From Mountain Ranges to Endless Beaches
Mexico is the largest country in Central America. It is bordered on the north by the United States, and on its southern border by Belize and Guatemala. Mexico watches the sun rise on its coasts of the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean, and sees it set over its beaches on the Gulf of California and the Pacific Ocean. Mexico is over seven hundred and fifty square miles in size and the territory includes numerous islands. It is made up of 31 states, each with its own unique culture and history. A Mexican cruise has the potential to be endless.
Located in the north west of the country is the world’s third longest peninsula; the Baja California peninsula. This stretch of land lies between the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of California (also known as the Sea of Cortez). The Gulf of California separates the Baja Peninsula from the mainland. The peninsula is divided into two states; Baja California and Baja California Sur. Baja California is bordered to the north by the U.S state of California, to the north east by the state of Arizona and Sonora, the Gulf of California is to the east, Baja California Sur to the south and the Pacific Ocean to the west. The southernmost town of Baja California Sur is Cabo San Lucas.
North Mexico is covered in desert, with the Sonoran desert extending down from California into Baja and the formidable Chihuahuan desert along the northern border. The Chihuahuan desert is walled on one side by the Sierra Madre Occidental, which extends more than half of the length of Mexico’s Pacific side. Parts of the system are longer and deeper than the Grand Canyon. There is a low coastal plain between the range and the shores of the Gulf of California. The mighty Sierra Madre Oriental runs along the country’s opposite flank, and both of these ranges run into the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt that bisects Mexico’s southern midsection.
The Mexican Altiplano (“high plain”) lies between the majestic mountain ranges all the way to the southern state of Zacatecas. Visitors to Mexico will not want to miss the famous cities of Guadalajara and Mexico City that lies in the valleys of the southern altiplano.
Mexico City, is located in the south of the country three hundred kilometres from Acapulco on the coast. In the nineteenth and twentieth century the Aztec Templo Mayor was found and began to be uncovered. It was located just a short distance from the Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral.
Mexico’s southernmost state, Chiapas forms part of the Mundo Maya or Mayan World. A visit to the world famous Maya ruin of Palenque is part of many Mexico tours. Part of the mystique of this ruin is that only a proportionally small amount of the city has been excavated and explored. The way the ruins are nestled in the jungle and only partially exposed gives those on a Mexico vacation the same feelings of awe and wonderment which has possessed generations of explorers.
Another main Mundo Maya centre, the Yucatan is located on the northern portion of the Yucatan Peninsula in south-eastern Mexico. In the northern centre of Yucatan is the world famous Chichen Itza site. North Yucatan is the site of the famous Chicxulub Crater. The crater takes its name from the town of Chicxulub which lies near its geographic centre. The crater was caused by the impact of an asteroid 65 million years ago and potentially caused the extinction of the dinosaurs.
The Sierra Madre de Oaxaca borders the valleys of Oaxaca (pronounced wu-ha-ka), and runs into the Sierra Madre del Sur, which dominates the landscape of the south until comes to a stop at the almost-flat isthmus of Tehuantepec. The isthmus connects the highlands of Chiapas and the low Yucatan peninsula to Mexico. Oaxaca’s capital, Oaxaca City, is famous for its art and architecture. The state is bordered by Guerrero to the west, Puebla to the northwest, Veracruz to the north and to the south the Pacific Ocean. Sixteen officially recognized indigenous cultures exist here all with their own languages, customs and traditions. The three largest indigenous populations are the Zapotecs, the Mixtecs and the Mazatecos. It is thought that the rugged and isolating terrain of the area is the reason that the indigenous populations are so numerous and populous.
In addition to numerous breathtaking mountain ranges, a cruise to Mexico will reveal its nearly 150 rivers that empty onto both coasts. Visitors may want to focus on the romantic Mexican Riviera on the west coast, which includes such famous cities as Ensenada, Acapulco, and Mazatlan.