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Top Things To See

Wonder at the scale of colonial splendour in Mexico City's Zocalo. This gigantic main square is overlooked by the Catedral Metropolitana - one of the biggest churches on the planet and the first to be built in the 'new world'.

Take plenty of time to explore the Museo Nacional de Antropologia - the exhibits cover 20,000 years of human life (website: www.mna.inah.gob.mx). Visits to Mexico's pre-Colombian sites are more meaningful after seeing and understanding the priceless art on show here, including the 3,000-year-old Tlatilco Acrobat.

Visit Teotihuacan, the 'City where the Gods are born', 48km (30 miles) northeast of Mexico City. Here are the ruins of an imperial centre that matched ancient Rome and peaked around the same time. The Pyramid of the Sun is the fourth largest in the world.

See 'boiling water' and a frozen waterfall at the Hierve el Agua mineral springs, near San Lorenzo Albarradas. Here, water percolates calcium carbonate and magnesium, creating bubbles. Where the spring pours down a cliff face, mineral deposits have formed a petrified cascade over thousands of years.

Amble around Tepoztlan ('place of copper'), a relaxed town overlooked by steep, jagged cliffs and a pyramid dedicated to Tepoztecatl, God of the Harvest. In the centre, the imposing Convent of the Nativity (1580) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Cast an appreciative eye over the ornate silver jewellery produced in Taxco. Fortunes were made from the silver mines here, and one was poured back into the Church of Santa Prisca and San Sebastian, a jewel of Churrigueresque architecture.

For chic colonial style, look no further than Puebla, nestled in the foothills of the Sierra Madre. Church domes and house walls are covered in talavera, colourful glazed tiles that are still produced by the town's artisans.

Arrive late to watch the sun set over Monte Alban, a sacred prehistoric city and centre of the Zapotec culture, which flourished 2,000 years ago. The remarkable Central Plaza, the Ball Court, and many of the tombs are open to the public.

Get up early to watch the sun rise over the Mayan ruins of Tulum, near Playa del Carmen. Explore in peace then take a pre-breakfast dip in the turquoise sea - the ruins are practically on the beach.

Meet up with manatees (and watch out for alligators) in Chetumal Bay, Gulf of Mexico. Distant cousins of the elephant, manatees like to live in warm shallows - a habit that has seen many of them killed by boat propellers.

Off Mexico's other coast, spot grey whales at the Parque Natural de la Ballena Gris. This Pacific reserve is where they come to breed between November and March.

Watch the serpent god climb his pyramid in Chichen-Itza. The ceremonial city was built over 1,000 years ago, but the Mayan magic still draws crowds. Each spring and autumn equinox, shadows show Kukulcan (the snake) working his way up the steps.

Catch the professionals in action at the charreada (rodeo) in Guadalajara, held every October. The famous 'Mexican Hat Dance' originated in this area - locally, it is called Jarabe Tapatio.

See more from the air, with an exciting Ultralight flight over the Caribbean island of Cozumel, or an air excursion from Puerto Vallarta round the peaks of the Sierra Madre.