A guide to Mexico’s best pueblos magicos (magic towns)

Laura French

written by
Laura French

updated 06.06.2024

While the likes of Cancun, Pacific Puerto Vallarta and Mexico City might take most of the limelight, Mexico is home to a plethora of postcard-pretty towns that don’t always get the glory. To highlight some of the best, the country’s Ministry of Tourism designates select spots as Mexico's pueblos magicos (or magic towns). Chosen for their outstanding natural beauty, cultural riches and history, these range from popular spots like San Cristóbal de las Casas, to tiny treasures you’ve probably never heard of.

If you’re in the market for a magical Mexican experience, our roundup of the best Mexican pueblos magicos has you covered. For more information, contact our Mexico travel experts, browse our ready-made, customisable Mexico itineraries and find out how to get to Mexico.

1. San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas

Candy-hued houses, cobblestone streets, colourful churches and a sweeping mountain backdrop come together in San Cristóbal de las Casas. One of Mexico’s most picturesque colonial towns, this has been a pueblo magico since 2003. 

Set in the highlands of Chiapas, which is known for its large indigenous population, there’s a fusion of old and new here. While artisanal markets showcase the region’s textile heritage, an excellent food scene spans local, hole-in-the-wall taco joints to high-end restaurants. It’s happily affordable, too.

With its cluster of tumbling waterfalls and lagoons outside the town, the Cascades El Chiflon is well worth a visit. Meanwhile, the Sumidero Canyon is spectacular, with water carving its way through towering, tree-carpeted cliffs. 

If that wasn’t enough, the Mayan ruins of Palenque are also only a six-hour drive away — close, in Mexican standards.

Enchanted by the sound of San Cristóbal de las Casa? Check out our Mexico’s Churros and Chiapas trip. Taking you from magnificent Mexico City to the Chipapas, visiting one of Mexico’s best pueblos magicos has never been easier. 

Mayan ruins in Palenque, Mexico © Shutterstock

Mayan ruins in Palenque, Mexico — within reach of one of Mexico's best pueblos magico © Shutterstock

2. Tepoztlán, Morelos

Around an hour’s bus ride from Mexico City, this atmospheric, spiritual mountain town was one of the country’s first three pueblos magicos for very good reason. 

On weekends, its maze of cobbled streets overflow with market stalls selling everything from candles, ceramics and clothes to mole sauces, local liqueurs and street food. Meanwhile, mariachi bands entertain hordes of Mexican tourists, many of whom flock from the capital. 

It’s also incredibly scenic and a great spot for hikers. If you fancy a challenge, climb the rocky, forested steps to reach the ruins of El Tepozteco. This ancient, hilltop Aztec temple offers spectacular views over the surrounding national park. 

As such, this pueblo magicos delivers a heady mix of unforgettable experiences.

Intrigued by ancient Mexican culture? You’ll love our customisable Magnificent Mexico and Mayan Treasures trip? It includes San Cristóbal de las Casa, and a host of unique sites, among them the Palenque Ruins and Chichén Itzá.

 Tepoztlan magical town in Morelos, Mexico © Shutterstock

 Tepoztlan pueblos magicos in Morelos, Mexico © Shutterstock

3. Mazunte, Oaxaca

If you find yourself in the surf-friendly, Pacific coast beach town of Puerto Escondido, chances are you’ll hear talk of its nearest pueblo magico. Namely, Mazunte

Whizzing over to this bohemian beach town by moped has become a popular pastime for travellers in the area. That said, biking to this particular pueblos magicos is best reserved for the experienced — not all the roads are paved. 

Alternatively, you can take a taxi or book a tour, many of which combine it with the nearby, chilled-out resort of Zipolite, which is even quieter. 

Once you get to Mazunte, you’ll see the charm — a rustic, sandy road scattered with boutiques and local restaurants, with a wide sweep of powder-soft sand flanked by topaz sea. 

At sunset, hiking to the rocky cliffs at Punta Cometa to see the sky blaze above the water has become something of a pilgrimage. Tip: it’s best avoided on weekends, when it gets particularly busy.

Like the sound of a scenic coast trip that takes in wildlife, water-sports and beautiful beaches? Browse our customisable Oaxacan Coast Adventure.

You might also want to read up on the best beaches in Mexico, and take inspiration from our Los Cabos self-drive trip.

Mazunte, state of Oaxaca, Mexico © Shutterstock

Mazunte, Oaxaca, Mexico © Shutterstock

4. Sayulita, Nayarit

Mexico is chock-full of idyllic beach towns, with Sayulita — located just north of Puerto Vallarta on the west coast — among its most delightful.

Once a sleepy fishing village, Sayulita has become something of a hotspot for surfers and yogis, with brightly coloured, confetti-draped streets, galleries showcasing indigenous Huichol art, and a laid-back hippie vibe. 

It’s also a hotspot for whale-watching, with humpbacks prowling the coast from December to April. 

Into wildlife? Discover the best places to see animals in Mexico.

Aerial view of Sayulita Mexico's main beach © Shutterstock

Sayulita, Mexico © Shutterstock

5. Taxco, Guerrero 

Around three hours south of Mexico city, the postcard-pretty hillside town of Taxco is the only pueblo magico in the state of Guerrero, and it doesn’t disappoint. 

Alongside kaleidoscopically-colourful architecture, winding cobbled alleys and one of the most elaborate churches in the country, Santa Prisca, Taxco is a hub for silversmithing. This comes courtesy of its long-standing silver mining heritage. 

Today you can tour several of its disused mines and browse its slew of silver shops, or join one of its many festivals. 

For example, come in late November or early December to witness the annual Feria Nacional de la Plata, when artisans display their best wares in a national contest.

Planning to go it alone around Mexico? Arm yourself with our Mexico travel tips

Taxco is a small city located in the Mexican state of Guerrero © Shutterstock

Taxco in the Mexican state of Guerrero © Shutterstock

6. Tequila, Jalisco 

If you’re into tequila, you can’t come to Mexico and not visit its home. Only bottles that come from here and select surrounding areas can take the name, so you know you’re getting the authentic stuff in this pueblo magico. In fact, the petrol-blue agave fields here have been given UNESCO status. 

Located in the western state of Jalisco, it’s home to plenty of distilleries – including the famous Jose Cuervo, whose namesake, 19th-century-style train offers tequila-filled tours from the nearby city of Guadalajara. 

Back in the town, the Plaza Principal is well worth checking out. Linger a while to catch the Danza de las Voladores. This ancient Mesoamerican ritual sees performers spin around a towering wooden pole 100 feet in the air.

Love local culinary experiences? Tequila aside, eating and drinking in Mexico has a whole lot going for it, as revealed in our thrilling 7-day trip plan, The Rough Guide to food-lover's Mexico.


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

Papantla flyers perform in Tequila pueblos magicos © Jose de Jesus Churion Del/Shutterstock

7. Bacalar, Quintana Roo 

The Riviera Maya might have a tendency to draw the crowds, but Bacalar, set on the shores of a crystalline lagoon, remains something of a well-kept secret. That’s in spite of the fact it’s only two-and-a-half hours south of Tulum.

Known as the Lagoon of the Seven Colours thanks to its rainbow of blues, this freshwater lake is a hotspot for swimming, diving, snorkelling, kayaking and sailing. Boat tours are on hand to show you the likes of Isla Pajaros (Bird Island) and Canal de Los Pirates (Pirate’s Channel). 

The pueblos magicos itself has a relaxed, sleepy pace, with a growing street art scene and the 18th-century fort among the draws. You’ll find several cenotes close by, too, including the aptly-named, cobalt-blue Cenote Azul.

To take in a stack of these sights and experiences, consider booking our customisable Yucatán Off the Beaten Path trip.

Cenote Azul in Bacalar Mexico © Shutterstock

Cenote Azul, Bacalar, Mexico © Shutterstock

8. Capulálpam de Méndez, Oaxaca

Tucked away in the heart of Oaxaca's Sierra Norte mountains, Capulálpam de Méndez might not normally get the limelight – but that’s exactly what brings the magic to this tiny Zapotec settlement. 

Home to a population of just 1600, here manicured buildings in lemon-yellow, peach, topaz and burgundy colour its streets and main plaza. Meanwhile, the honey-stone temple of San Mateo, with its elaborate gold altarpiece, is well worth a visit. 

While day-long tours and multi-day treks combining the town with other mountain villages are available from the city, it remains firmly off the main tourist trail. 

As a result, you’re likely to have its polished cobbled streets all to yourself – a true pueblo magico if ever there was one.

Capulalpam de Mendez village in the highlands of Oaxaca, Mexico © Shutterstock

Capulalpam de Mendez village in the highlands of Oaxaca, Mexico © Shutterstock

Chances are, if you’re interested in Mexico’s best pueblos magicos, you also love off-beat, immersive travel. So, you might want to read up on the coolest places to visit in Mexico, and get The Rough Guide to Mexico to start planning your trip.

Don’t fancy the faff of planning? No problem! Browse our customisable Mexico itineraries

Laura French

written by
Laura French

updated 06.06.2024

Laura is an award-winning freelance travel writer with a passion for outdoor adventure and a soft spot for all things Latin America. She’s lived in Barcelona, Paris and London, and travelled extensively in South America and Southeast Asia. She was also Deputy Features Editor for Travel Weekly for five years, and has written for Wanderlust, National Geographic Traveller, the i, Culture Trip, GQ, Metro, Suitcase, Lonely Planet, The Telegraph and more.

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