Around 40 million tourists visit Mexico each year to see the beautiful beaches, taste delicious food and immerse themselves in the history and culture. However, news stories often concentrate on sensational crime rates. The truth is, cartel-related violence tends to be in isolated pockets in the north, but the figures in those areas are so high that they increase crime statistics for the whole country.
It would be a shame to miss everything that Mexico has to offer due to fear. Most of the tourist areas in Mexico are very safe and offer visitors amazing experiences. There are even cities that haven't been discovered by tourists yet that make it onto the safest cities list.
It's still important to check travel advisories and follow common-sense safety precautions; for most people traveling to Mexico only have to worry about sunburn and come back with stories of their wonderful vacation.
Merida was recently named the safest city in Latin America and the second safest in North America, but there's far more to it than a low crime rate. It's a wonderfully walkable city and on weekends the historical center of the city is closed to cars, allowing you to easily explore the plazas, cathedrals and colonial buildings. There are also over 6,000 cenote sinkholes in the area, which are more interesting swimming spots than a resort pool. The city has some of the best Yucatan food around, so make sure you stop at a taco stand as you wander past.
Mexico's capital often gets a bad rap, but many areas are safe for tourists and there's so much to see that it's definitely worth a visit. Art lovers will be inspired by the historical murals and art installations peppered around the city and Frida Kahlo's studio, which is open to the public. The city also has a growing restaurant scene with great food and outdoor dining, plus plenty of nightlife, giving visitors plenty to do both day and night.
This party town is famous for its resorts, nightlife, and amazing beaches. It's definitely a tourist town, attracting visitors from both the US and Europe, so you'll meet new friends from around the world. But it's not all body shots and super clubs; adventurous visitors can go explore some of the most beautiful reefs in the world, see the animals at Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve and surf some of the best swells on the east coast.
Bacalar Lake is also known as the Lake of Seven Colors, so it already sounds perfectly Instagrammable. There's more than 24 miles of water to explore by kayak, sailboat or jetski. Or you can stay on land and explore the mangroves or relax in a waterside hammock. There's no beach in Bacalar, so the town has stayed off the tourist track, making it an affordable place to visit. It also has a more traditional Mexican feel, perfect for those looking to experience the local culture.
Oaxaca City is making a name for itself as Mexico's foodie capital, so it should definitely be on your must-visit list. It also has some of the best mezcal in the country, so visiting the Mezcalotera for a tasting is a must. The city is a UNESCO World Heritage site and the brightly-colored buildings and cobblestone streets make a pretty background for all your travel selfies.
The Great Pyramid of Cholula is the largest pyramid in the world, four times larger than the one at Giza. It's mostly covered in vegetation and there's a Spanish church built on top of it, but you can still visit the archaeological site and explore the pyramid tunnels. Cholula is also a hub of Lucha Libre, so make sure you check out some of the high-flying wrestling moves of the masked luchadores.
Todos Santos is in Baja California Sur and is a Pueblo Magico, or Magical Town. Its small-town vibe is popular with surfers, artists, and New Age spiritualists, but it has great food and high-end accommodation of a bigger city. There's gorgeous beaches and great waves you expect in this part of the country and beautiful weather throughout the year. If you visit between November and April you can see gray and humpback whales returning to the area to mate.
Puerto Vallarta sits on the second-largest bay in the world and welcomes around 2 million visitors each year. There aren't a lot of day trips from Puerto Vallarta, but there's so much to do there's no reason to leave. During the day you can ride horses, go on a boat trip or just relax in the sun, while after dark you can enjoy amazing food and head to the parties. Puerto Vallarta is also an LGBT+ friendly location, with plenty of LGBT nightspots to enjoy.
San Miguel de Allende is a favorite among expats but has still managed to retain its authentic Mexican feel. Located among the high desert mountains, this World Heritage site has colorful streets, friendly locals and an inspirational atmosphere that has brought writers, artists, and musicians from around the world. The city's farm-to-table movement has helped create an innovative food scene and new vineyards are helping to grow delicious local wines. There are also festivals throughout the year, giving you the opportunity to celebrate events with the locals.
Commonly known as just Cabo, Cabo San Lucas is a resort town on the Baja California peninsula. Like most Mexican resort towns it has beautiful sandy beaches and a great nightlife. What makes it unique is the Sea of Cortez, which has been protected by the Mexican government and is teeming with sea life including whales, sea lions, and many endangered species. Many beaches have a strong undertow, so ask locals for directions to a safe spot if you plan to swim.
If you're looking for an eco-friendly spot for your holiday, look no further than Tulum. It has an array of sustainable hotels and plenty of natural beauty; you can see turtles in their natural habitat and even swim with them in nearby Akumal. The city is famous for its laid-back vibe, but still has high-end accommodation and excellent nightlife. Tulum also has plenty of Mayan historical sites, including the Tulum Ruins, which perch on a rock above one of the city's pristine beaches.
Taxco is not as popular as some of the resort towns, but with steep valleys and beautiful mountains, it offers scenic views from almost every angle. Although the area was populated in pre-Colombian times, the city was built by the Spanish who moved to the area to mine silver. Taxco is still the silver capital of Mexico and you can buy beautifully worked silver jewelry there at great prices. The city is also relatively close to Mexico City, making it a great day trip for people staying in the capital.