Mexico may be known for its beaches and desserts, and maybe a few important cities like Mexico City and San Miguel de Allende, but what many people don't realize is that it's also a country with amazing, awe-inspiring natural beauty. When it comes to flora, fauna, and amazing landscapes, Mexico is surprisingly diverse. In fact, it's one of the top five countries in the world in terms of biodiversity. This is because Mexico's topography is highly varied and its geographic situation places it between distinct ecozones. Mexico has so many stunning natural areas that it is very hard to select only ten, but here is a small sample of some of the amazing landscapes and natural features that you can enjoy on a trip to Mexico.
You can appreciate some of Mexico's most rugged and stunning natural scenery in the Copper Canyon, called the Barrancas del Cobre in Spanish. This geologically fascinating site is located in the state of Chihuahua. It is, in fact, a network of canyons which together are several times larger and deeper than the Grand Canyon in Arizona. As you ride on "El Chepe," the Copper Canyon railway, you can enjoy the natural beauty as you marvel at the feat of human engineering that this railway represents.
Another impressive canyon is located in southern Mexico, in the state of Chiapas. The Cañón del Sumidero is deep and narrow with vertical walls of up to 2600 feet in some places. The best way to experience this canyon is on a boat tour along the Río Grijalva, though there are also several lookout points where you can observe the canyon from above.
Standing in a field surrounded by thousands of fluttering butterflies is a thrilling experience. Knowing that the butterflies flew over 2000 miles to travel to their wintering grounds in Mexico all the way from Canada is mind-boggling. Hundreds of millions of butterflies make this trip each year, and witnessing the congregation of these bright beautiful delicate creatures makes for an awe-inspiring experience.
Mexico is home to the second largest barrier reef in the world. The Mesoamerican Barrier reef runs along the Caribbean coastline of the Yucatan Peninsula and is home to 66 species of stony corals, more than 500 species of fish, as well as several species of sea turtles, dolphins, and whale sharks. This area offers the best snorkeling and scuba diving in the northern hemisphere.
The largest fish in the sea make their way to the Caribbean off the northeast coast of the Yucatan Peninsula every year between May and September. You can get up close and personal with these gentle giants on a visit to Mexico. Join a diving excursion in Cancun or Isla Holbox that will take you out to the open sea where the whale sharks come to feed. You will feel tiny swimming next to them.
The Yucatan Peninsula has distinctive geological features: it is basically a limestone shelf. Since limestone is porous, it has many sinkholes and tunnels in it. In fact, there are over two thousand cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula, and many are connected by underground rivers. These were the main source of water in ancient times, but were also important symbolically, since they were viewed as passageways to the underworld. Needless to say, exploring these cenotes and underground rivers is a fascinating experience.
The Sea of Cortez
Jacques Cousteau called it "the world's aquarium" and undoubtedly the Sea of Cortez, located between Mexico proper and Baja California is one of the largest and most diverse ecosystems on the planet. Here you can see humpback whales, bottlenose dolphins, and sea lions frolicking in the tranquil water, but you'll also spot a multitude of marine birds. The Baja Peninsula's landscape is generally stark, but its rich marine life provides a steep contrast.
Sotano de las Golondrinas
El Sótano de las Golondrinas known as "the Cave of Swallows" in English, is the largest known cave shaft in the world, and with a depth of 1400 feet, it is the second deepest pit in Mexico. Located in the state of San Luis Potosí, A multitude of birds, mainly swifts and green parakeets, make their home in the cave walls, giving the cave its name. This is a popular vertical caving destination, which delights thrill seekers and nature lovers alike.
Located in the state of Coahuila in a valley in the middle of the Chihuahuan desert, Cuatro Cienegas is made up of numerous underground springs which have formed rivers and pools within the desert region. Declared a protected area, it is an isolated habitat of extraordinary biological diversity. One of the natural pools, Poza La Becerra, is set up as a recreational facility; a cool swim in the middle of this desert landscape is an unforgettable experience.
Pico de Orizaba
At 18,491 feet (5,636 meters) above sea level, this is the highest volcano and the 3rd highest peak in North America. The Nahuatl name for the peak is Citlaltépetl which means "hill of the star." It is a dormant volcano on the border between the states of Veracruz and Puebla. The volcano is currently dormant, but not extinct, and a large number of climbers tackle it every year.