12 best places to go for first-time visitors to Mexico

12 best places to go for first-time visitors to Mexico

Because of its stunning beaches, wonderful food scene, celebratory culture, and ancient pyramids, Mexico is a popular tourist destination. Mexico is a colourful and contrasted country. People-packed beaches lead to peaceful colonial towns, while resort cities provide access to woods abounding with parrots and howler monkeys. Majestic mountains give way to barren deserts. Traditional pueblo houses can be seen near Spanish haciendas. Mayan city ruins have been discovered outside of current metropolises.

The country’s rich culture, a fascinating blend of indigenous peoples and Spanish colonial influences, is reflected in everything from the country’s culinary delights to its vibrant musical and dancing traditions. It’s also a country with a diverse range of flora and animals, with climate zones ranging from barren deserts to lush tropical rainforests. Check out our list of the greatest places to visit in Mexico to make sure you plan the best Mexican vacation possible.

Cancún and the Mayan Riviera

Differences Between the Riviera Maya and Cancun | Loco Gringo

The resort locations of Cancun, Playa del Carmen, the island of Cozumel, and beyond are located along a stunning length of coastline on the Gulf of Mexico. The Riviera Maya is the name given to these group of islands.

This beautiful location on the Yucatán Peninsula’s eastern coast attracts over five million people each year, producing significant tourist money. Despite these numbers, the Riviera’s huge beaches, infinite crystal-clear sea, and multitude of excellent all-inclusive resorts ensure that you won’t feel crowded.

Scuba diving is available in the world’s largest underwater museum, which features a remarkable collection of sculptures submerged at depths of up to eight metres. Also swimming are dolphins and stingrays, who snorkel among reefs and tropical fish.

Then there are the region’s numerous Mayan ruins, some of which are within walking distance of the beaches, while the largest and most stunning ruins – Chichén Itzá and Tulum – are only a few hours away.

Tulum

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Tulum attracts to history historians and water lovers equally, as it is home to some of Mexico’s few shoreline Mayan ruins. The location, which is located along a stretch of the Riviera Maya, offers a variety of housing alternatives, including small boutique hotels, wellness retreats, and all-inclusive resorts. As a result, every visitor can select the vacation that is most beneficial to them. You may spend your time on the beach, exploring ancient ruins, and swimming in hidden cenotes, which are unique underwater caves found across the Yucatan Peninsula, regardless of where you stay.

Tulum has risen in popularity as a luxury vacation destination in the last decade, but it continues to entice bargain seekers who remember when this tucked-away jewel of Mexico’s east coast was more of a private escape. When the sun sets, you’ll be able to sample the city’s mixology culture and explore the city’s burgeoning nightlife. Tulum, on the other hand, shines brightest in the daytime. The Caribbean Sea’s cerulean oceans provide as a backdrop to some of the best-preserved Mayan monuments. There are also various cenotes (subterranean water-filled tunnels) and bioreserves that are out of this planet.

Don’t forget about Tulum’s biggest attraction for most visitors: the beaches. Travelers are enticed to spend their days lounging in the sun and listening to the waves by the white sand and turquoise waters. Whether you enjoy the beach or not, a trip to one of Tulum’s many beaches is a must.

Playa del Carmen

Playa del Carmen, Tulum or Cancún... where to stay? | Catalonia Hotels &  Resorts Blog

Playa del Carmen, sometimes known as Playa, is swiftly establishing itself as the hippest spot on the Yucatán Peninsula, with bustling clubs, trendy cafés, timeshares, and all-inclusive resorts springing up all throughout the city. The substantial expat community in Playa, which has been developing since the 1900s, has a big influence on the local flavour. One of the things that sets this town apart from the rest of Mexico is its international impact. You won’t find such a vast range of flavours within a few feet of each other anywhere else.

Quinta Avenida (5th Avenue), a pedestrian-only strip studded with fashionable clubs, international restaurants, and cheap souvenir stands, is the most popular area in Playa. Playa is the place to go if you just want to relax in the sun and swim in crystal clear oceans during the day, then drink and dance until the sun rises in the evening. Travelers who wish to learn about Mexican culture and traditions should search elsewhere rather than this once peaceful fishing hamlet gone mad.

Chichen Itza

Chichen Itza | Description, Buildings, History, & Facts | Britannica

Chichen Itza, located on the Yucatan Peninsula, is the most well-known, visited, and magnificent of the country’s many Mayan sites. This is odd because its most famous constructions do not follow the Classic Mayan architectural style, but rather exhibit substantial influences from other Central Mexican civilizations. While the searing sun and throngs of people may deter some visitors, the incredible archaeological ruins were named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World for a reason.

The once-great city was built between the ninth and twelfth centuries, and many of its structures, temples, and palaces are still in astonishingly fine condition. These exhibit a diverse range of architectural styles and provide a unique glimpse into Mayan society.

The Pyramid of Kukulcan, also known as El Castillo, is without a doubt the site’s most iconic monument. The stone terraces of Chichen Itza’s great temple tower were carefully built to give the effect of serpents slithering down the pyramid’s slope.

Cozumel

42 IDEAL Things to Do in Cozumel, Mexico (2021)

Coral reefs and cruise ships are arguably the two most well-known features of this island. The bright blue water and laid-back beaches, as well as the variety of water activities, draw visitors to this destination. A variety of outfitters and resorts rent kayaks, snorkelling equipment, and paddleboards. Cozumel is a tranquil spot to learn about Mayan culture and relax on the beach with a good book, even if you could spend every minute in the sea. Visit the Mayan ruins in San Gervasio Archaeological Zone for a dose of history.

The stunning turquoise waters and white sands of Cozumel entice visitors from colder regions to this 185-square-mile island off the Yucatán Peninsula. Cozumel’s coastal views are constantly obstructed by cruise ships, and the atmosphere on this picturesque island is frequently disrupted by tourist noise. Cozumel’s allure is so strong that the shopping plazas along the waterfront are packed for much of the year.

However, the fact that Cozumel’s true allure is located far from the downtown area should not stop you from seeing what this tiny Yucatán island has to offer. You can hire a fishing or diving charter boat to explore the shallow reefs along the coast (this is undoubtedly one of the top diving sites in the world), go on a glass-bottom boat trip around the island, or simply relax on a peaceful beach. After the cruise ships have disembarked, stroll over to a local tavern for some live music and the inside scoop on this tiny island.

Guanajuato

Best things to do in Guanajuato, Mexico | CNN Travel

Guanajuato, formerly a flourishing silver mining town, is today a popular tourist and expat destination. It’s a lovely city with a name that means “Place of the Frogs,” situated on the steep slope of a ravine.  Guanajuato, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a city that begs to be explored on foot, with its many old colonial buildings, winding streets, and tight alleys. Visiting the city’s many plazas, notably the lovely Jardin de la Union, the city’s main square with its splendid old architecture, is a particularly pleasurable experience. The lovely old San Diego Church and the grandiose Juárez Theater, as well as fountains and flower beds, cafés, and restaurants, are all located here. You may appreciate the colonial architecture and bright houses while strolling across town, stopping to relax in tree-filled plazas or quaint cafes.

There are numerous museums, theatres, music venues, and festivals in this culturally rich city. Join a walking tour with the city’s legendary callejoneadas, a group of musicians and storytellers who will take you on a musical adventure like no other through the city’s winding lanes.

For those of you who want to eat all of the tacos and then some, Guanajuato offers a variety of activities, including a fantastic culinary tour. Guanajuato is one of the most dynamic locations to visit in Mexico, with colourful architecture, historical landmarks, and a great mood.

Puerto Vallarta

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The famed holiday city of Puerto Vallarta is located on the Bay of Banderas along Mexico’s Pacific Coast in the state of Jalisco. This charming town of colonial landmarks, first-class resorts, gourmet restaurants, and dozens of nightclubs is surrounded by gorgeous beaches and lush rainforest highlands.

The city’s major attraction, the golden sand beaches, provide relaxation as well as water sports including sailing, kite surfing, and deep sea fishing. Because Puerto Vallarta is a popular diving destination, the beaches are lined with dive shops. Between December and March, humpback whales can be spotted, as well as giant manta rays and dolphins.

The Malecon, a lovely boardwalk lined with stores, restaurants, and bars, is a terrific spot to shop, dine, socialise, watch street performers, and gaze out at the ocean.

Tourists can tour mango and papaya plantations outside of the city, as well as peaceful fishing villages and isolated coves. Hiking and horseback riding trails, as well as canopy and ziplining excursions, are all available in the lush hills and mountains.

Mexico City

Mexico City - Wikipedia

Mexico City, the country’s capital, is one of the world’s largest cities, with ethnic communities from all over the world. This large metropolis is not just Mexico’s most important political and cultural hub, but also one of Latin America’s most vital financial centres. Mexico City also has one of the oldest and largest universities in North America.

Although Mexico City does not have any beaches, tourists will find a multitude of interesting sights and activities. The Plaza de la Constitucion, the Metropolitan Cathedral, the National Palace, and the ruins of an old Aztec temple are all located in the Historic Center.

With hundreds of museums, performing arts venues, and art galleries,  Mexico City is one of the world’s top cities for arts and culture. In addition to public parks like the stunning Chapultepec Park, the city features the must-see Xochimilco Floating Gardens.

The largest metro system in Latin America is found in Mexico City’s public transit system. Avoid hailing a cab on the street for safety concerns. Instead, request that the hotel call a taxi. Taking the Turibus, a hop-on, hop-off sightseeing bus, is a great way to visit the city’s key sites.

Copper Canyon: Mexico’s Grand Canyon

Copper Canyon & Baja California - Itinerary - Steppes Travel

The majestic Copper Canyon, one of Mexico’s most prominent natural attractions, is located in Chihuahua, one of Mexico’s most northerly states, which shares a border with New Mexico in the United States

Copper Canyon, which is located in the Sierra Madre Occidental and consists of a beautiful network of deep canyons, is actually larger and deeper than its more famous cousin, the Grand Canyon. These spectacular natural structures were constructed by six rivers that join in the Rio Fuerte before flowing into the Gulf of California, earning them the moniker Copper Canyon.

Because of the area’s growing popularity as a tourist destination, visitors can choose from a variety of activities to discover this area of great natural beauty, ranging from scenic rail tours onboard the Ferrocarril Chihuahua al Pacfico to more adventurous bike or equestrian adventures.

Mexican Historic Center

Mexico City's Magnificent Historic Centre - Me gusta volar

The capital of the country, Ciudad de México (Mexico City), has a number of dedicated sites worth visiting at least once. The famed art galleries and museums with world-class facilities, a 15-square-kilometer UNESCO World Heritage Site, are the most popular attractions. If you are interested in learning more about the heritage sites, make your Aeromexico Airlines reservations for a trip to Mexico.

The historic city centre, or Centro Histórico de la Ciudad, contains around 1,400 colonial structures from the 16th to 19th centuries. The National Palace, the Metropolitan Cathedral, and the Templo Mayor are all located on the Plaza de la Constitución (Constitution Square). A historic perspective of volcanic mountains may also be seen in the city.

Los Cabos

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Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo are the two towns that make up Los Cabos, which are located at the southernmost tip of Baja. Until the Mexican government developed it for tourism a few decades ago, this was a secluded, rural location. It’s currently one of Mexico’s most popular tourist destinations, with world-class beach resorts, world-class sport fishing, and championship golf courses.

Although the two communities are only approximately 20 miles apart, they feel worlds apart. San Jose is a more traditional Mexican city with cobblestone streets and a tree-lined square centred on a beautiful cathedral.

Cabo San Lucas, on the other hand, is a much more touristy destination with a boisterous nightlife. If you don’t want to party, there are plenty of other things to do in Cabo San Lucas, so take some time to explore. Between the two towns, there is now a corridor of resorts and golf courses where many holidaymakers opt to stay.

Oaxaca

When to Go and Other Fast Facts for Oaxaca, Mexico

Oaxaca, the capital of the same-named state, is situated in a valley beneath the Sierra Madre mountains. It is a renowned tourist destination in Southern Mexico due to its colonial architecture, archaeological sites, nice climate, and quiet ambiance.

The attractive town square, Zocalo, lies in the heart of Oaxaco, where visitors can admire stunning colonial structures like the Santo Domingo church, tour museums, shop for souvenirs, and relax at an outdoor cafe.

Monte Alban is one of several archaeological sites around the city that can be visited. Monte Alban, perched atop a mountain, was the ancient capital city of the Zapotec people.

A visit here will provide you with breathtaking views of the valley. Mitla is interesting because of its geometric design walls. Oaxaca is also recognised for its unique cuisine, such as mole, which consists of a chocolate and chile-based sauce. Mezcal and hot chocolate, two of the city’s favourite drinks, can be found at almost every restaurant and bar.

Traditional Oaxacan handicrafts are highly appreciated across the world, and the city’s markets are excellent places to buy popular goods such as Zapotec wool rugs, wood sculptures, and black pottery. Oaxaca hosts one of Mexico’s best Day of the Dead events, as well as the Guelaguetza, a festival showcasing local indigenous cultures’ traditional dances.

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