México

Plodding miles along dusty arid dirt tracks, just to see a Mayan pyramid with nothing but endless Cerulean horizon ahead. The glare of white hot sunshine bouncing from pavements, as you attempt to circumnavigate the heart of an over-populated capital city. Standing on a precipice, marveling at glacial lakes tens of thousands of years old within a mountain range basin, nothing but the cacophonous sound effects of screaming macaws and civets penetrating nature's tranquility. This is the multi-faceted South-Central Mexico State within the heart of amigo country, and seat of the country's capital Mexico City, where metropolitan meets Mayan culture.

Alighting in North America's “alpha city” by air, one can't help notice how the capital looms out of the desert like a modern day Atlantis. From every aspect, the city is bounded by mile upon mile of course, scorched sand dunes; the odd glittering oases and sprinkled cacti. It ends as abruptly as the “sinking city” begins - so called because Mexico City was built upon an island, in the middle of an ancient reservoir - now virtually dry. Situated in the central Zocalo, sits the 17th Century Palacio Nacional – the former seat of the federal government, and now an agglomeration of exhibitions showcasing fine art from the likes of Diego Riviera. It's herecity's subsidence issue becomes apparent; visible crevices and cracks akin to the dry parched earth of the desert itself! The 16th Century neo-Gothic Catedral Metropolitana (just a stone's throw from the Plaza) is visually breath-taking, yet also conveys structural issues with quirky tilted bell towers.

It might be sinking at a rate of 12 inches per year, but the two-faced metropolis lives up to it's “alpha” branding with a thoroughly cosmopolitan heart. A converted paper factory just ½ a mile from the bustling Plaza San Jacinto lures shoppers with a penchant for brand names and department stores, yet sets the yardstick for sophistication with open-air courtyards; an adjacent live show amphitheater and cinema complex. Bargain hunters will find the old world charm of Santa María la Ribera's downtown markets an irresistible draw – vendors beckoning with aromatic spices, Mayan-inspired artwork and copper crafts.

Mexico City is extremely well connected by transport, despite the roads seeming somewhat chaotic. An electric bus system serves all major neighborhoods, though the subterranean subway system is both cheaper and less over-run. At night, Mexico City's beautiful people venture out from their lairs to decorate the balconette and rooftop bars of the Distrito Federal. Habito Hotel's rooftop bar maintains an elite reputation. If you're unsure where to venture first, the Centro Cultural de España en México entertainment complex to the rear of the Cathedral is a good place to start. Packing in a theater, live concert hall and casual music bars, many are content to simply sit beneath the setting sun, sipping Mojitos and enjoying the best of live Banda music.

Bursting at the seams with architectural marvels and infectious culture, it can be difficult to drag yourself away from the bright lights and big noise of Mexico City. To truly experience Estado Mexico, you need to embrace the wider spread ancient delights such as Teotihuacan (“The City of the Gods”), situated 40km North East of Mexico City. Here, in the Basin of Mexico lies one of Mexico's best preserved archaeological sites, dating back to 100 B.C.E. The arrow-straight “Avenue of The Dead is the longest ancient road of Teotihuacan, lined on either side by the behemoth pyramids of the Nahua age. At 246 feet high, the gargantuan Temple of The Sun is the largest of the tabular monuments, with a maze of accessible interconnecting chambers and passageways over 4km long. The vistas across the Avenue of the Dead, with that splendid backdrop of mountains are some of the most photographed in Mexico, should you have the energy to climb to it's peak.

Mexico State's varied topography affords it a reputation as far more than a city-slicker's getaway. Valle De Bravo, situated 156 km South-West of Mexico City takes less than 2 hours to reach by car or bus, yet opens up a whole world of adventurous possibilities. The town itself sits upon the shores of Lake Avandaro, and while colonially quaint in character, merely serves as an accommodation base for thrill-seekers. With dense forests and rugged terrains, mountain biking is extremely popular here, as is para-gliding. The surrounding peaks of Valle De Bravo range in size from 500-2000 feet, guaranteeing optimum heights for putting the wind in your parachute! Whether it's the high-class sophistication of a cosmopolitan city break, or a peaceful retreat within the magnificence of a mountain valley – Mexico State has two personalities that will almost certainly fit the bill!

Spanish version of this page: México

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