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Mexico offers travellers a tantalising smorgasbord of nature, history, cuisine and culture. Aztec and Mayan archaeological treasures, tequila, charming colonial cities, Mexican food and beach culture, all these features and more make up this tourist and historical hub. Culture vultures will be bowled over by the impressive sites of ancient civilisations that moulded Mexico’s great Pre-Columbian history, while nature lovers will be in their element on the pristine beaches along its 10 000-kilometre coastline, or exploring the country’s rainforests, mountain peaks and mangrove lagoons. Gourmands flock here for the distinctive and flavourful cuisine that has become famous the world over.
cuisine & Drinks
Mexican cuisine is a gloriously rich mix, reflecting the many cultural influences the country has absorbed throughout its history. Nevertheless, the main ingredient in Mexican meals is the humble but versatile corn, prepared in every conceivable way. A basket of hot tortillas – savoury cornmeal pancakes – is always on the table. Tacos, available everywhere, consist of crispy tortillas topped with beef, pork or fish. And there’s a huge range of corn-based antojitos (snacks), including those listed below, which are staples at street stalls across the country.
Fresh fish and shellfish are the main attraction along both coasts. For vegetarians, nopales the succulent leaves of the prickly pear cactus are a good option, as are squash blossoms and all kinds of wild mushrooms. Don’t miss the opportunity to try exotic fruits like zapote (sapodilla) and tuna (cactus fruit).
Water in bottles or marked ‘drinking/sterilised water’ can be drunk without precautions. All other water should be boiled or sterilised before consuming. Milk in major cities, hotels and resorts is pasteurised, otherwise it will probably be unpasteurised. Travellers concerned about drinking unpasteurised milk will find powdered or tinned milk readily available. Only eat well-cooked meat and fish, cooked vegetables and peeled fruit.
Service charges are rarely added to hotel, restaurant or bar bills and many of the staff depend on tips for their livelihood. 15% is expected and 20% if the service has been very good.
CLIMATE AND WEATHER
Mexico is a great destination to visit throughout the year. Altitude is a determining factor with regards to the weather, with cooler temperatures at higher elevations (Mexico City, Puebla, San Cristóbal de las Casas) and warmer, tropical weather as you descend to sea level (Guadalajara, Cuernavaca, Cancun).
Along the Pacific and Caribbean coasts, the winter months (November-February) are warm and sunny. Many Europeans visit during this time to escape winter in their homelands. The summer months (June-August), meanwhile, are very hot and humid with heavy rain showers and the occasional hurricane. October and November are perhaps the best months to visit the interior, after the rains have ended and everything is still green.
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