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Whether its jungle getaways, bright colonial towns or beachside paradises, Mexico has a broad diversity of delights. For travelers looking beyond the typical tourist spots of Mexico City and Cancún, the country has an endless number of options. Here is our rundown of 18 destinations that may not yet be on your radar.
Just two hours from Mexico City, the pre-Hispanic town of Malinalco is best known for its archaeological ruins, which date from the Aztec empire. Surrounded by mountains and forests, the charming town attracts nature lovers as well as history buffs.
Encircled by soaring mountains, the pre-Hispanic village of Tepoztlán is one of Mexico’s most spectacular delights. Long regarded as a hippie center, the town’s cobbled streets are lined with shops selling crystals, wind chimes and incense.
Once a wealthy mining hub, the village of Real de Catorce is now one of Mexico’s most iconic ghost towns. Surrounded by vast desert, the elegant colonial destination boasts an impressive whitewashed church.
The tiny village of Bernal has a charming, colorful center and buildings that date back to the 18th Century. Yet what really makes Bernal stand out from the pack is its location at the foot of a majestic stone monolith.
In recent years, the town of Puerto Escondido in the southern state of Oaxaca has established itself as one of Mexico’s top destination for surfers. Famed for the break known as the “Mexican pipeline,” the town offers incredible waves, and is also noted for its hip café culture.
The indigenous village of Cuetzalan in Puebla is renowned for its market, coffee and vibrant festivals. But what really makes this remote mountain village worth a visit are the voladores who perform in the central plaza. These traditional “flying” dancers spin around a tall pole while attached from their ankles.
While no one disputes that the town of Tequila is the birthplace of the country’s national drink, the pleasant town of Atotonilco El Alto is also a major producer. The rustic, laid-back spot is a great option for tequila enthusiasts looking for something beyond the state of Jalisco’s more touristy destinations.
Known as the birthplace of mariachi and renowned for its impressive colonial architecture, tourists are flocking to Mexico’s second-largest city in ever growing numbers. Yet Guadalajara deserves its place on this list because the city is still overshadowed by the capital, despite its elegant appearance, historical significance and excellent culinary scene.
Nestling the country’s largest lake, Lake Chapala, the town of Ajijic enjoys one of the best climates in Mexico. A favorite destination for North American retirees, the town is also filled with great restaurants and shops.
Known as the “Switzerland of Mexico,” Mazamitla is defined by its quaint center, pine forests and picturesque charm. For decades, the tiny town has been a popular getaway from the hustle and bustle of nearby Guadalajara.
Undoubtedly one of Mexico’s most authentic beach communities, Yelapa is thirty minutes by water taxi from the major resort of Puerto Vallarta. The sleepy village boasts a gorgeous, secluded bay and is still barely touched by tourism.
One of five islands on Lake Pátzcuaro, Janitzio’s stunning Day of the Dead celebrations have put the tiny village firmly on the tourist map. The surrounding lake is also well-known for its fishermen, who use traditional butterfly-shaped nets to snare their catch.
Another great surf destination, the town of Sayulita in the state of Nayarit has long been a favorite for Mexicans. As well as great surf, the town is known for its trendy bars, bohemian shops and friendly vibe.
In recent years, Ensenada has emerged as a major surfing hub, drawing pros and beginners alike. The town is also home to the “Baja Med” culinary movement. An exciting blend of Mexican, Mediterranean and Asian influences, this unique cuisine has been grabbing the international spotlight in recent years.
The quaint town of Todos Santos in Mexico’s Baja California has recently acquired a reputation as a major artistic hub. Mexican artists have flocked to the picturesque spot in the past decade, and new galleries and art studios are springing up all the time.
This gorgeous spot in Quintana Roo sits next to a beautiful blue lagoon that offers the ideal space for swimming, diving and snorkeling. Surrounded by dense jungle, the long, narrow Lake of Bacalar has crystal clear water and is famous for its seven different shades of blue.
Set along the shores of the scenic lake that shares its name, Catemaco is best known as a magic and witchcraft hub. On the first Friday of March, the town draws around 5,000 visitors to its annual witchcraft festival. With its beautiful lakeside setting and extraordinary wildlife, the town is actually worth a visit at any time of the year.
Foodies will love the town of Xico, famous for its mole – the rich fruit, nut and chili sauce that is commonly regarded as the country’s national dish. The town itself boasts elegant architecture and is surrounded by rolling mountains, waterfalls and coffee plantations.