I have to confess, one of the best things about Mexico is that there is so much to see and it features dozens of UNESCO world heritage sites. If you were to start, I would suggest some of the best places to visit would be: Mexico City, Cancun, Tulum, Guadalajara, Oaxaca, Los Cabos. But that's a just a start. I'll discuss further below how this amazing country has so much to offer.
The Perfect Destination for Your Next Adventure
Mexico is a country of immense cultural and natural beauty, making it an ideal destination for travelers looking for a unique experience. With its ancient ruins, stunning sandy beaches, delicious cuisine, and vibrant festivals, it offers something for everyone.
Tourism plays a crucial role in the Mexican economy as it is one of the largest contributors to the country's GDP. In 2019 alone, Mexico welcomed over 45 million tourists from all around the world.
A Brief Overview of Mexico
Mexico is a country located in North America and bordered by the United States to the north and Belize and Guatemala to the south. The country has a diverse landscape that includes deserts, mountains, rainforests, and beaches. It is also home to over 120 million people who speak Spanish as their primary language.
The Importance of Tourism to the Mexican Economy
Tourism constitutes one of Mexico's most important economic sectors. It provides employment opportunities for millions of people across various industries such as hospitality, transportation, and entertainment. Every year tourism generates billions of dollars in revenue that are invested back into local communities helping them grow economically.
Mexico is a tourist destination like no other with so much to offer visitors from all walks of life. Its rich culture combined with warm hospitality makes travelers feel right at home while experiencing something new every day.
Find out why Mexico is one of the most popular travel destinations in the world by reading our Mexico country guide.
Popular Tourist Beaches in Mexico
Mexico is known to have some the the best beaches and there are plenty of options to choose from. Whether you're looking for a party scene or a quiet getaway, Mexico has it all. Some of the top beach destinations are Cancun and the Yucatan Peninsula, Puerto Vallarta, and Los Cabos in Baja California.
No matter which side you choose, the beaches are gorgeous and there is plenty of marine life and places to scuba dive.
Cancun and the Riviera Maya
Cancun and the Riviera Maya are two of the most popular beach destinations in Mexico. The turquoise waters and white sand beaches make for a picturesque setting.
Cancun is a major tourist destination and one of the most popular cities in the Yucatan and known for its lively nightlife while the Riviera Maya offers a more laid-back vibe. There is also Isla Mujeres, a small but popular group of islands that have their own laid back vibes just outside Cancun to offer.
One of the most famous tourist beaches in Cancun is Playa Delfines, also known as Dolphin Beach. It's a public beach that's perfect for swimming or sunbathing. There are also several beach clubs that offer food, drinks, and other amenities.
In the Riviera Maya, some of the top beaches include Akumal Beach and Tulum Beach. Akumal Beach is known for its snorkeling opportunities while Tulum Beach offers stunning views of ancient Mayan ruins.
Puerto Vallarta and the Pacific Coast
Located on Mexico's Pacific Coast, Puerto Vallarta is another popular beach destination. The city has a charming old town area with cobblestone streets and colorful buildings. One of the top beaches in Puerto Vallarta is Playa Los Muertos.
This lively beach has plenty of restaurants, bars, and shops nearby. There are also water sports available like jet skiing and parasailing.
Another option on the Pacific Coast is Mazatlan. Its long stretches of golden sand make it an ideal spot for sunbathing or taking a stroll along the boardwalk.
Cabo San Lucas and the Baja Peninsula
Cabo San Lucas is located on the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula. The area boasts stunning rock formations along its coastline and crystal-clear .
One of the most popular beaches in los Cabos is Playa del Amor, also known as Lover's Beach. It's only accessible by boat but the secluded location makes it worth the trip.
Another top spot on the Baja Peninsula is Todos Santos. This charming town has a bohemian vibe and several beautiful beaches nearby.
Playa Los Cerritos is one of the most popular beaches in Todos Santos and is great for surfing or swimming. No matter which beach destination you choose in Mexico, you're sure to find sun, sand, and surf.
Historical Places to Visit in Mexico
Mexico has a rich history, and its ancient civilizations have left behind some of the most fascinating ruins in the world. Visitors to Mexico can explore Mayan and Aztec ruins, as well as colonial cities that offer a glimpse into the country's more recent past.
Chichen Itza and other Mayan cities
Chichen Itza is one of the seven wonders of the world and the most famous Mayan sites in Mexico. Located on the Yucatan Peninsula, it features stunning pyramids, and temples that date back to around 600 AD. Here you can climb the towering El Castillo pyramid for breathtaking views of the surrounding jungle. Other must-see Mayan ruins include Tulum, which sits on a cliff overlooking the Caribbean Sea, and Palenque, which is surrounded by lush rainforest.
Teotihuacan and other Aztec ruins
Teotihuacan was once one of the largest cities in Mesoamerica, and its impressive pyramids still stand tall today. The Pyramid of the Sun is particularly impressive, standing at over 200 feet tall. Other important Aztec sites include Tenochtitlan (now Mexico City), where you can see remnants of Aztec architecture beneath modern buildings, and Tlatelolco, where a major battle between Aztecs and Spanish conquistadors took place.
Mexico's colonial past also offers plenty to see for history buffs. Mexico City was founded by Spanish conquistadors in 1521 after they defeated Tenochtitlan (the Aztec ancient city).
Today it is home to many historic buildings such as cathedrals and palaces that are open to visitors. Oaxaca is another popular colonial city with an impressive plaza surrounded by historic buildings including Santo Domingo Church which dates back to the 16th century.
Guanajuato is known for its brightly colored houses and narrow streets; it played an important role in Mexico's War of Independence from Spain. Here you can explore the city's top attractions historic buildings, including the Juarez Theater and the Diego Rivera Museum.
Morelia is known for it's colonial architecture and is a UNESCO world heritage site. It features over 200 historic buildings and is known for the regional pink stone facades.
Food and Drink: Tacos, tamales, and other traditional dishes
When it comes to Mexican cuisine, there's nothing quite like the classics. Tacos are a staple food in Mexico, with endless variations on fillings from al pastor (marinated pork) to barbacoa (slow-cooked beef).
But don't forget about tamales - delicious masa (corn dough) filled with meat or vegetables and steamed in a corn husk. Other traditional dishes like chiles rellenos (stuffed peppers), mole poblano (a complex sauce made with chocolate and spices), and pozole (a hearty soup made with hominy) are also must-tries.
Find out more about Mexican cuisine here.
Tequila, mezcal, and other spirits
No visit to Mexico would be complete without trying some of the country's famous spirits. Tequila is perhaps the most well-known - made from blue agave plants grown in Jalisco state, it's perfect for sipping or using as the base for margaritas.
But don't overlook mezcal - a smokier spirit made from different varieties of agave that's gaining popularity worldwide. And if you're feeling adventurous, try some pulque - an ancient beverage made from fermented maguey sap.
Tequila is a popular destination not just for the spirt and distillery tours but also for the natural beauty surrounding the city. It's only a little over an hour away from Guadalajara and offers stunning views of agave fields and even a volcano! Read more here about getting to Tequila.
Street food tours in Mexico City
For a truly immersive culinary experience in Mexico City, consider taking a street food tour. These guided tours will take you to some of the city's best street vendors and markets to sample everything from tacos al pastor to tlacoyos (oval-shaped tortillas filled with beans or cheese).
Mexico City's food scene is amazing. It's not hard to find good food at all. You can probably just walk down the street to find some popular spots. It's here you will be able to get a taste of the real Mexico. Just make sure to bring an appetite!
Copper Canyon in Northern Mexico: A Hidden Gem
Copper Canyon is often overshadowed by the Grand Canyon, but it is just as stunning and deserves a spot on your travel bucket list. Located in the state of Chihuahua in northern Mexico, Copper Canyon is made up of six different canyons that together are four times larger than the Grand Canyon.
There are many ways to explore this natural attraction, such as hiking, horseback riding, and taking a train ride through the canyon. Along the way, you'll encounter spectacular views of towering cliffs, waterfalls, and crystal-clear streams. If you want to go to the Pacific coast, you can hop on El Chepe and ride all the way from Chihuahua to Los Mochis near the coast.
The Monarch Butterfly Migration: A Natural Phenomenon
Every year between November and March, millions of monarch butterflies migrate from Canada and the United States to the oyamel fir forests in Michoacán state. Witnessing this natural spectacle is an unforgettable experience. The dense clusters of orange-and-black butterflies cover every inch of available space on trees and bushes.
The best time to see them is from January to February when they start their journey back north. Exploring these forests with local guides provides unique opportunities for connecting with nature. The Monarch Biosphere is considered a World Heritage Site.
Whale Watching: An Unforgettable Adventure
Whale watching is on of the must-see attractions when visiting the Pacific coast. Specifically grey whales make regular yearly trips between Alaska's Bering Sea and central Mexico where they mate before returning northwards once again in late April or early May.
Whale watching tours offer close-up encounters with these massive creatures as they swim alongside boats or even approach them curiously while spouting water through their blowholes. The tours provide a unique perspective on the majestic mammals while also supporting local conservation efforts.
One of the best places to do this from is San Blas, Nayarit. Not only will you be able to relax at a semi-remote beach but you'll also be able to save a lot of money since they won't be charging you gringo pricing. You can read about my whale watching trip and things to do in San Blas here.
Festivals and Celebrations
Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos) in Oaxaca or Patzcuaro
One of the most popular attractions in Mexico is Day of the Dead. It's a time when families come together to remember and honor their loved ones who have passed away. In Oaxaca and around Lake Patzcuaro, you can experience this celebration like no other place in the world.
Janitzio Island on Lake Patzcuaro is one of the most sacred places in Mexico. It is a famous island where legend has it the "veil between darkness and light" is the thinnest here on Dia de los Muertos.
All around the city the streets are filled with vibrant colors, music, and food. Cemeteries become lively places where people gather to clean graves, set up altars, and share stories. And you will see cempasuchil (Aztec marigold) everywhere!
You can taste traditional pan de muerto (bread of the dead), drink hot chocolate or atole (a corn-based drink), and watch parades with dancers wearing elaborate costumes. Don't forget to visit museums or art exhibitions dedicated to this unique Mexican tradition.
Carnaval in Mazatlán or Veracruz
Carnaval is another festive time in Mexico that you don't want to miss if you're in town. Mazatlán on the Pacific coast is famous for its Carnaval celebration, which dates back to 1898. The five-day festivity is full of music, dancing, fireworks, and street vendors selling souvenirs and snacks.
Each day has a different theme with a grand parade on Saturday night that features beautifully decorated floats with colorful lights and performers like samba dancers or stilt walkers. Veracruz is another popular spot for Carnaval with an even longer tradition since 1866!
This coastal city on the Gulf of Mexico attracts thousands of visitors every year who come to see concerts by international artists, enjoy seafood dishes like ceviche or huachinango (red snapper), watch bullfights or boxing matches at Plaza de Toros La Luz, or dance salsa till dawn. Mexico has many more festivals and celebrations throughout the year, each with its own unique flavor and purpose.
If you're lucky enough to attend one, you'll get a chance to immerse yourself in the local culture and see how passionate Mexicans are about life, death, love, and tradition. You'll be able to see the real side of Mexico. The Viva México!
Shopping in Mexico: Find Handicrafts and High-End Boutiques
Mercado de la Ciudadela for Handicrafts in Mexico City
If you're looking for unique and authentic Mexican handicrafts, you'll love the Mercado de la Ciudadela in Mexico City. This market is full of colorful stalls selling everything from hand-woven textiles to pottery, jewelry, leather goods, and more.
You can find souvenirs to bring home to loved ones or pick up something special for yourself. Make sure to haggle with the vendors for the best price!
La Zona Rosa for High-End Shopping
For those who prefer luxury shopping, La Zona Rosa is a must-visit destination. Located in the heart of Mexico City, this upscale neighborhood has high-end boutiques featuring designer clothing and accessories from around the world.
You'll find everything from Gucci and Prada to local designers like Pineda Covalín. The area also has plenty of restaurants and cafes if you need a break from shopping.
There are a plethora of popular tourist attractions in Mexico, with something to offer every type of traveler. From the gorgeous beaches of Cancun to the man-made historical ruins of Chichen Itza, there's always something new to discover when you visit Mexico.
The food and drink scene is unmatched, with delicious dishes like tacos and tamales, as well as world-renowned spirits like tequila and mezcal. Natural wonders abound in Mexico, from the stunning Copper Canyon to the incredible Monarch butterfly migration in Michoacán.
Let's not forget about the abundance of museums! There truly is so much to discover. Read more about the notable museums to visit here.
Its rich history and vibrant culture are truly unique and captivating. Whether you're looking for an adventure or looking to take in the inspiring architecture of some of the most beautiful cathedrals in the Americas.
Ready to plan your trip to Mexico? Get your packing list here. You'll leave feeling refreshed, inspired, and ready to explore even more of this amazing country!