Tired of typical tourist destinations and looking for an authentic Mexican vacation? Check out these unique places to visit in Mexico!
From some of the best small towns in Mexico to up and coming Mexico destinations, explore Mexico off the beaten path with these underrated cities you need to add to your Mexico travel itinerary!
Where should I go off the beaten path in Mexico?
Mexico is a big country, and no matter what part you’re exploring, it’s possible to get off the beaten path. In addition to these underrated cities in Mexico, consider taking day trips and visiting small towns.
Throughout Mexico, you’ll find cities the tourism board has distinguished as pueblos mágicos (magic towns). In all, there are more than 120 pueblos mágicos in Mexico. Several of the Mexico hidden gems mentioned in this post are pueblos mágicos
Mexico off the beaten path: Querétaro
There’s so much more to Mexico than beach resorts. In order to get a more well-rounded understanding of this diverse country, it’s important for travelers to get off the beaten path in Mexico.
A great first step off that well-tread tourist track is Querétaro. Wandering the city’s clean and picturesque historic center (with all its magnificent colonial architecture) is just one of the awesome things to do in Querétaro.
Furthermore, Querétaro is also one of the safest cities in Mexico. In fact, it’s often referred to as the “pride of Mexico” for its high quality of life, strong economy and overall safety.
Despite being in the geographic center of the country, it’s long lived in the shadow of nearby San Miguel de Allende. But, that’s quickly changing as more travelers search Mexico for hidden gems.
Find out more about Querétaro here.
Best small towns in Mexico: Bernal
When traveling, one of the best ways to get off the beaten track is to check out small towns, specifically pueblos mágicos (magic towns).
Perhaps the most magical is Bernal. Located less than an hour from Querétaro’s city center, Bernal is a small town with one very big thing going for it: the Peña de Bernal.
Bernal is home to the third largest monolith in the world. And, if you’re so inclined, you can actually hike up it!
Learn more about one of the best small towns in Mexico in this guide to Bernal.
Best hidden places in Mexico: Bacalar
You might come to Mexico for the oceans, but you’ll want to stay for the lagoons. Once you catch your first glimpse of the turquoise water of Bacalar, you won’t believe its one of the relatively unknown places in Mexico.
Nicknamed the “lagoon of seven colors,” Laguna de Bacalar connects underground cenotes to the Caribbean Sea in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo. Centuries ago, pirates used the lagoon as a secret passageway.
Trade in salt and seaweed for the “Maldives of Mexico.” Swimming, kayaking, sailing and snorkeling are all popular activities in Bacalar.
Find out more about traveling the Yucatan in this backpacking Yucatan guide.
Mexico unknown places: Jalpan de Serra
Some of the most unique places to visit in Mexico can be difficult to reach. But, if you want to explore Mexico off the beaten path, it’s worth the extra effort it takes to get to Jalpan de Serra.
Situated in the northern part of Querétaro state, Jalpan de Serra is the perfect base for exploring the region’s Sierra Gorda mountain range. You’ll be glad you braved the twists and turns to get there.
- Take in panoramic views from the Mirador de Cuatro Palos.
- Swim in the crystal clear waters of the Río Escanela.
- Organize a road trip to visit the area’s
18th centuryFranciscan Missions.
To start planning your visit to this up and coming Mexico destination, don’t miss this guide to Jalpan de Serra.
Up and coming places in Mexico: Guanajuato
Central Mexico is full of hidden gems. While many tourists choose to flock to the beaches, travelers who stay in central Mexico are far more likely to achieve an authentic Mexico vacation.
Long popular among Mexican tourists, Guanajuato is starting to gain a reputation on the international tourism circuit.
- Climb (or take the funicular) up to La Pípila for sweeping views of this colorful city.
- Smooch someone special in the famous Callejón del Beso.
- Tour the creepy Mummy Museum.
Plan your trip to Guanajuato before the world finds out about one of the best hidden places in Mexico!
Find out how to get there and where to stay in this guide for Guanajuato.
Unique places to visit in Mexico: Puerto Escondido
In search of the best beaches in Mexico? The Pacific Coast has you covered.
Whether you want to learn how to surf or are just looking to kick back with a
Known for its beautiful beaches, Puerto Escondido is especially popular among backpackers and surfers. One of the top up and coming places in Mexico, the beach town receives travelers from all over the world during the high season (November-March).
Even though it’s growing in popularity, you’re still able to have an authentic Mexico vacation in Puerto Escondido. Oaxaca residents own and operate many of the local establishments.
To start planning your trip to paradise, check out this comprehensive guide to Puerto Escondido.
Mexico hidden gems: Valladolid
Lots of people who visit the Yucatan Peninsula are focused on the beach. But, one of Mexico’s
- Wander the colorful city streets.
- Swim in beautiful (and uncrowded) cenotes.
- Take a day trip to Izamal, the Yellow City.
- Spend a peaceful day at the impressive Ek’ Balam ruins.
Tulum, Isla Holbox and Playa de Carmen get a lot of hype, but the real star of the Yucatan Peninsula is Valladolid. One of the most unique places in Mexico, Valladolid lets you experience the best of the Yucatan.
Keep that in mind when you plan your trip using this backpacking Yucatan guide.
What is the safest place to visit in Mexico?
Many travelers who visit Mexico are concerned about safety and understandably so. Your personal well-being is nothing to mess around with.
However, some in the media (and, even, the President of the United States) have unfairly characterized Mexico as a wholly violent and dangerous place. While there are unsafe places in Mexico (as in any country), there are many safe places to visit in Mexico.
All of the underrated cities mentioned in this post I have personally visited and felt completely safe while doing so. But, of course, you need to always be aware of your surroundings. It’s when you think you’re invincible, that bad things happen.
Want more tips for how to stay safe in Mexico? Check out this post with 35 do’s and don’ts for traveling in Mexico.
To feel more at ease in a foreign country, I always recommend learning a bit of the language. Brush up on your Spanish with the help of this FREE Ultimate Spanish Learner’s Resource Guide.
What are the best cities to visit in Mexico?
I’m always looking for more Mexico hidden gems. Leave a comment with your favorite unique places to visit in Mexico, so I can add them to my list!
Got questions about Mexico off the beaten path? Feel free to leave a comment, or shoot me a DM on Instagram (@alexnotemily)!
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