Oaxaca is undoubtedly Mexico's creative hub. Much of the country's most recognisable arts and crafts such as the brightly coloured carved wooden animals, famous black pottery and vivid textiles, hail from the artisanal villages dotted around the region, which are easy to visit in a day trip from the city of Oaxaca. The city itself is as impressive as its surroundings. The huge tree-shaded Zocalo square, the imposing Santo Domingo Church and the numerous indigenous markets are all within walking distance from each other, making this a great place to explore on foot. What's more, the city is home to some of the best restaurants and street stalls in the country and there is no better way to soak up Oaxaca's vibrant café culture than over a delicious hot tamale or for the really brave, some grasshoppers.
The region's dramatic mountain landscape also make this an adventurers' dream, with everything from hiking and biking to climbing and riding all available. For something a little more cultural, the impressive Zapotec site of Monte Alban just outside the city shouldn't be missed.
Continuing south, Chiapas is Mexico's most southern state, bordering one of our favourite countries - Guatemala - and full to the brim with archaeological and natural wonders. Take a boat ride through the mighty Sumidero Canyon before taking the windy road up to the pretty mountain top town of San Cristobal de las Casas, with its charming cobbled streets and interesting mix of colonial and indigenous cultures. The animistic church in nearby San Juan de Chamula is particularly memorable - fresh pine needles cover the floors where church pews once stood and traditional Christian symbols have been replaced by wailing shamans and patients, who rubs eggs over each other and sacrifice chickens to draw out evil spirits.
The Mayan Ceremonial site of Palenque is arguably the country's most picturesque archaeological ruin and Chiapas' biggest attractions. Despite the tourists, this is a magical place buried deep in the jungle, where howler monkeys shriek and tropical birds squawk among the dense foliage. Further from the beaten track, Yaxchilan and Bonampak are smaller Mayan sites, but the chances are you'll have them all to yourselves which makes them just as, if not more, special.