Top 5 Destinations in Mexico – Off The Beaten Path And How To Get There

Traveling Mexico A Place of Distinct Landscapes

The Top 5 Destinations while traveling Mexico is too difficult to pin down!  There are so many!  So we have decided to narrow it down and pick the Top 5 Off the Beaten Path Destinations.  Traveling Mexico is diverse in all respects, it's a large country full of distinct landscapes.  From the deserts in the north to the lush tropical jungles in the south. Traveling Mexico is a place where no matter what you like to do, there is something for you. 

Traveling Mexico for years

I have lived in San Diego for decades and Mexico was always the place to go party on the weekends.  I got to know Baja California pretty well, and loved this part of Mexico from the beginning... aside from the party scene found therein.   From the Tijuana border to the tip of the Baja Peninsula, this part of Mexico is widely known by North Americans and most frequently traveled by Western Americans.  I have spent some time in the Yucatan as well.  Playa del Carmen, Cancun, and Tulum are exceptional places in their own right and loved them all for specific reasons.  

This post however isn't about those well-traveled/ "touristy" places, it's about the places "off-the-beaten-path".  The places we have been in while traveling Mexico recently while driving through it on our way to Panama were breathtaking.



#1 Las Nubes Waterfall, Chiapas, Mexico

Top 5 Destinations In Mexico

1.  Las Nubes Waterfall  

  • The Draw!

    • The pure natural beauty of this place is nothing short of miraculous and a must see while traveling Mexico.  Tucked far away from the hub-bub of city life, lies Las Nubes ("The Clouds") which is untouched by massive tourism and crowds. The waterfall is located on the banks of the Santo Domingo River, where the the drop of the water forms a fog in the form of a dense cloud, which gives the name to the falls.  Las Nubes is located in the Causas Verde Eco-Park in the Lacandona jungle.

Las Nubes Lower Falls

Top 5 Destinations In Mexico

Why is it so great?

  • First of all, the place is absolutely gorgeous!  From the horseshoe waterfalls to the suspension bridge and hike to the overlook "El Mirador", Las Nubes is one of the most amazing places we have visited in Mexico.  Inside the eco-park, there is a small resort with good cabins and a restaurant.  In the village, a short 10 minute walk from the falls, you will find affordable yet rustic cabins and guesthouses. You can also camp on the premise in a large grass area cheaply and have use of the public bathrooms and showers.  The food was affordable, however not cheap.  The water has a turquoise green color that when contrasted against the dense jungle, provides a peaceful serenity and sense of grandeur.  We loved this place and spent days camping  a mere 40 yards from the falls, falling asleep to the gentle roar.  This place is magical.
  • How to get there.

    • Las Nubes is located in the southwestern tip of Mexico near the Guatemalan border. It is located 130 km from the city of Comitán by the southern border road of 307.  Before the bridge called Santo Domingo, to the left is a sign that says "Las Nubes" that leads to the town of Las Nubes, passing the communities of New Jerusalem and Gallo Giro, on a semi-paved road.  It takes about an hour to get from the main road to Las Nubes and a 4x4 vehicle isn't necessary.



#2 El Sumidero Canyon, Tuxtla Gutierrez, Mexico

Top 5 Destinations In Mexico

2.  Tuxtla-Gutierrez

  • The Draw!

    • This is a city located in Chiapas, Mexico that has much more than meets the eye while traveling Mexico.  The options of attractions and events make this an affordable and adventurous destination for all travelers.  The Sumidero Canyon and Marimba Park are two highlights of this southern city.  There are also a host of modern conveniences in this city that provide a great blend of natural surroundings, culture and convenience. Also in 2011, the city was ranked first in Mexico to be certified a "safe city" by the federal government and the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm due to its very low crime rate.

Marimba Park, Tuxtla Gutierrez, Mexico

Top 5 Destinations In Mexico

Why is it so great?

  • Tuxtla Gutierrez, the capital of Chiapas has just over 500,000 people making it a metropolis that has everything for everyone.  However the Sumidero Canyon National Park, that begins just outside the city limits, provides a natural wonder of Mexico that makes you feel like you are a 1000 miles from civilization.  You can see the canyon two ways.
    • From above: You can take a drive above the canyon to well marked overlooks along the route with breath-taking vistas from a birds-eye view.
    • From Below:  You take a boat for a few dollars, through the canyon in a tour that is not only spectacular, but also allows you to see crocodiles along the bank and natural waterfalls.
  • Marimba park is in the city center.  Everyday at 6pm the marimba band starts up in the center of park in a baroque style gazebo and people of all walks-of-life, show up to dance. We danced in the park until 9pm (10pm on Sat,Sun) under the stars with hundreds of other smiling happy people.  After dancing we got something to eat and shopped at the pop-up tents market that lined the park and then got an ice cream across the street from the park.  This place is absolutely a must do!  Such a wonderful cultural experience of Mexico in a central park. A true highlight of our trip to Tuxtla.
  • How to get there.

    • Tuxtla Gutierrez on the Panamerican Highway and can be easily accessed via roads.   Ángel Albino Corzo International Airport is also an easy option. There is no train service into Tuxtla.  A 2-lane toll-road connects the Tuxtla area with San Cristóbal Del Las Casas which brings us to the next destination.


    #3 San Cristobal De Las Casas, Mexico

    Top 5 Destinations In Mexico

    3.   San Cristobal de Las Casas

    • The Draw!

      • Perched at 7200 feet, San Cristobal de las Casas is a place more resembling Guatemala than Mexico. The surrounding highlands are full of majestic mountains and amazing vistas.  However great the scenery, the architecture of this gem of a city can't be overlooked.  Rich in Mayan culture, this city provides every traveler with an unforgettable experience that will be etched into your mind forever.  A presence of the old Colonial age of Mexico oozes from the buildings and businesses that line the 4 walking streets in the city center.

    Colorful Downtown Cathedral San Cristobal

    Top 5 Destinations In Mexico

    Why is it so great?

    • This town of 185 thousand plus people feels more like a village than a real city.  The people of the city are absolutely lovely and accommodating.  The downtown area is an architectural step back to the 17 and 1800s.  Stucco facades and classical mexican architecture make this place something special.  There are 4 roads in the downtown area that are dedicated only to walking.  Cobblestone pathways and thousands of outdoor seating bars and restaurants make this place a people watcher's dream.  We sat and ate tacos and people watched for hours.  Street performers dot the landscape making sure that your time in San Cristobal de las Casas is entertaining as well as relaxing.  There is a very chilled vibe in the town, and you can find every nationality of food you could ask for. Watch out!  You might never want to leave and set-up a permanent residence there as many foreigners have done in the past while traveling Mexico.
    • How to get there.

      • Tuxtla Gutierrez on the Panamerican Highway and can be easily accessed via roads and buses and shuttles go regularly from there.   Flying into Ángel Albino Corzo International Airport in Tuxtla Gutierrez might be the easiest way to get there.  A 2-lane toll-road connects the Tuxtla-Gutierrez with San Cristóbal De Las Casas and you can rent a car in Tuxtla and take the scenic drive up the mountain to San Cristobal.



    #4 Lighthouse - Chetumal, Quintana Roo, Mexico

    Top 5 Destinations In Mexico

    4.  Chetumal

    • The Draw!

      • Chetumal is a small city located on the southern border between Mexico and Belize on the Caribbean Sea.  Need we say more?  This is an untouched city that is poised for being a tourist destination in the future.  At this time however, the sleepy city only offers beautiful Caribbean scenery and some of the best Mexican food in the country.

    Amazing Food In Chetumal

    Top 5 Destinations In Mexico

    Why is it so great?

    •  This is a place where you truly feel relaxed.  There hotels are cheap as is the amazing food.  Seafood abounds and the Costanera "Coast Street"  is not only beautiful, but a nice place to relax on the beach, get something to eat at the many palm roofed restaurants, or hang out at the park which doubles as a carnival at night.  Chetumal is clean, safe and has a relaxed Caribbean feel unlike many of the coastal cities in the north of the Yucatan.   Chetumal has plenty to do as well; museums, a zoo, planetarium, beach going, fishing, or taking a day tour to the Calakmul Mayan Ruins.  Did I mention the food?  It's amazing!  Spend a few days if you are traveling Mexico to Belize, it's worth it!
    • How to get there.

      • The ADO first-class bus terminal just outside the city center.  ADO has a large network all over Mexico and making it by bus is easy and comfortable.  Many ferries and water taxis go from Belize to Chetumal departing from Belize City, Caye Caulker and San Pedro.  There's always the easiest way... Flying.  Chetumal has a relatively small "international" airport that can be reached from most places in Mexico.  You can always rent a car and drive from Cancun or Playa Del Carmen as well!   5 hours south of Cancun in a car, along the Maya Riviera can't be all bad.



    #5 The Yellow City - Izamal, Yucatan, Mexico

    Top 5 Destinations In Mexico

    5.  Izamal

    • The Draw!

      • Izamal is a small city in the western part of the Yucatan Peninsula.  While traveling Mexico, we got lost and found this gem of a city by pure serendipity.  We are glad we did.  It's a city where the Pope once visited Izamal in 1993.  The city is known as the Magic City due to its many documented miracles performed in the city.  This is one of the reasons the Pope visited.  Forever more, the Izamalians are proud of this visit and the miracles of Izamal.  The town itself is dotted with Mayan ruin sites and the buildings and it is said that this might have been one of the largest Mayan cities in the Yucatan.  Homes and business' in the city are  mostly painted yellow.  This is why it's called the "Yellow City".

    Carriage Ride In Izamal

    Top 5 Destinations In Mexico
    • Why is it so great?

      • This place is old Mexico. From the central park lined with horse-drawn carriages to the cobblestone streets and colonial architecture, this is a must see town while traveling Mexico.  The people here were lovely and accommodating.  We got there around sunset and took sat in the park listening to the thousand of birds chirping in the trees.  We had never heard anything so pleasantly loud in our lives.  There are dozens of Mayan ruin sites around town that you can go to via a horse-drawn carriage.  This was a highlight for us.  Although it was night, the sights and sounds of the city were something we will never forget.  There is a huge Catholic influence in this town and the multiple cathedrals are impressive.  We will always remember the short time we spent in Izamal.  It was truly a unique place we visited while traveling Mexico.
    • How to get there.

      • From Playa Del Carmen Take 305D to 180D.  If leaving from Cancun, take Highway 180 West to Valladolid.  From Valladolid, we accidentally took Highway 79 through many small villages to Hwy 11 to Izamal a really nice drive through grass hut villages.  We were essentially lost.  From the main toll road 180D,  you can also get off at Kantunil and take 53 north 18km to Izamal. There you can reconnect with 180D to Merida.  Izamal is 72 km east of Merida.

    Change in Perspective

    The Top 5 Destinations in Mexico Off The Beaten Path are just as safe as anywhere else in Mexico.  We want people to change their view of Mexico and realize it is a safe and pleasant place to travel.  We have seen many places in Mexico and have never had any issues.  Not only is Mexico a great place to travel, the diversity of landscapes, food and people make traveling there comfortable and accommodating.   The off the beaten path places are our favorites. We hope that this list of places makes it into your list of places to see while traveling Mexico, and we are always available to help you along the way.   It is true what Robert Frost said in his famous poem:

    I shall be telling this with a sigh
    Somewhere ages and ages hence:
    Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
    I took the one less traveled by,
    And that has made all the difference.

    -Robert Frost

    We live by this, and It has made all the difference!

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    2 thoughts on “Top 5 Destinations in Mexico – Off The Beaten Path And How To Get There

      1. Thanks for the good words!!! I agree, the people are real. We have been all over Mexico, and although I haven’t got to posting on this site all the adventures we have had, I will be doing so in the next month or so. Thanks for commenting!

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