- Awards Season
- Big Stories
- Pop Culture
- Video Games
Ultimate Mexico Travel Guide
Mexico is a vibrant country rich in culture, fun, and history. There’s everything from stunning beaches and tropical jungles to lively cities and ancient ruins. Don’t start packing your bags until you learn what to expect during your trip. This guide includes everything you need to know about Mexico, including the best cities to visit, must-see attractions, and activities. So sit back, relax, and get ready for an adventure!
When Is the Best Time To Travel To Mexico?
Mexico has many different climates and activities. So the best time to visit Mexico depends on what you want to do.
If you’re interested in a lively scene, consider visiting Oaxaca for one of these popular festivals:
- Día de Muertos , also the Day of the Dead (October 31 – November 2)
- The Guelaguetza festival in July
- Fiesta de Las Posadas (December 16-24)
Any time between October and April is a good choice if you’re interested in soaking up the sun. These months are hot, but they offer the best opportunity to see the desert in all its glory. December and April offer the warmest weather and the least amount of rainfall. However, to avoid crowds, you may want to visit during the summer months of May through September. The weather is still pleasant, and you’ll find better deals on accommodation and flights.
What To Expect In Mexico
To properly plan your trip to Mexico, you need to know some basic information. Let’s discuss a few technicalities for you to keep in mind.
- Official language : For starters, the official language of Mexico is Spanish, but English is common, too. In tourist areas, it’s not unusual to find signs and menus in both languages. However, it’s always polite to attempt a few phrases in Spanish before resorting to English.
- Currency : The Peso is Mexico’s official currency, but US dollars are also accepted in most areas. ATMs are readily available, and most major credit cards are accepted at larger establishments. When using pesos, check the exchange rate before making any purchases.
- Plugs : Regarding plugs and sockets for devices, Mexico uses the same type as the United States.
- Safety : Also, Mexico is generally a safe country to visit. Still, it’s always wise to take precautions and use common sense when traveling in an unfamiliar place.
What Are the Top Places To Visit In Mexico?
Mexico is full of diverse opportunities for visitors. Where you go when you get there will depend on your interests. Here we’ll talk about some popular options.
One of the most famous places to visit is Acapulco . Located on the Pacific Coast in Guerrero, Acapulco has been a popular vacation site for ages. You can enjoy a lazy day sunbathing on the beach, take a day tour of the city, or watch the cliff divers take to the skies and into the water at La Quebrada. You might also visit the Fort of San Diego for a buzzing nightlife, beautiful beaches, and delightful food culture.
Mexico City is Mexico’s capital and one of the world’s most populated cities. It’s home to several historical and cultural sites and an animated nightlife scene. You can also explore ancient ruins like the Templo Mayor and the Palacio Nacional and enjoy many great restaurants and bars.
Cancun is a popular beach destination located on the Yucatan Peninsula. The city is home to some of Mexico’s best beaches and several resorts and hotels. It offers several water activities, like jet skiing, parasailing, and snorkeling. You can also explore the Mayan ruins of El Rey and party at one of the city’s many nightclubs.
Another great place to explore is Oaxaca . This colonial city near the Sierra Madre Mountain range is a great nook to enjoy. It’s full of authentic food, bold colors, culture, beaches, and waterfalls. Immerse yourself in the Zapotec and Mixtec history by visiting the archaeological sites. You can also hike the mountains or enjoy the breeze as you surf or lounge around.
Bucket List Experiences In Mexico
There are so many things to see and do that it can be hard to decide what to put on your bucket list. However, some things stand out more than others.
Mexico is popular for its culture. Attending the Day of the Dead festivals in Oaxaca is a must if you visit Mexico at the end of October. The city comes alive with parades, colorful lanterns, and decorations galore. Be sure to try the traditional food while you’re there!
If history is your thing, Chichen Itza is one of Mexico’s most popular tourist destinations. The ancient Mayan ruins are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the New Seven Wonders of the World . You can also explore the Temple of Kukulkan, climb to the top of El Castillo, and learn about the history and culture of the Mayan people.
Xochimilco is the only remaining part of the waterways that existed before the Spanish colonization. Enjoy the ride on a trajinera as you glide across the canal, buy a flower or fruit from the chinampa, and chill.
Swimming with whale sharks is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that you won’t want to miss. Mexico is one of the best places to swim with these gentle giants in the world. Head down to Isla Holbox, one of the best places to spot whale sharks. You can experience around three hours of snorkeling with whales while learning about their lives from the tour guides.
Mexico also has some of the most beautiful cenotes or natural swimming holes in the world. These include Cenote Suytun , Cenote Ik Kil , Cenote Dos Ojos , and Cenote Azul . They offer an unforgettable experience, allowing you to swim in a cenote at sunset.
There is so much to do in Mexico that you might not get to experience it all in one trip. However, this Mexico visitor’s guide can give you some great places to start your planning.
MORE FROM ASK.COM
Touropia Travel Experts
Tours & Top Tens
15 Best Cities to Visit in Mexico
Last updated on October 5, 2023 by Alex Schultz - 2 Comments
Beautifully mixing the old with the new, colonial architecture and modern buildings stand side by side next to spacious plazas and beautiful beaches in Mexico’s delightful cities. Lying near to incredible Mayan ruins , the lively streets are home to amazing restaurants and museums, as well as thriving nightlife and trendy shops.
Perfectly combining natural beauty with its rich and ancient culture, the best cities in Mexico really need to be seen to be believed.
In this post, we'll cover:
A wealthy city full of lavish buildings and delightful old colonial architecture, Zacatecas’ silver mines were deplorably the site of much suffering for the indigenous slaves. Visiting one of the city’s mines is a somber experience, reminding one that this city’s beauty came at a terrible price.
Scenically located between two hills, the city is fascinating to explore, conjuring up images of old Spain due to its lovely cathedral, amazing museums and picturesque winding streets. Beautifully preserved, the historic center takes you back to times gone by.
Although in recent years increasing tourism has changed the face of the city slightly, Zihuatanejo retains much of its charm and still appears in most places to be a laidback fishing village.
Its old streets have some lovely restaurants, bars and cafes tucked away in them, though they are often quite full of tourists, especially when cruise ships stop by. With picturesque beaches, a romantic waterfront along the bay, and fishermen peacefully trawling out to sea, head to nearby Ixtapa in the evening if you are after a livelier atmosphere.
Located on the Yucatan Peninsula, Merida has long been its cultural capital. It has a fantastic historic center, some lovely museums and colonial buildings, as well as picturesque plazas and narrow streets that make for delightful exploring.
A perfect mix of big city and provincial town, its proximity to several incredible Mayan sites makes it a great place from which to explore the rest of the peninsula. In addition to all this, it has numerous cultural events, markets and restaurants to enjoy.
Lying on the border with the US, Tijuana is a gritty, crime-ridden border town where you can drown in booze, party until dawn and possibly visit its red-light district.
Claiming to be the ‘most crossed border’ on earth, the droves of visitors dropped due to an increase in violence from the drug war, although most of them have flocked back to the bustling city – it is now a lot safer. In recent years, a thriving arts and culture scene has developed, and there are lots of trendy restaurants and contemporary galleries opening.
Once nicknamed the ‘Pearl of the Pacific’ due to its majestic setting, the city used to attract the rich and famous, but now it is more often college students on spring break who visit this crazy party town. Due to the drug wars that have led to an increase in violence, in recent years many people have stayed away, although it is comparatively safe to visit.
Acapulco is still visually stunning – its towering cliffs give way to verdant hills, sweeping bays and idyllic beaches, and its famous cliff divers are exhilarating to behold. With a delightful old fort, some great restaurants and lively nightlife, Acapulco still has it.
One of Mexico’s – and indeed Central America’s – prime destinations for culture lovers, Oaxaca has a rich cultural heritage that mixes the colonial with the indigenous. A beautiful place, the city is set in a picturesque valley.
The charming plazas and fine churches of the colonial center mix seamlessly with indigenous markets and the regional flavors of the city. Wandering its streets is an experience; you will pass interesting museums and galleries, provocative street art, atmospheric cafes and, if you’re lucky, amazing fiestas.
9. Puebla City
This fantastic colonial city is an absolute delight to explore . It has a lovely cathedral, over seventy old churches in the center and more than a thousand historic buildings.
The fifth-largest city in Mexico has a lively arts and cultural scene, as well as some great nightlife to explore. With several worthwhile museums and a rich gastronomic history, Puebla City’s setting in beautiful mountainous terrain only adds to the attraction.
With beautiful mountains surrounding the city, delightful colonial architecture, and the distinctive twin spires of its baroque church rising above the rooftops, Taxco is a picture-perfect place to visit. It makes for a great weekend trip from Mexico City .
Built with the wealth that came from the silver mines, tourism is now the main breadwinner, although there are still lots of workshops where you can buy jewelry. With a timeless feel to it, wandering its narrow, cobbled streets amongst the old-style buildings is magical.
The second largest city in the country, Guadalajara is an expansive place that works at a slightly more relaxed pace than Mexico City. With a distinctly Mexican flavor about it, there is a rich cultural heritage, with sombreros and mariachi music originating from amidst its bustling streets.
Mixing the old with the new, the historic center with its fantastic cathedral and colonial architecture is a world away from other neighborhoods that are home to hipsters, trendy boutiques and pounding nightclubs. With a myriad of museums, galleries and theaters dotted amidst its numerous parks and squares, Guadalajara has a magnificent culinary scene and is a city on the move as it continues to modernize.
6. Puerto Vallarta
With stunning sunsets that bathe the mountains behind Puerto Vallarta in a golden glow and leave orange hues wavering in the ocean, the city is a delight to visit and attracts a diverse crowd of holiday makers.
Its endless beaches are the main draw, and the glittering waters that border them only add to Puerto Vallarta’s allure. Although expensive and quite touristy, the city has a nice old colonial center, with some trendy shops and upmarket restaurants.
The gay beach capital of the country has become more and more popular in recent years. As well as its pumping nightlife, there are lots of activities to help keep visitors entertained, such as horseback riding and boat trips.
5. San Miguel de Allende
One of the most popular destinations in Mexico, San Miguel de Allende is a picturesque and charming Mexican city that is magical to wander around. Looking out over the Rio Laja, the city is beautifully located on a steep hillside; its cobbled streets and delightful colonial architecture make it a treat to behold.
Due to the image of perfection that it gives off, it is now home to a large foreign population, who give San Miguel a cosmopolitan feel. Although there are no major attractions, simply being here is a treat. Whether it’s dining in the great restaurants, perusing the galleries or visiting the nearby hot springs, this city won’t disappoint.
4. Playa del Carmen
Located on the Yucatan Peninsula, Playa, as it is known to residents, is at the heart of the Mayan Riviera. It is a popular destination due to its proximity to Cancun and Cozumel. This trendy resort city is packed with holiday makers from both Mexico and abroad, with lots of cruise ship passengers dropping by.
In addition to its lovely beaches and tranquil waters, the nearby reefs make for some fantastic diving and snorkeling. Based around Avenida 5 – the central street in town – there are lots of cafes, souvenir shops and upmarket fashion boutiques.
3. Mexico City
This colossal capital city is home to over twenty-five million people; its vast size is staggering to behold and explore. Despite the endless sprawl, the fantastic metro system will soon have you shooting around in no time at all. While Mexico City still struggles with pollution, a lot of improvements have been made in recent years.
In a city of this size you can find almost anything imaginable. As such, some areas teem with life and energy while others are more quiet and laid back. A cosmopolitan place, the city center has some delightful colonial architecture on show.
See also: Where to Stay in Mexico City
There are also some great museums to visit, with fantastic dining options and little old churches interspersed among more modern buildings. With so much to see and do, one could spend a lifetime exploring all this city has to offer.
2. Cabo San Lucas
Located right at the tip of the Baja Peninsula, Cabo San Lucas has a myriad of activities to entertain tourists, with a raucous party scene amid a stunning setting of beautiful white beaches and amazing sea cliffs at Land’s End.
With a huge number of resorts to choose from, the city is becoming more and more popular and it’s easy to see why. Although most people come for the beaches and incredible nightlife, which includes fantastic restaurants, pounding clubs and lively bars, the natural beauty of the surroundings and the amazing array of outdoor activities alone make Cabo worth visiting.
Whether it’s taking a boat ride to watch dolphins frolic in the water, horseback riding among the cacti in the nearby desert, or scuba diving in the ocean and jet-skiing across its waves, Cabo is a dream to visit.
With its glittering turquoise waters, pearly-white beaches and fabulous party scene, Cancun’s idyllic setting and upbeat vibe makes it a fun and lively city to visit in Mexico. This huge resort city has two sides to it; the upmarket hotels, brilliant spas and expensive seafood restaurants contrast with the concrete buildings that are characteristic of the more residential neighborhoods. Both are worth exploring, however, as the latter is home to authentic salsa clubs, laid-back beach bars and a plethora of cheap eating options, while the local beaches remain untouched and beautiful.
See also: Where to Stay in Cancun
While some may enjoy lounging on the beach and partying in the resorts’ endless discos, others will revel in discovering the Mayan ruins and pristine jungle habitats of nearby Coba or the more distant Chichen Itza. In any case, a fantastic array of day trips are available to you if you should ever feel the need to get out of Cancun for a bit of a break.
Map of cities in Mexico
Plan Your Trip
- 4 Best Day Tours in Mexico
Share this post:
10 Best Vacation Spots in Mexico
15 Most Beautiful National Parks in Mexico
12 Most Amazing Volcanoes in Mexico
12 Most Fascinating Mayan Ruins in Mexico
14 Best Cenotes in Mexico’s Yucatan
10 Best All-Inclusive Resorts in Mexico
25 Top Tourist Attractions in Mexico
9 Most Beautiful Regions in Mexico
7 Most Amazing Pyramids in Mexico
10 Best Beaches in Mexico
June 6, 2020 at 6:58 pm
I’ve been in Monterrey, Mexico for different reasons. It is an amazing city; half cosmopolitan with skyscrapers, and half mountainous with forests and waterfalls. I think it must be on the above list.
September 5, 2019 at 9:42 am
Mexico is a wonderful place to visit. People are great. Food is really excellent and varied. I have visited most areas, and went to school in Mexico City. Cannot say enough good things about the people and the country.
Leave a Reply Cancel reply
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *
This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed .
Protect Your Trip »
Best places to visit in mexico for 2023.
With year-round warm weather and diverse destinations ranging from metropolitan Mexico City to the sands of Tulum, Mexico boasts vacation spots that appeal to all sorts of visitors. To help you determine which locale is best for you, U.S. News compiled this list of the best places to visit in Mexico by factoring in cultural attractions, food options, beaches, water-based activities and nightlife, along with traveler votes and expert opinions. Vote for your favorite vacation spots below to help us determine next year's ranking. (Note: The U.S. Department of State advises against traveling to certain Mexican states due to crime; check the website for updates before booking your trip, and be cautious if you decide to travel.)
Isla mujeres, isla holbox, mexico city, playa del carmen.
Located on Mexico's Pacific coast, Zihuatanejo offers travelers an authentic Mexico experience full of brilliant sunsets and laid-back vibes. In this fishing village, shopaholics can buy local handicrafts (think: ceramics and woodcarvings), and foodies can savor fresh fish tacos and ceviche along the beach. The city's Playa La Ropa serves as the main beach and stands out because of its clean, family-friendly atmosphere. Playa Larga, another excellent beach option, is set slightly outside of town, so it offers a quieter atmosphere and plenty of room to sprawl out. Just off the coast, divers and snorkelers can pick from several dive sites brimming with marine life.
Home to Mexico's most famous waterfront Mayan ruins, Tulum appeals to history buffs and water lovers alike. Positioned along a coastal stretch of the Riviera Maya, about 40 miles south of Playa del Carmen, Tulum offers some of the best hotels in Mexico , ranging from small boutique hotels to wellness retreats to all-inclusive resorts. Regardless of where you stay, you can spend time lounging on some of the world's most beautiful beaches (try traveler-approved Playa Paraíso or Playa Ruinas), exploring ancient ruins (consider booking a daytrip to nearby Chichén Itzá for a larger-scale site) and swimming in secluded cenotes, unique underwater caves located around the Yucatán Peninsula.
This island is probably best known for two things: coral reefs and cruise ships. Travelers love this destination's brilliant blue water and laid-back beaches, plus its abundance of water sports activities. Numerous outfitters and resorts offer kayaks, paddleboards and snorkeling gear. While you could spend every minute in the water or on the beach with a good book, Cozumel is also a quiet place to learn about Mayan culture. Visit the Mayan ruins at San Gervasio archaeological site for a dose of pre-Hispanic history.
Ixtapa's curved coastline is packed with hotels, restaurants and nightlife, giving the Pacific coast city (located just north of Zihuatanejo) a bustling vibe. Playa El Palmar, the main beach, often proves better for sunset strolls and people-watching than swimming or snorkeling due to the strong waves. Still, warm, clear and generally gentle water and coral beds farther offshore make Ixtapa one of the best places for beginner scuba enthusiasts. Anyone interested in the area's history should also explore the Archaeological Museum of the Costa Grande, a small museum that details the various cultures and events that make the region unique.
A great option for a weekend stay or a quick daytrip tour , Isla Mujeres is set off the coast of Cancún and offers beautiful beaches perfect for relaxation and coral reefs ready for exploration. In fact, it's one of the best places to go snorkeling in the world thanks to a unique underwater museum and one of the world's largest coral reefs (home to all sorts of colorful fish). See marine life from another perspective on a glass bottom boat. When you want to catch some rays, Playa Norte is the most popular beach, framed by white sand, turquoise water and swaying palm trees.
Quiet beaches, a relaxed atmosphere and stunning crystal-clear water are some of Isla Holbox's standout attributes. This up-and-coming slice of paradise is perfect for travelers looking to truly get away from it all, thanks to its car-free, off-the-beaten-path location. Isla Holbox is situated off the northern coast of the Yucatán Peninsula and only 26 miles long. Expect quaint boutique hotels, stretches of white sand beaches (Playa Punta Cocos and Punta Mosquito are two top spots), opportunities for snorkeling and sailing, and more than 100 species of birds, including vibrantly colored flamingoes.
About 25 miles north of Puerto Vallarta, Sayulita is a small beach town known for awesome surfing conditions and scenic stretches of sand. If you've never surfed before, sign up for a lesson from a local to learn. Visitors can also go whale watching, snorkeling, scuba diving, horseback riding or zip lining, or hop on a relaxing boat tour. After a day of fun in the sun, head into town to check out the local art galleries and grab a bite to eat at one of the tasty restaurants (Sayulita is a burgeoning foodie destination), which feature everything from cheap eats to fine dining.
Anglers recognize Manzanillo as a world-class deep-sea fishing destination for anyone searching for sailfish and marlin, but many types of travelers will enjoy a trip to this Pacific coast destination, located 170 miles south of Puerto Vallarta. The city's two bays mean there is no shortage of beaches for visitors to swim and sunbathe on: Top spots include Playa la Audiencia and Playa Salagua. Water sports like snorkeling and kayaking are also popular activities to enjoy here. If you have time, visit the small town of Barra de Navidad (about 30 miles northwest) for charming hotels, restaurants and stores along the beach.
Dreamy white sand , nightclubs, all-inclusive resorts and inexpensive flights from the U.S. make Cancún a go-to spot for spring breakers and vacationers seeking an easy beach getaway. But this city on the Yucatán Peninsula also sits close to lush jungles and tranquil cenotes, making it an excellent option for nature lovers. Not to mention, travelers will find diverse and cheap street food served from various carts in the downtown area. Visiting in fall or winter will ensure you see this city (one of the most-visited spots in Mexico) in its most tranquil light, but December through April is when the weather is closest to perfect.
Ornate baroque and neoclassical buildings, busy plazas and colorful homes are everywhere you turn in this UNESCO World Heritage-listed city. Guanajuato, situated about 50 miles west of San Miguel de Allende, is known for its subterranean streets and tunnels, which you can explore on a walking tour or at your own leisure. After admiring the city's cobblestone roadways and charming colonial architecture, grab a souvenir or bite to eat at the bustling Mercado Hidalgo. If you enjoy art, arrive in October when the popular Festival Internacional Cervantino takes place.
As the capital of Yucatán, Mérida's rich culture is visible around every turn. White stone mansions line Paseo de Montejo (the city's main street), while vibrant Sunday markets provide a taste of old-world Mexico. Those looking for Mayan ruins are also in luck; many ancient archaeological sites are in close proximity, including the famed Chichén Itzá just 75 miles east. Meanwhile, museum and art enthusiasts praise El Gran Museo del Mundo Maya de Mérida, as well as the city's art galleries and local murals. When it comes to lodging, travelers will have their pick of quaint boutique hotels.
The most populous city in Mexico is steeped in history and culture. Mexico City boasts delectable cuisine, ancient Aztec sites and world-class hotels – all at fairly low costs – but if you feel like splurging, you'll find an array of high-end shops along the tree-lined Avenida Presidente Masaryk in the Polanco neighborhood. Must-see attractions in Mexico City include the Zócalo, the Palace of Fine Arts, Chapultepec Castle and the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. And if you want to eat your way through the city, consider signing up for a food tour .
For a vacation packed with authentic character, head to Puebla. This city, which sits about 80 miles southeast of Mexico City, is filled with colonial architecture and numerous churches, but its main draws are its stunning Talavera pottery, its historical forts and museums, and its sweet and spicy cuisine. Visitors must try mole poblano (made with numerous ingredients, including chiles, meat, chocolate, cinnamon and garlic) and chiles en nogada (chiles stuffed with beef and served with a walnut sauce and fruit like peaches, apples and pomegranate seeds). When the sun sets, venture to Callejón de los Sapos to listen to live music.
Playa del Carmen boasts an exciting food scene, with eateries dishing out everything from delectable tacos and tostadas to sushi and expertly cooked seafood, plus an even hipper bar culture. What's more, this destination in the Riviera Maya beckons to vacationers with its soft white sand blanketing its beaches and its stunning shoreline views. Visitors can also bike to a nearby cenote for a refreshing dip or hit the links at one of the numerous surrounding golf courses. All-inclusive resorts , vacation rentals and boutique properties abound in Playa del Carmen, too, giving travelers plenty of options to find the best fit for their preferences and budgets.
This secluded vacation spot is known for its luxurious lodging options (from vacation rentals to high-end hotels like the St. Regis and the Four Seasons), golf courses and charming beaches, such as El Anclote and Playa de Punta Mita. The small resort village of Punta Mita sits on a peninsula in Banderas Bay and most appeals to travelers seeking a relaxing atmosphere. Those interested in scuba diving, snorkeling, fishing and surfing will be able to enjoy those activities here as well. If you're visiting between December and March, book a whale watching tour for a chance to see humpback or orca whales.
Vote to Add these Destinations to the Rankings
Cabo San Lucas
San Miguel de Allende
You May Be Interested In
Best Beaches in Mexico
Best Places to Visit in the Caribbean for 2023
Best Spring Break Destinations
Central & South America
Best Places to Visit in Central and South America in 2023
Best Cheap Winter Vacations
Best Cheap Mexico Vacations
If you make a purchase from our site, we may earn a commission. This does not affect the quality or independence of our editorial content.
18 Fall Family Vacation Ideas
Amanda Norcross September 11, 2023
The 26 Best Zoos in the U.S.
Rachael Hood August 11, 2023
30 Fun Fall Weekend Getaways for 2023
Holly Johnson July 18, 2023
The 32 Best Dog-Friendly Beaches in the U.S.
Gwen Pratesi July 14, 2023
The 21 Top Ecolodges Around the World
Mackenzie Roche|Amanda Norcross June 30, 2023
The 26 Best Fall Festivals in the U.S. for 2023
Katie Hearsum|Timothy J. Forster June 28, 2023
27 Amazon Prime Day Luggage Deals You Can Shop Now
Amanda Norcross June 27, 2023
The 34 Best Couples Vacations
Gwen Pratesi June 26, 2023
Carry-on Luggage Sizes by Airline
Amanda Norcross June 26, 2023
Photos: InterContinental Boston
Jill LeGrow June 26, 2023
9 Top Tourist Cities in Mexico
Are you planning a trip to Mexico and wondering which cities to visit? Look no further! In this ultimate guide, we’ll take you on a journey through the top tourist cities in Mexico.
Whether you’re looking for a relaxing beach getaway, a cultural immersion, romantic getaway or a lively party scene, Mexico has it all.
So, pack your bags and get ready for an adventure in one of this popular cities in Mexico!
Get Ready to Explore One of the Top Tourist Cities in Mexico: Cancun!
Let’s start with one of the most popular tourist cities in Mexico (and one of the most visited cities in Mexico): Cancun. Known for its crystal-clear waters and white-sand beaches , Cancun is a paradise for beach lovers.
But it’s not just about the beaches – Cancun is also home to a vibrant nightlife and an abundance of restaurants and shops.
Don’t miss out on the opportunity to explore the nearby Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza and Tulum.
Mexico City is the bustling capital of Mexico and a must-visit destination for anyone interested in history, culture, and art.
The city is home to some of the most important museums and cultural institutions in the country, including the National Museum of Anthropology and the Palace of Fine Arts.
You can also discover the historic center of the city, visit the impressive Cathedral, and savor some mouth-watering street food . That’s why we consider it one of the best cities to visit in Mexico.
Playa del Carmen
If you’re looking for a more laid-back vibe, head to Playa del Carmen . This charming coastal town is renowned for its bohemian vibe and beautiful beaches.
Take a stroll along the pedestrian-only Fifth Avenue, relax on the beach with a margarita, and explore the nearby Mayan ruins of Tulum and Coba.
Puerto Vallarta, discover this top tourist city in Mexico
Puerto Vallarta is a picturesque coastal town located on the Pacific coast of Mexico. With its cobblestone streets, colorful buildings, and stunning beaches, it’s no wonder that it’s a popular destination for tourists.
Embark on a memorable sunset cruise, savor fresh seafood delicacies, and explore the lush jungle on a thrilling zip line adventure.
Guanajuato is a colonial gem located in central Mexico. The city is known for its colorful buildings, winding alleys, and stunning architecture.
Experience the romantic Callejón del Beso (Alley of the Kiss), delve into the fascinating history of the Museo de las Momias (Mummies Museum), and take a cable car to the top of Cerro de la Bufa for breathtaking views of the city.
Cabo San Lucas
Cabo San Lucas is a popular tourist destination located at the southern tip of the Baja California peninsula.
The town boasts luxurious resorts, beautiful beaches, and vibrant nightlife. Enjoy a sunset sail, swim with dolphins, and discover the famous El Arco rock formation just a stone’s throw away.
Oaxaca is a charming colonial city located in southern Mexico. The city is known for its colorful markets, delicious cuisine, and vibrant arts scene.
Admire the stunning Santo Domingo church, marvel at the ancient ruins of Monte Albán, and treat your taste buds to the best mole in the country.
Unveiling the Charms of One of the Top Tourist Cities in Mexico: San Miguel de Allende
San Miguel de Allende is a picturesque colonial town located in central Mexico. The town is known for its stunning architecture, cobblestone streets, and artistic community.
Discover the Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel, unwind in the nearby hot springs, and perfect your culinary skills with a traditional Mexican cooking class.
Tulum is a stunning coastal town located in the Riviera Maya. The town is known for its bohemian atmosphere, stunning beaches, and ancient Mayan ruins.
Explore the Tulum ruins, relax on the beach, and savor fresh delights.
Leave a Comment Cancel reply
Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.
- Travel, Tourism & Hospitality ›
- Leisure Travel
Industry-specific and extensively researched technical data (partially from exclusive partnerships). A paid subscription is required for full access.
Main tourist hubs in Mexico 2019, by number of tourist arrivals
Leading travel destinations in mexico in 2019, by number of tourist arrivals (in 1,000s).
- Immediate access to 1m+ statistics
- Incl. source references
- Download as PNG, PDF, XLS, PPT
Show sources information Show publisher information Use Ask Statista Research Service
among 70 tourist hubs in the country
Figures have been rounded.
Other statistics on the topic Travel and tourism in Mexico
Travel, Tourism & Hospitality
Leading countries in the Travel & Tourism Development Index 2021
Inbound tourism volume in Mexico 2016-2022
Inbound tourism spending in Mexico 2016-2022
Largest hotel companies in Mexico 2022, based on revenue
To download this statistic in XLS format you need a Statista Account
To download this statistic in PNG format you need a Statista Account
To download this statistic in PDF format you need a Statista Account
To download this statistic in PPT format you need a Statista Account
As a Premium user you get access to the detailed source references and background information about this statistic.
As a Premium user you get access to background information and details about the release of this statistic.
As soon as this statistic is updated, you will immediately be notified via e-mail.
… to incorporate the statistic into your presentation at any time.
You need at least a Starter Account to use this feature.
- Immediate access to statistics, forecasts & reports
- Usage and publication rights
- Download in various formats
You only have access to basic statistics. This statistic is not included in your account.
- Instant access to 1m statistics
- Download in XLS, PDF & PNG format
- Detailed references
Business Solutions including all features.
Other statistics that may interest you
- Main tourist destinations in Mexico 2020-2022, by number of occupied rooms
- Tourist arrivals in the Italian region of Veneto 2019-2022, by province
- International tourism volume in Catalonia 2000-2022
- Number of inbound tourist visits to Greece 2019-2022, by region
- Inbound tourism volume in Spain 2022, by region of destination
- Countries with the highest number of inbound tourist arrivals worldwide 2019-2022
- European countries with the highest number of inbound tourist arrivals 2019-2022
- Visitor arrivals in the Balearic Islands 2010-2022, by main origin
- British visitors in the Canary Islands 2010-2022
- German visitors in the Canary Islands 2010-2022
- Most popular countries of origin for inbound air travelers in Mexico 2022
- Hotel guests in Mexico 2018-2022, by origin
- Number of tourist arrivals from Mexico to Europe 2019-2021, by region of destination
- Contribution of tourism spending to Mexican GDP 2010-2021, by type
- Cruise ship calls in Mexico 2013-2022
- Cruise passenger traffic at the port of Cozumel 2013-2022
- Cruise passenger traffic in Mexico 2013-2022
- Inbound tourism volume in Mexico 2020, by origin
- Mexico: air passengers from Brazil 2015-2019
- Mexico: tourist arrivals by air from France 2015-2018
- Average price paid for a hotel room at home and away 2014, by country
- Trinidad & Tobago: number of foreign visitor arrivals 2020, by country
- Arrivals of overnight foreign tourists in China 2019, by region
- Number of visitors to the U.S. from Asia 2011-2021
- Monthly U.S. citizen travel to Africa 2015-2019
- Main origin countries for inbound tourism in Cuba 2021
- Leading source countries for international tourists to Canada 2019-2021
- Number of visitors to the U.S. from Africa 2011-2021
- Leading source countries for international tourists to Brazil 2014
- Number of visitors to the U.S. from the Middle East 2011-2021
- Inbound tourism volume in Turks & Caicos 2010-2021
- Inbound tourism volume in Argentina 2021, by place of residence
- Inbound tourism volume in Bolivia 2010-2022
- Inbound visitors in Colombia 2015-2022, by type
- Inbound tourism volume in Spain 2022, by lodging type
- Inbound tourism volume in Spain 2022, by origin
- European travelers in Spain 2022, by origin
- Inbound tourism volume in Spain 2022, by transport mode
- Inbound visitors in Spain 2000-2022
- Inbound same-day and overnight visitors in Spain 2010-2022
- British tourism spending in Spain 2010-2022
Other statistics that may interest you Statistics on
About the industry
- Premium Statistic Main tourist destinations in Mexico 2020-2022, by number of occupied rooms
- Premium Statistic Tourist arrivals in the Italian region of Veneto 2019-2022, by province
- Premium Statistic International tourism volume in Catalonia 2000-2022
- Premium Statistic Number of inbound tourist visits to Greece 2019-2022, by region
- Premium Statistic Inbound tourism volume in Spain 2022, by region of destination
- Premium Statistic Countries with the highest number of inbound tourist arrivals worldwide 2019-2022
- Premium Statistic European countries with the highest number of inbound tourist arrivals 2019-2022
- Premium Statistic Visitor arrivals in the Balearic Islands 2010-2022, by main origin
- Premium Statistic British visitors in the Canary Islands 2010-2022
- Premium Statistic German visitors in the Canary Islands 2010-2022
About the region
- Premium Statistic Most popular countries of origin for inbound air travelers in Mexico 2022
- Premium Statistic Hotel guests in Mexico 2018-2022, by origin
- Premium Statistic Number of tourist arrivals from Mexico to Europe 2019-2021, by region of destination
- Premium Statistic Contribution of tourism spending to Mexican GDP 2010-2021, by type
- Premium Statistic Cruise ship calls in Mexico 2013-2022
- Premium Statistic Cruise passenger traffic at the port of Cozumel 2013-2022
- Premium Statistic Cruise passenger traffic in Mexico 2013-2022
- Premium Statistic Inbound tourism volume in Mexico 2020, by origin
- Premium Statistic Mexico: air passengers from Brazil 2015-2019
- Premium Statistic Mexico: tourist arrivals by air from France 2015-2018
- Basic Statistic Average price paid for a hotel room at home and away 2014, by country
- Premium Statistic Trinidad & Tobago: number of foreign visitor arrivals 2020, by country
- Premium Statistic Arrivals of overnight foreign tourists in China 2019, by region
- Basic Statistic Number of visitors to the U.S. from Asia 2011-2021
- Basic Statistic Monthly U.S. citizen travel to Africa 2015-2019
- Premium Statistic Main origin countries for inbound tourism in Cuba 2021
- Premium Statistic Leading source countries for international tourists to Canada 2019-2021
- Basic Statistic Number of visitors to the U.S. from Africa 2011-2021
- Premium Statistic Leading source countries for international tourists to Brazil 2014
- Basic Statistic Number of visitors to the U.S. from the Middle East 2011-2021
- Premium Statistic Inbound tourism volume in Turks & Caicos 2010-2021
- Premium Statistic Inbound tourism volume in Argentina 2021, by place of residence
- Premium Statistic Inbound tourism volume in Bolivia 2010-2022
- Premium Statistic Inbound visitors in Colombia 2015-2022, by type
- Premium Statistic Inbound tourism volume in Spain 2022, by lodging type
- Premium Statistic Inbound tourism volume in Spain 2022, by origin
- Premium Statistic European travelers in Spain 2022, by origin
- Premium Statistic Inbound tourism volume in Spain 2022, by transport mode
- Premium Statistic Inbound visitors in Spain 2000-2022
- Premium Statistic Inbound same-day and overnight visitors in Spain 2010-2022
- Premium Statistic British tourism spending in Spain 2010-2022
Further related statistics
- Basic Statistic Contribution of China's travel and tourism industry to GDP 2014-2023
- Premium Statistic Number of international tourist arrivals APAC 2019, by country or region
- Premium Statistic Middle Eastern countries with the largest international tourism receipts 2018
- Premium Statistic Change in number of visitors from Mexico to the U.S. 2018-2024
- Premium Statistic International tourist arrivals in Europe 2006-2022
- Premium Statistic Countries with the highest outbound tourism expenditure worldwide 2019-2021
- Basic Statistic Foreign exchange earnings from tourism in India 2000-2022
- Premium Statistic Number of visitors to the U.S. from Russia 2011-2021
- Premium Statistic Leading countries in the MEA in the Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index 2018
- Premium Statistic Annual revenue of China Tourism Group Duty Free 2012-2022
Further Content: You might find this interesting as well
- Contribution of China's travel and tourism industry to GDP 2014-2023
- Number of international tourist arrivals APAC 2019, by country or region
- Middle Eastern countries with the largest international tourism receipts 2018
- Change in number of visitors from Mexico to the U.S. 2018-2024
- International tourist arrivals in Europe 2006-2022
- Countries with the highest outbound tourism expenditure worldwide 2019-2021
- Foreign exchange earnings from tourism in India 2000-2022
- Number of visitors to the U.S. from Russia 2011-2021
- Leading countries in the MEA in the Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index 2018
- Annual revenue of China Tourism Group Duty Free 2012-2022
The Top 10 Places in Mexico
Last Updated on December 27, 2022
Estimated reading time: 10 minutes
By Jim Ferri
These 10 best places to visit in Mexico are the reason the country continues to be one of the most popular destinations for American tourists. From the sands of its many resorts on the Caribbean and the Pacific, to the cultural bonanza of its cities and states in the interior, Mexico has much to offer the traveler.Mexico is not only beautiful, culturally enriching and easily accessible, it provides many options for almost any budget.
For those who desire to explore, or just relax at one of the best Mexico beach resorts, here are the top tourism destinations in Mexico, as reported by the Mexico Tourism Board.
The crime situation in several areas of Mexico , primarily along its northern border, has received much coverage in the media. And with good reason. Because of this violence the U.S. Department of State has had a long-standing advisory on travel to Mexico. (You can read the Travel Warning and other information here ).
On the other hand, this doesn’t mean that the entire country is unsafe.
According to the U.S. Government, millions of U.S. citizens safely visit Mexico each year. Also, about one million Americans live there. Like them, travelers can greatly enhance their safety by using some common sense while traveling in Mexico. It’s the same common sense one should use traveling anywhere in the world.
Cancun, Riviera Maya, Cozumel and Isla Mujeres – Best Mexico Beach Resorts
If you’re looking for sun and the best Mexico beach resorts, look no further than Cancun. It’s consistently ranked number one of the best places to visit in Mexico time and again by Orbitz and Travelocity.
Cancun and its neighbors Isla Mujeres, Cozumel, Isla Contoy, and Puerto Morelos welcome over 3 million visitors annually.
In the state of Quintana Roo almost everything focuses on water activities, including jet skiing, snorkeling and scuba diving. The latter takes place along the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, the second longest in the world.
Beaches and hotel pools are the major draws to the Cancun and Riviera Maya regions, of course. But travelers also lured by attractions such as the Under Water Museum; the area’s culinary, nightlife and shopping experiences.
The area’s popular archeological sites of Tulum, Chichen Itza and Cobá are also among the top tourist attractions in Mexico.
Mexico City / Distrito Federal, Perennially a Favorite With Travelers
With its reputation for art, culture, shopping, recreation and cuisine, Mexico City attracts more than 12 million visitors every year. It perennially remains one of the best places to visit in Mexico. The city enjoys a lively and diverse cultural lifestyle.
You’ll find much to discover in its many historic buildings, museums, food and craft markets and art galleries. It’s home to world-class hotels, convention and meeting facilities, restaurants, and performance venues. Visitors flock to its world-famous Zócalo square, Chapultepec Park, and more than 100 museums.
Popular attractions include the colonial neighborhoods of San Ángel and Coyoacán, and the nearby archaeological zone of Teotihuacan.
The latter is a UNESCO World Heritage site, as is the city’s historical center and the lakeside area of Xochimilco. Mexico City boasts a year-round calendar of performing arts, music, dance, film festivals, art exhibitions, and business fairs and expositions.
Read More : Places to Visit in in Mexico City
Puerto Vallarta, Riviera Nayarit
Puerto Vallarta is one of the major resort destinations of Mexico, and still one of the best places to visit in Mexico This is especially true with American and Canadian travelers.
While many only associate Puerto Vallarta with sun and beach, the city is also home to one of the most dynamic art scenes in Mexico. Its Galería Dante and Galería Pacífico feature traditional and contemporary art and sculptures.
The city is also popular for its diverse selection of places to eat. They range from beach-side taco stands to upscale restaurants with panoramic views of the bay.
Riviera Nayarit, an area highly developed in the past few decades, is located about fifteen minutes from PV’s airport. The area includes the ultra-exclusive Punta Mita with some of the most high-end hotels in Mexico, as well as the resort town of Rincón de Guayabitos.
Baja California Sur: Still One of the Best Mexico Vacation Places
Known for its natural features and blazing temperature, Baja California Sur is where desert and ocean meld in Mexico. It’s always listed as one of the best places to visit in Mexico. In fact, for many, it is one of the best places to vacation in in the entire country.
Located at the tip of the Baja Peninsula, Los Cabos is easily accessible by plane. This makes it a favorite destination for many American travelers, especially those from the west coast of the USA. With the Sea of Cortes on one side and the Pacific on the other, one feels they’re on an sanctuary.
The area has several high-end resorts and spas, beautiful beaches, and near-impeccable year-round weather. La Paz, the capital of Baja California Sur, is more of a commercial and cultural center than a vacation destination.
It does, however, attract eco-tourists looking to enjoy La Paz’s marine wonders and aquatic activities. It is also home to the Museo de Antropología e Historia and La Ruta de las Misiones.
Read More : read more about Baja and the Sea of Cortez
Guadalajara and Tequila in Jalisco
Mexico’s State of Jalisco, home to mariachi music and tequila, provides a strong taste of Mexican culture. It’s the reason it remains one of the best places to visit in Mexico.
Guadalajara is considered to be the cultural center of Western Mexico. The city’s famous historic downtown is home to Plaza de Armas, Metropolitan Cathedral and Rotonda de los Hombres Ilustres.
There are also several other museums and historical sites including Hospicio Cabañias, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Travelers also enjoy the city’s music culture, ranging from sidewalk Mariachi bands to the Philharmonic Orchestra of Jalisco.
Also in Jalisco is the town of Tequila and its surrounding agave fields, listed as a World Heritage Site. Take the Tequila Express and tour tequila country, seeing a number of haciendas, and enjoy a tasting along the way.
Approximately 150 miles north of Acapulco, you’ll find the bayside city of Zihuatanejo and the nearby modern resort of Ixtapa. Together they make up the third most-visited tourist destination in Mexico after Cancun and Puerto Vallarta, especially for sports fishermen.
Once a sleepy fishing village, Zihuatanejo gained international popularity in the 1970s after construction of the nearby resort of Ixtapa.
The aim of the resort was to establish a Cancun-like resort on the country’s Pacific coast. With its homegrown feel and overall charm, the resort soon became one of the best places to visit in Mexico.
Zihuatanejo is only about five minutes away from the beach resort of Ixtapa, home to two world-class golf courses. It’s easily accessible to travelers by way of Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo International airport.
Unique Central Mexico: Querétaro, San Miguel de Allende and Guanajuato City
Many travelers think to go to the coast for a Mexican vacation. But central Mexico offers a great cultural experience and is one of the unique best places to visit in Mexico.
Guanajuato City, the capital of the state located in the mountains, attracts many tourists with its museum-hopping and mine tours. The tours are both inside and outside the city, since mining is what made the city prosperous. Querétaro boasts a bustling arts and music scene, and its old section is a wonderful place to explore on foot.
San Miguel de Allende is recognized as a popular cultural center, and is home to many American and Canadian ex-pats.
Tourists can tour numerous art schools and historic buildings in the city, which is only 170 miles northwest of Mexico, including the Casa de Allende Museum and the home of Ignacio Allende. All three of the cities are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Read More : The Pleasures of Mexico’s San Miguel de Allende
Yucatan’s Mérida, Uxmal and Chichen Itza: Popular Tourist Attractions In Mexico
The state of Yucatan draws tourists who want to explore the Mayan culture of the country. It’s famously known for its historical and archeological sites, why it remains one of the best places to visit in Mexico.
Mérida, the state’s capital and nicknamed “The White City,” is the point of departure for all Mayan routes to nearby sites. These include such famous sites as of Chichen Itza (a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is home of the famous Kukulkan Mayan Pyramid), Ek Balam, and Mayapan.
The ruins at Uxmal, also a World Heritage Site, are less impressive than those at Chichen Itza. But they reveal a different, more detailed architectural style many travelers find to be worth the trip.
Many travelers also come to the region to experience Yucatan food, known for its own distinct style and Mayan influences.
Far From the Beach: Copper Canyon
Named for its copper green coloring, the Copper Canyon is located in the state of Chihuahua. It continues to lure travelers who want to experience the Chihuahua al Pacífico, commonly known as the Copper Canyon Railway.
The train runs through 390 miles of the canyons and takes 14 hours on its journey. Ranked as another of the best places to visit in Mexico, the experience is enhanced with breathtaking views and scenery.
Another tourist attraction is the 807-feet tall Basaseachic Falls, the second-highest waterfall in Mexico.
Nature lovers and eco-tourists enjoy hiking, camping and birdwatching in the area, still home to the Rarámuris and Tarahumaras, indigenous peoples who live in the mountains.
Leave a Reply Cancel reply
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *
The 15 best places to visit in Mexico
Oct 9, 2023 • 14 min read
Explore Mexico's stunning landscape and see the best the country has to offer © Thomas Barwick / Getty Images
Cantinas and cathedrals. Art and archaeology. Mariachis and mountains. Ruins and rainbow reefs. Mexico makes a mesmerizing escape for lovers of adventure, romance, history, culture, food, and fiery festivals .
Then there are the much-lauded beaches with clear, blue waters you’ll want to step right into and silent paradise islands without a soul in sight. From the deep canyons of Chihuahua to the peaks of Veracruz, these are the best places to visit in Mexico .
1. Mexico City
Best place for art and vibrant culture
Wondering where to go for your first trip to Mexico? Start in the bustling capital that brims with skyscrapers, markets, gardens and parks , awe-inspiring museums and more than 22 million residents.
Top Mexico City sights include “Casa Azul,” better known as Museo Frida Kahlo , where the celebrated artist lived and died. High-spirited high jinks and chihuahua-sized micheladas are on offer when catching a lucha libre (Mexican wrestling) match at the sprawling Arena México .
For artsy folks, Mexico City is where many of the country's top muralists left behind their most important works. Peruse Diego Rivera's cinematic murals in the Palacio Nacional and the social-realism work of José Clemente Orozco in the Palacio de Bellas Artes .
For a taste of culture, float along the ancient canals of Xochimilco with a mariachi band serenade, or savor piping-hot tacos from the many street-food stalls in the downtown areas before catching a show at one of the city’s 160-odd theaters. You might be lost for words, but you’ll never be short of things to do in Mexico City.
Planning tip : Couple your Mexico City stay with a trip to see the pyramids at Teotihuacán . This archaeological site is located 50km (31 miles) northeast of Mexico City, and it was one of the largest in the Americas in the pre-Columbian era. Visit during the vernal equinox to celebrate spring.
2. Isla Holbox
Best island for bioluminescence and flamingos
For its size, Isla Holbox packs a strong biodiversity punch. Only a mile wide and 26 miles long, this is one of the best places to visit in Mexico to see bubblegum-pink flamingos in the wild (head to Punta Mosquito), catch a glimpse of whale sharks (between mid-May and mid-September), and witness the mesmerizing show of bioluminescent phytoplankton glimmering in the water. Comparable to sparkling underwater fireworks, these glowing micro-organisms are best seen on moonless nights.
Holbox (pronounced hol-bosh) is a laid-back dream of an island off the northern coast of the Yucatán Peninsula .
With no vehicles to disturb the peace (cars are banned), sandy streets lead to endless beaches with warm, inviting water that’s waist-deep at most for adults. The island’s one alleged drawback? Questionable wi-fi, which encourages travelers to disconnect.
3. San Miguel de Allende
Best place for craft shops and folk art
This Mexican beauty has it all: a fantastic spring-like climate, extraordinary light, breathtaking architecture, superb handicraft shopping, and well-attended art workshops. With a high gallery-to-resident ratio, San Miguel de Allende is one of the best places for creative types to visit in Mexico.
The cobbled city has been luring retirees and bewitching artists since the first art institute opened in a former convent back in the 1930s. It then enticed Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and Neal Cassady, who came to drink, write and read poetry in the 1960s (the latter stayed there until his death).
Today, San Miguel de Allende’s narrow, sloped streets house boutiques and cafes that dangle multicolored ribbons from wrought iron window bars, and its vibe is akin to a sepia-toned postcard from the past.
Buildings in the historic district adhere to a color code of saffron, rusty orange, ochre, terracotta, and mustard yellow. Grab a birdseye view of them from one of the city’s numerous rooftops, like Luna Rooftop Tapas Bar at Rosewood San Miguel de Allende, a firm favorite.
Planning tip : San Miguel de Allende is a three-hour drive north of Mexico City in the state of Guanajuato . Visit in spring to see the purple jacaranda trees in full bloom.
Best place for lagoon living and Maldives vibes
Everything about Bacalar is magical. Not only was it recognized by the Mexican government as a Magic Town ( Pueblo Mágico ) in 2006, but it’s also known for its ethereal jewel-toned lagoon, serene spas offering Mexican healing rituals and a distinct bohemian vibe.
Diners enjoy live music sessions beside bright indoor murals at tropical restaurant-meets-gallery El Manati , and wellness-minded travelers experience temazcal sweat ceremonies and copal cleansings at Casa Hormiga boutique hotel.
The prized activities in Bacalar are kayaking, paddleboarding and boating on the 26-mile Bacalar Lagoon , which is known as the Lagoon of Seven Colors (Laguna de Los Siete Colores) due to its mesmerizing gradient of blues and greens.
The town also has a 90m-deep (295ft) cenote (freshwater pool) and an old Spanish fortress . Nicknamed “the Maldives of Mexico,” unhurried Bacalar is one of the best places to visit in Mexico to get away from it all.
Planning tip : Bacalar is in the state of Quintana Roo, close to Mexico’s border with Belize. To get there using public transportation, take the ADO bus from Cancún, Playa del Carmen or Tulum.
Best city for mariachi music, tequila and fine dining
Guadalajara , Mexico's second-largest city, is a dynamic cultural hub in the state of Jalisco. This is the tequila-producing region where Mariachi music was born, as well as charrería , Mexico’s national sport (don’t miss September’s annual International Mariachi and Charrería Festival).
Must-sees in Guadalajara include a lienzo (a charrería arena), the vivid frescoes of the Instituto Cultural de Cabaña – a testament to the genius of one-handed muralist José Clemente Orozco – and the three-story Mercado San Juan de Dios , Latin America’s largest indoor market.
Despite being deeply rooted in tradition, Guadalajara has recently gained recognition for its modern gastronomic excellence with multiple appearances on the coveted World’s 50 Best lists. Delight in upscale, globalized Mexican cuisine and cocktails at Alcalde and El Gallo Altanero.
Planning tip : Guadalajara's allure extends beyond its city limits. Use it as your gateway to Lake Chapala (one of the largest freshwater lakes in the country), the agave-clad fields of Tequila, or other charming Magic Towns like Tlaquepaque or Tapalpa.
6. Puerto Vallarta
Best place for sand, adventure and LGBTIQ+ events
With climactic and wild scenery, Puerto Vallarta is a popular vacation destination for Mexicans and foreign travelers alike. Framed by the Sierra Madre Mountains and the Bahía de Banderas (Bay of Banderas), it's a place where thrill seekers conquer rugged terrain and rappel down waterfalls, and families frolic on sun-kissed beaches – Playa Conchas Chinas , Playa Las Gemelas and Playa Mismaloya are noteworthy sandy spots.
The city is also popular among LGBTIQ+ travelers; there are gay-friendly Puerto Vallarta hotels, beach bars, restaurants, and nightlife establishments. Lovers take to the Zona Romantica (Romanic Zone) for alfresco meals, and strolling along the picturesque Malecon boardwalk, with its numerous bronze sculptures and street performers, is one of the best free things to do in Puerto Vallarta.
There's also plenty going on in the ocean, where you can see humpback whales breaching on the horizon, pods of dolphins rising from the waves, and mother turtles arriving to lay their eggs.
Planning tip : The best time to visit Puerto Vallarta to witness a baby turtle release is between July and December. Selected hotels like Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa host newborn turtle release ceremonies.
7. Playa del Carmen
Best place for beach-meets-city vibes
Playa del Carmen is the best of both worlds: a thriving city with a bounty of enticing restaurants and pinch-me-please white sand beaches (one is even connected to a cenote). The palm-lined Quinta Avenida is the city's bustling artery with an eclectic mix of shops, lively street performances, and gourmand-pleasing international eateries.
In this versatile beach destination, families build sandcastles alongside digital nomads and solo travelers seeking spirited adventures, while night owls congregate around Calle 12 (12th St) for throbbing nights at Mandala, La Vaquita and Coco Bongo. Another Playa del Carmen accolade is the variety of rooftop bars, from the sleek UMI Rooftop and Tokyo Kitchen to the laid-back BeRoof .
From Playa (as locals call it), day trips to Riviera Maya towns like Akumal (known for turtle encounters) are all within easy reach using colectivos (minivans). There is also a direct ferry to Cozumel with Winjet or Ultramar .
8. Chichén Itzá
Best place to see pre-Columbian architecture
If you’ve always wanted to see one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, Chichén Itzá is one of the best places to go in Mexico. With origins dating back to the 5th century, this is undoubtedly the most popular of Mexico's ancient sights.
From the imposing, monolithic El Castillo pyramid (where the shadow of the plumed serpent god Kukulcán creeps down the staircase during the spring and autumn equinoxes) to the Sacred Cenote and curiously designed El Caracol observatory, Chichén Itzá is spectacular.
Planning tip : Book a Chichén Itzá tour with an English-speaking guide to learn about the mind-blowing legacy of Maya astronomers . Note that the heat, humidity and crowds in Chichén Itzá can be fierce, so try to explore the site either early in the morning or late in the afternoon, though keep in mind that the 5pm closing is a hard exit. There is also a post-sunset sound-and-light show .
Best place for an Old-Mexico feel
Zihuatanejo benefited from the fortunes of neighboring resort town Ixtapa, which Mexico’s tourism body carefully developed in the 1970s. This was a direct attempt to replicate the Caribbean splendor of Cancún on the Pacific coast.
Ixtapa’s hotspot status trickled 6.5km (4 miles) south to Zihuatanejo, which feels like a sleepy fishing village elevated by a handful of relaxed seaside sanctuaries like Thompson Zihuatanejo on Playa La Ropa .
In this blissed-out traditional Guerrero town, there are storied, curiously named beaches that are great for surfing, diving, fishing and seafood-feasting in the presence of crashing waves.
Take a walk on Playa Las Gatas (Cat Beach), reportedly named after land wildcats or the whiskered nurse sharks in Zihua’s waters, or make a dash for the aforementioned Playa La Ropa (Clothes Beach), the town’s most popular beach, which incorporates a legend of a Spanish shore wreckage containing washed silk clothes.
Best place for quiet beaches
La Paz , the capital of Baja California Sur, has something for every kind of beach lover. The city is a delightful springboard to adventures on the Sea of Cortez, home to 39% of the world’s marine mammals.
Around 40 minutes from La Paz, Playa El Saltito feels tranquil and isolated during the sweltering days, and its crystal waters come alive with bioluminescence at night. Though competition is tough, Playa Balandra , with its unique mushroom-like rock formation, is heralded as one of Mexico’s most beautiful beaches.
The impossible-to-miss destination in the region is the Unesco-listed Espíritu Santo island, where you can camp under a canopy of stunning stars, snorkel with playful sea lions and even peek at congresses of clumsy blue-footed boobies. A number of operators run activities here, including kayaking and snorkeling.
Best place for wellness and boho vibes
Over the years, Tulum shed its former name (Zama), and its position as a secluded and sleepy beach-meets-jungle town in Riviera Maya and subsequently ripened into a world-famous pilgrimage for honeymooners, hedonists and holistic tourists. The spirituality-focused traveler will find a host of things to do in Tulum ranging from cacao ceremonies to pre-Hispanic sound healing and open-air rooftop yoga classes.
Tulum is a well-rounded destination with scrumptious restaurants and bars, and accommodations for all budgets, from waterfront shacks to top-end resorts and thatch-roofed boutique boltholes like La Valise Tulum .
The beaches are postcard-ready, the most celebrated stretch being Playa Ruinas with its strikingly well-preserved Maya ruins perched on a cliff overlooking the Caribbean Sea. There are also numerous attractions in the surrounding area, such as the massive Reserva de la Biosfera Sian Ka’an , the secluded fishing village Punta Allen and the ruins of Cobá .
Planning tip : Tulum Pueblo (the town center) is where the really cheap eats and sleeps are found, but it’s a 20-minute bike ride or 12-minute taxi to the beach. Plan ahead to find well-priced beach accommodations if that’s where you’d prefer to stay.
12. Los Cabos
Best place for glitz, glamor and parties
Sister cities Cabo San Lucas and San José del Cabo need no introduction. The former is notorious among party-hearty North American crowds, while the latter is more sedate with art galleries, celebrity-frequented luxury resorts, upscale boutiques and over-the-top decadent tequila tasting rooms.
Together, these perennially sunny spots on the southernmost tip of the Baja California Sur peninsula have become two of the top places to see in Mexico.
Under the blazing Cabo sun, golfers chase their dreams on emerald greens designed by legendary champion Jack Nicklaus, and surfers tackle world-class surf breaks.
Not many beaches are safe for swimming, but other outdoor pursuits like deep-sea fishing, spotting sea lions and whale watching (from mid-December to mid-April) keep water babies coming back.
13. Pico de Orizaba
Best place for a superlative trek
Pico de Orizaba is a symmetrical, snow-capped volcano on the border of Puebla and Veracruz states. Also called Citlaltépetl, it’s the highest peak in Mexico and the third-highest mountain in North America, with a summit elevation of around 5636m (18,491ft) above sea level.
Dormant but not extinct, the last recorded eruption was in 1846, and it is one of the most popular places to visit in Mexico for serious climbers – professionals prep there before taking on Mount Everest. Treks start from the small village of Tlachichuca, and the ascent requires some technical skills – Pico de Orizaba is the ultimate trekking and climbing challenge in Mexico.
If sea-level thrills are more to your liking, there's plenty on offer in the town of Orizaba, including a beautiful riverside walk, a couple of impressive museums and galleries and a unique "Iron Palace. " The perfect introduction to Veracruz state's most appealing town is to hop into the cable car up to the park atop 1240m (4068ft) Cerro del Borrego.
From this lofty, green perch, you can admire the domes and bell towers of the city's many historic churches and the surrounding mountainous terrain, including the snowcapped summit of Pico de Orizaba.
14. Copper Canyon Railway
Best train ride
The Ferrocarril Chihuahua Pacífico (Copper Canyon Railway) remains one of Latin America’s best rail trips. Also known as the Chepe Express (from the “Ch” of Chihuahua and “P” of Pacífico), trains climb from sea level at Los Mochis to the town of Creel via the sensational rocky landscapes of the rust-hued Copper Canyon (the “Grand Canyon of Mexico”).
Vistas from your window during the train journey include alpine forests, subtropical valleys, Tarahumara villages and glimpses of some of the world’s deepest canyons.
Overnight en route at cinematic lodges overlooking the canyon's edge, or stay for days of exploring, hiking, horseback riding and even zip-lining in one of the best places to see in Mexico.
15. Oaxaca City
Best place for mezcal and cultural celebrations
Once the capital of the Zapotec Civilization, the state of Oaxaca is now better known as Mexico’s primary mezcal-producing region. Fine mezcals distilled around the state make their way to low-lit, atmospheric establishments in Oaxaca City like La Popular, El Destilado and La Mezcalerita, and savvy locals guide thirsty patrons on popular tours to experience the city one smoky sip at a time (check out Mezcouting and Oaxacking ).
The frequent colorful fiestas in Oaxaca City also win smiles from cultural travelers. The city’s population swells at the start of November during Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) festivities, when Mexican families honor and celebrate their lost loves with round-the-clock vigils, joyful offerings, and parades.
One of the most unique things to see in Oaxaca City is the merrymaking during Noche de Rábanos (Night of the Radishes) on December 23. During this competition dating back to 1897, the young and old carve radishes into scenes that are displayed in Zócalo to much fanfare.
Planning tip : Venture two hours outside of Oaxaca City to reach Hierve el Agua , a jaw-dropping petrified waterfall-like formation. You can take a bus, rent a car or hire a driver to take you to these mineral-rich infinity pools.
This article was first published June 2021 and updated October 2023
See our full range of Mexico travel books
Make the most of your time in Mexico with Lonely Planet’s range of travel guides and phrasebooks. Be the architect of your own trip as you discover the best things to do in Mexico through insider tips, suggested itineraries and handy maps.
Explore related stories
Oct 25, 2023 • 19 min read
We've released our Best in Travel 2024 list of the top destinations and experiences for next year. Find out the best time to make these dream trips a reality.
Oct 24, 2023 • 4 min read
Oct 21, 2023 • 7 min read
Oct 20, 2023 • 8 min read
Oct 18, 2023 • 7 min read
Oct 10, 2023 • 6 min read
Oct 8, 2023 • 5 min read
Oct 8, 2023 • 4 min read
Oct 4, 2023 • 6 min read
Sep 29, 2023 • 9 min read