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Geographia World



pyramid02.jpg (16673 bytes)The Yucatan
Dense with forests, ruins, and beaches, the Yucatan Peninsula is apart from main- land Mexico in geography as well as soul. It was the heartland of Mexico's Maya, as the ruins at Tulum, Uxmal, and Chiche-Itza amply testify. Almost half of Mexico's major archeological sites reside there. The Yucatan rests on a massive limestone plate, and for eons its residents have drawn their water from impossibly clear limestone wells called cenotes. The resort sprawl of Cancun is by far the most visited spot, and many Yucatan lover's are thankful - it leaves them more of the peninsula, including the diver's paradise of Cozumel, the colonial cities of Campeche and Merida, and countless small hideaways.

The Pacific Coast & Guadalajara
The Pacific Coast, long and well-developed, is Mexico's national and international playground. The city names here grace many a Manhattan travel agency come January: Puerto Vallarta, Ixtapa, Acapulco, Huatulco, Manzanillo. The beaches, snorkeling, fishing, and weather are generallybeach.jpg (16006 bytes) excellent.

A few hours inland from Puerto Vallarta is Guadalajara, Mexico's second largest city with a population surpassing 3 million. Despite its population, Guadalajara retains a famous intimacy, and its weather is reputed to be the best in the hemisphere with a year- round average of about 70F. The city has always been independent in spirit, sometimes in government. It is the birthplace of mariachi music and a traditional strong- hold of the church, which is evident by the many Cathedrals.

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Baja California
The Baja peninsula is often the choice destination for Mexico's adventure-minded visitors. At over 1,200 miles in length, it is one of the world's longest and  most remote peninsulas. Most of the interior is a lunaresque badlands of desert, rocks, and forests of cactus, while the 2,200-mile coastline hides thousands of beaches, some well-known, some not. The Pacific Coast offers Mexico's best whale watching, and The Gulf of California (also called the Sea of Cortes) is one of the earth's riches seas due to mineral-laden waters that flow from the Colorado River. The largest cities, Tijuana, Ensanada, and Mexicali are all found in the far North, while the resort city of Cabo San Lucas lies at land's end in the south. From the east coast city of La Paz, you can catch car ferries across the Gulf to Matzatlan, Topolobambo, and Puerto Vallarta.

Mexico City & the Central Highlands
As if not wishing to leave any doubt as to where the nation's capital is, the Distrito Federal has become the world's second largest city (just to be sure). Mexicans affectionately refer to it simply as DF, "De Efe," and one in ten Mexicans live there. It was built literally on top of the old Aztec capital, Tenoctitlan. It is one the most important cultural centers in the hemisphere, awash in cathedrals, museums, monuments, markets, art galleries, parks, squares, and more. Don't, how- ever, be intimidated by its size: many of the attractions reside in the Old City.

Surrounding Mexico City are the Central Highlands, six states teeming with colonial splendor: Guanajuato, Queretaro, Aguascalientes, Zacatecas, San LuisPotosi, and Michoacan. Many of the larger highland cities, such as Guanajuato, are beautifully set into the mountains like elaborate colonial inlays.

The Great North
Mexico's North, a large area of deserts, farmlands, and mountains, is the country's most sparsely populated region. The vastness of the region has always given its people an independent, frontiersman spirit. During the Revolution, the North produced almost all the rebel leaders: Villa, Obregon, Madero, and Carranza were all norteņos. Along the 2,000-mile US-Mexican border, the towns are an interesting mix of both cultures. Chief among these is Monterrey, Mexico's third largest city and one its most important manufacturing centers.

The South
The Southern States of Oaxaca, Tabasco, and Chiapas are Indian country. In Oaxaca, the most Indians are either Zapotec or Mixtec, and the Indian culture is visible in an astonishing array of color and art unlike anywhere else in Mexico. Some of Mexico's most importantheaddress02.jpg (14784 bytes) archeological sites are also here, including the mountaintop city of Monte Alban, and Mitla. Chiapas, further south, hosts what many consider the most important Mayan ruin, the city of Palenque.

The Gulf Coast
Mexico's Gulf Coast is dominated by the state of Veracruz, where Hernan Cortes landed in 1519 and began his conquest of New Spain. Today, the state is the base for the nation's large, nationally owned petroleum industry. Though Veracruz is not really a beach-blessed tourism center, the state has some prestigious claims to fame. In the northern part of the state is El Tajin, the incredibly intact remains of a city built Huastec and Totonac Indians that predates Christianity.  In Veracruz, you can also climb Mexico's highest peak, Orizaba (18,551 feet). Lastly, nowhere in Mexico will you find better sea food.

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