Top 10 Things to See and Do in Mexico

1. Wander through Mexico City’s Chapultepec Park

Chapultepec is one of the largest city parks in the world, spanning almost 700 hectares. It encompasses the Mexico City Zoo, La Feria amusement park, and the Museum of Anthropology. The museum houses a vast collection of sculptures, jewels, and artifacts from ancient Mexican civilizations. It costs 70 MXN to visit. You can also rent a rowboat or paddleboat and go out on Chapultepec Lake for 60 MXN.

2. Visit the markets

Just about every town in Mexico has a busy, diverse market for you to experience traditional food, pick up some bargain items, and purchase souvenirs. Two of the best are the Mercado Ciudadela in Mexico City (for handmade textiles and artwork), and Oaxaca’s Mercado Benito Juárez (for local foods like fresh ground coffee beans, juices, and grasshopper tacos). If you’re in Merida, check out Mecardo Santa Ana for their Yucatecan cuisine, like cochito horneado, a marinated pork dish that is slow-cooked in underground pits, or head to El Mercado Lucas de Galvez for their specialty seafood cocktails (the locals swear by it to cure your hangover).

3. Explore Zócalo (Plaza de la Constitución)

Zócalo the main plaza in the heart of Mexico City. It dates back to the Aztecs, encompassing both the Templo Mayor (an ancient Aztec temple) and the Palacio Nacional (a colonial palace with offices of Mexico’s president). Situated just off the Zócalo is La Catedral Metropolitana, a magnificent cathedral with a gold altar. It’s a perfect example of Spanish colonial architecture.

4. Go diving

The seas surrounding Mexico have some of the world’s best diving spots thanks to their diverse marine life, large coral reefs (including the second largest reef system in the world, the Great Maya Barrier Reef), and excellent visibility. The Gulf of Mexico is home to five different species of sea turtles, blue whales, lemon sharks, and dolphins, and so much more! Aside from diving, the waters are popular with snorkelers, sports fishermen, waterboarding, surfing, and more or less any other watersports enthusiast. A day of diving starts at 2,400 MXN. Some of the best places to dive in Mexico are Discovery Bay, Cenote Dos Ojos, Revillagigedo Islands, and Isla Mujeres.

5. Relax in Cancun

Depending on what you’re looking to do, Cancun can offer you a crazy-fun party in the sun or some quiet and hidden local markets and restaurants. On the one hand, you have spas, resorts, and picturesque beaches. On the other, you have Mayan ruins, archaeological sites, and little nearby villages.

6. Get lost in Guadalajara

Guadalajara is the second-largest city in Mexico and known for its tequila and mariachi. It’s chock full of museums, such as Cabañas (a UNESCO building with incredible murals), MUSA (paintings & sculptures by local artists), and the Páramo Galeria (contemporary art); nightlife venues, and a labyrinth of old colonial streets. Visit the Hospicio Cabañas, a hospital built in the 19th century, and then spend some time at the Guadalajara Cathedral. The cathedral’s Gothic interior features artworks from famous Mexican artists like Murillo.

7. Hang out in Oaxaca

The state of Oaxaca is known for its strong arts scene, food, and, of course, mezcal. Oaxaca city itself is a beautiful old colonial town with a thriving expat community and countless restaurants, bars, and cafes to explore. I loved my time there! Down the coast, be sure to visit Puerto Escondido and Mazunte, two coastal towns famous for their surfing, seafood, and easy living.

8. See Teotihuacan

The Aztec empire left an enormous mark on Mexico. Don’t miss the awe-inspiring Aztec pyramids at Teotihuacan, located 30 miles (48km) outside of Mexico City. Teotihuacan was founded as early as 400 BCE, but its biggest structures weren’t completed until around 300 BCE. Its three giant pyramids are known as the Temple of the Sun, the Temple of Moon, and the Temple of the Feathered Serpent, and they dominate the landscape. If you’re going to visit just one Aztec site, this is it. It’s unsheltered here, so bring sunscreen and a hat. Admission is 75 MXN.

9. Visit the bizarre Island of Dolls

Known as “La Isla de la Munecas” in Spanish, this is perhaps one of the creepiest tourist attractions in the world. Decades ago, a hermit named Don Julian Santana moved here, learned a girl drowned in the nearby lake, and started collecting and hanging dolls all over the island to please the drowned girl’s spirit. It’s creepy. Like beyond creepy. You’ll have to hire a boat from Xochimilco (200 MXN) to get there.

10. Honor the Day of the Dead

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Yearly on November 1st and 2nd, Mexico celebrates a major festival: Dia de Los Muertos. The festival is a vibrant and lively affair with celebrations for those who are gone but not forgotten, including parades of elaborate and colorful costumes. Families also commemorate their dead relatives by setting up ofrendas, or altars, with pictures of the deceased, candles, yellow marigold petals, and food. This meant to encourage the deceased to cross back over into the land of the living and join in the celebrations. Oaxaca or Mexico City are the two best places to experience this celebration.

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