Mexico has over 29,000 sites of archaeological interest, with more discoveries being made every day. The history of Mexico and its people spans more than three millennia. First populated more than 13,000 years ago, the territory had various complex indigenous civilizations before being conquered by the Spanish in the 16th century.
The ancient Aztec city of Teotihuacán, located northeast of the city in Mexico, is arguably the most well-known archaeological attraction in Mexico which includes the Pyramid of the Sun, the third-largest pyramid in the world and the ominously named Avenue of Death.
The earliest known Mexican civilisation, the Olmecs, were based in the tropical lowlands of south central Mexico, in what is now know as Veracruz and Tabasco, from 1600 BCE to 350 BCE. Olmecs have left behind the Olmec colossal heads that they are best known for, with 17 stone heads, sculpted from 20-tonne basalt boulders, unearthed to date.
Calixtlahuaca, capital city of Matlatzinca civilisation, is in the Toluca Valley in the central Mexican highlands. Calixtlahuaca thought to be the third-largest Aztec-period city in central Mexico, was first excavated in the 1930s. It has well preserved ceremonial and residential areas including a life-sized sculpture of Ehecatl, the Aztec god of wind, discovered in the largest circular temple of the site.
Xochicalco is one of Mexico’s most important archaeological sites and a Unesco World Heritage Site. Thought to have been central to Toltec, Olmec, Zapotec, Mixtec and Aztec cultures. The site, made up of 10 square kilometres, contains a group of white stone ruins including the Piramide de Quetzalcoatl, known for its intricate stone carvings. The entire site is sits a plateau and offers an incredible panorama. With amazing beaches, ancient ruins, alluring culture, dynamic cities ladened with colonial architecture; Mexico truly is a tropical treasure trove.
UK: If you’re visiting Mexico as a tourist you don’t need a visa, but you’ll need to complete an immigration form and have this with you when you enter and leave Mexico. You can get one either when you arrive (forms are available at border crossings or on-board flights to Mexico) or online in advance from the National Institute of Immigration website.
USA: Not required for stays up to 180 days in duration.
Mexican’s wear modern western-style clothing, although this tends to be a little more formal and modest than in the USA. In rural and interior areas, women don’t often wear shorts, and men almost never do. It's advisable to avoid revealing clothes, especially when traveling alone. Lightweight pants and long skirts are good options, as are blouses and tops that cover the cleavage and midriff. Cropped shorts, short skirts and tank tops would be unacceptable to visit a church in, but longer shorts and t-shirts would be fine. Ensure you pack comfortable walking shoes if you're going to visit archaeological sites and a closed-toe shoe is best for climbing surfaces that are uneven.
When Mexican women greet each other in social situations they pat each other on the right forearm or shoulder, they don’t shake hands. Men will shake hands if they don’t know someone well, but will hug friends that they are more aquatinted with, generally including much back-slapping.
It is considered polite to not use first names until you are invited to. If you are invited to a Mexican's house you’ll be expected to take a gift for them with you, something small like flowers or sweets. Some flowers should be avoided however, marigolds symbolise death, or any red flowers, which also have negative connotations. White flowers are a safe bet as they are considered to be uplifting.
Gifts are opened as soon as they are presented, and an enthusiastic reaction is considered polite.
If you are invited somewhere, be aware that arriving on time is considered ill mannered. Normally 30 minutes late is considered best practice, but it can be worth checking if you are unsure.
Spanish is most widely spoken and then there are 68 Amerindian languages. Nahuatl is the most-widely spoken Amerindian language, spoken by nearly a quarter of Mexican Native Americans.
With USA so close, tipping in Mexico is to be expected. Mexico tends to follow the general guidelines of the US for tipping. So, it is standard to leave a 15% tip when dining out. Sometimes a tip may be included so look out for ‘propina’ on your bill.