your perfect Mexico itinerary

Planning a trip to Mexico but don´t know where to start? In this blog post I have put together a customisable Mexico itinerary that offers something for everyone. Whether you prefer beach, jungle, adventure or a combination of them all – you will find your perfect places to visit here!

Mexico is a HUGE country and it can be quite overwhelming to start planning a trip. Especially, if you want to experience more than the typical tourist destinations like Cancún and Tulum. 

Below is an overview of all the places I added to this adjustable itinerary and how many days you should spend there. You can choose the ones you prefer and put it together to your perfect personal Mexico itinerary!

1. Mexico City, 2-4 days, something for everyone!

Let´s start with one of the most underrated destinations – Mexico City. The beautiful capital should be on every Mexico itinerary!

Before visiting Mexico I heard how dangerous Mexico City is and to not visit it! As I don´t like cities, I did not plan to visit anyway. However, I was traveling together with my brother and his girlfriend at the time and they wanted to visit. So we hopped on a plane to Mexico City from Cancún and spent 4 days there. Man, how happy I am that I actually ended up visiting.

Mexico City is so diverse and offers something for everyone! Apart from a ton of cultural attractions like museums, churches etc., it also offers great places to eat and drink, beautiful parks and a ton of things to do around the city.

Everyone I met along the way and talked to, loved Mexico City as well. Just do some research in advance on which areas of the city you might want to avoid and you will have an amazing time.

Things you need to know before visiting Mexico City:

How to get to Mexico City?

You will arrive either by an International flight (cheapest options will probably be to Mexico City or Cancún) or there are also many domestic flights from all bigger towns and cities to Mexico City on a daily basis.

Where to stay in Mexico City?

There are sooo many places to stay in Mexico, it will be easy to find something suitable for everyone. I personally stayed at the NH Collection Mexico City Reforma, which was in a great location.  The best areas to stay in Mexico City are the following: Centro Historico, Roma, La Condesa, Polcanco, Coyoacan.

What to do and see in Mexico City?

I don´t even know where to start, there are sooo many things to do and see…

Anyway, here is a list of some of things you might want to do while visiting:

  • Visit the zocalo (main square) including the cathedral
  • Stroll around the busy streets in the city center
  • Take a hop on – hop off bus tour
  • Watch the sunset from the Cityzen bar (part of the Sofitel Reforma)
  • Visit one of the many markets in Mexico (my favorites are La Ciudadela and Mercado de Jamaica)
  • Check out a brewery and taste some beers
  • Take a boat tour in Xochimilco
  • Visit the Palaccio de Bellas Artes
  • Take a day trip to the Teotihuacán pyramids (preferably with sunrise hot air balloon flights)

Other information about Mexico City:

Mexico City is located in very high altitude (above 2000 m), therefor it get´s pretty chilly at night compared to most other places in Mexico. Bring some warm clothes.

Make sure to add Mexico´s capital to your itinerary. Trust me, it´s worth it. 

zocalo Mexico City - not to be missed on your Mexico itinerary
sunrise hot air balloon flight over Teotihuacan pyramids

2. Puerto Escondido, 2-4 days, for the beach & surf lovers!

Puerto Escondido has gotten very famous in the past years and with good reasons.

It´s a very pretty beach town with chilled vibe and great waves for surfing.

It is also famous for it´s beautiful beaches and turtle release.

Due to the fact that it got so much more famous in the past years, it has also become quite a bit more expensive than other parts of Mexico. If you love a good time at the beach and enjoy surfing, I highly recommend visiting.

Things you need to know before visiting Puerto Escondido: 

How to get to Puerto Escondido?

While there are busses going from Oaxaca and eventually some other cities, the best way to get here would be by plane. I heard a lot of horror stories about collectivos (shared taxis) and busses coming from Oaxaca to Puerto Escondido.  Roads are really, really windy and collectivos are often overfull.

I took a flight from Mexico City, which was very cheap (about 30 USD) with Viva Aerobus.

Where to stay in Puerto Escondido?

There are a ton of options in Puerto Escondido, from budget to really luxury. I´ve been in the area for a while and stayed in some different places. On of my all time favorite airbnbs:

Casa VO

What to do and see in Puerto Escondido?

  • Beach hopping: Playa Bacocho, Playa Carizalillo, Playa Manzanillo, La Punta (Playa Bacocho is also under my TOP 5 beaches in Mexico)
  • Turtle release at Playa Bacocho (daily at 5 PM)
  • Stroll along the main roads in Zicatela and La Punta
  • Go surfing (or if you are a beginner, take  a surf class)
  • Take a day trip to Mazunte and Zipolite or stay in the area overnight

A lot of people actually get kind of stuck in Puerto Escondido and end up staying there for a much longer time than initially planned or even moving there completely. And it´s easy to see why….Amazing beaches, great surfing and an amazing chill vibe. Make sure to add this amazing place to your Mexico itinerary. 

Playa Carrizalillo in Puerto Escondido
turtle release at Bachoco beach in Puerto Escondido

3. Oaxaca City, 2-3 days, the beautiful city!

Oaxaca is a real gem of a city and full of interesting historic sites, beautiful architecture and much more.

If you plan to be visit Mexico for the day of the dead celebrations, Oaxaca is also one of the best places to be.

There are many things to do in the city itself, but also quite a few worthy day tours in the area.

Things you need to know before visiting Oaxaca City: 

How to get to Oacaxa City? 

The easiest way is to fly into Oaxaca city from another airport in Mexico. It is also connected to some cities by tourist bus connections (ADO) and collectivos. However the roads coming from Puerto Escondido for example are very windy and it takes a lot of time for a relatively short distance.

Oaxaca city is a quite walkable city, so you won´t need a car to explore the city itself.

However, if you are planning to do some of the daytrips, a rental car would be ideal or alternatively you can also join one of the tours.

Where to stay in Oaxaca City?

Like many other places in Mexico, Oaxaca has a whole lot of places to stay for all kinds of budgets. I stayed at two unique airbnbs, which I both loved.

A-frame cabin about 30 minutes outside of Oaxaca city

Treehouse about 15 minutes outside of Oaxaca city

What to do and see in Oaxaca?

  • Visit one or more of the many museums
  • Explore the city center and zocalo
  • Take a Oaxaca cooking class
  • Visit one of the local markets
  • Take a day tour to Hierve el Agua
  • Explore the ruins of Monte Alban

Oaxaca is one of my favorite cities in Mexico, due to it´s beautiful architecture and many points of interest. It´s on my bucketlist to come back to Oaxaca City one day for the day of the dead celebrations. 

one of the many colorful buildings in Oaxaca City
Hierve El Agua - make sure to add this place to your Mexico itinerary
Plaza Santa Domingo, Oaxaca City

4. Hidalgo, 3-4 days, off the beaten path!

Hidalgo is one of my favorite off the beaten path destinations in Mexico!

Home to some of my TOP 10 hidden gems in Mexico and hardly visited by International tourists.

Due to the fact that it is much less touristy than other areas in Mexico, it can be harder or require more advance planning for getting around and accommodation sorted.

If you have some spare days and are up for an off the beaten path adventure – I highly recommend adding Hidalgo to your Mexico itinerary!

Things you need to know before visiting Hidalgo: 

How to get to Hidalgo:

To get to Hidalgo and to move around it is essential to have a rental car. You will find details for car rentals and other helpful information in this blog post: Driving in Mexico. If you only want to visit one specific place in Hidalgo, you might also have the option to go on a guided tour instead. I visited Hidalgo twice, the first time I rented a car in Mexico City and the second time I drove in my own car. 

Where to stay in Hidalgo?

This is where it get´s kind of tricky. Compared to other places, there are much less options here.

However in some areas, there might be some airbnbs available. If you for example visit the Grutas de Tolantongo (which I cannot recommend enough), you can stay in one of the hotels located at the Grutas, however you are not able to reserve in advance, but need to hope for an available room upon arrival. Also note that you can only pay in cash.

What to do and see in Hidalgo? 

  • Visit the Grutas de Tolantongo – my very favorite hidden gem in Mexico.
  • Check out the less popular Gloria de Tolantongo, just next door to the Grutas
  • Visit the Basaltic Prisms of Santa Maria Regla
  • Explore the Dunas Rojas de San Francisco

There are many more places in Hidalgo you could visit, however in the recommended 3-4 days, you will not be able to cover them all 😊

Best thing in this state is that you will have a very authentic Mexican experience without many International tourists. Ready for the adventure?

Grutas de Tolantongo - must visit place in Mexico!
Grutas de Tolantongo
Prismos Basalticos de Santa Maria Regla
Prismos Basalticos de Santa Maria Regla
Grutas de Tolantongo
Grutas de Tolantongo

5. Chiapas, 3-5 days, for the nature lovers!

Another one of my favorites – Chiapas! Located in the South of Mexico, this state is home to some of the most incredible nature.

From waterfalls to colorful mountain towns, lush jungle  and ancient ruins, this state has it all!

Things you need to know before visiting Chiapas: 

How to get to Chiapas?

Either fly into the state´s capital (Tuxtla Gutierrez), take a tourist bus (ADO) or of course, drive in your own car or rental. Unfortunately, Chiapas has been the only state that I did not feel super comfortable driving by myself when I visited.

There have been quite a few road blocks by locals that you either need to pay to pass or without the option to pass at all. Check out my blog post Driving in Mexico for more on this topic.

Where to stay in Chiapas?

Chiapas is a quite big state and depending on where exactly you are, there are options pretty much everywhere. Especially in the most touristy areas like San Cristobal de las Casas.

What to do and see in Chiapas?

  • Explore the city San Cristobal de Las Casas
  • Visit some of the many waterfalls (Cascadas El Chiflon, Las 3 Tzimoleras, Cascadas Roberto Barrios, Cascadas Welib Ha, Cascadas Agua Azul)
  • Check out my favorite ruins in Mexico: Palenque
  • Take a boat tour through Cañón del Sumidero

If you love nature, be sure to add Chiapas to your perfect Mexico itinerary.

Canon del Sumidero
Canon del Sumidero
Palenque archeological site
Palenque archeological site
Cascada El Chiflon - add this place to your Mexico itinerary
Cascada El Chiflon

6. Cancun, 1-3 days, for the party people and resort lovers!

Personally, I did not like Cancún. However if you are looking to spend some days in an all-inclusive resort and want to experience the party scene, make a stop here.

Cancún does not really have a pretty city or much interesting historic or cultural places to offer. It does however have nice beaches and great resorts (some of the most expensive in Mexico too) and is also a good base for visiting other interesting places nearby. 

Things you need to know before visiting Cancun:

How to get to Cancun?

If you are visiting Quintana Roo, Cancun will likely be your starting point for this Mexican state. This is where I started my trip to Mexico in 2022 as well. Cheapest flights from Europe to Mexico were from Madrid to Cancun at around 200 € one-way.

Cancún can also be reached by tourist bus (ADO) from many places within Mexico.

Where to stay in Cancun?

Many options for resorts, not so many great budget options.

I stayed at the Krystal Cancún Altitude tower for my first few days of the trip, which I really enjoyed.

Also stayed at this airbnb with incredible views.

What to do and see in Cancun?

  • Relax at the beach
  • Dive into the party scene
  • Take a trip to Isla Mujeres
  • Go on a day trip to Chichen Itza
  • Venture out to different location on the Yucatan peninsula

As mentioned before, I did not really like Cancun itself. But, it is a solid starting point to explore the areas and some great places are within a relatively short distance to Cancun.

Cancun hotel zone views
Cancun hotel zone views
beach at Hotel Krystal
beach at Hotel Krystal

7. Baja California Sur, 3-5 days, for the beach lovers!

Baja California Sur has been one of my favorite states in Mexico! Especially because of it´s incredible beaches. It is home to some of my TOP 5 beaches in Mexico.

BCS makes up the Southern part of the Baja California peninsula and is quite far from other places in Mexico.

The peninsula is mainly visited by Americans, due to it´s proximity to California.

If you are a beach lover, like I am, it is definitely worth the effort to make your way there and explore this magical place.

Things you need to know before visiting Baja California Sur: 

How to get to Baja?

I personally drove into Baja California from the US, which was super easy and a very enjoyable drive. Alternatively there are flights going to Cabo San Lucas and La Paz from other places in Mexico and also from many US airports.

There is also the option to get on a ferry from Mazatlán. 

To explore Baja, I highly recommend getting a rental car, this will make things a whole lot easier.

Where to stay in Baja?

Places like Cabo San Lucas, La Paz and Todos Santos have many options for all budgets. If you are into camping, I highly recommend camping at some of the beaches, you can camp (almost) everywhere here. Find places on IOverlander.

What to do and see in Baja?

  • Explore the countless beaches – some of my favorites are: Playa Balandra and surrounding beaches, Playa Encontrada (Bahia Concepcion) but there are literally SO MANY all over the peninsula. The water colors will blow your mind!
  • Visit Cañón de la Zorra – on of my favorite hidden gems in Mexico
  • Go scuba diving
  • Take a whale watching tour (if you are visiting during the appropriate season)
  • Stroll around the cute town Todos Santos

Again, if you like beaches, I highly recommend adding Baja California Sur to your Mexico itinerary. Some of the most beautiful, turquoise water I have ever seen!

Playa Balandra
Playa Balandra
Playa Balandra - Baja California Sur. Not to be missed on your Mexico itinerary
Playa Balandra
Playa Encontrada
Playa Encontrada

8. Holbox, 2-4 days, Mexico´s Maldives (1)!

Often referred to as Mexico´s Maldives, Isla Holbox is one of my favorite hidden gems in Mexico.

Even though it is getting more and more popular fast, it is still much less visited than for example Tulum or Playa del Carmen.

The island has a dreamy coastline with great beaches and crystal clear water. If you are into beaches, you will want to visit Holbox!

Things you need to know before visiting Holbox:

How to get to Holbox?

You can either fly from some of the Mexican cities or take a ferry from the little town Chiquilá in the North of the Yucatan peninsula. To get around on Holbox itself, you can either rent a golf cart or just explore by foot. The island is car free (apart from a few cars for constructions etc.)

Where to stay in Holbox?

Holbox is, compared to other places in Mexico, quite expensive. Also there are not a whole lot of options, make sure to book a bit in advance to still find a good deal on accommodation.

I stayed at the pretty expensive but very beautiful Villas Flamingos.

What to do and see in Holbox?

  • Beaches – the developed part of the island has one long stretch of beach making up the Playa Holbox, further up the coast line, there are many more beaches that can and should be explored.
  • Go kitesurfing, a very popular activity on the island.
  • Wade through the knee-deep, crystal clear water.
  • Take a bioluminescence tour or try to find this natural spectacle by yourself. (don´t know what it is? Google it!)
  • Rent a golf cart and explore the island

Holbox is my favorite Mexican island and I cannot recommend adding it to your Mexico itinerary enough. Visit it before it gets as crowded as Tulum and other tourist hot spots!

Holbox Island - add this gem to your Mexico itinerary
Mexico´s Maldives - Isla Holbox

9. Baclar, 2-3 days, Mexico´s Maldives (2)!

Another Mexico´s Maldives? Yes, also Bacalar has this nickname.

The bacalar lagoon is actually a fresh water lagoon in the very South of Quintana Roo, only 20 minutes from the border to Belize.

The lagoon is quite shallow in many places and therefor the water looks so insanely turquoise and beautiful.

This place is also part of my Top 10 hidden gems, even though it gets more popular pretty fast.

Things you need to know before visiting Bacalar:

How to get to Bacalar?

You can take a tourist bus (ADO) or also fly into Chetumal and take a taxi or shared shuttle from there. While most points of interest a quite close by, some spots like the rapids are better reachable by car.

Where to stay in Bacalar?

Bacalar has many accommodation options. From great hostels to luxury overwater bungalows, something for every budget. I did camp at some really cool spots I found on IOverlander

What to do and see in Bacalar?

  • Visit one of the many beach clubs (my favorite was Blu Beach Club)
  • Take a boat tour through the lagoon.
  • Go kayaking the rapids
  • Visit on of the cenotes (my favorite is Cenote Cocoalitos)

Many people visit Bacalar as their last station in Mexico before heading to Belize. Even if Belize is not your next destination, I highly recommend a visit to Bacalar. I personally liked it a whole lot better than Cacún, Playa del Carmen and Tulum together. 

kayaking the rapids in Bacalar - this got to be on your Mexico itinerary
kayaking the rapids in Bacalar
Bacalar - Cenote Cocalitos
Cenote Cocalitos
Aluxe Beach Club
Aluxe Beach Club

10. Tulum, 3-4 days, the place to visit cenotes!

If you are planning a trip to Mexico, I am sure you already heard about Tulum. Even though, it is VERY touristy and also expensive compared to other parts, I still recommend visiting.

You will certainly have a less authentic Mexican experience than in other places, but there are still many great things to do around Tulum.

One of my favorite things and what makes Mexico so unique: Cenotes. There are thousands of cenotes in Mexico and many are located in and around Tulum.

Things you need to know before visiting Tulum: 

How to get to Tulum?

You can either get a tourist bus from places like Cancún or Playa del Carmen or travel by car. I rented a car in Playa del Carmen and drove it down to Tulum, more on the rental experience here: Driving in Mexico.

It is also quite popular to explore Tulum itself by bicycle and many places offer them for rent.

Where to stay in Tulum?

Tulum has MANY options. Like almost too many to make a decision. Compared to other places, prices for accommodation are quite high here due to the popularity.

Just search for some on booking and airbnb and take some time to find the right place for you!

The hotel zone along the beach is definitely the most expensive area to stay. I stayed at a lovely airbnb near downtown.

What to do and see in Tulum?

  • Visit some cenotes: Cenote Grande, Cenote Calavera, Cenote Cristal, Cenote Sac Actún, Cenote el Pit and many more.

  • check out some of the beaches in the area – one of them is also part of my TOP 5 beaches in Mexico

  • Explore the Archeological site of Tulum – get there as soon as they open, it get´s sooo crowded once the tourists busses arrive.

  • Relax at one of the many restaurants/ beach clubs along the hotel zone.

  • Stroll around downtown Tulum

  • Check some of the instagrammable spots out – Tulum has manyyyyy!

Even though Tulum is so popular, I would say it is worth it to experience it one, even though I preferred less touristy areas for sure. 

Tulum hotel zone beach (Playa Las Palmas)
Tulum hotel zone beach (Playa Las Palmas)
Grand Cenote
Grand Cenote
Tulum Archeological Site - must stop on your Mexico itinerary
Tulum Archeological Site

11. Playa del Carmen, just another touristy place!

Similar to Cancún, I did not really like Playa del Carmen much. Too touristy in my opinion.

However, if you don´t mind a lot of tourists, you can still plan a stop in Playa del Carmen.

Things you need to know before visiting Playa del Carmen: 

How to get to Playa del Carmen?

Quite easily reachable from other tourist destinations in Quintana Roo by tourist bus (ADO).

Playa del Carmen also has a small airport, but I think flight options are quite limited.

Where to stay in Playa del Carmen?

Many options in Playa del Carmen, even though quite pricey compared to other places. I stayed at this place, which I really enjoyed. 

What to do and see in Playa del Carmen?

  • Check out the beaches.
  • Stroll around the main roads for restaurants, bars and shops.
  • Take the ferry to Cozumel.
  • visit one of the cenotes in the area. 
  • Go skydiving – the only thing I liked about Playa del Carmen. I had a great sky dive experience with Skydivemex
Playa del Carmen - in my opinion not a mandatory stop on your Mexico itinerary
Playa del Carmen

12. Cozumel, 2-3 days, snorkling and diving!

If you make a stop in Playa del Carmen, be sure to take the ferry to Cozumel. Even though Cozumel gets quite crowded (mainly because of the amount of cruise ships calling almost every single day), it is worth a visit.

Check out cruise schedules beforehand, some days there are up to 10 ships in port with thousands of passengers each.

Cozumel is a great destination for diving and snorkling but also has many great beaches and points of interest.

Things you need to know before visiting Cozumel:

How to get to Cozumel?

You can either fly into Cozumel from other places in Mexico or take the ferry from Playa del Carmen. To get around Cozumel itself, I highly recommend renting either a car, buggy or scooter.

Some of the roads, specially in the North of Cozumel are not well developed and can only be explored with a 4×4 vehicle.

Where to stay in Cozumel?

Cozumel has quite a few options around the island. However, not as many as most other popular destinations in Mexico. Make sure to check in advance to find your ideal place to stay. We had a great budget deal at Casa Isabella. (yes, we chose it because of the name lol)

What to do and see in Cozumel?

  • Go scuba diving and/ or snorkling.
  • Check out some of the beautiful beaches.
  • Visit the Punta Sur Eco Park. (this is one of the best places in Mexico to see crocodiles)
  • Take a road trip around the island.

If you want to explore the beautiful underwater world, Cozumel should be on your Mexico itinerary!

Playa Punta Arena, Cozumel
crocodile in Puta Sur Eco Park

13. San Miguel de Allende, 2-3 days, voted "the world´s best city"!

San Miguel de Allende is very special and has been one of my favorite spots in Mexico, even though I don´t even like cities in general.

It has a very charming Spanish colonial style architecture and has many exciting places to visit.

San Miguel de Allende has also been voted “the world´s best city” in 2021. Many expats call San Miguel de Allende their home and benefit from the great quality of living here.

Things you need to know before visiting San Miguel de Allende:

How to get to San Miguel de Allende?

Best option would be to fly from another Mexican city or arrive by car.

Where to stay in San Miguel de Allende?

San Miguel de Allende has many options. I have stayed at the incredible Cuna del Cielo,  owned by an Austrian expat.

What to do and see in San Miguel de Allende?

  • Stroll through the beautiful colonial streets in downtown.
  • Explore the zocalo and enjoy the views of the church Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel.
  • Visit one of the many upscale restaurants.
  • Check out one of the many museums.
  • Visit one of the hot springs in the area.(Escondido hot springs, Mayan Baths, La Gruta Spa)

San Miguel de Allende is definitely worth a visit, even if you´re not really into cities, like me.

San Miguel de Allende downtown
cathedral San Miguel de Allende

14. San Luis Potosí, 4-5 days, chasing waterfalls!

Last but not least: San Luis Potosí. Home to some of the best waterfalls in Mexico!

One of my top 10 hidden gems in Mexico (Hacienda Gomez Y Sus 7 Cascadas) is located here as well.

And I am sure, if I had more time to explore this state, many more would have actually made it into the ranking.

Due to it´s location, far off the usual tourist route, this gem of a state is hardly visited by International tourists.

However, it is quite popular for domestic tourists, so try to avoid holidays and weekends, if possible.

Things you need to know before visiting San Luis Potosí:

How to get to San Luis Potosí?

Definitely not as easily accessible as other places in Mexico. Arrival by car and getting around by car is definitely the best option. Check out my blog post Driving in Mexico for more details.

Alternatively, you can fly into the city of San Luis Potosí, however most attractions will be quite far from the city and you will need a car in any case. If you are visiting Hidalgo (which I hope you will), you can also combine those two states when renting a car in Mexico City for example.

Where to stay in San Luis Potosí?

Due to the fact that this state is much less touristy, there are also far less accommodation options. However near to Xliltla (where a lot of points of interest are), there are quite a few options and also in more remote locations you should mostly be able to find a place to stay.

Just make sure to check in advance to not end up in a location without any accommodation options. There are also some great camp spots, if you´re into camping. Check them out on IOverlander.

What to do and see in San Luis Potosí?

  • Chasing waterfalls: Hacienda Gomez Y sus 7 Cascadas, Cascadas Tamasopo, Cascada de Tamul, Puente de Dios, Cascadas de Micos and many more
  • Visit the surreal gardens Las Pozas

If you enjoy waterfalls, make sure to add San Luis Potosí to your Mexico itinerary! 

hidden no name waterfall in Xilitla
hidden no name waterfall in Xilitla
Las Pozas - the surreal gardens
Las Pozas - the surreal gardens
Hacienda Gomez Y Sus 7 Cascadas
Hacienda Gomez Y Sus 7 Cascadas

I hope this blog post was helpful for you and you have created your perfect Mexico itinerary!

If you have any questions, let me know down below in the comments.

Also make sure to check out some of my other blog posts to help with planning your Mexico trip: