Mexico seeps history and culture from every city and area you visit. It’s characterized by breathtaking beauty along the coastline to bustling major cities with energy that beats through the streets.
There are so many fascinating landmarks in Mexico. From historic and sacred places that give you a glimpse of ancient Mayan life to museums and cathedrals in the city. And of course, there are tacos and tequila to be sampled in between visiting these attractions.
Some of these even make the list of most famous landmarks in the world, so here is your guide to the must-see landmarks in Mexico. And if you can’t fit them all into one trip, you’ll just have an excuse to plan a trip back.
23 Landmarks in Mexico
Table of Contents
- 23 Landmarks in Mexico
- 1. Chichen Itza
- 2. Chacchoben
- 3. Tulum Ruins
- 4. Mayápan
- 5. Monte Albán
- 6. Palenque
- 7. Great Pyramid of Cholula
- 8. Museo Nacional De Antropología
- 9. Catedral Metropolitana
- 10. Castillo de Chapultepec
- 11. Basilica de Santa María de Guadalupe
- 12. Ángel de la Independencia
- 13. Museo Frida Kahlo (La Casa Azul)
- 14. Cineteca Nacional
- 15. Monumento a la Revolución
- 16. Museo Subacuático de Arte
- 17. Las Pozas Surrealist Gardens
- 18. Cenote Dos Ojos
- 19. Cenote Ik-Kil
- 20. San Ignacio Lagoon
- 21. La Lobera
- 22. Cave Of The Hanging Snake
- 23. Copper Canyon
- Discovering Mexico’s Best Landmarks
1. Chichen Itza
Chichen Itza is one of Mexico’s most visited and most famous landmarks. Located on the Yucatan Peninsula, close to Cancun, these ancient ruins are a must-see. The stepped pyramid structure was once inhabited by Mayans and is believed to have been one of the most important places of their empire.
Both a UNESCO World Heritage Site and named one of the New 7 Wonders of the World in 2007, a trip to the ruins will not disappoint. Take a day trip from Cancun to see these fascinating ancient structures and learn about the inhabitants that once ruled the area.
This is one of the lesser-known Mayan ruins landmarks on the Yucatan Peninsula, south of Tulum. Located within a tropical forest, the ruins were found in 1942 by a farmer who protected the site until 1972. It was then brought to the attention of the Mexican Government and officially made an ancient ruin of Mexico.
It’s believed that the first human settlements date back to between 700 and 1000 BC. One of the most unusual things about the site is that it has no inscriptions or ornamentations, which is common in other ruins.
3. Tulum Ruins
The ruins found at Tulum are the only ones located by the sea. The city of Tulum was built as a seaport and was the Mayan gateway to trade. Copper, cacao beans and cotton were commonly traded on the shores.
The fortress built along the coast, with pyramid-shaped ruins and various dwellings is what you’ll see when you visit the ruins. This mini-city was built on top of the hill, overlooking the sea and jungle, by the Mayans as protection against possible invaders. When visiting Tulum you’ll also have an array of turquoise-watered beaches and exquisite cenotes to explore.
Mayápan was a walled city with an estimated population of between 15 000 – 17 000 people. The site has more than 4000 structures within the city walls and it is believed that there were additional dwellings outside.
It’s known as the ancient centre of the Mayan culture and was the political capital of the region from around the 1220’s – 1440’s AD. Located in the Yucatán Peninsula near Merida, it’s worth taking a private tour to see this wondrous ruined city.
5. Monte Albán
Monte Albán is a series of ruins that dates back to 500 BC. Here you’ll catch a glimpse of how the Zapotec civilization lived, worked and worshipped on the hillside in the Valley of Oaxaca for nearly 1000 years. The site is found on high ground as a defence against attacking tribes and also boasts stunning views of the surrounding landscape.
The inhabitants carved canals, pyramids and terraces into the hills as well as symbols representing sacred texts carved directly out of the mountain. Among the stone carvings, you’ll find remnants of the Main Plaza and Ball Game Court. These impressive structures depict what life was once like in Monte Albán.
Nestled deep in the Mexican jungle lies the Palenque temples. It’s believed that the Palenque dates back to 200 AD and that the Palenque people were a political party that loved to rule and dominate. Located in the state of Chiapas, it’s worth a day trip if you are staying in the region.
The most fascinating part of Palenque is the burial site of the ancient leader, Pakal (who became ruler at age 12), found under the Temple of Inscriptions. The on-site museum is a great place to check out Mayan glyphs, pottery and ancient carvings.
7. Great Pyramid of Cholula
The Great Pyramid of Cholula is one of the largest pyramids in the world, standing at 55 metres (180 feet) high. The pyramid has a larger volume than the Egyptian pyramids and was built over 2000 years ago by either the Teotihuacan or El Tajin people.
Over recent years, archaeologists excavating this once great pyramid have discovered a network of tunnels, altars and platforms that would have been used during religious ceremonies. Located in the Puebla region, this is a magnificent ancient site to visit if in the area.
Tip: This is one of the most famous Mexican landmarks, welcoming half a million visitors a year. Make sure to arrive early to avoid big crowds.
8. Museo Nacional De Antropología
Translated to the National Museum of Anthropology, the building houses an impressive collection of artefacts from the indigenous people of Mexico. It’s an incredible place to immerse yourself in the history of the country, a history that makes it the vibrant, culturally rich place you’ll find today.
The museum opened in 1964 and displays items gathered over centuries. From celestial calendars to headdresses of Aztec rulers, you’ll be awed by what’s in store for you. Book a guided tour to make the most of your experience.
9. Catedral Metropolitana
The Cathedral Metropolitana stands beautifully in the heart of Mexico City. This grand building dates back to 1573 and is completed with Gothic, Baroque, Neoclassical, and Plateresque styles.
The grand decorations and designs continue inside the cathedral with gilded carvings and a marble altar. The museum within the cathedral is home to a remarkable collection of religious and historical artefacts. This is a must-see if you are staying in Mexico City.
10. Castillo de Chapultepec
The Castillo (Castle) de Chapultepec was built in 1785 and has been used for various purposes since its completion. It was once a lavish vacation home, a military academy, a presidential home and is now a National Museum on Chapultepec Hill within Mexico City.
Often called the only real castle in North America, you’ll be left in awe of the exquisite mural paintings, colourful corridors and gold embellishments that characterize the castle. The outdoor area is equally as breathtaking with beautifully carved statues and a unique checkerboard pavement.
11. Basilica de Santa María de Guadalupe
This church in Mexico City is an important religious site built to honour the Virgin Mary of Guadalupe. Its architectural beauty will wow you. The complex is made up of many features including the basilica, the ancient church, a gift shop, a museum and a library.
It’ll cost 10 pesos (0.36 pounds) to enter the museum while the rest of the establishment is free to enter. Just be mindful of when you visit the inside of the church as up to 30 masses can be held in one day. Welcoming millions of tourists, this is the 3rd most visited religious site in the world.
12. Ángel de la Independencia
This stunning monument stands on Paseo de la Reforma, one of Mexico City’s famous avenues. Meaning a trip to this iconic landmark is also an opportunity to discover the attractive surrounding areas.
Erected during the presidency of Porfirio Díaz in 1910, the Ángel de la Independencia is dedicated to those who fought for independence. Topped with the recognizable Greek goddess of victory in shining gold, this structure is something to behold when exploring the streets of Mexico City.
13. Museo Frida Kahlo (La Casa Azul)
Frida Kahlo is as symbolic of Mexican culture as tacos and tequila are so it’s no wonder there’s an entire museum dedicated to her life and her work. The actual museum is the home that Frida was born in and where she would later die. It’s located in the leafy suburb of Coyoacán in Mexico City.
Colloquially referred to as the La Casa Azul (the Blue House), the house is a work of art with electric blue walls setting the scene for the rest of the museum. In the house are some of Frida’s most celebrated works and the rooms are restored to reflect how the artist lived.
14. Cineteca Nacional
This spot is a little different from the cultural hubs that made the list before this but is equally as fascinating. The Cineteca Nacional is dedicated to preserving, cataloguing and spreading the word about Mexico’s cinema scene.
There are various rooms dedicated to different Mexican directors such as Luis Buñuel and Alejandro Galindo and their work. If you are a cinema lover, this needs to be on your list. But, even if you’re not, this architecturally beautiful building has loads of interesting material to keep all visitors entertained.
15. Monumento a la Revolución
This is the last of the monument landmarks that can be found in Mexico City on this list and one that marks the revolution that liberated Mexico from Spanish rule. It’s now a mausoleum that holds the remains of Pancho Villa, Venustiano Carranza and Lázaro Cárdenas, all revolutionary leaders of the time.
The dome-topped arch of the monument is considered the largest triumphal arch in the world. It took 28 years to complete and is worth a visit when you are in the city.
16. Museo Subacuático de Arte
This underwater museum in Cancún is one of the largest and most ambitious underwater art attractions in the world. On the coast of Punta Nizuc in Cancún, the museum features over 500 permanent, life-size underwater sculptures created by Jason deCaires Taylor.
The museum is divided into two underwater galleries. Firstly, Salon Machones is 8 metres (23 feet) deep and suitable for both divers and snorkelers. Then the Salon Nizun is 4 meters (13 feet) deep and only permits snorkelers. If you are up for a taste of unique gallery viewing, this famous landmark is for you.
17. Las Pozas Surrealist Gardens
Created by English poet and artist Edward James, this sculpture garden is set in the subtropical rainforest in the Sierra Gorda mountains of Mexico and is something to behold. Las Pozas (the Pools) includes more than 80 acres of stunning natural waterfalls and pools interlaced with towering Surrealist concrete sculptures, cathedral-like screens and staircases.
Situated in the village of Xilita, a 7-hour drive from Mexico City, it’s best to stay in the area to visit the gardens. To make the most of your experience book a guided tour from Xilita with hotel pick-up.
18. Cenote Dos Ojos
Translated to ‘Two Eyes Cenote’, this spectacular natural phenomenon is one of the largest areas of connected passages and underground caves. Divers and swimmers can enjoy a dip in the turquoise waters of the cenotes and explore the 7000-year-old caves and underground rivers.
Located in the Quintana Roo region, close to Tulum, the breathtaking beauty of the cenotes is worth a trip. The entrance fee is 200 pesos (7 pounds) or you can book a private tour, which includes snorkelling equipment and additional extras you may need.
19. Cenote Ik-Kil
This gorgeous blue-watered cenote is known for its vines that hang from the forest floor and deep into the cenote. Located in Chichen Itza, this is one of Mexico’s most beautiful and most visited cenotes and makes for a magical spot to take a cooling dip.
Archaeologists believe that this cenote was a sacred place for Maya people to pray to the rain god, Chaac. When Ik-Kil was first discovered, archaeologists found carvings and even human remains at the bottoms of the pool which they believe were from such rituals.
20. San Ignacio Lagoon
Set in the state of Baja California Sur you’ll find the San Ignacio Lagoon. Visitors to the lagoon have the chance to experience boating tours and ride alongside the grey whales that live and breed in the warm waters.
Located in the Visciano Biosphere Reserve, the wildlife, including various species of sea turtles, are protected from hunting and other harms. This is a great opportunity to see the magnificent underwater species inhabiting Mexico’s coast.
21. La Lobera
La Lobera is another of Mexico’s underground phenomena found in Baja California Sur. It’s an enormous sea cave on the coastline. Within the hole, of which seawater flows freely, is a colony of sea lions that call the cave home.
You cannot actually enter the cave, but you can view the sea lions from beyond the protective ropes that line the outer area. This is a unique way to see these creatures in their natural habitat.
22. Cave Of The Hanging Snake
Also known locally as the Bat Cave, the cave is hidden deep within the Yucatan jungle. The mysterious and terrifying cave is home to yellow-red rat snakes that inhabit the ceilings of the cave.
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What people want to see when visiting is how the snakes hang from the ceiling and catch bats as they fly by. If you’re brave enough, you can visit the cave with a locally guided tour that leaves from the nearby village of Kantemo.
23. Copper Canyon
Copper Canyon is a series of canyons in the Sierra Madre Mountains in Northern Mexico. Popular for hiking and biking trails, another way to experience the canyons is the Copper Canyon Railway.
The journey on the railway can take between 9 to 16 hours depending on the route you take. But if you have the time it’s recommended to spend a few days so you can stop at the local villages and sites as you wind through the thick jungle on the railway. Alternatively, you could book a one-day Copper Canyon tour.
Discovering Mexico’s Best Landmarks
So there you have it, there are so many attractions in Mexico ready to be explored and discovered. From historic ancient ruins to surrealist art in the jungle and underwater.
With so many landmarks in Mexico, seeing them all in one trip may be difficult. So be sure to plan accordingly and give yourself a day to relax on one of the white sandy beaches of the Yucatan Peninsula.
If you are on a mission to see all the most famous landmarks around the world, check out these North American landmarks.
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