18 Best Places to Visit in Mexico (That May Surprise You)

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Mexico is one of the most beautiful and diverse countries in Latin America, and deciding where exactly to travel is the first challenge when you’re putting together an itinerary.

There’s so much to see, and while places like Cancun and Tulum are undeniably beautiful and incredibly popular, they are really just the start of the best places to visit in Mexico. 

There are ancient Mayan Ruins waiting in the jungles, Whale Sharks swimming off the coast of La Paz, Aztec history in Central Mexico, and much, much more to explore. 

To inspire your next adventure, here are the best places to visit in Mexico! 

Don’t leave home without: Lonely Planet Mexico (Country Guide)

18 of the Best Places to Visit in Mexico

1. Mexico City 

Mexico City

Mexico City is the sprawling capital and largest city in the country, and of course, it has to be one of the best places to visit in Mexico. 

We also want to admit that Mexico City is hands down one of our favorite cities in the entire world! It has the perfect balance of history, culture, food, architecture and adventure. We adore this city.

While it can be a daunting prospect if it’s your first time in Mexico, there’s so much here to be discovered that it can’t be missed out. 

Visit North America’s only castle, at Chapultepec Park, and then spend an entire day walking through the enormous Museum of Anthropology. 

Hop through the trendy bars or cafes of Condesa, delve into the Conquistador stories behind Coyoacán, and take in the hidden Aztec history of the Centro Histórico.

Get an insider peek into Mexico City’s culinary hotspot of Polanco on this food walking tour. An in-the-know guide whisks you around the well-heeled neighborhood to several different eating venues.

Sample Oaxacan, Yucatecan and traditional dishes, including chocolate and ice cream desserts, against the backdrop of Polanco’s parks.

2. Teotihuacan

Lina Stock of Divergent Travelers Adventure Travel Blog at Teotihuacan in Mexico

Just outside of the capital, you can find one of the best places to visit in Mexico, the pyramids of Teotihuacan

While Mexico City was once the Aztec capital, before the Spanish arrived, most of the temples and buildings were buried beneath the new city the conquistadors built. 

At Teotihuacan though, you can find the impressive Aztec temples and palaces still standing, remarkably preserved and protected. 

Climb to the top of the towering structures and gaze in awe across the beautiful landscapes. 

Discover one of Mexico’s most important archeological sites in a small group tour of the Teotihuacan Pyramids from Mexico City. With your guide, visit the highlights of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, which include the Sun Pyramid, Moon Plaza, Palace of Quetzalpapalotl, and the Temple of Quetzalcoatl.

3. Xochimilco 

Xochimilco, Mexico

Mexico City was built on a lake, but much of that lake has disappeared over the centuries since the Spanish arrival. 

One place that still bears a resemblance to the prehispanic era is Xochimilco, which is just outside the capital. 

This serene area of canals is the Venice of Mexico, and you can take a boat ride through these Aztec waterways while Mariachi Bands serenade you and the beers flow.

Ride a traditional barge through Xochimilco canals, then visit Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera landmarks on an immersive private tour of Aztec history and Mexico City art.

This tour includes round-trip hotel transfer and admission to Xochimilco, the Museo Diego Rivera Anahuacalli, and Casa Azul, and features the mosaic murals at UNAM.

4. Guanajuato 

Guanajuato Mexico

The highlands of Central Mexico are one of the most beautiful places in the country. 

One of the best places to visit in Mexico is Guanajuato, an old mining town with an important place in the country’s history. 

The city is high up and is known for its colorful houses which rise steeply up the mountainsides. There are beautiful churches, spectacular vistas and plenty of points of interest to visit from the Mexican Wars of Independence. 

5. San Miguel de Allende 

San Miguel de Allende Mexico

Just a short drive from Guanajuato, you can find the equally historic city of San Miguel de Allende. 

Named for the famous hero of the Mexican wars of Independence, Ignacio Allende, this is another place to trace through the stories of Mexican history and revolution. 

San Miguel de Allende is beautiful too, with ramshackle colonial streets and colorful buildings, as well as wineries and great restaurants. 

Discover the wonders of San Miguel de Allende cuisine on this 3-hour food walking tour. Soak up rich culinary history and traditions as you explore family-owned restaurants and other eateries, and sample delicious churros, chocolate, mole, ceviche and more.

Admire the city’s Spanish baroque architecture and learn about the local history along the way.

6. Cancun 

Drone View of Cancun Mexico

Cancun is easily the most well-known place in Mexico, and while it’s touristy, it’s always one of the best places to visit in Mexico. It’s really hard to resist the white sand beaches and turquoise waters here.

Cancun is where you find Mexico’s best resorts and some of the most exceptional beaches. Lavish hotels and resorts line the coastline, and you’ll be endlessly entertained by the restaurants, bars, and activities. 

If you’re looking for a vacation, then Cancun is the place to go, but always remember that there’s so much to see inland too. 

Away from the beaches, you can visit Chichen Itza, the most impressive and accessible Mayan ruins in southern Mexico. 

You can visit adventure parks in the jungles, swim or even scuba dive in crystal clear Cenotes, and explore the best of the Yucatan Peninsula. 

Delve deep into the Yucatan jungle for a day of adrenaline-packed activity and Mayan culture. Explore the natural wonders of cenotes, an incredible underground cave, and river systems.

Thunder through a tropical forest on an all-terrain Unimog to your next stop, where rappelling and ziplining await.

7. Cozumel

Cozumel Mexico

Located in the Caribbean Sea, just off the coast of Playa del Carmen, Cozumel is one of Mexico’s most spectacular island getaways. 

Despite being so close to Cancun, there’s none of the crowds and only a fraction of the development and it’s still more than possible to find secluded beaches and rustic hotels. 

Cozumel is best known for its diving, and there are some excellent dive spots all around the island. 

Pleasure your palate with meat-stuffed empanadas, succulent shrimp tacos, and sweet Mexican pastries on a culinary tour of Cozumel. Sample the exotic flavors of the idyllic island, noting the Mexican spice and Caribbean flair.

8. Riviera Maya 

Riviera Maya Mexico

The Riviera Maya is the stretch of coastline in Quintana Roo which runs from the south of Cancun and past Tulum. 

This is one of Mexico’s most glorious beach destinations, and you’ll find everything from five-star hotels in Playa del Carmen through to boutique accommodation in Tulum. 

There are beaches, snorkeling and diving spots, turtles and Mayan Ruins all along the length of the Riviera Maya. 

Set off into the warm Caribbean Sea on this half-day catamaran sailing adventure. Your luxurious boat will cruise along the Riviera Maya coastline, stopping at the Inah Reef, one of the best locations in the region for snorkeling.

After your water activities, enjoy a gourmet lunch and an open bar, as well as attentive service from your crew.

9. Tulum 

Tulum Mexico

Tulum is found at the southern edge of the Riviera Maya, just a few hours south of Cancun. 

It’s one of the best places to visit in Mexico because while you have stunning beauty to match the likes of Cancun, it’s still nowhere near as busy or built up. 

Tulum is centered around a Mayan ruin that looks out over the Caribbean Sea, while inland you can find more Mayan Ruins hidden by the steaming jungles of Quintana Roo and the Yucatan Peninsula. 

Leave the beaches of Cancun and explore Tulum, an ancient Maya fort perched on a bluff during this full-day private tour. At Tulum, overlooking the Caribbean Sea, learn about the city’s once-thriving commercial role in Maya history.

Move on to discover a cavern network of stalactites and stalagmites at Kantun-Chi.

10. Merida 

Merida Mexico

The largest city in the Yucatan is Merida, around a four drive through the jungles from Cancun, but despite being one of the best places to visit in Mexico it’s a destination which is often overlooked by tourists. 

Merida was a Mayan city before the Spanish arrived, and the Conquistadors simply built their churches and cathedrals over the Mayan temples. 

You can uncover this history in the local museums, including the huge museum dedicated to the Mayan world. 

Nearby, there are more Mayan Ruins and fascinating towns such as Izamal, a place which is also known as the Yellow City for its abundance of bright yellow buildings. 

There’s good food, good nightlife and lots of history and culture in Merida! 

Get acquainted with Yucatan specialties on this street food tour of Merida. Walk with a local guide to Merida’s main market plus a seafood restaurant and gelato shop. Sip fruit juices and sample plenty of local dishes, not limited to empanadas, tamales and seafood tacos.

11. Palenque

Palenque Mexico

If you’re looking for Mayan Ruins then take a trip to the far south of Mexico, where right on the Guatemalan border you can find Palenque. 

Once a bustling Mayan city, Palenque was already long overgrown and abandoned when the first Conquistadors hacked their way through the jungle to discover it. 

The excavated temples and houses are some of the best-preserved in the Mayan world, and although it’s not a quick journey getting here, it’s well worth the effort. 

12. San Cristóbal de Las Casas 

San Cristóbal de Las Casas Mexico

Chiapas is one of Mexico’s most diverse and beautiful states, and San Cristobal de las Casas is the best place to visit to start exploring. 

This charming colonial city is found high up in the mountains, and the streets are awash with culture and history.

This is the heart of the Mayan world, except here you won’t find ruins, but the living descendants of Central American culture.

Hundreds of indigenous languages are spoken in the area, and San Cristobal de Las Casas is a melting pot of histories and cultures.

Combine visits to Sumidero Canyon and the Magic Chiapa de Corzo on this adventure from San Cristobal de las Casas. With your guide pointing out the flora and fauna, take a boat ride through the canyon on the Grijalva River, admiring in the towering canyon walls around you.

13. Manzanillo 

Manzanillo Mexico

Manzanillo is located on the Pacific Coast, in the state of Colima and it’s one of the busiest tourist destinations and harbors in Mexico. 

It is home to some wonderful bays and beaches, and the sunsets here could well be the best in the entire country. 

You can snorkel, scuba dive, and enjoy many more watersports, while the ocean here is famed for the quality of its deep-sea fishing. 

Ride the rugged mountain trails of Manzanillo on an off-road ATV adventure with an experienced local guide. Leave the city behind then get perfect views of the scenic countryside from the slopes of Cerro del Toro.

Roar along trails in the shade of towering hardwood trees, and spot blooming flowers and ripening fruit in the thick.

14. Comala 

Comala Mexico

Comala is also found in the state of Colima, however, it’s very different from the coastal city of Manzanillo. 

Comala is a Pueblo Magico, known for its uniform white buildings which date back to the colonial era. 

Found inland, this is a place of culture, and it’s the perfect place to delve into local history and to uncover the layers of heritage hidden here. 

If you’re tired of beach resorts and are ready for an edge-of-your-seat adventure, then this trek to an active volcano has you covered. Hit the slopes of Mexico’s most fiery peak, with trekking poles provided.

You’ll also pass through avocado and coffee plantations, with time to savor freshly brewed coffee—made from volcano-grown beans.

15. La Paz

La Paz Mexico

La Paz is the capital of Baja California Sur, and it’s easily one of the best places to visit in Mexico. 

La Paz is located on the coast, overlooking the Gulf of California, and it’s the perfect place for snorkeling, diving and wildlife watching. 

Off the coast, you often spot whales and dolphins, while between October and March you can even go swimming with Whale Sharks. 

This great guided street art walk in the center of La Paz lasts for roughly an hour and a half. Discover the stories behind 15 murals painted by a variety of artists from the four corners of Mexico.

True reflections of the local culture, these murals provide the viewer with deep access to the culture of The Baja.

16. Sea of Cortez

Lina and David Stock Jr (Americas Adventure Travel Couple) in Sea of Cortez Mexico

The Sea of Cortez is the name that’s also given to the Gulf of California. This is one of the best places to visit in Mexico, and it encompasses more than just La Paz. 

This is Baja California, and there’s so much to do here, from snorkeling and diving to hiking in the mountains. The best way to explore by land is to hire a car and road trip. 

Alternatively, taking to the seas on a Baja small ship adventure expedition will have you uncovering the beauty of this area in a unique way.

Head out on the Sea of Cortez aboard a catamaran to swim near the natural habitat of whale sharks on this excursion from La Paz.

With certified guides, slip into the water, wearing the provided snorkel equipment, to get a look at these huge creatures in the waters they call home.

17. Cabo 

Cabo Mexico

Cabo is another of the best places to visit in Mexico, and it’s also found in Baja California. 

Cabo is right at the southern tip of the peninsula, and it’s a beautiful resort destination with plenty of activities, beaches and beautiful vistas to enjoy. 

Hop aboard a glass-bottom boat to explore the beauty of Los Cabos and the Sea of Cortez, including the dramatic features of Land’s End.

Pass by the Arch of Cabo San Lucas and snorkel with your guide at Pelican Rock, accessible only by boat.

18. Cholula 

Cholula Mexico

Cholula is a small city in the state of Puebla, which is best known for its enormous Prehispanic temple mound. 

The Pyramid of Cholula is thought to be the largest pyramid in the world, but it lay undiscovered for centuries, as the Spanish believed it was simply a hill and even built a church on top. 

It’s now known to be an important archeological site and it’s one of the best places to visit in Mexico! 

Combine visits to both Cholula and Puebla on this private, flexible-timed tour from Mexico City. Enjoy personalized attention from your guide while visiting the church of Santa Maria Tonantzintla, the Chapel of the Rosary, and the Great Pyramid of Cholula, among other landmarks.

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About David Stock

I have always been an outdoorsman so becoming an adventure traveler was just the next natural step. I love nature, I love to get off the beaten path and I like to explore. I enjoy scuba diving and cars. And yes, Lina and I have a naked dog.

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