Tourism in Mexico is a very important industry.
Since the 1960s, it has been heavily promoted by the Mexican government, as “an industry without smokestacks” Mexico has traditionally been among the most visited countries in the world according to the World Tourism Organization, and it is the second-most visited country in the Americas, after the United States.
In 2017, Mexico was ranked as the sixth-most visited country in the world for tourism activities.
Mexico has a significant number of UNESCO World Heritage sites with the list including ancient ruins, colonial cities, and natural reserves, as well as a number of works of modern public and private architecture.
Mexico has attracted foreign visitors beginning in the early nineteenth century, cultural festivals, colonial cities, nature reserves and the beach resorts.
The nation’s temperate climate and unique culture – a fusion of the European and the Mesoamerican are attractive to tourists.
The peak tourism seasons in the country are during December and the mid-Summer, with brief surges during the week before Easter and Spring break, when many of the beach resort sites become popular destinations for college students from the United States.
The majority of tourists come to Mexico from the United States and Canada.
Other visitors come from other Latin American countries.
A small number of tourists also come from Europe and Asia.
History of tourism
Tourism in Mexico developed following the establishment of the Mexican republic, with writings by Alexander von Humboldt, Frannie Calderón de la Barca, the wife of the Spanish Ambassador to Mexico; John Lloyd Stephens, and Edward B.
Tylor being important for attracting more travelers.
Tourists from the United States began arriving in Mexico in numbers starting in the 1880s, following construction of direct railway lines in Mexico to the United States border.
General Porfirio Díaz became president of Mexico by coup in 1876, the beginning of a long period of peace in Mexico following decades of civil war.
With the inauguration of direct Pullman service from the United States to Mexico in 1884, tourists no longer endured difficult and dangerous travel.
The Mexican Central Railway actively promoted tourism in the United States, hiring a professional photographer, William Henry Jackson, to visually record the route and a professional writer, James W.
Steel, to write promotional copy.
Guides for English-speaking tourists were also published, most notably Terry’s Guide to Mexico, which went through several editions at the beginning of the twentieth century.
Mexico appealed to American tourists seeking an “exotic” holiday.
It was promoted in 1890 as the “Egypt of the New World” With the 1910 centennial of Mexican independence, the government undertook an excavation and reconstruction of the Pyramid of the Sun at the huge archeological site of Teotihuacan, near Mexico City.
A railway line was constructed from the capital to the site, bringing scholars from the 1910 meeting of the International Congress of Americanists.
In addition, the National Museum of Anthropology was refurbished in advance of the celebrations, in anticipation of tourists.
Mexico was a beneficiary of the increasing tourism of Europeans and Americans to distant lands.
In Mexico, many tourists brought home real or fake relics, and often left graffiti.
20th and 21st centuries
The Ecological Park is built in the same area as the archaeological site and has the same name, Xcaret.
The Mexican Revolution (1910-1920) interrupted tourism in Mexico, but by the 1930s, the Mexican government began promoting tourism again with posters of light-skinned young women and lush gardens.
In the 1920s and 30s, there was an “enormous vogue of things Mexico” in the United States, resulting in cultural exchanges, temporary and permanent art exhibitions, and patronage of Mexican artists, such as muralists Diego Rivera and José Clemente Orozco.
Starting with the administration of Plutarco Elías Calles (1924–28), the Mexican government became involved in promoting tourism in Mexico, eventually becoming a cabinet position, the Ministry of Tourism in 1975.
During the Jazz Age and the era of Prohibition of alcohol in the United States, border towns in Mexico, particularly Tijuana became destinations for vice tourism.
The song “South of the Border (down Mexico way)” song by Frank Sinatra helped promote the region.
It was known for casino gambling, glitzy floor shows, horse- and dog-racing, and other hedonistic pursuits.
Chicago gangster Al Capone frequented the Agua Caliente resort, as did big names from Hollywood.
“Mafia chic and Hollywood star power fueled the Tijuana mystique and imbued it with ersatz glamour” When Lázaro Cárdenas became president of Mexico, 1934–40, he cracked down on casino gambling in northern Mexico, since it was a source of money and power for Cárdenas’s political rivals, former presidents Plutarco Elías Calles and Abelardo L.
When Cárdenas was governor of his home state of Michoacan (1928–32)and later, when he was president of Mexico (1934–40) and beyond, he promoted tourism to Michoacan and particularly to the historic town of Pátzcuaro.
He commissioned murals to show the importance of the region’s history to the history of Mexico, promoted indigenous performance in music and dance, and actively had Michoacan advertised as a tourist destination.
The Mexican government developed beach resorts in the 1940s and 1950s in Acapulco, under president Miguel Alemán, who in his post-presidency became Commissioner of Tourism.
Other beach resorts on the Pacific coast were also developed, including Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta and on the Baja California peninsula at Cabo San Lucas.
Later on the Yucatan Peninsular the government promoted the development of Cancún.
The importance of tourism in Mexico has seen its head having a cabinet-level position.
Attracting tourists from the developed world spurred the construction of upscale hotels, particularly by United States hotel chains.
San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato developed as an artists’ colony.
Unlike beach resorts developed by the Mexican government, San Miguel was promoted to tourists by locals.
Starting in the late twentieth century, Mexico has been alert to international venues to both protect tourist destinations such as archeological sites, colonial cities, and natural wonders listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
With the inauguration of the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage program, Mexico has certified the cultural importance of Days of the Dead (2003), Mexican cuisine (2010), mariachi music (2011), and charrería (2016), among others.
Private philanthropy has played an important role in the preservation and restoration of a number of Mexican sites, most prominently by entrepreneur Carlos Slim, whose Foundation for the Historic Center of the City of Mexico (Fundación del Centro Histórico de la Ciudad de México) has made a significant difference in the historic core of the capital, including security concerns.
Violence and political turmoil in Mexico has been a problem which affects travel and tourism.
The years of the Porfirio Díaz regime (1876-1911) saw a decrease in violence and the rise of tourism.
The Mexican Revolution 1910-20 was a major civil war, but following that the Mexican government achieved a level internal security that saw the rise of tourism and cultural exchanges in the 1920s and 1930s.
In recent years, with the drug war in Mexico, United States State Department travel advisories have alerted tourists to the dangers of certain areas of the country.
Tourist guides and web-based sources
Mexico travel guide from Wikivoyage
There are a number of useful print guide books to tourist sites in Mexico, including the Michelin Green Guide, Lonely Planet, Rough Guide, Fodor’s, Frommer’s, and Baedeker’s.
The Mexican tourist bureau has a website with many resources.
Travel websites vary in quality and usefulness.
Tourism industry competitiveness
In the 2017 Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index (TTCI) report, which is a measurement of the factors that make it attractive to developing business in the travel and tourism industry of individual countries, Mexico was ranked 22nd place in the world’s ranking, with tourist service infrastructure rank 43; price competitiveness 63; health and hygiene, 72; safety and security, 113; environmental sustainability, 116.
City and regional destinations
Mexico has distinct geographical and cultural regions.
Many Mexican cities in Central and Southern Mexico were the centers of indigenous populations in the prehispanic era and became administrative centers during the colonial era (1521-1821), with churches, government buildings, and residences of elites.
Some cities in Mexico’s North were founded in the colonial era or nineteenth century, but have grown in importance with the expansion of Mexican industry (Monterrey), and cross-border trade with the United States (Ciudad Juárez, Tijuana).
Mexico City is the capital of Mexico, and its most important city.
The historic center of Mexico City is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with ancient archeological ruins, numerous colonial-era churches, most importantly the Cathedral, and the former palace of the Viceroy of New Spain, now the National Palace.
The cathedral and National Palace are both located on the main plaza, known as the Zocalo.
The city has museums of many types, housing cultural treasures of Mexico’s history since ancient times to the modern era.
One guide rates the National Museum of Anthropology as the top place to visit in Mexico City, located in Chapultepec Park, itself a top tourist attraction for foreign visitors and Mexico City residents.
Other museums worth a visit are the Museo de Arte Moderno, the Museo Dolores Olmedo, the Franz Mayer Museum, the Frida Kahlo Museum, the Museo Rufino Tamayo, the archeological museum of the Templo Mayor, adjacent to the National Palace and cathedral; and the Museo Nacional de Historia in Chapultepec Castle, the former residence of viceroys of Mexico, Emperor Maximilian I, and presidents of Mexico until the early twentieth century.
Mexico City can be the jumping-off point for day-trips and short excursions in Central Mexico, including the hugely important archeological site of Teotihuacan.
Another important site is Tula, the capital of the Toltecs.
Colonial-era cities worth visiting are Puebla, Taxco, Toluca, and Cuernavaca.
Tepotzotlan is notable for its Museum of the Viceroyalty, with colonial-era art.
Just south of Mexico City is the state of Morelos.
Its capital, Cuernavaca, is nicknamed The City of Eternal Spring; its year-round benign climate attracts both national and international visitors.
Top tourist attractions in Cuernavaca include the Palace of Cortés (16th-century home of the Conquistador, now a regional museum), the archeological site of Teopanzolco, and the Cuernavaca Cathedral.
This latter is one of eleven Monasteries on the slopes of Popocatépetl in the state that are considered World Heritage Sites (three others are in the State of Puebla.
Just east of Cuernavaca are the Pueblos Magicos (Magic Towns) of Tepoztlan and Tlayacapan, each with its 16th-century monastery and colorful pre-Lenten carnival.
Tepoztlan is also known for its Sunday Tianguis and the Sierra de Tepoztlan with its small pyramid and spectacular view.
Further east is the city of Cuautla, where an important battle took place in 1812 during the Mexican War of Independence.
General Emiliano Zapata centered many of his revolutionary activities in and around Cuautla during the Mexican Revolution.
Morelos has a large number of water parks, ranging from small, rustic parks to international attractions.
There are also several pre-hispanic pyramid sites, notably that of Xochicalco.
Southern Mexico is the home of many surviving indigenous cultures and is a destination for many foreign and domestic tourists in Mexico.
The dense indigenous populations in the prehispanic era saw the rise of civilizations, with enormous archeological sites indicating their complexity.
The rugged terrain of southern Mexico and the lack of mineral wealth drawing large numbers of Spanish settlers in the colonial era and in the post-independence era has meant that southern Mexico remains highly indigenous in character.
Oaxaca in central southern Mexico has remained highly indigenous into the modern era and the destination for tourists wishing to experience the various indigenous cultures there.
The capital of the state is Oaxaca City, is where most tourists stay, after arrival by plane at the major airport.
Tourists can use the capital as a base for day-trip excursions outside the capital to visit towns specializing in particular crafts, often sold in traditional local markets (tianguis).
Craft-making towns include Santa María Atzompa,(pottery); San Bartolo Coyotepec, (black pottery); Ocotlán, Oaxaca (pottery); San Martín Tilcajete, fantastical carvings called (alebrijes); and Teotitlan del Valle, rugs.
Oaxacan cuisine is notable, with ingredients, such as salted and dried grasshoppers (chapulines), and flavors that are regional.
Places worth visiting outside of the capital include the major archeological site of Monte Albán, as well as Mitla.
There are numerous towns with markets and craft production.
Yucatan Peninsula and Chiapas
The peninsula has a considerable number of major archeological sites, including Chichén Itza, Uxmal, and the La Ruta Puuc, a series of small archeological sites.
The state capital of Mérida was founded in the colonial era and experienced a major boom in the nineteenth century with the expansion for the market for its sisal cordage or twine, so that the city has a number of mansions of the former sisal barons.
Campeche is Mexico’s only walled city.
The Mexican state of Chiapas has the archeological sites of Palenque, Bonampak, and Yaxchilán.
The capital Tuxtla Gutiérrez is the gateway to the region, with a major airport.
San Cristóbal de las Casas, named after the early sixteenth-century defender of indigenous rights, Fr.
Bartolomé de las Casas is a colonial-era provincial city.
Central West Mexico
Tourist destinations include Aguascalientes, Guadalajara, Guanajuato, Manzanillo, Morelia, Pátzcuaro, Querétaro, San Miguel de Allende, and Zacatecas.
Guadalajara, Jalisco, the second-largest Mexican city by population, is home of some of Mexico’s best known traditions, such as tequila, mariachi music and charros, or Mexican cowboys.
Its similitude with western European countries mixed with modern architecture and infrastructure makes Guadalajara very attractive to tourists.
Along with Mexico City and beach destinations (Cancun, Acapulco, etc), Guadalajara is one of the most visited cities in Mexico.
Cultural tourism is the main attraction, the city being home to a large number of museums, art galleries and theatres.
The city is also the host of several internationally renowned events, such as the Guadalajara International Book Fair which is the most important exposition of its kind in the Spanish-speaking world, and the second largest book fair in the world.
The city is known as a pioneer in the underground arts scene as well as in the electronic music world, another main touristic attraction.
Its diversity of European architectural styles is a focus of attraction for tourists, in particular the Metropolitan Cathedral, the Degollado Theatre and the Hospicio Cabañas which is a World Heritage Site and one of the oldest hospital complexes in Spanish America.
Other tourism activities include shopping at its world class shopping malls, or plazas, taking a tour to the surrounding areas such as the Huentitan Canyon, Tonalá, Tlaquepaque, Chapala or visiting nearby towns, which are well-connected by modern highways, such as Tequila, Puerto Vallarta or Mazamitla, depending upon whether visitors seek urban, coastal or rural getaways.
Morelia, Michoacán is the Capital of the State of Michoacán.
Its Historic Downtown Area (Centro Histórico) encompasses approximately 150 city blocks in the city centre, roughly corresponding to the actual area of the city at the end of the 18th century.
The Centro Historico contains over 1,000 historical sites, including (but not limited to) the cathedral and the aqueduct.
Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, was founded in the late 16th century.
The downtown district is the oldest section in the city, surrounded by newer neighbourhoods.
The Museo de Historia Mexicana (Museum of Mexican History), MARCO (Monterrey Museum of Contemporary Art), Metropolitan Museum of Monterrey and the Museum of the Palacio de Gobierno, or State House, are some of the better known museums in the city, as well as nationally.
The Santa Lucia Riverwalk is a riverwalk similar to the one in San Antonio, Texas, having a length of 2.5 km (1.6 mi) and connecting the Fundidora Park with the Macroplaza, one of the largest plazas in the world.
Northwest Mexico has a few major tourist destinations, including Chihuahua City and Mazatlan.
The Copper Canyon Railway travels through rugged scenery.
The coastlines of Mexico harbor many stretches of beaches that are frequented by sun bathers and other visitors.
On the Yucatán peninsula, one of the most popular beach destinations is the resort town of Cancún, especially among university students during spring break.
Just offshore is the beach island of Isla Mujeres, and to the east is the Isla Holbox.
To the south of Cancun is the coastal strip called Riviera Maya which includes the beach town of Playa del Carmen and the ecological parks of Xcaret and Xel-Há.
A day trip to the south of Cancún is the historic port of Tulum.
In addition to its beaches, the town of Tulum is notable for its cliff-side Mayan ruins.
On the Pacific coast is the notable tourist destination of Acapulco.
Once the destination for the rich and famous, the beaches have become crowded and the shores are now home to many multi-story hotels and vendors.
Acapulco is home to renowned cliff divers: trained divers who leap from the side of a vertical cliff into the surf below.
Along the coast to the south of Acapulco are the surfing beaches of Puerto Escondido, the snorkeling, harbor beach of Puerto Ángel, and the naturist beaches of Zipolite.
To the north of Acapulco is the resort town of Ixtapa and the neighboring fishing town of Zihuatanejo.
Further to the north are the wild and rugged surfing beaches of the Michoacán coast.
Along the central and north Pacific coast, the biggest draws are beaches of Mazatlán city and the resort town of Puerto Vallarta.
Less frequented is the sheltered cove of Bahía de Navidad, the beach towns of Bahía Kino, and the black sands of Cuyutlán.
San Carlos, home of the Playa los Algodones (Cotton Beach), is a winter draw, especially for retirees.
At the southern tip of the Baja California peninsula is the resort town of Cabo San Lucas, a town noted for its beaches and marlin fishing.
Further north along the Gulf of California is the Bahía de La Concepción, another beach town known for its sports fishing.
Closer to the United States border is the weekend draw of San Felipe, Baja California.
🏨 Hotels Near Mexico
|Geneve||📍 Londres 130, Juárez, Cuauhtémoc, 06600 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico||Cuauhtémoc, Mexico City||📞 +52 55 5080 0824||hotelgeneve.com.mx/es/|
|Mexico City Marriott Reforma Hotel||📍 Av. Paseo de la Reforma 276, Juárez, Cuauhtémoc, 06600 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico||Cuauhtémoc, Mexico City||📞 +52 55 1102 7030||marriott.com/hotels/travel/mexmc-mexico-city-marriott-reforma-hotel/|
|Sofitel Mexico City Reforma||📍 297 Avenue, Av. Paseo de la Reforma, 06500 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico||Cuauhtémoc, Mexico City||📞 +52 55 8660 0500||all.accor.com/lien_externe.svlt|
|Hotel Catedral||📍 Donceles 95, Centro Histórico de la Cdad. de México, Centro, Cuauhtémoc, 06020 Centro, CDMX, Mexico||Cuauhtémoc, Centro||📞 +52 55 5518 5232||hotelcatedral.com/|
|Selina Mexico City Downtown & Cowork||📍 José María Izazaga 8, Centro Histórico de la Cdad. de México, Centro, Cuauhtémoc, 06000 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico||Cuauhtémoc, Mexico City||📞 +52 55 3675 1140||selina.com/mexico-city-downtown/|
|Four Seasons Hotel Mexico City||📍 Av. Paseo de la Reforma 500, Juárez, Cuauhtémoc, 06600 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico||Cuauhtémoc, Mexico City||📞 +52 55 5230 1818||fourseasons.com/mexico/|
|Hotel ibis Mexico Alameda||📍 Balderas 49, Colonia Centro, Centro, Cuauhtémoc, 06050 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico||Cuauhtémoc, Mexico City||📞 +52 55 1000 5000||all.accor.com/lien_externe.svlt|
|Barceló México Reforma||📍 Av. Paseo de la Reforma 1, Tabacalera, Cuauhtémoc, 06030 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico||Cuauhtémoc, Mexico City||📞 +52 55 5128 5000||barcelo.com/es-mx/barcelo-mexico-reforma/|
|Gran Hotel Ciudad de México||📍 16 de Septiembre 82, Centro Histórico de la Cdad. de México, Centro, Cuauhtémoc, 06000 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico||Cuauhtémoc, Mexico City||📞 +52 55 1083 7700||granhoteldelaciudaddemexico.com.mx/|
|Hilton Mexico City Reforma||📍 Av. Juárez 70, Colonia Centro, Centro, Cuauhtémoc, 06010 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico||Cuauhtémoc, Mexico City||📞 +52 55 5130 5300||hilton.com/en/hotels/mexrfhh-hilton-mexico-city-reforma/|