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Life Travel Eight of the best places and things to see in Mexico Updated:

Eight of the best places and things to see in Mexico

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Travel photographer Graeme Green shares memories and photographs from eight of his favourite experiences in Mexico

1. Drinking mezcal in Oaxaca

Tequila is Mexico’s most famous Mexican spirit. But mezcal is even more traditional – and more interesting to drink.

Both are made from agave, a spiky plant found across Mexico with fruit that looks like a giant pineapple. But whereas tequila comes from one type of agave, mezcal is made from more than 40 varieties, meaning more diverse flavours, from herby to smoky.

Oaxaca is the spiritual home of mezcal. There are small ‘factories’ across the region where you can sample the goods, while donkeys pull mill stones around to crush agave pulp.

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How ever you like your mezcal, it comes with scenery and history. Photo: Graeme Green

2. Hitting the road in Baja California

Road trips are a good way to see parts of the country few get to see. I recently drove into remote areas of the Baja California peninsula, around San Ignacio and Guerrero Negro, and found empty beaches, cave paintings, rare pronghorns (a type of antelope) and horned lizards.

Between January and March, Baja’s coastal waters are busy with whales, pelicans, sea lions and there’s world class scuba diving.

Keep going (or start your road trip from northern Baja) and you can reach the Guadalupe Valley, Mexico’s outstanding wine region.

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All roads, especially the scenic ones, lead to Baja. Photo: Graeme Green

3. Hiking the Copper Canyon

Getting to the Copper Canyon in north-west Mexico involves one of the world’s most scenic rail journeys: ‘El Chepe’ runs 650 kilometres between Chihuahua and Los Mochis, through the Sierra Madre mountains and red desert landscapes.

The Copper Canyon or ‘Barrancas del Cobre’ network is deeper than the Grand Canyon and four times larger, with great hiking possibilities, including the old silver mining area around.

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If copper pales, up the precious metal ante with hikes through silver mine country at Batopilas. Photo: Graeme Green

4. Getting caught up in a festival

The Day of the Dead is one Mexico’s most important traditions, when those who’ve passed away are remembered with shrines to welcome returning spirits, street parties and gatherings in cemeteries.

Oaxaca holds the largest, most traditional celebrations, but the Day of the Dead is marked across the country, from Mexico City to the Yucatan.

Mexico has many more events and festivals. In San Miguel de Allende recently, I witnessed the Locos parade, where locals dressed as characters, from Lucha Libre wrestlers, to aliens, monkeys, zombies, and danced through the streets, throwing out sweets.

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The confronting Day of the Dead festival is marked across the country. Photo: Graeme Green

5. Spending time in Chapultepec

Mexico City’s Chapultepec is the oldest park in Mexico, its name meaning ‘hill of the grasshoppers’ in Nahuatl – the language of the Aztecs.

It’s a relaxing place to walk, containing Chapultepec Castle and Botanical Gardens with cactus, agave, medicinal plants and an orchid house.

But the greatest reason to visit is the Anthropological Museum, a vast collection of artefacts from Pre-Hispanic cultures (Aztecs, Mayans, Olmecs), one of the best museums in the world.

6. Exploring the cactus forests of Puebla

Mexico’s many cactus species range from sprawling candelabras to golf ball-esque Mammillaria herrerae.

Tehuacán-Cuicatlán biosphere reserve, south of Mexico City, has 5000 square kilometres of cactus landscapes to explore, with the epicentre at Helia Bravo Hollis Botanical Garden.

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If you like a cactus, Mexico has them in spectacular abundance. Photo: Graeme Green

7. Take an adventure through time

The pyramids of Teotihuacan and Chichén Itzá are the most visited sites in Mexico.

But it pays to go deeper. Drive through Yucatán and the next state, Campeche, and you’ll find Mayan pyramids and structures, such as Dzibanche and Chicanná, often without any other tourists.

Calakmul is worth the effort of a long drive into remote Campeche, and a two-hour hike through jungle: it’s a massive ruined Mayan city in the jungle close to Guatamala with pyramids to climb and frequented by resident howler monkeys and ocellated turkeys.

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Discover ancient – and relatively unvisited – Mayan history at Calakmul. Photo: Graeme Green

8. Wandering around a colonial city

The colonial Spanish built cities with grand churches, monasteries, haciendas and palaces. Many of them have been well-preserved and make for pleasant days wandering, soaking up colour and history.

San Miguel de Allende, 2019’s American capital of culture, is one of the most popular, with brightly painted buildings, the pink cathedral Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel and art galleries.

In the Yucatán, you can find Valladolid, Mérida and the ‘yellow city’ of Izamal, but there are many beautiful colonial cities throughout the country.

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Wander the streets of San Miguel de Allende and soak up years of culture. Photo: Graeme Green