Best things to do in Mexico

written by
Andy Turner

updated 14.02.2024

Fabulous beaches, spectacular festivals, alluring ancient cultures, dynamic cities brimming with astounding colonial architecture…and all that peppered with one of the world’s feistiest cuisines – Mexico is a tropical treasure trove. Here is our pick for the best things to do in Mexico.

This article is inspired by our Rough Guide to Mexico — your essential guide for travelling in Mexico.

1. Buy silver jewellery from Taxco

Mexico’s most famous silver-working town - Taxco. It is truly picturesque: red-roofed whitewashed houses, pretty plazas, cascading bougainvillaea, and narrow, cobbled streets twist up and down the steep hills.

The town of Taxco, an interesting place in itself, offers the most exquisite silver products in the country. Beyond the few sights, the way to enjoy Taxco is simply to wander the streets, nosing about in platerías and stopping occasionally for a drink.


Taxco is known for its silver © S and S Imaging/Shutterstock

2. Go birdwatching at Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve

Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve is a huge, stunning coastal nature reserve. Here you'll find ecosystems ranging from the tropical forest through fresh- and saltwater marshes to the barrier reefs. Wildlife of every sort lives here, but it’s especially good for birdwatching. This is a great place to take in the natural beauty of Mexico.

Mangrove tree in the Caribbean Sea in the Sian Kaan Biosphere Reserve near Tulum, Mexico © Jess Kraft/Shutterstock

Mangrove tree in the Caribbean Sea in the Sian Kaan Biosphere Reserve © Jess Kraft/Shutterstock

3. Try tequila or mezcal

Mexico’s own deservedly most famous liquor is tequila, made from the agave or maguey plant, of which there are hundreds of labels. There are also some other liquors made from different varieties of maguey plants, most notably mezcal and pulque.

What better way to end a night of drinking than indulging in Mexican street food? Don't miss our guide to the best Mexican food.

Tequila, blue agave field

Trying tequila is one of the best things to do in Mexico© T photography/Shutterstock

4. See the ancient Bonampak murals

Bonampak, shrouded in the forest, is quite small compared to the great Maya sites. However, is of huge importance. In one building, the one and only complete set of possibly hundreds of Maya mural paintings that have survived the ravages of the centuries.

In vivid colour and detail, the murals show ancient Mayan civilisation. Seeing the Bonampak murals is one of the best things to do in Mexico.

Planning a trip but on a budget? See our list of the 20 cheapest places to travel.

Bonampak is an ancient Maya's city. Chiapas. Mexico © AntonBkrd/Shutterstock

Bonampak murals, Mexico © AntonBkrd/Shutterstock

5. Enjoy the Baja beaches

A drive down the Sea of Cortés coast around Bahía Concepción is one of the best things to do in Mexico. All along the coast, you’ll find turquoise waters and white-sand beaches.

Most towns in Baja California Sur offer fantastic opportunities for diving, fishing and kayaking. Bahía Concepción, Loreto, La Paz and the remote settlements on the East Cape are the standouts among them. The blue-green waters, tranquil bays and white-sand beaches are spellbinding and relatively undeveloped.

Ready to explore the best beaches Mexico has to offer? Don't miss our guide to the best beaches in Mexico.


The stunning Baja Beaches © Shutterstock

6. Go whale watching

Each year the grey whale migration attracts an estimated 250,000 visitors to Baja California. The whales’ migratory route runs the length of the Pacific seaboard, from Baja to the Bering Sea and back; this is a round trip of some 20,000km – the longest recorded migration undertaken by any mammal.

The migration begins as the days shorten and the pack ice thickens, with the majority of the whales arriving in January and February, though they can be observed here from December to April. Whale sharks and sea turtles can also often be seen.


Grey whales, whale sharks and sea turtles make the list of Mexico's best wildlife to see © Andrea Izzotti/Shutterstock

7. Visit the megacity of Mexico City

Home to more than 25 million people, Mexico City is one of the world's true megacities. First-time visitors cannot fail to be impressed by the city, occupying a shallow mountain bowl at over 2,400m above sea level.

Life here is equal parts laid back, edgy and cosmopolitan. The city's sheer size can be overwhelming – so deciding what to base yourself on can prove crucial. The eternal heart of the city, the capital’s main plaza is surrounded by its cathedral and the ruins of Aztec Tenochtitlán. Visiting Mexico City is one of the best things to do in Mexico.

Planning a trip? Don't miss our guide to where to stay in Mexico City.


Mexico City, the capital of a diverse country © Shutterstock

8. Witness the ancient ritual of Voladores de Papantla

Although the full significance of the dance of the voladores has been lost over time, it has survived much as the earliest chroniclers reported it, largely because the Spanish thought of it as a sport rather than a pagan rite.

Their famous “dance” involves five “flying men,” dressed in bird-like costumes. With ropes attached to one leg, four of the men, representing the cardinal points, launch themselves backwards in a kind of slow bungee-jump from the top of a 32-meter (105ft) pole.

Papantla flyers perform their show in the magical town of Tequila Jalisco © Jose de Jesus Churion Del/Shutterstock

Papantla flyers perform their show © Jose de Jesus Churion Del/Shutterstock

9. Relax at the white sand beaches of Tulum

Visiting Tulum is one of the best things to do in Mexico for several reasons. First, it’s one of the most picturesque of all the ancient Maya sites.

Second, Tulum offers one of the best beaches in the world, dotted with lodging options that range from bare-bones to ultra-swank. And lastly, it's a booming town and a real population centre. At any rate, this Quintana Roo city is worth a visit.

Tulum, Mayan ruins, Mexico © DC_Aperture/Shutterstock

Mayan Ruins Besides Caribbean Sea © DC_Aperture/Shutterstock

10. Visit the rural capital of Valladolid

Valladolid, in the Yucatan peninsula, exudes the unpretentious attitude of a rural capital. The area caters to the farmers and ranchers who live nearby, and the village women who come here to sell their hand-embroidered huipiles and other crafts.

Take a refreshing dip in one of the best cenotes in Mexico, one with the roots of a huge alamo tree stretching down into it. Or try traditional Yucatecan food, as there are many excellent places to eat.

Samula cenote, Mexico © lunamarina/Shutterstock

Valladolid's sink holes and other highlights © lunamarina/Shutterstock

11. Explore Mexican culture at Museo Frida Kahlo

Politics, art and national identity combine at the home of Frida Kahlo. The Museo Frida Kahlo is just a few minutes' walk from the centre of Coyoacán. The appropriately named Blue House was the Kahlos’ family home and this is where Frida was born and spent most of her life, sporadically with her husband Diego Rivera, who donated the house to the nation shortly after her death.

Frida's portrait ©

Frida Kahlo's portrait ©

12. Marvel at the ancient ruins of Palenque

An ancient Mayan city-state, Palenque was at its height in the seventh century under Pacal the Great. Its appeal lies in the quality of its architecture and sculpture. 90 per cent of the settlement still lies buried under the jungle that crawled back over the site after it was abandoned around 1120 AD.

Visiting these incredibly interesting ancient ruins is one of the best ways to learn about Mexican history. This UNESCO world heritage site is one of the best things to do in Mexico.

Mayan ruins in Palenque, Mexico © Shutterstock

Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico © Madrugada Verde/Shutterstock

13. Listen to Mariachi

You’ll find mariachi played the length and breadth of the country but most notably in Mexico City’s Plaza Garibaldi. Hundreds of competing mariachi bands gather here in the evenings, all in their tight, silver-spangled charro finery and vast sombreros, to play for anyone who’ll pay them.

A typical group consists of two or four violins, a brass section of three trumpeters standing some way back so as not to drown out the others, three or four men on guitars of varying sizes and a vocalist.

Mariachi on streets colonial Campeche city, Mexico © javarman/Shutterstock

Mariachi on streets colonial city of Campeche © javarman/Shutterstock

14. Head into Mexico city's National museum

An enormous collection of artefacts from all the major pre-Hispanic cultures. the Museo Nacional de Antropología is one of the world's greatest museums.

Every hall has its treasures. Exhibits in the marvellous Sala Mexica, on Aztec art and history, include the famous Sun Stone or Aztec Calendar, and a fascinating model of Teotihuacán. The Culturas del Golfo hall has two astonishing Olmec basalt heads from San Lorenzo in Veracruz, and the Sala Maya has a model of the tomb of King Pakal from Palenque. Even the less celebrated halls have superb ceramics.

To discover more about the Olmec culture we recommend you visit Tabasco, this Mexican region was under the radar for a long time but has plenty of interesting sites and fascinating things to do.


Museo Nacional de Antropología, Mexico © Mikiko/Shutterstock

15. Enjoy nightlife in Playa del Carmen

Once a soporific fishing village where travellers camped out en route to Isla Cozumel, Playa del Carmen (often called simply “Playa”) is now a nightlife hot spot. Mexico City’s elite pop in, as do day-trippers from Cancún and passengers from cruise ships docked on Cozumel. As a result, the town’s main centre of activity.

Playa del Carmen is heaving with restaurants of every kind, and even the traditional Mexican places stay open late. Take a street food tour while here,


Playa del Carmen © DisobeyArt/Shutterstock

16. Feel the carnival atmosphere in Mexico City

Take in the carnival atmosphere and colours while being punted around the canals and serenaded by mariachi bands. Take a boat tour of the traditional floating gardens in the Mexico City suburb of Xochimilco. The carnivals in Mexico City will also appeal to your little ones if you're visiting Mexico on a family trip.

Get some feel for the ancient city and its water-borne commerce, thriving markets and dazzling colour. You'll find here among other things, amazing food — such as tacos al pastor.

Xochimilco, Mexico © Shutterstock

Xochimilco is great place to explore Mexican cuisine © Shutterstock

17. Find amazing things at Oaxaca markets

Oaxaca is indigenous country par excellence. Though the Zapotec and Mixtec indigenous peoples dominate the state, 16 other linguistically and culturally distinct groups live here too. No other Mexican state is as diverse.

Any market in Mexico is a feast for the senses, but Oaxaca’s are especially vibrant, with everything from fresh produce to some of the country’s most imaginative textiles. Teotitlán del Valle is an Oaxaca city famous for its weavings and textiles of indigenous cultures and is a great place to start.


There are many interesting things to buy at Mexic's marcados © Tati Nova photo Mexico/Shutterstock

18. See the incredible Pyramid of the Sun, Teotihuacán

Outside of Mexico City, is one of the most incredible things to see in Mexico: the immense ancient city of Teotihuacán. Known as “the place where men become gods," the ruins reveal a city planned and built on a massive scale.

At its height, this must have been the most imposing city in pre-Hispanic America, with a population thought to have been around 150,000. Take a free walking tour of the area, or do as many others and opt for a hot air balloon ride over the ruins.

Want to experience Mexico, but without the hassle of booking and planning? Our Mexico Tomb Raider Experience trip offers you the experience of seeing many of the ruins that Mexico has to offer up close and in person.


Teotihuacán, Mexico © Rafal Kubiak/Shutterstock

19. Watch Acapulco’s cliff divers

A dazzling display of skill and courage takes place four times a day in Acapulco, when the resident clavadistas throw themselves from the rocky cliffs of La Quebrada – with a somersault or two thrown in for good measure.

Acapulco’s famed clavadistas (cliff divers) have been plunging some 35m from the heights of La Quebrada into a rocky channel since the early 1920s. They time their leap to coincide with an incoming wave. Mistimed, there’s not enough water to stop them from hitting the bottom.


Acapulco’s cliff divers © Ramunas Bruzas/Shutterstock

20. Take a day trip to a Charreada

If bullfights aren’t for you, head to a charreada (rodeo) instead. The ultimate charro (cowboy) event, traditional charreadas make a brilliant spectator sport. Charreadas are mainly seen in northern Mexico and are as spectacular for their style and costume. This is a great way to experience Mexican culture.

Prefer to leave planning and booking to experts? Our tailor-made service allows you to travel without the hassle. Our Mexico's Nature and Beaches trip will take you through the Yucatan peninsula. Explore the nature and wildlife of Mexico from sea turtles to whale sharks.


Charreada © Leonardo Emiliozzi Ph/Shutterstock

21. Ride the copper canyon train

Riding on bridges over yawning chasms, viewing awesome scenery and age-old settlements – welcome aboard the Copper Canyon Railroad. Taking a ride on the world's most scenic railroad is one of the best things to do in Mexico and see first-hand the natural wonder of the surrounding canyons (which dwarf the Grand Canyon in size).

The train ride from Chihuahua to Los Mochis takes anywhere from 12 to 15 hours with short stops along the way to enjoy the splendid views – from alpine forests and rushing rivers to dusty gorges.


Train in Barranca del Cobre, Copper Canyon, Mexico © wayak/Shutterstock

22. Discover the archaeological sites of El Tajín

With numerous substantial structures spread over an extensive site, El Tajín is by far the most important and impressive archaeological site on the Gulf coast. It divides broadly into two areas: Tajín Viejo, and Tajín Chico.

The museum, by the entrance, has a model of the site worth examining before you venture in, along with a collection of the more delicate stonework salvaged from the ruins.


archaeological sites of El Tajín © Noradoa/Shutterstock

23. Explore the Mayan city of Calakmul

Deep in the heart of the jungle, this is the largest known archaeological zone in Mesoamerica. The ruined Maya city of Calakmul is one of the best places for contemplating the culture’s architectural legacy. The view of the natural beauty of the rainforest from the top is stunning, On a clear day, you can even glimpse the tip of the Danta pyramid at El Mirador in Guatemala.

Dreaming of seeing the world's most ancient sites? See our guide to the great lost cities of the world.


Mayan city of Calakmul © Rainer Lesniewski/Shutterstock

24. Learn about Mexican history through the Rivera murals

A visit to Mexico City's first Congress chamber is one of the best things to do in Mexico. Here is where astonishing murals by Diego Rivera adorn the main staircase and first-floor gallery.

Painted between 1929 and 1935, these murals dramatically illustrate the history of this amazing country. The murals depict the pre-Hispanic past through the horrors of the Conquest to Independence and the Mexican Revolution.


Diego Rivera © vkilikov/Shutterstock

25. Visit the colonial city of Zacatecas

Almost 2500m above sea level and crammed into a narrow gully between two hills, the old silver town of Zacatecas is overflowing with ornate colonial architecture and intriguing museums. You'll find here fine stone buildings makes this another city that seems plucked straight out of classical Spain.


Colonial town of Zacatecas © stacyarturogi/Shutterstock

26. Go scuba diving in Cozumel

Mexico has fantastic diving opportunities. The coral reefs of Isla Cozumel are no exception. The reefs around this island, just off the coast of Playa del Carmen, are some of the best places in the world for snorkelling and scuba diving.

In the 1960s French oceanographer Jacques Cousteau made it known that as well as pristine beaches, the island had some of the world’s richest offshore reefs. Cozumel is considered one of the best diving destinations in Latin America and offers many amazing activities.


Cozumel reef © Shutterstock

27. Conquer the hillside city of San Miguel de Allende

Set on a steep hillside overlooking the Río Laja and dominated by red rooftops and domed churches, San Miguel de Allende is the most hauntingly beautiful town in the Bajío. This colonial town remains wonderfully preserved and still serves as the spiritual centre of the Mexican community.

Seen at dawn, its cobbled, hilly streets are quite unlike anything else in the region. There are few major sights, but the whole town (which has been a national monument since 1926) is crowded with old seigniorial mansions and graceful churches.

San Miguel De Allende street in Mexico © Shutterstock

San Miguel De Allende Street in Mexico © Shutterstock

28. See the great ancient urban centre of Chichén Itzá

Chichén Itzá is one of the great urban centres of the Maya-Toltec civilisation that existed roughly from 900–1400 AD. Its pyramids and observatories survive as monuments to a people whose mastery of astronomy defies belief.

Each spring and autumn equinox, the shadow of the sun forms a wriggling serpent on the steps of the Temple of Kukulkan. This is one of the most famous of the Maya sites. See the sprawling ruins and complex carvings over a couple of days.

Chichen itza sunset, Mexico © Shutterstock

Chichén Itzá sunset, Mexico © Shutterstock

This list could truly go on. There are countless fantastic things to do in Mexico. Ready to start planning your trip? Check out the Rough Guide to Mexico. Read more about the best time to go and the best places to visit in Mexico.

If you prefer to plan and book your trip to Mexico without any effort and hassle, use the expertise of our local travel experts to make sure your trip will be just like you dream it to be.

We may earn a commission when you click on links in this article, but this doesn’t influence our editorial standards. We only recommend services that we genuinely believe will enhance your travel experiences.

Top image: Death Day © Shutterstock

Andy Turner

written by
Andy Turner

updated 14.02.2024

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