Mexico, officially the United Mexican States is a federal republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of Mexico. Mexico is a federation comprising thirty-one states and a Federal District, its capital and largest city.
Capital: Mexico City
Religion: Mainly Roman Catholic
currency: Peso (MXN)
Population: Approx. 118 million
Official Language: National Language: Spanish
Wildlife: With over 200,000 different species, Mexico is home of 10–12% of the world’s biodiversity. Mexico ranks first in biodiversity in reptiles with 707 known species, second in mammals with 438 species, fourth in amphibians with 290 species, and fourth in flora, with 26,000 different species. We won’t be listing them all, but other than what is listed above, you will also find jaguars, pumas, opossums, skunks, anteaters, whales and dolphins.
Camp Locations: Playa del Carmen, Yucatan Peninsula
Further Travel Opportunities
As a large and vibrant country, Mexico can seem daunting at first, but here are a few ideas from our partner on-site to get you going on your weekends off:
In this region, you are spoilt for choice in the number of activities you can try out! Spend the day snorkelling with turtles of all sizes in Akumal Bay; explore the cenotes – underwater river systems within the Yucatan peninsula; visit Cozumel, an island renowned for its world class wall dives; or for a full weekend adventure, try Isla Holbox, a small island off the north of the peninsula. It’s a beautiful, tranquil place, great for a quiet weekend away. Whale sharks (the world’s largest fish) migrate up near the island from June to September and snorkelling alongside them while they filter feed is a truly breath-taking experience!
Alternatively, make your way to Río Lagartos where flamingos flock and river crocodiles abound; visit Bacalar – known as the lake of seven colours due to the various shades of blue; or visit prime breeding areas for the hawksbill, loggerhead, leatherback, and green turtle (May to October).
Immerse yourself in the surviving Mayan culture of the area and visit remote and untouched Mayan archaeological sites, such as the famous and easily accessible sites of Tulum and Coba, or visit the beautiful and majestic Mayan ruins of Palenque in the Chiapas region. And finally, the colonial city of Mérida is the peninsula’s cultural capital and the local artisans of Izamal will be sure to offer you some souvenirs of your trip.
For more travel ideas before or after your program, here are the Lonely Planet’s Top 10 sights in Cancún and Yucatán:
It’s no great secret why Cancún, and to a larger extent the Yucatán Peninsula, has become Mexico’s top tourist destination. Some people are lured by the simple pleasures of a white-sand beach, turquoise waters and perhaps a little partying here and there. Others find themselves drawn to the pre-Hispanic Maya ruins, an ample offering of ecotourism activities and an abundance of natural wonders. Here are 10 picks to keep you on the go while touring the peninsula:
- Cancún – A spring break rite-of-passage carries on year-round in Cancún’s high-gloss hotels and throbbing discos. If that’s not your shtick, an alternate version of the city beckons in downtown Cancún where a local arts scene has taken root. Most of the action centres around Parque las Palapas, downtown’s main stage for free open-air cultural events.
- Tulum – The Maya, who ruled these lands long before the Spanish conquest, knew a thing or two about beachfront real estate. Not only do the ruins at Tulum afford a spectacular view of the region’s signature green and turquoise waters, but it’s also a fascinating 13th-century walled city that stood as one of the last Maya strongholds.
- Isla Mujeres – What’s not to like about an island where golf carts are the main mode of transportation? Just a half-hour boat ride from Cancún, low-key Isla Mujeres offers a refreshing break from the notably more hectic pace of the mainland. A sight well worth the visit is the Isla Mujeres Turtle Farm, a sanctuary that releases more than 60,000 hatchlings a year.
- Río Secreto – The Maya believed that some underground rivers and cave systems were gateways to the underworld. And as amazing as it may sound, some of the limestone formations that make up Rio Secreto’s sinkholes started taking shape around 50 million years ago. A three-hour tour here leads through stunning caverns while you wade through water.
- Playa del Carmen – With a notably more European air than gringo-friendly Cancún, Playa del Carmen is the hot ticket if you’re looking for a hipper, more scaled-down beach resort town. Ferries leave Playa del Carmen for Isla Cozumel, Mexico’s largest island, where you can go diving and explore coral reefs made famous by Jacques Cousteau.
- MUSA – These recently inaugurated underwater ‘museums’ offer a one-of-a-kind opportunity to check out more than 400 sculptures submerged in shallow waters off the coasts of Isla Mujeres and Cancún. The MUSA collection includes hundreds of life-sized concrete figures sculpted by British artist Jason de Caires Taylor, and it’s all part of a conservation effort to draw people away from damaged coral reef areas. Aqua World in Cancún provides snorkelling and scuba tours of the sculptures.
- Isla Holbox – A no worries island sitting pretty on a nature reserve, Isla Holbox seems to go over well with unassuming types. Bird-watchers also get a kick out of Holbox, which is home to more than 150 species. For an experience like none other, from mid-May to mid-September, you have the rare opportunity to swim with whale sharks.
- Mérida – Lying inland about 20 miles from the coast, Mérida may not get the hype of Cancún or some of the peninsula’s coveted beach destinations, but it’s a city steeped in colonial history and therein lies its appeal. Famous for its colonial architecture, museums and Yucatecan cuisine, Mérida has long been considered the region’s cultural capital. Just about an hour away await the well-preserved Maya ruins of Uxmal.
- Chichén Itzá – It would certainly be a glaring omission to exclude one of the ‘new seven wonders of the world’ from any top 10 list, even though sceptics say Chichén Itzá’s new and improved wonder-like status is nothing more than the result of an Internet popularity contest. Say what they will, these Maya ruins are nonetheless remarkable and downright intriguing.
- Xcalak – The no-frills Costa Maya beach town of Xcalak has managed to dodge the development bullet, but there’s no telling how long that will last. North of Xcalak, the laid-back town of Mahahual saw a cruise-ship dock go up a few years back, making Xcalak all the more attractive if you’re seeking a remote beach getaway.
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TOURIST WEBSITE LINK: www.visitmexico.com