Mexico & Central America

 

Mexico and Central America represent the lower part of the North American continent. While they vary greatly both culturally and geographically from the northern part of the continent (the US and Canada), the countries in this region share many affinities with each other, forming the northern portion of what is often called Latin America.

Mexico and Central America share a pre-Colombian history as part of several Mesoamerican civilizations, including the Mayans and Aztecs. It is one of only five regions of the world where complex civilizations and writing systems were independently developed.

The distinct Mesoamerican cultural tradition ended with the Spanish conquest in the 16th century. Over the next centuries, Mesoamerican indigenous cultures were gradually subjected to Spanish colonial rule. Aspects of the Mesoamerican cultural heritage still survive among the indigenous peoples who inhabit both Mexico and Central America, many of whom continue to speak their ancestral languages, and maintain many practices harking back to their Mesoamerican roots.

Mexico is by far the largest country in the region, both in land area and population (123 million). It represents the transition point from Anglo to Latin culture, and is a major travel attraction for its beaches, archeological sites, and historic towns.

Central America represents the southernmost isthmus of the North American continent, connecting with South America where Panama and Colombia meet. The region’s seven countries (Belize, Costa Rica,El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama) have a combined population of around 43 million. Travelers will find substantial cultural diversity as they move from one end of Central America to the other, and indigenous culture plays an important role in the region, especially in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. This is also the center of the Mesoamerican biodiversity hotspot, which extends from northern Guatemala through central Panama.

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Mexico & Central America (photo by Wikimedia Commons)

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Countries in this region:

A Natural Atmosphere includes a diverse range of destinations with outdoor-oriented features, including both water-based (beaches, rivers, lakes, etc) and land-based (mountains, forests, deserts, etc). It also includes specific outdoor activities, ranging from water adventuring (eg, kayaking, sailing) to land adventuring (eg, hiking, biking).

Natural Interests tend to be:
(a) outdoors-oriented, and therefore more dependent on weather conditions
(b) less easily accessible and more physically demanding than other destination categories.

In some cases (eg, rafting and climbing), this includes a significantly increased degree of adventure (or danger, depending on one's viewpoint).

Belize

Atmosphere: Nature    
Best Weather: January, February, March, April, December

 BelizeBelize is a former colony of British Honduras and the only country in Central America  with English as its official language. World-class attractions include exploring the lush jungles with exotic plants and animals, deep sea fishing, swimming, snorkeling and diving in the Caribbean sea, and visiting Mayan ruins.
 
A Natural Atmosphere includes a diverse range of destinations with outdoor-oriented features, including both water-based (beaches, rivers, lakes, etc) and land-based (mountains, forests, deserts, etc). It also includes specific outdoor activities, ranging from water adventuring (eg, kayaking, sailing) to land adventuring (eg, hiking, biking).

Natural Interests tend to be:
(a) outdoors-oriented, and therefore more dependent on weather conditions
(b) less easily accessible and more physically demanding than other destination categories.

In some cases (eg, rafting and climbing), this includes a significantly increased degree of adventure (or danger, depending on one's viewpoint).

Costa Rica

Atmosphere: Nature    
Best Weather: January, February, March, April, December

 Costa RicaCosta Rica has become a popular nature travel destination in recent decades, with a developed a well-established system of national parks and protected areas. It is known for its diverse culture, climates, flora, fauna, and landscapes, including rain forests, dry tropical and temperate forests, volcanoes and mountains, beaches, and marshy lowlands. Ecotourism in various forms is especially popular.
 
 
Combination Atmosphere destinations combine elements of both cultural and natural destinations, where this combination is itself essential to the travel experience. Common examples are Archaeological Sites (where culture is usually experienced outdoors), Scenic Local Markets (where indigenous cultures interact outdoors), Hotsprings and Vineyard Areas (where nature provides the raw materials but humans create the surroundings), and Unique Cultural Landscapes (where humans and nature interact in innovative ways, as in the elaborate rice terracing systems of Asia).

Combination Interests typically fall somewhere in the middle of the three types of primary interests in terms of
(a) how climate-dependent they are
(b) how accessible and physically demanding they are.

Guatemala

Atmosphere: Combination    
Best Weather: January, February, March, April, November, December

 GuatemalaGuatemala, with an estimated population of around 15.8 million, it is the most populous state in Central America. The region of modern day Guatemala had for centuries comprised the core of the Mayan civilization, which is represented by numerous sites throughout the country. Guatemala's abundance of biologically significant and unique ecosystems, which includes a large number of endemic species, contributes to Mesoamerica's designation as a biodiversity hotspot.
 
A Natural Atmosphere includes a diverse range of destinations with outdoor-oriented features, including both water-based (beaches, rivers, lakes, etc) and land-based (mountains, forests, deserts, etc). It also includes specific outdoor activities, ranging from water adventuring (eg, kayaking, sailing) to land adventuring (eg, hiking, biking).

Natural Interests tend to be:
(a) outdoors-oriented, and therefore more dependent on weather conditions
(b) less easily accessible and more physically demanding than other destination categories.

In some cases (eg, rafting and climbing), this includes a significantly increased degree of adventure (or danger, depending on one's viewpoint).

Honduras

Atmosphere: Nature    
Best Weather: January, February, March, April, December

 HondurasHonduras is the second biggest and second most populous country in Central America. It is home to several important Mesoamerican cultures, most notably the Maya, prior to being conquered by Spain in the sixteenth century. It is known for its colonial villages), ancient Maya ruins, natural parks, and Pacific and Caribbean coastline. It is also known for the coral reefs of Bay Islands, with great snorkelling and diving.
 
 
Combination Atmosphere destinations combine elements of both cultural and natural destinations, where this combination is itself essential to the travel experience. Common examples are Archaeological Sites (where culture is usually experienced outdoors), Scenic Local Markets (where indigenous cultures interact outdoors), Hotsprings and Vineyard Areas (where nature provides the raw materials but humans create the surroundings), and Unique Cultural Landscapes (where humans and nature interact in innovative ways, as in the elaborate rice terracing systems of Asia).

Combination Interests typically fall somewhere in the middle of the three types of primary interests in terms of
(a) how climate-dependent they are
(b) how accessible and physically demanding they are.

Mexico

Atmosphere: Combination    
Best Weather: January, February, March, April, November, December

 MexicoMexico is the most populous Spanish-speaking country in the world and the second most populous country (after Brazil) in Latin America. It is also one of the most popular travel countries on the planet, with warm weather, unique food, art and archaeology, pyramids, museums, haciendas, superb architecture and 21st century cities. Its diverse ecosystems include snow-capped mountains in the Sierras, rainy jungles in the Southeast, and desert in the Northwest.
 
A Natural Atmosphere includes a diverse range of destinations with outdoor-oriented features, including both water-based (beaches, rivers, lakes, etc) and land-based (mountains, forests, deserts, etc). It also includes specific outdoor activities, ranging from water adventuring (eg, kayaking, sailing) to land adventuring (eg, hiking, biking).

Natural Interests tend to be:
(a) outdoors-oriented, and therefore more dependent on weather conditions
(b) less easily accessible and more physically demanding than other destination categories.

In some cases (eg, rafting and climbing), this includes a significantly increased degree of adventure (or danger, depending on one's viewpoint).

Nicaragua

Atmosphere: Nature    
Best Weather: January, February, March, April, December

 NicaraguaNicaragua is the largest country in Central America by land mass. Its multi-ethnic population includes indigenous peoples, Europeans, Africans, Asians, and people of Middle Eastern origin. Geographically, Nicaragua’s extensive Atlantic coastal plains rise to central interior mountains, and is also home the largest freshwater body in Central America, Lago de Nicaragua. Its combination of biological diversity, a warm tropical climate, and active volcanoes, and other features have made Nicaragua an increasingly popular travel destination.
 
 
Combination Atmosphere destinations combine elements of both cultural and natural destinations, where this combination is itself essential to the travel experience. Common examples are Archaeological Sites (where culture is usually experienced outdoors), Scenic Local Markets (where indigenous cultures interact outdoors), Hotsprings and Vineyard Areas (where nature provides the raw materials but humans create the surroundings), and Unique Cultural Landscapes (where humans and nature interact in innovative ways, as in the elaborate rice terracing systems of Asia).

Combination Interests typically fall somewhere in the middle of the three types of primary interests in terms of
(a) how climate-dependent they are
(b) how accessible and physically demanding they are.

Panama

Atmosphere: Combination    
Best Weather: January, February, March, April, December

 PanamaPanama is strategically located on the isthmus that forms the land bridge connecting North and South America. It controls the Panama Canal, one of the most important shipping routes in the world. The ease of travel and wide array of experiences make Panama an attractive emerging travel destinations. Panama's flora and fauna is incredibly diverse, including over 900 different bird species. Panama's many indigenous tribes are still thriving, living in the same ancient manner as their ancestors, making its cultural fabric exceptionally rich.