Mexico has always been a beloved destination for tourists from Canada, the United States, and Europe. It offers more than just sunshine, breathtaking scenery, sandy beaches, and crystal-clear blue seas. This culturally diverse country boasts an astonishingly rich heritage, earning recognition from UNESCO for its numerous world cultural heritage sites. Some of these include Mexico City’s historic center and Xochimilco, the charming towns of Guanajuato, Puebla, Oaxaca, Morelia, and Zacatecas, the historical monuments of Querétaro, the awe-inspiring Hospicio Cabañas with Orozco’s magnificent wall-paintings in Guadalajara, and the mesmerizing archaeological sites of Teotihuacán, Monte Albán, Chichén Itzá, and Palenque. Additionally, El Tajin, Uxmal, the monasteries on the slopes of Popocatépetl, the Sian-ka’an nature reserve, the captivating Sierra Francisco rock-paintings, and parts of Bahia Sebastian Vizcaino, home to grey whales, have all received well-deserved recognition. Exploring Mexico will undoubtedly leave travelers with remarkable impressions and a deep understanding of a different world.
While Mexicans are generally hospitable, it’s important to note that the sense of urgency or promptness might differ from what Europeans are accustomed to. As a tourist, you’ll have the opportunity to encounter a distant culture steeped in tradition. However, it’s worth mentioning that you may also experience some culture shocks due to the diverse attitudes and ways of life you’ll encounter.
Mexico boasts a diverse and abundant flora, with many crops such as maize, tomatoes, and tobacco originating from this part of the New World, which will be familiar to Europeans. The country’s fauna is equally fascinating, serving as a meeting ground for creatures from both North and South America since the Pliocene age. Animals like the wolf, coyote, black bear, and beaver have made their way from the north to find new habitats on the high plateau.
Now, let’s delve into the ten best places to visit in Mexico in 2023:
1. Querétaro : Undoubtedly the most underrated gem in Mexico, Querétaro offers authenticity, charm, delightful cuisine, and breathtaking beauty.
You’ll feel like a local since you might be the only foreigner around. The well-preserved historic downtown of Santiago de Querétaro has been granted UNESCO World Heritage status. Additionally, make sure to take day trips to picturesque Mexican towns like Tequis and Peña de Bernal, explore the lush Sierra Gorda rainforest, or indulge in winery hopping. Querétaro has it all and promises an unforgettable experience.
- Valladolid : As my personal favorite small town in Mexico, Valladolid exudes history, culture, vibrant colors, mouthwatering Mayan cuisine, and stunning cenotes. While this traditional Mexican town is gaining popularity.
It still retains its hidden gem status. Located just two hours from Cancun, Valladolid offers a perfect opportunity to immerse yourself in Mexican culture during your Riviera Maya vacation. Take leisurely strolls through the colorful historic downtown, savor a meal at one of Valladolid’s Mayan restaurants, and explore the enchanting cenotes, reminiscent of scenes from Indiana Jones movies. Don’t miss the chance to beat the tour buses to the nearby Chichen Itza Mayan ruins by staying overnight in one of Valladolid’s affordable boutique hotels.
- San Miguel de Allende : A charming town nestled in central Mexico, San Miguel de Allende is a popular destination for expats, artists, and couples.
While it’s no longer a hidden gem, its popularity is well-deserved. English is often spoken on its vibrant cobblestone streets, reflecting its appeal to foreigners. Surrounded by mountainous desert landscapes, San Miguel de Allende boasts numerous art galleries and historic sites. Don’t forget to visit the Fabrica la Aurora art haven and marvel at the iconic pink Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel church, dominating the city’s skyline
- Puerto Vallarta : Situated along the Pacific Coast, Puerto Vallarta stands out as the most popular beach destination in Mexico.
It caters to LGBTQ travelers, families, and couples seeking a remarkable vacation experience. The city offers beautiful beaches within its boundaries and even more hidden beach enclaves, all-inclusive resorts, and charming rustic beach towns to the north and south. With its wide range of accommodations, from budget to luxury, finding a place to stay in Puerto Vallarta is a breeze. Moreover, Puerto Vallarta boasts Mexico’s best LGBTQ scene, making it an ideal choice for a quick beach getaway with direct connections to the Western US.
- Oaxaca : Known for its unique regional cuisine and mezcal, Oaxaca presents itself as a must-visit destination in south-central Mexico.
In Oaxaca City, the heart of the region, you’ll have the opportunity to tantalize your taste buds with traditional mole and savor shots of mezcal. Explore nearby mezcal distilleries and witness the awe-inspiring Hierve el Agua petrified waterfalls. Further south, you’ll encounter rugged beach spots like Puerto Escondido, another gem on this list of the best places to visit in Mexico.
- Bacalar : Locals in the know understand that the clearest water in Mexico is not found at the beach but at Bacalar, famously known as “Lake of 7 Colors.”
Despite being relatively unknown compared to Tulum, Bacalar’s popularity is on the rise as word spreads. Many travelers now seek alternatives to the seaweed-covered beaches further north. At this expansive lagoon, you’ll discover some of the bluest water imaginable. Consider booking a hotel or rental with a dock, allowing you to fully embrace relaxation, disconnection, and serenity in Bacalar. Playa del Carmen:
A reliable beach destination catering to digital nomads, long-term travelers, and vacationers seeking an all-inclusive experience, Playa del Carmen resides in the heart of the Riviera Maya. While the town’s beaches may not be the absolute best, Playa del Carmen serves as an ideal base for day trips to explore nearby pristine beaches, cenotes, and other attractions. Additionally, compared to its neighboring destination, Tulum, Playa del Carmen offers a more affordable vacation experience.
- Zócalo : The Birthplace of the Constitution . Mexico City pulsates with the vibrant energy of Zócalo, also known as Constitution Square.
This expansive plaza, stretching around 240 meters in each direction, holds a significant place in history as it witnessed the proclamation of Mexico’s inaugural constitution back in 1813. Situated on the grounds of the former Aztec city of Tenochtitlán, Zócalo stands as one of the largest squares globally, symbolizing the heart of this remarkable city. With iconic landmarks like the National Palace, the Metropolitan Cathedral, and the Templo Mayor showcasing Aztec relics, Zócalo serves as the ultimate starting point for exploring the rich history and culture of Mexico City. Don’t miss the opportunity to discover the nearby Secretaría de Educación Pública, where you can feast your eyes on three floors of captivating murals by the renowned artist Diego Rivera. Best of all, admission is free!”
- The Palace of Fine Arts : Palacio de Bellas Artes is also known as The place of fine arts . This remarkable landmark holds a special place in the city’s heart
The palace serves as both an opera house and concert hall, offering a diverse array of traditional and international dance and operatic performances. In addition to its captivating artistic performances, the palace enchants countless visitors with its magnificent interior murals. Renowned artists such as Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and José Clemente have contributed their impressive artwork, adorning the walls with their unique and masterful creations. For those interested in contemporary architecture, the fourth floor houses the Museo Nacional de Arquitectura, which showcases rotating exhibits highlighting the latest trends and innovations in the field. Visitors can explore a dynamic display that celebrates the world of modern architecture and its ongoing evolution.
- Huasca de Ocampo : Huasca de Ocampo Situated in central Mexico’s Hidalgo state, Huasca de Ocampo boasts one of the first haciendas built in Mexico.
The town’s colonial stone buildings, streets, and bridges showcase its historical significance. Visitors come to marvel at the unique basaltic rock formations, captivating waterfalls, and enjoy activities like zip-lining at Pena del Aire. For a spine-chilling experience, don’t miss the Museum of Goblins, where exhibits are based on real-life stories.
Volcano Pico De Orizaba : Volcano Pico de Orizaba, also known as Citlaltépetl Volcano, is located on the border of Veracruz and Puebla states in south-central Mexico. Its name originates from the Nahuatl term meaning "Star Mountain."
Situated on the southern edge of the Mexican Plateau, approximately 60 miles (100 km) east of Puebla city, this magnificent volcano stands tall at 18,406 feet (5,610 meters) above sea level. With its symmetrical cone covered in snow, Pico de Orizaba claims the distinction of being the third highest peak in North America, surpassed only by Denali (Mount McKinley) in Alaska, USA, and Mount Logan in the Yukon territory, Canada. Remarkably, the volcano has remained inactive since 1687. The first successful ascent of Pico de Orizaba took place in 1838.
Experience the wonders of Mexico’s cultural heritage, explore hidden gems, and immerse yourself in the beauty of this diverse country.