterrey (northern Mexico), Acapulco (on the south-west coast) and Oaxaca (in the south).
Although bull sharks are not known for their aggressive behaviour towards humans, the shark diving experience off of the Yucatan Peninsula ensures divers’ safety comes first: important as you are diving in prime feeding grounds. The feeding cages provide the ultimate way to experience a very close encounter with feeding sharks. There is the opportunity to snorkel and dive with the more gentle whale sharks, as well as being able to see dolphins, sea turtles and many smaller fish in the coral reefs.
Warm clear waters and expert tuition and guidance, help to make Mexico an inviting pace to scuba dive. On the south-west coast the coral reefs of the Caribbean are home to sea turtles, barracudas and many tropical fish. On the west coast near La Paz you may spot hammerhead sharks, moray eels, sea lions and anchovies. For something really different try cave scuba-diving in Tulum. PADI courses are also available for those with a longer stay wanting to gain a formal qualification.
The perfect place for kite surfing is off of the Yucatan Peninsula in the south of Mexico; the winds are consistent, the water warm and the beaches sandy. Whether you are a total beginner wanting to try out on land first, or an experienced kite surfer needing some freestyle tips, you will be catered for here. Another great idea for kite surfing is taking a Mexico cruise so you can visit multiple exotic beaches all in one fantastic vacation perfect for any kite surfer.
Mexico has more than 170,000 square kilometres of protected natural areas – no surprise then that it is a favourite destination for wildlife lovers. Eco Colours Tours guides you through crocodile swamps, takes you snorkelling in coral reefs, trekking in jungles and kayaking in wetlands, where you will learn about the wildlife and its habitat, as well as taking part in research projects.
Trekking tours take you by foot, public transport and kayak; through canyons, coastal plains and tropical forests. You will be visiting Mayan temples and cities, as well as taking in some of the amazing scenery, and luxurious resorts. Some tours give you a full historical background of the areas you visit, allowing you to see how the civilisations were built and destroyed. Other tours take you into Guatemala or the Caribbean; a great way to contrast the different cultures and landscapes.
Some experience of long distance cycling, and a good level of fitness are needed as the landscape is varied. Many of the tours allow a break from cycling, so you can travel either by foot or by boat to reach a specific destination, and better explore the many towns and villages that you pass by. There is a real sense of achievement at travelling under your own steam. Whether it is to reach a Mayan temple or Spanish church, or through a forest and along a hilltop just to make it for dinner and to sample some of the tasty Mexican dishes on offer.
Must-see locations around Mexico include the Cloud Forest at Oaxaca, made of pine trees and oak trees, and home to jaguars, pumas and countless species of butterflies. There are many Mayan ruins in Mexico: a particular site of architectural preservation is the Mayan Palace and temples at Palenque in the lower regions of the Tumbala mountains, which look out over marshy plains. The Unesco world heritage site at El Zocalo is the second largest city square in the world; the paved plaza has a long history dating back to the time of the Aztecs. Mexico is also known for its many volcanoes. Pico de Orizaba is the highest peak and is currently dormant, with its last eruption in the late 1600’s. Popocatepetl is the second highest, but is active. Views of the volcano are as equally inspiring from far away, as they are up close.
Mexico, at first, looks as though it is a country of extremes, with deserts, high volcanic peaks and sandy coastal plains. On closer inspection, however, there is much more to this country. Its location on the Tropic of Cancer, and being flanked by two bodies of warm water have created a climate that supports an abundance of wildlife and diversity of flora. The landscape now also plays host to millions of tourists on sporting activities, beach breaks and adventure holidays. But with local communities having so much pride in their surroundings, these natural environments are not being spoiled and remain fascinating places to visit.
Multi-activity tours are an action-packed way of trying many sports on one holiday. Whether it is kayaking through Sian Ka’an’s biosphere, rappelling caves, cycling through Mayan reserves, learning Spanish or walking through jungles; these tours cater for everyone. Mexico also has a slower, but by no means less exciting pace of life, that enjoyed by its deep-sea fishermen and sailors.
Safaris provide a way of enjoying much of what Mexico has to offer. As well as traditional overland tours, there is also the option to view the country’s amazing natural environments from above, at one of its hand gliding spots.