Why Mexico is Such a Popular Travel Destination
Mexico, with its diverse range of experiences, enthralling culture, and captivating landscapes, has always managed to enthrall tourists and keep them coming back for more.
According to Mexico’s Ministry of Tourism, the country saw a whopping 28.1% increase in tourist arrivals, rounding up to 31 million visitors a year.
The alluring charm of Mexico, one of our favorite travel destinations, lies in its rich historical path, preserved architectural splendors, vibrant cities, soothing coastal towns, and untouched nature’s marvels and hidden gems.
So without further delay, here are the 15 Best Places to Visit in Mexico.
Mexico Travel Map of The Best Places to Visit
Vibrant Cities Uncovered
1. Mexico City - A Place of History and Innovation
Regarded as one of the best places to visit in Mexico, Mexico City seamlessly marries a rich indigenous past with cosmopolitan vibrancy. The cityscape is a fascinating blend of soaring modern skyscrapers and meticulously preserved colonial architecture.
From visiting ancient Aztec sites to indulging in world-class hotels, there is a touch of both old and new.
Here, tourists will find a wide array of attractions, including the Plaza de la Constitucion, the Metropolitan Cathedral, the National Palace, and the Templo Mayor’s ancient Aztec temple ruins. Perhaps one finely pointed-out fact that shouldn’t be missed about Mexico City is that it surfed its way into the hearts of foodies.
With delectable cuisine and tempting food tours, it’s every food traveler’s paradise. Add to this mix hundreds of museums, art galleries, and performing arts centers, and you’ve set the stage for a culturally rich adventure!
Here are all the Amazing Things to Do in Mexico City.
2. Guadalajara - The Birthplace of Mariachi
The second-largest city in Mexico, Guadalajara, is celebrated as the birthplace of goat-herder Mariachi music, a symbol of Mexican culture.
This culturally vibrant city also stands as the cradle of Tequila and Mexican rode-style sport, Charrería. A trip to Guadalajara takes you from its traditional charm to its modern establishments seamlessly.
It houses irresistible culinary delights with trendy cafés such as El Terrible Juan and upscale restaurants like Xokol, presenting corn-based traditional dishes.
If you’re a fan of architecture, the city also has an impressive architectural heritage, including the Guadalajara Cathedral, Hospicio Cabañas (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), and modern set-ups in the Colonia Americana neighborhood.
Journey a little outside the city, and you will find yourself in the town of Tequila, with blue agave fields and distilleries beckoning for a tour.
A stay at Casa Habita on your visit to Guadalajara offers you a boutique experience like no other, with a rooftop pool and easy accessibility to restaurants and other hotspots.
Don’t end your visit without experiencing a charrería event at an arena of the Charros de Jalisco. It is an enriching visit that pivots around culture, history, and contemporary attractions.
3. San Miguel de Allende - A Quaint and Colorful City
Named the Best City in the World by Travel and Leisure readers in 2017 and 2018, San Miguel de Allende is a vista of color and charm.
Nestled in the Mexican highlands, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site filled with well-preserved, vibrant buildings. The city’s interesting blend of Mexican culture and European influences is a draw for tourists from all across the globe.
San Miguel de Allende is a haven for lovers of architecture, history, and art. Visit the pink-hued Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel and wander through narrow cobblestone streets that open into dynamic, green courtyards.
Sample local gastronomic delights at rooftop bars and explore the bustling local arts and shopping scenes. An adventure-filled trip with a four-wheeler ride in the desert or a romantic hot air balloon ride over the city at sunrise can complete your visit.
Make your stay memorable at the luxurious Rosewood San Miguel De Allende or the boutique Casa Delphine. This colorful city is sure to enchant you with its art, heritage, and unique experiences.
Here are all the Best Things to Do in San Miguel de Allende.
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4. Oaxaca City - Colonial Architecture and Indigenous Culture
Crowned as the best city in the world in 2022, Oaxaca City is a symbol of authentic Mexican tradition and heritage.
Nestled in a valley below the Sierra Madre Mountains, Oaxaca’s mix of colonial architecture and indigenous culture, combined with a rich arts and crafts scene, offers an unparalleled cultural experience.
At its heart is the town square, Zocalo, juxtaposed against the beautiful colonial landmarks, including the 18th-century Oaxaca Cathedral and the Santo Domingo Church. A step out of the city brings you to archaeological sites like Monte Alban, where you can witness the remnants of the ancient Zapotec civilization.
Not to forget Oaxaca’s vibrant food and drink scene – especially renown for its Mezcal and local moles.
Staying at the Casa Oaxaca Hotel brings you close to the city’s major attractions, and dining at the Los Danzantes restaurant is a perfect way to savor Oaxaca’s delicious local cuisine. If you’re there around November, witnessing the richly celebrated Day of the Dead festival is a must.
Here are all the Best Things to Do in Oaxaca.
5. Guanajuato City - Vibrant and Picturesque Colonial City
Nestled in the mountains of Central Mexico, Guanajuato is a vibrant city steeped in history and culture.
Brimming with colorful facades, this grand old city is a UNESCO World Heritage site renowned for its well-preserved Spanish colonial architecture, subterranean tunnels, and charming cobblestone streets.
As you stroll through the city, don’t miss the spectacular panoramic sunset views from the El Pipila Monument, accessed by a funicular ride. Experience the unique adventure of walking through the city’s subterranean network of tunnels, initially created for flood control.
Visit the Jardin de la Union, the city’s main square, where you’ll find street performers, delicious street food, and Guanajuato’s iconic San Diego Church. Absolutely a must-visit is Callejón del Beso, a narrow alleyway famous for a tragic love story akin to Romeo and Juliet.
Renowned for its lively cultural scene, Guanajuato hosts the world-famous Cervantino Festival, attracting artists from all over the world. Whether you’re a history buff, art lover, or adventurer, Guanajuato has something to offer everyone.
Stay at the quaint Villa Maria Cristina Boutique Hotel for the best experience, including a rejuvenating spa and a gourmet dining offer.
Here are the Best Things to Do in Guanajuato City.
Nature's Marvellous Escapes
6. Copper Canyon, Chihuahua - Deeper than the Grand Canyon
In the southwestern part of the state of Chihuahua lies Copper Canyon, a marvel of nature that’s a stunning amalgamation of six unique canyons, even larger and deeper than the famous Grand Canyon.
Named after the copper-green hue of the canyon walls, this mesmerizing canyon network is filled with breathtaking vistas, diverse species of flora and fauna, and fascinating rock formations like the human-like San Ignacio formations.
To fully experience Copper Canyon’s grandeur, embark on a scenic railway journey on the Chihuahua-Pacifico Railway, popularly known as the Copper Canyon Railway. This 15-hour ride takes you through the core of the canyon, from Chihuahua to Los Mochis, ensuring you get to witness every shift in the breathtaking views.
Aside from the train journey, Copper Canyon offers a range of exciting experiences. Go zip-lining across canyon lines, hike through the lush nature, and discover the isolated and independent indigenous cultures residing in the mountains. For an overnight stay, opting for a hotel with a captivating canyon view is a must.
Despite its isolated location, Copper Canyon never fails to impress with its vibrant biodiversity, distinctive cultures, and thrilling adventure possibilities. It may be less known than other destinations in Mexico, but it is certainly one of the best that every adventurer should visit.
7. Isla Holbox, Quintana Roo - Where You Walk with Giants
Isla Holbox, a secluded gem just off the Yucatan Peninsula’s north coast, is an enthusiast’s paradise where the wild meets the wondrous. It’s part of the majestic Yum Balam Nature Reserve, home to fascinating marine life, including the gentle whale sharks, the largest fish species in the world.
This remote island destination boasts powdery white-sand beaches and shallow turquoise waters perfect for a relaxed beachfront holiday. The car-free, sandy streets of the island uphold a laid-back vibe and are perfect for barefoot discoveries of colorful Caribbean-style houses.
For more island adventures, you can take a boat trip to El Cuyo.
Birdwatchers get ready to spot over 150 bird species, including flamingos and pelicans, that call this idyllic retreat their home.
Don’t miss the unique experience of a bioluminescence kayak tour or snorkeling with whale sharks. While away your evenings at the boho-chic shops or savoring fresh seafood at beachfront restaurants. And when it comes to accommodation, colorful beachfront hotels such as Casa Las Tortugas beckon.
Despite its growing popularity, Isla Holbox has still managed to retain its quintessential charm and unspoiled beauty, an oasis to unwind away from the bustling Cancun and Riviera Maya. Isla Holbox truly stands as a beckoning dream for beach lovers, water adventurers, and bird enthusiasts.
Here are all the Best Things to Do in Isla Holbox.
8. Lake Bacalar, Quintana Roo - Mexico's Secret Beaches
Lake Bacalar, often dubbed the “Maldives of Mexico,” is a mesmerizing destination that’s still off the beaten path. Exceptionally known for its crystal clear seven-shaded blue lagoon, it’s a slice of paradise located in the state of Quintana Roo, close to the Belize border.
Its serene, turquoise Lake of Seven Colors (Laguna de Los Siete Colores) is a marvel of nature that changes shades with the sun’s movement. It’s an adventurer’s playground, ideal for kayaking, paddleboarding, boating along its 26-mile stretch, or simply lounging on the dock of your lakeside rental, soaking in the dreamy views.
Alongside watersport activities, explore the old Spanish fortress or dive into the 300-foot-deep cenote. Time your visit well, and you can be a part of the distinct local cultural experiences like the temazcal sweat ceremonies at Casa Hormiga boutique hotel.
For the best lake living and Maldives vibes, book a hotel or rental like the Ya’ax Lagoon Bacalar, situated by the lake itself. If you’re looking for serene beauty, a dash of history, and a laid-back Mexican vacation, Lake Bacalar is a must-visit destination.
Here is my Guide on the Best Time to Visit Mexico.
Reviving in Relaxing Coastal Towns
9. Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo - Pearly White Beaches and Neon Nightlife
Positioned in the heart of the Riviera Maya, Playa del Carmen boasts stunning pearly white beaches, tropical jungles, and a lively atmosphere. Once a laid-back fishing village, it has transformed into one of Mexico’s most vibrant coastal destinations.
Just as popular with vibrant nightlife as it is with serene beaches, Playa del Carmen features something for everyone.
Hit the beaches during the day, with Mamitas Beach being a great choice for those looking for buzz and Playacar for a quieter ambiance. Adventure enthusiasts can explore the underground rivers and cenotes – natural sinkholes filled with clear, cool water – just outside of town.
As the sun sets, the neon nightlife takes over! Stroll through Quinta Avenida, the city’s main dining, shopping, and nightlife corridor, savoring authentic Mexican dishes, trying out tequila, and shopping for souvenirs. Check out some of the happening beach clubs or dance the night away at the world-famous Coco Bongo.
Stay at the gorgeous Hotel Xcaret Mexico for a full all-inclusive experience complete with eco-parks, a zoo, tours, and delectable food. Whether you’re a beach bum, party-goer, or adventure junkie, Playa del Carmen won’t disappoint.
Here are the Most Amazing Things to Do in Playa del Carmen.
10. Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco - Beauty Between the Sea and Mountains
Situated on the Pacific Coast’s Bay of Banderas in the state of Jalisco, Puerto Vallarta fascinates with its stunning beaches and lush jungle-clad mountains. This beautiful city melds colonial landmarks with first-class resorts, gourmet restaurants, and bountiful nightclubs.
Admire the golden sand beaches, which offer both relaxation and water sports such as sailing, kite surfing, and deep-sea fishing. Being a favorite place for divers, you can spot giant manta rays and dolphins here and humpback whales from December to March.
In town, the scenic boardwalk, widely known as the Malecon, is a fantastic place to dine, socialize, shop, and admire the ocean view. Outside of town, relish a tour of mango and papaya plantations or experience hiking in the lush hills and mountains.
Living up to its reputation as Mexico’s prettiest resort town, Puerto Vallarta provides guest attractions for every type of traveler.
Your stay at the luxurious Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit Resort would complete your vacation with its opulent suites, infinity pools, and tantalizing dining experience. This coastal city is more than just a typical resort getaway; it’s a Mexican bonanza!
Here are all the Best Things to Do in Puerto Vallarta.
11. Los Cabos - A Resort City Known for Its Arches
Located on the tip of Baja California Sur, Los Cabos holds the title of a premier tourist destination.
Famed for its spectacular natural attractions, Los Cabos is a Tale of Two Cities – San José del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas, separated by the 20-mile “Corridor.”
San José del Cabo exhibits an authentic Mexican ambiance with charming colonial architecture, while the vibrant Cabo San Lucas is noted for its luxury resorts and lively nightlife.
Don’t miss a tour of Land’s End landmark or Playa El Médano, the most well-known beach in Los Cabos, especially popular amongst surfers and divers. The town’s natural beauty is complemented by an array of activities, including championship golf courses, excellent scuba diving spots, exciting whale-watching experiences, and water sports.
Los Cabos has rapidly gained the nickname ‘Marlin Sportfishing Capital of the World.’ If you’re an angler, charter a private boat for a fishing adventure and try your luck at catching a prize marlin.
As an addition to its portfolio, Los Cabos is also renowned for its remarkable food scene, brimming with exceptional dining options that fuse traditional recipes with international trends.
Stay in upscale resorts like the One&Only Palmilla or Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal for a luxury vacation. Lesser crowded than other Mexican resort areas, Los Cabos stands as a trendy all-inclusive resort city that guarantees fun, relaxation, and memorable experiences.
Here are the Best Things to Do in Los Cabos.
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Digging into Historic Sites
12. Chichen Itza, Yucatán - Wonders of the Mayan World
Situated in the Yucatan Peninsula, Chichen Itza is the most visited archaeological site in Mexico, drawing more than 2.6 million tourists each year.
This ancient Mayan city, with its impressive structures displaying strong influences from other Central Mexico civilizations, has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and selected as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
The astounding architectural ruins offer a window into the Mayan civilization. The undoubted star attraction is The Pyramid of Kukulcan – or El Castillo – a massive temple that dominates Chichen Itza and was ingeniously constructed to portray serpents crawling down the side of the pyramid.
Many tourists prefer visiting Chichen Itza as a day trip, especially from Cancún or Merida. However, for an immersive experience, a night stay can be arranged. Experience a tour of the nearby town of Valladolid and arrive early at the archaeological site to avoid the crowd.
History enthusiasts, architecture lovers, or anyone intrigued by ancient civilizations will find Chichen Itza awe-inspiring and thoroughly enlightening. The site reflects the great knowledge and innovative thinking of the Mayans, truly a notch above the rest.
Here are all the Best Mayan Ruins in Mexico.
13. Teotihuacan Pyramids, State of Mexico - Civilization Lost in Time
Lying 30 miles northeast of Mexico City, the Holy City of Teotihuacan is an archeological wonder not to be missed.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site holds the ruins of an ancient city that thrived between the 1st and 7th centuries CE. These ruins offer invaluable insights into one of the most powerful cultures of the ancient world — a civilization that remains shrouded in mystery.
The city’s landmarks include the marvelous Pyramid of the Moon and Pyramid of the Sun and the Temple of Quetzalcóatl. The Pyramids are the most significant structures, rising from the famed Avenue of the Dead. Visitors often find the experience of climbing these vast pyramids transformative, as they’re rewarded with panoramic views of the entire ancient city.
Consider hiring a guide or taking a guided tour to unlock the myriad secrets of the city. For the adventurous, take a hot air balloon tour for a bird’s-eye view of the city. Discovering Teotihuacan is akin to stepping into a time machine, where one can fully sense the grandeur and significance of this ancient civilization.
This site’s historical and cultural value and its ease of accessibility from Mexico City make it an essential part of any Mexico travel itinerary.
Here is my Ultimate Mexico Packing List.
Mexico's Hidden Gems
14. Valle de Guadalupe, Baja California Sur - Paradise for Wine Connoisseurs
Known as the “Napa Valley of Mexico,” Valle de Guadalupe is a beautiful vineyard-rich valley located in Baja California.
Offering more than 150 wineries, it’s a paradise for wine and food lovers seeking a tranquil retreat. The laid-back attitude paired with the rustic and eclectic environment charms visitors looking for a wine-tasting experience or a romantic getaway.
The valley gains admiration for the quality of its wines, which have led to international recognition. Be sure to explore cutting-edge boutique wineries like El Cielo or the modern Encuentro Guadalupe and savor the flavors of the region. Most of these wineries pair their produce with fantastic local culinary delights for a food and wine experience like no other.
Accommodations, including hotel resorts and vilified developments, are integrated into the natural beauty of the landscape. For instance, the Montevallo Health & Wellness Resort, a luxury all-inclusive resort, is nestled amongst fields of lavender and vineyards to give a fantastic wine country experience.
Whether you love a good Cabernet Sauvignon or you’re an aspiring sommelier, Valle de Guadalupe, with its laid-back pace, relaxed tasting rooms, and farm-to-table dining, is more than just Mexico’s Napa – it’s a hidden gem waiting to be savored.
Here are all the Amazing Things to Do in Mexico.
15. Sumidero Canyon, Chiapas - A Natural Wonder Born from a Crack
The Sumidero Canyon National Park is a natural haven in the southernmost state of Mexico, Chiapas. Shaped by the Grijalva River over millions of years, this massive canyon sports 3000-foot-tall rock walls, luxuriant vegetation, and cascading waterfalls – a sight for sore eyes.
Adventure seekers can experience awe-inspiring boat rides across the Grijalva River that cuts through the canyon, revealing wondrous sights like waterfall cliffs, unique rock formations, and dramatic cave entrances.
Living in this thriving ecosystem are various wildlife species like river crocodiles, spider monkeys, jaguars, and several bird species, offering opportunities for fantastic wildlife spotting. The park isn’t just limited to boating. It has paths for hiking and biking, offering visitors a different perspective of the canyon.
Given the canyon’s vastness, experts advise a scenic boat tour to best witness the canyon’s magnificence. Conveniently located a short drive from Tuxtla Gutiérrez, the state capital, it’s an excellent day trip for exploring and photography.
Sumidero Canyon is a remarkable example of Mother Nature’s artwork. Often overlooked in favor of well-known destinations, it promises a memorable experience for anyone who enjoys adventurous outings and breathtaking landscapes.
FAQs about the Best Places to Visit in Mexico
What is the safest part of Mexico to vacation?
San Miguel de Allende in the state of Guanajuato, Merida located in Yucatan, and Puerto Vallarta in Jalisco are among the safest places to vacation in Mexico.
While these areas have low crime rates and are often frequented by tourists, it’s important for visitors to follow general travel safety precautions, like being aware of their surroundings and following local laws and customs.
Here is my Full Mexico Safety Guide.
What are the best places in Mexico for couples?
For the romantic souls, the idyllic coastal towns of Puerto Vallarta, Playa del Carmen, and the luxurious, secluded haven of Los Cabos offer a blend of sun-kissed beaches, charming dining spots, and stunning resorts.
For culture-loving couples, touring vibrant cities like Mexico City, Guanajuato City, and San Miguel de Allende offers a rich historical, culinary, and artistic exploration.
For a unique, romantic experience, a getaway to the wine country of Valle de Guadalupe makes for an ideal retreat.
If you are thinking about exploring more of Mexico, see if Renting a Car in Mexico is the way to go.
Which side of Mexico is better for vacation?
Choosing between Mexico’s east and west coast is subject to individual preferences.
- The Pacific west coast, with cities like Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas, boasts stunning sunsets, great surfing waves, and deep-sea fishing.
- The east coast, with Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum, offers powdery white sand beaches, fantastic snorkeling along the Great Mayan Reef, and close access to Mayan archaeological sites.
Both sides offer distinctive experiences—choose based on your specific interests and activities.
Here are all the Most Amazing Things to Do in Tulum.
What is the prettiest city in Mexico?
San Miguel de Allende and Guanajuato are widely considered some of the prettiest cities in Mexico due to their colorful and well-preserved colonial architecture.
However, the UNESCO World Heritage Site Oaxaca City, recently named the best city in the world, is also admired for its rich culture and beautiful colonial structures.
In the recent bunch of favorites, Santiago de Querétaro is rising in the list with its picture-perfect churches and colonial buildings.
Here are all my Top Mexico Travel Tips.
What are the best places to visit in Mexico for young adults?
Cancun and Playa del Carmen are hotspots for young adults, known for their lively nightlife scene, water sports, and beautiful beaches.
- Mexico City, with its blend of history, culture, and trendsetting scenes, is a great urban destination.
- Guadalajara offers a unique blend of modern city vibes and traditional Mariachi music.
- For adventure seekers, taking a rail trip through Copper Canyon or diving into the cenote in Tulum could be thrilling experiences.
Here are the Best Cenotes in Mexico.
What is the number one tourist attraction in Mexico?
The most visited tourist attraction in Mexico is the archaeological site of Chichen Itza, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
It draws visitors from around the globe for its impressive Mayan structures and historical significance, especially the iconic Pyramid of Kukulkan. Chichen Itza continues to amaze visitors with its awe-inspiring signs of advanced Mayan architecture and astronomy knowledge.
What are the best places to go in Mexico for all-inclusive resorts?
Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Riviera Maya in Quintana Roo are well-known for their luxurious all-inclusive resorts.
They offer a mix of beachfront relaxation, outdoor activities, and proximity to major attractions like Mayan ruins. Los Cabos in Baja California Sur also offers top-notch all-inclusive resorts famous for their luxurious amenities and ocean views.
For a quieter vibe, consider Puerto Vallarta in Jalisco, which showcases all-inclusive options from family-friendly to adult-only resorts.
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Conclusion: The Best Places to Visit in Mexico
From the mesmerizing vistas of Copper and Sumidero Canyons to the charming cities of Guanajuato and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico’s offerings are as varied as they are compelling.
The past meets the future in fascinating cities like Mexico City and Teotihuacan, while the allure of the beaches, vibrant nightlife, and all-inclusive luxury resorts in places like Cancun and Playa del Carmen are undeniable.
Nature lovers can find solace in the pristine beauty of Isla Holbox, while thrill-seekers would be captivated by the offbeat allure of Lake Bacalar. And who can resist the beckoning of Mexico’s wine country at Valle de Guadalupe or the stunningly beautiful Chichen Itza, a preserved slice of the Mayan world?
Be it the adventure of water sports, the serenity of the beaches, the lure of the vibrant cities, the fascination of the Mayan history, or the charm of the countryside, Mexico weaves a captivating tapestry for every traveler. So pack your bags, Mexico awaits!
And if I missed anything, let me know in the comments below!
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