Mexico is a country of incredible diversity. There is just so much to do across the entire country from pristine tropical beaches, ancient Mayan ruins, jungles and waterfalls, incredible small towns, thousands of cenotes and so much more!
Mexico has been on the traveller route for some time now, so there are some classic tourist destinations on many people’s bucket lists, like the Chichen Itza, Cancun, Tulum, Cabo and Oaxaca.
But for every famous spot, there are dozens of hidden gems of Mexico to explore! These amazing hidden gems will uncover the true essence, beauty and stunning diversity of this culturally rich and beautiful country.
Continue reading to learn about our top picks for hidden gems in Mexico that will take you off the beaten path, take you by surprise and make your trip to Mexico one to remember for a lifetime!
Bacalar and the surrounding lagoon is Mexico's answer to the Maldives, but it is lesser-known and therefore an unspoilt paradise.
This is the perfect place to visit for adventurous travellers who are over the resort towns of Quintana Roo.
The town of Bacalar itself is one of Mexico’s Pueblo Magicos (magic towns). Around the town spreads the Lagoon of Seven Colours which is named after the multicoloured emerald green and turquoise blue waters of the lagoons. It is pure magic!
The best way to explore the lagoons of Bacalar is via kayak or boat. You will come across deep cenotes to dive into, shallow swimming spots and secret bars hidden amongst the mangroves.
Be prepared to spot sea lions, humpback whales, sea turtles and more.
Bacalar is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site to protect the rich marine world of the Sea of Cortez.
2. Grutas de Tolantongo
Grutas de Tolantongo is a hidden paradise up in the Sierras. It is a hike to reach but after you make the effort you will be rewarded with streams of ribbon-like water falling cascading over rocks.
Grutas de Tolantongo is not so much of a secret as it used to be, due to its popularity on Instagram, it is one of the most insta-famous places in Mexico, and maybe even the world! It is simply stunning and so unique!
The cascades of water emerge from deep cave systems and are fed by underground hot springs, making the most incredible and unique natural mineral pools.
There is an onsite spa with bathing pools cut straight into the hillside!
The best part is, it is conveniently located just four hours north of Mexico City making it an easy day or weekend trip from the city.
3. Huasteca Potosina
Located in the state of San Luis Potosi, many travellers know of the region's colonial mining town but few choose to venture out to Huasteca Potosina which is home to some of Mexico's most amazing wilderness.
The land here is unspoilt and untouched by humans and tourism. Expect to see a beautiful array of blue waterfalls, lush sierras and wild jungles.
This is an amazing place to kayak, hike, bird watch and explore the amazing flora and fauna.
A must-see area for waterfalls is in the Tamasopo area!
4. Calakmul Ruins
If you are a lover of ancient ruins, but not so much a fan of overcrowded touristic spots consider visiting Calakumul instead of the famous Chichen Itza ruins.
Calakmul was once the great capital of the Kingdom of the Snake. It is one of the most off the beaten path, Indiana Jones-style places you can visit in Mexico!
When the Mayan civilisation was at its peak, this area, made-up of nearly 7000 ruins, was home to 50,000 people or more.
The ruins are a UNESCO World Heritage site and date back to around 400AD. It is also home to what’s thought to be the largest pyramid ever built by the Mayans!
Another bonus is you are allowed to climb all of the structures here.
5. Hierve del Agua
Imagine a waterfall made of rock!
Well, you don’t have to imagine because they exist in the heart of Mexico, near the magical city of Oaxaca (which is a well-known place definitely worth visiting on its own!).
At Hierve del Agua you will find stunning geological formations that are the result of thousands of years of calcite deposited on the sierras of Oaxaca state.
This is one of the most stunning and unique places to visit and you will always remember it!There are two main waterfalls, one is larger and one is bigger.
You can view them from the bottom, looking up into the insane formations, or from the top and enjoy incredible views over the lush mountains.
There are also two artificial pools that you can swim in onto of the falls to enjoy the amazing views.
6. Secret Cenotes
Cenotes are one of the most famous attractions in Mexico! Cenotes are essentially beautiful pools in underground caves.
There are around 6000 in the Yucatan Peninsula so you could spend a lifetime trying to find the best most hidden cenote!
There are many variations of cenotes, some are open-air, some are in a cave and some can only be reached if you dive into them!
There are some popular touristic cenotes but they are usually crowded which can spoil the beauty and serenity!
Here are a few lesser-known cenotes to explore:
- Cenote Xoch
- Cenote Cristal
- Cenote Mil Columnas
- Cenote Caracol
Izamal is a hidden gem in the Yucatan with just a fraction of the crowds as in other places like Tulum, Playa Del Carmen and Cancun.
Izamal is home to a fascinating Mesoamerican site that remains mostly undiscovered.
There are 5 huge structures that reveal just the tip of how vast the old Mayan site that was once here was.
The famous Yellow City is a maze of cobbled lanes in a beautiful daffodil yellow colour.
Taxco is the best-hidden gem in the state of Guerrero.
The sparkling sands of Acapulco are the biggest drawcard for this area but Taxco is very different! Taxco is about beautiful mountains and precious metals!
The town is wedged, very beautifully, into a small valley that rolls down steep hillsides.
It is surrounded by some of the oldest precious metal mines in Mexico.
9. Copper Canyon
Copper Canyon is Mexico’s answer to the Grand Canyon. It cuts through the peaks of the Sierra Madre Occidental in a series of deep valleys and gorges which are simply breathtaking.
It’s named after the coppery greenish-blue hues that tinge the side of the mountains in the summer.
The most popular way to witness these landscapes is on the El Chepe train that takes you through the canyon on its way from Chihuahua City to Mexico City.
This is considered one of the most scenic train rides in the world and goes to a massive 2,400 meters above sea level!
The small village of Yelapa is around the Bahia de Banderas to the south and is completely cut off from the outside world, making this a true hidden gem!
You have to arrive by boat or via a challenging jungle trail.
Yelapa has an amazing beachfront to enjoy with beautiful white sand that falls into a bay of emerald ocean.
The town is the perfect small town to soak up the authentic way of life for remote villagers in Mexico.
Expect taco and seafood shacks and rustic guest houses where you can fully disconnect from the rest of civilisation!
Guanajuato is one of the most incredible and fascinating places to visit in Mexico and indeed the world!
The town unfolds in a valley between mountains in the heart of Mexico.
It's full of incredible tunnels that were once flowing rivers!
There is the stunning Basílica Colegiata de Nuestra Señora de Guanajuato and the incredible buildings of the University of Guanajuato.
You can also visit a Museum of the Mummies.
This is a festive town that has several universities and hosts festivals all year.
The International Cervantino Festival in October is one of the biggest festivals in Mexico which is followed immediately by Day of the Dead in Guanajuato, Dia de Los Muertos, on November 1-2.
This is the perfect place to soak in the vibrant and loud festivities that make Mexico so special.
12. Holbox Island
Holbox Island is one of the best beach towns in Mexico! It still feels like the same small fishing village that it was 20 years ago.
Cars aren’t allowed on this amazing beach island, there are no traffic lights. Golf carts and bikes are the most popular ways to get around making Holbox Island a unique place where you can really disconnect from the bustle of ordinary life.
You also won’t find persistent tour operators trying to sell you trips, tourist shops or even any chain restaurants, making this place the dream for those wanting to get off the tourist trail!
Expect beaches, hammocks and good vibes only!
13. San Cristobal de las Casas
San Cristobel is a charming town that is located 1.5 miles above sea level in the Central Highlands.
This pueblo magico lives up to its name when it comes to nature, food and culture. San Cristobel and the surrounding area has so much to offer!
San Cristobel is a vibrant and colourful town that is super safe and budget-friendly. It is also very connected to its Mayan heritage while also an energetic place to be for Mexican festivities.
Plus the streets and buildings are picture perfect!
This is the perfect place for those who want to have a true Mexican cultural experience.
15. Palenque Ruins
The Palenque ruins are another must-see ancient Mayan site deep in the jungle.
Located about 5 hours from San Cristobel, you can opt to stay near the ruins in jungle huts and wake up to the sounds of howler monkeys before immersing yourself fully in the ancient ruins themselves.
These are without a doubt some of the best ruins Mexico has to offer, made all the more exciting by the jungle backdrop!
The cute town of Palenque is also a cute place to visit.
Tepoztlan is another pueblo magico! And it is easy to see why.
This is a haven for spiritual seekers, healers, yogis, artists and those on the search for themselves.
It’s possible to visit in just a day from Mexico City, or you can choose to stay longer and experience more of the magical energy of Tepoztlan.
It has its own unique vibe which attracts spiritual people who are looking for a quick escape from the city.
Some of the best things to do here are climbing the Tepoztlan pyramid and visiting the local market.
You can also take part in a traditional purification ceremony called a temazcal. This is similar to a Native American sweat lodge and has been used for centuries in Mexico for the purification of the body and mind.
Catemaco is located in the easter state of Veracruz and has been long known as “Mexico’s witchcraft capital.”
That title may immediately put you off or it may spark a sense of curiosity in you to see and experience a place like this yourself.
When someone needs to see a brujo or “sorcerer,” or Chamán, they would come to this small town set on a mystical and magical lakefront.
Catemaco however has more to offer than just witchcraft! It is also home to archaeological sites and the Nanciyaha receiver which is abundant in incredible wildlife.
One of the most interesting things to do here is to see a brujo and get a limpia or ‘cleaning’. The brujo will clean off all of the bad energy, spells and dark entities that you may have on you.