From Andrew Harper

The vast republic of Mexico encompasses nearly 2 million square miles of every topography imaginable: verdant grasslands; mountain ranges; volcanic plains; dense rain forests. However, most visitors are only familiar with its shoreline. Travelers have been flocking to the beaches of Mazatlán, Acapulco and Puerto Vallarta for decades.  In recent years, the Caribbean “Riviera Maya” has become increasingly popular, as have smaller pockets of the Pacific Coast such as Zihuatanejo and Costa Alegre.

A visit to the colonial heart of Mexico is worthwhile -- in particular to the cities of San Miguel de Allende and nearby Guanajuato, both located in the highlands northwest of Mexico City. These are fine destinations for amblers without agendas. Expect plenty of winding cobblestone streets, stately continental mansions and a tranquilo pace of life. Accommodations here are suitably historic and eclectic; the Casa de Sierra Nevada in San Miguel is assembled from several disparate mansions near the zócalo.

CLIMATE : Aside from the northern Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts, much of Mexico consists of high plateaus with a warm, agreeable climate. Temperatures are determined largely by altitude. Winter in the mountains can bring freezing conditions, while coastal areas remain blissfully tropical. Rain falls chiefly from May-August. The most pleasant time to visit all areas is November-May.

TIME : One hour behind New York (EST). Baja California Sur is three hours behind.

CURRENCY : Peso (MXN). Fluctuating rate valued at MXN13 = US$1.00 as of April 2014. Note: Many hotels quote room rates in US$ only.

U.S. EMBASSY : Mexico City, Tel. (55) 5080-2000. There are also consulates in Guadalajara, Tel. (333) 268-2100, and Merida, Tel. (999) 942-5700.

DIRECT DIAL CODES : To phone hotels in Mexico, dial 011 (international access) + 52 (Mexico code) + city code and local numbers in listings.

ENTRY REQUIREMENTS : Passport. Visit, and for travelers’ health information,

GENERAL INFORMATION : Visit before your trip.


All recommended hotels in Mexico

Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
Esperanza, an Auberge Resort
Esperanza, An Auberge Resort

Luxurious residential resort terraced into the panoramic bluffs of Punta Ballena overlooking two private coves. Clusters of four-story earth-toned casitas contain 57 guest rooms.

Baja California Sur
Las Ventanas al Paraiso, A Rosewood Resort
Las Ventanas Al Paraíso, A Rosewood Resort

Casually elegant Mediterranean/Spanish-style residential resort adjacent to the Cabo Real championship golf links, midway between San José del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas.

Baja California Sur
One & Only Palmilla
One&Only Palmilla

Impressive resort on a picturesque headland fronting a walking beach on one side and a swimmable beach on the other (a rarity in the Baja).

Baja California Sur
Capella Pedregal
The Resort at Pedregal

Opulent 24-acre resort overlooking the ocean, reached only by a private 980-foot tunnel. Ninety-six Mexican-style lodgings provide private terraces and plunge pools with impressive ocean views.

Baja California Sur
Colima, Mexico
Hacienda de San Antonio
Hacienda de San Antonio

Lavishly restored casa grande set on a 5,000-acre working coffee plantation near the colonial town of Colima, 2½ hours south of Guadalajara.

Guadalajara, Mexico
Quinta Real Guadalajara
Quinta Real Guadalajara

Charming colonial hacienda-style hotel with ivy-covered pink stone walls in a pleasant residential area, 20 minutes from Guadalajara’s historic center.

Guanajuato, Mexico
Casa de Sierra Nevada
Belmond Casa de Sierra Nevada

Charming landmark hotel comprised of nine historic residences near the main plaza of San Miguel de Allende.

Rosewood San Miguel de Allende
Rosewood San Miguel de Allende

Attractive 67-room resort in a replica of a Spanish colonial mansion located in a quiet residential area a short walk from the city’s colorful main plaza.

Villa Maria Cristina © Relais & Chateaux
Villa María Cristina

Gracious hideaway with 36 suites in turn-of-the-century buildings connected by a graceful series of loggias and patios, a 15-minute walk from the town center.

Guerrero, Mexico
Banyan Tree Cabo Marqués

Lavish 47-villa resort at the tip of Punta Diamante peninsula overlooking dramatic Puerto Marqués Bay on the southern side of Las Brisas. 


All recommended villas in Mexico

Baja California, Mexico
Casa La Laguna
Casa La Laguna

One of the newest and largest beachfront vacation homes available in Los Cabos, Casa La Laguna sits on a quiet, pristine, semi-private beach with unobstructed views from Punta Palmilla to Punta Gorda.

Baja California Sur
Lifestyle Villas

A smartly curated selection of beachfront and ocean- and golf-view villas and condominiums throughout Los Cabos.

Cabo San Lucas
Villa Serena
Villa Serena

This five-star beachfront property is located between Cabo San Lucas & San Jose del Cabo (in the area known as the Corridor) in the exclusive Blue Sea development. Situated right on the ocean, this contemporary home is beautifully appointed.

Baja California Sur
Del Mar Escapes
Villas Del Mar

“At the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula where the desert and mountains meet the Sea of Cortez rests Los Cabos, no longer a secret to the discriminating traveler.”

Baja California Sur
Baja California Sur, Mexico
Villas at Esperanza

Overlooking the Sea of Cortez, this highly acclaimed luxury resort offers an incomparable natural setting on 17 lush acres. Designed for guests who are looking for a private vacation retreat with all the comforts of home and access to award- winning resort amenities including a world-class spa and yoga studio, four restaurants with sweeping ocean views, 24-hour room service, pools with swim-up bars, a club house and game room, compli- mentary Wi-Fi access, daily housekeeping and concierge service.

Baja California SurCabo San Lucas


All recommended restaurants in Mexico

El Jardín de los Milagros

A short taxi ride from downtown Guanajuato, the leafy “Garden of Miracles” makes a lovely setting for a leisurely lunch. The young chef carefully explained each of the nine courses on the tasting menu. Although the creative presentations were contemporary, his passion for local traditions was obvious. I especially liked the “cappuccino,” a savory cream of botil beans topped with tortilla foam and charred tortilla crumbs; and a delicate róbalo (snook) fillet topped with an asparagus-spinach sauce.

Calle Alhóndiga 80 San Javier
Guanajuato 36020
Lu Cocina Michoacana

Simply called “Lu” by Morelians, this restaurant ranks among the city’s best. Chef Lucero Soto digs deep into Michoacán cuisine, creating contemporary dishes with a strong sense of place. We selected the tasting menu, which started with three mezcals distilled from the local wild cupreata agave, and cotija cheeses of various ages. Tostadas topped with fresh tuna, arugula and spicy mole followed, along with a “seasonal soup” of mushrooms and al dente vegetables. And I loved the grilled lamb chops with a zesty peanut mole, accompanied by a tamale-like corunda.

Portal Hidalgo 229 Centro
Morelia 58000

This is home to chef Enrique Olvera, an alumnus of the celebrated Everest in Chicago, who is renowned for his special take on Mexican cuisine. The interior is a study in white, with the only splashes of color coming from well-placed works of art. As for the food, while Olvera deals with ingredients that are part of the Mexican canon, he doesn’t hesitate to use them in new and intriguing ways. Thus, you’ll see dishes such as pan-seared sea scallops with a tasty corn cake and mushrooms; a wonderful squash-blossom “cappuccino,” actually a creamy soup topped with a coconut foam dusted with nutmeg; duck carpaccio with a pumpkin-seed vinaigrette and a mezcal foam, and a delicious cocoa-crusted venison served with three kinds of bananas. The service is excellent. Closed on Sundays.

Calle Francisco Petrarca 254
Naucalpan de Juárez
Restaurant El Sacromonte

Set in the nightlife neighborhood of Chapultepec in Guadalajara, this colorful restaurant serves upscale cuisine inspired by recipes from a variety of Mexican regions. I enjoyed a refreshing and light cold avocado soup with yogurt, watermelon and mint; and a main course of sea bass from the nearby Careyes Coast served on an okra-like cactus paddle and topped with a rich pumpkin-seed mole.

Calle Pedro Moreno 1398 Americana
Guadalajara, Jalisco 44160

This is the Mexican cousin of Arzak, the restaurant at the forefront of the new Basque cooking in Spain. The wonderful menu offers hallmark Spanish dishes, plus many that incorporate Mexican ingredients and flair. The interior contains several different levels (one with just a single table for four), which give it a great sense of space. Starters might include an excellent broth of baby squid and a foie gras mousse with sliced mango. Among the best main courses is the sea bass in a pistachio sauce. The wine list has a terrific selection of Spanish and Mexican wines. Look particularly at bottlings from Baja.

Royal Royal Hotel Zona Rosa, Amberes 78
Ciudad de México 06600