With all the incredible things to do in Mexico, and the many things to do in Yucatan, I think I will never tire of it. I have been there 3 times already, and each time I visit I discover a little bit more. I am absolutely in love with its people, its culture, and the overall atmosphere and vibe I get when I am there.
Yucatan must see are many. Yucatan has a glorious history, of which the unique archaeological sites are just one inheritance. The colonial past also left its mark on the cities. The nature is lush and the beaches as beautiful as one can imagine.
To find out more about Mexico’s marvelous beaches, read my post “The 13 Best Beaches in Mexico.”
Visiting Tulum is one of the greatest things to do in Yucatan
And let’s not forget about the food! Those who visit Mexico are rightly drawn to the variety of its cuisine, with all its ingredients and flavors. I confess that I have quite an addiction for tacos – and I won’t settle for anything less than the ones I used to have on Avenida Satelite Norte in Tulum. For sure, eating is among the things to do in Mexico and Yucatan things to do.
Speaking of Tulum, visiting the Yucatan Peninsula is one of my favorite things to do in Yucatan Mexico. It has everything I need for a perfect trip – the right mixture of culture, sights, cities and nature that I always look for when I travel.
In fact, I generally recommend those who visit Mexico for the first time and have a limited time in the country to just concentrate their travels in the Yucatan peninsula: Mexico is huge and it is pointless to try and see it all in 10 days. This is a country that calls for slow travel.
So, for those who are planning to travel to that part of the world, here’s a selection of the most recommended things to do in Yucatan.
Visiting Chichen Itza is definitely one of Yucatan things to do
10 Unmissable Things To Do In Yucatan
Visit the most famous archeological sites…
If there’s one thing Mexico is famous for, it’s the Maya sites. Chichen Itza, Uxmal, Tulum and Coba are only some of the archaeological sites of Yucatan, but for sure visiting them is one of the things to do in Yucatan. In fact, visiting the Maya sites is one of the things to do in Mexico.
Chichen Itza, considered one of the Wonders of the World, and listed among the UNESCO World Heritage sites, easily qualifies as one of the most amazing Yucatan must see. Yet I prefer Uxmal, which though quite popular is not as crowded.
Tulum is smaller than Chichen Itza and Uxmal, but its location, right in front of the Caribbean Sea, the views, the access to a gorgeous beach right below it make it one of the top Yucatan must see.
Visiting Coba, at about one hour from Tulum Pueblo, is certainly one of the coolest things to do in Yucatan peninsula. This is the most widespread site of Yucatan, so visitors generally rent a bike or a bici-taxi. Furthermore, it’s one of the few sites where it is possible to climb a pyramid.
The best way to get to Coba is via a colectivo (a shared minibus), though for some unknown reason these don’t leave from the site so it is necessary to get a bus or a taxi. A good alternative and one of the top things to do in Yucatan may be to book a guided tour of Tulum and Coba together.
Pro tip: I always recommend getting a guide when visiting archaeological sites, as it helps understand their significance. I know that it may be costly, but there are ways to save some $$$. One of the things to do in Yucatan (in fact, one of the things to do in Mexico) when visiting a site and looking for a guide is waiting around (it hardly takes more than a few minutes) and keep an eye out for other visitors who may be interested in sharing the guide and the costs. Alternatively, it is possible to book guided tours of Chichen Itza online.
These are some of the top tours of the sites of Yucatan that can be bought online:
Among the things to do in Yucatan, there’s visiting the lesser known archaeological sites
… then look for the lesser known ones
Among the things to do in Mexico, and sure enough among the things to do in Yucatan there’s visiting a handful of smaller archaeological sites that well deserve a visit. Kabah, not far from Uxmal, used to be the second most important city of the region. It is spread across two sides of Road 261. It’s a lovely site that doesn’t get nearly as many visitors as the others in Yucatan, thus the atmosphere is incredibly peaceful.
If one of the Yucatan things to do is searching for lesser known sites, then Ek’ Balam is a good place to go. It is located near Valladolid. Though it is mostly covered by vegetation, excavations are ongoing. The pyramid is 32 meters tall. Tours of Ek’ Balam depart from Cancun.
Not far from Campeche, there are Edzna and Calakmul, two beautiful sites that receive less visitors in a year than Chichen Itza does in a day. They are among the best places to visit in Mexico if looking for archaeological sites that have all the beauty but none of the crowds.
These are the best tours of the lesser known sites in Yucatan:
Things to do in Yucatan: swim in a cenote
Swim in the cenotes…
Perhaps the most unique among the many things to do in Yucatan is visiting the cenotes. Cenotes are underground lakes. They are unique to this part of the world, and scattered around the peninsula.
Some cenotes, such as Ik kil, are considered Yucatan must see, and they are so popular that a whole resort has been developed around it. Others, such as Los Tres Cenotes de Cuzama, are much smaller but equally beautiful. Diving in cenotes is what to do in Yucatan to have a unique experience.
Here’s a list of the best cenotes in Mexico.
And these are some tours that go to the best cenotes:
Laguna Bacalar is one of Yucatan must see
… then in a lagoon
The gorgeous Bacalar Lagoon is perhaps the most spectacular of the natural places to visit in Yucatan. Not far from Chetumal, Bacalar is a large lake, completely immersed in the vegetation of Yucatan. It boasts incredibly white sand, and the water is of a paradisiac aquamarine color. It deserves a visit (and a swim). Needless to say, visiting is one of the unmissable things to do in Yucatan.
Visiting Campeche is one of the things to do in Yucatan
Pay a visit to the most famous cities…
One of the nicest things to do in Mexico, and among the things to do in Yucatan is visiting the beautiful cities. Merida is the largest city in the peninsula. It is often used as the starting point to visit Chichen Itza and some of the nicest cenotes in Yucatan, but it is worth visiting regardless of its vicinity to other sites.
What makes Merida one of Yucatan must see is the gorgeous colonial style architecture. Picture colorful buildings, cobbled alleys, a gorgeous cathedral, a beautiful square and an incredibly busy market, and it’s easy to see why so many people who visit Mexico make it a point to go.
Campeche is another lovely colonial town, visiting is one of the things to do in Mexico. Its small centre, with the colorful, restored colonial buildings is aligned by the defense walls, which are beautiful to walk along. What differentiates it from other cities in Mexico is the Malecon – that is, a beautiful, new waterfront where people go for walks or to run and exercise. Just that makes me say that visiting is one of Yucatan things to do.
Last but not least, I have to mention Valladolid as one of Yucatan must see. I didn’t spend long enough when I went, and I regret it because compared to other cities in the peninsula, it is much quieter and absolutely charming, with a beautiful main square and a great easygoing atmosphere.
Visiting Izamal is one of the things to do in Yucatan, especially if looking for a quieter city
… then head to the lesser known ones
Each time I visit Mexico I discover new places and hidden gems. That’s how I realized that one of the nicest things to do in Yucatan is visiting the lesser known cities. What I love about them is that they are still relatively undiscovered – though through internet they are slowly becoming more popular.
The good news is that there still are some Yucatan must see that are not crowded with tourists. One of them is Chetumal, the capital of Quintana Roo, located right on the Caribbean coast and a travel hub between Mexico and Belize. Let alone the fact that the city is beautiful – there’s a lovely coastal walk (Boulevard Bahía) and good museums – Chetumal provides easy access to some lesser known Mayan ruins such as Oxtankah.
Visiting Izamal is bound to become one of the top things to do in Yucatan, if not among the things to do in Mexico altogether. Known as Ciudad Amarilla (yellow city), Izamal is mostly Mayan and yes, it really is completely yellow. There are remains of pyramids scattered across town, and from the top of the site there’s a beautiful view of the city. The Spanish conquerors here didn’t demolish the Mayan sites but built on top of them. So for example the church and convent are laid on the rest of a site.
One of the nicest things to do in Yucatan is going to the beach. This one is Tulum Playa
Go to the beach
The perfect trip to me is one that puts together culture, nature and some well deserved relax time, preferably at a beautiful beach (I am from Sardinia, after all!). With all the amazing beaches of the Riviera Maya, it is easy to see why I think Yucatan is a perfect destination. Indeed, one of the top things to do in Mexico, and among the things to do in Yucatan is going to the beach.
Playa del Carmen has some of the nicest beaches – at least in terms of services (it’s one of the most popular destinations in the area). But they can get very crowded. I am a fan of Akumal, as it is possible to snorkel and see turtles. Tulum beach is a very long stretch of incredibly white, fine sand, and it is possible to find spots that aren’t crowded. However, the last couple of times I was there, there was a lot of seaweed on the shore.
If going to a gorgeous beach is one of the things to do in Yucatan, but the crowds aren’t contemplated, then Mahahual may well be the perfect place. It’s a tiny coastal town of no more than 1000 inhabitants, with a large public beach which is beautiful and relaxing.
Visiting Isla Mujeres is one of the things to do in Yucatan
Visit the islands
The Caribbean coast of Yucatan is scattered with some beautiful islands, and one of the nicest things to do in Yucatan is visiting at least a couple.
Isla Mujeres is one of the best known islands, a Yucatan must see, and it can be easily reached via a short ferry ride from Cancun. The island is so small that it can be visited in a day – it is possible to rent bikes, scooters or even golf carts. There are some good beaches (though some can get very crowded at weekends or festivities). It is rather touristy, but nice.
Going to Isla Cozumel is what to do in Yucatan for diving and snorkeling: indeed, there’s a gorgeous coral reef. There even are some Mayan ruins. The wildest part of the island is the east coast, that offers some beautiful marine landscapes.
Isla Holbox is located on the north of Yucatan peninsula. It has clear waters and gorgeous beaches and as such visiting is one of Yucatan things to do.
Eating tacos is one of the things to do in Yucatan
Enjoy the nightlife
There’s no other place in Mexico like Yucatan in terms of nightlife. Cancun has a great selection of bars and clubs to party all night long, and the same can be said about Playa del Carmen. It is a fact that among the top things to do in Yucatan there’s enjoying the nightlife.
Eat (and drink) like a king
Even though I am hardly a foodie, I must admit that one of the top things to do in Yucatan peninsula is eating. Mexican cuisine is so good and so varied that it is even protected by UNESCO.
Eating tacos is one of the things to do in Mexico, and among Yucatan things to do. The best places are the small carts that are scattered in the streets – wherever there is a small crowd eating, that’s where the good food is. I have a thing for tacos al pastor, which I enjoy with plenty of ensalada de nopales (cactus leaves salad). Other things to try are the quesadillas, which are tortillas filled with cheese and other things, such as flor de calabaza (zucchini flowers) or mushrooms.
Mexico is the country of Tequila and Mezcal, so it goes without saying that one of the things to do in Yucatan is to try a good tequila and, even better, a proper margarita.
As of late, I have developed a taste for yoga – especially for the Pranayama, which allows me to relax completely. One of the top things to do in Yucatan is practicing yoga in Tulum. Resorts and boutique hotels often offer this activity for free. If not, the classes are pretty cheap to join, and the benefits enormous.
One of the nicest things to do in Yucatan is staying in a resort
Stay in a gorgeous resort
I have always thought I am not the kind of person who’d enjoy an all inclusive resort. Then I went to one in the the Maldives after a tiring trip across Sri Lanka (read more about my adventures in the Maldives here), and I had such a good time, I relaxed so much, that I am actually convinced that there’s no better way to end a trip. Among the nicest things to do in Yucatan peninsula, is staying at an amazing resort.
All inclusive resorts such as Excellence Resorts have the benefit of perfectly catering to tourists who don’t have too much time to organize their trip independently. They can schedule day trips to the nearby Yucatan must see; they have a great selection of restaurants to enjoy local food; they offer access to the most gorgeous beaches.
And if relaxing and pampering oneself is one of the top things to do in Yucatan peninsula, resorts offer all the best treatments one may wish for.
Here’s a selection of fantastic places to stay in Yucatan:
When to visit Yucatan
I have been to Yucatan many times, and each time the weather was incredible. Summer can be rainy though. So I would say that among the top things to do in Yucatan there is visiting during the winter months, between November and March.
How to get to Yucatan
Yucatan is very well connected to the rest of the world via Cancun airport. There is an airport also in Merida. It is possible to also reach by land if coming from Belize.
How to travel around Yucatan
Yucatan is fairly easy to travel around. ADO buses connect the main cities and places of interest, and colectivos are cheap and easy ways to get to the smaller ones. However, one of the things to do in Yucatan that I recommend, in order to be completely independent, is renting a car. Click here for a good and reliable car rental service. Also, do not forget to get a good travel insurance whenever you travel!
Safety In Yucatan
I have never had any issue in Yucatan, and Yucatan is safe to visit for tourists. Having said so, I recommend as one of the things to do in Yucatan keeping your eyes open for scams, as these on the other hand are common, as they are in any touristic places!
With all these things to do in Yucatan peninsula, it’s easy to see why it is a favorite of travelers. Have you ever been there? What did you like the most about it and what would you add to my short selection?
This post is written in partnership with Excellence Resorts.
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I have been to Mexico 3 times already, and it is only fair that I finally write a post about the best beaches in Mexico. Those who know me, also know that I love hanging by the beach, and that is why I have put together a post on the best beaches in Sardinia. So I thought about doing the same for Mexico, which is a wonderful country to visit, with a rich culture, welcoming people, fantastic food, and spectacular landscapes.
In my 3 times in the country, I was lucky enough to visit some beautiful beaches. I obviously have my favorite ones – some to which I have a special emotional attachment for I have visited them with my sister, or with my ex boyfriend.
So, the following is a list of all the best beaches to visit in Mexico, with some additional tips on where to stay in the area. Also keep in mind that as an Italian, I don’t need a visa for Mexico but can get one on arrival. Other nationalities may need it and they can get a visa online thanks to iVisa.
Tulum is without a doubt one of the best beaches in Mexico
The Best Beaches In Mexico
Tulum Playa (aka Playa Paraiso)
It is undeniable that Tulum Playa is one of the best beaches in Mexico. It is also known as Playa Paraiso, and for a good reason! Imagine a gorgeous white sand beach lined by palm trees, that is so long and wide that rarely gets busy. It is the perfect place to stop over after having visited Tulum archeological site (which is only 500 meters away), one the top places to visit in Mexico.
As with most of Mexico beaches, in Tulum Playa there are nice beach clubs, where it is possible to hire a table, chairs and an umbrella. On site restaurants are usually nice, and there are showers and toilets too. Good beach clubs offer guided snorkeling or swimming in the clear turquoise colored water.
Playa Paraiso is close to Tulum archaeological site – one of the top places to visit in Mexico
Where to stay in Tulum
Tulum is one of the top places to visit in Mexico and has a great selection of accommodation options for all budgets, and of good restaurants. A good hostels is El Jardin De Frida, which also has lovely private rooms and even an entire apartment that can be rented. It has a gorgeous garden, an equipped kitchen, a bar and cozy common areas.
Tulum Naa is a more modest option, but it has good beds, clean bathrooms and it is located near the main intersection, from where it is easy to get on a bus to reach some of the top Mexico tourist attractions such as cenotes, Coba archeological sites, and even some other Mexico beaches.
Azucar hotel is located right on the beach, near Sian Kaan reserve (one of my favorite places to visit in Mexico, not to mention a UNESCO site). The area is a bit harder to reach – when I visited, I had hired a car. It is beautifully isolated, and bungalows are right on the beach (imagine waking up to the sound of waves and being able to directly step onto one of the best beaches in Mexico).
Canibal Royal – Playa Del Carmen
Playa del Carmen is home to some of the best Mexico beaches. It really does not matter what kind of beach experience one is looking for – Playa del Carmen has it. The city has five beaches, all offering something a little different.
Canibal Royal is the quietest of the city’s beaches. It is not as easy to get to as the others are. As a result, it is practically unspoilt. There is not even a bar or restaurant, so it is a great place to enjoy a picnic. Easy to see why I think it is one of the best beaches in Mexico.
The two main beaches in Playa del Carmen, on the other hand, have chic beachside lounges where it is possible to sip a sunset cocktail or get busy with a game of volleyball or football. I do love having a sunset cocktail while on holiday, so I know where I will go!
Where to stay in Playa del Carmen
Playa del Carmen is one of the most famous places to visit in Mexico, and as such there is a huge offer of accommodation options for any budget. From luxury resorts right by the beach such as Playa Riviera Tendenza, to apartments such as Suites Quinto Sol, to hostels such as Izsla, there’s really something for everyone.
Playa La Entrega is one of the best beaches in Mexico – photo courtesy of Molly (flickr)
Playa La Entrega – Huatulco
Playa La Entrega is a beautiful white-sand beach, with plenty of trees for shade and it can definitely be considered one of the best beaches in Mexico. It is popular with both locals and tourists. It is a good place to get back to the old way of enjoying a beach.
There are numerous “palapas” (huts with hay roofs) that serve mainly simple seafood. If looking to eat something strictly local (trying local food is one of the top things to do in Mexico), search for tlayudas!
Where to stay in Huatulco
Huatulco has some incredible accommodation options, and they are actually cheaper than what one may think. If treating oneself to a fabulous room is one if the top things to do in Mexico, then Agua Azul la Villa is the place to stay. Hotel Playa del Sol is a good budget option.
Playa de Balandra is one of the best Mexico beaches – photo courtesy of laura ivette de la torre martinez (flickr)
Playa de Balandra – La Paz
Playa de Balandra, in La Paz, is one of the most beautiful Mexico beaches. This is a great place to go when are looking for a nice walk that offers stunning beach scenery. It is a series of shall bays, so the sea is quite unlike anything one may have seen before.
The water in Playa de Balandra looks almost white, something that makes it one of the top places to visit in Mexico for snorkeling.
Where to stay in La Paz
As with the rest of places that offer access to Mexico tourist attractions, the selection of places to stay in La Paz is excellent. Casa Juarez is a superb choice, with incredibly large and cozy rooms. Peace Hostel is a great option for backpackers and budget travelers.
Surfing is one of the best things to do in Mexico and Punta de Mita is perfect for that – photo courtesy of netOrX (flickr)
Punta de Mita – Riviera Nayarit
Punta de Mita is a coral sand beach that is wide enough not to get too crowded. It’s also a fantastic place to go surfing, since there are plenty of long wave breaks, and in most places the water is shallow. It’s easy to see why it is one of the best beaches in Mexico.
There are various restaurants on the beach – just to remind everyone that eating is one of the top things to do in Mexico. They are generally linked to the hotels and resorts that line the beach, and they are known for serving good food.
Where to stay in Riviera Nayarit
Riviera Nayarit is one of the top places to visit in Mexico. Needless to say, there are some amazing hotels and resorts in the area. Casa de Mita has incredible rooms overlooking the ocean – though it is on the expensive side. Casa Virgilio, in Nuevo Vallarta, is a more budget friendly option (though it is really gorgeous): there’s even a kitchenette to cook some simple food.
Playa Norte, in Isla Mujeres, is one of the best beaches in Mexico
Playa Norte – Isla Mujeres
Isla Mujeres is definitely one of the top places to visit in Mexico. It can be reached on a short ferry ride from Cancun. Any post on the best beaches in Mexico is bound to mention the gorgeous Playa Norte.
Picture a fine white sand beach that is lined with palm trees and where the water is shallow and with little to no current. Yes, it is one of the nicest Mexico beaches.
On very hot days, Playa Norte gets a bit busier. This is because there is usually a light breeze, which makes it a more comfortable place to be than the other beaches in the area – one more reason to name it among the best beaches in Mexico.
Where to stay in Isla Mujeres
There’s a great selection of places to stay in Isla Mujeres, as this is one of the top places to visit in Mexico. Casa Sirena is an exceptional small hotel with gorgeous stylish room and a terrace overlooking the ocean. Posada Paso del Sol is more modest, but it is conveniently located in the city centre, right where all the things happen.
Ensenada – Baja California
Those who enjoy surfing will definitely agree that Ensenada, in Baja California, is one of the best beaches in Mexico. It is located near the border with the USA, so it gets busy at the weekends. The best waves are in the winter months, though the water gets cold then and a wetsuit is necessary to get in.
Where to stay in Ensenada
Ensenada is one of the coolest places to visit in Mexico and has a good range of accommodation options. Typically, those who go opt to stay in holiday homes (which are convenient because it is also possible to cook) such as Ochoa’s House; or for places that have spectacular ocean views such as La Mansion Residency Suites.
Playa Las Gatas – Zihuatanejo
I love snorkeling, and so I can’t help but mentioning Playa Las Gatas as one of the best beaches in Mexico: it is heaven for snorkelers. It is a safe place to learn but it still offers plenty for experienced snorkelers to enjoy. Getting to Playa Las Gatas requires hopping on a water taxi from the Municipal Pier in Zihuatanejo. As a result, it rarely gets overcrowded.
Playa Las Gatas has yet to get over commercialized – one more reason it is one of the must see Mexico beaches. However, there are still several very good seafood restaurants that offer nice food and spectacular views.
Where to stay in Zihuatanejo
If having a room with a view is one of the nicest things to do in Mexico, La Casa Que Canta is the place to stay. It is pricey, but worth it. Bungalows Arena Dorada are more budget friendly, but still have all the amenities for a proper beach vacation.
Troncones – Guerrero
Troncones is a three-mile long beach that is at the same time a surfer’s paradise and very popular with eco-tourists. It easily is one of the best beaches in Mexico. The good thing about it is that it is perfect for relaxing but also for great activities.
I generally prefer active holidays with the chance to spend a bit of time on the beach too, and Troncones is a great destination for that. For example, here it is possible to enjoy a ride across the sand or a hike in the mountains behind the beach. After an active day, being able to relax in one of the tidal pools is heaven.
Where to stay in Troncones
The choice of places to stay in Troncones is a bit more limited. I guess it reflects that it isn’t as touristy as the rest of the country, though I still think it is one of the nicest places to visit in Mexico. There is a good hostel (Troncones Point Hostel) and a few more expensive options, such as Lo Sereno.
Hotbox beach is one of the best beaches in Mexico – photo courtesy of dronepicr (flickr)
Holbox Beach – Holbox Island
Holbox is beach perfection – needless to say, one of the best beaches in Mexico. It is a natural, relatively unspoilt spot, that one is bound to love. It is within easy walking distance of nearly everywhere in the town.
Easy to see why Isla Holbox is one of Mexico tourist attractions: it puts together amazing Mexico beaches which are fully equipped, with the convenience of a small town with restaurants, a fishing pier and dock.
Where to stay in Holbox
As all the other places to visit in Mexico, the selection of places to stay in Holbox is fantastic. Casa Punta Coco is a very stylish place, at literally one minute from the beach. However, it is an adults-only place. Casa Las Tortugas is family friendly and just as beautiful.
Can Mexico beaches get any better than this? – photo courtesy of polpolux (flickr)
Xpu-Ha Beach – Riviera Maya
Xpu-Ha Beach is a perfect white sand beach. It isn’t very well known yet, so it is quite quiet. To me, it has to be one of the top Mexico beaches. It offers old school charm, and is a real tropical paradise. It is the kind of place where it is possible to play football, volleyball or just chill out in one of the local beachside restaurants.
Where to stay in Xpu-Ha
One of the coolest things to do in Mexico is staying in eco-lodges. Serenity Eco-Luxury Tented Camp is a great option in Xpu-Ha. There’s also a glamping site (I tried glamping in Slovenia and loved it!), and several all-inclusive resorts, such as Barcelo Maya Colonial.
Sayulita – Nayarit
Sayulita, in Nayarit, has a reputation for being a quiet, beautiful beach during the day, to then become quite a lively place after nightfall. Big parties and raves are frequently held here. It definitely is one of the best beaches in Mexico for people who are keen to party.
However, it is very popular with surfers in the winter months when the waves are a bit bigger. It is easy to hire boards, and book surfing lessons. So whether looking for some quiet time to surf and relax, or for some fun at night, this is one of the top Mexico beaches.
Where to stay in Sayulita
As all good places to visit in Mexico, Sayulita has some great accommodation options. If I have a chance, I like to stay in bungalows like Aurinko. Otherwise, I love boutique hotels such as Hotel Boutique Oz Sayulita.
I believe Akumal is one of the best beaches in Mexico
Akumal – Riviera Maya
Akumal is one of the best beaches in Mexico for snorkeling. Easily accessible from either Playa del Carmen or Tulum, it is a long, white fine sand beach famous for the fact that beautiful marine turtles live in the area and they are easily to spot when swimming. I wholeheartedly recommend to follow a guide though, because these animals should never be disturbed.
Where to stay in Akumal
Akumal is located close to some of the most famous Mexico tourist attractions, so there’s an excellent choice of places to stay. Unico is a fantastic place to stay for those that have a budget to splurge. People with a more limited budget can opt for Maya Eco Village.
Other Places To Visit In Mexico
The fact that Mexico has 6,000 miles of coast means that the above is just a taste of the type of beaches one can find in this beautiful country. However, there are many stunning and beautiful places to visit in Mexico that are not just beaches. Some of these hidden gems are mentioned here.
Personally, I find it is always nice to mix things up a bit and visit some beautiful archeological and natural sites (it is a fact that Mexico tourist attractions go well beyond its amazing beaches) as well as spending time on the beach.
There are some incredible places to visit in Mexico, but it is undeniable that Mexico beaches are among the top Mexico tourist attractions.
Have you ever been to Mexico? What did you like the most about it?
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How to stay fresh in Mexico
Why on earth, after a year spent going to work every day, zig-zagging through city traffic, enduring crowded public buses and metros, at times with temperatures as high that would remind you of living hell, would you ever embark on a tiring car or bus trip, sitting next to some unknown person, on a curvy, bumpy road, when you are supposed to be on holidays? Well, it looks like only if you do so you will manage visiting some of the most paradisiac places in Mexico, which are not completely invaded by foreign tourists and where you can relax and finally escape the terrible heat – the best season to visit Mexico is between March and April, when the weather is dry, days are hot but bearable and nights are cooler.
There is a magic place which, even if slightly isolated, is a must see and is quickly turning into a travellers’ favourite. This is San Cristobal de las Casas, a colourful city in Chiapas, located in a wonderful valley surrounded by pine forests, and at the heart of one of the most indigenous areas of the country. Located at about 1 and a half hours by car from Chiapas capital Tuxtla Gutierrez (which is connected to Mexico City by plane), San Cristobal is the meeting point for zapatistas. It is a lovely labirynth of traditional houses, cobbled streets and crafts shops. However, the market of San Cristobal is its main attraction. Aside from the traditional handicrafts, you will fall in love with its colours and smells, and be amazed at how those tomatoes, peppers, strawberries and tens of varieties of chillies are displayed.
The colourful market of San Cristobal de las Casas – photo courtesy of Plumerio Pipichas (flickr)
San Juan Chamula, a lovely village of about 3000 people, is not far from San Cristobal. Chamuleans, who belong to the indigenous group Tzotzil, all attend the beautiful Templo de San Juan, a church where they pray and make offers to the saints in rituals which are a mixture of christianity and paganism. You can look for as long as you want, but do not take pictures. Tzotzils are convinced that pictures may steal their soul. The church is small, illuminated only by candle light, and there are no seats. The pavement is completely covered in pine needles, and the atmosphere turns into something slightly magic and surreal between the dim light and the smell of pines. Chamuleans pray seated on the pavement, in front of the statues of their favourite saints, offering whatever little they have. You may even be able to assist to the sacrifice of a chicken. It is difficult not to be touched by the atmosphere of the church.
The lovely church of San Juan Chamula, in Chiapas – photo courtesy of Eduardo Robles Pacheco (flickr)
Be brave, and from San Cristobal de las Casas catch a colectivo to Palenque. Should you feel the need to travel more comfortably, rent a car (but book online) but be ready to drive along a curvy and bumpy road, so curvy and bumpy that the “topes” (speed bumps) placed to reduce speed will look completely useless. You won’t be able to speed at any point, because the road is covered in holes and in some points even collapsed and you will be frequently stopped by children who, nearby “pueblos” (villages) stay at the sides of the road selling fruit and small handycrafts. Expect a sudden army check point: soldiers, a bit bored and sleepy because of the heat, will ask for your documents and may want to check your bags, but they are usually very friendly.
About 4 hours later, when you think you can’t take the heat anymore (even though you may be travelling during winter) you will reach Agua Azul and will conclude that those hours spent in a car or in a combi were completely worth it. Admission charge should not be more than 10 Mexican Pesos (around 70 cents of a dollar). You will feel like you are in paradise: a series of waterfalls that end up in natural pools of clear, turquoise water. Jumping in that water will make you feel like a new person. Agua Azul is not a very famous tourist destination, and you may likely be the only foreign traveler there, depending on the season. However, there will be plenty of locals, especially in the winter season when the dry weather makes the river go down a bit so that it doesn’t carry mud and debris and the water is thus very clear. Mexico is full of as many natural wonders as opportunities to relax. There are more gorgeous waterfalls that you can’t miss if you find yourself in Mexico. Indeed, after cooling down in Agua Azul, carry on your way to Palenque, but first make a quick stop at Misol Ha waterfalls, where you can access for 20 Mexican Pesos (1.50 US dollars). There is a jump of 20 meters which you can see from a variety of angles, including from its backside through a small path.
When they say Agua Azul, they MEAN Agua Azul
Two more hours on the road will take you to Palenque, from where you can visit one of the most interesting archeological sites of Mexico, completely immersed in the jungle.
From here, go North, to Villahermosa, capital of Tabasco, and then towards Tapijulapa, pretty village of white houses with red roofs and flowers on the windows. Pay attention on the road: it is not uncommon that enormous iguanas cross the road. However, Tapijulapa is not your final destination. If you love nature and adventure, do not miss Koleem Jaa, a small, ecologic resort fully immersed in the forest. You can only reach it by boat, so you will have to ask for a lancha to pick you up. Koleem Jaa has very reasonable prices, and you will have your meals there. Once there, you can forget the noise of civilization: no television, no internet, no cell phone signal. Your sleep will only be interrupted by the scream of monkeys and of parrots. You can spend the day in one of the many activities available: from a simple hike and visit to the waterfalls, to ziplines that take you from tree to tree, to canyoning. You will leave Koleem Jaa completely recharged and possibly a bit sad at the thought of having to go to a big, dusty and dirty city.
Once you leave Tabasco, you will most likely want to visit Yucatan. Merida, the white city, is the biggest city: it is crowded and lively and the perfect starting point to visit the internationally famous archeological sites of Chichen Itza and Uxmal.
Uxmal is a gorgeous archeological site
However, there also are less touristy places in Mexico. Once you have fried under the sun and fought against the crowds in Chichen Itza and Uxmal, enduring 35 degrees celsius (and that is in the winter!), you can escape the heat by reaching Chunkanan, about 3 km east of Cuzamà. Here there are Los Tres Cenotes de Cuzamà, 3 limestone underground lakes, where you can surely cool down. Once you negotiate a price (it is fairly cheap, really), you will board a cart pulled by a horse, you will cross the forest and will reach the cenotes, where you will find clear and cool water and if you are lucky you may be able to see various species of fish.
Done exploring these treasures? Now you can finally move to the party scene, and go to Playa del Carmen, but not before having visited the ruins of Tulum . And if you want to keep on relaxing and be quiet, you can go to ecological oasis in Tulum Playa: a long, white, sandy beach lined with palm trees, and almost deserted. It’s one of the best beaches in Mexico.
The gorgeous site and beach of Tulum
It goes without saying that it is recommended that you always carry a towel and a swimsuit, because you won’t miss the chance to freshen up even if you are not laying at the beach in one of the wonderful caribbean beaches. So… enjoy your Mexican vacation!