You don’t know where to start when planning your trip to Mexico? I get it! Mexico is a huge country with lots to see. Check out this guide with the best places to visit in Mexico to get started.
The Crème de la crème. Picking the best places to visit in Mexico is really hard. This country is full of treasures of all kinds, but I had to try, just for you!
On top of always friendly locals, the reasons to visit are bountiful: world-class beaches, superb food, rich culture, fascinating history, natural landscapes out of this world… It’s really hard to decide which Mexican destinations to rave about first.
Next to a huge country like the U.S., Mexico may seem small, but don’t be deceived by the maps: it is the 14th largest country in the world. Its size, coupled with its varied climate and geography, make it a dreamland for travelers, so whatever your personality or preferences for an ideal holiday, I can assure you there is a perfect place in Mexico for you.
This is my pick of the best places to go in Mexico, so fasten your seatbelt and join me on this tour around Mariachi country.
In recent years, Tulum has been quickly climbing places on the list of the best vacation spots in Mexico, and it lives up to the hype!
The Tulum beaches are some of the most stunning beaches in Quintana Roo, with many miles of white powdery sand and turquoise waters. This once fisherman town also boasts a unique Mayan fortress with breathtaking views of the Caribbean, the Tulum Ruins, which is a must-see when in town.
Tulum has a foodie scene to die for, and a very unique, bohemian, casual-chic style that you can’t find anywhere else in the country. Its location also makes it a great base to explore the many, many cenotes around Tulum and other key Mexican attractions, hence topping my list of Mexico vacation spots.
Be prepared to splurge, though. This much awesomeness comes with a price tag.
READ MORE: 30 Best Things to Do in Tulum, Mexico
Since there’s SO much to see and do in the Yucatan Peninsula, consider booking a tailor-made Mexico holiday to make the most of your time. Original Travel is a creative travel agency that creates bespoke itineraries in Mexico and around the world, and specializes in honeymoons, luxury travel, family trips, and cultural experiences – and they offer some Mexico itineraries that look incredible!
Hierve el Agua
Let me introduce you to one of the most unique destinations in Mexico: a set of petrified waterfalls. Yes, you read that right.
Hierve el Agua is located in the state of Oaxaca (and makes for the perfect day trip from Oaxaca City). This magical place consists of rock formations that look like cascading water. The phenomenon happens because spring water goes through the limestone, picking up minerals that get calcified on its way down the cliff, making it look like a waterfall. The only other place where you can find this phenomenon is in Pamukkale, Turkey.
The “waterfalls” are 12 and 30 meters high. There are natural pools on the top of the cliffs with spectacular views of the surrounding mountains. The pools’ natural spring waters are said to have healing properties, so don’t hesitate to take a dip!
Hierve el Agua Entrance Fee: $50 MXN ($2.50 USD)
The lesser-known Palenque ruins are so worthy of your time that I’m including them in the top 3 of Mexico tourist attractions. In fact, I think they are my favorite Mayan ruins in all of Mexico.
Little is known about the history of this city tucked deep in the jungle of Chiapas, although much of what archeologists discovered was determined from the hieroglyphic inscriptions found during excavation.
Palenque was once a thriving city-state that bloomed during the 7th century. It had connections with other big Mayan cities, but eventually, it went into decline for reasons yet unclear. The site was reclaimed by the jungle, remaining undiscovered for centuries.
Today, Palenque is home to some of the most incredible Mayan architecture and art. Archeologists believe that the excavated area is only 10% of the actual size of the city. There are yet many treasures to uncover!
Palenque Archeological Site Opening Hours: Every day from 8:30 AM to 5 PM (last entry at 4 PM)
Palenque Archeological Site Entrance Fee: 80 MXN (3.9 USD)
Hectic, vibrant, and multifaceted, Mexico’s capital city is the economic and cultural core of the country.
Built by the Spaniards over what used to be the capital of the mighty Aztec empire, Tenochtitlán, it has since flourished into a buzzing urban center. The city combining pre-Hispanic, colonial, and contemporary elements into one beautiful symphony.
After the devastating earthquakes of 2017, many public spaces have been revamped and culture is flourishing.
It might not be the most popular Mexican destination in itself, but it’s home to intriguing museums, beautiful natural spaces, an inspired culinary scene, and a driven population that makes it the beating heart of Mexico. No wonder it’s one of the best cities in Mexico for digital nomads.
While here, don’t miss visiting the Zocalo in the historical center, eat churros at one of the hipster places in Roma Norte or Condesa, and take a day trip to the Teotihuacan ruins.
READ MORE ABOUT MEXICO CITY:
3 Days in Mexico City: The Ideal Itinerary
The VERY Best Mexico City Tours
The number one destination in Mexico has been a tourist favorite for decades now.
Cancun is like two cities in one. You have the long strip of beachfront filled with high-rise hotels, restaurants, and bars of the Hotel Zone (yes, it’s called like that), and then there’s Downtown Cancun, which provides the authentic Mexican component, where you’ll find many colonial and historic attractions.
Cancun has pretty much everything you can look for in a resort city and then some. There are plenty of things to do in Cancun. Days are spent near the water, either chillin’ on the beach, practicing any water sport imaginable in the balmy Caribbean waters or having fun in one of the many Cancun adventure parks.
And at night, the city turns into a party town, with endless entertainment options both in the town and at the beach. Cancun’s nightlife is famous internationally, after all!
Cancun is a great base to explore the area. From here you can easily take trips to Chichen Itza or Coba Ruins (or just stay close by and visit the ruins near Cancun), Holbox, Isla Mujeres, and tons of cenotes. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. No wonder it’s such a big magnet for visitors!
San Cristobal de Las Casas
Surprisingly one of Mexico’s popular destinations for digital nomads, this Pueblo Magico in the highlands of the Chiapas state is a cultural gem that charms tourists with its history, cuisine, art crafts, hospitality, and an old-time, slower rhythm that makes it feel alive but never hectic.
San Cristobal de Las Casas has retained the old Spanish colonial layout, with narrow cobblestone streets, houses painted in vibrant colors, wide patios, and flowery balconies that invite you to stay and relax for a while.
Every year, many festivities are held here which have existed for centuries and are solidly rooted in its indigenous identity, while the streets are full of life with markets selling homey food and local handicrafts. The surroundings, which include the Palenque ruins, are just as appealing and absolutely worth exploring too!
Sian Ka’an, the name given to this area by the Mayas that once inhabited it, means “Origin of the Sky“. Maybe it’s the reflections of the sky in the water or the many shades of blue and green, we don’t know, but Sian Ka’an is a heavenly place.
This UNESCO Biosphere Reserve is the largest protected area within the Mexican Caribbean, home to a remarkable variety of flora and fauna, and a complex hydrological system where all those species have coexisted since time immemorial.
This intricate link of marine, coastal and terrestrial ecosystems is one of the most naturally astonishing and most beautiful places in Mexico, and this is a lot to say considering the country’s striking diversity and sheer beauty. An unmissable stop for nature lovers and environmentalists.
READ MORE: 5 Sian Ka’an Tours Not To Miss
Looking for a quiet escape to an untouched island? Say no more. In a nature reserve between the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, there’s Isla Holbox, a little slice of Heaven in the form of a rustic, car-free island off the coast of Yucatan.
Separated from the mainland by a shallow 10-km lagoon that is home to pelicans and flamingos, Holbox has charm for days with its crystal clear blue waters and slow pace of life. It is a paradise for lovers of the outdoors and the best place in Mexico to swim with whale sharks.
Holbox has been dubbed “the new Tulum“, and it is one of the Mexico attractions that you should visit right now before prices start skyrocketing and tourist developments change its façade.
READ MORE: 7 Best Isla Holbox Tours from Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum
Do you want to know how many shades of blue there are in the world? Head to Bacalar, a freshwater lake in Quintana Roo nicknamed “Lagoon of Seven Colors“, although, trust me, there are more than seven.
This effect is caused by 7 cenotes located inside the lagoon. When sunlight hits the entrances to the cenotes, it exposes their particular hues, which vary with their depth and the time of day. Voilà!
The lagoon blends into the Caribbean Sea, and naturally, water activities are the center of life and fun here, while Bacalar town keeps a traditional Mexican feel and low-key vibe, perfect to relax and recharge. I don’t understand how Bacalar is not one of the most popular Mexico destinations, but let’s hope it remains that way.
San Miguel de Allende
Welcome to the city that has captivated so many locals, foreigners, and international chefs that has become one of the best places to travel in Mexico.
Arriving in San Miguel de Allende feels like stepping into a time machine. The historic center has remained practically unchanged for 250 years, with cobblestone streets framed by colonial buildings leading up to the imposing neo-gothic pink cathedral that rises tall above the city in pure Spanish style.
Widely considered one of the most beautiful cities in Mexico, San Miguel retains a small-town feel and it’s growing rapidly but with class, having earned a reputation as a culture, art, and cuisine hub, with modern amenities that attract thousands of tourists every year, giving it a very cosmopolitan vibe.
Cenote Dos Ojos, Tulum
Thanks to social media, many cenotes have become popular destinations in Mexico. These sinkholes are natural wonders that were considered sacred spots by the Mayans, who believed they were passages to the underworld.
Only half an hour from Tulum, Cenote Dos Ojos is one of the most famous (and beautiful) in Yucatan. “Dos ojos” means “two eyes” in Spanish: it turns out that this is not one but two cenotes connected by an underground passageway. In fact, the cenotes are part of a massive cave system.
Thanks to its depth and excellent visibility, Cenote Dos Ojos is great for cavern diving and snorkeling, and swimming is a pleasure, with water consistently around 20-25º C (high 70s Fahrenheit). Go early in the morning to avoid the crowds, but don’t miss it for the world!
Cenote Dos Ojos Opening Hours: Every day from 8 AM to 5 PM
Cenote Dos Ojos Entrance Fee: $350 MXN (17 USD)
Tucked in the middle of the Yucatan jungle, Chichen Itza has become one of the top destinations in Mexico and one of the New 7 Wonders of the World, both well-deserved accolades.
Contemplating the massive step pyramid El Castillo will make you feel both humble and powerful at the same time. It’s that impressive.
Chichen Itza dates back to the 6th century AD, when it was a major political, religious and cultural center in the Mayan empire. It was also a site of pilgrimage for more than 1,000 years, often compared to sites such as Jerusalem or Meca, and, although the reasons for its decline are still unclear, the mystery only adds to its allure. Don’t miss it.
When you’re done visiting the pyramids, stick around in the area for a couple of extra days, because I guarantee you that there is so much to see! Base yourself in Valladolid, Mexico, a colonial town near Chichen Itza, wander around its streets, swim in the Valladolid cenotes, and try all the traditional Yucatan food.
The next day, take a day trip to Las Coloradas, a series of man-made pink lakes that offer the perfect setting for your Instagram shots.
Chichen Itza Opening Hours: Every day from 8 AM to 5 PM
Chichen Itza Entrance Fee: MXN 533 for adults (26 USD) and MXN 80 for children (3.9 USD) – These prices are for non-Mexican citizens.
READ MORE ABOUT CHICHEN ITZA:
How To Get from Cancun to Chichen Itza
10 Best Chichen Itza Tours from Cancun
Playa del Carmen
Playa del Carmen is one of the most visited cities in the Riviera Maya. Home to palm-fringed, powdery sand beaches, warm turquoise waters, and a bustling city life, it offers the best of both worlds.
This coastal resort is packed with activities to suit every taste. From relaxing on the beach with a cocktail to getting your adrenaline pumping at the adventure parks, immersing yourself in the Mayan Jungle, and chasing underwater experiences, you’ll never get bored in Playa del Carmen.
It’s also a fantastic base to explore nearby cities, spectacular islands, and Mayan ruins, and a phenomenal choice for party-lovers as there’s much going on every night in the city center. Coco Bongo is the ultimate nightclub for an unforgettable experience, and you’ll find plenty of attractions strolling along 5th Avenue.
READ ALSO: 18 Fun Things to do in Playa del Carmen
Oaxaca City exudes charm and character thanks to its rich historical, cultural, artistic, and culinary legacies. There are plenty of things to do in Oaxaca, but the city also makes for a fantastic base to discover more of the area, which includes several famous places in Mexico such as Mitla and Hierve el Agua.
The cute historic center is dominated by beautiful constructions of green quarry, and is a pleasure to wander around while admiring the colonial architecture, and visiting the many arts and crafts stores, museums, and traditional markets.
Oaxaca is the birthplace of mezcal, an agave-based smoky spirit drank all over the country. The finest distilleries are here, though, so make sure to hit one of the many mezcalerías scattered around the center to start the night on a good note!
READ MORE: 9 Oaxaca Tours & Day Trips Not To Miss
Cañón del Sumidero (Sumidero Canyon)
Set inside a national park of the same name, the Sumidero Canyon is the second most visited attraction in Chiapas. The national park is invaluable for its natural significance since it’s home to endemic flora and fauna, and a lot of endangered animal species.
The Sumidero Canyon was carved out over millions of years by the Grijalva River and, even if rather short (it runs for 13 km/8 miles), the views are jaw-dropping, with steep walls towering up to 1 km (0.6 miles) on both sides.
The canyon can be appreciated from above and below. Walk along the viewpoints at the top and you will be rewarded with breathtaking views, or go on a boat tour to experience it from a completely different perspective. Beyond the canyon, the National Park itself is very worth exploring too!
Sumidero Canyon Entrance Fee: 34 MXN (1.7 USD) – This entrance fee does not include the boat tour. If you want to go on a boat tour, prices vary from MXN 200 to 800 (USD 10 – 39), and the entrance fee is included.
READ ALSO: 13 Unmissable Things To Do in Chiapas
While it might not top the list of most popular places to vacation in Mexico, Puebla stands its own as a cultural capital in the country, with cobblestone streets teeming with great museums, colorful markets, and colonial buildings decorated with painted Talavera tiles, typical from the region. And it’s not too distant from Mexico City, which makes it quite easy to visit!
Would you like to visit the largest pyramid in the world? Well, believe it or not, you don’t need to go all the way to Egypt for that. The biggest pyramid in the world, by volume, is in Cholula, a small town only 6 miles away.
Puebla is also one of the places to go in Mexico for gastronomy lovers. Go on a DIY food tour around town and try all the local delicacies —too many to mention here!
READ MORE: These Are the Best Things To Do in Puebla
Guanajuato is a festive and hilly town known for its silver mining history, colonial architecture, and complex network of streets and alleys.
The streets of Guanajuato are so narrow that the government had to create an underground network of roads for cars. This means very little traffic overground, making Guanajuato a quiet haven and one of the best places to go to in Mexico if you like to walk around.
Guanajuato sits at over 2,000 meters (6,500 feet) over sea level and the mountainsides are steep. Take the cable car to the top to appreciate the incredible views, and then simply start wandering downhill and get lost among its narrow alleys full of cheerful and colorful buildings. Don’t worry, they all lead to the cute historic center!
This city seems to have won the location jackpot: incredible beaches embraced by the lush mountains of the Sierra Madre Occidental, and the town tucked in between.
Puerto Vallarta has been one of Mexico’s resort cities par excellence for decades now. It’s also one of the safest places to travel in Mexico. Millions of tourists flock to its dazzling sandy beaches every year to enjoy the endless water activities and all the Puerto Vallarta tours on offer. And the trend shows no sign of stopping!
But it is in its picturesque historic center that Puerto Vallarta brings the real charm that makes it unforgettable, with cobblestone streets, quirk shops, and artsy boulevards perfect for an evening stroll. And at night, the city turns into a big party, with a pumping nightlife and top-notch gastronomy that won’t leave anyone indifferent.
The lovely capital of Baja California Sur is one of the favorite travel destinations in Mexico’s Pacific coast among tourists who know Mexico well and want to get away from the madness of bigger resort cities.
La Paz sits by the Sea of Cortez. Rest assured the diving is superb and water activities abound, with plenty of chances to spot whales, whale sharks, and sea lions. Magical Balandra Beach is also close by and very much worth a day trip.
The waterfront promenade in La Paz is one of the best in Mexico, so going for a stroll in the evening is a must, as it is stopping at one of the many art shops, fish taco stalls, and low-key restaurants to enjoy the view over the water. There are plenty of things to do in La Paz, so you definitely won’t get bored!
A true natural wonder, Copper Canyon is actually a massive system of twenty canyons. I’m not exaggerating when I say it’s one of the most astounding natural attractions and best travel places in Mexico.
At least six times larger than the Grand Canyon, it provides the backdrop for one of the most scenic train rides in the world: El Chepe. This railroad goes all the way from the Pacific Ocean up to the Chihuaha desert on a truly epic journey.
Copper Canyon might just be the best place to vacation in Mexico if you’re a big fan of the outdoors. You could spend weeks hiking, biking, horseback riding, four-wheeling, and a hundred more activities and never repeat a single trail!
Copper Canyon Train Schedule: At the time of writing, the train has the following schedule:
Los Mochis to Creel: Mon, Wed & Fri, departs at 8 AM and arrives in Creel at 5:40 PM.
Creel to Los Mochis: Tue, Thu & Sun, departs at 8 AM and arrives in Creel at 5:40 PM.
The schedule can change (especially during Covid times), so you can check the updated schedule here. The website is in Spanish, but it’s the legit one, and the calendar is clear. However, for information in English, check this website (it might not be 100% accurate).
Copper Canyon Ticket Price: The price depends on the class you choose (First, Executive, and Tourist). Prices for the route El Mochi-Creel go from MXN 2,500 to 4,200 (USD 121 – 204) for a one-way ticket, and from MXN 4,000 to 6,800 (USD 194 – 330) for a round trip. You can always check the updated prices here.
And there you go! I hope this list of the best Mexico destinations makes it easier to create an itinerary and decide where to go. For any doubts or questions, let me know in the comment!
This post was written in collaboration with Original Travel.
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[…] Puerto Vallarta is one of Mexico’s most sought-after destinations on the Pacific coast of Mexico, and also one of the very best places to visit in Mexico! […]