Things to do in Mexico: Attractions and places to visit

Xpu Ha beach Riviera Maya Mexico . Panorama. Nikon D3100.DSC_0704-0711. (Robert Pittman)  [flickr.com]  CC BY-ND 
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Mexico attracts visitors not only with the pretty colonial buildings of its capital and imposing Mayan ruins. The Central American country also has an abundance of varied landscapes and breathtaking nature.

The diversity ranges from dense jungle to majestic gorges and remote islands. No matter whether you are looking for bathing fun, hiking and active holidays or an extensive cultural program – in Mexico there is something for every holiday taste.

Below we present you the most exciting tours, the most beautiful attractions and the best sights in Mexico.

Strand von Puerto Moreles in Mexiko (Alexander Mirschel)  Copyright 
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The "Palace" at ChiChen Itza (Missie)  [flickr.com]  CC BY-ND 
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1. Barranca del Cobre

Barranca del Cobre is located in the Mexican state of Chihuahua, in German “Kuperschlucht”. The area got its name because of the greenish-copper colour of the rock. With a length of 50 kilometres, the mountain range is four times as large as the Grand Canyon and has gorges up to 1800 metres deep. A popular way to explore this geological wonder is the railway “Chihuahua al Pacifico”.

The route leads over more than 30 bridges and promises magnificent views over the canyons. But the area can also be discovered on foot. Hikers walk over dizzying suspension bridges and cross gorges with the longest rope slide in Mexico. In addition, numerous organizers offer climbing tours and horseback rides through the rugged mountains.

2. Chichén Itzá

On the peninsula Yucatán stands the probably most important ruin city of the extinct Mayan culture. On 1547 hectares, guests in Chichén Itzá visit ancient temples and ceremonial buildings that are part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Nowhere else in Mexico do visitors find so many well-preserved monuments of high culture that one can plan a whole day for the visit.

El Castillo, a 30 metre high stone pyramid with artistic reliefs, catches the eye even from a distance. Other attractions are the Warrior Temple, whose walls show mythological battle scenes, and the thousand-year-old Caracol Observatory, which testifies to the astronomical achievements of the Mayas. There are also places where the Mayas used to play their traditional ball games.

3. Tulum

Tulum is located in the state of Quintana Roo, very close to the beaches of CancĂşn. The Maya city lies directly on the sea and was an important trans-shipment point for maritime trade before the arrival of the Europeans. Even from a distance, visitors can see the stone remains of the complex, which rests on 12-metre-high cliffs and used to be surrounded by a rectangular wall.

According to experts, the site was used to observe the sky and calculate the Mayan calendar. The largest building is the Castillo with its snake-shaped columns. At the fresco temple visitors can admire murals depicting gods in the form of snakes, lizards and fish. Tulum is a popular photo motif and one of Mexico’s most beautiful sights.

4. Hierve el Agua

The Hierve el Agua is an absolute insider tip in our ranking of the best sights in Mexico. Although we only met a few dozen foreign tourists during our two visits, the place is one of the most beautiful in Mexico. We’re even dealing with a real natural wonder here!

Besides warm mineral springs and small geysers, hence the name “boiling water”, there are also two petrified waterfalls to admire. The whole scenery looks almost surreal beautiful, but it was created in a very natural way. Hierve el Agua is located about 75 kilometers east of the city of Oaxaca.

5. Ik Kil

Ik Kil is one of the most impressive natural backdrops on the Yucatán peninsula. This is a cenote, a limestone hole formed by the collapse of a cave and filled with fresh water. The Maya regarded these deep holes as entrances to the underworld and used them as places of sacrifice. Today Ik Kil attracts numerous visitors who cool down in the deep blue water.

Also admirable are the gigantic lianas that hang 26 metres from the edge of the Cenote. Besides there are small waterfalls and while swimming black catfish can be discovered. If you are looking for an adrenaline rush, you can dive into the dark waters of Ik Kils from a 5 metre high cliff.

6. Plaza de la ConstituciĂłn

No visit to the Central American country would be complete without a detour to Mexico City with its cultural sights. In the heart of the capital lies Plaza de la ConstituciĂłn, one of the largest city squares in the world. The square, also called ZĂłcalo, is popular not only with tourists but also with locals and serves as a backdrop for concerts, Aztec dances and colourful markets.

Here are not only the Presidential Palace, the City Hall and Catedral Metropolitana, the largest church in the country. In the Museo Nacional de las Culturas, guests can visit 16 exhibition rooms in which cultural artefacts from all over the world are shown. Over 12,000 exhibits are exhibited in the former mint of the capital.

7. Cataratas de Agua Azul

In the state of Chiapas there are the Cataratas de Agua Azul, waterfalls of extraordinary beauty. Up to 30 metres deep, the cool water plunges here over numerous cascades into the depths. Due to the high mineral content, the water glows in strong colours, which change depending on the pool. Swimming is also allowed in quieter parts of the river.

Dealers offer handmade goods from the region and in a restaurant guests can fortify themselves with grilled fish. The Cataratas are embedded in lush rainforest and stalactite formations, which are formed by the high lime content in the water. A tip: the further you follow the river upwards, the calmer the bathing areas become.

8. Arch of Cabo San Lucas

One of the most interesting natural spectacles in Mexico is El Arco, a rock formation in Los Cabos. The rock arch lies at the southern tip of the Mexican peninsula Baja California and is also called the end of the world. Here the Pacific Ocean merges into the Gulf of California. Wind and waves eroded the rocks and created an often photographed geological structure, which visitors can reach by glass bottom boat, for example.

During the trip you can not only marvel at the rock arch from different angles. In the water there are also countless colourful fish. With a little luck you can see sea lions resting on the rock, and between December and March whales are also at home in the cold coastal waters.

9. Palace of Fine Arts

Mexico’s most important art site is located in the historic center of the capital. The Palace of Fine Arts was inaugurated in 1934 and declared a UNESCO monument of art in 1987. Its beautiful façade combines elements of neoclassicism, the Belle Époque and prehispanic architecture. Marble in various colours gives the palace an immense weight, so that it lies lower than the surrounding buildings.

A highlight is the glass dome, which lets a lot of light into the main hall. The interior of the museum houses murals and sculptures by famous Mexican artists as well as ceremonial masks from the Mayan period. The palace also has a theatre, famous for its 22-ton curtain. This was made in New York from almost a million pieces of stained glass.

10. Isla Contoy

Visitors looking for a secluded island paradise should definitely take a boat trip to Isla Contoy off the coast of Yucatán. Isla Contoy is a Caribbean island from a picture book, with blossom-white beaches, lush palm groves and azure blue water. More than 150 bird species can be observed here and the island is also a refuge for sea turtles.

The lighthouse offers a fantastic view over the coast, while the visitor centre provides information about the Isla Contoys ecosystem. The island was declared a nature reserve in 1998. A snorkeling trip to the Ixlache-coral reef is highly recommended. There visitors marvel at extensive underwater gardens and swim amidst colourful schools of fish.

More things to do and activities for your Mexico holiday

Best time to visit Mexico

We recommend the following months as best time to travel for exploring the attractions and acivities of Mexico:

January, February, March, April, May, November, and December

You can find more information about the weather, including all climate data, on our climate page for Mexico.

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