Lonelyplanet.com: Best places to visit in mexico

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The top 15 destinations in Mexico

Cathedrals and cantinas. Archaeology and art. Mountains and mariachis. Rainbow reefs and ruins. For those who enjoy intense festivals, history, gastronomy, adventure, romance, and culture, Mexico is a captivating destination.

Then there are the highly praised beaches with crystal-clear, blue waters that beckon you to dive straight in and the peaceful, deserted islands of paradise. These are the top places to visit in mexico, ranging from the highlands of Veracruz to the deep gorges of Chihuahua.

  1. Mexico City

The best location for dynamic culture and art

Are you unsure of where to go on your first mexico places to visit? Start in the bustling city with more than 22 million people and towering buildings, markets, parks, gardens, and world-class museums.

Top attractions in Mexico City include “Casa Azul,” also known as Museo Frida Kahlo, the home and final resting place of the renowned artist. Enjoy exuberant antics and enormous micheladas during a lucha libre (Mexican wrestling match) at the expansive Arena México.

For those who appreciate the arts, several of the nation’s best muralists have left their most significant works in Mexico City. See José Clemente Orozco’s social-realist paintings at the Palacio de Bellas Artes and Diego Rivera’s cinematic murals at the Palacio Nacional.

Enjoy piping-hot tacos from the numerous street-food vendors in the downtown districts before seeing a performance at one of the roughly 160 theaters in the city for a taste of culture. Alternatively, cruise around the historic canals of Xochimilco while being serenaded by a mariachi band. Though you might run out of things to say, Mexico City never lacks things to do.

Travel advice: Combine your visit to Teotihuacan with your stay in Mexico City. Located 50 km (31 miles) northeast of Mexico City, this pre-Columbian archaeological site was one of the biggest in the Americas. Come celebrate the arrival of spring on the vernal equinox.

  1. Holbox Isla

The greatest isla for flamingos and bioluminescence

Isla Holbox has a lot of biodiversity for its size. This is one of the best places in Mexico to see bubblegum-pink flamingos in the wild (go to Punta Mosquito), see whale sharks (between mid-May and mid-September), and take in the enthralling spectacle of phytoplankton glowing in the water. It is 26 miles long and just one mile broad. The best times to see these brilliant bacteria, which like shimmering underwater fireworks, are on moonless nights.

Pronounce it “hol-bosh,” Holbox is an idyllic island off the Yucatán Peninsula’s northern coast.

Since cars are prohibited, there are no cars to break up the tranquility. Instead, sandy paths lead to infinite beaches with warm, welcoming water that is only waist deep for adults. The one purported downside of the island? Unreliable wifi pushes visitors to disconnect.

  1. San Miguel de Allende

The best location for folk art and craft stores

This stunning Mexican location offers it all, including an amazing springtime environment, remarkable light, stunning architecture, excellent handicraft shopping, and packed art workshops. One of the greatest destinations in Mexico for creative people to travel to is San Miguel de Allende, which boasts a high gallery-to-resident ratio.

Since the first art institute opened its doors in a converted convent back in the 1930s, the cobblestone city has been a magnet for retirees and a magnet for artists. It then attracted Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and Neal Cassady, who arrived in the 1960s to write, drink, and read poetry (the latter remaining until his passing).

Today, San Miguel de Allende has a feel reminiscent of a sepia-toned postcard thanks to its tiny, sloping streets filled with businesses and cafes that hang colorful ribbons from wrought iron window bars.

The color scheme for buildings in the historic district includes mustard yellow, ochre, saffron, rusty orange, and terracotta. Get a bird’s-eye perspective of them from one of the many rooftop bars in the city, such as the well-liked Luna Rooftop Tapas Bar at Rosewood San Miguel de Allende.

Planning advice: San Miguel de Allende is located in the state of Guanajuato, three hours’ drive north of Mexico City. See the purple jacaranda trees in full bloom by coming here in the spring.

  1. Bacalar

Lagoon life at its best with Maldivian vibes

There is something wonderful about Bacalar. It was named a Magic Town (Pueblo Mágico) by the Mexican government in 2006, and it’s also well-known for its tranquil baths that provide Mexican healing traditions, its ethereal lagoon with jewel tones, and its distinct bohemian air.

At the tropical restaurant-gallery El Manati, guests may take in live music performances while admiring vibrant indoor murals. Meanwhile, at the boutique hotel Casa Hormiga, wellness-conscious guests can partake in copal cleansings and temazcal sweat ceremonies.

Kayaking, paddleboarding, and boating on the 26-mile Bacalar Lagoon—also called the Lagoon of Seven Colors (Laguna de Los Siete Colores)—are highly recommended activities while visiting Bacalar. The gradient of blue and green in the lagoon is captivating.

A historic Spanish fortification and a 90-meter (295-foot) freshwater pool can also be found in the town. Called “the Maldives of Mexico,” relaxed Bacalar is among the best destinations in Mexico to escape the big city.

Planning advice: Bacalar is located in Quintana Roo state, near to the border between Mexico and Belize. Using public transit, take the ADO bus from Cancún, Playa del Carmen, or Tulum to get there.

  1. Guadalajara

Top city for tequila, great cuisine, and mariachi music

The state of Jalisco is home to Guadalajara, the second-biggest city in Mexico and a thriving center of culture. Both mariachi music and charrería, Mexico’s national sport, originated in this tequila-producing region (don’t miss September’s annual International Mariachi and Charrería Festival).

A lienzo, or charrería arena, the vibrant frescoes of the Instituto Cultural de Cabaña, which are a tribute to the mastery of one-handed muralist José Clemente Orozco, and the three-story Mercado San Juan de Dios, the largest indoor market in Latin America, are must-see sights in Guadalajara.

Even though Guadalajara has a long history, it has recently become known for its exceptional modern cuisine, earning several spots on the prestigious World’s 50 Best lists. Savor sophisticated, internationally inspired Mexican food and drinks at El Gallo Altanero and Alcalde.

Planning advice: The charm of Guadalajara is not limited to the metropolis. Take it as your entryway to the agave-covered fields of Tequila, one of the nation’s largest freshwater lakes, Lake Chapala, or other little Magic Towns like Tapalpa or Tlaquepaque.

  1. The Island of Puerto Vallarta

Greatest location for LGBTIQ+ events, adventure, and sand

Puerto Vallarta is a well-liked holiday spot for both Mexicans and foreign visitors because of its dramatic and wild scenery. Nestled between the Sierra Madre Mountains and the Bahía de Banderas, families enjoy sun-kissed beaches, with adventure enthusiasts conquering rough terrain and rappelling down waterfalls. Notable sandy places include Playa Conchas Chinas, Playa Las Gemelas, and Playa Mismaloya.

Because there are gay-friendly hotels, beach bars, restaurants, and nightclubs in Puerto Vallarta, the city is also well-liked by LGBTIQ+ tourists. For alfresco dining, lovers head to the Zona Romantica (Romanic Zone). One of the finest free things to do in Puerto Vallarta is to wander down the charming Malecon boardwalk, which is lined with street performers and a ton of bronze statues.

In the water, there’s also a lot of activity. Mother turtles are coming to deposit their eggs, pods of dolphins are emerging from the waves, and humpback whales are breaching on the horizon.

Planning advice: July through December is the ideal period to travel to Puerto Vallarta in order to see the release of baby turtles. Ceremonies for the releasing of baby turtles are held at certain hotels, such as the Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa.

  1. The Carmen Playa

The ideal location for a city meets beach vibe

Playa del Carmen is a bustling city with an abundance of delicious restaurants and impossibly beautiful white sand beaches (one of which is even connected to a cenote). It’s the best of both worlds. The city’s main thoroughfare, Quinta Avenida, is bordered with palm trees and home to a diverse array of stores, energetic street shows, and mouthwatering international restaurants.

Families make sandcastles at this adaptable beach spot alongside digital nomads and lone travelers looking for adventurous experiences, and night owls gather around Calle 12 (12th St) for exciting nights like Mandala, La Vaquita, and Coco Bongo. The array of rooftop bars in Playa del Carmen is another highlight, ranging from the chic UMI Rooftop and Tokyo Kitchen to the relaxed BeRoof.

Colectivos (minivans) make it simple to go from Playa, as the locals call it, to day trips to Riviera Maya communities like Akumal, which is well-known for turtle encounters. Winjet or Ultramar offer direct ferries to Cozumel as well.

  1. Chichén Itzá

The greatest location to view pre-Columbian buildings

Chichén Itzá is one of the best sites to visit in Mexico if you’ve always wanted to see one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Having its roots in the fifth century, this is without a doubt the most well-known of Mexico’s historical sites.

Chichén Itzá is breathtaking, with sights like the massive, monolithic El Castillo pyramid (where, on spring and fall equinoxes, the shadow of the plumed snake god Kukulcán creeps down the staircase), the Sacred Cenote, and the oddly constructed El Caracol observatory.

Planning advice: To discover the astounding legacy of Maya astronomers, schedule a tour of Chichén Itzá with a guide who speaks English. Try to visit Chichén Itzá early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid the intense heat, humidity, and crowds. However, keep in mind that the site closes at 5 p.m., making it difficult to leave. After the sun sets, there’s a sound and light spectacular.

  1. Zihuatanejo

Ideal location to experience Old Mexico

The success of Ixtapa, a nearby resort town that Mexico’s tourist organization meticulously cultivated in the 1970s, helped Zihuatanejo. This was an explicit effort to imitate Cancún’s Caribbean splendor on the Pacific coast.

Zihuatanejo, 6.5 km (4 miles) south of Ixtapa, has become a hotspot as well. It feels like a quaint fishing village with a few laid-back beach retreats like Thompson Zihuatanejo on Playa La Ropa.

There are legendary, oddly called beaches in this tranquil, traditional Guerrero town that are perfect for fishing, surfing, diving, and seafood eating as the waves roar.

Wander along Playa Las Gatas, or “Cat Beach,” which gets its name from the wildcats that live on land or the nurse sharks that swim in Zihua’s waters. Alternatively, head straight for Playa La Ropa, or “Clothes Beach,” the most well-liked beach in the town, which gets its name from a story about a Spanish shore wreck that is said to have contained washed silk clothing.

  1. La Paz

The ideal location for peaceful beaches

The Baja California Sur capital, La Paz, has attractions for all types of beachgoers. The city serves as a wonderful starting point for explorations of the Sea of Cortez, which is home to 39% of all marine mammals worldwide.

Playa El Saltito is about 40 minutes away from La Paz. In the summer, it feels quiet and secluded, while at night, its glistening clear waters are illuminated by bioluminescence. Playa Balandra, with its distinctive mushroom-like rock formation, is hailed as one of Mexico’s most beautiful beaches, despite fierce competition.

The Unesco-listed Espíritu Santo island is the must-see site in the area. Here, you can snorkel with joyful sea lions, camp beneath a canopy of magnificent stars, and even catch a glimpse of congresses of awkward blue-footed boobies. Kayaking and snorkeling are among the sports offered by several companies here.

  1. Tulum

Best location for bohemian and wellness vibes

With time, Tulum gave up its previous name, Zama, and its reputation as a quiet, tranquil beach town with jungle views on the Riviera Maya. Instead, it developed into a well-known destination for hedonists, honeymooners, and holistic travelers. Activities for the spiritually inclined visitor abound in Tulum, from open-air rooftop yoga courses to pre-Hispanic sound healing and cacao ceremonies.

Tulum is a well-rounded destination with delicious dining options, lively nightlife, and lodging options ranging from luxurious resorts to thatch-roofed boutique boltholes like La Valise Tulum, all to suit a variety of budgets.

The beaches are picture-perfect, with Playa Ruinas being the most well-known section due to its remarkably intact Maya ruins situated atop a cliff with a view of the Caribbean Sea. The vast Reserva de la Biosfera Sian Ka’an, the remote fishing community Punta Allen, and the ruins of Cobá are just a few of the many nearby attractions.

Planning tip: The best deals on food and lodging can be found in Tulum Pueblo, the town center, but getting to the beach takes 12 minutes via cab or 20 minutes on a bike. If you would rather stay beside the beach, make reservations in advance to get reasonably priced lodging.

  1. Los Cabos

The best location for events, glamour, and glitter

There is no need to introduce sister cities San José del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas. While the latter is more refined with art galleries, celebrity-frequented luxury resorts, posh boutiques, and extravagantly lavish tequila tasting rooms, the former is well-known among wild partygoers in North America.

Combined, these consistently sunny locations on the southernmost tip of the Baja California Sur peninsula have emerged as two of Mexico’s must-see destinations.

Golfers pursue their aspirations on lush greens created by renowned champion Jack Nicklaus under the scorching Cabo sun, while surfers take on world-class surf breaks.

While there aren’t many beaches that are safe for swimming, water enthusiasts can still enjoy outdoor activities like deep-sea fishing, seeing sea lions, and whale viewing (which occurs from mid-December to mid-April).

  1. Pico de Orizaba

The best location for an incredible hike

Situated on the boundary between the states of Puebla and Veracruz, Pico de Orizaba is a symmetrical volcano covered in snow. It is also known as Citlaltépetl, and at a summit elevation of about 5636 meters (18,491 feet) above sea level, it is the highest peak in Mexico and the third-highest mountain in North America.

Although it is dormant but not extinct—the last known eruption was in 1846—it is one of the most well-liked destinations in Mexico for serious climbers, who train there before attempting Mount Everest. Trekking begins in the small community of Tlachichuca, and the ascent of Pico de Orizaba—the ultimate trekking and climbing challenge in Mexico—requires some technical skills.

If sea-level thrills are more your style, the town of Orizaba has plenty to offer, including a lovely walk along the river, a few noteworthy museums and galleries, and a unique “Iron Palace.” Taking the cable car up to the park atop 1240m (4068ft) Cerro del Borrego is the ideal way to introduce yourself to Veracruz state’s most appealing town.

From this high, verdant vantage point, you can take in views of the surrounding mountainous landscape, which includes the snow-capped peak of Pico de Orizaba, as well as the domes and bell towers of the city’s several medieval churches.

  1. Railway in Copper Canyon

The best train journey

One of the best rail journeys in Latin America is still the Ferrocarril Chihuahua Pacífico, well known as the Copper Canyon Railway. Trains ascend from sea level at Los Mochis to the town of Creel across the breathtaking rocky landscapes of the rust-hued Copper Canyon, also referred to as the “Grand Canyon of Mexico” and named after the “Ch” of Chihuahua and the “P” of Pacífico.

Alpine forests, subtropical valleys, Tarahumara settlements, and vistas of some of the world’s deepest canyons may all be seen from your window during the train ride.

Spend the night at picturesque lodges with a view of the canyon’s edge while traveling, or spend many days exploring, hiking, horseback riding, and even zip-lining in one of Mexico’s top tourist destinations.

  1. City of Oaxaca

The ideal location for mezcal and cultural events

Oaxaca, formerly the center of the Zapotec Civilization, is now more recognized as the main mezcal-producing region in Mexico. Sophisticated residents of Oaxaca City lead inquisitive visitors on well-liked excursions to explore the city one smoke-filled sip at a time. Fine mezcals distilled throughout the state find their way to dimly lit, atmospheric restaurants like La Popular, El Destilado, and La Mezcalerita (see out Mezcouting and Oaxacking).

Travelers interested in culture also grin at Oaxaca City’s regular colorful fiestas. During Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebrations in early November, the city experiences a surge in population as Mexican families commemorate and remember their departed loved ones with 24-hour vigils, joyous offerings, and parades.

The festivities of Noche de Rábanos, or the “Night of the Radishes,” on December 23, are among the most unusual sights to behold in Oaxaca City. With great excitement, the young and old slice radishes into scenes that are displayed in Zócalo as part of this competition that dates back to 1897.

Travel tip: To see the breathtaking petrified waterfall-like creation of Hierve el Agua, two hours outside of Oaxaca City, is highly recommended. To get to these mineral-rich infinity pools, take a bus, rent a car, or employ a driver.

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