Mexico is a breathtaking and fascinating place to travel to. Filled with ancient temples and pyramids, to incredible works of art and natural wonders, Mexico offers something for everyone. Here are 20 incredible landmarks in Mexico to feed your travel bug.
- 20 Incredible Mexico Landmarks
- Historic Landmarks in Mexico
- Famous Landmarks in Mexico
- Natural Landmarks in Mexico
20 Incredible Mexico Landmarks
Historic Landmarks in Mexico
1- Monte Alban
What was once the site of the Zapotec and Mixtec ancient centre lies Monte Alban, a series of ruins dating back to 500BC when the Zapotec people lived, worked and worshipped on the hillside.
The site is on high ground to form a defence against attacking tribes, and as such Monte Alban has incredible views over the surrounding landscapes including Oaxaca de Juares, a historical centre.
Monte Alban was inhabited by several peoples over 1500 years who carved canals, pyramids and terraces into the hills. Symbols representing sacred texts were also carved directly out of the mountain.
2- Chichen Itza
Meaning “at the mouth of the well of Itza”, Chichen Itza is one of the most famous historical landmarks in Mexico.
Famous for El Castillo, the Kukulkan stepped pyramid, Chichen Itza was inhabited by the Mayans and was one of the most important places of their empire.
In 2007 Chichen Itza was named as one of the New Seven Wonders of The World.
Throughout the area, many monuments featuring carvings of the movements of the planets can be found, which were created by the Maya as a celestial calendar.
Today visitors can explore the site at their leisure, and if staying after sunset will be able to view the nightly light show.
Deep in the Mexican jungle, surrounded by incredible wildlife such as howler monkeys and parrots lies the Palenque temples.
First unearthed by a Spanish explorer in the 16th century, it is believed that Palenque dates back to 200 AD.
The most important part of Palenque lies inside the tomb of Pakal the Great and the Temple of Inscriptions in which it was hidden.
After becoming ruler aged 12, Pakal ordered much of Palenque be rebuilt and demanded that events should be recorded in detail, offering archeologists an incredible insight into what life was like there.
4- El Tajin
Considered to be one of Mexico’s most important historical landmarks, El Tajin is an incredible series of ruins from Mesoamerican culture, located near Papantla in the northern jungle.
Due to its remote location, El Tajin is often much quieter than other ancient sites around Mexico, making it the perfect spot to explore in detail.
Abruptly abandoned in 1200AD, El Tajin was home to around 20,000 people at its peak.
Much of the city lies within the thick jungle surrounding the main sites, which have been cleared to allow visitors to explore.
The Pyramid of the Niches is another stepped pyramid that is well preserved and is filled with 365 square windows reflecting each day of the solar year, which was charted by the people here.
It is unclear who built El Tajin; however, visiting this large and partially unexcavated site will undoubtedly leave you wanting to know more.
5- Great Pyramid of Cholula
Often mistaken for a hill due to the decades of grass and brush that have overgrown the walls, the Great Pyramid of Cholula now sits beneath a Spanish chapel built in the 16th century.
With a larger volume than the Egyptian pyramids, the Great Pyramid of Cholula was built around 2000 years ago by either Teotihuacan or El Tajin peoples.
Recently archeologists have begun to excavate this once great pyramid and have discovered a network of tunnels, platforms and altars that would have been used during religious ceremonies.
El Tajin is now open to the public, with guided tours of the tunnels available.
6- La Venta
One of the more unusual examples of ancient settlements is La Venta, an Olmec settlement.
The site’s main draw is its 77 carved stone monuments which include four giant heads.
Strong links to astronomy are present here, with many of the buildings constructed to follow the maps of the stars.
The centre of the site was crucial to the peoples understanding of celestial sciences and many of the carvings, including 3 of the giant heads, face north.
The stone heads are the biggest draw to visitors and each one features a different headdress, thought by archeologists to represent ancient rulers of the site.
Unlike the majority of Mexico’s ancient sites, the ruins at Tulum are the only ones located by the sea.
Built as a seaport, Tulum was the gateway to the Mayan empires for trade with copper, cacao beans and cotton often traded here.
The main pyramid at Tulum is named El Castillo and was used as a lighthouse during ancient times, due to the positioning of windows at the top of the tower.
Visitors to Tulum can enjoy this unique seafront site with impressive views over the sea and the surrounding areas in the company of the native iguanas that call the place their home.
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Famous Landmarks in Mexico
8- Museo Nacional de Antropologia
The National Museum of Anthropology has an impressive collection of artefacts from the indigenous peoples within Mexico’s incredible history and is a great place to learn more about the roots of their culture.
Items for the museum have been gathered over centuries despite the museum only opening in 1964.
The collection features a giant carved head of a fire serpent, a celestial calendar and many ceremonial headdresses of Aztec rulers.
When visiting the museum, take some time to admire its architecture.
Combining minimalistic buildings with large courtyards and immaculate gardens, the museum mirrors the culture it is protecting inside its walls.
9- Catedral Metropolitana
In Mexico City stands the Cathedral Metropolitana, a grand building dating back to 1573.
Featuring baroque architecture, the cathedral recently underwent extensive restorations to ensure it is preserved for future generations.
The entrance to the cathedral is guarded by two large towers which are encrusted in mother of pearl.
The grand decorations continue inside, with an impressive marble altar and many gilded carvings.
The cathedral is also home to a remarkable collection of religious and historical artefacts which are housed within the museum.
10- Cafebreria el Pendulo
Take a break from exploring Mexico City inside Cafebreria el Pendulo, a cafe and bookstore chain that appears to be part forest due to the number of plants growing there.
The bookstores are aesthetically pleasing with dark wooden floors, curving handrails on the spiral staircases and a large number of plants seated on shelves and in large pots featuring in nearly all locations.
A visit must be made to the Alejandro Dumas street store.
In this store, architectural features take centre stage with over three floors of books, coffee and incredible nooks and crannies filled with plant life.
The central attraction here is the giant palm tree that stretches to the roof.
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11- Museo Subacuatio de Arte
Museo Subacuatio de Arte is the worlds largest underwater museum.
The statues here are made from marine-grade cement which allows corals and algae to grow on their surfaces.
Each sculpture has been designed to support the local marine life by creating small spaces where marine life can breed.
The statues have been placed to protect the Mesoamerican Reef, the second-largest barrier reef in the world.
Some believe this unusual attraction would draw visitors away from the reef to allow essential conservation work to be carried out.
The best way to visit the museum is through a guided scuba diving or snorkelling trip. However, glass-bottomed boat tours are also available.
12- La Casa Azul
La Casa Azul, or the Blue House, is a dedicated museum to artist Frida Kahlo.
The museum was once the home where Frida was born, and would later die.
Made into a museum to celebrate her life and works in 1958, the museum is one of the most famous landmarks in Mexico.
Within the house are some of Frida’s most celebrated pieces of art, as well as rooms that have been preserved to reflect how the artist lived during her time here.
The house itself is a work of art with its bright cobalt blue walls giving the house the nickname of La Casa Azul.
13- Las Pozas
Created by English poet and artist Edward James in the 1960s, Las Pozas is a sculpture garden which reflects the artists love of plants and the Surrealist movement he was a part of.
Las Pozas, or The Pools, is an apt name for the area as the sculpture garden features nine pools that allow water to flow through naturally.
Within the gardens are over 30 structures that range from plant sculptures, cathedral-like screens and staircases.
The gardens span 20 acres of jungle, so take some time to explore this unusual and uniquely beautiful piece of surrealist art.
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Natural Landmarks in Mexico
14- Cenote Dos Ojos
Translating to Two Eyes Cenote, these underground diving sites are some of the largest underwater cave systems in Mexico.
The cenotes were naturally formed around 6500 years ago, and have only recently been explored.
Due to the light filtering through from above, the pools make an incredible site and location for divers and snorkels, as the water is a deep shade of blue and is crystal clear.
The caves are reachable through a short walk in lush jungle and visitors can dive in these incredible caves in small numbers, as only four divers at a time head into the waters accompanied by an experienced guide.
15- San Ignacio Lagoon
In the warm waters of the San Ignacio Lagoo, visitors on boating tours have the chance to sail alongside the grey whales that live and breed here.
As a part of the Visciano Biosphere Reserve, the lagoon is within Latin America’s largest sanctuary, meaning its whales and other forms of life both in and around the lagoon are protected from hunting, deforestation, or other causes of harm.
While visiting the lagoon, you may have the chance to see not only the grey whales but the near-extinct prong-horned antelope and different species of sea turtles.
16- Cenote Ik-Kil
Known for its famous vines that spill down from the forest floor deep into the cenote that is now a popular swimming location, Cenote Ik-Kil is one of the most beautiful cenotes in Mexico.
Located near Chichen Itza, a cooling dip in the cenotes magical waters is a pleasant way to end your day.
With its deep blue waters and surrounding greenery, a swim in the cenote is not merely a beautiful place to visit.
Archeologists believe Ik-Kil was a sacred place for the Mayan’s to pray to the rain god Chaac, giving it the nickname of Sacred Cenote.
When first discovered, archeologists found carvings and even human remains at the bottoms of the pool from such rituals.
17- La Lobera
Another of Mexico’s unusual underground landmarks is La Lobera, which is an enormous sea cave on Mexico’s coastline.
Within the hole, which allows seawater to flow into it freely, is a colony of sea lions who make welcome use of the shade La Lobera offers.
Visitors cannot enter La Lobera. However, you can view the sea lion colony from the protective ropes that protect the edges of the hole.
After marvelling at this site, head to the local restaurant for traditional Mexican cuisine.
18- Cave of the Hanging Snake
Locally known as the Bat Cave, the Cave of the Hanging Snakes is hidden deep within the jungles of Yucatan.
The yellow-red rat snakes that live within the cave traditionally lived in the surrounding jungle.
Many now live in the ceilings of the cave and have evolved to be accustomed to a new way of life.
As the cave is populated with many bats, the snakes position themselves in the ceilings of the cave, so as the bats fly in and out, they can have dinner.
The cave is open to the public on guided tours leaving from the nearby village of Kantemo.
19- Chicxulub Crater
It may not look like much today but 65 million years ago, an asteroid hit the earth in this exact location in Yucatan with such force that it is believed to have wiped out the dinosaurs.
Originally spanning some 110 miles, around half of the crater lies below the Gulf of Mexico.
From this catastrophic event, many cenotes opened up, which were used for sacrificial ceremonies during the times of the Mayans.
Many of the visitors here are scientists who are still studying the area to find out what truly happened during the asteroid strike, with some debating that this may not have been the cause of the ice age that wiped out the dinosaurs.
20- Copper Canyon
The best way to make the most of Copper Canyon is by riding the Copper Canyon Railway.
The journey through the canyon can take between 9 and 16 hours depending on which route you take.
The journey will lead visitors through incredible scenery as your train weaves through thick jungle and over vast ravines. Look out for the local wildlife from your window.
It is recommended that visitors plan one or two stops while journeying through the canyon to see local villages and sites, with many companies offering guided tours of the canyon and the surrounding areas.