The heart of Mexico is also one of its greatest treasures. History runs deep here, especially in Hidalgo, where the Toltecs left their mark and indigenous cultures still thrive, speaking their native languages and living much as they have for centuries.

Michoacan is another great area, on Mexico's west coast, where the Monarch butterfly migration every year draws thousands of tourists to see trees festooned with millions of the beautiful flyers. Don't miss the Cascada de Tzararacua, a spectacular 30-meter waterfall.

In the state of Morelos lies one of the world's great botanical treasures, Cuernavaca, known as "The City of Eternal Spring." Tropical plants of every type grow to incredible size and in amazing abundance here. The floral displays and walls of greenery are breathtaking, and you'll wear out your camera long before you run out of pictures to shoot. Cuernavaca is also an international learning center for Mexico's language, culture and history.

The state of Mexico, which borders Mexico City but does not contain it, is a major agricultural area that offers many opportunities to explore pre-Columbian ruins of the Toltecs and Aztecs and immerse yourself in the wonders of the past.

Are you looking for a quiet small-town getaway, somewhere to relax and collect your thoughts or maybe get to work on your novel? Guanajuato is just the place, a picturesque government seat and college town that is filled with quaint plaza and historic buildings.

Guadalajara is the perfect blend of urban and slower-paced colonial life, with all the options a large city offers along with abundant quiet, picturesque plazas and neighborhoods where you can relax and let the leisurely pace of life draw away your cares.

Of course, no discussion of Mexico would be complete without Mexico City, the third-largest city in the world and the capital city of Mexico. The beachside destinations get all the glossy press, but Mexico City is well worth a visit, with its magnificent cathedrals, museums, colonial buildings and lively and varied nightlife. You could spend a month here and still only scratch the surface!

Food fans will have to be sure and add the state of Puebla to their itineraries. It is the epicenter for mole sauces, complex creations of chiles, chocolate and exotic spices that are among the most difficult to make well and most prized in the world. There are thousands of mole sauce recipes, and you'll want to try them all!

Looking to relax and wash your cares away with a dip in a hot spring spa? Aguascalientes is your destination, with the very name meaning "hot waters" in Spanish. Go in late April or early May for the San Marcos Fair and collect all the best in arts and crafts, see magnificent parades and bullfights and find food like you've never tasted!

For a deep dose of Mexican history, the small state of Queretaro is an ideal destination. The plans for the rebellion against Spain were hatched here. United States history met Mexico's here in 1848, when the treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo ceded California, Arizona and New Mexico to the U.S. During the French occupation, Emperor Maximilian made his headquarters here before he fell to his own army following defeats to Benito Juarez's people's army. More recently, the current Mexican constitution was drafted here in 1917.

Central Mexico
Central Mexico