13 Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Mexico

Jul 22, 2021

Mexico's diverse landscape and culture make for an exciting vacation. Each region has its own distinct culture, cuisine, climate, wildlife, and architecture, so an unforgettable Mexican experience is what you will get.

Of course, to see all of Mexico's natural and man-made attractions it is best to visit the country in phases, starting in the country's oldest cities like Mexico City, exploring all of the sights that are possible from the major tourist attractions, and finishing in more off-the-beaten-path spots, for maximum variety.

With some of the world's best beaches, lagoons, volcanoes, and islands, each region of Mexico has its own highlights. A few must-see regions include the Mayan Ruins of Chichén Itzå; the underwater wonders of Banderas Bay and Cozumel; the colonial city of Mexico City; and the art and culture of Chihuahua and Taxco.

From Maya pyramids to sun-drenched beaches, there's a unique Mexico for everyone. Plan your vacation to Mexico using this list of the top things to do and visit in Mexico, and enjoy your trip.

Tulum

This Maya-inspired walled city on the Caribbean coast of Mexico is one of the most popular destinations in Mexico, and has recently seen an explosion of visitors, especially since the opening of the Cenote Ik Kil tour, which begins the day by boat from Playa del Carmen. The best place to begin a visit to Tulum is at the southern end, at the view point known as Palapas, where steps have been carved out of the rock and tall, wooden seating allows visitors a clear view of the ocean and Maya ruins. Continuing on, you can walk around the lookout platform that was once a home for a Maya king. The ruins themselves contain a number of impressive structures, including the large Temple of the Columns, a set of three pyramidal structures situated on a grassy hilltop, which dominates the Tulum ruins. The Tulum pyramid field itself is one of the largest in the Maya world. As you continue along the paved road, you'll eventually reach the fishing town of Tulum, which sits on the edge of the island's narrowest point. The town itself has little to offer besides a restaurant, a row of shops selling beachwear and snacks and a beautiful, abandoned monastery in the nearby hills.

Chichén Itzå

Photo of Chichen Itza
Chichen Itza: en.wikipedia.org

Known as one of the wonders of the ancient world, Chichén Itzå ("Place of the Great Warriors") was the capital of the Maya city of the same name and remains a center of religious activity to this day. The name, first recorded by an European explorer in 1517, refers to a square Maya temple called the Río Bec on the site of the modern village of Chichén Itzå. On one side of the square is the Convent of Santa Rosa and on the other the Templo de Kukulcan, the name by which Chichén Itzå is generally called by the Maya. In the late Middle Ages, after the fall of the Toltecs, Chichén Itzå was colonized by the Aztecs, but following the Spanish Conquest in 1521, the ancient city became the capital of the Viceroyalty of New Spain. The archaeological site of Chichén Itzå covers more than 30 square kilometers, its pyramids being among the most famous ancient monuments of Mesoamerica. Today the site of Chichén Itzå is an archaeological and religious center of the state of Yucatån. More than 100 large structures have been restored here, including the Templo de la Cruz (Temple of the Holy Cross) in the site itself, and many smaller structures, the most famous of which is the Platform of the Great Warriors, designed by the astronomer-priest of Chichén Itzå, the famous Pedro Pío.

Mexico City

Photo of Mexico City
Mexico City: en.wikipedia.org

Mexico City, the country's cultural and political capital, is one of the largest cities in the world with more than 21 million residents. Although it is the seat of government, the city is much more than a political center. The city is a giant clock, divided into eight distinct time zones. Everyone is a clock-watcher. During the day, those who can afford it leave the city and vacation in sprawling palaces in the Yucatån Peninsula, Chiapas or the Pacific coast. But Mexico City is a glutton for the night, when it changes into the largest party in the world. The biggest parties are the Olympics in September and the Day of the Dead in October. Everything is geared to this two-week span: businesses are closed, streets are shut down, offices and banks are closed, and government operations go into slow-motion freeze. People are on vacation and live it up to the fullest. Just look at any street corner in the Cuauhtémoc borough, which is called The central coast of Mexico City. There are many forms of public transportation, including taxis, buses, trolley buses and a metro system. The latter is the fastest and easiest, but the most expensive. It operates on a monorail network with many stations, including the U.S. Embassy. By car, the most important route is the boulevard Paseo de la Reforma, which goes from the Zócalo (main plaza) to San Ángel, on the southern outskirts of the city.

Read more 👉  Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Mexico City

Palenque

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Palenque: en.wikipedia.org

Located on Mexico's southern YucatĂĄn Peninsula, Palenque is a city that straddles the modern world and that of ancient Mayan civilization. Its structures are arranged on top of steep hills surrounded by thick jungle, meaning that you need a sound sense of direction, as it is easy to get lost. Once an important site, Palenque suffered heavy damage at the hands of several invading civilizations, and even later, its stones were used to build other buildings. Archaeological excavations have helped to rescue much of the city's beauty, with only a few of its original structures now destroyed. Most of these ruins have been rebuilt and restored to bring them to the state that they were in before being destroyed. Visitors usually enter via the Puuc Route, as the most important part of the site is the large Mayan-built pyramid, the tallest of its kind in Mexico. Here, besides the main attractions, the three major Maya temples of Palenque have been rebuilt in a way that restores their original architecture, which includes the superb stepped forms that made them famous. Although you can easily get around on foot, visit during the day, as the ruins are very hot and humid in the afternoon.

Cozumel

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Cozumel: en.wikipedia.org

Cozumel, a tropical island between Mexico and the Yucatan Peninsula, boasts a long, white-sand beach in one end of a wide natural harbor. A dock, lagoons, and an old lighthouse on a nearby isle can all be seen from land. Shaded by the lush tropical foliage of Cozumel, it is the perfect place for swimming, snorkeling, and scuba diving. Snorkelers can visit cenotes, sinkholes in the limestone caves on the island, and catch glimpses of coral reef fish and turtles. Some of the caverns can be easily visited by rappelling. You can spend your days enjoying the sun and swimming on the white sand beach or hiking through the tropical forest.

Cancun

Photo of CancĂșn
CancĂșn: en.wikipedia.org

CancĂșn is a beach city in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo. Its popularity peaked after the mid-1980s when the local government decided to develop it as a tourist destination with new beaches, numerous nightlife spots and high-rise resorts lining the CancĂșn waterfront. CancĂșn is also home to some very interesting spots. Punta Nizuc is one of the original Maya pyramids, its upper levels sheltering a series of galleries and a 20-meter high pyramid surrounded by a low stone wall and enclosed by terraces. The area is surrounded by dozens of other pyramids built over the years as the ancient Maya built them up to 500 meters in height, many of them no longer standing. CancĂșn is also the home to the most important Mexican Mayan archaeological site, Tulum, where most of the temples and pyramids have been rebuilt to resemble the originals. Other cultural highlights include a highly protected nature reserve at Tulum Bay, a nature park in Tulum, and the MĂ©rida Cultural Museum, which has a collection of historical pieces from the Yucatecan capital.

Iztacalco

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Iztacalco: en.wikipedia.org

Located in the state of Jalisco, Iztacalco is a charming little colonial town. The main plaza is located on a hilltop and features some interesting colonial houses. In the evening, visitors can enjoy a spectacular view of the town, particularly of the church bell tower with a wonderful pyramidal shape. You can take a walk around the town or visit a colonial museum. Iztacalco is only 26 km from the beautiful city of Guadalajara and 27 km from the beautiful colonial city of Zacatecas.

Monte AlbĂĄn

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Monte AlbĂĄn: en.wikipedia.org

Mexico's cultural capital of San Miguel de Allende is known for its colonial charm, in addition to its wonderful location and large range of hotels. Sitting on a plain at the foot of a mountain range called the Andes de San Miguel, this quaint city has been a tourist destination since it was founded by the Spanish in the 17th century, and has since then been referred to as the "paradise of Mexico." Many of its colonial buildings were reconstructed after the earthquake that struck on September 19, 1985, which destroyed most of the city, including the magnificent Cathedral of San Miguel, which remained standing until 2005. Today the city remains as it was in the 18th century, with colonial-era architecture and a number of small museums.

Ixtapa

Photo of Ixtapa
Ixtapa: en.wikipedia.org

A drive from San Diego through San Ysidro to Ensenada passes through a string of beach towns lined with cutesy resorts, brightly painted houses, and delightfully unusual boutiques. San Diego is San Diego and has more or less the same superficial stuff as the rest of California (though the beach isn't as spectacular as those on the other side of the country). Playa Tijuana is more authentic, with restaurants with men sitting on stools, small taco carts, taquerias, and street vendors selling dried sardines to the crowds (alas, that poor fish, to the scrapers!). Ensenada itself is a pleasant little port town with a pleasant little beach and a wide arc of gray sands stretching along the coast. After a day in the sun, head to Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo, a pleasant resort town with a pleasant little bay. About 45 minutes by car, it's a more or less conventional Mexican town. All the usual things are here--dancing, swimming, wine bars, and busy shops. Good, not great. At Ixtapa you'll find decent hotels, but you can't get much more Mexican than this. The Mexican Riviera is also home to Los Cabos, a place that blends two of Mexico's most distinctive attractions: snorkeling and diving with marine life off the coast, and the multi-day camping trip, in which you camp in a desert or forest, canoe through a series of lakes, or swim in and around a lagoon or river, often amidst hippies, tourists, young families, and indigenous Mexican culture.

Mahahual

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Mahahual: en.wikipedia.org

Located in Quintana Roo, off the coast of Cancun, Mahahual is a quiet little fishing village located just 20 minutes north of Tulum. There's nothing of particular interest in Mahahual, but if you're spending time in Quintana Roo, it's worth stopping by Mahahual for the cheap white sand beaches and secluded lagoons that the area is famous for.

San Miguel de Allende

Photo of San Miguel de Allende
San Miguel de Allende: en.wikipedia.org

San Miguel de Allende is one of the most historic cities of central Mexico and a fine example of Spanish colonial architecture. Also known as the 'American Pompeii,' the city has an unusually high percentage of large, well-preserved buildings dating from the period between the Spanish reconquest of Mexico and the 1840s. Today, visitors continue to make the pilgrimage to enjoy the cobblestone streets, impressive buildings, abundant shops and incredible food. Founded in 1542 by the Spanish friars, this was a quiet town until the mid-20th century, when artists began to move to the area. Today, San Miguel is known for its crafts. Decorative items made from copper, silver, leather and wood are readily available for purchase and make ideal souvenirs. For a pleasant break from the bustle of the city, rent a bike and ride through the winding roads of the mountains of San Miguel. The many hiking trails in the area take visitors to waterfalls and hiking trails. If time permits, stop in to visit one of the various artisan workshops located in the city, such as a music shop that makes instruments and or the stores that sell candles, soap and herbs.

Teotihuacan

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Teotihuacan: en.wikipedia.org

Home to some of the oldest structures in the world, Teotihuacan, 65 miles northwest of Mexico City, is the archeological jewel of Mexico. Conceived as the architectural project of a single dynasty, it flourished in the second and first centuries AD and contained some of the largest pyramids in the world, reaching a height of 270 meters. Built on an island in the middle of the expansive Valley of Mexico and surrounded by canals and a 50-kilometer artificial lake, Teotihuacan is now a national park. Within the park, you can visit the Pyramid of the Sun and Moon and the Pyramid of the Feathered Serpent, the largest and most complex of the five pyramids. The Pyramid of the Sun is a big 20-meter-high pyramid which was found during an excavation in 1995. A carved stela tells the history of the construction of the pyramid. Even though the ruins have been discovered, they are scattered throughout a large area, so have to be seen to be appreciated. Be aware that in December, the temple of the Feathered Serpent is closed due to temperature and humidity levels, so you will only be able to see some of the site. You can catch a bus from Mexico City to the ruins (€45 return) or a taxi for about USD $10.

Museums in Oaxaca

Photo of Oaxaca City
Oaxaca City: en.wikipedia.org

The "Monte AlbĂĄn Museum" is perhaps the best-known of the many galleries in Oaxaca's Instituto Nacional de AntropologĂ­a e Historia (INAH). Covering one of the best-preserved cultures in Mexico, it is home to some 60,000 objects, including pottery, stone art, incense burners, effigy bowls, jewelry, and carvings. Other museums worth visiting include the Archaeological Museum, the Frescos Museum, and the Museo ArqueolĂłgico de la Universidad AutĂłnoma de Oaxaca. These are among the museums in Oaxaca, Mexico. There are also many others, including one that highlights the papal mission of the eighteenth century. If you are on a schedule and need to visit several of the museums in one day, you can do so by bus from the Parque de la Venta and the San Miguel AcatlĂĄn bus station in Oaxaca.