Mexico is an incredible and diverse travel destination with something for everyone, from beautiful beaches to ancient ruins to vibrant cities full of culture. Here are five tips for Mexico travel to help you see the best that the country has to offer, with some can’t miss destinations and attractions.
1. Mexico has amazing beach resorts, but venture outside for unique experiences
Mexico has some fantastic beach resorts, including Cancun, Riviera Maya, Puerto Vallarta, and Los Cabos. These areas offer beautiful beaches, fun activities, and all the amenities you need to enjoy your vacation in style. The all-inclusive resorts in particular offer a great value, and include just about everything, including accommodation, food, drinks, and activities.
Beach resorts are great, but you will be missing out on a lot if you never venture outside. In many cases, there are incredible things to see and do just outside the resorts. For example, you can take a water taxi from Puerto Vallarta to the Yalapa, a tiny fishing village with cobblestone streets and pretty waterfalls, or visit the charming surf town of Sayulita an hour away. The artsy enclave of Todos Santos and the hot springs of Miraflores are easily accessible from Los Cabos. Not far from Cancun, you can visit the archeological wonder of Chichen Itza. And near Riviera Maya are thousands of cenotes—natural sinkholes with crystal clear waters that you can swim, snorkel, or dive.
2. Spend some time in the cities and magical towns of Mexico
Many visitors skip the big cities in Mexico, which is a shame, as they offer an authentic experience and have so much to offer. Mexico City, the country’s capital, has excellent museums (the Anthropology Museum, or el Museo Nacional de Antropologica, is a must), archeological sites, beautiful parks, and a thriving arts and culinary scene. Guadalajara, Mexico’s second largest city, is the birthplace of tequila and mariachi, and offers incredible architecture, culture, and a lively nightlife scene.
Even if you don’t make it to a major metropolis, you should spend some time at a magical town (or pueblos magicos), a town that’s been designated by the government as especially beautiful, noteworthy, or culturally relevant. There are more than 120 magical towns, including the likes of San Miguel de Allende, Cholula, Valladolid, and San Cristobal de las Casas.
3. Mexico has a long and rich history, with incredible ruins all around
Mexico has thousands of years of history, with ancient civilizations such as the Maya, Aztec, Olmec, and Zapotec occupying different regions and periods in its long history. These civilizations have left behind remnants that include entire cities, massive pyramids, temples, and other ruins.
The most famous site in Mexico is probably the massive pyramid of Chichen Itza, located on the Yucatan Peninsula. Around Tulum, several Mayan sites can be seen overlooking the Caribbean, while slightly further away is the mysterious and largely unexplored site of Coba, believed to be one of the largest Mayan sites. Near Mexico city, Teotihuacan was once the largest city in the Americas, while within Mexico City itself you can see the remnants of Templo Mayor, the main temple of the Aztec Empire. In the southern Mexican state of Chiapas, Palenque is surrounded by jungle and a UNESCO World Heritage site.
4. Mexico has the world’s largest concentration of cenotes
Mexico is home to thousands of cenotes, with more than 6,000 of them in the Yucatan Peninsula alone. A cenote is a natural sinkhole that is filled with freshwater, and often connected to a large body of water underground. Depending on the age, they can be entirely open, partially open, or underground caverns and caves. The Mayans believed the cenotes to be a gateway to Xibalbá, the underworld, and many were used for ceremonial purposes.
Today, you can enjoy the unique experience of swimming, snorkeling, or scuba diving in many of the cenotes, with the crystal clear waters offering an otherworldly experience. Dos Ojos near Tulum is the most visited cenote, while El Pit is the deepest cenote and a favorite with scuba divers. Popular cenotes near Playa del Carmen include Azul and Jardin del Eden, while popular cenotes near Chichen Itzen include Il-Kil and Suytun.
5. The natural beauty of Mexico is varied and breathtaking
Mexico is incredibly diverse, with a natural landscape that include rich marine environments, beautiful beaches, vast canyons, towering mountains, and everything in between. There are also numerous biospheres, national parks, and nature reserves.
Highlights include Copper canyon, a series of canyons in the Sierra Madre Occidental Range of northern Mexico that’s bigger and deeper than the Grand Canyon. The Copper Canyon train is also one of the prettiest train rides in the world. Pico de Orizaba is the tallest volcano and third highest peak in North America, and offers great hiking and climbing, while Sotano de las Golondrinas, at 1,400 feet, is the largest known cave shaft in the world. For a unique petrified waterfall, head to Hierve el Agua, or visit Las Coloradas to see vividly pink lake. See millions of butterflies at the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve or millions of fireflies in the firefly forests of Tlaxcala. The Sea of Cortez is full of biodiversity while the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef is one of the largest in the world.