These Magic Towns In Mexico Are Perfect For A Unique Trip With Less Crowds

Mexico has been a popular destination for travelers around the world for generations. It's an expansive country with something for every type of traveler. Whether you're interested in exploring lush jungles, visiting ancient ruins, soaking up the sun with a margarita on a sandy beach, or experiencing the vibrant culture and culinary scenes — you'll never run out of things to do.

With so many unique attractions, it's no wonder that Mexican tourism has continued to increase over the past decade. In 2022, 34 million international travelers entered Mexico, according to government data. Most tourists visiting for the first time tend to gravitate towards the most popular destinations like Cancun, Los Cabos, and Mexico City. While wonderful, these destinations can often be overcrowded and expensive. Instead, consider an off-the-beaten-path adventure at one of Mexico's enchanting "Pueblos Magicos, or "magic towns." These towns and villages have been granted special designation by the national government for their extraordinary cultural significance and preservation of Mexican heritage. A Pueblo Magico can be selected for qualities like architecture, history, or natural beauty.

Since the program was put into place by the Ministry of Tourism in 2001, 177 towns have been named Pueblo Magicos. If you're planning the perfect trip to Mexico, these unique towns around the country offer the perfect opportunity to escape the tourist hot spots and experience the heart and soul of this incredible country.

Mazunte

Magical is the perfect word to describe this tiny town that has remained relatively untouched by the enormous sky-rise resorts and vacation condos that line the coast of beach towns like Cancun or Tulum. The community focuses on eco-tourism and wellness travel with plenty of small-scale boutique lodging options, yoga studios, and wellness retreats.

Mazunte is located along the Pacific Ocean, about an hour from the bustling resort town of Puerto Escondido in the state of Oaxaca. The small town features beautiful buildings constructed from natural materials with thatched roofs and narrow cobblestone streets. Lush jungle plants encroach upon breathtaking golden beaches scattered with rugged rock formations.

The town has a peaceful, laid-back, beachy vibe, so don't expect a ton of nightlife, and the entire village is walkable. One of the most popular activities is hiking to Punta Cometa for Mazunte's iconic sunsets. The easy hike takes about 30 minutes each way, and you'll be rewarded with one of the most beautiful views in the region.

Accommodation options in Mazunte include hostels, beachfront villas where you can fall asleep listening to the waves crash on the shores, and luxurious hotels with sparkling swimming pools to escape the heat. With nightly rates starting around $30 per night, it makes a great budget-friendly beach vacation to take in Mexico. Around town, you'll find plenty of tasty local restaurants serving everything from traditional Mexican cuisine to healthy vegan bites and high-end seafood.

Bacalar

Bacalar is a budget-friendly hidden gem in Quintana Roo, near the southern border with Belize, and can be reached in just under five hours from Cancun. The town itself sits on the banks of the breathtaking Bacalar Lagoon, which is a narrow lake stretching about 37 miles in length. Bacalar Lagoon, known as The Lake of Seven Colors, paints a stunning picture of turquoise, blue, green, and indigo. There are multiple cenotes and underground caverns within and outside of the lake. You can travelerblog the lake via a boat tour or kayaking excursion, with single kayak rentals costing about $10 per person. Surrounding the lake, you'll find wooden boardwalks for taking in the views and overwater hammocks for relaxing.

Mayan civilization thrived for centuries in the Bacalar region, and around the town, you can embark on day trips to see some incredible Mayan ruins like Kohunlich, which is surrounded by lush jungles. You can take in the glory of the ancient culture and admire remarkably well-preserved sculptures like the Temple of the Masks — a series of astounding seven-foot-tall sculptures of Mayan rulers and deities. Kohunlich is located just an hour and a half outside of Bacalar.

The banks of the lagoon are scattered with hundreds of accommodations to choose from. For the best experience, splurge to get a room with lakefront views. There are plenty of budget-friendly options, and you can often find 4-star hotels on the water for under $100 per night.

San Cristóbal de las Casas

History buffs and colonial architecture fans will love visiting the underrated tourist destination of San Cristóbal de las Casas. Nestled on a plateau in the Chiapas Highlands in the mountainous central region of Mexico, San Cristóbal de las Casas has an elevation of just over 7,200 feet and is surrounded by stunning views of mountains and pine forests. Around 25% of the population is made up of Indigenous people, who have managed to retain their native language and cultural identity despite generations of colonialism.

San Cristobal de las Casas is well-known for its cultural diversity and beautiful architecture and it's a popular hub for backpackers and expats. A few famous architectural marvels around town date all the way back to the 16th century. One such building is the brightly colored San Cristóbal de las Casas Cathedral, which was first constructed in 1528 and features beautiful details and art on its interior.

The small city has a thriving arts and culture scene, and around town, you will find numerous art galleries, small bars, and clubs with live music nightly. As you stroll along the cobblestone streets, you'll often encounter street musicians playing a tune for crowds of passersby. Don't skip visiting the expansive Mercado de la Caridad y Santo Domingo, where you can wander through the stalls admiring locally made handicrafts like colorful woven blankets and embroidery.

Sayulita

Sayulita is a thriving beach town on the Pacific coast. Located in the state of Nayarit in the western part of the country, it is most well known for its laid-back bohemian beach vibes and is a popular destination for surfers, hippies, and artists from around the world. Sayulita is the type of place that travelers visit, and decide to stay for a while. The town is full of hip eateries, lively bars, and locally owned shops and galleries selling bohemian clothing, art, and home goods.

Sayulita is only about an hour's drive from the bustling city of Puerto Vallarta, but the vibes couldn't be any different. The town perfectly encapsulates the quiet luxury of a coastal lifestyle. You'll find plenty of yoga studios, beach clubs, and delicious restaurants serving healthy local cuisine, like fresh fruit smoothies and gourmet tacos.

If you've ever dreamed of learning to surf, there is no better place to start than during your trip to Sayulita. The town was a secret surf paradise for decades before it became popular. Now, Sayulita is recognized as one of the top destinations in Mexico for beginner surfers. A variety of local companies offer surf lessons on the soft golden beaches near town, including Lunazul, which offers 90-minute lessons for around $90 per person, including equipment and an extra hour to practice with the surfboard after your lesson.

Mineral del Chico

For travelers visiting Mexico City who want to balance the cultural experiences with some nature and adventure tourism, the Pueblo Magico of Mineral del Chico offers the perfect choice for an off-the-beaten-path destination nearby. It isn't one of the most popular Puebo Magicos, but it's only about two and a half hours outside the sprawling metropolis of the capital. Mineral del Chico is a dream come true for lovers of outdoor recreation and adventure tourism.

During your visit, you can enjoy activities like exploring cave systems, rock climbing, and hiking. Nearby the town, you'll have access to the breathtaking Chico National Park, which is one of the oldest nature preserves in Mexico, established in 1898. Covering an impressive 6,770 acres, the park is full of dense pine forests and incredible rugged rocks that attract climbers from around the world. You can hike, camp, mountain bike, and more in the beautiful natural surroundings. Presa El Cedral is another lovely nature preserve located just a few miles from town. It features a stunning lake surrounded by forests where you can go boating, kayaking, or simply hike around and enjoy a picnic.

Mineral del Chico makes an excellent jumping-off point to travelerblog the National Park, and it's a picturesque destination all on its own. The architecture is colorful, and it's worth spending a morning wandering about town. Another unique attraction is El Contadero, a labyrinth of rock, perfect for a meditative hike.