Last Updated on December 1, 2022 by Janine

Looking for some off the beaten path destinations in Mexico so you can beat the crowds? Look no further! These lesser-known destinations will help you experience the best of Mexico while avoiding the crowds.

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It’s easy to understand why so many travelers are drawn to Mexico’s tourist hubs and major cities: each one is pretty incredible in their own way.

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But, if you’ve already been there and done that, or you’re simply determined to avoid the crowds, it’s well worth seeing Mexico off the beaten track. 

I reached out to a group of fellow travel bloggers and together, we’ve compiled this list of offbeat destinations that deserve a spot on your Mexico bucket list

We’ve included cities, pueblos, nature escapes, ruins, and so much more. There’s truly something here for every type of traveler.

To help you with your planning, I’ve created this handy map for your reference. 

Each destination referenced in this article has been plotted on the map, so you can see if your upcoming Mexico travels will take you anywhere near one of these compelling offbeat destinations.

Where to Go Off the Beaten Track in Mexico

Copper Canyon is one of Mexico's most underrated destinations!
Copper Canyon is one of Mexico’s most underrated destinations! Photo Cred: Visit Copper Canyon

1. Copper Canyon, Chihuahua

By Kayla of Visit Copper Canyon

The Copper Canyon is an exciting destination in Northwest Mexico and is part of the Sierra Madre mountain range. 

It’s actually a system of 7 canyons and as a whole is bigger and deeper than the Grand Canyon in the U.S. 

This destination is not only a spectacle to see but is full of unique experiences; at the top of that list is El Chepe. El Chepe is a train that runs right through the Canyon system. 

With over 100 tunnels and bridges and beautiful views, it’s the absolute best way to see the Canyon.

Along the train route are up to 5 towns worth stopping at and spending a night or two. Go hiking in one town, visit a hot spring in another and ride one of the world’s longest zip lines spanning across a canyon in yet another town! 

Experience the northern culture along the way and brush up on your history at the local museums. 

To top it off, just a 20 min drive from one of the train’s terminus stations is a beach town chalk full of fresh, local seafood dishes.

It’s easy to fill a week or two exploring the Copper Canyon, an off the beaten path destination in Mexico.

Tequila makes a great day trip or weekend getaway from Guadalajara. Photo Cred: Destinationless Travel

2. Tequila, Jalisco

By Bailey of Destinationless Travel 

Tequila is one of my favorite destinations in Mexico. This small town is the home of, you guessed it – tequila! That’s right, the spirit was actually named after the town, and not the other way around.  

If you visit the town of Tequila, you have to visit tequila distilleries and blue agave farms where you’ll learn about the entire tequila making process. 

Jumping on a tequila tour is one of the most popular things to do in Tequila. And besides learning about tequila, you’ll also get to sample a ton of different kinds! 

But even if you’re not a big drinker, Tequila is a small picturesque worth visiting. The central square is often bustling with food stands, markets, and celebrations. 

Tequila is a common holiday destination for Mexicans as well, and the fun-loving holiday-vibe is alive and well here.  

You can visit Tequila easily on a day trip from Guadalajara. Tequila is only located about a 1.5-hour bus ride from Guadalajara. 

Otherwise, people often visit from the touristic coastal city of Puerto Vallarta. Although farther away at a 4-hour drive, it’s still possible to visit on a guided day trip.  

Sierra Gorda, Mexico
Queretaro’s Sierra Gorda is an awesome place to do some hiking in central Mexico. Photo Cred: Boundless Roads

3. Sierra Gorda, Querétaro

By Isabella of Boundless Roads

With a unique diversity of ecosystems where semi-desert meet oak forests and large cliffs rise above flat barren lands, the Sierra Gorda in Queretaro is one of the most underrated places to visit in Mexico that nature-lovers should totally include in their itinerary. 

You will need 2 full days to see all the highlights of the Sierra Gorda, but I would make it 4 to enjoy it completely without rushing it. 

The region is packed with adventurous things to do that are suitable for any kind of traveler. 

Hiking trails are mild and short but will take you to amazing refreshing waterfalls and breathtaking lookouts. 

The most spectacular places to visit in this region are the waterfalls of el Chuveje and Puente de Dios, the 5 old Franciscan missions, and the breathtaking views from the highest mountain point of the Sierra Gorda, Cuatro Palos. 

Adrenaline junkies also find their natural amusement park right here with challenging rappelling adventures and thrilling mountain biking trails. 

There are different ways to enjoy the Sierra Gorda. You can either stay in one of the eco camps in the forest or, in the cute town of Pinal de Amoles, and take tours from there to the different sites. 

I was alone and without a car and hired a local guide to take me around. I had a blast and I loved the fact that I was supporting the local business. 

There is a great community of guides and local companies committed to promoting their beloved region and preserving the environment. 

That’s another good reason for visiting, to support their efforts and contribute to the conservation of the territory. 

Queretaro's wine region is a great way to get off the beaten track from Mexico City.
If wine & cheese appeals to you, don’t miss the opportunity to check out the wine region in Queretaro, Mexico.

4. Querétaro Wine Region, Querétaro 

By Rose of Where Goes Rose

When you talk about wine regions in Mexico, most people will immediately think of Baja California. 

The second-largest remains relatively unknown to foreign tourists yet the Queretaro wine region is well worth a visit. 

Four hours from Mexico City by car or bus lies Queretaro state of which Queretaro is also the capital city. 

You can stay here and take day trips to the wineries which are located between two charming Pueblo Magico towns (‘magic towns’ voted by the Mexican tourism boards) which are also worth exploring.

The best wineries to visit are Finca Sala Vive by Freixenet, Vinedo Los Rosales and Vineyards La Redonda

At these wineries you can tour the cellars or simply purchase wine and cheese to sample. The specialities of the region is sparkling wine and sweet white wine. You’ll typically pay between 50 and 100 pesos a glass. 

A day hopping between the three and eating Mexican food in nearby Bernal or Tequisquiapan is idyllic!

Basaltic Prisms, Huasca de Ocampo, Hidalgo Mexico
The Basaltic Prisms are just one of many fascinating attractions in Huasca de Ocampo, Hidalgo. Photo Cred: Layer Culture

5. Huasca de Ocampo, Hidalgo

By Daniel of Layer Culture

When looking for off the beaten path destinations in Mexico you could make yourself familiar with Huasca de Ocampo. 

There you will find various attractions but one unmissable destination which combines both a natural wonder and a cultural landmark in one is the Basaltic Prisms. 

Located in the state of Hidalgo, this attraction, with its links to Mexico’s mining history is a canyon full of lava rocks which, along with the river, form various natural waterfalls. 

Here you’ll also find a small but diverse selection of restaurants and places to buy souvenirs. 

There is a small charge on entry depending on whether you visit as part of a tour or not but it is totally worth the fee. 

Hiring a tour guide is recommended so you can learn stories and the deeper history behind this amazing landmark. 

All in all, the town of Huasca de Ocampo and the Basaltic Prisms are a must for anyone looking to get off the beaten track from Mexico City. 

Grutas de Tolantongo, Hidalgo, Mexico
Set up camp alongside a thermal spring at Grutas de Tolantongo in Hidalgo, Mexico.

6. Grutas de Tolantongo, Hidalgo

The Grutas de Tolantongo, also known as the Tolantongo Caves, are a stunning thermal spring located in the state of Hidalgo, just a few hours from Mexico City.

Here, you can spend the day frolicking in beautiful blue pools with a stunning backdrop of waterfalls and lush green vegetation.

Take a flashlight so you can explore the Tolantongo cave, through which the warm spring water flows. 

Then, go for a relaxing swim in the warm river water, or climb up the hill to lounge in a pool overlooking the river and the surrounding jungle.

Visitors can camp out at the Grutas de Tolantongo in tents, or book a stay in a local lodge or hotel.  

Related Reading: How to Visit the Grutas de Tolantongo, Hidalgo

Tepoztlán, Morelos, Mexico
Tepoztlán makes a scenic getaway from Mexico City!

7. Tepoztlán, Morelos

By Shelley of Travel Mexico Solo

Looking to go off the beaten path near Mexico City? Look no further than Tepoztlan in the state of Morelos, located about an hour from Mexico City.

Tepoztlan is one of Mexico’s 130 or so pueblos magicos (magic towns). 

Wondering what is a pueblo magico? 

Each year, the Mexican Tourism Secretary designates certain pueblos (small towns) in the country as “magical” because they have qualities including unique folklore and amazing natural beauty.

Tepoztlan is known as one of Mexico’s spiritual epicenters, and many head there for day or weekend wellness getaways. 

There are numerous healers and yoga studios in the town, as well as temazcal (sweat lodge) ceremonies.

Beyond those, many like to visit the Tepoztlan pueblo to climb the Tepozteco pyramid. This mysterious Aztec pyramid, located high atop the town, is dedicated to the Aztec god of pulque.

What is pulque? 

It is a prehispanic adult beverage, made from the fermented agave plant. Though an acquired taste, make sure to try pulque when visiting Tepoztlan. You’ll see it sold by street vendors, or at the City Market of Tepoztlan.

This colorful mercado (market) also has all kinds of unique, vegan, prehispanic foods, like itacates (fried corn cakes), alaches and quelites (both dark green veggies). 

For meat eaters, try the most famous food in Morelos state: cecina, a thin, salted beef steak.

Tetzcotzinco Aztec Ruins
The Aztec ruins of Tetzcotzinco are a fascinating archaeological site to visit as an alternative to Teotihuacan. Photo Cred: Passport & Pixels

8. Tetzcotzinco Aztec Ruins, Estado de Mexico

By Bella of Passport & Pixels

Most tourists interested in Aztec ruins in Mexico will make a beeline for the famous Templo Mayor, the former heart of the Aztec capital, in Mexico City’s centro historico

But if you want to avoid the crowds and head somewhere where you’re almost guaranteed to have the place to yourselves, head to Tetzcotzinco instead.

Tetzcotzinco (sometimes spelled Texcotzingo) is an archaeological site situated about 1.5 hours’ drive east of Mexico City centre. 

This impressive complex was the royal retreat of Netzahualcoyotl, who was king of a city state called Texcoco and an ally of the Aztecs. 

He built his palace and gardens here as a royal summer residence, complete with a temple, outdoor baths, and a massive aqueduct to bring in water from nearby springs, all of which you can still see today. 

It’s amazing evidence that the Aztecs were impressive engineers, able to build magnificent monuments without metal tools, wheels, or animal power. 

There’s a fair amount of walking involved to get around the site, but don’t miss the chance to climb right to the very top of the hill to admire the amazing views of the valley below.

Piedra Herrada Butterfly Sanctuary

9. Piedra Herrada Butterfly Sanctuary, Estado de México

By Nicole of Go Far Grow Close

Every November, millions and millions of monarch butterflies migrate to the Oyamel fir forests of Mexico’s central highlands. 

In the spring, these butterflies begin an 8 month migration back, during which time four successive generations live and die. 

Nobody knows how the butterflies find their way there and back again year after year. This phenomenon is considered the most dramatic demonstration of insect migration in the world. 

The Monarch Butterfly Biosphere is a World Heritage Site that protects eight of these monarch butterfly colonies. 

It is 56,259 hectares (or 139,000 acres) and is located 100 km north of Mexico City in the forested mountains.

Piedra Herrada is one of the butterfly sanctuaries. It is a 2-3 hour drive from Mexico City. 

From November – April, for $4 per person, visitors are welcome to hike up or rent a horse with a handler to reach the top of the mountain where the butterflies stay. This takes approximately one hour.

Once there, you will see literally thousands and thousands of monarch butterflies either weighing down branches because there are so many of them, or fluttering about covering you, the air around you and the skies. 

It is absolutely breathtaking and one of the most amazing spectacles that you will ever see.

Callejon de los Sapos, Puebla, Mexico
Callejón de Los Sapos is a fun and colorful shopping street in Puebla.

10. Puebla, Puebla

The beautiful, colonial city of Puebla sits just 2 hours outside of Mexico City. 

Despite being easily accessible, Puebla’s central location in Mexico often means it is overlooked in favor of bigger draws like Mexico City and Oaxaca.

However, if given a chance, this picturesque city is sure to wow you. Puebla is famous for a few different things, the main three being: churches, talavera tile, and mole poblano

Puebla’s plethora of ornate churches showcase a variety of architectural styles from Gothic to Baroque and beyond. 

The main cathedral, located on the zocalo, features an impressively gigantic organ that you will need to see to believe.

The city center is clean and walkable, and home to an array of gift shops, cafes, charming boutiques, and fascinating museums.

The Callejón de los Sapos is a popular shopping street where you can pick up artisan goods, regional candies, and, of course, talavera tiles. 

Don’t leave the city without sampling Puebla’s signature dish: mole poblano. You’ll have no trouble finding this delectable dish on menus throughout the city.

You could definitely squeeze a day trip to Puebla into your Mexico City itinerary, but this beautiful city warrants more time. Plan to spend at least 2 full days.

Iztaccihuatl - Popocatépetl National Park, Mexico
Photo Cred: SightDOING

11. Parque Nacional Iztaccíhuatl – Popocatépetl

By Becky of SightDOING

When travelers picture Mexico City, they rarely consider the outdoors, but if you’re willing to take a little adventure you can find yourself off the beaten path! 

Between Mexico City and Puebla, you’ll find Iztaccihuatl and Popocatepetl volcanoes. 

Iztaccihuatl is a fabulous place for hiking, with stellar views of the rugged wilderness and (if you’re lucky), Popocatepetl erupting at a safe distance.

Most people come for day hikes, with options ranging from relatively simple to challenging summits. 

Ambitious travelers can also spend the night camping in the national park or staying in nearby Amecameca, a town with a few haciendas and parks. 

Not only will staying overnight allow you to experience a local town most people have never heard of, but it will also help you acclimate to the high altitude before you start hiking Iztaccihuatl

The summit reaches 17,000+ feet (5,230 meters) although most hikers stick to paths leaving from the La Joya trailhead at “only” 13,000 feet. 

No matter how high you climb, you’ll be one of the few who visits a volcano in Mexico.

Xalapa, Veracruz is one of Mexico's most underrated cities.
Xalapa’s many city parks are a lovely way to soak up the ambiance of the gorgeous city.

12. Xalapa, Veracruz

The stunning mountain city of Xalapa is an incredible destination for those looking to go off the beaten path in Mexico. 

The city is virtually untouched by international tourism: you won’t be hounded by tour providers or pitched to buy timeshares here! 

Within Xalapa you’ll find incredible natural scenery, a charming colonial city, and some of the best food Mexico has to offer.

Xalapa is located in a coffee growing region and the cafe culture here is strong. 

You could spend your entire visit hopping from one local coffee shop to the next, sampling their locally grown and roasted beans. My recommendations: El Cafe Tal and Kariva.

No trip to Xalapa would be complete without paying a visit to the anthropology museum, which highlights Olmec and Toltec culture through artifacts discovered in the region.

Immerse yourself in the beautiful nature of this region on a hike up Macuiltepetl, a hill in the center of the city where you can admire views of the surrounding mountains. 

Related Reading: The Ultimate Xalapa, Veracruz Travel Guide

Laguna de Catemaco, Veracruz, Mexico
The dreamy Laguna de Catemaco is a great place to get off the beaten track and enjoy nature in Mexico.

13. Catemaco, Veracruz

The village of Catemaco is known for its community of brujos (witches and sorcerers), and you will find many opportunities to have a spiritual cleansing, or any number of other spiritual treatments throughout the city.

Even if you’re not interested in the occult, Catemaco is still a fabulous destination, particularly for those with an affinity for nature.

Catemaco is situated on the Laguna de Catemaco, a large lake that exists in the crater of an extinct volcano. It is located on the fringes of the Los Tuxtlas Biosphere Reserve, a large nature preserve recognized by UNESCO as “an area of high geological and ecological complexity and of human activity.”

The lake is surrounded by lush jungle which is home to all kinds of rare birds and impressive tropical plants that you may not have a chance to see anywhere else.

You can hire a guide to take you on a jungle hike to a waterfall and point out all the native plants, or get out on the lake on a boat tour to spot monkeys and birds.

Or, post up at a jungle lodge and simply enjoy the natural scenery and the opportunity to swim in the lake!

Despite being one of the most breathtaking natural areas of Mexico, Catemaco remains well off the beaten track. It’s a bit of a trek to get there, but it’s well worth the effort.

San Jose del Pacifico in the mountains of Oaxaca.
Photo Cred: Living Out Lau

14. San Jose Del Pacifico, Oaxaca

By Sean of Living Out Lau

Located in the lush mountains of Oaxaca State is one of Mexico’s most gorgeous mountain towns: San Jose Del Pacifico

This small town of about 700 inhabitants is the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of Mexico’s larger cities and enjoy some nice fresh air and beautiful greenery. 

Over the years, San Jose Del Pacifico has become a wellness location. Magic mushrooms are its most notable attractions, but things such as Temazcal and yoga studios are starting to spawn.

Because of its location and a small number of residents, the locals make their own laws. Magic mushrooms are not only legal in San Jose del Pacifico, but they are actually one of its driving forces of tourism.

Chill in one of the hostels or mountain cabanas and watch nature dance around you. 

Or, go on a short hike and enjoy nature up close. San Jose Del Pacifico is all about de-stressing and enjoying what nature has to offer!

Hierve El Agua, Oaxaca, Mexico
Hierve el Agua is a stunning natural feature just outside Oaxaca City. Photo Cred: Cultures Traveled.

15. Hierve el Agua, Oaxaca

By Julien of Cultures Traveled

Over thousands of years, mineral-rich spring waters have trickled down the mountainside to form a petrified waterfall in the remote village of San Isidro Roaguía, Oaxaca. 

The water, which bubbles up from the ground, is first captured in a swimmable infinity pool located at the top of the cliff.

With sweeping mountain views, Hierve el Agua is a unique destination that deserves an entire day if time allows. 

Between swimming and taking in the views, there are moderate hikes that offer incredible views of the petrified waterfall – one of only two in the world!

Hierve el Agua is located about an hour and a half east of Oaxaca City. To get there you’ll first need to travel to the small town of Mitla. 

While you’re there, plan time to visit the archeological site which is unique for its intricate geometric designs that are pieced together like a mosaic but without the use of mortar.

These sites are just some of the mesmerizing natural and cultural beauties in the state of Oaxaca. 

The entire state is definitely worth immersing yourself in on your quest for other off the beaten path destinations in Mexico.

Related Reading: How to Spend 4 Magical Days in Oaxaca City

Mazunte, Oaxaca

16. Mazunte, Oaxaca

By Michele of A Taste for Travel 

Tucked on Mexico’s Pacific Coast between Huatulco and Puerto Escondido in the State of Oaxaca, Mazunte is a tiny beach town with a unique and fascinating vibe. 

Once the site of one of the world’s largest sea turtle processing factories, it has transformed into an eco-destination where the focus is on wellness, environmental conservation, and alternative living. 

It’s also home to the National Mexican Turtle Museum, an oceanfront educational center dedicated to research and rehabilitation of sea turtles and their environment. 

While Mazunte is definitely a top spot to participate in a sea turtle release or witness a mass sea turtle nesting, there are many other things to do in the area beyond communing with sea turtles. 

Some of the top things to do in Mazunte include taking a yoga class or retreat at one of the many yoga schools, exploring the mangroves at La Ventanilla eco-tourism center, shopping for natural cosmetics at the Cosmeticos Naturales de Mazunte Cooperative, or lounging at one of the beach restaurants. You’ll encounter a wide range of cuisines, including vegan, Italian, and Oaxacan. 

Outdoor adventure is also a top activity from body surfing to whitewater rafting while accommodation options range from rustic beach bungalows to hilltop luxury boutique hotels. 

Mazunte is just one of many alluring beach towns along the coast of Oaxaca. You may also want to check out the awesome things to do in Huatulco, Puerto Escondido, and Puerto Angel if you’re visiting the area!

fortress walls of Campeche, Mexico
Downtown Campeche is surrounded by fortress walls that were built to protect against pirates.

17. Campeche, Campeche

The walled city of Campeche is the capital of the Mexican state by the same name. 

While often overlooked in favor of the buzzier colonial city of Merida, Campeche offers much of the same appeal with fewer tourists. 

Campeche has received an UNESCO World Heritage site designation in part because of its incredible military architecture. 

The city’s historic center is surrounded by fortress walls built in the 1600s to protect against pirate raids. 

Take a walk along the top of these walls to admire the views of the city from above. 

If you’re keen to learn more about the military history of Campeche, pay a visit to the Fuerte de San Miguel

This seaside fort has been beautifully restored and features a dry moat, a drawbridge, and a collection of cannons. 

Within the accompanying archaeological museum you can view a number of artifacts including stunning jade burial masks and other figurines.

Campeche’s cobblestone streets are lined with brightly painted, colonial buildings which make a beautiful backdrop for photos. 

Campeche also has an oceanfront malecon where you can bask in the evening breeze and treat yourself to some nieve while you take an evening stroll. 

If you’re looking for an off the beaten path destination in Mexico, Campeche should definitely be a contender.

Las Coloradas, Yucatan
Las Coloradas is an alluring off the beaten path destination in Yucatan, Mexico. Photo Cred: The Orange Backpack

18. Las Coloradas, Yucatán

By Maartje and Sebastiaan of The Orange Backpack

One of Mexico’s best hidden gems is located in the northern tip of the Yucatán peninsula: the pink lakes at Las Coloradas

This unique natural phenomenon is definitely worth the detour, though not many tourists visit this beautiful place yet.

Las Coloradas is located in the Yucatán peninsula at the northern coast. 

Drive the road from colorful Valladolid north for 2 hours. You’ll head for the small town called Las Coloradas, in the Rio Lagartos Biosphere Reserve. First, you’ll pass the salt factory. It’s hard to miss, as it has mountains of pure white salt. A unique sight!

When you’ll reach Las Coloradas village, the first pink lakes are at your right hand. Locals charge you to visit them. You can either do that and visit the most beautiful orange and pink lakes in the area. Or, you’ll continue driving the road, passing many more pink lakes you can enjoy for free.

The pink and orange lakes and the salt factory are actually connected. The salt factory collects the salty seawater in these basins, where the water will slowly evaporate under the Mexican sun. 

It’s an old way to harvest salt, as the Maya already did in this area once. At one point, the concentration of specific algae and plankton in the remaining water is extremely high, giving these lakes their unforgettable orange and pink color.

cobblestone streets and colorful facades of Valladolid, Mexico
Valladolid is a gorgeous pueblo mágico just a few miles from Chichen Itza.

19. Valladolid, Yucatán

Valladolid is a gorgeous colonial city located just a few miles from Chichen Itza in Mexico’s Yucatan state. 

While many travelers use it simply as a mealtime stopover on their way to Chichen Itza, this beautiful city deserves more attention! 

Valladolid is a pueblo mágico, a designation Mexico’s secretary of tourism awards to towns with incredible cultural heritage.

As such, the architecture of the town has been beautifully preserved, with colorful facades and lovely cobblestone streets.

Spend a couple of days in Valladolid enjoying the relaxing atmosphere.

Wander the scenic Centro Historico, admire the architecture, and sample traditional Yucatecan foods in the local market and cafes. 

There are numerous cenotes within a short distance of the downtown, which are the perfect way to seek relief from the Yucatan heat.

Related Reading: 10 Awesome Things to do in Valladolid, Yucatan

Ek Balam Ruins, Yucatan, Mexico
The incredible Ek Balam ruins definitely deserve a spot on your Mexico travel itinerary.

20. Ek Balam Ruins, Yucatan

By Kat of Wandering Bird

If you want to find somewhere off the beaten path in Mexico, hire a car and drive to the incredible Mayan ruins of Ek’ Balam

These ruins are in amazing condition and are one of the last Mayan sites where you can actually climb all over them, yet the entire place is surprisingly quiet- we went in February and had parts of the site to ourselves. 

The attraction is relatively new as it was only uncovered in 1997. Huge parts of it are still being cleared even today- if you’re lucky you may be able to watch some of the work being done.

The best part of visiting Ek Balam is climbing up the Great Pyramid, which stands at 96ft tall (about 8 storeys) and offers an incredible view of the jungle and surrounding ruins.

There are also beautiful carvings around the pyramid- the sheer scale of it is breathtaking.

Ek Balam is about 20km north of Valladolid. It is possible to visit by tour, but you’ll have a better time if you go on your own, although the tour guides have a lot of knowledge to share.

Ticket prices without a tour are 70 pesos pp. There are no toilets or facilities inside, so make use of the rest area before you enter. 

You also need to visit the beautiful cenote here- X’Canche, where you can zip line across the cenote, rappel into it and even float on rubber rings. It’s a beautiful place (TOP TIP- hire bicycles!!)

Bacalar Lagoon, Mexico
Bacalar is still relatively undiscovered despite being one of the most scenic destinations in Quintana Roo, Mexico!

21. Bacalar, Quintana Roo

By Allison of Viva La Travelista

Located just two hours south of Tulum and just north of the Belize border, Bacalar is one of the most beautiful off-the-beaten-path destinations in Mexico. 

Bacalar is a large natural lagoon and is known as “Laguna de los Siete Colores” (Lagoon of the Seven Colors) due to the varying depths and different shades of the most stunning turquoise blue.

It’s officially designated as one of Mexico’s “Pueblos Mágicos”, which is a distinction given to small towns that offer visitors a magical experience from their natural beauty, culture, traditions, or genuine hospitality.  

The town of Bacalar is truly a special place and hidden gem due to its incredible natural beauty and lack of mass tourism.

Bacalar is the perfect place for a relaxing and tranquil getaway. There are many accommodation options located directly on the lagoon, where you spend the day relaxing on overwater hammocks. 

In addition, there are many more adventurous things to do in Bacalar including kayaking, paddle boarding, and boat tours. 

Another highlight is visiting Los Rapidos, a restaurant and attraction where you can float down the rapid canals of the lagoon. 

No matter where you end up in Bacalar, it will be an unforgettable experience. 

Isla Holbox offers a laidback antidote to the hustle and bustle of Quintana Roos larger cities like Tulum and Playa del Carmen.

22. Isla Holbox, Quintana Roo

By Bret Love & Mary Gabbett of Blue Ridge Mountains Travel Guide 

Located about 2 hours north of Cancun, this tranquil, 21-square mile island is 6 miles off the north coast of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and accessible only via ferry boat. 

In fact, this formerly sleepy fishing village-turned-ecotourism hotspot doesn’t allow cars on the island at all. Visitors get around by using golf carts, mopeds, or bicycles. 

Holbox is part of the protected Yum-Balam Biosphere Reserve, and the most popular activities here include fishing, kiteboarding, island-hopping, and birdwatching. 

The shallow lagoon that separates the island from the rest of Quintana Roo is home to beautiful birds such as Cormorants, Flamingos, Herons, and more. 

If you get a chance, visit during June through September, when hundreds of Whale Sharks gather nearby (in what is known as the afuera) to breed and feed on the plentiful krill found in the warm waters. 

Swimming with these gentle giants responsibly is a once-in-a-lifetime experience you won’t soon forget! 

Photo Cred: The Awkward Traveler

23. Tapachula, Chiapas

By Kay of The Awkward Traveler

Tapachula is a small unassuming city in Mexico’s most southern state of Chiapas. Void of flashy attractions and big chain resorts, in Tapachula you can easily immerse yourself and explore like a local without the crowds. 

If you are adventurous, right outside of the city is Tacaná Volcano, the second highest peak in Central America and home to some of the most interesting hikes in the entire country as you navigate trails that wind through lush rainforests, past magma flows, and through sustainable farming villages. 

Tapachula has a pre-Mayan historical site, Izapa Archaeological Site, which has one of the most extensive ceremonial centers in the Soconusco region. It is where the Mayan calendar is believed to be developed – AND it’s free to visit. 

But, if you would rather stay closer to your accommodations, you can find some of the best restaurants downtown. 

Make sure to grab a table at La Jefa, Sonora’s Meat, and Tío Too Rest&Beer. Or take it to go for a picnic at Bicentenario Park. 

Then wind down your day with a trip to Barra de San Jose and sink your toes into the sand at this Playa Linda, the beach at Port Chiapas.  

Interested to learn more about what Chiapas has to offer? Check out my post on the best places to visit in Chiapas!

Continue Planning Your Trip!

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This Mexico travel guide is packed with all the info you could ever need.


I use a combination of Booking, Airbnb, and VRBO to find accommodation throughout Mexico. is awesome for booking hotels and resorts, while Airbnb and VRBO specialize in apartments and villa rentals, making it a great place to find long-term stays.

Some cities in Mexico have more listings on VRBO than Airbnb (or vice versa), so it’s best to check both to find the perfect place!

Car Rentals

Rental cars add tons of flexibility to your travel plans. If you opt to rent one, I recommend using Discover Cars to find the best rates!


Skyscanner is my favorite tool for finding the best deals on airfare.

Travel Insurance

Never leave home without travel insurance.

SafetyWing offers super-affordable policies that cover things like medical expenses, trip interruption, and lost luggage. They even offer coverage for some expenses related to COVID-19. Their policies are particularly great for long-term travelers, making them a great option for Mexico.

Learn Spanish

There’s no question that knowing basic Spanish is wildly beneficial in Mexico. It helps you stay aware of your surroundings, solve problems, and make friends!

RocketSpanish has a well-structured program that will take you from bumbling to conversational in just a few modules. Start your free trial today!

Still have questions?

Join my Female Travelers in Mexico Facebook group, a supportive community of fellow Mexico travel enthusiasts, where you can find answers to all your travel questions!

Which of these off the beaten path Mexico destinations are you most excited about? Let me know in the comments!