Check Out Sayulita and Mexico’s Other Popular Pueblos Magicos
While Mexico has some of the most dynamic, cultural and international cities in the world, the heart and soul of Mexico can always be found in its smaller towns. More specifically, its Pueblos Magicos (Magical Towns) are small heritage towns that have been granted this special designation because of their commitment to preserving the spirit and ethos of traditional Mexico.
Some you may have heard of before. Sayulita, for example, is one of Mexico’s most famous beach towns located just north of Puerto Vallarta. But Sayulita is merely the tip of the iceberg. Mexico is home to more than 100 Magical Towns all across the country, ranging from laid-back boho beach escapes to mist-covered mountaintop villages shrouded in mysticism.
Are you ready to explore Mexico’s most popular Pueblos Magicos? Here is a guide to get you started.
25. Sayulita, Nayarit
Where to stay: El Pueblito Sayulita
Where to eat: Anchor Cafe
Why Sayulita is so magical: About an hour's drive north of Puerto Vallarta but another world away, Sayulita is laid-back beach living at its finest. The boho-chic, barefoot luxury hideaway was once a sleepy fishing village and a secret spot for surfers.
Today, it is all about burgeoning art, healthy and organic food, yoga retreats and beach clubs. It certainly has increased in size and popularity over the years. Still, it manages to retain that small-town charm amid its narrow streets and sandy lanes.
24. San Sebastián del Oeste, Jalisco
Where to stay: Las Galeritas de San Sebastián del Oeste Hotel Villas de Eco-descanso
Where to eat: Villa Nogal
Why San Sebastian del Oeste is so magical: Tucked up in the misty, jungle-covered mountains outside of Puerto Vallarta is where you'll find the gorgeous San Sebastian del Oeste. This stunning pueblo is a step back in time, giving visitors a glimpse at historic architecture, culture and history. The city was founded in the early 17th century by silver miners. While the mines closed in the 1920s, San Sebastian became an agricultural center and, today, is one of the best places in Mexico to experience farm-to-table, eco-friendly restaurants and hotels.
23. Mazunte, Oaxaca
Where to stay: Casa Pan de Miel
Where to eat: El Armadillo
Why Mazunte is so magical: The stretch of Oaxaca's coastline between Puerto Escondido and Huatulco has some of the most beautiful, rugged beaches in all of Mexico. With rugged beaches come scruffy, bohemian beach towns like Mazunte. A growing destination for yogis, vegans and tattoo artists, Mazunte is a small community of thatched-roofed beach huts that huddle around two beaches: Playa Rinconcito and Playa Mermejita. Expect fresh food; a barefoot, hippie vibe; and a wildly beautiful beachfront that has managed to evade major tourism developments.
22. Comala, Colima
Where to stay: Casa Alvarada
Where to eat: Don Comalon
Why Comala is so magical: Just half an hour from Colima, the capital of the state of Colima, the tropical Comala is known for its beautiful Spanish architecture, lush tropical climate and historic, small-town feel. Step back in time and wander the cobblestone streets, narrow alleys flanked by white-washed buildings and small artisan shops. Like most small towns in Mexico, the main square has a cathedral watching over it. This central part of Comala is wonderful for people-watching or popping into a local bakery for some fresh bread. Be sure to gaze out into the distance for a glimpse of the Colima Volcanic Complex (a series of volcanoes) that can be seen from town.
21. Valladolid, Yucatán
Where to stay: Hotel Posada San Juan
Where to eat: IX CAT IK Tradicional Cocina Maya
Why Valladolid is so magical: Valladolid used to be just a tour stop for visitors on group tours to Chichen Itza coming from Cancun. But over the years, the colonial village of Valladolid has become a thriving destination all on its own. Visitors come for the swath of pastel-colored historic buildings, a beautiful leafy plaza and a stunning pinkish-white cathedral overlooking it all. The city was founded by the Spanish in 1543, though the Mayan people lived in the area for centuries before that. Valladolid is also near spectacular cenotes as well as the city of Merida.
20. Loreto, Baja California Sur
Where to stay: La Cabanas de Loreto
Where to eat: Danzante Fine Dining
Why Loreto is so magical: While most visitors to the Baja peninsula are heading to Los Cabos, the destination has some smaller, spectacular towns that need a bit of the spotlight, too. Enter Loreto, one of the oldest towns in all of Baja. Located on the Sea of Cortez, this sparkling jewel of a town has stunning mountain views, calm, turquoise-colored water and is the entrance to the magical Loreto National Marine Park. Whether interested in diving, hiking, sunbathing, history or gastronomy, Loreto has something to offer.
19. Palenque, Chiapas
Where to stay: Boutique Hotel Quinta Chanabnal
Where to eat: Restaurante Bajlum
Why Palenque is so magical: The Mayan culture is integral to the history and ways of life of southern Mexico. In the state of Chiapas, in particular, evidence of the centuries-old Mayan community is alive and well. Palenque, Chiapas, is a Pueblo Magico located smack dab in the thick, tropical jungle and is known for the sprawling archaeological complex of the same name. When you're not wandering the mesmerizing ruins of the archaeological zone, the city of Palenque itself is rich in Mayan cuisine, colonial architecture and vibrant pops of color. It makes a great home base from which to explore the spectacular Mayan ruins.
18. Izamal, Yucatan
Where to stay: Hacienda Hotel Santo Domingo
Where to eat: Kinich El Sabor de Izamal
Why Izamal is so magical: Less than 45 miles from Merida sits a canary-colored city that is unlike anywhere else in Mexico. Izamal is a beautiful sight to behold. The city is entirely bathed in bright yellow and is one of the country's most important historic cities. A second name for Izamal is "The City of the Hills," which refers to the many pyramids that were found in and around the city. This is a destination in Mexico where you can learn about Mayan heritage, Spanish settlement and the 21st century all in one place. It's also an easy city to visit from Merida, Cancun or Campeche, as it is well connected to all of them.
17. Todos Santos, Baja California Sur
Where to stay: Posada La Posa
Where to eat: El Mirador Restaurant
Why Todos Santos is so magical: Two hours north of Los Cabos, on the Baja Peninsula's Pacific Coast, is a city that is now considered legendary. Todos Santos has always been a place for mystics and healers who are drawn to its vibrating spiritual energy. It was settled as a Spanish Mission in 1724 and later became a sugar cane producer. Today, it is a haven for bohemian beachgoers looking to catch some good vibes (and perhaps a wave or two). Surfers, well-heeled travelers and a long history of fishermen all mingle together in one of the hottest rising destinations in Mexico.
16. Mazamitla, Jalisco
Where to stay: Monteverde Hotel de Cabanas
Where to eat: Restaurante Gigi’s
Why Mazamitla is so magical: The state of Jalisco has several claims to fame — both Guadalajara and Puerto Vallarta are international jet-setting destinations. But apart from these two, there's a completely different vibe in a town called Mazamitla that's located high up in the mountains. Known as the "Mexican Switzerland," this mountain town is known for its soaring peaks and plunging waterfalls. Cozy cabins call for romantic getaways, while cobblestone streets and trees full of blossoms paint a gorgeous, historic backdrop. Mazamitla's downtown seems to have leaped off the pages of a storybook. Travelers should consider visiting the El Salto Waterfall or the Enchanted Garden.
15. Isla Mujeres, Quintana Roo
Where to stay: Lotus Beach Hotel
Where to eat: La Kantina De Los Tacos De Humo
Why Isla Mujeres is so magical: Across the calm, turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea from Cancun sits a long, skinny island called Isla Mujeres. One of Mexico's Caribbean-style islands, this laid-back, toes-in-the-sand island is packed with history and happens to be one of the best beach destinations in the country. This Magical Town is known for its stark-white sand, swaying palms, Mayan history and fresh seafood cuisine. The best way to get around town is to rent a golf cart to explore the entire island, from the energetic north to the tranquil, sparsely populated south.
14. Real de Catorce, San Luis Potosi
Where to stay: Refugio Romano
Where to eat: Realbucks
Why Real de Catorce is so magical: Mexico's San Luis Potosi state is a bit off the tourist trail, but it should absolutely be a location on your radar. This historic part of Mexico is known for its natural beauty, epic waterfalls and stunning Magical Towns like Real de Catorce. This desert town traces its roots back to the days of mining. In fact, it is home to many abandoned buildings earning the city a reputation for housing ghostly spirits. Today, however, many of these abandoned skeletons have been revamped to have restaurants and bars. Among the sites here are the relics of the Compromise and Concepcion mines as well as the Real de Catorce museum and the historic town square.
13. Tequila, Jalisco
Where to stay: Hotel Solar de las Animas
Where to eat: La Antigua Casona
Why Tequila is so magical: This is probably a town you've heard of before. At the very least you've heard of its native product. Located in the state of Jalisco, Tequila was put on the map because of — you guessed it — tequila. An hour from Guadalajara, this small village is known for its rolling fields of agave plants, which are harvested to create Mexico's most famous liquor. The town itself is gorgeous, with cobblestone streets, a glorious Church of Santiago Apostol, boutique hotels and distilleries. A train route even trails to Tequila, where guests can sip samples, take in a meal and watch the gorgeous countryside roll by.
12. Taxco, Guerrero
Where to stay: Hotel Los Arcos
Where to eat: S caffecito
Why Taxco is so magical: Perfectly poised between the connectivity of Mexico City and the coast in Acapulco sits the historic mountain mining town, Taxco. Known for its rich deposits of silver centuries ago, Taxco thrived as a major mining town for many years. The beauty of Taxco is striking. Whitewashed buildings pepper the mountainsides, while cobbled streets weave up and down rolling hills. The center of Taxco was named a National Heritage Site for its many historical structures. The Cathedral of Santa Prisca, for example, is a gorgeous example of Baroque architecture. Head up to the Cristo de Taxco lookout for a panoramic view of the city that sits nestled among the mountains.
11. San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas
Where to stay: Guayaba Inn
Where to eat: Restaurante Belil
Why San Cristobal de las Casas is so magical: High above the steamy jungle floors of Chiapas sits a lofty mountain town. San Cristobal de las Casas is a Pueblo Magico steeped in Mayan mysticism, perfumed with the scent of sage, and brimming with boutiques, cafes and shops worth discovering. The weather is cooler up in the hills of San Cristobal de las Casas. Walk the cobblestone street flanked by beautifully colored colonial-style buildings. Gape at the brilliant, yellow cathedral that overlooks the valley. Book a traditional Mayan massage to relieve tension and get in touch with your spiritual side.
10. Sisal, Yucatan
Where to stay: Club de Patos
Where to eat: Maasai Maya Bistro
Why Sisal is so magical: One of Yucatan's many jewels is the seaside town of Sisal. Facing the Gulf of Mexico, Sisal is a sleepy fishing village with powdery-white sand, gently lapping turquoise water and boutique-style accommodations. Visitors come to Sisal to dig their toes into the sand, crack open a frosty beer and try out the freshest seafood. Mayan cuisine is prevalent here, so expect Mayan-inspired dishes like Tikin Xic, or fish steamed in banana leaves. This nature lover's paradise is just an hour and a half from the city of Merida, making it easily accessible for a day or a weekend.
9. Bacalar, Quintana Roo
Where to stay: Casa Hormiga
Where to eat: La Playita
Why Bacalar is so magical: Remember the days when Tulum was nothing more than a few scattered beach bungalows, wide-open sugary sands and more palm trees than people? Seems like an eternity ago. Those looking for that same vibe, however, need only travel a few hours south to the town of Bacalar. Located on an expansive, shimmering turquoise lake, Bacalar feels like a throwback to the vintage days of laid-back living on Mexico’s Caribbean coast. Eco-friendly bungalows dot the shoreline while stand-up paddleboarders zip back and forth across the lake’s surface. At night, taco shacks and open-air restaurants come alive with the sizzle of street food. It’s quiet, relaxed and thoroughly beautiful in Bacalar.
8. Huasca de Ocampo, Hidalgo
Where to stay: Hacienda Santa Maria Regla
Where to eat: Casa Colibri
Why Huasca de Ocampo is so magical: The state of Hidalgo sits high in the mountains in the center of Mexico. Not far from the capital, Pachuca, is the historic and quaint town of Huasca de Ocampo. It, too, dates back to the golden era of mining in Mexico. Today, this tree-studded, architecturally beautiful village is packed with charm. Wander the cobblestone streets, smell the freshly baked breads and sizzling sweet tacos, and take a trip to one of the many thick forests that surround the village. You can also learn about the legends of the goblins that are said to live deep in the forest.
7. Tepoztlán, Morelos
Where to stay: Casa Isabella Hotel Boutique
Where to eat: Tepoznieves
Why Tepoztlan is so magical: Mexico's state of Morelos is easy to get to from Mexico City, so if you're visiting the country's capital, you may want to consider a visit to the town of Tepoztlan. In fact, it's a popular weekend getaway for residents of Mexico City, as it's only about 50 miles away. Located at the entrance of the El Tepozteco National Park, this Pueblo Magico is famous for its natural beauty, hiking and mountain biking. The village itself is stunningly beautiful. The Exconvento de la Natividad church was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Weekends are busy in Tepoztlan thanks to the market that opens up, brimming with handicrafts, souvenirs and regional specialties that date back to pre-Columbian Mexico.
6. Patzcuaro, Michoacan
Where to stay: Hotel Pueblo Magico
Where to eat: Casa del Naranjo Restaurante
Why Patzcuaro is so magical: Patzcuaro is one of those towns you really must see to believe. Located on the banks of Lake Patzcuaro in Michoacan, this Magical Town is visually stunning, a center for art and culture and steeped in tradition. Patzcuaro was founded in the 14th century and has a spirit that is both reflective of its colonial and indigenous histories. It has one of the best Day of the Dead celebrations in all of Mexico. Its cuisine is unique to this part of the country as well — particularly the pickled trout, tamales and uchepos. The town is also full of artisans, from potters and carvers to welders and painters.
5. Bernal, Queretaro
Where to stay: Casa Mateo Hotel Boutique
Where to eat: Folk
Why Bernal is so magical: Mexico's mountainous state of Queretaro is a place of epic natural beauty. The Magical Town Bernal is one of the best places to see it up close and personal. Close to Mexico City and the gateway to the Sierra Gorda mountain range, Bernal is one of the easiest places in Mexico to visit, but it feels like another world away. One of the best things to do in Queretaro is to hike the Peña de Bernal, the third-largest monolith in the world. Because of the monolith, Bernal is thought to be a place of spiritual healing, making it a top wellness destination. Here visitors can snack on street food or head to one of the elegant restaurants on Juan Aldama Street for something more refined.
4. Xilitla, San Luis Potos
Where to stay: Posada James
Where to eat: Restaurante la Huastequita
Why Xilitla is so magical: Surreal does not even begin to describe the town of Xilitla — a mystical wonderland in the forests of San Luis Potosi. The town takes its roots from the local Nahuas and Teenek people, but those who visit will find they are in for a twist. Within the town is the Las Pozas surrealist gardens, designed by artist Edward James and known for its sculptures, gardens and stonework. But Xilitla is also a nature lover's paradise, home to rushing waterfalls, giant caves and beautiful lakes. The village is remote, so prepare for a journey. The easiest way is to fly into Tampico and take a 3.5-hour bus ride to reach this jungle paradise.
3. Cuetzalan, Puela
Where to stay: Hotel Posada Cuetzalan
Where to eat: Restaurante y Terraza La Buena Vida
Why Cuetzalan is so magical: Tucked in the mountains of Puebla, just three hours from Mexico City, sits this jewel of a Magical Town. Cuetzalan is all about the natural beauty, from caves and grottoes to mist-covered forests and rolling coffee plantations. The town itself has thousands of years of history, as it was founded by the Totonacas in the year 200. It can still trace many of its traditions back over the centuries, including the ancestral rituals like the Voladores flyers or the Danza de los Quetzales, which has been deemed a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage. Visit the bustling weekend market or visit the Temple of San Francis of Assisi, with a nearly 200-foot-tall tower that looms over the village.
2. Isla Aguada, Campeche
Where to stay: Cabanas Laguna
Where to eat: Mar y Cruz 2
Why Isla Aguada is so magical: Part of the Yucatan peninsula, the state of Campeche is one of Mexico's most colorful, from the turquoise-colored Gulf of Mexico to the pastel-colored buildings and historic Spanish architecture. The town of Isla Aguada, surrounded by the Laguna de Terminos, is yet another example of the colors of Campeche. Once a refuge for pirates, the beautiful village is now one of the most important wetland systems in Mexico and is teeming with plants and animals. Sample the succulent seafood or hop a boat to try to catch a glimpse of dolphins or birds. Perhaps one of the best things to do here is simply sprawl on the beach and take in the views.
1. Valle de Bravo, State of Mexico
Where to stay: Las Luciérnagas
Where to eat: Restaurante Casa Avandaro
Why Valle de Bravo is so magical: Where do residents of Mexico City go when they need a little dose of nature? Valle de Bravo, of course. This beautiful lake town sits on the banks of Lake Avandaro, west of Mexico City. Surrounded by forest-covered mountains, Valle de Bravo is simply stunning. The focal point of its historic city center is the Plaza de la Independencia and the 17th-century San Francisco de Asis Church. In addition to waterfront activities, like sailing, swimming or parasailing, visitors to Valle de Bravo canals visit the famous Monarch Butterfly Reserve, home to millions of migratory butterflies.