Embark on an unforgettable journey through this beautiful country with our ultimate 3-week Mexico itinerary. As a diverse and vibrant nation, Mexico offers a wealth of history, culture, and natural beauty.
From the bustling metropolis of Mexico City to the serene beaches of the Yucatan Peninsula, we’ve handpicked the top attractions and experiences to make your vacation truly memorable.
With this 21-day guide, you’ll enjoy a perfect blend of city life, ancient history, and breathtaking landscapes. So grab your passport, pack your bags and your sombreros, and let’s get started!
Week 1: Mexico City, Teotihuacan, Puebla, and Cholula
Days 1-3: Mexico City
Begin your adventure in Mexico City, the vibrant and bustling capital of Mexico. Rich in history, culture, and culinary delights, this city offers something for every traveler. Start by exploring the historic city center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where you’ll find iconic landmarks such as the Zocalo, the Metropolitan Cathedral, and the National Palace, which houses Diego Rivera’s famous murals depicting Mexican history.
For art enthusiasts, a visit to the Frida Kahlo Museum in the charming neighborhood of Coyoacán is a must. Delve into the world of Mexico’s most famous female artist, exploring her life, works, and the vibrant blue house where she once lived. Afterward, head to the nearby Leon Trotsky Museum to learn about the life of the Russian revolutionary who found refuge in Mexico.
Mexico City is also home to a number of world-class museums, including the National Museum of Anthropology, which houses an extensive collection of pre-Columbian art and artifacts, and the Palace of Fine Arts, showcasing works by famous Mexican artists and stunning murals by Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and Rufino Tamayo.
Definitely don’t miss Mexico City’s vibrant and ever growing nightlife scene, mostly situated around the Condesa and Roma neighborhood. You can find everything from hidden speakeasy’s, massive warehouse clubs such Patrick Miller, and the expat/local mixed clubs and lounges like the popular Departamento.
Make sure to indulge in the city’s thriving food scene, from street food to fine dining. Visit a local market, such as Mercado de San Juan or La Merced, to sample traditional Mexican fare like tacos al pastor, tamales, and churros. For a more upscale experience, reserve a table at one of the city’s acclaimed restaurants like Pujol or Quintonil.
Day 4: Teotihuacan
Take a day trip to the ancient city of Teotihuacan, located just outside Mexico City. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to some of the most impressive pyramids in the Americas, including the massive Pyramid of the Sun and the intricately decorated Pyramid of the Moon.
Climb the pyramids for stunning views of the surrounding landscape and explore the rest of the archaeological site, including the Temple of Quetzalcoatl and the Palace of Quetzalpapalotl.
Days 5-6: Puebla and Cholula
Continue your journey southeast to the beautiful colonial city of Puebla, known for its vibrant streets, stunning churches, and exquisite Talavera pottery. Visit the impressive Puebla Cathedral, which boasts the tallest church towers in Mexico, and explore the colorful Calle de los Dulces (Sweet Street), where you can sample traditional Mexican candies and sweets.
In Puebla, you can also visit the International Museum of the Baroque, which showcases the opulence and extravagance of the Baroque era through art, architecture, and decorative objects.
Just a short drive from Puebla lies the charming town of Cholula, which boasts the largest pyramid by volume in the world, the Great Pyramid of Cholula. Though much of the pyramid is hidden beneath a hill and topped by the Church of Our Lady of Remedies, you can still explore the extensive network of tunnels that weave through the structure.
While in Cholula, don’t miss the opportunity to wander through the town’s vibrant streets, visit the stunning San Gabriel Monastery, and take in the breathtaking views of the nearby Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuatl volcanoes.
Day 7: Return to Mexico City
Travel back to Mexico City to prepare for the next leg of your journey. Use this day to explore any remaining attractions in the capital that you might have missed, such as Chapultepec Castle, the National History Museum, or the trendy neighborhoods of Condesa and Roma, which are filled with eclectic shops, cafés, and galleries.
Alternatively, you could also spend the day relaxing in one of the city’s beautiful parks, such as Parque México or Bosque de Chapultepec, where you can rent a paddleboat on the lake or visit the Chapultepec Zoo.
Week 2: Oaxaca, San Cristobal de las Casas and Palenque
Days 8-9: Oaxaca City
Continue your journey south to Oaxaca, a city renowned for its vibrant arts scene, colonial architecture, and exquisite cuisine. Start by exploring the historic city center, where you’ll find the stunning Santo Domingo Temple, the bustling Zocalo, and the vibrant Macedonio Alcalá pedestrian street. Visit the Oaxaca Textile Museum to admire the region’s traditional weaving techniques and colorful fabrics.
For a unique culinary experience, head to the Mercado 20 de Noviembre, where you can sample local delicacies like tlayudas, chapulines (fried grasshoppers), and Oaxacan cheese. Don’t forget to try mezcal, the region’s famous distilled spirit made from the agave plant.
While in Oaxaca, immerse yourself in the area’s rich indigenous heritage by visiting the nearby villages known for their artisan crafts, such as San Bartolo Coyotepec (famous for its black pottery) and Teotitlán del Valle (known for its handwoven rugs).
Take a day trip to the nearby archaeological site of Monte Alban, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that was once the ancient capital of the Zapotec civilization. Marvel at the well-preserved ruins, including the Main Plaza, the Ball Court, and the intricate tomb paintings at Tomb 104. For nature lovers, visit the stunning petrified waterfalls of Hierve el Agua, where you can enjoy breathtaking views and take a dip in the mineral-rich natural pools.
Days 9-12: Puerto Escondido
From Oaxaca, take a short flight or scenic drive to the coastal town of Puerto Escondido, known for its beautiful beaches and world-class surfing.
Begin your Puerto Escondido adventure by visiting the lively Zicatela Beach, where you can watch surfers tackling the powerful waves or even take a surf lesson yourself. For a more tranquil experience, head to Carrizalillo Beach, a secluded cove with calm waters perfect for swimming and snorkeling.
Explore the vibrant sea life in the crystal-clear waters, and relax on the golden sand. In the late afternoon, visit Playa Bacocho to enjoy a breathtaking sunset over the Pacific Ocean.
Puerto Escondido offers more than just sun, sand, and surf. Join a bioluminescence tour at Manialtepec Lagoon, where you’ll witness the magical phenomenon of glowing plankton that illuminates the water at night. Take a swim in the lagoon and watch the water sparkle around you, creating a truly unforgettable experience.
During the evening, participate in a turtle release program at one of the local beaches. Many organizations in Puerto Escondido work to protect and conserve endangered sea turtles, and you can play a part by helping to release baby turtles into the ocean. This is a unique and memorable experience that supports marine conservation efforts in the region.
Spend your last day in Puerto Escondido exploring the surrounding landscapes. Take a hike in the nearby Sierra Madre del Sur mountains, where you can enjoy stunning views of the coast and immerse yourself in the region’s lush tropical flora and fauna.
After your hike, visit the bustling Benito Juarez Market in the town center, where you can shop for local handicrafts, sample fresh produce, and enjoy authentic regional dishes. This is the perfect opportunity to pick up souvenirs and gifts to remember your unforgettable Mexican adventure.
In the evening, visit the Adoquin night market, Puerto Escondido’s pedestrian-only street lined with bars, restaurants, and shops. Enjoy a delicious seafood dinner at one of the many beachside eateries, and take a leisurely stroll while soaking up the laid-back atmosphere of this charming coastal town.
Days 13-14: San Cristobal de las Casas
Head east to the charming town of San Cristobal de las Casas, nestled in the highlands of Chiapas. The town’s cobblestone streets, colorful buildings, and bustling markets make it a delight to explore. Visit the vibrant Santo Domingo Church and the San Cristobal Cathedral in the town’s main square.
For a truly unique experience, take a tour of the indigenous villages surrounding San Cristobal, such as San Juan Chamula and Zinacantan. These communities have preserved their traditional customs and way of life, offering a glimpse into Mexico’s rich cultural diversity.
While in San Cristobal, explore the nearby Sumidero Canyon, a magnificent natural wonder that features towering cliffs, diverse wildlife, and a stunning waterfall. Take a boat tour along the Grijalva River to fully appreciate the grandeur of the canyon.
Days 15: Palenque
Leave the highlands behind and journey into the heart of the Chiapas jungle to visit the majestic ruins of Palenque. This ancient Mayan city boasts some of the most beautifully preserved and intricately detailed architecture in the region. Explore the Palace, with its distinctive tower and labyrinthine passageways, and admire the intricate carvings at the Temple of the Inscriptions, the burial site of the famous ruler Pakal.
While in Palenque, don’t miss the opportunity to visit the stunning waterfalls of Misol-Ha and Agua Azul. These natural wonders offer a refreshing break from the jungle heat and a chance to marvel at the beauty of Mexico’s diverse landscape.
Day 16: Bonampak and Yaxchilan
Dive deeper into the ancient Mayan world with a visit to the remote archaeological sites of Bonampak and Yaxchilan. Bonampak, located within the Lacandon Jungle, is famous for its remarkably well-preserved murals that depict scenes of Mayan life, including rituals, battles, and ceremonies.
Yaxchilan, set along the banks of the Usumacinta River, is accessible only by boat, making it a true off-the-beaten-path destination. Wander through the site’s impressive temples, plazas, and carved stelae, and marvel at the intricate stone lintels that portray scenes of royal life and mythology.
Week 3: Campeche, Merida, Valladolid, and the Riviera Maya
Days 16-17: Campeche
Begin the third week by heading north to the coastal city of Campeche, a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its beautifully preserved colonial architecture and historic fortifications. Stroll along the picturesque Malecon (seafront promenade), taking in views of the Gulf of Mexico, and explore the colorful streets of the historic city center.
Visit the impressive forts of San Miguel and San Jose El Alto, which offer stunning panoramic views of the city and surrounding landscapes. For a dose of history, don’t miss the Campeche Archaeological Museum, which houses an extensive collection of Mayan artifacts, including the famous jade mask of Calakmul.
Days 18-19: Merida
Continue your adventure by heading east to Merida, the capital of the Yucatan state. This vibrant city is known for its colonial architecture, bustling markets, and lively street performances. Visit the imposing Merida Cathedral and the stunning Palacio de Gobierno, with its vivid murals depicting Yucatecan history.
Take a day trip to the nearby Celestun Biosphere Reserve, where you can take a boat tour to see the spectacular flocks of flamingos and other wildlife inhabiting the area. For a more leisurely excursion, visit the charming town of Izamal, known as the “Yellow City” for its ochre-painted buildings.
Days 20-21: Valladolid & Chichen Itza
Travel east to the charming colonial town of Valladolid, the perfect base for exploring the surrounding Yucatan Peninsula. Wander through the colorful streets, visit the Convent of San Bernardino de Siena, and take a refreshing dip in the nearby cenotes, natural limestone sinkholes filled with crystal-clear water.
From Valladolid, take a day trip to the awe-inspiring ruins of Chichen Itza, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Explore the iconic El Castillo pyramid, the Temple of the Warriors, and the mysterious Great Ball Court.
Days 22-23: Ek Balam and Coba
Venture further into the Yucatan Peninsula to discover the lesser-known but equally fascinating archaeological sites of Ek Balam and Coba. Ek Balam is a remarkably well-preserved Mayan city, featuring a massive Acropolis, intricate stucco carvings, and a unique “false arch” entrance.
Coba, hidden deep within the jungle, is home to Nohoch Mul, the tallest pyramid in the Yucatan Peninsula. Climb the 120 steps to the top for breathtaking views of the surrounding jungle landscape.
Days 24-27: Riviera Maya
Complete your journey with a relaxing stay on the sun-soaked beaches of the Riviera Maya. This stretch of coastline, located between Cancun and Tulum, offers a wide range of accommodations, from luxurious resorts to budget-friendly hostels.
Spend your days lounging on the white-sand beaches, swimming in the warm turquoise waters, or exploring the many eco-parks and archaeological sites in the area. Don’t miss the chance to visit the ancient Mayan ruins of Tulum, perched on a cliff overlooking the Caribbean Sea, or the impressive ruins of Xel-Ha, an ancient port city.
For adventure-seekers, the Riviera Maya offers a plethora of activities, including snorkeling and diving in the Great Maya Reef, the second-largest coral reef system in the world. Alternatively, explore the region’s many cenotes, which offer unique diving and snorkeling experiences in crystal-clear waters surrounded by stunning geological formations.
Take a day trip to Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where you can enjoy a variety of eco-tourism activities such as bird-watching, kayaking, and wildlife-spotting. The reserve is home to a diverse range of flora and fauna, including jaguars, crocodiles, and over 300 species of birds.
Another must-visit destination is the eco-archaeological park of Xcaret, which offers a unique blend of nature, culture, and adventure. Discover the park’s many attractions, including a butterfly pavilion, an underground river, and a coral reef aquarium. Don’t miss the spectacular “Xcaret Mexico Espectacular” show, which showcases the rich history and traditions of Mexico through music, dance, and performance.
For those seeking a more immersive cultural experience, participate in a traditional Mayan temazcal ceremony. This ancient steam bath ritual is believed to cleanse the body, mind, and spirit, providing a unique opportunity for reflection and rejuvenation.
In the evenings, indulge in the region’s vibrant nightlife, with a wide range of restaurants, bars, and clubs catering to every taste. Whether you prefer a laid-back beach bar, a lively salsa club, or a trendy rooftop lounge, the Riviera Maya has something for everyone.
Days 28-29: Isla Mujeres or Isla Holbox
Before your journey comes to an end, take a short trip to one of the idyllic islands off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula – Isla Mujeres or Isla Holbox. Both islands offer a more relaxed, laid-back atmosphere compared to the bustling Riviera Maya, making them the perfect spots for some well-deserved rest and relaxation.
Isla Mujeres is known for its beautiful beaches, vibrant coral reefs, and crystal-clear waters, making it an ideal destination for snorkeling and diving enthusiasts. Visit the famous Playa Norte, considered one of the best beaches in the Caribbean, and take a trip to the Underwater Museum of Art (MUSA), an incredible collection of underwater sculptures.
Isla Holbox (pronounced Holbosh), on the other hand, is a haven for nature lovers and those seeking a more off-the-beaten-path experience. With its pristine beaches, abundant wildlife, and laid-back charm, this car-free island is the perfect place to unwind and disconnect from the outside world. Don’t miss the opportunity to swim with whale sharks, the gentle giants of the ocean, which frequent the waters surrounding the island from June to September.
Embarking on this ultimate 3-week Mexico itinerary promises an unforgettable journey filled with the country’s diverse landscapes, rich history, and vibrant culture. From the bustling streets of Mexico City to the serene beaches of Puerto Escondido, you’ll experience the very best of Mexico’s treasures.
Along the way, you’ll indulge in mouthwatering regional cuisine, explore ancient ruins, marvel at breathtaking natural wonders, and immerse yourself in Mexico’s colorful and welcoming local communities.
This comprehensive adventure ensures that you’ll create memories that last a lifetime and leave with a deep appreciation for Mexico’s incredible beauty and diversity. So pack your bags, embrace your wanderlust, and embark on the journey of a lifetime in beautiful Mexico.
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