Mexico’s most extraordinary “ghost town”, Real de Catorce is tucked away in a remote corner of the Bajío, a region once littered with booming silver mines. Since the mid-1990s, an influx of artists, artesanía vendors, wealthy Mexicans and a few foreigners have re-built the virtually abandoned colonial centre, with its narrow cobbled streets and elegantly faded mansions. Huichol pilgrims visit to harvest fresh peyote in the nearby desert.
2.Oaxaca de Juarez
Oaxaca city remains one of Mexico’s most popular destinations, for good reason: it’s rich in folklore and culinary traditions, and features numerous fiestas, indigenous markets, fine local chocolate and a magnificent colonial centre. Oaxaca is also widely regarded as the artistic centre of Mexico, with several state-run and private galleries, craft and jewellery master classes and regular exhibitions.
Few of Mexico’s great Maya sites are as atmospheric as Yaxchilán. This ancient city can only be approached by boat, and today it’s shrouded in jungle in an incredibly evocative setting along the river, where the eerie moans of howler monkeys echo around the ruins.
This gorgeous colonial city presents an astonishing sight: upon emerging from the surrounding hills you come upon the centre quite suddenly, a riot of colonial architecture, tumbling down hills so steep that at times it seems the roof of one building is suspended from the floor of the last. There’s an old-fashioned, backwater feel to the place, reinforced by the local students’ habit of going serenading (and boozing) in black capes, on their famed callejóneadas.
5.Museo Soumaya, Mexico City
Carlos Slim’s Xanadu? One of the world’s wealthiest men funded the phenomenal Museo Soumaya, designed by the Mexican architect Fernando Romero. It’s not just the revolutionary architecture that appeals – the six-storey building is smothered by 16,000 hexagonal aluminium tiles – the museum also contains over 66,000 works from Pre-Hispanic Mesoamerica to twentieth-century Mexican art and beyond, including pieces from Rodin, Dalí, Murillo and Tintoretto.