What springs to mind when you think of Mexico? The ruins of ancient civilisations? Idyllic white beaches flanked by crystal waters? Green and white VW taxis? Lucha libre? Tequila? Tacos?
There’s much more to Mexico than that though. So come with us as we go off-the-beaten path and discover some of the country’s lesser-known, but no less impressive, attractions…
Lagoons and ancient ruins
Sitting just 20-miles off the border with Belize, the remote town of Bacalar is home to a breath-taking 40-mile freshwater lagoon known as Lago de Seis Colores or the Lake of Seven Colours.
The entire area is perfect for kayaking, swimming or just sitting back and watching the wildlife; but the lagoon’s most striking feature has to be Cenote Azul – a half-mile wide, 600-foot deep spring-water cavern.
Head back in time and visit the San Felipe Fort, which dates back to the 18th-century, when it was used to guard against pirates entering Mexico from the Caribbean. Or take the 45-minute trip to Kohunlich, one of Mexico’s least explored ruins, where the only chatter you’ll hear is not that of tourists but of monkeys, toucans and crickets.
Volcanoes and mountain glaciers
Mexico isn’t all about jungle ruins and stunning beaches, with its vast mountain ranges, volcanoes and glaciers often overlooked.
So instead of kicking back and relaxing when you get there, why not traverse majestic La Malinche? or challenge yourself to the twin peaks of Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuatl, with its year-round glaciers?
A grand canyon
The Copper Canyon in southwest Chihuahua is several times larger than Nevada’s enormous ravine; meaning Mexico could well be the only place where you can witness a canyon grander than the famous US landmark.
For the best views, climb aboard the Chihuahua al Pacifico Railway and let it take you over some 37 bridges and through 86 tunnels, as it makes its 8,000-foot ascent.
A bomb site
A bomb crater formed as a result of target practice by the Mexican government might not be top of your list of sights to see in Mexico. But the site on Marieta Islands in Puerto Vallarta is more than a bomb crater; it’s a stunning secluded beach.
The islands are part of a nature resort and the hidden beach, known as Playa De Amor, the Beach of Love, can only be accessed by swimming through a short tunnel that opens up into the stunning, secluded beach.
Arts, crafts, culture and shopping
The quaint colonial village of Tlaquepaque is renowned for its long history of pottery making, and at the Regional Ceramics Museum you can try your hand at some the ancient techniques locals still use, to craft their clay creations.
It also has a great shopping district, the best of which can be found along the pedestrianized Independencia and Avenida Juarez, where you’ll find craft stalls, flower sellers and great food from the local vendors.
And if you simply can’t think Mexico without thinking tequila, you can take a luxury train ride to the town of Tequila and see how the spirit is processed; alongside some taste-testing.
If you’re a 24-hour party person then a trip to Oaxaca is a must – Mexico’s festive capital city is always hosting a celebration of some kind, usually including dancing, processions, fireworks and brass bands.
And if the partying gets too much, the colonial city’s main square museums and art galleries are well worth a visit. Or take a trip just out of town and watch the villagers craft black-clay pottery and colourful animal carvings.