56 Unmissable Mexico Bucket List Places & Activities!

Mexico bucket list

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Visiting Mexico? Add the below items to your Mexico bucket list and see how many you can get through!

Last year, I intended to spend a few months in Mexico City as a launching point for my solo travels in Mexico. Flash forward six months and I don’t have any plans to leave. In fact, my Mexico bucket list just gets longer and longer.

Mexico is the third-largest country in Latin America, only beaten in size by Brazil and Argentina. When you look at Mexico on a map beside its tiny neighbours Guatemala and Belize, it’s hardly surprising there are so many things to see and do.

This list comprises some of my favourite experiences in Mexico and leaves me with some future inspo to keep ticking off. Enjoy!

MEXICO QUICK LINKS

Accommodation: Booking.com / Hostelworld

Copy of Lonely Planet Mexico

Food tours: GetYourGuide / Viator

Supper clubs: EatWith

South & Central Mexico bucket list

I wanted to create this Mexico bucket list because so many travellers tick boxes nearby Cancun, missing much of the country. Central and Southern Mexico particularly are full of bustling cities, charming UNESCO towns, natural wonders and tantalising cuisine that shouldn’t be missed. These include:

1. Hierve El Agua, Oaxaca

One of my biggest ‘wow’ moments in Mexico was standing at the edge of Hierve El Agua, dipping my feet in icy blue and green pools, looking out over endless forest and soaring eagles.

Hierve el agua bucket list mexico

Hierve El Agua is often mistaken for a waterfall which is understandable as it looks like one. It’s actually a series of rock formations surrounded by freshwater pools. These get very busy with tour groups from late morning so I’d recommend visiting early if you can.

The serene, secluded location of Hierve El Agua is another reason to visit. Make the 70km pilgrimage from Oaxaca City by taking a day tour, hiring a car or catching public transport. Remember to bring a bathing suit so you can swim in the pools.

Read next: Hierve El Agua from Oaxaca, Mexico

2. Visit Oaxaca City

Oaxaca refers to both Oaxaca City and Oaxaca state. This entry is all about Oaxaca City, somewhere most travellers to Mexico instantly fall in love with. The cobbled streets and colourful colonial buildings are charming, while the many galleries, art exhibitions and street art will keep you busy for days.

Beetle car Oaxaca Mexico

Oaxaca is a foodie paradise known for mole, chocolate and mezcal. There are several markets like Mercado 20 de Noviembre where you can sample rich, chocolatey mole with chicken enchiladas. Another popular dish is tlayudas: Mexican ‘pizzas’ comprising a crispy base and ingredients like Oaxaca cheese, meat and frijoles (black bean paste). Foodies shouldn’t miss Oaxaca from their Mexico bucket list!

3. Hike to Zapotec villages, Oaxaca

hiking in oaxaca mexico bucket list

Don’t miss hiking between Pueblos Mancomunados villages while visiting Oaxaca. The 8 Mancommunados villages within southern Mexican states offer the chance to learn about Zapotec cultures and support ecotourism.

Many people don’t know but there are 68 indigenous languages spoken in Mexico. Not only will you hear a few when exploring villages in Oaxaca, but you’ll soak up incredible views because the Pueblos Mancomunados are elevated in the mountains and surrounded by forest. Bring a jacket because it’s cold up there!

I took a trip with Coyote Aventuras; check out their bike trips around Oaxaca.

4. Eat and explore in Tepoztlan

Tepoztlan mexico

Just 1.5 hours from Mexico City is the charming pueblo magico of Tepoztlan, rumoured birthplace of the Aztec serpent god, Quetzalcoatl. While visiting, you can explore Tepoztlan’s culinary scene, shop for jewellery, spot street art, and hike through the forest to El Tepozteco, an ancient pyramid overlooking the region.

5. Help turtle hatchlings, Puerto Escondido

Turtle hatchlings Puerto Escondido

Puerto Escondido is a sleepy beach town on Mexico’s south-west coast. If Cancun sounds like your idea of hell, get down to Puerto Escondido before the rumoured international airport opens. There are plenty of almost-empty beaches to explore like Coral Beach.

The best thing I did in Puerto Escondido was help newly-born turtle hatchlings reach the ocean. I researched this long and hard as I didn’t want to promote or fund any animal cruelty. The conservation team who meet nightly (6pm) at Playa Bacocho ensure volunteers don’t touch turtles, plus all proceeds fund conservation efforts.

6. See luminous plankton, Puerto Escondido

During my Puerto Escondido trip, I headed to nearby Manialtepec Lagoon, a magical place that meets the ocean. As a result, luminous plankton (usually just found in saltwater) has made it into the lagoon.

Lalo Ecotours took us exploring the region by boat, keeping an eye out for wildlife. After watching sunset and roasting marshmallows on the beach, we whipped around the lagoon until luminous plankton started following the propellor. Then, we jumped in the dark water where it trailed our arms and legs. Such a crazy and unique experience!

7. Capture colourful Guanajuato

Guanajuato City colourful houses Mexico
Views from Guanajuato Mirador

Guanajuato City is the capital city of Guanajuato state. Like many cities in Mexico, it’s colonial and charming with a large church at its centre. What made Guanajuato stand out for me was its incredible panoramic views. Check out all the colour!

Almost every building in Guanajuato is painted a different sunny shade. The most famous viewpoint is the mirador at the Pipila monument. Alternatively, stay at Hostal Casa de Dante and you’ll have the same view from the balcony. This hostel is located just a short walk from the mirador so you don’t need to pay 60 pesos for the return cable car.

Related activity: Guanajuato walking tour

8. Guanajuato Mummy Museum

While I’d rate Guanajuato as worth a visit for the colourful views alone, another bizarre and unique activity is the Mummy Museum where you can see over 100 bodies mummified by the unique soil in the region, discovered when the cemetery ran out of space and started digging up graves. This is quite a disturbing addition to your Mexico bucket list, I’ll admit!

9. Swim in thermal spas in San Miguel de Allende

I enjoyed my time in San Miguel de Allende, central Mexico’s famed Canadian and American retirement hub but, for obvious reasons, didn’t find it the most authentic place. But it’s undeniably gorgeous!

Better yet, there are natural bubbling spas dotted around the countryside. Take a bus or taxi from San Miguel to La Gruta and enjoy the warm waters.

Related read: San Miguel transport guide & things to do

10. Ride the Tequila Express, Jalisco

Jose Cuervo Tequila Mexico
Tequila should on every Mexico bucket list

Famous Tequila town lies in Jalisco state and is best visited as a day trip from Guadalajara. No prizes for guessing which famous beverage is brewed here!

Riding the Jose Cuervo Express from Guadalajara to Tequila is bucket list-worthy but expensive, so I’ll also give you the point for visiting Tequila town. I took the public bus for 200 pesos return, saving around $80 USD on the iconic train. If you have the cash, you should definitely take the train which drinks in views of the agave fields while you drink in unlimited tequila.

For a mid-range option, take an organised Tequila and distillery tour with tastings from Guadalajara.

When you arrive in Tequila, you can take a brewery tour to learn about the beverage and sip it straight from the source. Explore the quaint but busy town during a day trip from Guadalajara.

11. Party in Puerto Vallarta

A natural next stop after Guadalajara is Puerto Vallarta in Jalisco state on the Western side of Mexico. This resort and small town with relaxing hotels lining the beautiful beachfront is just a stone’s throw from the lively suburbs.

It’s a popular hub for expats, which naturally makes the city extremely easy to navigate with signs and menus readily in English.

puerto vallarta

Puerto Vallarta is extremely LGBTQ+ friendly. From world-famous drag queen performances to dozens of gay bars, Puerto Vallarta is a colourful destination from the second you step off the plane (there’s an international airport right in Puerto Vallarta).

The top thing to do in PV is to eat, hands down. Hop on a taco tour with Vallarta Food Tours (ranked the best food tour IN THE WORLD), shop for authentic Huichol art at the numerous Indigenous shops around the city, and of course, relax on the beach!

Entry submitted by Kay from The Awkward Traveller.

12. Visit Morelia, Michoacán

Morelia is a lesser-visited destination for travellers due to the bad reputation that Michoacán has for drug-related crimes. Don’t let the media scare you. Morelia is a gorgeous Mexican city filled with some of the artisan markets, hot chocolates and historic buildings.

There are fireworks almost every weekend above the cathedral in the main square.

Colourful flags Morelia Mexico

I’d highly recommend taking a bus tour from the kiosk in the city centre. When you visit Morelia, be sure to check out Callejón del Romance (Alley of Romance). This alley is filled with colourful papel picado, fountains and flowers. As you wander, you’ll be able to read pieces of the poem ‘Romance of my City’ by Don Lucas Ortiz hidden on plaques throughout the alley. 

This entry was submitted by my friend April of Just Leaving Footprints. Check out her Morelia guide to plan your trip.

13. Tour Queretaro wine region

Queretaro wine region Mexico

Mexico as a wine producer? Yep. There are actually three popular regions, the best known being Valle de Guadalupe in Baja California. But if you’re travelling Central Mexico, you’ll be far closer to Queretaro.

Queretaro state is a four-hour drive from Mexico City. You can stay in Queretaro city or adorable Pueblo Magico towns Bernal or Tequisquiapan. The speciality of Queretaro wine region is sparkling wine. If you’re not a fan of sweet wine, there are plenty of red wines to try. Check out my guide to visiting the best wineries in Queretaro.

Short on time? Take a Queretato wine tour from Mexico City.

14. Hike Peña de Bernal, Queretaro

pena de bernal bucket list mexico

Bernal is more than a place to stay while touring the wineries in Queretaro state. This charming Pueblo Magico deserves its own entry.

Peña de Bernal is one of the tallest monoliths in the world and for sure the tallest in Mexico. I loved my trip to Bernal but I didn’t climb the monolith. If you’re up for the challenge, book a rock climbing tour of the monolith (suitable for beginners).

15. Visit Puebla Sweet Street

Puebla sweet street mexico bucket list

The adorable city of Puebla (the capital of Puebla state) is worth a visit for many reasons: the architecture, foodie scene, museums and close proximately to Mexico City. But I’d recommend visiting for Calle de los Dulches or, in English, Sweet Street!

There are more than 40 dulcerías along Calle de los Dulches selling biscuits, wafers, jellies and even candied sweet potato. Prices are very affordable so why not indulge in one sweet per shop? Check out the best things to do in Puebla here.

Although I’d recommend staying overnight, if time’s tight you can take a full-day tour from CDMX to Puebla and Cholula.

16. Shop for silver jewellery in Taxco

Another beautiful destination that should be on your Mexico bucket list is Taxco. This small city was once the only place in Mexico that silver was extracted from the ground and made into jewellery. The history dates back to Aztec times.

You can easily visit Taxco from Mexico City as it’s a 2.5-hour drive away. While silver jewellery is what puts Taxco in the map, there are lots of other reasons to visit: the speciality dish of rose mole, unrivalled panoramic views from the hilltops, and the scenic cableway. Taxco receives more domestic than foreign tourists which keeps prices low. It feels very authentic, making it one of my favourite places in Mexico.

17. Semana Santa in Taxco

If your visit to Taxco times around Easter, you can experience one of Mexico’s more bizarre festivals. Holy Week is a Mexican Easter celebration dating back to days of colonial rule when the Spanish introduced the idea of inflicting pain to symbolise Jesus’ death.

Nowadays, it’s taken very literally and you will even see local men actually nailed to makeshift crosses while wearing eerie black hoods as they walk the streets in this annual parade. Not for the faint of heart!

18. Witness the monarch butterfly migration

Monarch butterfly migration Mexico

Millions of monarch butterflies travelling 3,000 miles like clockwork each year? This incredible natural phenomenon is one you should experience in Mexico if you get a chance, especially since locals believe the butterflies are the souls of their ancestors returning home.

It was incredible to see giant kaleidoscopes (yes that’s the official term!) of butterflies hanging in the trees. Sadly, they’re in decline due to fires in California, pesticides and global warming, meaning numbers are down from several million to just 30,000.

Michoacan and Valle de Bravo, both in central Mexico, are popular places to witness the monarch migration between November and March. It’s easiest to reach the sanctuaries by car but if you don’t have one, you can book a day tour. I travelled to Santuario Piedra Herrada sanctuary near Valle de Bravo.

19. Visit indigenous villages, Chiapas

One of my main reasons for wanting to visit San Cristobal city in Chiapas state is its proximity to indigenous villages, Chamula and Zinacantan.

These villages are autonomous and practise their own forms of religion. I’d love to learn more about prehispanic culture and see their ways of life. Watch this space!

20. Explore Palenque ruins, Chiapas

Palenque Chiapas Mexico

The ancient city of Palenque in the state of Chiapas is a top pick for seeing Mayan ruins in Central Mexico. Palenque was built by the Mayans in the third century BC, abandoned in the eighth century AD, and reclaimed by the jungle.

Temples not to miss include the Temple of the Inscriptions and the Temple of the Cross for its panoramic views across the ancient city. Palenque airport flies direct to Mexico City or you can catch a day bus from San Cristobal de la Casas city.

Entry submitted by Wendy of the Nomadic Vegan.

Related activity: Palenque, Agua Azul and Misol Ha private tour

21. Cruise through Sumidero Canyon, Chiapas

One of the natural wonders of Chiapas state is Sumidero Canyon. The roaring river cuts through craggy cliffs while travellers in boats marvel from below. It may be 1.5 hours by car from San Cristóbal de las Casas but it’s easy to organise day tours from this popular tourist city.

Sumidero Canyon is still on my Mexico bucket list for the time being! Watch this space.

Mexico bucket list – Northern Mexico & Baja California

This section includes attractions north of Guadalajara. I’m not sure this is the official definition of Northern Mexico, rather my way of categorising this blog for ease of reading. Enjoy!

22. Ride El Chepe Express through Copper Canyon

Copper Canyon Mexico

Located in the southwestern part of Chihuahua state in northwestern Mexico, the Copper Canyon cuts into the Sierra Madre Mountains and is deeper than the Grand Canyon and four times as large. Getting there is definitely part of the fun since the multi-day El Chepe train is the usual mode of transportation. 

There are a few stops to make along the train route. El Fuerte is an 8,000-foot-high Sinaloa town where the legend of El Zorro originated. Visitors can also schedule a birdwatching river cruise.

You can also visit the lumber town of Creel, now a Pueblo Magico, and the nearby Valley of the Mushrooms featuring intriguing rock formations, and as well as to the old Jesuit San Ignacio Mission. Encounters with the colourfully dressed, local Tarahumara people present the opportunity to support their livelihoods by buying souvenirs. For

Submitted by Carol from Travels with Carole.

23. Discover silver history, Zacatecas

Four hours north of Guadalajara lies Zacatecas, a colonial city in the state of the same name. It’s the most Northern of Mexico’s silver cities which accounts for its UNESCO Heritage City centre, built upon the wealth of the silver mining industry.

As well as enjoying the attractive city centre, peeping inside Catedral de Zacatecas, and sipping coffee in Plaza de Armas (the central square), you can visit quirky museums including Rafael Coronel Museum otherwise known as the Museum of Masks. Hidden underground in a 16th-century convent, there are more than 5,000 folk masks telling stories of Mexican culture.

You can also head up to Bufa Hill (Cerro de la Bufa) for panoramic views and catch the cable car to the Mine Of Eden (Mina el Eden) which is an old silver mine. At night, party 300 metres underground in a converted mine, La Mina Club. A unique night out for sure!

24. Discover Huasteca Potosina

Often called Mexico’s best-kept secret, Huasteca Potosina is a region filled with rivers and waterfalls in San Luis Potosí state.

You can head inside caves, swim in brilliant blue waters, spot wildlife and learn about the Huastec people. This is still on my Mexico bucket list and I can’t wait to go soon!

25. Go whale-watching in Baja California

Every city on the US West Coast from Seattle to San Diego has whale watching tours. They’re headed to one of three birthing lagoons in Baja, Mexico. Ojos Libres has the largest population, but it’s also the largest lagoon.

San Ignacio Lagoon is the best place to see grey whales, not only because the density is higher, but because they’re known as ‘the friendlies’. 

Grey whale in Baja California Mexico

A day whale watching in San Ignacio is an experience like none other. You’ll see hundreds of whales, not dozens. Authorities make sure no captain approaches or intercepts whales, but these guys come right up to the boat. No wonder they’re called the friendlies!

The remote location of San Ignacio is worth the journey. It’s a couple of hours south of the Baja Norte / Baja Sur border on the Pacific side. If you love adventure, you can reach the town on a Baja road trip about two days south of the US border.

The closest international airport is Loreto which is a 4-hour drive from San Ignacio. Once you arrive, it can be challenging to reach the lagoon on a day trip. Most people take an overnight excursion to one of the eco camps along the water. When you see these magnificent creatures up close and look into their eyes, you’ll know their beauty, power and intelligence. There’s no experience quite like it.

Entry submitted by Coleman Concierge.

26. Wine tasting in Baja California

Mexico’s most famous wine country, Valle de Guadalupe, is sheltered just two hours south of the border with San Diego. With more than 200 wineries open for tasting, this is a destination on the rise. Until more recently, the region had a reputation for young wines, but that’s all changed in the last five years as a wide variety of red and white wines have come into their own.

Valle de Guadalupe wine tasting Mexico

At Monte Xanic, you’ll taste wines from 65-year-old vines. Most of the wineries are conveniently located in a large loop across the valley, making it easy to hop from the colourful rooftop bar at Casa Frida (named after Frida Kahlo) to the cavelike tasting room at Vena Cava with time to catch sunset high on the hill at Cieli.

Chefs from around the globe congregate here. So when you’re not drinking, you’ll likely be sampling fusion food at impressive destination restaurants or sampling fare from the high-end food trucks If you’re visiting from San Diego, either drive into the valley or walk over the border and Uber will take you from there. If you’re already in Baja California, take a Guadalupe Valley Wine Route Tour.

Submitted by Chris of Explore Now or Never.

Mexico bucket list – Yucatan Peninsular

27. Chichén Itzá

Chichén Itzá is one of the most famous Mayan sites in the Yucatan Peninsula. It’s classified as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World and has even been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Chichén Itzá Mexico bucket list

Chichén Itzá went through various cycles of prominence and decline until around 1100 when the main city was largely abandoned. Many parts have been restored and, if you visit Chichén Itzá now, you’ll see ballcourts including the largest in Mesoamerica, various smaller temples and pyramids, and platforms with carvings of skulls, eagles, jaguars, and men.

Don’t miss famous El Castillo, the large temple in the centre of the site, which is also known as the Temple of Kukulcan. Visitors can get to Chichén Itzá by renting a car from Cancun, Merida or Playa del Carmen, catching a bus, or booking a tour.

Submitted by Erin from Traveling Thru History.

28. See the yellow houses of Izamal

Yellow buildings Izamal

If you’re looking to snap that perfect Instagram shot, you definitely need to add Izamal to your Mexico bucket list. Just an hour outside Merida lies this small Yucatan pueblo nicknamed ‘La Ciudad Amarilla’ or ‘The Yellow City’. As the name suggests, almost every building is painted in the same yellow hues.

Izamal was founded roughly 2,000 years ago by the Maya and later colonised by the Spanish in 1550. The Spaniards built the Monastery of St. Anthony of Padua (one of the oldest Christian churches in the Western Hemisphere) over the previous Mayan temple.

You can visit the city as a tour from Merida or Valladolid or rent a car and visit independently. Izamal makes a great day trip and can be combined with a trip to nearby Chichén Itzá.

Submitted by Nate from Travel Lemming.

29. Relax on Isla Holbox

Isla Holbox Mexico bucket list

Isla Holbox is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Yucatan. It’s an island with the tranquil vibes of South East Asia and paradise beaches with pure white sand and turquoise water.

The island has become more popular in recent years, but still remains a hidden gem for many tourists going to Cancun or Playa del Carmen. The surrounding area is inhabited by flamingos, pelicans and other birdlife. For some periods during the year, visitors can also see whale sharks passing by.

On dark nights, bioluminescence lights up the lagoon on the western tip of the island. Additional things to do include sunbathing and relaxing, yoga sessions and boat tours. The shallow water is ideal for families and those who want to learn kiteboarding.

Reach Isla Holbox by boat after a bus ride from Playa del Carmen or Cancun. There are no vehicles allowed on Isla Holbox, and the main way to get around is by bicycle or golf cart.

Submitted by Alexander from Gourmand Trotter.

30. Spy turtles in Akumal

Turtle Akumal Mexico
Image by David Mark from Pixabay 

The waters of Akumal Bay are not only crystal clear, warm and ideal for snorkelling, but they’re full of sea turtles. Also known as Turtle Bay, this stop is a must-visit for sea life enthusiasts wanting to tick off a Mexico bucket list experience without paying for a snorkelling excursion. 

You can access the bay easily from Akumal Town, and as long as you have a snorkel, you will be *almost* guaranteed to see them.

31. Dive into Cenote Xunaan-Ha

One of the largest cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsular is accessible from Akumal. Cenote Xunaan-Ha is the 4th largest of the cave system in the Riviera Maya and a haven for qualified divers. This cenote is less touristy, so you may have to make your own way there, but it’s a must-see whilst in Akumal.

Take a water-proof camera as there are plenty of small fish and even a crocodile (don’t worry, the owners of the cenote won’t let you in if he’s around!). 

Akumal is a great place to stay on a budget. It’s a 1.5-hour drive from Cancun airport and 25 minutes from Tulum with much cheaper accommodation options.

Akumal and Cenote Xunaan-Ha submitted by Vikki of Lea Bella Blogs.

32. Explore Ek Balam

Ek Balam temple Yucatan Peninsular Mexico

Ek Balam is one of the most underrated Mayan ruins in the Yucatan Peninsula. While you won’t have the site to yourself, you won’t encounter throngs of people either.

Climb to the top of the main temple and you’ll be rewarded with sweeping views of the jungle below. Halfway up is the carved open mouth of what’s believed to represent a jaguar. The facade, which houses the tomb of a Mayan ruler, is beautifully decorated with masks and warrior figures in exquisite detail.

Ek Balam is located about 30 minutes north of Valladolid. It’s possible to visit via public transport, though having your own transportation will allow you to stop for lunch in Temozon, a town known for delicious smoked meats such as longaniza.

Submitted by Julien of Cultures Traveled.

33. Wander Merida

Merida ruins Yucatan Mexico

Many tourists visiting Mexico by cruise discover Merida after arriving into the port of Progresso. But Merida is the real jewel of the region, the largest city in the Yucatan state with a history dating back thousands of years!

Merida was founded on the site of the Mayan city of T’ho and named the ‘City of Five Hills’ after the pyramids once there. Most of the Mayan architecture has been destroyed, but stones bearing carvings can be seen within the city walls and cathedral. You’ll also see colourful colonial architecture typical of Mexico.

Located just a few miles from Merida lies two different Mayan ruins: nearby Dzibilchaltun known for the Temple of the Seven Dolls (named after the dolls found inside). You can also visit Mayapan, 40km from the city, which contains more than 4,000 structures and was once home to 40,000 residents.

Merida entry submitted by James from Cruise West Coast.

34. Cenote Ik Kil

Cenote Ik Kil Mexico

Cenote Ik Kil is one of the most impressive cenotes in the Riviera Maya, located nearby Chichén Itzá.

Cenote Ik Kil was a sacred place for the Mayans who used it for human sacrifice. Various bones, jewellery and other artefacts have been found deep in the waters. Today, it’s a popular tourist attraction where visitors come to relax, cool down and swim. This spectacular cenote is open to the sky with a water level of 26 meters below ground.

To get there, you can drive or join a guided tour. Many tours to Chichén Itzá include a stop at Cenote Ik Kil afterwards. It’s open to public visitors from 9am to 5pm.

Entry submitted by Christine from Christine Abroad.

35. Bask in Bacalar

Bacalar Mexico

Yet another Pueblo Mágico, Bacalar offers not only marvellous street art and a delightful walk at the Fort San Felipe dating back to the 17th century, but it’s located on the spectacular Bacalar lagoon, known as the Lake of Seven Colours.

You can either admire the crystal-clear waters from the countless docks sprinkled around the coast or try water sports such as snorkelling, swimming, windsurfing and sailing. Bacalar is the perfect place to relax for a few days and escape the crowds.

You can easily reach Bacalar by ADO bus from any town on the Yucatan Peninsula. It’s 2.5 hours from Tulum and 4 hours from Cancun. Many travellers visit Bacalar on their way to Belize due to its close location to the border.

Entry submitted by Denny of Lazy Budget Trips.

36. Wander scenic Valladolid

Valladolid Mexico

Valladolid is often used as a base to explore Chichén Itzá and Ik Kil Cenote. But there’s so much you can do in Valladolid Mexico itself: colourful streets, a large church, friendly locals and delicious Yucatan food like cochinita pibil (slow-cooked pork).

One of the best attractions in Valladolid is the 16th-century church of San Servacio, located in the main square. Visit in the evening to watch local life in the large, open park beside it.

After a long day of wandering the pastel-coloured streets of Valladolid and stumbling upon quaint shops, you can finish your day with an authentic Yucatan dinner at Bazar Municipal, a food court where the locals eat. 

By Soumya from Stories by Soumya.

37. Beaches and ruins in Tulum

Tulum Mexico

The town of Tulum is about an hour down the coast from the more tourist destination of Playa del Carmen. The most famous attraction in Tulum is the Tulum Mayan Ruins, once the city of Zama. The ruin site is big enough to easily spend a few hours wandering through. Just keep watch for the Iguanas – they’re everywhere!

While Mayan ruins are spread across Central America, what makes Tulum unique is its position on the Caribbean coastline of the Yucatan Peninsula. Once a commercial port for the Mayans, it’s one of the first places dawn breaks in Mexico. The colours of the ocean behind the ruins have to be seen to be believed!

Most visitors hire bikes from the local hotels, but it’s easy enough to catch a taxi to the ruins. The long stretch of road consists of one beach resort after another and while some are quite exclusive, there are a few that welcome everyone – why not kick back with a cocktail looking out over the Caribbean?

Entry submitted by Holly from Globe Blogging.

38. Find the Pink Lakes (Las Coloradas)

Mexico is home to some truly stunning natural highlights, perhaps none quite as unusual as the pink lakes of Las Coloradas!

In a few short years, the ‘lakes’ (technically man-made lagoons belonging to a salt production company) have gone from complete obscurity to being an incredibly sought-after item on plenty of Mexico bucket lists.

Las Coloradas pink lake Mexico

The lakes are bright, brilliant pink when at their best, with certain times of day and weather conditions offering more muted pinks and even oranges. They make phenomenal photos and are such an unusual sight that it’s easy to see why people want to visit for themselves.

Today, due to their popularity, visiting Las Coloradas is far more regulated than it once was, with guides and (inexpensive) tickets required. You’re not allowed to swim in the lakes but new regulations haven’t slowed down the visitors or the wild experience of seeing bright pink bodies of water located in the far corner of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.

The easiest way to visit Mexico’s pink lakes is to rent a car and drive there, typically from Valladolid (2 hours each way) or Cancun or Playa del Carmen (3 hours each way). Due to the popularity of the lakes, you can now also book tours to visit them.

Entry submitted by Kate from Our Escape Clause.

Mexico City bucket list

I decided to create a separate Mexico City bucket list because it’s a city so close to my heart. Ciudad de México deserves way more international acclaim than it receives. With almost as many museums as Paris, it’s full of culture, history, local markets, leafy neighbourhoods, hipster cafes and much more.

Don’t miss the following from your Mexico City itinerary

39. Visit Frida Kahlo’s house

Iconic artist Frida Kahlo passed away 60 years ago but her work is still celebrated around the world. Her old home shared with husband Diego Rivera is now the Frida Kahlo Museum, also known as the Blue House. Located in Coyoacan neighbourhood, this is one of Mexico City’s must-visit attractions. Entrance is 250 pesos; book online as it gets very busy.

While in Coyoacan, explore this charming suburb of Mexico City, eat tostadas in the market, and visit museums and churches. Check out my Coyoacan guide for more details.

40. Take a food tour

While it’s easy to find street food, my top Mexico city tip is to take a food tour. The city is so large and spread out that it’s hard to know where to begin. Luckily, born-and-bred chilangos (slang for Mexico City locals) know the food scene inside out. The best tour I’ve taken was with Eat Like A Local. Not only did we eat tacos, pambazos, enchiladas and more, but we visited a typical saloon (dance hall) and supported local businesses.

It’s not too difficult to eat vegan in Mexico. Look out for nopales (cactus leaves) and huitlacoche (fungus mushrooms) which are delicious served in quesadillas.

41. National Museum of Anthropology

The biggest and most visited museum in Mexico is worth your time. I learnt so much about Mexico in days gone by. Honestly, I’m depressed learning about all the atrocities the Spanish committed and, while they’re important to understand, I’d much rather hear about the Mayans, Aztecs and other prehispanic groups. Entrance is 70 pesos.

42. Day trip to Teotihuacan

Teotihuacan Pyramids Mexico

I don’t want to make this Mexico bucket list overly expensive as I believe everyone can enjoy travel, even on a budget. Saying that, my hot air balloon ride over 2,000-year-old Teotihuacan was serious bucket list stuff.

Ancient Teotihuacan city is located 30 miles from Mexico City and can easily be visited as a half-day trip. The Pyramid of the Sun and other buildings are connected by the dubiously-named Avenue of Death.

Book your hot air balloon ride as a return trip from Mexico City.

43. Explore the Zocalo

Bellas Artes Palace Mexico bucket list
View from Cafe Don Porfirio

As an expat in Mexico City, busy Centro isn’t somewhere I visit every day. But if you’re visiting Mexico City, you need to spend a day there soaking up the sights. See art and ballet at Bellas Artes Palace, explore the remains of Templo Mayor (the ancient Aztec capital) and visit other art galleries like Bellas Artes Palace and MUNAL.

For the best view in town, venture up to the viewing platform on the 44th floor of the Torre Latino tower. Alternatively, buy a drink at Cafe Don Porfirio opposite Bellas Artes Palace.

44. Chapultepec Park 

An enormous green space bigger than Central Park and home to the castle where Romeo and Juliet was filmed? In Chapultepec you’ll find a boating lake, zoo, museums, cafes and food markets.

You could spend an entire day here, especially if you visit Chapultepec Castle and the Museum of Natural History inside.

45. Ride a trajinera in Xochimilco

Trajinera boat in Xochimilco Mexico

The giant colourful riverboats that roam Xochimilco earn the region a reputation as the Venice of Mexico. Head to this part of town (a one-hour drive from the centre) and you’ll soon be approached by vendors offering rides aboard their elaborate, painted boats.

Not only can you hire a boat, but you can hire a live mariachi band to travel with you. I’d recommend getting a group together for this activity to split the costs. While the trajineras are a fun day out, there’s another option which supports locals who’ve farmed the region for centuries. Check out my guide to visiting the Floating Gardens of Xochimilco sustainably.

46. Polanco

The millionaire district of Mexico City is worth a wander. Not only will you see how the other half live, but you’ll lust over their amazing homes. As well as exploring the cafes, parks and markets, you can visit Soumaya Museum, a shiny modern art structure full of sculptures and exhibits. It’s free to enter.

47. The Island of the Dolls

Explore a haunted doll island? You’re either thinking that sounds hauntingly awesome or creepy AF. This island within the Xochimilco waterways is thought to be haunted by the ghost of a lost child and it’s even been said by locals that the haunting dolls whisper to one another during the night. Tick it off your Mexico bucket list if you’re brave!

48. Saturday Market in San Angel

Saturday is my favourite day of the week in Mexico City because a lively Saturday Bazaar takes place in San Angel district. You can shop for colourful Mexican art (including quirky 3D paintings which need to be seen to be believed), as well as jewellery, homeware and deli foods like chocolate and cheese. You can also try free samples, always a winner in my book.

Anywhere Mexico bucket list

49. Learn about (and explore) Pueblos Magicos

pueblo magico mexico bucket list

I’ve become slightly obsessed with Pueblos Magicos, in other words ‘magic towns’ voted by the tourism board. Mexico is a country with deep cultural roots and myths passed down for generations. The idea of magic extends to the travel industry.

Towns and cities can achieve Pueblo Magico status as a result of their unique culture, heritage, scenery, cuisine or crafts. At current count there are 111 and, while I’ll probably never reach them all, I’m still tallying up my list.

So far I’ve been to Taxco, Tequila, Tlaquepaque, Valle de Bravo, Teotihuacán, Cholula, Bernal and Tequisquiapan. Check out Journey Mexico’s guide to Pueblo Magicos.

50. Experience Day of the Dead

day of dead mexico bucket list
Day of the Dead

One of the best ways to experience Mexican culture is by celebrating Day of the Dead. This vibrant holiday held at the beginning of November isn’t designed to mourn deceased ancestors but celebrate them.

It’s believed the souls of family members return for one night only: the night of the 31st of October for children and the 1st of November for adults. Mexicans build elaborate ofrendas (altars) in their homes, laying out yellow marigolds to guide the spirits home, as well as photos of their loved ones and their favourite foods and drinks.

They also spend the evenings in cemeteries beside their ancestors’ graves, dancing, singing and socialising. Live musicians and roaming bands even play, making it more like a party than a funeral. Costumes and face paints have also crept into the culture. The Pixar movie Coco is a must to learn more!

Some of the best places to celebrate Day of the Dead include Oaxaca, Morelia and Mexico City. Read my guide to experiencing Day of the Dead in Oaxaca.

51. Hit a piñata at a Christmas posada

Maybe you’re already familiar with piñatas from Mexico but did you know they’re a Christmas tradition? In other countries, we might have them at a birthday, but not Mexico.

Star-shaped piñatas with seven arms were originally invented to represent the seven deadly sins: envy, sloth, gluttony, greed, lust, anger and pride. Hitting them with a stick symbolised destroying these sins.

Nowadays, piñatas feature at posadas: traditional Mexican parties that take place on the nine nights leading up to Christmas. If you’re staying at a family-run hostel or guesthouse around Christmas, you might be invented to join. I was lucky enough to be included in the celebrations while staying at Casa de la Dante Hostel in Guanajuato. After the local kids had their turn, we hit the giant star-shaped piñata and were rewarded with goodie bags.

52. Eat street food

Quesadilla street food
Blue corn quesadilla

There are so many authentic Mexican foods to try. For the whole list, read my Mexico food guide. But rather eating in fancy restaurants, I’d recommend street stalls and modest family restaurants.

Don’t leave Mexico without trying street quesadillas and tlacoyos stuffed with papas (potato), flor de calabaza (squash flower) and queso (cheese). My favourite street tacos are al pastor, served with kebab-style meat.

Take a food tour in Colonia Roma or an adventurous San Juan and Merced markets food tour.

Related read: Where to eat and drink in Roma & Condesa, CDMX

53. Learn to dive

If you don’t dive, consider learning in Mexico because it’s a divers paradise. Best places include Cozumel island off the coast of Quintana Roo and Isla Mujeres nearby Cancun. The Socorro Islands off the west coast of Mexico are a UNESCO zone known for sharks and rays which can only be visited by liveaboard trips. Pricy but worth it!

54. Drink mezcal

Everyone’s heard of tequila but not everyone knows mezcal, an equally potent beverage made from the same plant (agave). Mezcal is the distillation of agave spirits which means that technically tequila is a mezcal but mezcal is not a tequila!

Mezcal has a distinctive smoky flavour which is an acquired taste (personally I’m not a huge fan). It was invented in Oaxaca several centuries ago but it’s only in the last few years that mezcal has begun attaining international fame. Nowadays even George Clooney has his own mezcal plantation in Mexico!

55. Watch a mariachi band

This traditional type of Mexican music has been practised for well over 200 years. A typical mariachi band will usually include violins, trumpets and guitars with performers singing and wearing traditional dress and wide-brimmed hats.

While times have changed, Mariachi started life in Guadalajara so for a bonus point, I would recommend sitting outdoors in the Tlaquepaque neighbourhood watching live bands perform.

56. Take a cooking class

Cooking class Mexico bucket list

Mexican food is some of the best in the world (fact) so why not learn to cook it yourself? I took an amazing class and market tour with Aura Cocina Mexicana. Whether you like typical Mexican, vegan food, tacos, mole or have a specific allergy, there are so many classes in Mexico that you’ll find something to float your boat.

Liked this? Check out my other bucket list guides:

South Korea bucket list / Southeast Asia bucket list / Wales bucket list

Packing list for Mexico

Thanks for reading my Mexico bucket list!

VISITING MEXICO?
These are my trusted resources:

Getting around by air – the quickest (and often cheapest) way to travel between Mexican cities is by flight. I use Skyscanner and Kayak.

Getting around by bus (environmental option) – buses in Mexico are comfy with free snacks and an in-journey entertainment system. I use Busbud to find the best prices.

Driving in Mexico – use Rentalcars.com to compare car rentals in Mexico (and all around the world).

For hotels and apartments, I use Booking.com. They have a wide range of accommodation for all budgets, plus the loyalty programme gives you discounts and upgrades.

For hostels, I use Hostelworld.com. Hostels in Mexico are great for meeting other travellers.

To save money on accommodation, I use Trusted Housesitters, a website that connects homeowners going away and travellers who can sit their homes & pets.

I use GetYourGuide for tours & activities when I don’t want to travel solo. I also check Viator as they often have fun & unique options.

EatWith – your one-stop for Mexico food tours, cooking classes and hosted meals with local chefs and foodies.

Confused about visas? I use iVisa to check visa requirements and apply for visas online.

Need travel insurance? I use World Nomads. They cover 150 countries and have 24-hour emergency assistance. 

Wise – to transfer money overseas or get paid in different currencies, this is the cheapest way. Get your first transfer free.

Check out my resources page for more travel discounts and tips from 10+ years of travel!

See you next time for more adventures,

Rose

Ps. Liked my Mexico bucket list? Pin it for later!

mexico bucket list

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