The following itineraries span the entire length of this incredibly diverse country, from the deserts and jaw-dropping canyons of the north to the grand colonial cities of the centre and the Mayan ruins, beaches and jungles of the south. Given the vast distances involved, you may not be able to cover everything, but even picking a few highlights will give you a deeper insight into Mexico’s natural and historic wonders.
This three-week tour focuses on the southern and central parts of the country, traditionally the most popular targets for independent travellers.
1 Mexico City
Soak up the museums, murals and markets of the nation’s crazy, high-octane capital, leaving a couple of days for Cholula and Teotihuacán.
Head to Mexico’s most enticing state, its capital the best place to sample mole, mescal and indigenous crafts.
3 Zapotec and Mixtec heartland
After the obligatory visit to Monte Albán, spend two to three days exploring the indigenous markets and lesser-known ruins around Oaxaca.
4 San Cristóbal de las Casas
Heading east into Chiapas this colonial city is worth at least two days, plus a day or two to take in the remarkable Maya villages nearby.
Heading north these are some of the grandest, jungle-smothered Maya ruins in the country, all easily accessible.
6 Yaxchilan and Bonampak
From Palenque you can strike out into the Lacandón Maya heartland and these more isolated, romantic ruins.
Hit the Caribbean coast for the spectacular diving from this offshore island.
8 Playa del Carmen and Tulum
Back on the Yucatán mainland enjoy the balmy beaches and nightlife of the Riviera Maya.
9 Chichén Itzá and cenotes
End your trip by soaking up Mexico’s most magical Maya ruins followed by a dip in the cooling waters of a giant sinkhole.
Mexico is home to exceptionally varied landscapes and ecosystems, but you can get a decent taster in two to three weeks. This tour starts at the US border and works south.
1 Whale watching in Baja
Witness the annual grey whale migration from the central Baja towns of Guerrero Negro and San Ignacio.
2 Cave paintings
Arrange guides in San Ignacio or Mulegé to visit the enigmatic Prehistoric cave art of the Sierra de San Francisco.
3 Bahía Concepción
South of Mulegé lie the finest beaches in Baja, perfect for kayaking or just lounging on the sands.
4 Isla Espíritu Santo
Take a day-trip from La Paz to see sea lions, dolphins, manta rays and whale sharks frolicking.
5 Copper Canyon Railway
Take the ferry from La Paz to Los Mochis and the terminus for this thrilling train ride into the mountains.
6 Hiking in the Sierra Tarahumara
Jump off the Copper Canyon railway to explore remote trails, ruins and Rarámuri settlements.
Continue south along the Pacific to the wildest, least developed stretch of Mexican coast.
8 Climbing volcanoes
Head inland to conquer the majestic peak of the Nevado de Colima, or bypass Mexico City to check out volcanic activity at Popocatépetl.
9 Rafting at Jalcomulco
End up on Mexico’s Gulf coast near Xalapa for whitewater rafting, kayaking, climbing and canyoning.
Spanish Mexico was fuelled by silver, leaving a rich architectural and cultural legacy in the heart of the country. Take at least two weeks to travel this route between Mexico City and Monterrey.
Start by loading up on jewellery at Mexico’s silver capital, just south of Mexico City, a confection of cobbled alleys and colonial, whitewashed homes.
2 Real del Monte, Hidalgo
Head north of Mexico City to this charming mountain retreat, an old mining town with a curious Cornish connection.
Continue into the Bajío to enjoy the cafés, bars, restored mining shafts and creepy nineteenth-century mummies of this grand colonial silver town.
4 San Miguel Allende
Take the short bus ride to the most beautifully preserved and cosmopolitan town in the Bajío, crammed with art galleries and craft stalls.
This crumbling mining community is a less developed, more romantic version of San Miguel, home to vast, abandoned mine workings.
6 San Luis Potosí
Dynamic, booming city with elegant Baroque buildings and museums dedicated to sculptor Federico Silva.
The capital of the northern Bajío is rich in silver history, with the restored El Edén mine, silversmith school and spectacular art collections.
8 Real de Catorce
End with an extended stay among the colonial hotels, ruined mines and haunting desert scenery of this semi-ghost-town, half way to Monterrey.