Mexico: a beginner’s guide
Cortés and his men had easily toppled Moctezuma II in the 16th century, but the Spaniards were less prepared for the 1810 uprising led by parish priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla in the little Guanajuato town of Dolores. Independence was declared in September 1810.
Top five attractions
- The Silver Cities of the centre and north (Zacatecas, Guanajuato, San Miguel de Allende) to brush up on Mexico's colonial history and the struggle for independence.
- Baja California for a great drive and sea fishing in the Gulf of California (aka Sea of Cortéz).
- Mexico City's old quarter around the Zócalo.
- Chiapas and the syncretistic religion of nearby San Juan Chamula.
- The atmospheric Mayan ruin of Palenque.
Oaxaca: it is laid-back, boasts a large centre dominated by colonial architecture, and is one of the country's gastronomic and artistic centres.
How will Mexico be celebrating independence?
Fiestas, music, marches, booze and a big dinner: the ultimate patriotic dish is chile en nogada, which is made from mild chile poblano, pomegranate seeds and milky walnut sauce, and so apes the Mexican flag colours of green, red and white. The most populous Spanish-speaking country in the world has a double whammy this year. It is 200 years since the birth of its independence movement, which is celebrated every September 16: a major fiesta for Mexicans, not least in Dolores Hidalgo, where the president gives a speech and the church bell is tolled at the hour. It is also 100 years since the start of the popular uprising that led to the overthrow of the dictator José de la Cruz Porfirio Díaz – the Día de la Revolución is celebrated annually on November 20.
Souvenir to buy
Tequila with a worm in the bottle, or a high-class mescal.
The country's obsession with death gives rise to all sorts of odd customs, from the National Museum of Death in Aguascalientes to jelly moulds in the shape of wreaths.
‘Sliced Iguana’ by Isabella Tree covers the teeming cultural confusions of the capital as well as the psychotic ones induced by the peyote cactus.
Your edit for Latin American inspiration
Our exciting range of articles on Latin America explore everything from iconic destinations and lesser-known cultural gems to delicious traditional recipes. You’ll also find exclusive travel tips, first-hand client reviews and the chance to get your personal questions answered by our travel experts.View Extraordinary Inspiration
Carrie Gallagher - Travel Expert
A former JLA tour leader, Carrie brings a wealth of on-the-ground experience to our London-based Tailor-made and Group Tours department.
Sophie Barber - Travel Expert
Sophie lived in Chile before joining us and has travelled extensively across Latin America, from Mexico to the furthest tip of Patagonia and beyond to Antarctica.
Paul Winrow-Giffin - Travel Expert
After graduating in Computer Science, Paul spent seven months travelling from Colombia to Argentina and came home hooked on Latin America.
Kathryn Rhodes - Travel Expert
Kathryn backpacked across Argentina, Chile, Bolivia and Peru before joining us. She has a degree in Philosophy and French and is a keen netball player.
Heloise Buxton - Travel Expert
Heloise started her Latin American journey as an exchange student in Santiago, Chile. With extended summer holidays this was the perfect opportunity to backpack through Bolivia, Peru, Argentina and Brazil.
Mary Anne Nelson - Travel Expert
Born in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile, Mary’s insider knowledge and dry sense of humour make her a highly valued member of the Tailor-made Holidays and Group Tour sales team.