Mexico offers so much more than the high octane holiday resorts which it has become famous for. Go beyond the capital Mexico City. Explore a little further. Dare to dive a little deeper into Mexico than what the package vacations claim are the best places to visit – the popular Los Cabos and the beautiful beaches of the Caribbean Sea – and you’ll unearth deserted coastlines, remains of ancient and important civilizations, and peaceful national parks.
Although selecting the most picturesque places to visit in Mexico is, of course, subjective, here are my choices for the most beautiful and best places to visit in Mexico…
1. Yucatán Peninsula – ancient Mayan ruins, incredible jungle swimming holes and stunning beaches
The Yucatan peninsula sits on the southern tip of Eastern Mexico. A popular and attractive area to visit, the peninsula is known for its unique geology, natural beauty, outstanding coastline, and pristine beaches – most famously Playa del Carmen – and its Mayan ruins.
Riviera Maya is one of the most well-known districts of the peninsula. Famous for its all-inclusive resorts, luxury villas, and charter yachts, Riviera Maya is one of the more chic areas of the peninsula, but it only represents a small portion of what the Yucatan can offer.
The state’s national parks shouldn’t be missed nor should the incredible underground lakes otherwise known as cenotes.
Additionally, the capital of the state, Merida, is widely regarded as one of the best places to visit in Mexico for travelers wanting to celebrate the famous Mexican holiday the Day of the Dead – a 2-day festival celebrated on the 1st and 2nd of November.
Our cool and unusual hotel pick for the Yucatan Peninsula – Chablé Maroma
- Carretera Federal 307 Km 51 Punta Maroma, 77710 Playa del Carmen, Mexico
- Click here to book with Booking.com
Hotels and Self-Catered Vacation Rentals in Yucatán Peninsula
2. Oaxaca City – for great gastronomy, culture and historic architecture
Covering a part of Mexico’s southern coast, this world heritage city boasts both natural and man-made beauty. Famous for its indigenous people, ancient and traditional Mexican cultures as well as a vibrant art and craft scene – the city makes an exceptional travel destination.
Widely regarded as the gastronomic capital of Mexico, when visiting Oaxaca, you’ll want to try the famous mole – a complex sauce made by grinding chillies, peanuts, sesame seeds, chocolate, anise, and other herbs and spices.
Despite its popularity, Oaxaca maintains its small-town feel. When visiting, make sure you explore some of the colourful colonial architecture and take a trip to the surrounding area which is abundant with deserted stretches of white sand coastline, thick forests and photogenic waterfalls.
Our cool and unusual hotel pick for Oaxaca City – Hotel CasAntica
- Av.Morelos 601, 68000 Oaxaca City, Mexico
- Click here to book with Booking.com
Hotels and Self-Catered Vacation Rentals in Oaxaca
3. Isla Holbox – a beautiful island and once Mexico’s best-kept secrets
The Island of Holbox, or Isla Holbox according to locals, is an island that attracts tourists and natives of Mexico alike. It combines classic Caribbean-style beaches with spectacularly coloured buildings matched by crystal clear waters. Thanks to its pristine beaches and variety of marine life, the Island of Holbox is a popular place to visit in Mexico for water sports, scuba diving and snorkeling enthusiasts.
The word Holbox means Black Hole in Yucatec Maya, but you will not feel the name matches the island’s personality. Walking along the shore, shopping in the shops, or just enjoying the view of native birds such as flamingos and pelicans will make for an enjoyable afternoon as you simply sit back, relax, and enjoy all that Isla Holbox has to offer.
However, since the Island of Holbox is a relatively car-free area, you’ll have the opportunity to explore the island on foot or get around in one of its many golf cart taxis.
Our cool and unusual hotel pick for Isla Holbox – Casa Sandra Boutique Hotel
- Calle Igualdad Costado De Sec Tec, 77310 Holbox Island, Mexico
- Click here to book with Booking.com
4. Bernal – a pretty, quaint and under-the-radar town
For travelers looking for a cozy small-town, few places in Mexico hold as much allure as Bernal. It is said that the residents of Bernal, Mexico actually live longer than in other parts of the country. The reasoning for this is largely due to the laid-back atmosphere of the area.
Locals prefer to take life as it comes and limit stress as much as possible. One visit to Bernal and you will realize that their way of thinking is largely beneficial to anyone. However, Bernal is not without plenty to do. Bernal is home to the third-largest natural monolith in the world, making it one of the best destinations for climbing enthusiasts, where tourists and locals enjoy the challenge of climbing to its peak.
5. Lago de Patzcuaro – a lake which considered one of the beautiful attractions in Mexico
Finding your way to an impeccably beautiful beach is a given in this rich North American country, but if you prefer your waters to be still, Largo de Parzuaro is one of the best places to visit in Mexico. This lake is an average of 5 meters deep and provides a calm place to enjoy the scenery and relax your cares away.
Largo de Parzuaro was formed via a volcano and is home to a number of aquatic and semi-aquatic animals including the rough-footed mud turtle and the Mexican garter snake. The beauty of this great place was the inspiration behind Pixar’s Coco.
6. Isla Mujeres – a beautiful and relaxing island off the Yucatán Peninsula coast
Just a short boat ride from the package holiday favorite Cancun, Isla Mujeres (otherwise known as the Island of Women) is a perfect tropical paradise that is a world away from the craziness of the mainland and Mexico City. It’s a small island with not an awful lot going on – but that’s the island’s main selling point. Swim, snorkel, do some scuba diving or simply indulge in the sweet art of not doing very much at all.
The island is serviced by a ferry which makes it an ideal day trip for travels visiting Cancun.
7. Celestun – a village known for being home to large flocks of beautiful flamingos
Located on the already amazing Yucatan Peninsula, Celestun is famous in its own right. Apart from being one of the most beautiful places in the country, it’s also one of the best places to visit in Mexico to see flamingos – pink flamingos, to be exact. When you hear them honking and gabbling, make sure to leave a reply.
This seemingly sleepy town is an environmentally friendly area drawing not just flamingos but many other forms of wildlife to Reserva de la Biosfera Ria Celestun. Bring your camera and plenty of sunscreens when visiting Celestun. You will enjoy your time taking pictures and relaxing along the shores of this picturesque area of Mexico.
With buses making the 90-minute ride and leaving every hour, Celestun is a great place to visit on a day trip from Merida.
8. Puerto Vallarta – a cosmopolitan resort town known for its beaches, water sports and nightlife
This cosmopolitan resort known for its beaches, water sports, and nightlife is located on the country’s west coast. Puerto Vallarta is a picky vacationer’s dream. It’s also the perfect choice for those on a limited time schedule who want, in one destination, to get a taste of all aspects of Mexican life.
The gorgeous stretches of sand beaches along Banderas Bay are one of the biggest draws and so is the pretty old town of Puerto Vallarta which offers traditional architecture, stylish restaurants and plenty of interesting shops and art galleries.
9. Cabo San Lucas Arch – a graceful and striking natural coastal rock formation
The coastal city of Cabo is a tourist hot spot and visitors love its sandy beaches, world-class scuba diving locations and holiday atmosphere. Although the highlight of Cabo is undoubtedly the stunning natural rock formations that jut out from the turquoise sea. The Cabo San Lucas Arch sits at the meeting point of two seas and has rightly earned its place in Mexican legend and folklore.
You can visit the city on foot or get around by water taxis which will take you from downtown to one of the city’s amazing beaches.
10. Mahahual – gorgeous beaches, old-world colonial flavor and Mayan ruins
The splendour of the Caribbean coastline attracts visitors from all around the world, and Mahahual is among the most popular places to visit. Unlike other, more touristy areas, Mahahual is just a small fishing village on the surface. But those who have visited have marveled at the beautiful turquoise waters and serene nature of the area.
Things move a bit more slowly here, and that is what the locals and visitors seem to love about Mahahual. Throughout the year, temperatures never reach above 85 degrees F making for a relaxing day at the beach any time of the year.
11. Morelia – a historic colonial building lined with well-preserved 17th- and 18th-century buildings
Relaxing on the beautiful beaches of Mexico is a great way to spend your time, but if museums, art galleries and history are what you seek, your destination should be colonial towns, like Morelia. This area has seen its fair share of battles – including during the Mexican War for Independence. And monuments to the many battles fought here can be seen throughout the city in addition to the multitude of stunning sites to enjoy.
Pink-stone buildings make up the historic center of Morelia, which, in addition to their unique beauty, provide a backdrop of a vibrant dining scene, theatres, museums, and tamale shops.
Among the most popular historic sites this colonial city boasts is the Temple of San Francisco built in 1610. The interior has been painstakingly kept well-preserved in pristine condition by locals and officials. Their efforts have paid off as it is one of the most photographed temples in Morelia.
12. Isla Espiritu Santo – considered to be one of the most beautiful islands in Mexico
Located in the Gulf of California, Isla Espiritu Santo is the 12th largest island in Mexico. Rare creatures inhabit this UNESCO-protected landmass including the black jackrabbit, which is not known to inhabit any other part of the world.
Isla Espiritu Santo was voted as one of the most beautiful places in Mexico and is known as one of the top 12 places to visit in the world. Visitors have the opportunity to see dolphins, whales, sharks, and turtles, to name but a few of the animals inhabiting the area. Snorkelling and scuba diving are highly encouraged.
13. Campeche – known for its preserved baroque colonial buildings, military architecture and walled historic district
Declared a World Heritage site in 1997, Campeche has attracted its fair share of visitors. Officially, it is known as the Free and Sovereign State of Campeche. A few notable tourist attractions in Campeche include the colonial architecture, the archaeological sites Becan Ruins and La Zona Arqueologica Edzna, and the archaeological site of Calakmul.
Visitors can also enjoy Chicana Mayan Ruins and Fuerte Museo San Miguel. With a history dating back well over 3,000 years, Campeche is the best place to soak up the illustrious history of Mexico and its diverse archaeological sites but also to relax along its picturesque coastline and wonderful beaches.
14. The Copper Canyon, Chihuahua – a gorgeous UNESCO World Heritage Site made up of six canyons
Copper Canyon is a system of 6 distinct canyons in the Sierra Madre mountain range of northwestern Mexico.
This portion of Sierra Madre Occidental, in the southwest of Chihuahua, is a beautiful environment made up of cliffs and caves. The cliffs join together to make a formation bigger than America’s famous Grand Canyon. Visit for stunning panoramic vistas as well as inspirational canyon walks where the sheer size of nature really helps put life in perspective!
15. Valladolid – a city filled with historic colonial buildings and is also home to one of the best cenotes
A trip to the Yucatan Peninsula would not be complete without visiting Valladolid. The city itself is well worth a visit and is known for its important colonial buildings (including the 16th-century Convent of San Bernardino of Siena). The city also boasts one of the best places for Mexican folk art and furnishings.
Of all the colonial towns in Mexico, Valladolid has the distinction of being home to one of the best cenotes Mexico has to offer. With over 6,000 cenotes in existence throughout the Yucatan Peninsula, Zaci is said to be among the best. What is unique about this particular cenote is the fact that it is not on the outskirts of the city, like others, but right in the middle of Valladolid. For just a few pounds, you can enjoy the park-like setting of Zaci, so be sure to put that at the top of your to-do list.
16. Lacandon Jungle – a lush, green jungle perfect for exploring nature and meeting with the indigenous people who call it home
Stretching from Chiapas, Mexico all the way down to the southern portion of the Yucatan Peninsula, you will find the Lacandon Jungle. Just like you’d expect, this illustrious jungle is full of amazing wildlife and photo opportunities around every corner.
Lacandon Jungle is part of the reserve that is the largest rainforest in all of North America. The Lacandon people within the jungle have their own language, but most of the inhabitants of the area have adapted well to speaking fluent Spanish as well.
17. Chiapas – a region where stunning pine-forest highlands, beautiful rainforest jungles and attractive colonial cities exist side by side
A subtropical paradise characterized by dense rainforest jungles and ancient Mayan ruins, the Chiapas is certainly one of the most beautiful places to visit in Mexico. As a southern Mexican state bordering Guatemala, some of its highlights include the river-carved Canyon of Sumidero, the lakes at Montebello and the ancient ruins at Palenque.
18. Chichen Itza, Yucatan – a stunning and historically important complex of Mayan ruins
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, one of the new 7 wonders of the world, Chichen Itza stands as a testament to the might of the Mayan civilization. Dominated by the imposing El Castillo structure, this archaeological site is of high interest the world over. It is also one of the most stunning spots in the country and should be on everyone’s list of extraordinary places to visit in Mexico.
The important site is located in Tinúm Municipality, Yucatán State, and when planning your trip, make sure you allow for a full day to visit – the area covers a radius of over 2.5 square miles.
19. Horsetail Falls, Monterrey – a unique and beautiful natural waterfall
The Cola de Caballo (or horsetail) waterfalls in Monterrey draws a huge number of visitors. The cascades are a great photogenic attraction, and the surrounding area is also popular for outdoor activity and it is one of the best places to visit in Mexico for nature enthusiasts. Book a hotel in a nearby resort and choose from hiking, bungee jumping or canyoneering.
20. The Bufadora, Baja California – the second largest marine geiser in the world
This sea cave in Baja California is a stunning sight not to miss when visiting Mexico. With the cave at sea level, the tidal surges create a massive spouting geyser accompanied by an eerie sound that won’t be forgotten in a hurry. Join the other people gathering around the cave and sit back and enjoy the show.
The rest of the region is also worth exploring as well. The world’s second-longest peninsula, the region spans hundreds of majestic mountains and gorgeous beaches.
21. Mexico City – the historic center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Of course, no list of the best places to visit in Mexico would be complete without a mention of Mexico City. Rich in culture and steeped in history, Mexico City is one of the best places to visit in Mexico for sure.
Mexico City boasts great food, world-class museums, amazing architecture, lively nightspots, and, in its historic center, you will come across many celebrated monuments all within walking distance – Plaza de la Constitución, the National Palace, the Templo Mayor to name but a few. Plus, Mexico City is surrounded by fascinating archaeological sites that make good day-trips.
When you’re taking in the city’s sights and experiencing its culture, around you, large volcanic mountains (over 5,000 meters tall) will be looking over you and the city. Every corner in Mexico City is a photo opportunity!
22. Guanajuato – a colonial Spanish silver mining town, rich above as beneath
The evidence of Guanajuato’s rich ground can be seen throughout the city in its many From elaborate and ornate constructions. No other city in Mexico can boast as many stately colonial mansions.
The silver is still being excavated today. But that’s not what’s keeping the city vibrant and rich. Guanajuato is a popular tourist destination. It is vibrant and fun, thanks in part to its renowned university.
Peruse the city on foot and marvel at the well-manicured gardens and the narrow passageways adorned with flowers hanging from wrought-iron balconies.
Escape for the day to nearby mountains for some hiking then return for a meal and some of the best nightlife Mexico has to offer.
23. Tulum, Mexico – the Caribbean hotspot to visit in Mexico
A once-sleepy beach town, this Caribbean vacation spot is now rivaling Cancun and Playa del Carmen as the new hotspot in Mexico.
It has the advantage of not being as crowded in high tourist season as its fellow Yucatan beach towns, at least for now. Swim inside caves in the nearby cenotes then enjoy some of the best seafood you’ll ever taste – the town is especially known for its prawns.
For a day trip, you won’t want to miss Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, a sublime area of natural beauty reserved from small eco-friendly excursions. This World Heritage Site strives to be a model for sustainable tourism and support existing conservation projects.
In Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, you will be able to observe jaguars and monkeys, ocelots and pumas, as well as marine life and flamingos.
24. Mérida – the White City of the Yucatán
This colorful colonial Spanish city is one of the most beautiful cities in Mexico. Founded in 1542 and built on the ruins of the old Mayan city of T’ho, today Mérida is the vibrant capital of Yucatán that blends colonial and Mayan culture into something truly unique and memorable.
The Spanish built whitewashed mansions in the old walled town, many of which have been painted over with bright colors, giving Mérida its vibrant and unforgettable look.
Mérida also boasts the largest indigenous population in Mexico. This helps contribute to the city’s strong sense of culture and history which further stimulates curious travelers who come to discover Mayan ruins nearby and see that Mayan culture is still alive, in some form, today.
Take a day trip to Chichen Itza. Soak in the pools of local cenotes. Explore the Maya ruins of Uxmal. Or, catch a game of pok-ta-pok in front of the Plaza Grande. Though historians aren’t exactly certain of all the rules of this once popular Mayan sport, today’s players play it rough, and for keeps.
Of course, it’s impossible to mention all the beautiful places to visit in Mexico in a top 10 list – nor in a top 25. Still want more? Then head for the famously fun resort town of Acapulco, the historic colonial city of Guanajuato, San Miguel de Allende the romantic colonial-era city in Mexico’s central highlands, the protected Marieta Islands, the birthplace of tequila Guadalajara and Riviera Nayarit – the spot that calls itself “Mexico’s newest beach destination”. Enjoy all the marvelous places in Mexico!