What are the best places to visit in Mexico? With bustling cities, pristine beaches, colorful hill towns, ancient ruins, and natural wonders, Mexico is the gift that keeps on giving for travelers. Unfortunately, many skip Mexico entirely thanks to its less than stellar reputation.
While there are certainly dangerous areas, most of the best places to visit in Mexico are quite safe. Would you skip out on the Grand Canyon because you read about violence in Chicago? I didn’t think so! Check out this list of the 12 best places to visit in Mexico and start planning your trip to the land of tequila and tacos.
1. Mexico City
When it comes to the best places to visit in Mexico, we have to start out with the country’s vibrant capital city. Mexico City (or DF as it’s known to locals) is one of the liveliest cities out there. There are so many things to see and do here that even a week isn’t really enough.
Spend your days visiting museums on a wide range of topics, from anthropology, to art, to history, and even tequila. You can also see the ruins of the former Aztec capital city and a stunning cathedral right downtown.
Sightseeing is great in Mexico City, but it’s the culinary and nightlife scenes that make it one of the best places to visit in Mexico. Foodies and party animals alike will be in paradise here. You’re spoiled for choices with a bounty of street food, international restaurants, bars, and clubs. Every night out can be a great one in this city!
Check out the “Streets, Beats & Eats” of Mexico City in this video tour.
Mexico’s 2nd largest city definitely lives in the shadow of the capital, but Guadalajara has enough going on that you should also include it when choosing your places to visit in Mexico. After all, this is the birthplace of tequila and mariachi.
In addition to sampling both (ideally at the same time), there are quite a few cultural sights to take in. Most of these are located in the Centro Historico and are easily visited in a day.
For sports fans, Guadalajara is home to two football teams. You can catch the wildly popular Chivas or the ultimate underdog Atlas for a wild, beer-soaked good time.
No visit to Mexico would be complete without an evening of lucha libre, and the Estacion Pub runs a great party bus to the arena every Tuesday night. Be sure to grab a colorful mask as a great souvenir. When backpacking Mexico, don’t miss Guadalajara and the party nights!
Do a quick Google search of the best places to visit in Mexico, and you probably won’t find the country’s 3rd largest city on there. Known more as an industrial city, Monterrey often flies well under the radar of tourists. Surrounded by epic mountains, it’s actually a great choice for eco-tourism and you can enjoy hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, and more, all within reach of the city.
In the city, you can enjoy a stroll through the Macroplaza to take in some cutting edge architecture. After visiting the massive Mexican History Museum, take a boat cruise up the manmade river to Parque Fundidora and stick around for sunset. Be sure to work up an appetite and dig in to a plate of cabrito (slow roasted goat), the local specialty.
4. Puerto Vallarta – Definitely One of The Best Places to Visit in Mexico!
Forget the tourist trap of Cancun and head instead to Mexico’s west coast for your beach vacation. Puerto Vallarta has been making lists of the best places to visit in Mexico for decades now and for good reason. While it is well-known as an all-inclusive resort and spring break party destination, PV is so much more than that.
Adventure junkies will love this place, as you’ve got sky diving, bungee jumping, and paragliding all on tap here. Speaking of on tap, PV has two craft breweries and several fantastic cocktail bars. The real fun goes on outside of the resorts in town, where the party goes all night. There are endless things to do in Puerto Vallarta!
Having spent six months in Puerto Vallarta, I can say with confidence that this is also a great place to live. Although it’s on the coast and is wildly popular, it’s surprisingly affordable. Read more about the cost of living in Puerto Vallarta and you’ll be ready to move there as well.
How does a pristine and undeveloped stretch of beach sound? If you’re into that, you should probably be planning a trip to this gorgeous part of Oaxaca. Huatulco is home to nine bays and thirty-six beaches, and many of them of them are ecological preserves where development is not allowed. It’s actually the only resort area in Mexico that has won a Green Globe award.
In addition to sunbathing, you can also visit nearby coffee farms and waterfalls or join in a rafting or cycling trip. This hidden gem is mostly popular with domestic tourists, but it won’t be long until the secret is out. This is definitely one of the best places to visit in Mexico this year, so start planning!
*Bonus, check out nearby Puerto Escondido in Oaxaca too!
Once upon a time, Tulum was considered an off-the-beaten-path destination in Mexico. The path has definitely been beaten now, as more and more travelers flock here for the white sand and turquoise waters. That being said, you’ll still find far smaller crowds here than you will in nearby Cancun and Playa del Carmen. Just be sure to get to the ruins early in the morning to avoid the dreaded tour buses.
The beaches are great here, but you can’t come to this part of Mexico without taking a dip in a cenote. These sinkholes are abundant in the Yucatan, and they’re a great place to do a bit of snorkeling or scuba diving. Back in town, you’ve got tons of choices to wine and dine the night away. Although not a hidden gem, Tulum is still one of the best places to visit in Mexico.
When visiting Mexico City, be sure to set aside a day to explore the ancient city of Teotihuacan. It was the largest pre-Colombian city in the Americas, with a population of around 150,000 at its peak. As the legend goes, this is the place where the gods planned the creation of man.
Here you’ll be able to climb on some of the largest ancient pyramids in the world. After taking in the views from atop the Temple of the Sun, you can sit down to lunch in a cave. La Gruta is located right outside of the ancient city and is the perfect place to cool down. Oh yeah, the food is pretty good, too!
If you’re into ancient ruins, make sure you spend some time around the Yucatan, visiting Ek Balam, Coba and Chichen Itza – definitely one of the best things to do in Cancun.
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Enjoy this short video tour of the ruins.
Located in the state of Chiapas (which in itself is one of the best places to visit in Mexico), the Mayan ruins at Palenque are much smaller than some of the more well-known sights. Surrounded by jungle and far from any major city, it also means that they’re far less crowded. In addition to exploring the ruins, you’ve also got several waterfalls and caves in the area to check out.
While some visit the ruins on a long day-trip, you’re better off basing yourself in one of the cool forest hideouts. Spending the night at one of these funky spots allows you to get an early start and take in the ruins before the hottest part of the day.
9. Chichén Itzá
As one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, it should come as no surprise to see Chichén Itzá on a list of the best places to visit in Mexico.
Be prepared to be awestruck by the amazing El Castillo (The Castle), which was built to honor a Mayan serpent deity. This is one place where it’s well worth it to shell out a few extra pesos for a guide, so you can learn the fascinating details of this impressive structure.
While hordes of tourists descend upon the site on a daily basis, it’s very easy to escape the crowds. Stay at a hotel a few miles up the road rather than visiting on a day-trip, and you’ll almost have the place to yourself in the early morning. Even the vendors and touts aren’t going yet when the doors open. Visiting this incredible site is one of the best things to do in Playa del Carmen, and Mexico in general.
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10. San Miguel de Allende
A longtime favorite destination for “Mexpats,” San Miguel de Allende was recently awarded the Best City in the World by Travel + Leisure. This charming, colorful city boasts a temperate climate, a vibrant arts scene, and a beautiful church at its center. Outside of town, you’ve got hot springs, horseback riding, cycling, and more.
While it’s true that San Miguel is somewhat of a “Gringolandia,” that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a local experience here. It’s one of the best places in Mexico to study Spanish, and there are several options for homestays where you can live with a local family and get lots of practice. If you’re looking for somewhere a bit more authentic, check out the things to do in Guanajuato, which is just an hour and a half away.
11. Oaxaca City
This beautiful colonial city is the capital of the state by the same name, and it definitely earns its spot on the list of best places to visit in Mexico. In case you were wondering, it’s pronounced wa-HAH-ka. Here you’ll find some of the best cuisine in Mexico, bustling markets, and a thriving arts and crafts scene.
Oaxaca is also home to the Guelaguetza festival, which highlights the indigenous culture of the area and is focused primarily on traditional dancing. The city also throws one of the biggest celebrations in the country for the Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead).
Once a thriving silver mining town, Guanajuato is now a huge draw for tourists and expats. It’s a gorgeous city located on the steep slope of a ravine, with a name meaning “Place of the Frogs.” Walking around town, you can admire the colonial architecture and bright houses, pausing to chill in tree-filled plazas or quaint cafes.
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It’s a very cultural city, with plenty of museums, theaters, music venues, and festivals. Be sure to join a walking tour with the city’s famous callejoneadas, a band of musicians and story-tellers who lead you through the meandering alleyways on a musical journey like no other.
These Are Just Some of The Best Places to Visit in Mexico!
These are just 12 of the best places to visit in Mexico, a list that could easily top one hundred. It’s a vast, diverse, and incredible country with a fascinating culture. From its lively capital to its ancient ruins, pristine beaches to colorful colonial towns, Mexico ticks all the boxes for a perfect travel destination. Don’t believe the fear-mongering hype out there and come see for yourself!
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