Mexico is widely regarded as one of the world’s best travel destinations. Its capital city was named top choice for tourists by The New York Times last year and the beach resorts of Puerto Vallarta and Cancún are growing ever-more popular.
Fly into bustling Cancún International Airport and spend a few days soaking up the sun along the Riviera Maya.
In fact, the region is so packed with stunning natural wonders and exciting activities that it can be difficult to prioritize, but the two stand out sights if you only have a few days are the Mayan ruins of Chichén Itzá and Tulum.
The first of these is located two hours from the center of Cancún. One of the new Seven Wonders of the World, the city was once the center of Mayan economic and religious life. Most hotels run regular shuttle buses to the ancient site, so ask about tours at the hotel reception.
The appropriately named Playa Paraíso, which translates as Paradise Beach, is situated less than two hours from Cancún. This majestic, untouched stretch of sand sits beneath the iconic archaeological ruins of Tulum. You’re unlikely to ever find a more Instagram-friendly spot.
On day four, take an internal flight from Cancún to Mexico City. The city boasts impressive museums, fascinating cultural landmarks and world-class nightlife. Of course, make sure to visit the imposing Metropolitan Cathedral, the largest cathedral in the Americas.
Palacio de Bellas Artes, Juárez, Centro Histórico, Mexico City, Mexico, +52 55 5512 2593
On day five, take a stroll through the elegant colonial suburb of Coyoacán. The Frida Kahlo Museum, also known as the Blue House, is a must-see attraction. Also make sure to visit the Leon Trotsky House Museum, where the exiled former Russian revolutionary was murdered.
Spend day six exploring the pyramid of Teotihuacan—your hotel or hostel should be able to provide transport. The impressive archaeological ruin draws two million visitors a year and has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Spend day seven at the floating gardens of Xochimilco, one of the city’s most popular cultural experiences. Especially popular on Sundays, colorful trajinera boats offer trips down the canals. Mariachi bands, laughter and tequila are in plentiful supply in the area. The Island of the Dolls, a secluded area along the shores of the lake, is one of Mexico’s creepiest destinations. A hermit by the name Don Julian Santana lived in the area for more than 50 years and began collecting toy dolls to fend off evil spirits after he found the drowned body of a young girl in the lake. The discolored plastic dolls still hang from the branches of the island’s trees, and many visitors claim to have seen the dolls move or talk.
On day eight, take a day trip to the mysterious pre-Hispanic village of Tepoztlán. Set in a stunning valley, the town has long had a reputation as a center for spirituality and mysticism. Don your hiking boots to scale the 1,300-foot (400-meter) staircase leading to the ruined pyramid which stands at the summit of Tepozteco mountain. The view from the top is truly incredible and well worth the trek up the steep stone trail.
To travel to Tepoztlán, you need to take a bus from the Terminal Central del Sur, also known as the Estación Tasqueña del Sistema de Transporte Colectivo Metro, which you can reach on the metro.
On day nine, head to Mexico City’s Terminal Central del Norte and take a coach to Guanajuato, one of the country’s most beautiful colonial towns. Take a stroll through the city’s cobbled streets and picturesque center. Guanajuato also boasts some excellent cantinas, and the central plaza is alive with street vendors and performers at night.
On day 10, head to the Museo de las Momias de Guanajuato. This iconic museum displays a spooky collection of accidentally mummified bodies that were discovered in the local cemetery. According to local legend, at night the preserved bodies move, whisper, and weep. Take an evening tour around the town’s colonial center with one of the singing groups called estudiantinas. These roaming musicians leave regularly from the central plaza. Part musical performance, part historical tour, there’s no more memorable way to learn about this marvelous town.
On day 12, head to Guadalajara, Mexico’s second-largest city and the home of tequila and mariachi. Steeped in tradition, but also a vibrant cosmopolitan hub, the city offers impressive colonial architecture, as well as excellent restaurants and nightlife.
After exploring the colonial center, on day 13 you should head to the Barranca de Huentitán situated in the northern portion of the city. Also known as the Barranca de Oblatos, the canyon has a depth of nearly 3,500 feet (1,100 meters) and is an excellent place to clear your head while hiking.
On your final day in Mexico, take a taxi to the charming municipality of Tlaquepaque. Internationally renowned for its beautiful pottery and art, Tlaquepaque is the ideal spot for souvenir shopping. Its cobbled streets are lined with many shops offering high-quality jewelry and handicrafts to visitors. Make sure to lunch at the delicious seafood restaurant of Puerto San Pedro. The shrimp and pineapple boat is a must-try favorite.