By Michelle Yastremsky
With crystal clear waters hugging a picturesque coast, it’s no wonder Mexico is the perfect destination for a relaxing, sun-soaked holiday. But there’s so much more to this vibrant country than just Cancun and the coast; from colonial cities to remnants of ancient civilizations, here are the top destinations in Mexico to visit beyond the beach.
Must-See Cities in Mexico
San Miguel de Allende
Where can you find Baroque/Neoclassical colonial buildings and a thriving arts scene? In central Mexico’s San Miguel de Allende, of course!
Mexico’s capital and largest city is overflowing with culture, amazing culinary options, and the perfect blend of modern city life with colonial charm.
San Cristobal de las Casas
Add this colonial city to your bucket list! Surrounded by picturesque pine forest, San Cristobal de las Casas is a cultural oasis amidst the Mexican countryside.
Mexico’s fourth largest city also has one of the country’s best-preserved colonial architecture. The city’s battle (and victory) for independence in 1862 is now celebrated annually on the 5th of May (Cinco de Mayo).
Mexico’s famous yellow town is not only Instagram-worthy, but filled with history and culture at every corner. In fact, it is one of only two towns considered “magical” by the Mexican government.
Ruins in Mexico
Explore one of the greatest and best-restored Mayan sites in the Yucatan!
You may recognize this complex of Mayan ruins by the iconic step-pyramid dominating the city, but explore further and you will also discover a ball court, a temple of skulls, and even a sacred sink hole.
While Tulum does feature some of Mexico’s best beaches, it’s the incredible Mayan ruins that put it on this list! During the 13th and 14th centuries, Tulum served as a major trading post. A visit to this former powerful city-state is a must in the area.
Make your way through the Mexican jungle in search of the ruins of Palenque, now part of the Palenque National Park. This incredible example of Mayan architecture will leave you in awe.
Natural Wonders of Mexico
Experience Mexico’s most rugged and beautiful landscapes, which dominates the southern landscape of the region of Chihuahua. This canyon system is larger and deeper than the Grand Canyon; charge your camera and go!
Hike to the top of this ancient volcano for sweeping views of the surrounding landscape. The Nevado de Toluca is also surrounded by two picturesque lagoons which are named after the sun and the moon.
Experience the basalt prisms of Hidalgo, created by ancient lava flows. These columns are between 30 and 55 yards tall, so don't forget to look up!
Is speluking on your to-do list? Be sure to add this underground cave system to your list, one of the largest of its kind in the world!
Swimming (Without the Sea) in Mexico
Some of the world’s coolest places to go swimming are in Mexico, like the breathtaking Ik Kil cave, located a short drive from the ruins of Chichen Itza.
How about a scenic swim in a cave overlooking a cliff? Add the natural hot springs of the Tolantongo Caves to your bucket list!
Not your grandma's theme park! This aquatic paradise has so much to offer: from crystal-clear underground rivers to bridges you can jump (safely) off of. Swim, snorkel, and scuba dive without stepping a foot into the sea!