Instagram Guide to Mexico
From ancient Mayan ruins and stunning modern architecture to colorful cuisine and bright pink lagoons (yes, you read that correctly!), Mexico is a photographer’s dream.
Mexico City, the country’s vibrant capital, is stuffed to the brim with Instagrammable sites, but camera-ready destinations stretch west from the Baja California peninsula to the eastern tip of the Yucatan, encompassing hotspots like Cancun and Cabo San Lucas along the way.
This collection of the most photographable spots in the country will make you want to grab your passport and your camera phone.
About an hour northeast of Mexico City sits Teotihuacan, a vast archeological complex and UNESCO World Heritage Site. The complex houses multiple pre-Aztec pyramids, including the Pyramid of the Sun (the third largest pyramid in the world), temples and other ruins, all just begging to be photographed from different angles.
Chukum-Ha is one of countless cenotes (underground sinkholes) on the Yucatan peninsula; what makes this one unique is the plethora of adrenaline-filled activities available nearby. The cenote, named for the chukum trees indigenous to the area, is part of Hacienda Chukum, a new adventure travel destination, offering rappelling and zip-lining for travelers who prefer to sweat a bit before taking a dip in the 65-foot-deep natural pool.
Microorganisms give the water its vibrant pink color in Las Coloradas, a community along the northern coast of the Yucatan peninsula. If you want to see the resident flamingo population and not just the salt factories, it would be wise to hire a local guide to show you around.
Day of the Dead
Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is Mexico’s most famous celebration for good reason. Every November 1-2, families build altars at home and decorate graves in cemeteries, while festivals and parades bring together local communities as they share in a sacred tradition.
Especially in Mexico City (pictured here), Michoacan and Oaxaca, artists and observers in colorful costumes take to the streets, making for gorgeous photos that capture Mexico’s cultural vibrancy.
Beaches and surfing are the main draws to this small town in the western state of Nayarit, but social-media mavens head to the city’s Mercado del Pueblo. Colorful papel picado, perforated paper, decorates the market’s main drag, which seems to welcome as many Instagrammers as it does shoppers.
The ruins of Tulum in Quintana Roo are the only Mayan ruins located on the water. This means a single photograph can capture not only the ancient ruins, but the brilliant turquoise water below them (not to mention lush jungle in the background).
Photography can’t quite capture this, but the area is also excellent for swimming and snorkeling.
Arch of Cabo San Lucas
This limestone arch, called El Arco by locals, is one of the most distinctive sights in tourist-friendly Cabo San Lucas, and is easily accessible via boat ride. Watch out for rowdy, friendly sea lions that like to frolic nearby.
Xenses is a recreational park in the Riviera Maya designed for visitors to rediscover their senses. The park features innovative water, air and land activities through jungle and caves, along with an impressive collection of optical illusions that look great on Instagram — and even better in person.
Sometimes referred to as the “Venice of Mexico,” Xochimilco sits in southern Mexico City, where its famous canals serve as the last remnants of an extensive water-transportation system built by the Aztecs. Today, these canals are filled with colorful gondola-like boats that take cruise visitors around while food vendors and mariachi bands float past.
Hierva el Agua
Hierva el Agua (Spanish for “water that boils”) is known for its natural rock formations resembling cascades of water. Travelers with drones can get spectacular shots of the petrified waterfalls, while any smartphone can capture the emerald green pools overlooking the lush valley below.
The spectacular site is easy to visit via day trip from nearby Oaxaca City.
Regina Street in Mexico City’s Historic Center is best known for its extensive and elaborate street art, but it’s also a great place to grab lunch and people-watch. The art is constantly changing so even if you’ve visited in the past, it’s worth a second (or third!) look.
The port city of Campeche on the Gulf of Mexico doesn’t appear on the list of the most-visited destinations in Mexico, but make no mistake: This small city is just as charming as the country’s more well-known towns. Its historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site where cobblestone streets and pastel-colored homes look like something out of a fairy tale.
Chichen Itza, the ancient Mayan archeological site, is well deserving of its designation as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Just note that extreme heat, humidity and huge crowds mean this site is best visited during the early morning or late afternoon hours.
Cenote Ik Kil
Just minutes away from Chichen Itza, this cool and refreshing sinkhole is the perfect stop after a long, hot day at the ruins. Interesting fact: Il Kil was the site of the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series in 2010, 2011 and 2014!
There’s no shortage of Insta-worthy #foodiegram opportunities in Mexico, but the brilliant tablecloths and array of colorful salsas and condiments make the spread at El Hidalguense restaurant in Mexico City especially photo-worthy.
Palacio de Bellas Artes
In order to get a shot of Mexico City’s Fine Arts Palace that doesn’t feature the thousands of tourists that pose in front of it each day, you’ll need to get there long before it opens. But be sure to come back after it opens, too, to check out the theater, opera, dance, music and other cultural programming.
Nido del Quetzalcoatl
If looking at the most unique house in Mexico isn’t enough for you, you can always reserve it via Airbnb. As you roam through stained-glass indoor mazes and outdoor gardens large enough to be mistaken for park land, make sure to have your camera ready.
While the exterior of this magnificent castle in Mexico City’s Chapultapec Park offers plenty of photo-worthy angles, be sure to also head inside to snap a shot of the colorful walls and stained-glass windows.
Baja California (the peninsula just below California) is one of the best places in the world for whale-watching, as small boats allow you to get up close and personal with the friendly creatures. Different kinds of whales (and whale sharks) can be found around the peninsula at different times of the year, but generally, December-February in Guerrero Negro and San Ignacio is prime time for spotting — and even hugging! — these massive, extraordinary animals.
The Voladores de Papantla
The ritual of Voladores de Papantla, which dates back to ancient times, began in the state of Veracruz, but is today performed at celebrations, festivals and tourist attractions across the country. During the breathtaking routine, a leader sits atop a tiny platform playing a flute while fearless “flyers” wrapped in ropes fall off the platform and slowly and gracefully spin their way to the ground.
The photo here is from the city of San Miguel de Allene in Guanajuato.
Hidden Beach at Marieta Islands
About 20 miles west of Puerto Vallarta sit the Marieta Islands. They were formed by underwater volcano eruptions, but rumor has it that the hole that created Hidden Beach was a result of bombings (the islands were formerly used for weapons testing by the Mexican government).
House of Tiles
Mexico City’s 18th-century House of Tiles is, as the name suggests, a palace intricately covered in tiles. The astonishing monument also houses a glass-ceilinged atrium, murals, a fountain and, wait for it…a chain restaurant. Should you work up an appetite from taking pictures, the view from the dining room is equally stunning.
Chinatown isn’t typically the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of Mexico, but this two-block stretch in downtown Mexico City is well worth a visit. Brightly-colored umbrellas and lanterns are strung above the street, and the neighborhood hosts spectacular Chinese New Year festivals each year.
Casa Gilardi was the final masterpiece created by the late, great Mexican architect Luis Barragan. Sunlight bounces off brightly painted walls inside while a massive jacaranda tree decorates the outdoor courtyard. Tours of the home are offered by the family that currently lives in and cares for the home.
This peculiarly-shaped Mexico City museum and cultural center is most often photographed from the outside. After snapping a shot of the 16,000 gleaming aluminum tiles gracing its exterior, head inside to its equally impressive exhibits.
El Kiosco Morisco
Designed as a pavilion to represent Mexico at the 1884 World’s Fair in New Orleans, the Kiosco Morisco (Spanish for “Moorish Kiosk”) is today a meeting point in its Mexico City neighborhood. It hosts open-air dance classes and musical performances, while serving as a fantastic photo-op in the city.
Sea Shell House
Though it looks like something straight out of Alice in Wonderland, this seashell house is actually an Airbnb located on the island of Isla Mujeres, a quick boat ride from Cancun. The one-of-a-kind home can be booked up to six months in advance, so be sure to plan ahead!
Live Aqua Boutique
This all-inclusive resort in Playa del Carmen is a favorite among Instagrammers thanks to its sea-shell-covered Volkswagen. But that’s not the only feature of the property worth snapping; there’s also an illuminated installation spelling out “LIVE” on the patio, glamorous pools and a rooftop touting gorgeous views.
Viceroy Los Cabos Hotel
On the Sea of Cortés in Baja California sits Viceroy Los Cabos, a magical-looking hotel that appears to be floating on water. The posh resort’s modern architecture is ideally suited to envy-inducing Insta shots.
A treehouse on the beach, can it get any better? Yes! This off-the-grid “eco-luxury” resort also offers yoga classes, operates a sustainable permaculture farm, and helps baby sea turtles return to the ocean.