Mexico from palm-fringed beaches, chili-spiced cuisine; steamy jungles, teeming cities; fiesta fireworks & passionate celebrations. Mexico is a land of extremes, with high mountains and deep canyons in the center of the country, sweeping deserts in the north, and dense rain forests in the south and east. Mountains cover much of Mexico. Between the Sierra Madre Oriental mountain range in the east and the Sierra Madre Occidental in the west lie small mountain ranges on the Central Plateau. The stretch of land called the Yucatán Peninsula juts into the Gulf of Mexico from Mexico's southeastern tip. It was once the home of the Maya civilization, an ancient culture whose amazing buildings can still be seen today.

Mexico is the product of a rich Indian heritage, three centuries of Spanish rule, and a shared border with the world's richest country, the United States. Today, most Mexicans are mestizos, which means they have a mix of Indian and Spanish blood. Throughout its history, Mexico has been home to great artists. The Maya and other Indians made impressive murals, sculptures, and jewelry. Modern Mexican artists include great painters, photographers, sculptors, and muralists. Mexicans take sports seriously. In ancient times, losers of a ritual ball game were once put to death. In some dangerous sports, like bullfighting and rodeo (which was invented in Mexico), competitors still put their lives on the line.

In northern Mexico, deserts are full of plant and animal species that have found ways to survive the harsh environment. On Mexico's west coast, gray whales swim thousands of miles each year from Alaska to breed in the waters off Baja California. The rain forests and coastal wetlands of eastern Mexico are home to thousands of tropical plant species and elusive animals like jaguars and quetzal birds.

The Olmec people, Mexico's first complex society, emerged in the southeastern part of the country around 1200 B.C. They were later followed by the Maya, the Toltec, and the Aztec peoples. Mexico's ancient societies built great cities and huge pyramids, created remarkable works of art that will be part of the itineries listed.

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