Unveiling Mexico's Best Travel Destinations: From Ancient Ruins to Scenic Seascapes
Discover the hidden gems of Mexico, where ancient ruins, stunning coastlines, and vibrant cities await. From the pristine beaches of Cancun to the majestic ruins of Chichén Itzá, this article unveils the best Mexico travel destinations that will leave you in awe. Immerse yourself in the rich culture of Oaxaca City, embark on a scuba diving adventure in Cozumel, or unwind on the tranquil shores of Isla Holbox. Whether you seek adventure, relaxation, or a taste of Mexico's incredible history, these must-visit places will take your breath away. Join us on a journey through Mexico's most captivating destinations and prepare to be mesmerized.
The Best Places To Visit in Mexico
Experience the wonders of Mexico with its countless attractions and activities. Traveling in Mexico is thrilling, uncomplicated, and affordable, making it one of my top travel destinations. In this post, I will share my recommended spots for you to explore.
Take a look at this comprehensive list of the best places to visit in Mexico and start planning your trip to this land of tequila and tacos!
Cancun is widely known as a vibrant party destination, and rightfully so. It boasts numerous all-inclusive resorts that offer round-the-clock drinks. The clubs in Zona Hotelera are particularly popular among spring-breakers seeking fun-filled nights. However, Cancun has more to offer than just drinking and dancing. There are plenty of recreational activities and family-friendly accommodations. Plus, you can take a short drive to visit the Mayan museum and ruins, providing an enriching day trip that even teenagers will enjoy.
The ultimate scuba diving destination
Embark on a journey to rediscover the enchantment of old Baja as you explore the untamed east coast and experience world-class diving in Cabo Pulmo. This coastal region is home to the only significant reef on the west coast of North America, spanning 27 square miles (71 square km). It is also one of the largest and most successful marine protected regions in the world. Here, you can witness black coral bushes, schools of horse-eye jacks, triggerfish, and even encounter hammerhead sharks, manta rays, and whale sharks depending on the season and currents.
You don't necessarily need a 4WD to enjoy the drive out here along the breathtaking Eastern Cape coastal road (from the south) or through the Sierra de la Laguna (to the west), although the road may get rough at times. By visiting Cabo Pulmo, you will escape the crowds and discover a serene atmosphere that is difficult to leave behind.
An eastbound Mexican passenger train winds its way up the Copper Canyon. © Bruce Raynor/Shutterstock
Once a thriving town known for silver mining, Guanajuato has now become a magnet for tourists and expats alike. Nestled on a steep slope of a ravine, this beautiful city earned its name, which means "Place of the Frogs."
While exploring Guanajuato, you will be captivated by its colonial architecture, vibrant-colored houses, charming plazas, and cozy cafes, providing ample opportunities to relax. This cultural city offers numerous museums, theaters, music venues, and festivals. Don't miss a chance to join a walking tour with the famous callejoneadas, a group of musicians and storytellers who will take you on a musical journey through the maze-like alleys like no other.
There are plenty of activities to enjoy in Guanajuato, including a delightful food tour for those who want to savor all the delicious tacos and more. Additionally, Guanajuato's wine region is an absolute delight. It is an ideal destination for couples seeking a memorable experience.
With its colorful buildings, historical sites, and vibrant atmosphere, Guanajuato is undeniably one of the most captivating places to visit in Mexico.
☞ SEE ALSO: Manzanillo, Mexico – The Ultimate Travel Guide
Discover the rich cultural heritage of Guanajuato.
An idyllic getaway
Located within a UNESCO-protected Biosphere Reserve, Espíritu Santo island is a feast for the eyes. The pink sandstone formations, sculpted by wind and waves, create a unique landscape with picturesque coves. Dive into the endless blue to explore colorful reefs, swim with whale sharks, and join the playful sea lions at their island colony. You can also go kayaking and snorkeling, taking in the serene beauty of numerous azure bays.
Overview of Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel church © Justin Foulkes/Lonely Planet
The Pacific coastline of Mexico offers an astounding natural beauty, with lush tropical mountains, secluded sandy coves, and mangrove-fringed lagoons teeming with birdlife. Along this pristine stretch, you'll find lively resort towns such as Mazatlán, Puerto Vallarta, Manzanillo, Ixtapa, Zihuatanejo, and Acapulco. Surfers flock to renowned surf spots like Barra de Nexpa, Boca de Pascuales, Troncones, and Puerto Escondido, interspersed between these vibrant coastal cities.
Indulge in all the tropical clichés here, from savoring delectable seafood under palm-frond roofs to lounging in hammocks with chilled coconut water. You can also enjoy poolside cocktails at upscale resorts. The cities offer a lively nightlife scene, and you'll find a beach for every preference, whether you appreciate high-rise hotels or quaint cabins. The ocean itself offers mesmerizing encounters with breaching humpback whales, nesting mother turtles, majestic pelicans soaring in formation, and playful dolphins frolicking in the waves.
The crater of Paricutín volcano, Mexico © AmericanWildlife/Getty Images/iStockphoto
A thrilling volcano climbing experience
Volcán Paricutín is still in its youth as far as volcanoes go. It burst into existence in 1943, erupting from a maize field in Michoacán. It is one of the youngest volcanoes in the world, and scientists have fully studied its life cycle. The relatively easy climb to the dormant crater, standing at 1,345 feet (410 m) high, offers a remarkable opportunity to stand atop a geological marvel.
To climb Volcán Paricutín comfortably, it's best to leave Angahuan before 9 am. At the tourist center, you'll find numerous guides with horses offering their services to the volcano and back via the ruined church. They will meet you at the bus from Uruapan. The cost for horses and a guide is approximately M$500 per person per day.
Temple of Kukulcán © Sergio Germano/Lonely Planet
As one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, it's no surprise that Chichén Itzá makes it onto the list of top places to visit in Mexico.
Prepare to be amazed by the magnificent El Castillo (The Castle), a pyramid built to honor a Mayan serpent deity. It is highly recommended to hire a guide who can provide fascinating insights into the history and architecture of this impressive structure.
Visit the awe-inspiring Chichén Itzá and immerse yourself in ancient history.
While the site attracts large numbers of tourists daily, it's possible to escape the crowds. Consider staying at a hotel a few miles away and visiting early in the morning. This way, you can enjoy the site almost to yourself before the vendors and touts begin their day.
If you're staying in the Riviera Maya (Cancun, Tulum, Playa del Carmen, etc.), don't miss the opportunity to take a highly-rated day trip to Chichén Itzá, which can be booked here. It's an experience you won't want to miss!
Visiting Chichén Itzá is one of the top things to do not only in Playa del Carmen but also in Mexico as a whole. For more information, check out our complete guide to visiting Chichén Itzá.
☞ Click here to see all available accommodation options near Chichén Itzá on Booking.com.
If you're looking for pristine and unspoiled beaches, Huatulco in Oaxaca is the place to be.
Huatulco boasts nine bays and thirty-six beaches, several of which are ecological preserves where development is prohibited. It is the only resort area in Mexico to have received a Green Globe award.
In addition to sunbathing, you can explore nearby coffee farms and waterfalls, or participate in activities such as rafting and cycling. This hidden gem is primarily popular among domestic tourists, but its charm will undoubtedly attract international attention soon.
Huatulco is undeniably one of the best places to visit in Mexico this year, so start planning your trip! Don't forget to also check out nearby Puerto Escondido in Oaxaca.
When you visit Mexico City, set aside a day to explore the ancient city of Teotihuacan. It was the largest pre-Colombian city in the Americas at its peak, with a population of approximately 150,000.
According to legend, Teotihuacan is the place where the gods gathered to plan the creation of humanity.
Explore the ancient city of Teotihuacan and climb its impressive pyramids.
Here, you can climb some of the largest ancient pyramids in the world. After enjoying panoramic views from the top of the Temple of the Sun, take a moment to savor a meal in a cave-shaped restaurant.
La Gruta, located just outside the ancient city, provides the perfect place to cool down and enjoy delicious food. It is highly recommended to take a Mexico City tour that includes a visit to Teotihuacan, such as this highly-rated and affordable trip that even includes tequila!
If you're interested in ancient ruins, the best time to visit Mexico is during the shoulder season in April or May, when there are fewer tourists. Also, be sure to spend time exploring the Yucatan region and visit other remarkable ruins like Ek Balam, Coba, and Chichen Itza, which are among the best Mayan ruins in Mexico.
For a smaller-scale yet equally fascinating ancient site, consider exploring the Mayan ruins at Palenque in the state of Chiapas. Chiapas itself is one of the best places to visit in Mexico.
Oaxaca City (one of the most culturally rich cities to visit in Mexico)
This stunning colonial city is the capital of the state with the same name, and it truly deserves its spot on the list of top destinations in Mexico.
By the way, it's pronounced wa-HAH-ka. Here, you'll discover some of the finest cuisine in Mexico, bustling markets, and a vibrant arts and crafts scene.
Oaxaca is also home to the Guelaguetza festival, which showcases the area's indigenous culture and is centered around traditional dancing. It's one of the premier festivals in the whole of Mexico.
The city also hosts one of the biggest celebrations in the country for the Day of the Dead (Dia de Los Muertos) – this is a must-do experience in Oaxaca, so make sure you don't miss it.
Once a peaceful fishing village, Zihuatanejo experienced a surge in tourism with the development of the nearby resort city of Ixtapa.
Forget about the planned resorts and instead head to this laid-back town that locals call Zihua. Stroll along the cobblestone streets, savor the incredibly fresh catch of the day, and just relax on the idyllic beaches.
If this place seems familiar, that's because it's the paradise that Andy and Red escaped to in The Shawshank Redemption. After spending a few days unwinding in Zihua, you'll likely start planning your permanent escape here too.
Click here to search for a beautiful villa, apartment, or house to rent during your stay in Zihuatanejo.
☞ READ MORE: 15 Fun Things To Do in Zihuatanejo, Mexico
For those seeking an escape from all-inclusive resorts, chain stores, and organized tour groups in Puerto Vallarta, consider hopping on a speedboat and heading 45 minutes south in the Bay of Banderas to Yelapa.
It's not an island, but it definitely feels like one. With its location nestled between the mountains and the ocean, you won't find any roads or cars here.
This small fishing village used to attract famous actors and musicians (like Bob Dylan) who sought a getaway in this little slice of paradise in Mexico.
You might not find Mr. Tambourine Man hanging out in Yelapa anymore, but you can enjoy activities like horseback riding, hiking to a waterfall, or simply relaxing in a hammock while listening to the sounds of crashing waves and children playing.
Life is slow here, and life is good. Don't miss Yelapa if you're looking for unique places to visit in Mexico.
Best place for peaceful beaches
Do yourself a favor and visit this region. Unlike the crowded and overdeveloped Cancún and Riviera Maya, you can still find quiet fishing villages on the Costa Maya that prioritize sustainable development, such as Mahahual and Xcalak, both of which boast some of the best dive sites on the Caribbean coast. Then head inland to Laguna Bacalar, a laid-back lakeside town known for its breathtaking scenery, a 295ft-deep (90m) cenote, and an old Spanish fortress.
Monarch butterflies in the Biosphere Reserve, Mexico ©Noradoa/Shutterstock
Cozumel (one of the must-visit places in Mexico for scuba diving)
If you want to add a Caribbean island to your Mexico trip, you can easily take a quick ferry ride from Playa del Carmen to Cozumel.
The main highlight here is the incredible diving and snorkeling, which is among the best in all of Mexico. Cozumel has numerous dive shops, making it a great place to get certified if you haven't already.
There are plenty of things to do in Cozumel, so it's well worth staying for a few days rather than just visiting on a day trip. Rent a scooter to explore small Mayan ruins, an excellent national park, and the rugged beaches on the east coast.
You'll find a variety of options for places to stay, eat, and party in Cozumel, although it's still less developed compared to neighboring destinations on the mainland. Click here to search for accommodation in Cozumel.
"The San Francisco You've Never Heard Of" is a popular nickname for this beach town. It's more commonly known as San Pancho, and it's a little piece of paradise on the Pacific coast of Mexico.
While it's located near Puerto Vallarta and Sayulita, it's less crowded and developed than its neighbors.
Despite being a small, peaceful pueblo, there are plenty of things to do in San Pancho. Yoga classes, the polo club, volunteering at the excellent community center, and more are available. Not bad for a beach town with just 2,000 residents!
Isla Holbox (one of the top places to visit in Mexico for relaxation)
Often regarded as Mexico's best-kept secret, Holbox is a small island off the northern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. It's an ideal spot for wildlife enthusiasts, especially during the summer months when whale sharks visit.
There's not much else to do here, but that's the beauty of it. Simply enjoy the beauty and laid-back atmosphere of this island where you can spend most of your time barefoot. Isla Holbox is one of the top destinations in Mexico if you're looking for relaxation.
To reach the island, you'll need to drive or take a bus to the town of Chiquila and then catch a ferry. Cars are not allowed on the island, so if you have one, you'll need to leave it parked in Chiquila.
Since there are no cars on the island, your options for getting around include renting bicycles or golf carts.
If you're seeking a more authentic Mexican experience in the Riviera Maya than what you'll find in Cancun or Playa del Carmen, look no further than Puerto Morelos. This peaceful beach town is located between the two popular tourist spots, giving you easy access to both.
Despite its close proximity, Puerto Morelos has a completely different atmosphere compared to the glitz of Cancun.
You won't find massive resorts here, as the buildings are limited to three stories to maintain the town's small-town feel. However, if you still desire a luxurious vacation, there are some amazing resorts along the coast.
Just offshore is the Great Mesoamerican Reef, the second-largest reef system in the world. This makes it one of the best places in Mexico for snorkeling or scuba diving.
Located just south of the US border with San Diego, Tijuana is one of Mexico's fastest-growing cities. It's a vibrant and lively place, to say the least.
Many foreigners come here for affordable goods and services such as dental work, pharmaceuticals, eyeglasses, Cuban cigars, plastic surgery, and of course, a good time.
If you can look past the quirks like donkeys painted as zebras for photo ops, you'll find plenty to discover in Tijuana.
The city has a thriving art scene centered around the massive Centro Cultural Tijuana. Vibrant street art is also abundant here. Tijuana is passionate about sports and is home to several professional teams. While you're here, catch a night of lucha libre wrestling for an unforgettable experience.
Of course, you'll also want to indulge in the city's famous nightlife, whether it's trying out different craft breweries or participating in a tequila tasting.
For Americans, Tijuana is one of the easiest places to visit in Mexico, but it's still worth a trip even if you're not coming from the States.
Tijuana Airport serves as a gateway for many travelers visiting the Baja Peninsula to explore the fantastic wine and food in the Guadalupe Valley (Valle de Guadalupe). If you're coming from San Diego, simply cross the Mexican border and drive to the Valley!
Puerto Escondido (one of the best places to visit in Mexico for surfing)
The name of this beach town in Oaxaca translates to "Hidden Port" in English. Despite being a longtime favorite among surfers and backpackers, it remains a relatively undiscovered gem in Mexico.
That's probably because there are no direct flights from the US or Canada, and it's a bumpy 7-hour bus ride from Oaxaca City. However, the effort to get here is well worth it!
Even if you're not interested in surfing, there are plenty of activities to keep you occupied. Take a boat tour to spot marine life, swim in the bioluminescent lagoon, or try skydiving for an adrenaline rush.
After all the excitement, unwind in a temazcal, an indigenous steam bath. Don't miss our Travel Guide to Puerto Escondido.
While New Orleans and Rio grab all the attention, did you know that Mexico also hosts numerous massive Carnaval celebrations?
One of the most famous takes place every year in the coastal city of Mazatlan. For one week, the oceanfront Malecon is filled with revelers who come to enjoy the grand parade, fireworks, live music, and the incredible party atmosphere.
Outside of Carnaval, there are still plenty of things to do in Mazatlan. Explore the beautiful historic center, participate in water sports, play a round of golf, or just relax on the beach at nearby Stone Island.
San Cristobal de las Casas
All across Mexico, there are designated Pueblos Magicos (Magic Villages). One of the best is the charming town of San Cristobal de las Casas in the southern state of Chiapas.
Like many other colonial towns, San Cristobal features red-tiled roofs and picturesque cobblestone streets. Start your day with a cup of famous Chiapas coffee and explore the plazas, museums, cathedrals, and markets.
Nestled in a valley and surrounded by hills, this town offers plenty of opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors.
There are several day trips you can take around Chiapas to visit canyons, waterfalls, eco-reserves, and much more. Just keep in mind that the elevation here is 2,200 meters, so it might be wise to acclimate yourself before engaging in strenuous activities.
Just an hour up the coast from Puerto Vallarta, you'll discover the bohemian beach town of Sayulita. This laid-back town in Nayarit attracts surfers, yogis, and artists who are looking for a more relaxed vibe.
If you've never surfed before, this is a great place to learn. The waves are quite gentle, and there are plenty of instructors available.
If you'd like a change of scenery from the beach, there are various options. Sayulita is surrounded by jungle, offering opportunities for hiking, horseback riding, or ATV adventures.
Visiting between November and January gives you the chance to embark on a whale-watching boat trip.
Located just south of Guadalajara, Mexico's largest freshwater lake awaits you. Known for its pleasant climate, picturesque scenery, and friendly locals, Lake Chapala is undoubtedly one of the best destinations to visit in Mexico.
There are several towns dotting the lake, with Chapala and Ajijic being the most popular.
While it's possible to visit the lake on a day trip from Guadalajara, it's highly recommended to stay for a few days. However, be warned that you may fall in love with the place and consider moving here. After all, it's one of the most popular retirement destinations in the world.
Valle de Guadalupe (the ultimate destination in Mexico for wine enthusiasts)
If you enjoy wine, food, beautiful accommodations, and a relaxed atmosphere, Valle de Guadalupe (Valle) is the perfect destination for you.
The Guadalupe Valley is often compared to California's Napa Valley, but with more affordable winery visits and accommodations. Located in Baja California, this hidden gem of Mexico is the ideal place for a weekend getaway with friends, a romantic escape, or if you simply want to indulge in excellent food and wine.
The boutique hotels, villas, and restaurants blend seamlessly with the desert landscape, and guests often dress in a desert-inspired color palette to match the surroundings.
We recently embarked on a week-long trip, eating and drinking our way through Valle de Guadalupe – and it was truly an incredible experience! We highly recommend it as one of the top destinations in Mexico for foodies and wine enthusiasts. See also: Valle de Guadalupe – Complete Travel Guide
San Miguel de Allende
San Miguel de Allende, a beloved destination for expatriates from Mexico, has been recognized as the Best City in the World by Travel Leisure.
This enchanting and vibrant city boasts pleasant weather, a thriving arts scene, and a magnificent church at its heart. There are numerous activities to keep you entertained in San Miguel de Allende. Beyond the city, you'll find hot springs, horseback riding, cycling, and more.
Although San Miguel has a reputation as a haven for foreigners, you can still experience the local culture here. It's one of the best places in Mexico to learn Spanish, with plenty of opportunities for homestays where you can live with a local family and practice the language.
If you're looking for a more authentic experience, consider exploring the attractions in Guanajuato, just an hour and a half away.
☞ Click here to see all available accommodations in San Miguel de Allende on Booking.com.
Copper Canyon Railway
The Best Train Ride
The Copper Canyon Railway, also known as Ferrocarril Chihuahua Pacífico, is one of the top rail journeys in Latin America. The train takes you from the coastal town of Los Mochis to the adventure-filled town of Creel, passing through the breathtaking landscapes of the Copper Canyon. Along the way, you'll witness alpine forests, tropical valleys, Tarahumara villages, and some of the world's deepest canyons. You can choose to stay overnight at lodges overlooking the canyon or spend several days exploring, hiking, horseback riding, and even zip-lining in this awe-inspiring destination.
The historic center of Oaxaca city with its famous Santo Domingo church, part of the UNESCO world heritage site. © Maria Swärd/Getty Images
Once considered a hidden gem, Tulum has now become a popular destination in Mexico. Despite its growing popularity, Tulum offers a less crowded experience compared to nearby Cancun and Playa del Carmen. To avoid the crowds, it's best to visit the ruins early in the morning before the tour buses arrive.
The beaches in Tulum are beautiful, but don't miss the opportunity to swim in a cenote, a natural sinkhole found abundantly in the Yucatan. Cenotes are perfect for snorkeling and scuba diving.
In town, there are plenty of options for wining, dining, and enjoying the vibrant nightlife. Tulum is known for its lively party scene. Despite its popularity, there are still many enjoyable activities to do in Tulum, making it one of the best places to visit in Mexico.
Cabo San Lucas
Cabo San Lucas has maintained its popularity as a holiday destination over the years. This vibrant town attracts visitors with its sport-fishing, lively nightlife, and bustling marina filled with luxurious yachts. Cabo San Lucas also offers fabulous dining options and high-end accommodations like Hacienda Encantada, Montage Los Cabos, and The Resort at Pedregal, known for its breathtaking infinity pool.
Mérida, the capital of the Yucatán Peninsula, seamlessly combines Spanish colonial heritage with its deep Mayan roots. At the heart of the historic center lies Plaza de la Independencia, surrounded by Mérida Cathedral and Iglesia de la Tercera Orden. The city offers more than just a glimpse into the past. Museo Fernando García Ponce-Macay showcases contemporary Yucatecán art, while Paseo de Montejo, with its leafy trees and 19th-century mansions converted into hotels, resembles the famous Champs-Élysées in Paris.
Playa del Carmen
Playa del Carmen, located in the heart of the Riviera Maya, is a popular beach destination. Its central location between Cancun and Tulum (with easy access to Cozumel) makes it an ideal base for exploring the region.
Playa del Carmen is home to stunning beaches. Spend your days snorkeling, fishing, yachting, or simply relaxing at one of the many beach clubs.
But there's more to this destination than just its beaches. Playa del Carmen is surrounded by eco-parks where you can indulge in birdwatching, explore caves and underground rivers, or even swim with sea turtles.
In town, the options are endless for wining, dining, and enjoying the nightlife. Playa del Carmen is also gaining popularity among digital nomads.
For more information on Playa del Carmen, check out our articles.
Valladolid, a city steeped in history, offers cobblestone streets, Spanish arcades, 16th-century churches, convents, and colorful colonial facades. Explore Mexican folk art at Casa de los Venados and savor authentic Yucatán cuisine at family-run eateries. Keep in mind that Valladolid's inland location means it can get quite hot without the ocean breeze. To cool down, take a dip in one of the many freshwater cenotes scattered throughout the city.
Mexico City, the vibrant capital of Mexico, is a must-visit destination. Known as CDMX to locals, it offers a lively atmosphere and countless attractions. A few days or even a week is not enough to fully explore everything this city has to offer.
Immerse yourself in Mexican culture by visiting museums that showcase a wide range of topics, from anthropology to art, history, and even tequila. Don't miss the chance to see the ruins of the former Aztec capital and the stunning cathedral in the city center.
Make sure to take advantage of the great tours available in the city and explore the nearby attractions. This highly recommended walking tour of the historic center is a perfect way to get acquainted with the city upon your arrival. Learn more here.
While sightseeing is a must, don't forget to indulge in the city's culinary delights and experience its vibrant nightlife. Mexico City is a paradise for foodies and party animals alike, with a wide range of street food, international restaurants, bars, and clubs. Every night out in Mexico City promises excitement and fun.
☞ Click here to compare prices on all available accommodations in Mexico City on Booking.com. For a unique stay, check out our list of the best Airbnb options in Mexico City.
Navigating Mexico City can be overwhelming at first. Find out how to get from the airport to downtown in our post.
The historic center of Morelia.
Set in Western Mexico, Morelia serves as a gateway to explore the rich Prehispanic traditions and colonial architecture of the region. The city's downtown center is anchored by the rose-hued Morelia Cathedral and is surrounded by a variety of new restaurants, including La Conspiración de 1809, led by chef Cynthia Martinez, who specializes in regional dishes. Next door, Café Michelena provides a relaxed ambiance for enjoying cappuccinos and blueberry tarts. From Morelia, you can easily access other well-known towns such as San Clara del Cobre, home to the country's best coppersmiths, and Patzcuaro, famous for its traditional Día de Muertos festivities.
The beautiful location of Etéreo in Riviera Maya.
Courtesy of Auberge Resorts CollectionThis stretch of Caribbean coastline along the Yucatán Peninsula is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Mexico. It begins south of Cancun and continues to the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve in Tulum. The area offers many attractions to explore, from hidden cenotes (freshwater swimming holes) made of limestone to ancient ruins like Coba, which has the highest temple and oldest network of stone causeways in the Maya world. Some of the top resorts in the area include Etéreo, a luxurious 75-room hotel located on a protected stretch of white-sand shoreline, and Palmaïa, a secluded sanctuary south of Playa del Carmen known for its plant-based cuisine and jungle spa. Further south in Tulum, recommended accommodations include the private and relaxed Olas Tulum, an all-suite property, and Sanará, a wellness-centered hotel with a focus on plant-based cuisine.
Mexico's second-largest city, Guadalajara, has a lot to offer and should not be overlooked when planning a trip to Mexico. It is known as the birthplace of tequila and mariachi music.
In addition to enjoying these cultural attractions (ideally at the same time), there are many other sights to explore. Most of them are located in the Centro Historico and can easily be visited in a day.
Sports fans will love Guadalajara, as it is home to two football teams. You can attend matches of the popular Chivas or the underdog Atlas for a fun and lively experience.
No visit to Mexico would be complete without experiencing lucha libre, and the Estacion Pub offers a great party bus that takes you to the arena every Tuesday night. Don't forget to grab a colorful mask as a souvenir. Find out more and book your lucha libre night here.
When backpacking in Mexico, make sure to explore all the amazing things Guadalajara has to offer and enjoy its vibrant nightlife.
An exquisite ocean cliff villa at the One&Only Mandarina.
Photo: Rupert PeaceSet on Mexico’s Central Pacific Coast and surrounded by towering Sierra Madre mountains, the wild coast of Riviera Nayarit offers a unique blend of small towns and luxurious resorts. For a taste of the area's laid-back roots, visit the beachside towns of Sayulita and San Pancho, where you will find smoothie bars and hip cafes. For a more luxurious stay, consider the 1,500-acre Punta Mita peninsula, an exclusive gated community with a relatively arid climate. It is home to resorts like the Four Seasons and St. Regis. Further north, you will find Mandarina, a resort development known for the One&Only Mandarina, surrounded by a lush jungle with tropical foliage and towering mountains. This ultra-luxurious property offers private villas with dedicated butlers.
The stunning Sumidero Canyon in Chiapas.
Photo: Getty ImagesIn the southernmost part of Mexico, you'll find Chiapas, a mountainous region that borders Guatemala. It is known for its vast rainforests where coffee and cacao plants thrive. To explore the region's impressive Maya archaeological sites and Spanish colonial architecture, most travelers choose to base themselves in either San Cristóbal de las Casas or Chiapa de Corzo. One of the most famous cultural sites in Chiapas is Palenque, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with over 200 architectural structures and a lush ecosystem of streams and waterfalls. For adventurous travelers, a boat tour of the Sumidero Canyon offers a unique opportunity to see the site's towering vertical walls, some of which reach over 2,500 feet.
A breathtaking view of El Tepozteco, a small Aztec pyramid above Tepoztlán.
Photo: Getty ImagesLocated about two hours south of Mexico City, Tepoztlán is a pueblo steeped in legend and folklore. It is believed to be the birthplace of the Aztec god Quetzalcóatl and is home to the Tepozteco pyramid, dedicated to the god of fertility, Tepzēcatl. The mystical atmosphere of the town can be experienced in its boutique hotels, such as Amomoxtli, located on the outskirts and known for its lush gardens and tranquil outdoor pool. In downtown Tepoztlán, Casa Fernanda offers a more central stay and features Toci Spa and an on-site temazcal sweat lodge. Within walking distance is Margarita Concept, a greenhouse-style cocktail bar set within the grounds of the hilltop boutique hotel, Posada del Tepozteco.
The charming village of Bernal in Querétaro.
Photo: Getty ImagesQuerétaro, along with its neighboring state of Guanajuato, is considered Mexico's premier up-and-coming wine region. It is renowned for its ever-growing natural vineyards. One of the top wineries to visit in the area is Tierra de Peña, located in Valle de Colón. Founded by architect-turned-vintner Luis Aburto, the winery is known for its spicy tempranillo and sparkling pet-nat with passionfruit notes. Querétaro's growth also extends to concepts like Hotel Hércules, housed in a textile production plant originally built in 1846. After extensive renovation, the hotel will open in July and feature an indoor beer garden, as well as independent studios by design firm Caralarga and architecture group Goma, which led the hotel's renovation. The hotel also includes a luxury spa and social club.
Located on the Yucatan Peninsula, near the border with Belize, you will find the stunning Bacalar, also known as the "Island of Women." The name comes from its ancient Mayan sanctuary dedicated to the goddess of childbirth and medicine, Ixchel.
With its crystal clear, turquoise waters, Bacalar resembles the Maldives or the Caribbean. This tranquil destination in Mexico offers a slow-paced atmosphere where you can relax in a hammock and swim in the water all day long.
Other activities include taking a boat trip (preferably on a sailboat to preserve the water's cleanliness), dining at one of the local waterfront restaurants, and exploring the town by bicycle. Bacalar is a must-visit destination in Mexico for a truly relaxing holiday.
A picturesque beach near Todos Santos.
Photo: Getty ImagesSituated between Los Cabos and La Paz on Mexico's Pacific Coast, the charming town of Todos Santos has gained popularity among travelers. It is beloved by surfers for its point break at Los Cerritos and its breathtaking cliffside trails offering panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean. Additionally, it is a haven for design enthusiasts, with numerous boutique hotels like Hotel San Cristobal and Paradero, both of which offer luxury accommodations. The town is also home to La Confianza, a natural wine bar, along with popular eateries like Barracuda Cantina, known for its delicious shrimp tacos, and The Green Room, where locals and visitors gather to enjoy margaritas and tostadas at sunset.
Located just a few miles off the coast of Cancun in the Caribbean Sea, Isla Mujeres, or the "Island of Women," is a must-visit destination.
The island gets its name from its history as a Mayan sanctuary dedicated to the goddess of childbirth and medicine, Ixchel. When the Spanish arrived and saw the many images of the goddess, they named the island Isla Mujeres.
While many travelers visit for a day trip, there are plenty of things to do on this small island that make it worth a longer stay if you have the time. Rent a scooter or a golf cart and spend a couple of carefree days hopping from one beautiful beach to another and enjoying the relaxed pace of life.
Click here to search for a beautiful place to stay in Isla Mujeres.
The best place for nature adventures
The remote region of La Huasteca Potosina is a hot and steamy land of vibrant tropical flowers and dense jungles hiding breathtaking blue waterfalls and swimming holes. It offers a stark contrast to the grand colonial cities and cool ranching areas that dominate central Mexico. This captivating region attracts adventurous travelers with its stunning scenery, rich Huastec (Tének) culture, and extraordinary sinkholes, caves, and bird-watching opportunities. Whether you're seeking adrenaline-pumping thrills or tranquil natural beauty, Huasteca Potosina offers it all.
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This article was first published in June 2021 and updated in October 2021.
An infinity pool with a stunning view of Costa Careyes.
Photo: Getty ImagesThis seaside enclave on Mexico's Pacific coast gained fame in the 1980s as a hotspot for models and jet setters. Today, Careyes is known for its wellness offerings and unique architecture. The town, located along the south coast of Jalisco and a 90-minute drive from Manzanillo airport, is home to a cliffside dotted with 65 colorful villas cascading towards the water. Larger homes are also available for rent, including the royal blue-colored Tigre del Mar and the bright gold-colored Sol de Oriente, as well as homes designed by Mexican architects Luis Barragán and Diego Villaseñor. Visitors can enjoy boating to sea caves and white-sand beaches, as well as dining at the Playa Rosa Beach Club and the omakase-style Shio Sushi at the El Careyes Club and Residences.
With its vibrant culture, stunning landscapes, and rich history, Mexico offers an abundance of incredible travel destinations. Whether you're seeking relaxation on the pristine beaches of Tulum or the tranquil charm of San Miguel de Allende, or perhaps an adventure in the Copper Canyon Railway or Guanajuato's winding streets, Mexico has something for every type of traveler. Discover the ancient ruins of Chichén Itzá or immerse yourself in the captivating flavors of Oaxaca City. From the bustling streets of Mexico City to the peaceful shores of Isla Mujeres, Mexico is a country that will captivate your senses and leave you yearning for more. So pack your bags, explore the best Mexico has to offer, and create memories that will last a lifetime.
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