After spending six months traveling all around Mexico, we thought we would share our list of favorite activities. We’ll tell you about our best adventures, best experiences, and the things we enjoyed the most in Mexico. Here is our list of our top 20 experiences in Mexico!
(If you prefer to watch a video with the same information then go to this link: Our Top 20 Experiences in Mexico).
#20: Mezcal Plantation (Oaxaca)
Starting at #20, we have a visit to a mezcal plantation in Oaxaca. Mezcal is an alcoholic drink that is very common all around Mexico. Our tour included a visit to the fields where the agave plant is grown. We also saw the transformation process where the plant goes through stages of cooking, mashing, and milling. Then there is a series of procedures involving fermentation and distilling. And finally we got to sample the different varieties of mezcal created at the plantation.
#19: Lord Of Tabasco Cathedral (Villahermosa)
The next experience at #19 is the magnificent Lord of Tabasco cathedral in Villahermosa. This cathedral is massive. It completely dominates the skyline of the city. The cathedral was actually destroyed in the 1930s, but then rebuilt with construction concluding in the 1970s. It’s well worth the visit if you are in Villahermosa.
#18: Funicular Ride (Guanajuato)
Next is the funicular ride in Guanajuato. Although it’s a short ride, it’s still a lot of fun going up the steep hill. The views get more and more amazing as you go up. And once you’re at the top you get even more spectacular views over the charming and picturesque town of Guanajuato. No wonder Guanajuato was named a UNSECO World Heritage Site.
#17: Lucha Libre (Mexico City)
#17 is the lucha libre experience. Lucha libre is a wrestling tournament, but I would actually categorize it as more of a show than an athletic event. To an outsider lucha libre might seem a bit silly, but it is a huge part of Mexican culture. We really enjoy these types of experiences that you won’t find anywhere else in the world.
#16: Oaxaca Churches (Oaxaca)
Coming in at #16 is the churches in Oaxaca. It seems like every city and town in Mexico has one main cathedral. But in Oaxaca there just seems to be more of these magnificent structures. There are 4 or 5 big cathedrals in the center of the city, and many more smaller ones scattered around as well. We think Oaxaca has one of the best historic centro areas in the entire country of Mexico.
#15: Night Shows (Campeche and Mérida)
#15 on our list is the night time light shows that we saw in Campeche and in Mérida. In Campeche there’s a great show on the malecon where the fountains and lights are synced to music. There is also a light show at the fort in Campeche that was themed to the history of the city. And then in Mérida there is a fabulous projection show that lights up the main cathedral.
#14: The Beaches (Progeso and Cancún)
For us #14 is going to be the beaches. I know a lot of people would put the beaches at #1. The main reason why many people come to Mexico is to enjoy these beautiful beaches. And we enjoyed the beaches too, don’t get me wrong. But we prefer the more cultural experiences. However the beaches here in Mexico are really some of the best in the world, and there are plenty to choose from all over the country.
#13: Small Colonial Towns (Cuernavaca)
#13 is the small colonial towns and villages, and the one that stands out the most to us is Cuernavaca. This lovely town is just a bit south of Mexico City. You could visit on a day trip like we did. But looking back we wish now we had stayed longer. It has an amazing cathedral with interesting history, a great museum, and a walled monastery complex. It’s really just a nice place to relax and soak in the ambiance.
#12: Chapultepec Park (Mexico City)
Coming in at #12 is Chapultepec Park. This is in Mexico City and is one of the world’s biggest and best city parks. It’s double size of Central Park in New York City. You could spend days here, going around to the different natural areas and lakes. And there are several museums in the park too. Don’t miss Chapultepec if you ever come to Mexico City.
#11: Henequin Hacienda (Mérida)
Next is the henequin hacienda we visited just outside Mérida. Henequin is a plant used to make rope. It’s mostly been replaced with synthetic rope these days. But it was amazing to see the process of how the rope was made and how this industry once dominated the area’s economy.
#10: Frida Kahlo Museum (Mexico City)
Half-way through our list of top 20 experiences in Mexico is the Frida Kahlo museum in Mexico City. We learned all about this artist’s personal life and her amazing artistic talent. One tip if you come here: reservations need to be made ahead of time, and you’ll still need to wait in line even with a reservation.
#9: Guadalajara’s Centro (Guadalajara)
#9 is Guadalajara’s centro. The center of the city is filled with colonial plazas, landmarks, fountains, museums, cathedrals, and other historic points of interest. We took a couple of day trips to Guadalajara from Ajijic, but if we had to do it over again we would have spent more time here. Guadalajara is a fantastic city, one of the best.
#8: Cooking Classes (Ajijic)
Ranked #8 is the cooking classes we took at the Lake Chapala Society in Ajijic. Two of the best things about Mexico are the people and the food. We do love to eat the food in the restaurants, but we also like to learn how to cook the food ourselves. That way we can enjoy the cuisine anywhere in the world. We took a class on making salsa, another on making tortillas, and one on Mexican juices or aguas frescas.
#7: Botanical Gardens (Oaxaca and San Miguel de Allende)
Next is the botanical gardens in both Oaxaca and San Miguel de Allende. Normally if someone tells me we’re going to botanical gardens, I think: “Boring! We’re going to look at plants all day with the little signs that say the name of the plant in Latin!” But the gardens we visited were really nice. In Oaxaca the gardens are so popular that people were waiting for hours to get in when we were there. And I think the botanic gardens in San Miguel de Allende are almost worthy of being classified as a small national park. Both are absolutely worth the visit.
#6: Textile Tour (Oaxaca)
Up next is the tour in Oaxaca to see the area’s vibrant textile industry. We visited a tapestry and rug shop where we saw a demonstration on how the yarn is made and the rugs are woven. We also went to a candle making workshop, where they produce massive human sized candles. Then we saw a really interesting pottery demonstration. And Emily took a sewing class where she made a huipil, which is a traditional woman’s garment.
#5: Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel (San Miguel de Allende)
Next is Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel, coming in at #5. This cathedral is magnificent. It reminds me of a castle in a fairytale. We really enjoyed hanging out in the plaza and just soaking in the architecture of this breathtaking church.
#4: Plaza de la Constitución (Mexico City)
#4 is the zócalo in Mexico City. This is the city’s main plaza, and it is enormous. It’s really hard to grasp the size until you go there yourself. To put it into perspective, this plaza can hold up to 100,000 people. It dates all the way back to the days of the Aztecs.
#3: Sailing (Bacalar)
Coming in at #3 is sailing on the lagoon in Bacalar. We took an amazing sunset sailboat ride on the fresh water lagoon in Bacalar, which is located in the very south of the country near the border with Belize. There are other types of water sports as well such as jet skiing. And Bacalar is just a great place to spend a few days relaxing.
#2: Cenotes (Yucután Peninsula)
#2 is swimming in the cenotes. The cenotes located in the Yucután peninsula are giant sinkholes or caves that contain very pure and crystal clear water. And they are great for swimming, an especially great way to take a break from the heat and humidity.
#1: Ancient Ruins (All Around Mexico)
And the best on our list of top 20 experiences in Mexico is the ancient ruins that you’ll find all around Mexico. We visited Mitla just outside Oaxaca City, the center of the Zapotec civilization. Also near Oaxaca is Monte Alban, my personal favorite because it’s situated up on the mountain overlooking the beautiful valley and because you can still climb some of the pyramids here. And then we have the world’s widest pyramid called Great Pyramid of Cholula, just outside of Puebla. Next is Uxmal just outside of Merida. It has a magnificent complex of structures, and we really liked that it didn’t have the crowds of the other sites. And then finally we of course have Chichen Itza, the grand daddy of the archeological sights. This ancient Mayan metropolis is where you will find one of the most famous pyramid temples in the entire world.
Let me mention some bonus places that we didn’t include in our list of top 20 experiences in Mexico because it’s been a long time since we’ve been to these places.
Tiotihuacán has some of the world’s biggest ancient pyramids, not to be missed if visiting Mexico City.
The Copper Canyon
The Copper Canyon in the north of Mexico is fabulous. It is four times bigger than the Grand Canyon back in the US.
Cabo San Lucas
Cabo San Lucas is a great vacation spot. Our family visited when I was a teenager (a long time ago).
Cuetzalan is a charming colonial village just a half-day away from Mexico City.