It is no surprise that guidebooks seem unable to make up their minds whether Mexico belongs to North or Central America. While geographically it is generally considered part of North America, the country in fact straddles the two regions, and in terms of culture, Mexico is a colourful mishmash of US progress, Spanish colonialism and Latin American style.

Deserts, two oceans, one of the largest cities in the world and the remnants of some of the most impressive ancient civilisations on earth are all crammed into the fascinating, enigmatic country of Mexico. The Spanish influence can be seen in the small towns and villa buildings of the rural areas and the prevalence of Catholicism throughout the nation, while if you head for the mountains you'll find native Mexicans, living descendants of the Mayas and the Aztecs, still following their traditional lifestyles. Make your way to one of the ancient sites of Chichen Itza or Teotihuacan and you'll see the remnants of these people's ancestors, amazing stepped pyramids and whole cities, lying in ruins overhung with creepers and the foliage of the tropical forest.

It's this sense of exploration, of getting off the beaten track and into the semi-wild that really appeals to people visiting Mexico, yet at the same time Mexico can boast the most modern of tourist resorts. You're never too far away from top class hotels, and especially on the Caribbean coast around Cancun and surroundings you'll find pristine beaches and all the facilities you'd expect from a top coastal resort anywhere in the world.

With most of Mexico lying in the tropics the weather as you might expect is as hot as a habanero and you'll realise that the wide-brimmed sombrero hat isn't just a symbol of the country; it's eminently practical when the midday sun is high overhead. Slightly less practical you may feel is the spicy local cuisine, all of which contains chilli in high quantities. Washing it down with the local brew is no better either - tequila and mezcal are both strong tasting potent spirits now exported all over the world.

You might already think you know Mexico, from the food, the tequila and endless cowboy movies - but it's time to think again. From the Tijuanan Tex-Mex border to the Cancun coastline there is always something new, or ancient, to discover.



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