Off the beaten track Towns for Day of the Dead Celebrations

Day of the Dead-inspired ceramic skulls
Day of the Dead-inspired ceramic skulls | © David Boté Estrada / flickr

Day of the Dead is one of Mexico’s most important and most popular national holidays. This year, with the 2018 release of the movie Coco about a Mexican boy and his search for his ancestors during Day of the Dead, Mexico will be replete with tourists looking to get a glimpse of this fascinating holiday. Here are eight places where the spotlight doesn’t usually shine, but nevertheless have excellent festivities for Dia de los Muertos.

Day of the Dead-inspired ceramic skulls


Every year, the city of Aguascalientes celebrates its most famous son on the Day of the Dead — Jose Guadalupe Posada. Posada was an engraver and artist who invented the now ubiquitous image of the catrina — a skeletonal grand dame dressed in colonial garb that was originally meant to mock the European airs, but is now a symbol of national pride. The Festival de Calaveras (the Festival of the Skulls) is hosted in the city’s main event space Isla San Marcos where there are parades of people dressed as Posada’s most famous characters. There are also plays, food, concerts, films and street theater performances.

Drwaings of Jose Guadalupe Posada

Beautiful and sultry Merida has a delightfully warm celebration that will feel nothing like the northern cool days of Halloween. The town has a parade of catrinas and calacas that march to the town’s many cemeteries to place offerings on the graves of loved ones at the beginning of the festival. There is also live music and dancing, plays in the main square and art installations throughout town. In the neighborhood of San Sebastian, they host the Mucbipollo Festival. Mucbipollo is a earthen-pit cooked chicken dish that is only made at this time of the year, and a plate of it is usually on offer at the altar of loved ones.

Traditional Wooden skull


Hundreds of altars sponsored by local families and businesses are set up along Calle 59 in Campeche each year. Campeche also has the tradition of a pit-cooked chicken dish that they eat during these dates. While in the city, lots of events and parades are held, and perhaps one of the area’s most interesting rituals takes place outside of town. In the nearby town of Pomuch, just outside of Campeche, locals dig up the bones of their loved ones each year and give them a thorough cleaning, and then place them into a box with a clean, embroidered towel to display them at the graveyard.

Day of the Dead parades are common in the United States and throughout Mexico


In the capital of Morelos, dozens of paper maiche catrinas are set up each year in the Parque Tlaltenango for the Festival de Catrinas. Actors also relate legends and ghost stories during open-air theater performances. A rovering parade also goes through the middle of town and includes art displays, food for sale and general revelry. There is a special night walk to the local cemetery Panteón de La Leona to view the graves and their altars.

Many families decorated the graves of their loved ones and spend the night in vigil at the graveyard

Chiapa de Corzo

In Chiapa de Corzo, Chiapas, the biggest party is held in the cemetery. The day of November 1st, families head to the cemetery with flowers, decorations and food for their loved ones that have passed on. Graves are decorated, candles lit and families settle in for the night to commune with the dead. Around midnight catrina and calacas parade through the cemetery paths. There is music, acting and a general sense of celebration as neighbors meet up with neighbors to drink, dance and meditate on the lives of their dearly departed.

Day of the Dead Mini altar

Festival de Calacas San Miguel de Allende

San Miguel de Allende is a popular tourist destination, there is no denying that – but not everyone knows about the annual Calaca festival hosted during the Day of the Dead holiday. Male and female skeletons grace the streets for a massive parade during the festival, drinking and carrying on through town. There are also short films, art shows, guided cemetery visits and workshops for kids. Each year the Calaca festival also hosts at least one international artist to create a massive public art display somewhere in the city. This is all in addition to the city’s normal revelry for this holiday, which includes altars set up in the town’s main square and its hotels and businesses.

Paper Maiche statues and dolls are popular during Day of the Dead


For something with lots of production and fun, Cancun’s biggest tourism operator and theme park hosts the Xcaret Vida Y Muerto Festival each year. During the festivities there are cooking classes, pre-Hispanic dances, music performances, art shows and workshops for kids and adults. Each year, a state is invited to showcase the special traditions of their region and this year it will be Zacatecas, the mining state of the north. There is also a Gala Concert at the end of the festival. 2018’s singers are Ely Guerra and Eugenia León.

Chignahuapan, Puebla

In the lake town of Chignahuapan, Puebla (known for its hot springs and cool, foggy climate) the town holds its Festival de la Luz y la Vida (“Festival of Light and Life”) during the Dia de Muertos holiday. Visitors and locals alike walk from the center of town along a path out to the nearby Almoloya Lagoon — lit up by millions of candles, torches and lights all along the way. Upon reaching the lagoon, the festival begins with a pre-hispanic dance as an offering to the dearly departed and ends with fireworks.

landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

Winter Sale Offers on Our Trips

Incredible Savings

Edit article