Best time to visit Mexico

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When is the best time to visit Mexico?

The best time to visit Mexico depends on which part of the country you are visiting and your planned itinerary. While the rainy season is technically June to October, in the north of the country hardly any rain falls, while central Mexico tends to only experience heavy afternoon showers. The weather in Mexico is stormy from September to mid-October, when you can wave goodbye to beach days as heavy rain lashes the coast. December to April are the driest months across most of the country, though you can expect higher prices and crowded resorts. November is probably the best month to visit Mexico, with the rains over, the land still fresh and the peak season not yet begun.

Climate of Mexico

Summer, from June to October, is in theory the rainy season in Mexico, but just how wet it is varies wildly from place to place. In the heart of the country you can expect a heavy but short-lived downpour virtually every afternoon; in the north hardly any rain falls, ever. Chiapas is the wettest state, with many minor roads washed out in the autumn, and in the south and low-lying coastal areas summer is stickily humid too. Along the beaches, September to mid-October is hurricane season – you’ll usually get wet weather, choppy seas and mosquitoes, if not a full-on tropical storm. Though peak tourist season is December through to April in the resorts, when the climate of Mexico is dry and balmy, mountain areas can get very cold then; in fact, nights in the mountains can be extremely cold at any time of year.

Best month to visit Mexico

November is probably the best time to travel to Mexico, when the rain is clearing up, the landscapes are lush and green, and the streets are fairly quiet. The traditional tourist season hits in late winter, and in the big resorts like Acapulco and Cancún, the months from December through to April are the busiest. Prices soar and accommodation is booked up weeks, if not months, ahead.

When to visit Mexico in winter

In this section, we’ll look at when to go to Mexico by season.

Late winter is the traditional tourist season in Mexico, so don’t expect any bargains or last-minute bookings. Reserve a room well in advance, especially if you’re hoping to stay at a coastal resort over Christmas or New Year. While festive celebrations are in full force, beware, as loads of people are on the move during this time and transport is booked solid for weeks ahead.

Visiting Mexico in December — February

If you can bear booking months in advance and stomach the sky-high prices, Christmas is a major holiday in Mexico. Gringo influence is heavy nowadays, with Santa Claus and Christmas trees, but the Mexican festival remains distinct in many ways, with a much stronger religious element. One of the more bizarre Christmas events takes place in Oaxaca, where there is a public display of Nativity cribs and other sculptures made of radishes.

Carnaval is one of the biggest fiestas in Mexico, and while the dates change, it usually falls in February or early March. Expect a dizzying mix of costumes, parades, eating and dancing, most spectacularly in Veracruz and Mazatlán. San Miguel on Cozumel also vigorously celebrates the event, though the city of Mazatlán claims to have the world’s third-largest Mardi Gras party, after Rio and New Orleans.

When to visit Mexico in spring

Easter is an important event in Mexico, so you can anticipate plenty of local celebrations. However, transport is often disrupted as virtually the whole country is on the move, and you will definitely need to plan ahead if travelling. Many places close for the whole of Holy Week, and certainly from Thursday to Sunday, so this is not the best time to travel around Mexico.

Visiting Mexico in March — May

During Easter, both small villages and large cities come to life as pilgrims converge on churches, and people re-enact the Passion of Christ. The most famous staging is in Iztapalapa, outside Mexico City, where the event involves a cast of thousands, buckets of fake blood and more than a million spectators.

May (and June) sees some of the hottest weather in Mexico, with peak temperatures in much of the country.

When to visit Mexico in summer

While the rainy season falls over the summer, this doesn’t have to disrupt your plans. In the north of the country, for instance, hardly any rain falls, while central Mexico usually experiences a short downpour in the afternoon. On the plus side, prices are lower and cities not so crowded.

Visiting Mexico in June — August

June to August are usually rainy months in Mexico, especially on the Pacific coast, though it will be drier in the north of the country. Accommodation prices tend to rise in tourist hot spots in July and August, when local and foreign holiday goers descend in their droves.

When to visit Mexico in fall

Autumn is not the best time of year to visit Mexico’s beaches, as hurricane season means wet weather, choppy seas and mosquitoes, if not a full-on tropical storm. Don’t let this dampen your spirits if you’re heading inland though, as early November is when to go to Mexico for its iconic Day of the Dead celebrations.

Visiting Mexico in September — November

September is peak hurricane season, so you can expect intense rainfall on the coast, if not thundering storms. This turbulent period of weather in Mexico peters out by mid-October, and by November the rains have stopped and the landscape is at its most lush.

If you’re visiting Mexico City or Guanajuato over September, your visit may fall on Independence Day (Sept 16), which marks the historic day in 1810 when Manuel Hidalgo y Costilla issued the Grito (Cry of Independence) from his parish church in Dolores – now Dolores Hidalgo. While Guanajuato remains the centre of commemoration, you’ll also find the day celebrated in the capital with mass recitation of the Grito in the Zócalo, followed by fireworks, music and dancing.

However, for many, November is the best time of year to visit Mexico as this is when the Day of the Dead falls (Nov 1–2). Offerings are made to ancestors’ souls, frequently with picnics and all-night vigils at their graves, and people build shrines in their homes to honour their departed relatives. Sweetmeats and papier-mâché statues of dressed-up skeletons give proceedings a rather gothic air. Head for cemeteries to see the really spectacular stuff, or to Pátzcuaro.

Fiestas in Mexico

You may like to decide when to go to Mexico around the country’s vibrant fiesta programme. Everywhere, from the remotest indigenous village to the most sophisticated city suburb, devotes at least one day annually to partying. Even the tiniest village in Mexico has an annual fiesta. They usually last at least a couple of days and often involve some blend of rodeos, bullfights, dancing, fried snacks, carnival rides, fireworks and processions around the church. Usually it’s in honour of the local saint’s day, but many fiestas have pre-Christian origins, and any excuse – from harvest celebrations to the coming of the rains – will do.

  • New Year, Jan 1. Still largely an occasion to spend with family, the actual hour being celebrated with the eating of grapes.
  • Twelfth Night (Epiphany, Reyes), Jan 6. Presents are traditionally given on this, the last day of Christmas, when the biblical Magi are believed to have arrived bearing gifts. Nowadays, things are shifting into line with American custom, and more and more people are exchanging gifts on December 25 instead.
  • Ortiz Tirado Music Festival, late Jan. A festival of classical music held annually in Alamos, Sonora, in honour of opera singer Alfonso Ortiz Tirado (who died in 1960), draws leading classical musicians and singers from across the world.
  • Carnaval, usually Feb or Mar. The last week of taking one’s pleasures before the forty-day abstinence of Lent, celebrated throughout the Roman Catholic world, but is at its most exuberant in Latin America. Celebrations work their way up to a climax on the last day, Mardi Gras (Shrove Tuesday).
  • Festival Internacional de Guitarra, late March or early April. A celebration of guitar music held annually in Morelia, and attended by musicians from around the world.
  • Semana Santa (Holy Week), moveable. The country’s biggest holiday, beginning on Palm Sunday and finishing a week later on Easter Sunday. Still a deeply religious festival in Mexico, it celebrates the resurrection of Christ, and is also an occasion to venerate the Virgin Mary, with processions bearing her image now a hallmark of the celebrations.
  • Cinco de Mayo, May 5. Commemorating the 1862 Battle of Puebla, it’s a public holiday in Mexico, but is actually celebrated more enthusiastically in the US, where many Gringos have come to believe that it’s Mexico’s equivalent of the US’s July 4 (think theme parties involving sombreros, nachos and tequila). In Mexico it’s not such a big deal, except in Puebla, where it is celebrated with an exuberant fiesta.
  • Día de San Juan (St John’s Day), June 24. Celebrating the birth of the biblical St John the Baptist, but also handily close to the summer solstice, this is celebrated with bonfires, fairs, charreadas (rodeos) and sometimes water throwing in towns and villages nationwide.
  • Día de Santiago (St James’s Day) July 25. An opportunity for a fiesta in many parts of the country, most notably in Chiapas, where big celebrations are held at San Cristóbal de las Casas.
  • Día de la Asunción (Assumption Day) Aug 15. This is the day when the Virgin Mary is believed to have ascended to heaven, and although it isn’t a public holiday, it’s celebrated around the country, most notably at Oxkutzcab and Izamal in Yucatán, and Cholula in Puebla State.
  • Independence Day, Sept 16. While Easter and Carnaval are popular, this one is more official, marking the historic day in 1810 when Manuel Hidalgo y Costilla issued the Grito (Cry of Independence) from his parish church in Dolores, now Dolores Hidalgo, Guanajuato, which is still the centre of commemoration. The day is also marked in the capital with mass recitation of the Grito in the Zócalo, followed by fireworks, music and dancing. Nevertheless, in some ways it’s more solemn than the religious festivals.
  • Festival Internacional de Santa Lucía, end of Sept and beginning of Oct. Formerly the Festival Cultural of Monterrey’s Barrio Antiguo, showcasing local rock bands and other eclectic musicians, this festival has been reborn, having outgrown the confines of the Barrio Antiguo to become a citywide event. It’s now Mexico’s third-biggest music festival after Guanajuato’s Festival Cervantino and Alamos’ Festival Ortiz Tirado.
  • Festival Internacional Cervantino, mid-Oct. Guanajuato’s big, two-and-a-half-week music fest, dating back to the 1970s. Every October, it brings together Mexican marimba legends, French jazz artists, choral music from England and international dance troupes.
  • The Day of the Dead (All Saints’/Souls’ Day, and its eve) Nov 1–2. This event, for many, determines when to visit Mexico. Offerings are made to ancestors’ souls, frequently with picnics and all-night vigils at their graves, and people build shrines in their homes to honour their departed relatives. Sweetmeats and papier-mâché statues of dressed-up skeletons give proceedings a rather gothic air. Head for cemeteries to see the really spectacular stuff, or to Pátzcuaro.
  • Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe, Dec 12. Celebrations everywhere, and a huge day for pilgrims at the Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe in Mexico City, home of Mexico’s most important Virgin (a manifestation, that is, of the biblical Virgin Mary), who appeared on this day in 1551.
  • Christmas, Dec 25. Though you can expect Santa Claus and Christmas trees galore, the Mexican festival remains distinct in many ways, with a much stronger religious element (virtually every home has a Nativity crib).

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Andy Turner
8/29/2020
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