When it comes to finding that perfect all-rounder country, it's hard to come any better than Mexico.
We absolutely LOVE it here!
Having visited a few times over the years, and most recently an epic month spent driving across the entire country in our campervan.
We gained a real insider look at both the hottest touristy spots, and also local destinations.
We then combined this with YEARS worth of experience of living and traveling Mexico by our resident Central America specialist, George Alvarez.
What you see below is, what we believe to be, the ultimate guide on the best places Mexico has to offer.
Each place personally visited, tried, tested and adored!
Along with details on how to start visiting each place and how to learn more and plan a trip.
Let's get straight into it ...
One of the biggest shocks for travellers heading to Mexico is just how varied the different climates and areas of this country are.
Whilst we often think it’s just hot beach weather all year-round, we can also find mountainous towns that get quite chilly.
There’s even higher-elevated areas that receive snowfall in various months of the year too.
As well as this, rainfall can also be heavier at certain times of the year, which is known as the wet season.
The majority of the country experiences both a dry and wet season, with each bringing their own particular advantages and disadvantages.
The dry season is the overall best time to visit for most travellers, which typically runs from December until April. It’s usually characterised by clear skies and little rainfall.
Temperatures are more moderate this time of year compared to the much warmer wet season.
It’s perfect for heading to the beach, and for exploring in general without getting overly wet.
The only con per se is that this is the most popular tourist period, so there will be more crowds as well as more expensive flight and hotel prices.
The wet season begins in early May and lasts until November.
The main advantage of heading to Mexico in this period is that there are much less tourists, as well as prices being cheaper (read our guide on how to travel cheaply here).
It’s also warmer to go hiking in the cooler areas too such as The Copper Canyon.
The main disadvantage of course is the higher rainfall levels, and between June and September there is a risk of hurricanes forming along the coasts.
During the wet season temperatures increase too, which can make some tropical destinations overbearingly hot for some.
Below we can see the best time to visit some of the major Mexican destinations:
The terrain of Mexico is actually quite varied, and here you’ll find everything from tropical beaches and wild jungle to arid deserts and sprawling canyons.
Whilst this causes logistical issues in other countries, in Mexico it’s pretty simple to get around.
Bus travel is by far the most popular option, and the one we recommend most to people heading here.
The buses are of very high quality, usually with comfortable seats, air conditioning and often travelling along good quality roads (although this will vary if heading more off the beaten path).
Prices are also very affordable, and is best for those looking to stick to a budget (whilst having a real adventure too).
It’s easy to find daily buses between the majority of top Mexican destinations, with a variety of companies serving the routes. Here are the the best providers to look out for:
You can check out bus schedules here on BusBud.
The other option for travellers is by plane, and is best for those who are short on time or don’t mind paying extra for a more luxurious experience.
Having said that, flights won’t break the bank here either - and you can often find deals that cost more or less the same as a bus would!
In some cases using a flight would make the most sense - such as if wanting to get from Cabo to Mexico City directly.
SkyScanner is a great site for comparing different flight prices and routes.
Despite its popularity, Mexico is considered to be a very affordable destination, especially when it comes to accommodation.
Of course, prices will differ depending on where you visit and some areas may be more costly than others. However, even if you're travelling on a shoestring, you can certainly make the most of your money here!
Whether you're after budget-friendly hostel or a luxurious hotel, this country has something for everyone.
However, we prefer to use Booking.Com, thanks to their Genius Loyalty Program where you can often receive hefty discounts! Not to mention, you'll find a wide variety of guesthouses, hostels, and hotels available.
In each section, we'll provide some popular accommodation options for each place so you've got an idea of what's on offer.
Now that we’ve got the basics of travel nailed down, it’s time to explore some of the most popular Mexico destinations.
Below we’ll look at 20 of the best places to go in Mexico, which are each separated into similar categories (such as beaches or mountains for example).
Therefore this list isn’t in order of absolute best places, it’s more based on region.
Destinations in the same categories will have similar climates and weather patterns, making it easier to plan your trip as you’ll know what to expect.
Kicking things off we have the popular beachside hub of Cabo San Lucas.
It’s one of those perfect all-rounders which is great for all kinds of travellers, with a variety of things to see and do.
Those looking for picturesque Pacific beaches will be in luck here, with the city beach of Médano being perfect for water-sports and enjoying the abundance of eating and lodging options along the sands.
Playa Pedregal and Playa del Divorcio are great for those who want a more remote and quiet time on the beach. It also goes without saying - Cabo is a place to really let your hair down and enjoy yourself!
Here you’ll find a tonne of great bars and nightclubs, with the legendary Cabo Wabo a must-visit when here.
Whilst in town you’ll want to visit the scenic El Arco which juts out into the Pacific. We recommend heading with this guided kayaking tour which includes time for snorkelling on Lover’s Beach.
You can also hike up to Cerro de la Zeta for some postcard-perfect views of Cabo and the surrounding coast.
Located within the notorious state of Sinaloa, Mazatlán is actually quite a safe city to visit and is a popular holiday break for US citizens across the border.
Known for being home to the longest promenade in the world, here you can go for a stroll along this 20+ km malecón and enjoy many of its golden-sand beaches, picturesque viewpoints as well as tasty seafood dishes along the way.
And if beach-time is a priority for you, then you'll want to head over to Isla de la Piedra, which is home to a stunning tropical coastline that goes on further than the eye can see (you can take an ATV out to explore this deserted area).
Back in the city you'll also find interesting sites that are worth a visit.
It's best to start at Plaza Machado (the main plaza surrounded by colonial buildings and perfectly-trimmed trees), and also make stops at the nearby Teatro Angela Peralta as well as the Catedral Basílica de la Inmaculada Concepción.
It’s worth heading on this guided city tour around Mazatlán, where you’ll also enjoy a ride around in an authentic Pulmonia!
So if you're wondering where to visit in Mexico, we highly recommend heading to this amazing place!
Often found on the front page of luxurious travel brochures, Puerto Vallarta is already well-known for its beautiful beaches and high levels of safety.
However this city in Jalisco is actually a great visit for those on all budgets, where you'll find various accommodation and eating options (we'll recommend our favourites below).
The best area to stay in and explore is between the Zona Romántica and El Centro, where you'll find many picturesque streets and the beach boulevard which are great for late-afternoon walks and watching the sun go down (the sunsets here are arguably some of the best in North America!).
One of the all-time best things you can do in Puerto Vallarta is to head on a guided tour to the stunning Marieta Islands, which are situated roughly 36 km away in the Pacific Ocean.
Here you'll find the water perfect for snorkelling with crystal-clear conditions and many colourful marine wildlife, as well as the incredible hidden beach which is sealed-off by a dome of cliffs.
The capital of the Jalisco state, Guadalajara is one of the best spots in Mexico to visit for authentic culture as well as for a more temperate climate.
If you've been spending lots of time on the beaches, then here you can finally walk around without breaking so much as a sweat.
This makes it ideal when exploring top sights in the Historic Centre such as the picturesque Templo Expiatorio del Santísimo Sacramento, as well as the imposing Guadalajara Cathedral.
The culture is well and truly alive here too, with Mariachi performances and tequila tasting among the must-do's!
You can also head to the district of Tlaquepaque, which is known for its warm people, amazing street food as well as numerous artisan shops that are perfect for picking up a classic Mexican souvenir.
There's also many awesome day trips to be taken such as to Lake Chapala as well as Tequila (which we'll be exploring later in this guide).
The Mexican capital is a huge city which often intimidates first-time travellers - however with some planning and know-how you may end up loving this city too!
The areas of Condesa, El Centro Histórico as well as Chapultepec are perfect for a stay, which are all safe areas full of awesome things to see and do.
Chapultepec Park is one of these, which is home to massive forested paths, a lake as well as a fortified castle on top of the hill.
Close-by you can visit the Museo Nacional de Antropología, which is home to many famous ancient artefacts such as the infamous Mayan Calendar as well as the Statue of Xochipilli.
Speaking of which, you'll want to visit Teotihuacán whilst in Mexico City too.
Located just outside of the capital, this well-preserved site was once the beating heart of the Aztec Empire, and walking around you can visit many of its giant pyramids whilst learning about the historical importance of this site.
We highly recommend heading on this hot air balloon tour over Teotihuacán, where you’ll also have a buffet breakfast included!
This beach town along the Oaxacan Coast has turned into something of a backpacking haven in recent decades, and is now firmly placed along most itineraries heading through Mexico.
Puerto Escondido really is the place to live it up, where you can enjoy the numerous beaches and town vibes by day before heading out for some night-time fun.
Playa Carrizalillo is one of the most beautiful beaches you can visit here, which is surrounded by scenic hills and also has calm waters that are suitable for swimming (be careful in Puerto as other beaches can be dangerous with strong currents).
Those into surfing will love La Punta, which is known for its picture-perfect waves, and beginners can also take lessons further along the beach.
The other must-do is a Turtle Release, where with this tour you will head to Playa Bacocho to help these little guys make their first steps towards the big Pacific Ocean.
Honestly, Puerto Escondido is one of the most beautiful places in Mexico so don't leave it off your itinerary!
This popular Caribbean town needs no real introduction.
A must-visit for all travellers heading to Mexico, Tulum is nestled between the jungle and turquoise sea, and is full of awesome things to see and do.
The Tulum Ruins are a highlight, with this impressive Mayan site perched on a cliff overlooking the blue hues of the Caribbean Sea.
Here you can see many ancient statues and structures, as well as being able to go for a quick cool-off on the nearby beach after.
The Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve is another great area to visit, which is best explored by hiring a bike. Here you’ll pass by many authentic towns as well as areas that are home to many exotic animals and birds.
From Tulum you can also visit several cenotes, which are incredible, natural cave formations with an emerald pool of water inside that you can go for a dip in.
Dos Ojos Cenote is a must, where you can go snorkelling (or even diving deep into the underwater cave systems if that’s your thing). So don't forget your action camera (or GoPro alternative).
Heading further south into Quintana Roo, we now have the laid-back town of Bacalar.
It’s a perfect stop for those who want a break from the hectic scenes of Cancún and Playa del Carmen, where here you can enjoy the tranquil lake whilst spending the evening relaxing in a hammock.
The absolute must-see in town has to be the Bacalar Lagoon.
Home to as many as seven different shades of blue and green, you can also go swimming and snorkelling in the more shallow waters.
You can also enjoy various boat tours around the lagoon, where you'll visit Mayan towns, a natural lazy river as well as a stunning canal which was once used by pirates and smugglers.
We recommend this highly rated boat tour which includes all drinks as well as stops at some of the best areas of the lagoon.
Those who are into history can visit the San Felipe Fort in town, which is a big colonial structure that was once used to defend the town from attempted invasions.
If you're wondering where to go in Mexico, then don't hesitate to visit this place!
Located just off the coast of the Riviera Maya, Isla Mujeres is perfect for those looking to soak up the vibes of a tropical paradise.
Beaches such as Playa Norte are perfect for swimming, tanning along the white sands as well as having many fun activities to keep things fresh.
The southern and eastern portion of the island are home to a much more wild coast, which is great for morning hikes around the island.
Punta Sur is a must-visit, where you can also explore the ruins of Ixchel which has an impressive vantage point over the Caribbean Sea.
Last but not least, Isla Mujeres is great for simply kicking back and enjoying yourself!
During the day you can go snorkelling or diving in the incredible waters here, or rent your own golf cart as you discover the island at your own pace.
At night there are many bars and nightclubs that are great for some drinks, as well as hostel parties given there’s a thriving backpacking scene here.
Those who are looking for incredible nature (as well as a less touristy version of Cabo) will love La Paz.
Although they’re both located close to each other in the state of Baja California Sur, La Paz has a much more peaceful atmosphere (it is in the name after all!).
The nearby Island of Espíritu Santo is home to all kinds of wildlife, and on a boat tour you can swim with sea lions and turtles whilst taking in the incredible volcanic landscapes.
Back on the mainland, you’ll want to walk along the bustling Malecón in the evening to enjoy the dark red sunsets here, as well as tucking into the fresh seafood delights in restaurants along the seafront.
Those into beaches will love Balandra, as well as the more remote Playa el Tecolote.
Between visits you’ll want to go for a stroll through Jardín Velasco as well as along the Cerro de la Calavera.
One of the best things about Mexican cities is the abundance of colourful and colonial architecture.
And in Valladolid, you’ll feel like you’ve landed in an artist's vivid dream, where cobblestone streets and vibrant buildings dominate the cityscape. Some of the very best include the Convento de San Bernardino de Siena as well as the Iglesia de la Candelaria.
Valladolid is also located in the heart of the Yucatán peninsula, which is home to many awesome sceneries and Mayan ruins.
Chichén Itzá is an absolute-must of course, with this site of imposing pyramids and statues lying just 40 minutes from the city.
Just be sure to go early, given how the rows of tourist buses will arrive and pack this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
You can also join this epic day tour which includes a buffet meal as well as an included visit to the Saamal Cenote.
Valladolid also has many worthwhile cenotes to see close-by. Suytun is the most infamous one for getting that classic cenote photo, whilst Saamal has a more prehistoric, jungle feel with long vines hanging off the cavern walls.
There’s nothing quite like hiking through an untamed jungle, and in Mexico we’ll find some of the very best here in Palenque.
It’s best to go on an early-morning tour, where you’ll see the selva at its most active. Here you can spot everything from the shrieking howler monkeys to the elusive Jaguar if you’re lucky!
We recommend heading out early to the Palenque Ruins too, where you can enjoy the site at its most natural state.
Here we’ll find the scenic temples of the Inscriptions and Cross, as well as many other smaller, mossy-covered ruins.
In Palenque it’s worth staying within the Archaeological Zone (along one winding road through the jungle) given it’s more scenic, as well as Palenque town itself not being so beautiful on the eyes.
Another incredible day trip you’ll want to head on is to Agua Azul, which is nestled deep within the jungle of Chiapas. It’s home to a series of bright blue cascades, and the fact you’re so far away from human civilization is what makes it so special.
This all-inclusive tour is a great option, which includes all transport as well as visit to Palenque Ruins and Misol-Ha.
The gateway to the Caribbean region of the Riviera Maya, Cancún has many things going for it.
Firstly, its well-connected international airport makes it a really great way of getting into Mexico, with cheap flights arriving from around the globe daily.
Once here you can choose to either stay in the centre for a more cultural experience, or in the hotel zone which is famed for its resorts and postcard-perfect beaches.
One of the very best things to do in Cancún is to head to the MUSA Underwater Museum, which is exactly as it sounds - so you’re going to be getting wet!
Here you can go diving (or on this snorkelling tour) where you’ll be able to explore this protected area of the Caribbean, as well as seeing various underwater sculptures (which is both impressive and fun at the same time).
As well as taking in the rays on Delfines Beach, you can also head on a memorable sunset cruise to cap-off your stay here in style.
Cancún is also a good base camp for day trips to nearby attractions such as Chichén Itzá, as well as the cenotes of Ik Kil and Suytun. Those after peace and quite will also want to head to Isla Holbox.
Those looking for the perfect mix of great nightlife, picturesque beaches as well as an awesome list of things to see and do will love Playa (as locals call it).
Located roughly an hour south of Cancún Airport, the vibe here definitely feels more welcoming and inclusive, and during the day you can walk along the Quinta Avenida as well as enjoy the long beach here.
However If you’re after the very best beaches, you’ll want to take a local colectivo south to those such as Puerto Aventuras and Xpu-Ha - both of which are much cleaner, more beautiful and less busy.
The nearby cenotes are also worth a visit too.
Cenote Azul is known for its expansive turquoise pools, whilst Aktun Chen is best for those who want to see some incredible cave and rock formations.
Any trip to Playa cannot be complete without heading out for some night-time fun, and here there’s a massive variety of beach bars, nightclubs and restaurants to choose from.
The legendary Cocobongo must be visited at least once, where you’ll see opera performances, dancers suspended above you as well as all drinks included in the entry!
Situated within the highlands of Jalisco, this town is a must-visit for any travellers heading through the central regions of Mexico.
Known for being the birthplace of the same-named musky spirit, here you can learn how it is made by heading to one of the various distilleries in and around town.
The José Cuervo Factory is arguably the best of the bunch, where you can also try the different varieties as well as riding the José Cuervo Express train.
We highly recommend heading on this day tour from Guadalajara which includes all transport as well as a bonus walking tour of Tequila.
As well as this, the other incredible thing about visiting a distillery are the wild agave fields, where you’ll get to marvel at a sea of blue plants with breathtaking mountains in the background (which can also be seen when walking the outskirts of town).
The town of Tequila itself is a worthwhile visit too, where you’ll be able to enjoy the mix of a local town vibe as well as the colonial architecture along its cobblestone streets.
One of the best is the cute Parroquia Santiago Apostol, and you can also head to the National Museum of Tequila to learn more about the history of the town and its famed spirit.
If hiking and seeing wild, mountainous landscapes is something you enjoy, then you simply have to come to the Copper Canyon.
Up in the northern state of Chihuahua we can find this incredible mountain range, which is four times as large as the Grand Canyon (and twice as deep too!).
To get here you’ll need to either drive from Chihuahua City, or take the El Chepe train which also has departures from the coastal city of Los Mochis in neighbouring Sinaloa.
The train is definitely the better option, since you’ll be able to access many of the more remote parts and also see some truly incredible scenery along the way.
One of the best stops is Divisadero, which has arguably the best lookout point of all over the canyons, as well as an adventure park which is home to a 2500 metre-long canopy zip-line!
You’ll also want to stop off at Creel, which is a town nestled in the mountains. Here you can meet the infamous Tarahumara Tribe, as well as visit San Ignacio Arareko - one of the oldest colonial churches in Northern Mexico.
If already in Creel then be sure to join this day tour, where you’ll explore the church as well as the unique rock formations found in the Valle de los Monjes.
A much quieter version of Mexico City, Puebla also has many worthwhile things to see - however without the eternal bustle found in the capital!
This city is best known for its incredible colonial architecture, which includes an abundance of plazas, cathedrals and eccentric buildings.
The Capilla del Rosario is the very best of all, with the inside filled with gold in what has to be one of the most beautiful cathedrals we have seen in all of Mexico.
Other worthwhile sites to visit in the city also include the Museo Amparo as well as the Zócalo which always has interesting things going on.
From Puebla you can also take a day trip to the ruins of Cholula. Ranking in as the largest pyramid to have ever been built on earth, it’s also located on top of a hill which makes for a really memorable panorama.
You can also head to nearby towns such as Atlixco for a close-up of the giant volcano that is Popocatépetl.
With so much on offer, it's no wonder Puebla City is one of the best vacation spots in Mexico.
The Oaxaca state is known for many things, with the food being the very best out of all the whole country. There’s also many incredible sceneries to see too.
The capital of Oaxaca City is a really great place to enjoy this vibrant state to the fullest, where you can walk along the cobblestone streets next to the Zócalo and take in the more authentic, everyday local life.
Local markets such as the Mercado 20 de Noviembre are great for buying souvenirs, as well as trying various tasty street foods such as Tlayudas and Memelas.
You can also learn about the ancient Zapotec culture by heading to the ruins of Monte Albán, which is an impressive sight that’s located on top of a mountain.
We recommend going with this guided tour. As well as having all transport included, you’ll also have a professional local guide teach you everything you need to know about this fantastic site.
Another day trip that’s worth heading on is to Hierve el Agua. A series of petrified waterfalls that are situated in the remote Oaxacan wilderness, it’s great for getting out of the city as well as swimming in the natural infinity pools above the cliffs.
Mexico is home to much more than just its beautiful beaches, which we’ve already seen throughout this article.
This includes the towns that are hidden up in the mountains, such as that of San Cristóbal.
Located in the state of Chiapas, it’s best known for its proximity to nearby Sumidero Canyon which is made up of incredible, near-straight vertical walls.
You can pass by along a boat in the river, whilst also looking out for local wildlife such as Alligators and Monkeys. This day tour is a perfect option, which includes all logistics and entrance fees.
Back in town there are many awesome sites to visit, so it’s worth planning your own independent walking tour to visit all.
These include the beautiful buildings of the Templo de Santo Domingo de Guzmán as well as the main Cathedral which is on the Zócalo.
You’ll also want to explore the Casa Na Bolom, which is a museum dedicated to sharing the most intimate details of the indigenous Lacandon tribe who reside in the surrounding jungle.
Now we head to the central state of Guanajuato, and to possibly one of the most beautiful cities on our list!
San Miguel de Allende is known for its bright and beautiful Historic Centre, which looks like a painter has brushed over the city with contrasting pastel colours.
The main cathedral of Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel is a must-see, which towers above the rest of the Jardín Allende.
History buffs will want to head to Museo Histórico Casa de Allende, which shares many interesting details of the Mexican Independence within a beautiful colonial building.
Those who are into the more unorthodox attractions will want to head to nearby Guanajuato City, where we’ll find the Museum of the Mummies.
With over 100 mummified bodies on display it’s a pretty chilling site, however also a pretty interesting one to visit given these bodies were all mummified from natural causes.
If you're looking for unique places to visit in Mexico then San Miguel de Allende should be right at the top of your list!
As you can see that was quite the list of awesome places to visit!
However the truth is that there are dozens more popular places in Mexico that are also great in their own right, but after much consideration decided that they couldn’t make the final list.
Below we’ll mention a few special mentions that you’ll want to add to your own Mexico Bucket List.
This region of Mexico is best known for its raucous city of Tijuana, however also has many incredible coastal cities to visit such as Ensenada and San Felipe.
Highlights include the unforgettable red sunsets as well as the welcoming people of the region.
Already popular with all kinds of travellers, this major city in the Yucatán is known for its colourful architecture and safe presence.
Ruins such as Dzibilchaltún and Uxmal are great to explore, and you’ll also want to visit the nearby cenote of Ik Kil.
Known for its incredible swath of jungle and lush waterfalls, this area is perfect for the adventurists among us.
Spanning over 4 different central states such as San Luis Potosí, highlights of a trip here include visiting Tamul and Meco Waterfalls, as well as the surrealist gardens of Las Pozas in the small town of Xilitla.
And that’s all for this guide to the best places to visit in Mexico.
A trip to this incredible nation is always a good idea, and will prove to be memorable regardless of where you visit. From ancient ruins and wild jungle to Caribbean beaches and enticing cities, it can be quite hard to decide what to leave out on your own trip!
In this guide I’ve covered what I believe to be the best places in Mexico, and why each are unique and deserve their own place along any Mexican itinerary.
I’ve also covered other things you’ll need to know, including how to get around the country, where to stay as well as the best time to visit.
Here are some other guides you may find helpful: