Let’s be honest, the list of “best places to visit in Mexico” can never be a satisfactory and complete list. Mexico is an insanely beautiful place full of bustling cities made up of plazas, historical architecture, vibrant and innovative art scenes combined with stunning natural sights from canyons to beaches. The culture, the food, the music make this North American nation one of the top destinations for tourists all over the world.
But, we have tried our best to make an easy to navigate and comprehensive list of the best places to visit in Mexico.
Where else could you start the trip to Mexico other than it’s throbbing, pumping, high-octane capital of Mexico City. There is an insane amount of things to do, places to visit, and sights to see in Mexico City and it can get a bit overwhelming at times. But, stand back and take it all in, there are very few places on Earth that can match the energy of Mexico City.
You can start at the very heart of the city in Centro Histórico which is where the past and the present of Mexico meet. In 1325, this was the chief altepetl or city state of the Aztec empire built on an island on the Lake Texcoco and was known as Mexico Tenochtitlan. The city thrived as a political hub of Aztec Empire teeming with government and military officials and merchants until 1521 when the Spanish conquered Tenochtitlan after a suffocating seize and then raged it down. The lake was then dried out and was remade into what we see now as the Centro Histórico.
The heart of the Centro was always a strong political and religious site even during the times of Aztec Empire. Hence it was remade after the Spanish conquest and is called Plaza Mayor or more famously Zocalo. Zocalo is the largest plaza in all of Latin America and has no fountains or statues but only a single Mexican flag waving in the very centre. Just like the ancient times, the Zocalo remains bustling with events, performers and even political rallies and protests.
Zocalo has the Palacio Nacional which is the official home if the president of Mexico on one side and the Cathedral Metropolitana on the other side. Make sure you visit the Metropolitan Cathedral because it is the largest and oldest cathedral in all of America. The insides of the cathedral is even more splendid that the outside.
Just by the Cathedral is the Templo Mayor. This is where you get a sneak peak into the pre-hispanic era of Mexico as the Templo Mayor are the ruins of Aztec city of Tenochtitlan.
You must also visit the Palacio de Bellas Artes or the Palace of Fine Arts, Museo de Arte Popular among so many museums in Mexico city.
The view from the observation decks situated in the 38th floor in Torre Latino will show you just how massive this metropolis city is.
I am a little biased because I lean more towards urban areas that are bustling with people and activities. Thus for me Mexico City undoubtedly tops the list of best places to visit in Mexico.
The Mexican part of Yucatan peninsula
The Yucatan Peninsula lies between the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea and includes Belize, Guatemala and three states of Mexico: Quintana Roo, Yucatán and Campeche. The peninsula has been one of the hot spots for tourists from all over the world for decades and that comes with it’s own pros and sadly cons.
The state of Quintana Roo has perhaps Mexico’s most famous touristy destinations of Cancún and Playa del Carmen which in a way you can say are the party destinations in Mexico full of tourists in night clubs, bars, restaurants and how can you forget the absolutely beautiful beaches that on look the Caribbean Sea. The cons are that these places, at times, can feel a bit over touristy. But don’t be disheartened, the state offers a lot more.
You can visit the paradise island of your dreams in Isla Holbox, or take an adrenaline pumping snorkeling session in Isla Mujeres or the unmissable Scuba Diving in Cozumel. All these activities, along with the beaches and parties and the crowd of tourists makes Quintana Roo one of the best places to visit in Mexico.
You can drive 1.5 hours from Cancún to the town of Tulum. When I first visited Tulum it used to be what I can only describe as a laid-back town, full of people cycling around the town, jungle parties, and people just casually lounging around the beach. It left a very soothing memory in my mind. But recently when I went back, Tulum sadly was on it’s way to emulate Cancún and Playa del Carmen in becoming a touristy place filled with spaces that are made for social media consumption and super expensive restaurants and hotels by the sea.
However, it still is one of the best places to visit in Mexico without a shadow of doubt. Roam around the Tulum Pueblo on a bike and eat there as it is much more affordable than the beachfront. You can also visit some extremely beautiful beaches in Tulum like Playa Paraíso, Akumal Beach and ao many others which are set with white sand and beautiful greenish-blue waters. The beaches alone make it one of the best places to visit in Mexico.
However, there is more to Tulum than it’s picturesque beaches. Tulum was an important town for trade and you can see the Mayan ruins that tell you the history of the place. Situated on a cliff that are lined by tropical vegetation and trees and overlooking the turquoise waters and beach, you can feel the grandiose presence of the Mayan times. El Castillo, Temple of Frescoes, House of The Columns and House of The Halach Unic make up the Mayan ruins of Tulum.
Apart from the beaches and Mayan ruins you can also go Cenote hunting. Cenotes are underground reservoirs of water and are safe to swim.
Leaving behind Tulum and the state of Quintana Roo, you can travel inwards into the state of Yucatan where you will find one of the best places to visit in Mexico in the town of Valladolid.
Valladolid was established in 1545 by the Spanish on top of the Mayan city of Zaci.
One of the most important places in Valladolid is the Ex Convent of San Bernardino de Sienna. It stands as reminder and symbol of how the Mayans were slowly converted to Christianity by the Spanish. There is a museum inside where you can learn more about the history.
The Convent leads to the main town centre through some absolutely gorgeous streets and bright coloured houses, galleries and cute cafes by the cobblestone paths.
You can also swim or snorkel in one of the many Cenotes here in Valladolid like the Cenote Saamal, Cenote Zaci and Cenote Oxman. When you are in the clear waters of these cenotes and the sunlight comes through the hole in the roof, trust me, it becomes a magical place. These help to make Valladolid one of the best places to visit in Mexico.
4. Chichen Itza
Chichen Itza is perhaps one of the most famous sites in all of Mexico that is recognized all over the world. The history, culture, myths and archeological facts attached to this place makes it one of the best places to visit in Mexico.
This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and attracts large amount of tourists all throughout the year. Hence we suggest you to visit it early in the morning near it’s opening time at 8 o’clock. The major and perhaps the most photographed site in all of Mexico is El Castillo with it’s ladders on each side. You can also walk down the “white
road” to the sacred Cenote nearby the Castle. Infact, the place “Chichen Itza” gets it’s name from the presence if the Cenotes nearby.
The 13 ball parks in Chichen Itza and the Temple of Warriors are also must visits. This is definitely one of the vest places to visit in Mexico.
San Miguel de Allende
San Miguel de Allende is not a huge town but it does offer you everything you can expect from any major city around the world while maintaining a cozy feeling. This is why we have included it in our best places to visit in Mexico list.
San Miguel de Allende has a temperate climate giving you a much-needed respite from the absolutely hot climate in the places we have mentioned above. The great climate makes it an absolute paradise for café hopping and architecture viewing. Make sure you bring your appetite as this small town is a gastronomical heaven. You can visit the indoor markets and weekly bazars called tianguis and pack fruits and vegetables for a low price. The ways leading to the city as well as the areas around San Miguel de Allende are filled with premium vineyards. I mean, if having the opportunity to hop around this artistic town and eat delicious food and taste top-quality wine doesn’t make it one of the best places to visit in Mexico, I don’t know what will!
Wait, maybe I do know what will. The gothic-styled pink La Parroquia church and the Jardin or Garden surrounding the church are sure to make you take your cameras out and capture every inch of this place. You can also visit the Sanctuary of Atotonilco which is known as Mexico’s Sinsitine Chapel.
You can also shop local handicrafts and folk art here as this place is absolutely packed with artisan shops. And after a whole day of café hopping, shopping and walking you can calmly relax in the hot springs nearby. Undoubtedly one of the best places to visit in Mexico.
Guadalajara is so often described as “Mexico’s second-largest city” after Mexico City but there is so much more to it. Simply put, Guadalajara is the birthplace of Mariachi, the birthplace of Tequila, and the birthplace of Sombrero. In an article published in 1977, the New York Times described this vibrant city as “The Biggest small city in the world”.
Guadalajara offers you everything that a bustling, thriving metropolis city does: central plazas like Plazas de las Armas, stunning cathedrals, the Monument to the Illustrious Men and so many other colonial era buildings and plazas.
It is loaded with museums, a wonderful central park, Parque Agua Azul, fancy restaurants to local eateries. Guided tequila tours to visiting the postcard town of Ajijic which is so peaceful with great climate that many people leave their home countries to retire here, and to scenic places like LaKe Chapala makes Guadalajara one of the best places to visit in Mexico.
When you see the walls of this astoundingly huge canyon, you will understand why they call it Copper Canyon; the walls are green and makeup one of the most extraordinary sights in all of Mexico.
This is where you come when your social battery has died from hopping around charged and vibrant cities of Mexico. Located in a cahin if mountains named Sierra Madre the Copper Canyon is actually a collection if six separate canyons that expand and dive deeper than the Grand Canyon in Arizona.
However, if you take the train on the Ferrocarril Chihuahua Pacifico railway you get the chance to move from sea level (Los Mochis) , pass through the breathtaking views at Copper Canyon, pass through alpine forests, villages of indigenous people who live in isolation from the rest of the nation, valleys and end up in the buzzing town of Creel. I would strongly suggest you to take this train journey, the vistas alone are enough to make this one of the best places to visit in Mexico.
If I were to sit down and wrote about all the best places to visit in Mexico, I could write an entire book and that would still not cover all the awesome places to visit in Mexico. However, the ones mentioned here are my personal favorites that I was lucky enough to visit. Hence, the list if best places to visit in Mexico will always be an ever-growing love letter to this wonderful nation.