I consider Mexico to be a treasure trove of beautiful places to explore, and even though I’ve lived here for almost two years, I remind myself the whole time that I’ve only scratched the surface. Visitors from all over the world flock to places like Cancun, Tulum and Cabo San Lucas to enjoy their magnificent beaches, but I can assure you that there is so much more to discover off the beaten path in Mexico. Come for the breathtaking scenery and stay for the delicious food, rich culture and warm hospitality:
10. San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas
This magical town, as it’s called in Mexico, has the laid-back vibe you’d expect from a small town, but with a spiritual undertone that’s present almost everywhere. As a hub for permaculture enthusiasts, yogis and spiritual healers, it’s a great destination for anyone looking for a transformative travel experience.
What to do in San Cristobal de las Casas:
Climb the stairs of the Guadalupe Church or the San Cristobalito Church for the best views of the city.explore the nearby ecoparks like Arcotete, Montetik or El Encuentro to get into nature.visit one of the many local museums like the Jade Museum, the Cacao Museum or the Ambar Museum. Stroll along the famous andadores. These streets are closed to traffic and are the center of the city’s best restaurants and a great place for shopping.Bonus: Take a day trip to San Juan Chamula to immerse yourself in indigenous traditions and culture or head to Chiapa de Corzo to sample delicious local food and shop for handmade textiles.
Where to stay in San Cristobal de las Casas:
Hostal La Isla is an ideal place for budget travelers looking for a sense of community.Na Bolom is a hotel and museum with a cause, working in conjunction with a local non-profit organization to help the surrounding communities.Sombra del Agua has a stunning landscaped courtyard and is centrally located.
9. San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato
Known for being one of the most architecturally significant cities in Mexico, San Miguel de Allende will have you walking around with your head tilted back to take in all the brightly colored buildings. It’s a city I would recommend spending as much time in as you can, but be careful because you may never want to leave.
What to do in San Miguel de Allende:
Take a historic walking tour to see the stunning colonial architecture and learn more about the history of this iconic Mexican city.Visit the Fábrica La Aurora, which used to be an old weaving factory. It has now been remodeled into a space for art galleries, shops and cafes, and is one of the hippest venues in the city. Explore the Mercado de Artesanías to see textiles, handicrafts and much more from all over the country.Check out the local produce at the Mercado de San Juan de Dios, where you can find regional delicacies and marvel at the variety of fruits and vegetables.Get out of town to see the World Heritage-listed Santuario de Atotonilco, which is a complex of churches that was built in the 18th century. It is known as the “Sistine Chapel of Mexico” for its stunning murals.Bonus: Within Mexico, San Miguel is really known for its vineyards, which may come as a surprise considering how well known the country is for its mezcal and tequila. Visit the Dos Buhos vineyard and sip some local wine.
Where to stay in San Miguel de Allende:
8. Santiago de Querétaro
Located almost next door to San Miguel de Allende, Santiago de Querétaro is sometimes overlooked by travelers. However, it really has its own identity as a culturally significant city and is even known to be one of the best places in Mexico for solo female travelers. In my opinion, it’s a win-win city.
What to do in Santiago de Querétaro:
Stroll through the city center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which has beauty around every corner. This part of the city is full of walkways, which make it incredibly accessible and easy to navigate. Explore all the local delicacies at the Mercado de la Cruz and maybe even grab a bite to eat while you’re there.Visit the El Cerrito pyramid, which was built centuries ago by the ancient Chichimeca people.Querétaro is known for having some of the best wines in Mexico, so consider taking a wine and cheese tour while you’re there.Don’t forget to visit the Museo Regional (INAH) and the Museo de Arte de Querétaro, and head to the Hercules Beer Garden for a cold beer. This modern venue is located in a former textile factory and tends to attract a younger crowd.
Where to stay in Santiago de Querétaro:
Lunar Casa Zen is a quaint and affordable Airbnb and even has a yoga studio on site.Antigua Altamira apartments have all the convenience and comfort you need for a longer stay.
7. San Luis Potosi
San Luis Potosi has made its way onto many bucket lists mainly because of its incredible natural wonders nearby. From waterfalls to crystal clear lagoons and surreal architecture, this charming city has it all.
What to do in San Luis Potosi:
Take a quick trip to the Micos waterfalls. The entrance fee is only 40 pesos (about $2) and you can fly over the waterfalls by bike to see them from above. Ride along the river below the waterfall or hike to the top to see it from a different angle. Visit the Huasteca Potosina, which is a few hours drive from the city but absolutely worth it. It’s a lush area full of cenote-like ponds, waterfalls and even hot springs. Consider taking a tour if you’re unfamiliar with the area, as it’s quite remote.Unlike any other place in the world, Las Pozas de Edward James in Xilitla is both strange and alluring. It’s a great day trip from San Luis Potosi and includes gardens, ponds and some truly unique architecture.
Where to stay in San Luis Potosi:
The Hotel Museo Palacio de San Agustin is housed in a 17th century building and has all the charm you would expect from an old colonial hotel. Casa Catalina is absolutely adorable and has an eclectic Mexican touch.
6. Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca
Puerto Escondido is a popular destination for surfers from all over Latin America and has grown considerably in popularity in recent years. It is a center for hippie counterculture and backpackers because of its laid-back atmosphere and long stretches of uncrowded beaches.
What to do in Puerto Escondido:
Take a long walk along Zicatela Beach. Keep an eye out for baby turtles and other shore creatures.Take a night hike at Manialtepec Lagoon to see the incredible bioluminescent waters light up.Take a surfing lesson at Playa Carrizalillo, where the waves are perfect for beginners.Take an aerial silk, yoga or dance class at Casa Chango to get your body moving and maybe learn a new skill.Bonus: If you like the hippie vibe, take an aerial silk, yoga or dance class at Casa Chango to get your body moving and maybe learn a new skill.Take an aerial silk, yoga or dance class at Casa Chango to get your body moving and maybe learn a new skill.Bonus: If you like Puerto Escondido’s hippie vibe, consider taking a trip to Mazunte, which is another clean beach town that backpackers love.
Where to stay in Puerto Escondido:
Hotel Escondido is a Puerto favorite with its elegant decor and serene ambiance. Bikini Beach House has an indoor/outdoor vibe and amazing views of the beach. Barbarenas has beachfront land bungalows if you want to immerse yourself in the yogi vibe of the area.
5. Mazatlan, Sinaloa
Located on the Pacific coast, Mazatlan boasts some of the best sand and surf Mexico has to offer. This small city has experienced a recent tourist boost, but has retained most of its small town character.
What to do in Mazatlan:
As soon as you arrive in the city, take a stroll along the Malecon to get to know the city and enjoy the ocean views. Walk to the El Faro lighthouse for even more breathtaking views of the ocean. There is a trail that leads to the lighthouse and it takes about 30 minutes to hike up. Catch a wave at Playa Brujas, where you can rent a surfboard and even take a surf lesson if you feel like it. It’s not technically an island, but otherwise it would take an hour to get there by car, so the ferry is a much better option.
Where to stay in Mazatlan:
There are many chain hotels in Mazatlán, so Airbnb is the best option if you’re looking for something cozier. Casa Lulu is a boutique hotel located right on the popular Malecon.
4. La Paz, Baja California Sur
Named for its calm waters, La Paz is an ideal place to relax and enjoy nature. Located near the bottom of the California isthmus, this sunny beach destination is often overlooked due to its proximity to Cabo San Lucas. However, it has an ambiance all its own and is definitely worth a visit.
What to do in La Paz:
Enjoy the sea views on the boardwalk, where you’ll find plenty of shops and restaurants to stroll around. There you’ll find plenty of shops and restaurants to stroll through.Go to Espiritu Santo Island, a UNESCO biosphere reserve that is known for its sea lions. If you want to see these amazing animals, be sure not to book your trip between June 1 and September 1, during sea lion season.Sunbathe at Playa El Coromuel, internationally recognized as one of Mexico’s cleanest and most environmentally friendly beaches.Watch whale sharks in their natural habitat. Visit the Regional Museum of Anthropology and History of Baja California Sur to learn more about the history and culture of the area.
Where to stay in La Paz:
Hostal Bermejo is a budget hostel that has private rooms and dorms. It is located a couple of blocks from the beach and within walking distance of restaurants.Hotel Catedral has a modern style and stellar views from its rooftop terrace, which also has a swimming pool.
3. Monterrey, Nuevo Leon
Monterrey is a huge city and known throughout Mexico for being something of a mini Mexico City. However, a trip there will prove that this destination has an ambiance all its own that sets it apart from many other places in the country. From the quintessential northern gastronomy to the vibrant art scene, you won’t want to miss this city.
What to do in Monterrey:
Tour the Palacio del Obispado, an 18th century palace with brilliant colonial architecture. It also houses the Regional Museum, which showcases Monterrey’s history and culture. Visit the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Monterrey (MARCO) to see contemporary art by Mexican and Latin American artists. Inside MARCO there are 11 galleries, each with its own style. Take a stroll through the Barrio Antiguo, where you can feel the nostalgia of the colonial era. If you’re a climber or just a nature enthusiast, head to Parque la Huasteca for an adventure. With over 300 climbing routes and plenty of scenery, it’s one of the best places in the city to get outdoors. These underground wonders are known for their impressive stalactites and stalagmites.
Where to stay in Monterrey:
2. Mérida, Yucatán
Merida holds a special place in my heart because I studied there in college and it’s the setting for some of my fondest memories in Mexico. Beyond that, it’s an awesome place to visit for many reasons, one of them being that it’s absolutely stunning!
You’ll find beautiful architecture around every corner, a bustling downtown that seems to always have a cultural event going on, and cuisine that is sure to make your taste buds very happy.
What to do in Merida:
Enjoy all that’s going on in the Plaza Grande. On Friday nights there are performers recreating the traditional Mayan ball game with a flaming rubber ball. On Sundays you can attend some traditional dances and explore the pop-up tents during Mérida on Sunday.take a walking tour. There’s one every day at 10am in Santa Lucia Park and it’s free, although it’s recommended that you leave a tip of at least 100 pesos (about $5).Go for a dip in a cenote. There are literally thousands of cenotes on the Yucatan Peninsula to choose from. Some of my favorites are Chaksikin and Cascabel, which are just a short drive away.Stroll from place to place along Paseo de Montejo, which is a long avenue dotted with museums, historical sites and some of the best restaurants in Mérida.Learn about Mayan culture at the Gran Museo del Mundo Maya. This amazing museum showcases the fascinating history of the Mayan people and offers visitors a glimpse into a culture that is still present today.
Where to stay in Merida:
Piedra de Agua is a super-chic little hotel that is ideally located in the historic center.Ya’ax Hotel Boutique has that luxurious feel with modern Yucatecan architecture and design that is a perfect combination of new and old.
I first visited Campeche in 2017 and didn’t know much beforehand. To my delight, this small coastal town was great fun to explore and has a fascinating history. Ancient Mayan ruins still stand alongside pirate forts and quintessential Spanish architecture, creating a unique atmosphere in this vibrant city.
What to do in Campeche:
Stroll through the part of the “old city”, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Along the boardwalk, facing the sea, there is always a variety of street carts with tasty treats and fresh coconuts, and you can visit the Museum of Mayan Architecture, where you can learn about Mayan architecture. Visit the forts, which were built to protect the city from pirates in the 18th century. There are two main forts, Fort San Jose and Fort San Miguel, both on the outskirts of the city. It’s a couple of hours from Campeche, but definitely worth the day trip. Once you get there, you can take a boat through the shallow waters and see hundreds of flamingos. The best time to go is in March, when the flocks are most numerous.Bonus: A quick day trip to the Mayan ruins of Edzna is essential if you’re going to Campeche. If you think Chichen Itza is impressive, Edzna is just as interesting and has a fraction of the crowd.
Where to stay in Campeche:
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