Party capitals and Caribbean coasts
Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula offers up some of the best-looking beaches in the world – huge sweeps of white sand, palm forest fringes, and bright blue waters. The area is much more than just sand and sea, though, making it a top pick for those who like to balance beach days with adventurous days out.
Mayan, Aztec and Spanish archaeological parks sprinkle the region, from the temples and pyramids at Chichen Itza and Coba to the clifftop ruins at Tulum. This slice of Caribbean coast is a real natural beauty, too. Tropical jungle and mangroves make appearances, as do cenotes – freshwater lakes formed when soft limestone caves collapse to create wild swimming spots.
The city of Cancun is up in the north of the peninsula. Luxe beach hotels, Latin-flavoured nightlife and Mexcal bars put it at the lively end of the scale, while the sea turtle sanctuary and scuba diving sites of Isla Mujures stretch out just offshore.
Towns further south have a less developed feel. Tulum on the Riviera Maya is a sleepily bohemian place stocked with roadside craft stalls and ramshackle beach bars serving margaritas and fish tacos.
Playa del Carmen represents the middle ground. There are plenty of bars, restaurants and shops along 5th Avenue and the beachfront, but the tempo is turned down a few notches compared to its northerly neighbour Cancun.
Flight time from the UK to Mexico's Caribbean coast is around 11 hours.
Mexico is a year-round beach destination, with temperatures rarely dipping below 20°C – even in winter. The summer months are at their hottest between May and September, which have average temperatures of 28°C. While short rain showers are possible, they are helpful in taking the edge off the heat.
UK citizens travelling to Mexico do not currently require a visa. You will need to fill out a tourist card, which you will be provided with on arrival.
Mexico has a tipping etiquette similar to the USA. Service employees typically receive little or no base salary, so tips make up the bulk of their salary. Try to tip about 15% of the bill in restaurants and bars unless the bill includes propina (gratuity). Taxi drivers do not usually get tipped unless they have provided an extra service like loading or unloading your bags.
The official language of Mexico is Spanish. English is widely spoken too, so getting by is easy.
No vaccines are required or recommended for travel to Mexico, however all routine immunisations should be up to date. For full details, please contact your GP.
The Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos or Hanal Pixan in Mayan) is one of the most spectacular festivals. Mexicans welcome the souls of dead ancestors with parades, church services and elaborately decorated altars between 31 October and 2 November. Xcaret Park on the Riviera Maya lays on a family-friendly version that showcases a different Mexican state’s Day of the Dead traditions every year.
The island of Cozumel is famous for its pre-Lent carnival (usually at the beginning of February). Expect a New Orleans-style Mardis Gras with spectacular costume competitions and seafront processions.
Fancy partying like an ancient Mayan? Time your trip to Chichen Itza for the sacred Spring Equinox (20 March) or Autumn Equinox (22 or 23 September). Hundreds of people gather to see a snake-like shadow slide down from the top of the Temple of Kukulkan, just as the Mayans did 2,000 years ago.