7 Great Places to Visit in Central Mexico

Mexico has more UNESCO World Heritage Sites than any other country in North America. The Meso-Americans already had great civilizations before the Spanish conquered and plundered their gold. But Spain left behind some beautiful European-esque towns like Puebla, Queretaro and San Miguel de Allende.

If you’re only interested in seeing Mexico via cruise ship, this article is probably not the best one for you. But we have also covered an NCL cruise to Central America and Mexico. If you want to have a more authentic travel experience, here are 7 great places to visit in central Mexico!

Mexico City

On a visit to central Mexico, chances are you will begin in Mexico City. Flights from around the world arrive in Mexico City International Airport. The airport then conveniently connects visitors with beautiful destinations like Puebla and Queretaro via direct and comfortable buses. North America’s largest city is a fantastic destination with a wealth of attractions.

Angel statue in Mexico City

Mexico City consistently ranks as one of the world’s best cities for street food. It also has one of the world’s largest and most impressive historic squares, the Zocolo. Two of the most important artists of the 20th century, Diego Rivera and Friedo Kahlo feature prominently in museums around town.

Diego Rivera mural

There’s an abundance of world-class museums like the National Museum of Anthropology, which you could easily spend a day touring. You can run around Mexico City for a week and still not see everything worthwhile.

Pyramids of Teotihuacan

The Aztec pyramids of Teotihuacan are a 1-2 hour drive outside Mexico City, depending on traffic. You can organize a tour either online or through your hotel’s concierge. You can also travel there via Uber or a private car. We don’t recommend hiring a taxi, if you go that route, just use Uber. Uber is the cheapest and safest way to travel around central Mexico because of its GPS tracking.

“The place where the Gods were created,” was built between the 1st and 7th centuries AD. The massive Pyramid of the Sun offers an amazing view of the complex of pyramids and ruins, and a horizon that extends for many miles. Visit on a weekday if possible because the steps to climb are narrow for the volume of people it attracts. Teotihuacan is Mexico’s most visited archaeological site.

Pyramids of Teotihuacan
Alex and Bell at lunch in the cave restaurant

After visiting Teotihuacan you can dine in the massive cave restaurant La Gruta, which is just a few miles from the pyramids. The dining room has multiple levels and we chose to have a view over the main dining area. La Gruta is a unique dining experience that’s both casual and elegant, with good food. 


Queretaro is a UNESCO World Heritage site as it’s one of the 5 most beautifully preserved former Spanish colonial towns in Mexico. You can reach Queretaro by comfortable direct bus from Mexico City Airport or the bus station. It is 3 hours northwest of Mexico City.

Collage of architecture in Queretaro

One of the highlights of Queretaro is the impressive Roman-style aqueduct built around 300 years ago. It’s extremely well preserved and rare in North America. The old town is a gem, featuring colorful architecture and an abundance of quality restaurants, pubs, cafes and shops.

San Miguel de Allende

Cathedral in San Miguel

San Miguel de Allende has previously topped the Conde Nast Traveler readers choice awards list for best cities in the world to visit. It’s also home to a sizable American expat community, so many people will vouch for it among travelling to Mexico tips. Beginning in the 1940’s expat artists started flocking to San Miguel and helped rebuild the town. Today it is home to some of Mexico’s most expensive real estate.

Narrow cobblestone streets are lined with colorful buildings and terra-cotta roofs. San Miguel’s colonial center is a UNESCO World Heritage site. So it’s strictly enforced that homes, churches and businesses retain their original and historic appearance.

Alex & Bell with Molcajete a volcanic bowl

We highly recommend ordering molcajete at Los Milagros, which our local friends who we stayed with took us too. Molcajete is a volcanic bowl filled sizzling meats, cheeses and vegetables in a spicy sauce. During our two week trip in Central Mexico we ate a lot of great food, and the molcajete at Los Milagros was possibly the best thing we ate.

Bernal and One of the World’s Largest Rock Formations (Pena de Bernal)

Towering over the charming Mexican village of Bernal is Pena de Bernal. Pena de Bernal measures 1,421 feet and is one of the world’s tallest monoliths. Bernal is home to just 4,000 people and while it isn’t very touristy, it is extremely beautiful and laid back.

Bernal is one of the smaller ‘Pueblo Magicos’ in the country. Pueblo Magicos have been designated by the Mexican government for their “magical” qualities, like inspiring beauty, rich history, or extraordinary legends. Mexico’s Secretariat of Tourism designates magical qualities according to “cultural richness, historical relevance, cuisine, art crafts, and great hospitality.”

Rock of Bernal in central Mexico

Bernal is just a 40-minute drive from Queretaro. Asides from being a pretty place to sip tequila, hike and enjoy tasty Mexican eats, it’s also a great town for shopping. Souvenir shops feature some beautiful handmade products. And you can find beautiful handmade clothes too. It is distinctly different from most shops in touristy towns on the coast, selling mass produced trinkets, some of which are made in China.


Puebla Cathedral, light show Central Mexico

For North Americans, Puebla is like traveling to Spain without the jet lag. Another UNESCO World Heritage Site formerly colonized by the Spanish in the 1500’s, its architecture is both beautiful and colorful. We spent our 12 year wedding anniversary in Puebla, which offered amazing value for the quality of the experience.

We stayed at the Casa Rosa Gran Hotel Boutique, a lovely boutique hotel right across from Puebla Cathedral. It features a balcony overlooking the beautiful cathedral, which dates back to 1585, and the vibrant town square (Zocolo).

Puebla is one of the foodie capitals of Mexico. It’s the birthplace of mole poblano, sometimes considered the national dish of Mexico. c combines around 20 ingredients into a rich sauce combining chocolate and chili, which typically tops enchiladas stuffed with chicken or pork.

Mole done three different ways over chicken

Surrounded by active volcanoes and other lovely Mexican towns like Cholula, Puebla offers amazing bang for buck on a romantic getaway. It’s also where Cinco De Mayo comes from!

Street performers in Puebla

If you fly into Mexico City, you can catch a comfortable bus directly from Mexico City Airport to Puebla. The trip takes between 2-3 hours depending on traffic, which is frequently brutal in Mexico City. But bus companies like Estrella Rojo are safe, comfortable and equipped with TV’s and wifi. 


Alex with a traditional chocolate drink in Mexico

Cholula is basically a suburb of Puebla. Turibus (big red bus) has tours leaving Puebla’s Zocolo (main square) at 11am and 1pm on weekends. While the 5 hour tour is only in Spanish, it’s still worthwhile even if you don’t speak the language. We made it part of our 12 year wedding anniversary day and were glad we did.

Cholula is most famous for its massive Pyramid Tepanapa, 37 churches and stunning views of the nearby Popocatepetl (Popo) volcano. Several of the churches are filled with extremely intricate gold leaf decor. Mexico was once plundered for gold, and it’s a common feature of Mexican churches.

Safety, Where to Stay and More about Central Mexico

Alex & Bell in a bar with cocktails in Mexico

If you travel to the interior of central Mexico a couple other great cities to consider visiting are Guanajuato and Taxco. Guanajuato is another UNESCO World Heritage Site town. Taxco is a beautiful cliffside town known as the “Silver City.” Mexico is the world’s leading producer of silver.

Before traveling anywhere in Mexico check travel advisories like the US State Department. Much of Mexico is generally safe when taking normal precautions. During our two week’s traveling around central Mexico we never found ourselves in a situation where we felt we were in danger.


For hotels and short term apartments, booking.com often has the best deals. If you’ve never used it, we highly recommend checking it out. For frequent users, they sometimes give a major discount along with room upgrades.

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More on Mexico

Read our article on tips for visiting beautiful seaside destinations in Yucatan, Quintana Roo and Campeche. How does a do it yourself trip like this compare to visiting central Mexico on a cruise ship? We’ve covered that too! Read our review of the Norwegian Getaway cruise to Honduras, Belize, Costa Maya and Cozumel. Have questions or need any assistance with planning a trip to Mexico? Email me at [email protected] or leave a comment below!

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  • Alex&Bell

    Alex and Bell originally met while solo traveling after finishing university in 2002, in Brugge, Belgium. Alex grew up in the USA and Bell hails from Australia. During our nearly 20 year marriage we've lived around the world, including spending six years living in the Netherlands and Ireland. We have traveled to nearly 70 countries and enjoy giving readers authentic and quality travel tips. Alex is an award winning travel journalist and travel planner, who also freelances for other outlets. Bell is an award winning PhD scientist who currently works for a non-profit lung cancer advocacy research organization called Lungevity. Happy travels and if you have any questions leave a comment or drop an email!

2 thoughts on “7 Great Places to Visit in Central Mexico

  1. looking for private personal tour of “seven awesome places to visit in central Mexico” for 7-10 days in may 2023

    1. Leaving from Mexico City? Check out some of the tours listed in the article. You can reach also reach out to tour companies to enquire about a personal private tour.

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