Go South of the Border Down Mexico Way

Article excerpt

MEXICO is one big market stall, selling the most colourful items you'll find anywhere in the world.

Every resort, town and village sets up its stalls early in the morning and they are still doing business until late at night. So, if you love shopping, take a large suitcase...

Mexico is the hot new destination this year according to British Airways, who began weekly flights to Cancun a couple of months ago. The country has everything a tourist could want - fabulous beaches, lively resorts, hot sunny weather, incredible ancient ruins and stunning Spanish-style towns - and, of course, those markets.

Cancun, the No.1 resort on the Yucatan peninsula, is where everyone is heading for on charter packages with Thomsons, Airtours and First Choice.

More Florida than Mexico, it has an enormous choice of hotels, including many all-inclusive deals, along with thousands of bars, cafes, restaurants and discos. And the best nightlife for miles around.

From Cancun you can visit Chichen Itza - the most famous of all Mexico's Mayan ancient sites. Try to get there early to avoid the crowds, and do climb to the top of the castle. It will make you gasp (partly from the heady incline of the steps) but mostly at the sight of this astonishing 1,000-year-old city.

Coxumel is an island resort 45 minutes from the mainland. There are miles of reefs, with the crystal clear waters a diver's dream. And the shopping's great too.

If you want to experience the real Mexico, travel inland. Oaxaco (pronounced "Wa-ha-ka") is one of the most beautiful cities in Mexico. All the streets lead to the main square where everyone heads for a relaxing evening in cafes and bars (a beer costs around 60p). Next to the square is the covered Indian market, which sells everything from pottery, brightly-coloured carpets and clothes to varnished fruits. Oaxaco is also the silver capital of Mexico, so you can find plenty of shops selling rings, chains, necklaces and belts - all at reasonable prices.

Look out for "mole" shops around the market selling their own style of chocolatey, herby, spicy sauce. This sauce is then heated up and served with anything, including chicken, beef or potatoes - which takes some getting used to. …