Whether you are already planning your next vacation, or just daydreaming about paradise beaches, beautiful towns and delicious food, Mexico should be on the top of your list of places to visit in 2016. Mexico has plenty of things to see and do. You should spend at least a few months traveling around the country just to get the sense of its diversity.
As I’ve been living in Mexico for a while, I could write a big book on my favorite places in Mexico, but instead I decided to gather opinions of top travel bloggers to see which places do they like the most. Together we’ve chosen the best places in Mexico, because Mexico is amazing!
Best Places to Visit in Mexico
Bacalar Lagoon in Quintana Roo
Let’s start from one of my favorite places so far. Bacalar Lagoon in Quintana Roo, right next to the border with Belize.
Bacalar lake is called ‘the lake of seven colors’, due to the different tones of water and the place is absolutely a must when traveling to Quintana Roo. There are no big resorts and touristic complexes in Bacalar, what makes you feel like you’re almost alone surrounded by blue waters, just like in the Maldives.
– Katja from Globetotting
Once upon a time, Mexico City was the kind of capital that you would fly into and fly straight out again. Crime, pollution and traffic mean that this was not a city for lingering. These days, however, Mexico’s capital is on the up and it was recently named by The New York Times as the number one place to go in 2016.
And for good reason, this is a truly exciting and energetic city.
It’s rich with history and culture and boasts a culinary scene to rival any major world capital. Hip colonias such as Roma and Condesa are easy to wander, because they’re filled with bars, restaurants and designer boutiques.
Visit modern museums and colourful markets, walk around the enormous Bosques de Chapultepec (Mexico City’s answer to Central Park). You might as well take a boat ride along the canals of Xochimilco, hit the hippest club or watch a lucha libre wrestling match. Mexico City has something for everyone.
Food in Mexico City
– Laura from Savored Journeys
I’ve been to many cities in Mexico, and while I’ve loved many of them, Mexico City is by far the most cosmopolitan. My favorite part about the city was the endless food options, including incredible gourmet restaurants like Pujol.
The chef there uses all local, indigenous ingredients to create a stunning one-of-a-kind meal with unique flavors and products that you’ve probably never heard of, if you don’t live in Mexico. We love traveling for food and Mexico City really wowed us. Pujol’s famous avocado tortilla with suckling lamb and avocado puree.
Incredible Ancient Ruins
Mayan Ruins of Chichen Itza in Yucatan
– Stefan from Nomadic Boys
Stefan visited Mexico in September 2008 and his favourite place was Chichen-Itza, the famous Mayan ruins in the east side of the country in Yucatan. They are like the pyramids of Mexico.
They’re beautiful, really impressive and a mark of what was once one of the largest Maya cities. But as a result it’s popular drawing in many people, so best visited early in the day.
Mayan Ruins of Coba in Quintana Roo
– Stephanie from The World As I See It
My favourite place in Mexico is the ancient Maya city of Coba, located on the Yucatan Peninsula. Coba is home to a wealth of amazing sites to explore, from Roman-like ball game courts to stele, which are large stone slabs with drawings and Mayan glyphs on them.
I was amazed by Coba, set within a dense rainforest, home to beautiful birds, lizards and other wildlife, as well as breath-taking bromeliads and crazy cool trees growing out of rocks. But it was a particular part of Coba that sealed it as my favourite site in Mexico, Nohoch Mul.
Nohoch Mul (meaning large mound) is Coba’s main pyramid and also the highest on the Yucatan Peninsula.
We took the long, hot and humid trek along the white road towards the pyramid and gradually between the trees emerged this epic sight. As I stood in its shadow I was in awe.
Mayan Ruins of Tulum in Quintana Roo
– Audrey from That Backpacker
If you find yourself travelling somewhere along the Yucatan Peninsula, then you need to make the quick detour to visit the ruins of Tulum. These ruins once made up the Pre-Columbian walled city known as Zama and served as an important port.
Sitting along a 12-meter cliff that drops into the turquoise waters of the Caribbean, this archaeological site has one of the most beautiful settings you could ask for.
For postcard-perfect shots, follow the trail towards the coast and then turn left for stunning views of the God of Winds Temple perched out next to the sea. Bonus tip: bring your swimsuit because you can go swimming in the beach below and you’ll want to do so after sightseeing around the ruins in the hot, hot heat!
Hidden ruins of Playa del Carmen in Quintana Roo
– Lauren from Craving Sunshine
Playa Del Carmen is perhaps most famous for its picture perfect stretch of powder white sand and turquoise waters but look a little closer and you’ll see that there is more than meets the eye…
Hidden in and around the centre of Playa are remnants of ancient Mayan history. Just steps from the beach you can immerse yourself in the history of this beautiful country.
I’m not going to give you the exact location, finding them yourself is part of the fun! But i will give you a clue…head down calle 2 between 5th av & the beach. Keep your eyes peeled down every side street….you’ll be pleasantly surprised!
Further along towards the centre of 5th Ave there is another small ruin that most people simply walk by! For ruins that you don’t have to search too hard for head into Playacar Fase 1. Follow the road towards the beach and you will see gardens full of these historical beauties.
Ruins of Teotihuacan near Mexico City
– Alex from Crazy Sexy Fun Traveler
Mexico is definitely my top country in the world and choosing one local destination I love the most is difficult. However, it’s always Teotihuacan that comes to my mind first.
Located just 48 km Northeast from Mexico City can be visited on a bus day tour or by car. Since its establishment in around 100 BC, it became probably the largest city in the pre-Colombian Americas.
Both big pyramids, the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon were built by 150 AC. Then the city was left empty in 750 AC until the Aztecs came in 600 years after and named the unknown city Teotihuacan, the Place of Gods.
We don’t know much about its original name, inhabitants nor their language but all I personally know for sure is that it really feels magical to visit it. Walking along the Avenue of the Dead fills me with unbelievable divine energy.
Gorgeous coastal towns & islands
Tulum in Quintana Roo
– Karisa from Flirting with the Globe
I’ve traveled to many of the “popular resort towns” in Mexico (Playa del Carmen, Acapulco, Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta and Cancun, among others), but I’ve never been a fan of the typical all-inclusive mega-resort, Miami-style nightlife scene or downtown areas which almost seem to be built purely for tourists.
My trips to all of these cities were enjoyable, but I can’t say I was enamored enough with any of them enough to feel the need to plan a return trip back. But, this recently changed for me after visiting Tulum for the first time and falling head-over-heels for the quirky beach town.
Driving into Tulum I immediately noticed a difference – instead of huge all-inclusive resorts, I saw boutique hotels and beachfront cabanas. Instead of cheesy chain restaurants, there were taco stands serving up fresh fare.
Instead of the streets being lined with tourist-trap jewelry stores, there were stylish boutiques and yoga studios. The city has a hippie vibe which will undeniably force you to relax (no feat for me).
I spent my days skirting around town on a beach cruiser, sampling organic culinary delights and strolling from beach bar to beach bar sipping perfectly concocted craft cocktails. Less than two hours from Cancun, Tulum feels a world away and I can’t wait to return.
– Kristin from Souvenir Finder
I’ve been visiting Tulum for years, before it became the hot spot for yoga fiends and boho wannabes. Fortunately, even with the inevitable changes that have come to Tulum, it still has managed to keep that same low key vibe.
With its sketchy wifi and lack of development, Tulum feels off the grid– thatched hut cabanas line the beach, palms trees criss cross over dirt roads, and limited electricity at night make the moon and the stars all that much brighter.
No need to dress up. A bikini and a pair of cut off shorts will get you through your trip (flip flops optional). For a hit of local culture, head into the town for a taco crawl at the many stands lining the streets.
Isla Mujeres in Quintana Roo
– Vicki from The Vicki Winters Show
Isla Mujeres, México is one of the jumping off points from which to go swimming with whale sharks. Not only is this tiny little island one of the most beautiful places I have ever been, but its Playa Norte is an exquisite soft sand beach on which to play and enjoy a cold Mexican beer.
Take the Ultramar ferry from Gran Puerto to Isla Mujeres for an experience you’ll never forget.
Isla Holbox in Quintana Roo
– Maya and Michal from Travel with the Smile
North of Yucatan Peninsula lies a little island called Isla Holbox. Unspoiled by mass tourism, this little piece of paradise is a perfect getaway for everyone. Do you like kiteboarding or stand up paddleboarding? Or diving with whale sharks? Maybe just bird watching or laying on a quiet beach with a fresh squeezed orange juice. This is the place for you.
We’ve visited Isla Holbox during a peak season and found it peacefully quiet with just enough tourists around. The second you step outside the boat, you can walk barefoot on the island. Streets are made of sand and you won’t see any cars.
Only golf carts used as taxis and bicycles. Everything you need is few minutes walking distance. We honestly haven’t been in a more laid back place than is Isla Holbox. Best thing you can do in the evening is find a hammock on the beach and enjoy the sunset.
Cozumel Island in Quintana Roo
– Laura & Lance from Travel Addicts
The gorgeous island of Cozumel is known best for being a cruise ship destination, which is a bit of a shame. There is so much more to this island than souvenir shops and day trippers. But there’s more to Cozumel than this. Many visitors to Cozumel find their way to Chankanaab National Park on the southern end of the island.
When cruise ships are in town, it can be packed with people, but in the middle of the week, it’s a retreat to get sand in your toes and enjoy a taco in the shade of a palm tree.
– Michael & Randi – Just a Pack
While in Cozumel we decided to rent a scooter in the town of San Miguel to explore the rest of the island. We drove south along the coast and left the mass tourism of San Miguel in our rear view. Much to our delight (and some surprise) we found miles and miles of empty coastline just some thirty minutes outside of town.
So, next time you are in Cozumel, rent a bicycle or scooter and explore the coast. You will be very pleasantly surprised by what you find!
Loreto in Baja California
– Stephanie from Travelbreak
Loreto in Baja is that secret, off-the-beaten path Mexican destination that brings great luxury and hospitality at a smart price. Perfect to indulge in scenic hikes, clear waters and even better food. It’s a place I’d fly back to in a second… especially because it’s a quick direct flight from Los Angeles.
Sayulita near Puerto Vallarta
– Taylor from Travel Outlandish
Just when we thought that the Mexican way of life couldn’t get any more chill, we found ourselves in Sayulita. The tiny little town sits 25 miles north of Puerto Vallarta, and while the beer still flows freely, the two places couldn’t seem any further apart. Get your first taste of Sayulita with paletas and fish tacos sold from roadside stands.
You can wander past art galleries and explore one of the most gorgeous graveyards you’ve ever seen, or simply head to the water for uncrowded beach access and surf lessons. Sure, there may be a more lovely spot in Mexico, but we haven’t found it yet.
Playa del Carmen in Quintana Roo
– Hannah & Adam from Getting Stamped
I love Playa for several reasons but the most obvious would be the beach, you can walk for miles on the white sandy beach with gorgeous turquoise waters. When the sunsets there are tons of bars & restaurants and of course street food vendors serving up some of the tastiest tacos in Mexico.
There are a ton of things to do in Playa del Carmen but it’s also a great base to stay and exploring the surrounding areas like Akumal, Tulum, Chichen Itza.
– Joy from A Jaunt with Joy
For a unique dining experience in Playa del Carmen after your day’s activities, head to Alux restaurant to feast in a candlelit cave! The place is perfect for a romantic date, but could also be a fun spot for an evening with friends. Playa del Carmen is truly one of Mexico’s most fun and most gorgeous cities!
Guadalajara in Jalisco
– Sarah from Live, Dream, Discover
Guadalajara is often overlooked in favor of the mega metropolis of Mexico City, the abundant coastal beach towns or simply as a stopover on the way to Lake Chapala. However if given the chance Guadalajara stands strong as a worthy destination all on it’s own.
This Colonial city manages to meld a lovely historic core full of impressive architecture with a vibrant and modern cultural and culinary scene. Also, as the birthplace of the famed Mariachi, the sombrero and the Mexican hat dance and with ties to the beginnings of tequila it is a city steeped in Mexican tradition and flavor
Guanajuato City in Guanajuato
– Carole from Travels with Carole
Located about 200 miles east of Guadalajara and 200 miles west of Mexico City, and not far from San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato is almost the dead-center of Mexico. Spread between canyons, this long and narrow city has many winding streets and tiny alleys. They are for pedestrians only, making it a pleasure to explore.
Further enhancing its appeal, it features colonial architecture, colorfully painted buildings, unusual underground traffic tunnels. You won’t find any stop lights, but plentiful parks and plazas instead. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1988.
San Miguel de Allende in Guanajuato
– Katja from Globetotting
San Miguel de Allende is one of Mexico’s most picturesque colonial cities. Located in the state of Guanajuato, in central Mexico, it’s a postcard-worthy town characterised by colourful, colonial homes, narrow cobbled streets and pretty, tree-lined squares.
At the heart of the city is its famous pink sandstone church, La Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel that dominates the skyline.
This is an easy place to visit made even more attractive by its year-round beautiful weather, plethora of very good restaurants and fun activities. We spent our days exploring local markets, taking a city tour on a trolley bus and eating lots of pan dulces (pastries)!
Oaxaca City in Oaxaca
– Amy from The Wayfarer’s Book
I was lured to Oaxaca City by the promise of delectable authentic Mexican food and I was heartily rewarded. There are many delicious places to eat but the Mercado de Benito Juarez was my favorite.
The thought of a pollo en mole verde dish I had there still makes my mouth water. In addition to the home-style eateries, there’s an entire hall for grilled meats. The process of ordering is a bit tricky but the vendors will be happy to help you!
Since Oaxaca is considered Mexico’s chocolate capital, grab a refreshing chocolate shake at Chocolate Mayordomo. And for the brave, there’s mezcal, a smoky cousin of tequila. It’s supposed to be sipped but it’s quite strong (I prefer it in cocktails). Beyond its tasty culinary tradition, Oaxaca is a dynamic, lively city.
I witnessed a protest in the zócalo, threaded my way through a marching band warming up for a political march, and caught the tail end of an outdoor children’s concert next to the cathedral. All in one night!
Colonial Cities and Mayan Ruins in Chiapas
– Claudia from My Adventures Across the World
One place that I keep going to and I am truly in love with is Chiapas. San Cristobal de las Casas is a gorgeous small colonial cities, but the natural wonders, archeological sites, traditions and cultures of this state should not be overlooked.
This is a place where it is possible to find mountains and tropical jungle, the natural pools of Agua Azul and the archeological sites of Tonina – still little known to tourists – and Palenque.
Yet, what I love the most about Chiapas is the presence of indigenous communities that struggle to keep their culture and identity alive. I think it is due to my previous job in academia, when I researched on the protection of the cultural identity of minorities and indigenous peoples.
To date, the Mayan communities of Chiapas wear their traditional clothes, live a traditional way of life and follow a religion that is a mixture of Christian beliefs and their own traditions. I have had the chance of seeing their rituals in the church of San Juan Chamula and in their private homes: it was simply amazing.
Izamal in Yucatan
– Earl from Wandering Earl
This town in the Yucatan is yellow. Every building in the center is painted bright, sunshine yellow. Is there much to do in Izamal? Nope. How’s the food? It’s okay. Is it conveniently located? Not really. But again, it’s all yellow! Spend some time here and just try to be unhappy. It’s not possible.
As you roam the sleepy cobblestone streets, as you wander the 16th century Franciscan monastery. You mingle with local Mayans in the main plaza, as you enjoy the festive evening atmosphere, as you try poc chuc at a small Mayan restaurant and stand atop the Kinch Kakmo Mayan pyramid on the edge of town.
You’ll be smiling and wanting to skip around while surrounded by so much beautiful, cheerful yellow. Be happy, forget your worries for a little while, go to Izamal. It’s that simple!
Merida in Yucatan
– John from Roaming Around the World
Merida, capital of Yucatan, is truly one of Mexico’s great cultural cities. Walking through the city center, you can soak in the colonial atmosphere while wandering into the many museums, churches, theatres, and government buildings that are open to the public.
Be sure to return to Merida’s historic plazas at night but bring your dancing shoes! The lively street fiestas heat up on the weekends after the sun goes down.
On Sundays, taking to bicycles is a perfect way to tour the city during the Bici-Ruta when the city closes the streets to vehicle traffic. Yet perhaps one of Merida’s best attributes is its hub location right in the middle of the Yucatan, which allows for countless adventures and cultural excursions throughout the region.
All within an hour’s drive you can explore beautiful beaches, famous Mayan ruin sites, hundreds of cenotes, and indigenous villages. After all of these memorable day trips, you then have the pleasure of winding down the evening in this charming city.
– Ayngelina from Bacon is Magic
Only three hours from Cancun, many people visit Merida because it’s so close to Uxmal and Chichen Itza. The truth is the city is amazing on its own with beautiful buildings and great nightlife in the zocalo (plazas). But one of my favourite things about Merida is all of the great food like tamales, panuchos – Mexico is so much more than tacos.
Wildlife Refuge in Ixtapa in Guerrero
– Shara from SKJ Travel
My favorite place in Mexico is a small sliver of protected land on beautiful Playa Linda near Ixtapa. It’s a wildlife refuge called the Popoyote Lagoon. It took me a long time to find out its name; most people simply call it the crocodile sanctuary or the crocodile farm (but it’s not a farm).
It was established to protect a large number of American crocodiles in a dense mangrove swamp. But it makes a pleasant haven also for iguanas and many species of birds, the most exotic of which is the bright pink roseate spoonbill.
There’s a viewing area next to a market of souvenir stalls, and I’ve spent hours upon hours watching the wildlife as well as searching the dense foliage for the critters I know are lurking in there (I admittedly have a pretty high attention span).
I’m not really a reptile kind of gal, but I’ve come to feel quite a fondness for the crocodiles and iguanas, they are quite fascinating once you spend some time with them.
Copper Canyon in Chihuahua
– Matt from Expert Vagabond
If I had to pick a favorite part of Mexico, it would be the Copper Canyon in the northern state of Chihuahua. It’s actually bigger and deeper than the Grand Canyon! Rolling across the countryside by train through one of Mexico’s greatest natural treasures while visiting indigenous Tarahumara villages and learning about their culture was an experience I’ll never forget.
Hierve el Agua pools in Oaxaca
– Cacinda from Points and Travel
Sometimes you just want to feel like you are in another world. And this is one of those places: Hierve El Agua, Oaxaca. It is literally an oasis in an arid dry desert surrounded by mountains in an isolated, rough terrain. It was also at one time a sacred site to the ancient peoples of the Oaxaca valley, the Zapotecs.
The “oasis” is the cascade of “pools” from a petrified waterfall, where you can dip into the crystal cold water and sit on the ledge of limestone looking out over a massive mountain view drop. I love Oaxaca City and this was one of my favorite day trips to take from there.
Cenote Calavera near Tulum in Quintana Roo
– Jon & Gia from Mismatched Passports
The word calavera means “skull.” Cenote Calavera (also known as Temple of Doom) was named because of the three holes on the ground that appear to be the holes in a skull. The biggest hole on the ground, about 10m in diameter, serves as the entrance to this cenote.
Cenote Calavera was the first cenote we visited in Mexico and we couldn’t believe we had the place to ourselves! It was smaller than other cenotes we visited but it was special. The cozy feel of the cave-like swimming hole was perfect for just a few people.
After a hot day of biking around Tulum, swimming in Cenote Calavera was definitely the best way to rejuvenate.
Green sea turtles in Akumal in Quintana Roo
– Erin from Explore with Erin
Akumal is a short US$2 collectivo ride from Playa Del Carmen. And that’s the only thing you will pay for, the rest of this experience is completely free. Once you get out of the collectivo, you can cross the road, pass through the restaurants and find one of the most insanely picturesque beaches you are ever likely to see.
White sand, swaying palm trees, crystal clear water. And turtles. Lots and lots of Green Sea Turtles (Chelonia Mydas). Just a little swim from the shoreline into the soft green sea grass you will spot these beautiful animals floating along between the colourful fishes. It’s hard to find a prettier spot in all of Mexico.
– Dave from Baldpacker
The sea turtles love Akumal’s warm shallow waters for the abundant quantities of sea grass. Although there are not many fish, there are many types of rays in the area. Be cautious when entering the water and slide your feet along the sand to avoid getting stung.
Please also respect the turtles, maintaining a safe distance. Avoid swimming above them so they can safely surface to breathe when needed.
Natural wonders in the state of San Luis Potosi
– Inma from A World To Travel
The enchanted garden of Xilitla, Tamul waterfall, God’s bridge or Sotano of the Huahuas are just some of the many natural wonders in Huasteca Potosina. It’s the epicenter of active tourism and preferred cooling off spot of San Luis Potosi.
Base yourself in Ciudad Valles. Make sure you have at least a few days to enjoy this raw and untamed region where turquoise rivers and waterfalls, lush jungles, deep caves and other marvels compete for the visitor’s attention day in day out.
Remember, that this list is just the top of the iceberg. There are many more other incredible places to see in Mexico. Please note: place are listed in no particular order. Number 25 on the list might very well be as amazing as number one.
Want to read more about Mexico? Check out my Mexico: Travel & Live section! If you have any specific questions join my Mexico Travel Tips community group on Facebook.
Do you have a favorite place in Mexico? Tell us about it 🙂