Climate and Environment

Mexico, a Land of Three Lands

Mexico's topography is characterized by diverse landscapes which create a range of different climate zones across the country

The beach at sunset

Mexico’s topography is characterized by a diverse range of landscapes including coastal plains, temperate highlands, and extensive mountain ranges which climb to elevations of over 10,000 feet above sea level. This diversity creates a variety of different climate zones across the country.

If you’re planning to visit Mexico, and especially if you plan to live here full time or part-time, it’s worth getting acquainted with the different geographical areas which make up the country’s terrain. The local climate will influence a location’s characteristics and attractions, and so choosing the right climate zone is an important part of your decision-making, especially if you’re planning to live, retire or buy a home here.

A location’s climate patterns depend upon the combination of its geographical latitude combined with its elevation above sea level.  Mexico has three distinct ‘land types’, and these are denoted in Spanish as: Tierra Caliente, Tierra Templada and Tierra Fría.

Tierra Caliente – hot land – comprise areas which range from sea level to around 750 meters (2,460 feet) above sea level.  These lands are predominantly found at Mexico’s beach locations and along coastal plains which extend out from mountain ranges that descend into the Pacific Ocean or Gulf of Mexico. These lands are typically found in the country’s northern deserts; the lowlands on the Baja peninsula; the Isthmus of Tehuantepec (between the state of Oaxaca and the Yucatán Peninsula); and the Yucatán Peninsula proper.

Tierra Templada – temperate land – comprise areas situated between 750 meters and 2,300 meters (7,545 feet) above sea level.  These include most of Mexico’s attractive colonial cities, as well as the country’s three big cities: Mexico City, Guadalajara, and Monterrey.

Tierra Fría – cold land – comprise areas situated at elevations above 2,300 meters (7,545 feet) above sea level.  In Mexico, these lands are characterized by notable mountain ranges and some volcanoes, most notably Pico de Orizaba, the highest peak in Mexico and the second-highest peak in North America, and the famous volcanoes of Popocatépetl (active) and Iztaccihuátl (extinct).

Here is a synopsis of weather characteristics in each terrain type:

Tierras Calientes

Tierras Calientes offer year-round warmth; but get very hot and, south of the Tropic of Cancer, humid during the rainy season (May to October).  Choose these areas if you want to vacation (or live) in a year-round warm climate, but be aware that summers can get extremely hot and be accompanied by drenching humidity in places.  They the areas most likely to be affected by hurricanes. Some people choose to visit or live in these areas only between the autumn and early spring, when the temperature is more moderate, and humidity levels are subdued.

Tierras Templadas

Most of Mexico’s temperate climates are to be found inland—up in the mountainsTierras Templadas offer, as the name suggests, a mild and moderated climate all year-round.  However, late autumn and winters at these elevations can get cool or cold, depending on the local topography; during these seasons the daytime high temperatures (which can reach mid-70sF/23C) can collapse sharply overnight to drop around freezing (32F/0C).  The rainy season, May to October, tends to finish abruptly, and the dry season becomes very noticeable between mid February and late May.

Tierras Frias

Mexico doesn’t have too many settled towns and villages in regions classed as Tierras Frías: those at least 7,500 feet above sea level.  There do exist some settlements – usually populated by long-standing indigenous residents – at these very high altitudes.  However, most people who come to Mexico experience these places only on certain mountain hikes and expeditions into Mexico’s wilderness.

For more information about visiting and living in places situated at high elevation in Mexico, read Breathing Easy at High Elevation and Why 7,000 Feet Can’t Deliver a Free Lunch.

You can also read more articles about Mexico’s weather and climates here on Mexperience.

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2 Comments

  1. Mulege Sally says

    We have retired to BCS (Baja California Sur) and enjoy living in Mulege most of the year. However, during the summertime, we move to Punta Abreojos on the Pacific Coast where the weather is cooler (80’s sometimes 90’s) and we get nice afternoon breezes off the ocean. Mulege is wonderful from October to May, but then becomes very hot and humid with temps right now at 104 degrees and humidity in the 70’s or above. Also, the danger of hurricanes each year prompts residents from the US and Canada who live along the river to store all of their household belongings before moving to the coast or back to the US for the summer. A real hassle but worth it because Mulege is a delight the rest of the year. It is a great relaxing life however, with nice, friendly people and super seafood and drink. We love it here.

  2. Chef William says

    Great information. We have retired to Puerto Vallarta and love it but there are a couple of months when if you don’t have air conditioning, you spend the afternoons in Sams Club or Walmart just to stay cool. It can be so hot that it is not confortable to sleep at night. It is worth it, You bet it is. Wonderful people, wonderful food, and an easy way of life.

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