What are the Top Visitor Sites in Mexico?
With the largest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites of any country in the Americas and the sixth most in the world, Mexico is packed full of fantastic attractions to visit. The country is overflowing with history and culture, from ancient ruins straddling dazzling beaches to top notch museums and sophisticated, colourful cities.
With so much to offer it’s a real challenge to select a list of just the top 10 tourist attractions in Mexico and you can easily understand why more than 20 million people flock to this warm and welcoming country each year.
So where to begin? Why not start by casually browsing our list of the top ten tourist attractions of Mexico, where we’ve cherry-picked some of the country’s most important sights, as well as its most beautiful places. We’ve even thrown in an unusual hidden gem or two. And if you’re still hungry for more, check out our comprehensive list of historical sites in Mexico.
1. Chichen Itza
Built to awe, the stepped pyramids, temples and other stone structures of Chichen Itza have been named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World and for good reason. This epically stunning location, which is sprawled across a vast tract of grassland, is made up of two cities built by two cultures, the Maya and the Toltecs. The most recognizable structure here is the Temple of Kukulkan. This has 365 steps, one for each day of the year. There are conflicted accounts of exactly when the first city was built, with experts placing it between the 6th and 9th century AD but that doesn’t alter the sheer majesty of the place. It’s an absolutely incredible place to see and quite rightly ranks as one of the most important and popular Mexican tourist attractions. An absolute must-see!
Head to Tulum and you will feel a little bit closer to heaven. With its ivory white sand and sparkling azure waters, Tulum has beaches that rival even the most majestic coastlines in the world. But it’s not only about sea, sand and surf. Tulum also contains the remains of a once thriving walled city dating back to the 13th century. And it doesn’t just stop there. Tulum serves as the perfect base for exploring the ruins of Cobá, another of Mexico’s top tourist attractions. Head to this area of Mexico and we guarantee you quite simply won’t want to leave.
Surrounded by a dense jungle forest in a dramatic mountain setting, Palenque is one of the most atmospheric and impressive tourist attractions of Mexico. Its Maya stone temples are famed for their architectural sophistication and fine sculptures, and are made even more interesting by their history revealed in inscriptions. Dating back to around 100 BC, Palenque has witnessed the rise and fall of kings and a trip here is an immensely fulfilling and eye-opening experience.
The huge ancient city of Teotihuacan is one of the most famous tourist attractions in Mexico. Dating to between the 1st and 7th centuries AD, Teotihuacan is known as the City of Gods and this otherworldly feel infuses the entire site. Situated only 50 kilometres outside Mexico City, the ancient metropolis is astounding to visit for a number of reasons, the most obvious of which is its sheer size. Visitors should allocate at least a day to explore these marvellous Aztec ruins and you can also discover numerous museums which outline its history and that of those who built it. Even the monuments take on epic proportions - the Pyramid of the Sun, for example, is a staggering 75 metres tall!
Perched atop the Chapultepec Hill in Mexico City, the Castillo de Chapultepec is an incredible 18th century colonial-era palace which bears witness to history both inside and out. Originally constructed in 1785, it was later to become the home of Emperor Maximilian of Habsburg as well as many of Mexico’s presidents. Today most of Chapultepec Castle is occupied by Mexico’s National History Museum, which charts the country’s diverse history, from the Pre-Hispanic era through to Spanish colonialism and on to Mexico’s independence. A remarkable complex, and easily one of the best visitor attractions in Mexico City itself, you’ll be overwhelmed by both the magnificence of the building and the quality of the museum.
Located in the pretty city of Dolores and housed in an impressive eighteenth-century building, the Museo Casa de Hidalgo is a site of paramount importance for modern Mexico. It was here that the “Father of Independence”, Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, lived. And it was from here that, on 16th September 1810, Hidalgo set off to launch the uprising against colonial rule. The house has now been turned into a shrine to the man and the movement. There’s plenty to see and read in the museum and for those who want to learn more about Mexico’s struggle for independence, it’s just a short walk from the Museo de la Independencia Nacional (Museum of National Independence).
Uxmal might not be as well-known as other Mayan tourist attractions in Mexico, but that doesn’t make it any less impressive. This Maya town was thought to have been inhabited as early as 800 BC and would once have been a thriving city and important religious centre. At its peak as many as 25,000 people lived here. Amongst its most striking structures is the “House of the Magician”, a looming one-hundred-foot high monument. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately?) visitors are banned from climbing to its top. With its location in the hilly and immensely scenic Puuc region, Uxmal easily ranks as amongst the top 10 sights in Mexico.
8. Monte Alban
The ancient site of Monte Alban commands mind-blowing views across an entire valley, but that’s not the only reason you should visit what we think is a shoe-in addition to any list of the top 10 tourist attractions of Mexico. This incredible archaeological feat is a spectacular example of ancient urban development. Monte Alban was inhabited for approximately 1,500 years by a succession of civilisations and housed around 25,000 people at its peak. Fun fact: amongst the remains is a ball court known as Juego de Pelota. Here highly ritualistic games took place, which often ended in the death of the losers…
It might not look like much from the outside, but this early nineteenth century granary became the site of a major clash between Spanish colonialists and Mexican rebels during the Mexican War of Independence. Upon the orders of Hidalgo, the “Father of Independence”, this building was set on fire, killing the Spanish colonists inside. The Spanish later sought revenge; the Independence movement’s main leaders were executed and their heads displayed on the walls of Alhondiga de Granaditas. And if this doesn’t sound haunted enough, it also served as a prison. Ghosts aside, it’s a fascinating and immersive space, with an informative museum and numerous pieces of art.
Sitting on a desolate plateau with views for miles around, Xochicalco is one of central Mexico’s most important archaeological sites. Somewhat off the beaten track, which is to its advantage, Xochicalco is large enough to easily justify a day trip and is well worth the effort. Its collection of white stone ruins represent various cultures and the site serves as an example of a fortified political, religious and commercial centre from the troubled period of 650 - 900 AD, which followed the break-up of the great Mesoamerican states. One of the top attractions in Mexico, it is definitely worth going out of your way to see.
If that’s whetted your appetite for all things Mexico, remember you can explore our full list and map of Mexico’s tourist attractions.