There’s more to Mexico than Cabo and Cancun. Don’t get us wrong—those places are great. But in a country with more than 761,000 square miles of coastlines, mountains, deserts, and jungles, not to mention a vibrant culture with Spanish and indigenous influences, there are bound to be some hidden gems.
Here are six extraordinary vacation destinations in Mexico to consider for your next trip:
Valle de Guadalupe
This Baja California locale has earned a reputation as “the Napa Valley of Mexico.” Unwind at the Monte Xanic winery, Mexico’s first boutique winery and the one that makes Valle de Guadalupe a must-visit for vino enthusiasts. Foodies will also love the Valle Food & Wine Festival, started in 2017, which attracts celebrity chefs from around the United States and Mexico. For lodging, the Campera Hotel Burbuja is one of the most unique hotels on the continent, with clear, bubble rooms—yes, bubbles—so guests sleep comfortably under the stars. Its proximity to San Diego (less than 100 miles by car) makes travel to Valle de Guadalupe a breeze.
Located in the central part of the country, Guanajuato has been called the most beautiful city in Mexico, and with good reason. The proximity of buildings creates a mosaic that explodes with color against the surrounding mountainsides. Guanajuato has something for everyone: It’s a university town with plenty of cafes, bars, and markets, and a romantic getaway where couples can secure their happiness by kissing in the Callejon del Beso. On the other side of the spectrum, el Museo de las Momias, the mummy museum, is a rather unusual tourist attraction that should be on any visitor’s itinerary.
Tulum has become a go-to destination on the Yucatán for its beautiful Caribbean beaches and variety of offerings. In search of history? Check out the Tulum Mayan ruins along the beach, or head into the jungle to Coba and climb Nohoch Mul, the tallest pyramid on the peninsula. On a family getaway? Xel-Há—part ecological waterpark, part natural aquarium—is home to 90-plus marine species and has activities for all ages, from swimming with dolphins and snorkeling to a lazy river. Tulum is also considered a haven for hipsters, with its vegan restaurants and yoga studios. Escape the noise of all-inclusive resorts by booking a cabana mere steps from the sand.
Travelers seeking a blend of activity and relaxation will find paradise in Sayulita. A surfing haven on the Pacific Coast, Sayulita promises fun for the aquatically inclined—fishing, snorkeling, whale-watching—as well as those more interested in rugged experiences, such as horseback riding, hiking, and jungle canopy tours. The village also boasts numerous art galleries and casual cafes, so time spent away from nature is just as worthwhile. If yoga is your thing, grab a room at the Hotelito Los Sueños.
Day of the Dead Celebration in Pátzcuaro
Looking to add some authenticity to everyone’s favorite dress-up holiday? Consider a trip to Pátzcuaro for Día de los Muertos, Day of the Dead. The area is filled with festivals on November 1, while come nightfall, locals on the island of Janitizio illuminate their town and Lake Pátzcuaro with candles in remembrance of deceased loved ones, a ritual known as Noche de Muertos. In addition to the traditional Mexican holidays, Pátzcuaro offers stunning mountain views and colorful markets. Direct flights from several American cities to Morelia International Airport, about an hour drive from Pátzcuaro, make travel to Pátzcuaro surprisingly inexpensive.
Whether you’re in search of cultural, culinary, or historical enlightenment, Oaxaca is the place for you. Explore the Monte Alban ruins, remnants of one of the earliest cities in Mesoamerica. Go on a mezcal tour to sample local spirits. Or wander the streets of Oaxaca City, where there’s seemingly a festival every week. Instagram users, be sure to make the trek to Hierve el Agua, a rock formation that looks like a petrified waterfall. The Templo de Santo Domingo, completed in 1731, is a must-see for travelers, too.