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Riviera Maya – A Beautiful Natural Wonder

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If you were looking for paradise on the Yucatan Peninsula, Riviera Maya or the Mayan Riviera, are probably going to be right up your alley. Although admittedly not set in stone, the area that the Riviera Maya encompasses starts about 10 miles south of Cancun, around the village of Puerto Morelos, and ends in Carrillo Puerto. In between, are famous spots like Playa del Carmen, Puerto Aventuras, Akumal and Tulum, all just waiting to be explored.

Photo Credit: Grand Velas

Photo Credit: Grand Velas

Right at the centre of the Riviera Maya is of course the gorgeous Playa del Carmen. This coastal resort town offers relaxation, lots of small accommodation options in a more boutique market, and a remarkably European kind of atmosphere. Popular activities in the area are mainly focused around water sports, and there are a number of operators in the area that specialize in providing these for visitors. Offshore you’ll find part of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the second largest coral system in the world. Thanks to this, snorkeling, diving and of course fishing very popular.

Another popular activity that one can find all over the Riviera Maya area is that of cenotes exploring. Cenotes are freshwater sinkholes, varying in size but overwhelmingly having unparalleled water clarity. Some of them are open air, while other more interesting cenotes can be found in cave areas under the ground. There are a large variety in the Riviera Maya available for visitors to have a look around in, and either swim, or try their hand at cenotes diving.

For those who like the ideas of cenotes, there’s yet another activity that will no doubt impress: exploring the Rio Secreto. This underground river is one of the most amazing natural wonders of the Riviera Maya area. A veritable maze of passageways created over time due to the movement of the water and other geological processes. Visitors can explore the area with guided tours, which provide wetsuits as much of the tour involves swimming in the shallow water. Most impressive of the entire area though is just how clear the underground water is, with amazing visibility that makes the entire experience seem very magical.
While we’re celebrating the incredible natural wonders of the Riviera Maya, it is also worth mentioning about the many eco theme parks in the area. These parks might be privately owned, but they are an amazing location for visitors to go, offering sheltered bays with very clear water, in which a variety of wildlife can be seen.

One of these parks, Xel-Ha, calls itself a natural aquarium. Visitors there can swim with dolphins, see sea turtles, snorkel, scuba and even cliff-dive. With the park fee you get free drinks, and there’s a buffet restaurant perfect for lunch.

Another, Xplor, features a number of limestone caves and grottos, as well as incredible underground river systems that can be explored with rafts, on foot, by swimming or on amphibious transports. As if that wasn’t enough, there’s also aboveground adventures in the form of nearly 2 miles of zip-lines allowing you to fly through the trees.

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5 Things To See in Mexico City

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What is it exactly that makes Mexico City so wonderfully weird, capturing the minds and imaginations of visitors worldwide? Indeed, not even the vicious rumors of the city’s crime rates seem to deter the veritable flood of tourists looking for that special something.

Mexico City is, by estimates anyway, the world’s third largest urban centre, possible home to some 20 million people, and is situated an incredible 2200 meters above sea level. If that isn’t enough to get you lightheaded, then Mexico City might be the perfect place for you to visit. And with these five amazing destinations just waiting to be discovered, it might be you who figures out just what is so amazing about Mexico’s capital.

The Plaza de la Contitucion (a.k.a. Zocalo)

zocalo

Measuring around 830 by 500 feet, this is one of the biggest public squares in the world. The perfect place to start your exploring, the plaza is sparsely decorated, housing nothing but a gigantic Mexican flag. However, this is certainly the heart of the city, and almost all festivals, events and even protests are held here.

Templo Mayor

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The Great Temple of Mexico City was discovered very much by accident, when in 1978 electrical workers digging next to a cathedral uncovered a large stone with an image of the Aztec moon goddess. In the excavation that followed, a giant temple was discovered, dedicated to the gods of rain and war. There’s a museum attached, as well as scale models and artefacts from the site.

Palacio Nacional

palacionacional

Mexico City’s National Palace is a historically and culturally significant building that takes up the entire east side of the Zocalo plaza. Inside are the national archives and federal treasury, but what’s sure to tickle anyone’s fancy are the murals showing thousands of years of Mexican history, the work of Diego Rivera.

Xochimilco

xochimilco

The Aztec’s floating gardens, known as the chinampas, were a positively genius idea that helped them create farming land in the middle of a lake. Now, the site is open for visitors, and you can ride the brightly coloured boats along canals, purchase refreshments and Mexican curios from the vendors on other barges, and (if you’re in the mood) hire a mariachi band to sing to you as you float along.

Teotihuacan

teotihuacan

Although actually located some 25 miles outside Mexico City, there’s no denying that Teotihuacan should be at the top of your ‘to do’ list. This “city of the gods” is outstanding, and the archaeological site that between 200BC and 800AD housed some 200,000 people will no doubt amaze you. One of the largest cities in the world at its peak Teotihuacan, even in ruins, will blow you away.

As you can see, there’s more than you expected in Mexico City, and by checking out these amazing sites, as well as the hundreds of other locations and activities on offer, you’re sure to have a memorable time in the country’s capital.

Photos: cadampol, cindro, migulski, oprior

Colonial Cities Family Puebla Visiting Mexico

Puebla – Mexico’s Church Capital

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Once upon a time, Puebla was the centre of conservatism, tradition and above all, Catholicism. But luckily for visitors, this city of churches is finally starting to come out of its shell. Perhaps due to past isolations from the modern world, Puebla has a remarkably well-preserved colonial centre, which includes an amazing cathedral and a veritable treasure chest of beautiful churches.

Photo Credit: Luisjromero

Photo Credit: Luisjromero

For religious visitors, there is sure to be something that will wonder and amazing in Puebla. In the historical centre alone there are over 70 churches as well as the cathedral. The cathedral was completed in 1649, and has the tallest bell towers in Mexico. It’s a must see for sure, but you’ll find yourself spoilt for options when looking at the other churches. There are indeed so many, you’ll find it impossible to see them all (unless you’re in town quite a while).

Still, make sure that you at least see Iglesia de Santo Domingo, once a part of a Dominican monastery completed around 1611. It has some lovely baroque altars, and the incredible Capilla del Rosario, or Rosary Chapel, which is well worth a look. Also consider making your way to the church of La Compañía, which has an interesting and rather gruesome history involving the beheading of a conman. If you’re on a roll you might also check out the Tonantzintla and Acatepec churches. Both were build during the late 1600s and early 1700s in Baroque style, and are known for being quite extravagantly decorated both inside and out.

While you’re trying to get the most out of your church experience in Puebla be sure to have a good look around the area of the historical centre. Containing over one thousand colonial buildings, it was granted a UNESCO World Heritage title in 1987. What makes it particularly famous (and beautiful) is the use of azulejos on the buildings. These painted ceramic tiles are on of the things that Puebla is most well known for.

Other curios in the city of Puebla include Cuexcomate, the world’s biggest geyser volcano. You can find it in the suburb of La Libertad, right in the main square, where it stands some 13 meters. There is also a staircase that visitors can descend to see what lies inside the cone.

Oddly, one of the most impressive cultural examples around Puebla is not the local Mexican culture at all. Instead it is the remains and descendents of Italian immigrants who came to the area of Chipilo in the late 1800s. Located just 15 minutes drive from downtown Puebla, Chipilo is the best place to go if you’re really looking for authentic Italian food, crafts and culture. There’s pasta, pizza, cheese, and most importantly, gelato. Even more interesting to note is that the language that people are speaking around you is a functionally extinct version of 19th century Venetian, which exists only in the area. This results in a uniquely multi-cultural experiences like nothing you’ll see anywhere else in the world except Puebla.

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Manzanillo: Mexico’s Sailfish Capital

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Manzanillo is currently in what you might call a mid-life location crisis. In one view, it is the busiest commercial seaport in Mexico, with cargo ships, pleasure cruises and even naval vessels from around the world coming through regularly. Yet in another it’s a bustling tourist destination, with beach bums finding themselves more than catered for on its golden sand beaches. Unfortunately, this is leading to a little mismatch, with oil from the harbour sometimes finding its way to the beach, and nightclubs closing as fast as they’re opening.

Photo Credit: Rahul

Photo Credit: Rahul

Luckily, there’s been a bit of money put into the area, spent wisely on a beautiful beachfront malecón as well as a gorgeous plaza by the seaside, and sculpture gardens to keep visitors occupied. And, even if the city itself doesn’t tickle your fancy, its wealth of accommodation and food options for all budgets makes it a perfect spot to base yourself whilst exploring the incredible beaches up and down the coast.

With a whopping average of 350 days of sunshine a year, it’s no surprise that Manzanillo is a beach-lovers paradise. Visitors to the area will find the beaches not too hot (thanks to Manzanillo’s proximity to the Sierra Madra Moutains) and scattered with seafood palapas (beachside eateries).

Beaches are also a great spot to try local sweets and drinks that are unique to this area in Mexico. Favorites with visitors include agua de tuba, made from the juice of coconut palms, as well as the interesting tejuino, a fermented corn drink. For deserts (or sweet snacking) do yourself a favour and sample alfajor de coco, a candy made with coconut and flour, as well as cocadas, baked candies with coconut, egg yolks and sugar.

The hotel zone is located around 5 miles north of downtown, and luckily, this is where some of the best beaches are found, as well as two world-class golf courses, and a smattering of luxury resorts.

For the fishermen travelling Mexico’s coast, Manzanillo is famous as being the “Sailfish Capital of the World” with a startling abundance of marlin, sailfish and other large specimens just off the coast. There are international fishing tournaments hosted by the community every year, attracting sports fisherman from around the world. But, if fishing isn’t for you, there are lots of other great activities including swimming, scuba diving, snorkeling and surfing at beaches like Cuyutlán.

You won’t find it much of a challenge to enjoy the local Manzanillo cuisine, which is made up of a variety of local ingredients, and seafood, both fresh from farm and sea. Most Manzanillo restaurants will offer a great sample of the local eats, but be sure to check out some of the town’s signature dishes. This includes Colima ceviche, a dish of ground fish decked with tomato, onion, carrots, chilli, lots of orange and lemon juice presented on fried tortillas.
With such a variety of activities as well as cultural experiences, it’s no surprise that Manzanillo is only growing in popularity with visitors to Mexico.

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What to expect when visiting Los Cabos in Mexico

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Before you commit to travelling to places like Los Cabos in Mexico, it is of utmost importance to take note of some of the things that are native to them. For all you know, you might end up disrespecting others or maybe a tad bit lost on how to do things their way. And for this endeavor, seeking out Los Cabos reviews online might be your best bet if you want all the relevant information that will be useful for a better travelling experience, especially for people from overseas.

Photo Credit: Kirt Edblom

Photo Credit: Kirt Edblom

Getting Around the Place

For all the beauty of Los Cabos in pictures and advertisements online, you never really know what to expect unless you’re already there. How will you get around? Is there public transportation available? Do you have to rent a car? How much is it? These are all necessary questions that can be taken from Los Cabos reviews and it would be best to know about them before actually traveling to the place.

Know What People Think

Another good thing about looking up Los Cabos reviews is the fact that you can hear about the personal experiences of the people who have travelled there. You can trust that they can evaluate the place objectively instead of giving out positive things all the time. It will be very helpful in determining the perfect accommodations for your stay so that you don’t end up losing out on your money’s worth.

Sights to See

The Playa del Amor and the El Arco de Cabo San Lucas is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg when talking about what Los Cabos has in store for travelers. By reading Los Cabos reviews online, you can get acquainted with the different activities to enjoy in the place like golf, fly boarding, golf, eco expeditions, and so many more. You can prepare your itineraries beforehand so you don’t get overwhelmed about the seemingly endless possibilities upon reaching the place.

Whether you decide to go for marine dining feasts, ATV rides, trips to beaches or maybe a tour through the scenic towns near Los Cabos, reading online reviews on how to go about it will be very helpful when planning out your stay. Overspending can be a problem for travelers when they get carried away and in order to keep your travelling budget intact while enjoying most of what the place has to offer, reading about the details online is one sure way to prepare.

Los Cabos definitely presents a picturesque paradise for those people who want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city life. Take note that for any travel endeavor, preparation is always the key and going online to get it is your best shot at enjoying your stay at Los Cabos and nearby places without having to worry about troubles.

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Copper Canyon’s High Ride By Train

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Copper Canyon (in spanish “Barrancas del Cobre” or “Cañón del Cobre”), despite its name, is not actually one canyon at all. In fact, it’s six distinct canyons in the Sierra Madre Occidental mountain range in the southwestern state of Mexico, called Chihuahua. Formed by six rivers, Copper Canyon is a canyon system that is both larger overall and with deeper proportions than the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Copper Canyon gets it’s interesting name from the walls of the canyons, which are a copper green colour.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The area of Copper Canyon is steeped in a history that is both interesting and fraught with despair. When the Spanish arrived in the 17th century, and later discovered silver, the local tribes (called the Tarahumara) were enslaved for mining. Following land disputes, the local people were eventually driven off the desirable and silver rich lands, settling up on the cliffs of the canyon. Luckily, the Tarahumara, also known as the Rarámuri, survived this treatment, and indeed many still live traiditional lives in natural cave shelters, and cliff overhangs. This makes for a unique site for tourists, as does the Tarahumara’s other skill of long-distance running prowess. It amazes many tourists to learn that it was once totally normal behaviour for the Tarahumara to run up to 200 miles (320km) in just two days to travel between villages in the area.

Although it has a sad history, the future of Copper Canyon looks much brighter, and is only now beginning to grow in popularity with travellers. There are so many options for exploration around the area, including hiking, biking, driving and even horseback riding. However, the most popular way is definitely by train.
The Ferrocarril Chihuahua al Pacífico, colloquially known as ChePe, is a train line that runs along Canyon Urique (the main canyon) between Chihuahua and Los Mochis on California’s Gulf. Containing some 405 miles of rails, including 86 tunnels and 39 bridges, construction on the Chihuahua al Pacifico began in the late 19th century and didn’t finish until 1961. But travellers everywhere are grateful that the construction was able to succeed in the difficult terrain, as a trip along the line is memorable to say the least. Although it takes around 15 hours from start to finish, travellers are able to see numerous towns along the way, as well as the incredible cliffs of the canyons. Riding the train is also a great way to see the local Tarahumarans, who lay food and wares out on the line for sale.

With such a unique experience awaiting visitors to Copper Canyon, it’s easy to see why the destination is growing in popularity. Add that to the small towns in the area also available to explore, as well as natural wonders such as the caves at Grutas de Nombre de Dios and beautiful surrounding jungle and Copper Canyon is the full package. So whether you’re an eco-tourist or a aspiring travel photographer, there’s something for everyone at Copper Canyon.

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Coast and Culture in Mazatlán, Sinaloa

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Mazatlán, Sinalona has done something that few resort towns in Mexico have ever managed: it’s grown up. The slightly tacky resort town from the mid-20th century is now one of Mexico’s most attractive beach destinations, and it is bringing in the crowds. In the last ten years, the ‘Pearl of the Pacific’ has managed to bring new life to its historical centre, leaving something that can barely be believed. A gorgeous historical city, with a magnificent colonial district located just a stone’s throw from a sandy bay with a perfect beach some 20 kilometres long.

mazatlan

Photo Credit: Wonderlane

Those wanting to enjoy the new vibe of Mazatlán should make sure to check out pueblo viejo, that is old town, first before getting too caught up in the Zona Dorada (Golden Zone). While the Golden Zone offers only the expected in a tourist centre in the form of overpacked eateries, resort hotels and lots of knickknack, pueblo viejo is something much more interesting.

Strolling through the cobblestone streets visitors to Mazatlán will find themselves enchanted with the careful balance achieved between crumbling ruin, and lovingly resorted gem in the midst of a significant revolution of culture. The Teatro Ángela Peralta is a perfect example of this restoration, and has a regular bill of great performances, which are best followed by some local treats from the many incredible restaurants nearby. Days are easily swallowed here in the many tiny museums and small shops, and when the sun sinks below the horizon in a blaze of glory you’ll barely known where the time has gone.

Other attractions in the Mazatlán area include the marketplace, in the historic centre of town, where shoppers will find themselves satisfied. There’s everything from t-shirts to cultural tidbits and handicrafts available there, as well as a meat and fruit market for locals in the middle. Also take in the beautiful Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, which was finished in 1899 and through restoration looks more beautiful every day, if that’s possible. Keep your eye out on the front windows at the top for a Star of David, a unique addition among Catholic churches due to large donations from a local Jewish family towards its construction at the time.

mazatlan-lightouse

Credit: Clint Tseng

However, for the best look at Mazatlán, there is nowhere better to go than the lighthouse. This particular construction is now the highest natural lighthouse in the world, following the decommissioning of another in Gibraltar, and easily offers the best views some 515 feet above sea level. To get there, keep an eye out in your city wanderings for signs that say Faro, and be ready for a hike. It’s a long way up, so definitely do not try and get to the top if you’re not in shape. But, if you do manage to make it, and you’re able to look out over the community of Mazatlán, so perfectly balanced between culture and coast, you’ll no doubt be awestruck. It really is one of those places that must be seen to be believed, and what a holiday it will be for you.

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Oaxaca – A City and State of Beauty

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The state of Oaxaca, located in Mexico’s South West, is most well known for its indigenous peoples and cultures. Traditions are hardy and have survived here thanks to the isolating and difficult terrain of the area, which have protected them. Of the 16 groups that are officially recognized the largest are the Zapotecs and the Mixtecs, and most of these groups live in the Central Valleys region. It should surprise nobody that this region is particularly popular with visitors, not only for the native cultures and crafts, but also for the archaeological sites. Indeed the area is so popular, that is it only rivaled by the coastal resort areas of Huatulco.

Photo Credit: Greg Westfall

Photo Credit: Greg Westfall

With a place that is so unique, and indeed one of the most biologically diverse states in Mexico, what could be more impressive than Oaxaca state? Well, Oaxaca City comes pretty close.

Located in the centre of three valleys surrounded by sweeping mountain vistas, Oaxaca City is one of Mexico’s most amazing cities. Like the state, the city is a testament to the deep-rooted indigenous traditions of the local people leading to an immensely creative art, craft and food atmosphere. The colonial centre, remembered for its shady streets, is surrounded by incredible archaeological ruins, fascinating traditional villages bursting with color, as well as numerous small towns that host busy weekly markets.

If you’re looking for somewhere to start the city’s Zocalo is a regular host of everything from carnivals to fiestas, and is host to something nearly every day. From there you should have no problems navigating around the city to Oaxaca high-quality museums, gorgeous accommodations and impressive markets and restaurants that flaunt the areas saliva worthy Mexican cuisine.

Surround valley and mountain landscapes mean there’s much to be experienced from an adventure point of view. Visitors will find ample opportunities to go hiking, baking and horseback riding. There is a strong foundation of tourism operators and programs to ensure ease of bookings and experience for all visitors to the Oaxaca area.

Whether you’re in the area for the city or the state, the biggest draw is undoubtedly the numerous archaeological sites. The most famous of these is Monte Alban, which earns its place on the UNESCO World Heritage List as one of Latin America’s most impressive ruin. It has an enormous plaza and platforms in the north and south that offer views of the countryside. The Zapotec people, who built the site, did so on some of the highest mountains in the area. Although you can climb Monte Alban, visitors are not allowed to enter any tombs.

Also well known is Mitla, another important city (and religious centre) for the Zapotec people. Mitla is home to the Column of Life, where visitors might be lucky (or unlucky) enough to find out how long they have left to live. On the road to Mitla, make sure you stop at the famous Arbol del Tule, a tree thought to be some 1400 years old, with the largest base of any tree in the world.

Colonial Cities Morelia Visiting Mexico

Magnificent Morelia – A Historical Gem

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Morelia, the state capital of Michoacán, is not just the most beautiful and incredible city in the area. It effortlessly presents itself on top of the pile of most gorgeous cities in all of Mexico. And luckily for anyone planning a trip, Morelia is still (for the most part) off the well-beaten tourist track around Mexico, for now at least.

One of the first Spanish cities in Nueva España, Morelia was founded in 1541, and is to this day exceptionally preserved. So much so in fact, that the city’s historical centre was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1991.

Photo Credit: Armando Maynez

Photo Credit: Armando Maynez

Visitors to the city will enjoy taking a long and rambling wander through the colonial centre, discovering stone buildings from the 16th and 17th century, ornate facades and archways along the narrow streets hiding hotels and restaurants as well as museums, luxury bars, and even chocolaterías. Indeed, it’s quite impossible to believe that so few people visit Morelia, which regularly offers free public concerts, art installations, and a veritable gold-mine of cheap and delicious taquerías.

One of the biggest draws to the city is the enormous cathedral that covered more than 2 city blocks in size. This massive wonder is an inspiration example of baroque styles, featuring flying buttresses and tiled cupolas. In early November, the cathedral becomes the centre of Morelia’s massive Day of the Dead celebration. The event is so packed full of traditional and cultural magic, we’d dare to call it indescribable, but definitely recommend getting there early for a good seat before the activities start just after dark.

If the idea of a cathedral works for you, also see the Santuario de Guadalupe. Although not nearly as grand as the main cathedral, this church is one of Mexico’s most serene, famous for its soft pink and white colouring, and striking gold trims. Inside, you’ll find 17th century oil paintings showing the conquest of Spanish missionaries to bring mainstream religion to the ‘barbaric’ Aztecs.

Of course, once you’ve covered the beautiful city centre and amazing cathedral and churches, there’s still more to see in Morelia, so don’t slow down yet. Make sure you find your way to Casa Natal de Morelos and Casa de Morel, the homes of Jose Maria Morelos y Pavon, the namesake of the city. He had a leading role in the shaping of Mexico, and both houses are museums with a record of that journey.

Also worth checking out is the Benito Juarez Zoological Park. This urban oasis spans some 620-acres (which includes a 75-acre lake) and is home to an enormous and startlingly diverse collection of animals from polar bears to monkeys. It’s always a hit with the little ones, and with admissions costing just 12 pesos for an adult and 6 for a child, it’s a must see for families.

So whether you’re exploring the colonial history of Mexico in the perfectly preserved centre, or wandering through the green stretches of a zoological park, Morelia is guaranteed to impress, and is well worth visiting before its popularity spreads.

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Colima – Western Central Highland’s Escape

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A small centre in Mexico’s western central highlands Colima initially doesn’t seem to have much for the tourist and traveler. There’s a popular university there, and the city has beautiful subtropical gardens, some great plazas and pretty warm weather considering its location. But, there’s more here than meets the eye.

Photo Credit: Emmanuel Oseguera

Photo Credit: Emmanuel Oseguera

Despite its claim to fame as the first Spanish city in western Mexico, there are only a few colonial buildings. This is thanks to the shadow on the horizon, a volcano by the name of Volcán de Fuego, situated some 30km north of Colima. The volcano has been the cause of numerous major quakes in its history, most recently in January of 2003, which have left the history of the city crumbling. There is also another, dormant, volcano: Volcan Nevado de Colima. Often seen snow-capped in the distance, it makes for an impressive vista from Colima’s highest points.

Now, don’t let the volcano turn you off visiting Colima. The City of Palms is an ideal tourist destination for travelers of all backgrounds and purposes. This isn’t just for the glorious tranquility, and the pleasant weather, although that certainly is a draw card. It’s also because Colima has been named one of Mexico’s safest and most livable cities, and is great for families. Dotted with coconut and banana palms, this subtropical city is situated at the centre of picturesque forests, canyons and mountains, which have attributed to growing tourist numbers.

You’ll find more than enough to do in Colima, with four city plazas to explore, complete with lovely architectural details that make it a photographer’s dream. You can spend the day relaxing in the main plaza, enjoying that Colima weather and listening to local musicians entertaining dancers in the gazebo. There are also local delicacies to try, including agua de tuba, coconut palm juice, a delicious local speciality.

Photo Credit: Ivan Hernández

Photo Credit: Ivan Hernández

For historical sightseeing look no further than the Colima cathedral, which was built first in 1527. Although rebuilt as recently as 1941, the cathedral features a neoclassical façade, and nave (that is the main body of the church) date to 1894, as well as beautiful dome windows that illuminate the inside of the building.
Near to the church you’ll also find the Palacio de Gobierno (City Hall), which was built between 1894 and 1904. Constructed in the same neoclassical style, it has an impressive mural by a local artist showing acts of heroism by revolutionaries as well as indigenous culture. There’s even a small archaeological museum inside, on the first floor, although the city does host some other impressive museums as well.

Colima is a very relaxed town, perfect for someone looking to enjoy the more historical and cultural side of Mexico’s western central highlands. With its numerous museums and spectacular natural surroundings, it is perfect for both explorers, and the every day traveller, looking to experience Mexico in an entirely unique and different way.