Located in such close proximity to the U.S. and the Caribbean, Mexico can occasionally be overlooked as a travel destination. But if you’re interested in seeing more of the world, you might want to put it on your list. Mexico is a country with a deep history, rich culture, and lots of beautiful attractions, and it makes a fine stop on any tour of the Americas. So, let’s get into it a little bit! Here are my picks for five specific places you have to see if you make it to Mexico.
Mexico has some truly incredible coastal destinations, but we’re actually moving off the coast entirely with our first suggestion. The Marieta Islands, just west of the common vacation getaway of Puerto Vallarta on the Pacific Coast, are commonly recommended as having some of the country’s very best beaches. Specifically, we’d recommend you seek out Playa del Armor, which one travel site describes as looking like something out of a fantasy movie. It’s actually a place you may well have seen photographs of without realizing it. Basically, Playa del Amor is a golden beach within a cave, which gets sunlight because its roof has a giant hole in it. Many believe the hole was actually caused by a bomb long ago when the Mexican military was testing weapons on the island – but whatever the case, the result now is one of the most unique beaches you’ll find in the world.
San Miguel de Allende
If you’ve looked into Caribbean travel before you know that many of the islands that make up the region are famous for their colonial towns. These are places that were colonized by European explorers hundreds of years ago, and often their capital cities still have “Old Town” areas that are mostly preserved from that time. Mexico is of course not a Caribbean island, but San Miguel de Allende is perhaps its most similar attraction. It’s an old Spanish colonial town in the Mexican highlands, full of striking baroque architecture and marked in particular by a towering, neo-gothic church called Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel.
Tulum, in a way, combines the best aspects of Mexico that most tourists want to see. Which is to say, hints of ancient culture and beautiful beaches. A located on the Caribbean coast, on the Yucatan peninsula and close to the popular vacation island of Cozumel. The beaches are pristine, with white sands, often-gentle surfs, and transparent turquoise waters typical of the most famous Caribbean islands. But the main attraction is El Castillo, a Mayan ruin that looks the part of a fortress overlooking the coastline. (And at one point in history perhaps welcoming Spanish settlers from across the ocean).
Chichen Itza has become perhaps the most enduring symbol of the history of native people in Mexico. It represents the past of the country in countless projects, sometimes overtly and sometimes less so. For instance, games and rituals from the city of Chichen Itza (and the Mayan people) have been depicted in films. Films like Apocalypto and The Road To El Dorado. More directly, players could build it as a wonder in Civilization computer games, and it serves as a backdrop for the popular internet game Gonzo’s Quest, which prides itself on creating a better sense of engagement largely through setting pieces like this.
As is the case with the Egyptian pyramids. However, no amount of representation in fiction or pop culture does the area justice. This is an astonishingly well-preserved place that gives you a true sense of how the Mayans lived. And the central attraction – another “El Castillo,” essentially a M
ayan pyramid built in tiers – is unforgettable.
It may not be the most creative choice, but this list would be incomplete without mention of Mexico’s capital. This city has changed a lot throughout history, it’s effectively built on top of what was once the Aztec capital. Of Tenochtitlan – one of the great cities of the ancient world, the Aztecs built over a network of lakes. Which the conquering Spanish ultimately drained in favor of different kind of construction. But now, several hundred years later, Mexico City is a thriving blend of modern and ancient culture. It’s full of monuments, cultural exhibitions, and plenty of things to do, such that it makes for a crucial stop on any broader tour of the country.