10 Best Road Trips in Mexico Not to Miss + Tips For Driving in Mexico
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Who doesn’t love a good road trip?
Ok, I admit when I was younger road trips meant being squished between my two older siblings vying for elbow room and counting down the minutes until we got there. Now, however, road trips mean freedom. The freedom to do what I want and when I want it. To go to unchartered territories, remote and desolate beaches, or rugged mountain tops where few others venture to go.
This is never more true than for exploring Mexico.
Many of the best destinations in Mexico are those that are off the beaten path. Embarking on a road trip in Mexico allows you to truly experience Mexico. With these seven Mexico road trips, you will
Before we set off for Mexico, I thought Mexico was only going to be about three things…tacos, tequila, and beaches. And while these three things exist in abundance there are plenty of other things to do and places to see on a road trip throughout Mexico.
Luckily for you, we have done most of the legwork. We have traveled the open roads, sunbathed at the best beaches, tasted countless tacos, and sampled all the cervezas. We have put together what we think the best road trips in Mexico each catering to something unique. Whether you want to explore the wild jungle of Chiapas, the diversity of the state of Oaxaca, the Jalisco beaches, or the food and arts scene of Central Mexico, there is something for everyone.
So what are you waiting for? Let’s get to road-tripping!
Is It Safe to Do a Road Trip in Mexico?
A road trip in Mexico, like a road trip anywhere else, comes with some inherent dangers. However, sometimes the media’s focus on the sensational can distract us from the true dangers of a Mexico. Driving in Mexico, through Mexico, and around Mexico is safe as long as you follow the necessary precautions.
Firstly, the best way to stay safe is to make sure you research your planned route for driving in Mexico in advance. Government agencies, such as the Department of State, regularly publish a travel advisory that lists the areas in Mexico which are deemed high risk. Make sure you plan to avoid these areas during your Mexico road trip.
Secondly, you can stay safe while driving through Mexico by avoiding driving at night. My mother use to say that nothing good ever happens at night and while she may have been exaggerating a bit, this is especially true for driving in Mexico and in any foreign country. Chances of running into a hairy situation increase once the lights go out.
One Week Road Trips in Mexico
Mexico is a country that is easy to fall in love with but if you only have one week in Mexico, here are our favorite road trips in Mexico that can be completed in a week or less.
1. Riviera Nayarit
Total Distance= 350 kilometers (217 miles)
One of Mexico’s premier beach destinations is the stunning Riviera Nayarit. The 200-mile stretch of coastline from Puerto Vallarta in northern Jalisco to San Blas is the perfect place for your first foray into Mexican road trips. Designed for the quintessential beach bum, this road trip in Mexico chases fun in the sun from one stunning Rivieria Nayarit beach town to the next.
Highlights of the Riviera Nayarit
Your first stop on this Mexico road trip is none other than Puerto Vallarta. A hub for tourism on Mexico’s west coast, Puerto Vallarta is a popular destination for national and international tourism, particularly LGBTQ+ tourism. With a bustling nightlife, beautiful beaches in Jalisco only minutes away, and, in my opinion, some of the best al pastor tacos outside of Mexico City, Puerto Vallarta is a great place to relax for a night or two before continuing onward.
From Puerto Vallarta, continue north to the quintessential beach towns for which the Riviera Nayarit is known. Stop first is Sayulita. This seaside village is a popular destination for trendy, international tourists. The small beach town caters to all the whims and desires of millennials with trendy cafes and restaurants, hip bars, and yoga classes. Sayulita also has one of the best waves on the Riviera Nayarit to learn how to surf.
A little further north from Sayulita, you will find our favorite hideaway along the Riviera Nayarit, San Fransisco (also referred to locally as San Pancho). Just like Sayulita, San Pancho has all of the same amenities with a fraction of the tourists. This beach is the perfect place to relax and unwind with a beer in hand as you watch the sunset over the Pacific Ocean.
As you continue even further north you will find the beautiful beach towns of Lo de Marco, Chacala, and San Blas. Each beach offers a laid-back atmosphere expected in a traditional Mexican beach town. The further north you travel along the Riviera Nayarit, the quieter it gets with fewer modern amenities and crowds.
Popular activities when visiting this area include hiking to secluded beaches, surfing, fishing, and simply enjoying the warm Mexican sun.
On your way back to Puerto Vallarta, stop off in Punta Mita for some of the Riviera Nayarit’s best surfing!
2. Mexico City to Oaxaca, a Mexican Route Steeped in History and Amazing Food
Total Distance = 500 kilometers (310 miles)
While you could easily spend more than one week in both Mexico City and Oaxaca in their own right, this Mexico City to Oaxaca self-drive itinerary can be completed in a week. On this Mexican road trip, expect to be amazed by the history of Mexico City, incredible Mexican food, ancient ruins, and charming Mexican towns.
Mexico City to Oaxaca Highlights
Fly into Mexico City but make sure to stay a few days. Mexico City is full of life with over 28 million people bustling through the streets. Explore the old historic city center with a free walking tour, eat street food at one of the many local stalls, visit the Frida Khalo museum for an in-depth look at one of Mexico’s finest artistic creators, take a stroll through Latin America’s second-largest city park Bosque de Chapultepec or even dine at one of the world’s top ten restaurants! The possibilities of things to do in Mexico City are endless so make sure you plan at least three days here to truly take in all this beautiful city has to offer.
After leaving Mexico City, make sure to stop at the floating gardens of Xochimilco. Perhaps a bit touristy for some, the floating gardens of Xochimilco are a popular activity in Mexico City. Here you can rent a colorful boat and cruise through the waterways dining on traditional Mexican fare and listing to, of course, mariachi. Don’t forget to ask to be taken by the Isla de las Muñecas (aka the Island of the Dolls) for a frightful surprise!
After visiting the floating gardens of Xochimilco, it’s time to continue onward to the “pueblo magico” of Cholula. Perhaps you may recognize the name from the wildly popular hot sauce found in the US, but Cholula has more to offer than hot sauce. Cholula is best known for the Great Pyramid adorned with the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de los Remedios, as well as, the numerous churches that dot the streets of this charming town.
After a day in Cholula, spend your evening in the state’s capital of Puebla. Often overlooked for cities such as Oaxaca and San Miguel de Allende, Puebla has plenty to offer and is worth a night. The best things to do in Puebla include admiring the beautiful, old buildings, dining on mole (it’s from Puebla!), and brushing up on your Mexican history at the Amparo Museum.
Your final destination on this epic road trip is none other than Oaxaca. As we already mentioned you can easily spend a week in Oaxaca exploring the city and the nearby surroundings, but even just after a few days, you will already be planning your trip back.
A city known for its arts, culture and amazing food, you won’t be short of things to do here. Start your morning off in Oaxaca with a walking tour to learn about the rich history of this iconic Mexico town. Being in one of Mexico’s gastronomic hubs, continue your day with a food tour or perhaps a cooking class. Explore the ancient ruins of Monte Alban or Yagul or embark on a distillery tour in the birthplace of mezcal. The possibilities of exploring Oaxaca are endless and you will quickly see why Oaxaca is one of our favorite cities in all of Mexico.
3. The Yucatan Peninsula Loop (Short)
Total Distance = 465 kilometers (290 miles)
The Yucatan Peninsula is one of the most visited areas in Mexico. With Cancun (and now Tulum) firmly on the tourist circuit, you may think the Yucatan Peninsula is all about college spring breaks and over-priced all-inclusive resorts. But those who take the time to explore the areas outside of these touristy hotspots will be surprised by the diversity and culture found on the Yucatan Peninsula.
Highlights of the Yucatan Peninsula Loop (short)
After landing in Cancun, it’s time to get in the car and head toward the beautiful Tulum. Tulum rose in the rankings as one of Mexico’s best travel destinations in the mid-2000s and its popularity does not seem to be waning. Before giving pause as to why I would send you to one of the most touristy places in Mexico, keep reading.
Despite its apparent over-tourism, Tulum does have a few redeeming graces about it. Firstly, if you are headed to Mexico to party, then Tulum is your best bet. Chic beach resorts, late-night DJs, and trendy bars, Tulum hits everything you would want in a party destination.
Secondly, Tulum is close to a few of the best cenotes in Mexico. Cenotes are sinkholes from fall limestone filled with water located on the Yucatan Peninsula. The best cenotes near Tulum include Grand Cenote and Cenote Carwash.
Lastly, Tulum may be overtly touristic but you will have all of your creature comforts. If you are worried about things in Mexico being “too rustic”, head to Tulum. With chic hotels, trendy and modern cafes, you will have all of the things you love from home in the Mexican paradise of Tulum.
After partying down in Tulum, it’s now time to head to the archaeological site of Coba for a quick history lesson into the ancient civilizations that once called the Yucatan Peninsula home. Believed to have been settled between 50 and 100 AD, the Coba was once a powerful force on the peninsula and constant rival of nearby Chichén Itzá. Coba is also home to the largest network of stone causeways of the ancient Mayan world.
Continue onward on this Mexican road trip to the pueblo magico, Valladolid. Valladolid is most famous for two things, cenotes and ruins. Valladolid is surrounded by some of the Yucatan’s most iconic ruins, Chichén Itzá and Ek’ Balam. Whether you enjoy history or not, no trip to the Yucatan is complete without visiting at least one of these ancient ruins if only to be impressed by the skills of the people designing and crafting these enormous structures without cranes and the modern conveniences of today’s construction world.
Outside of these ancient Mayan ruins, Valladolid is also synonymous with cenotes. In fact, Valladolid has a cenote, Zaci, in the center of town. The perfect way to cool down after walking around in the hotel Mexican sun visiting the ruins.
This Mexican road trip is the perfect combination of beach lounging, history, and off-the-beaten-path destinations on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.
Two Week Mexico Road Trip Itineraries
This set of Mexican road trips is ideal for the two-week vacation although each can be adjusted to suit travelers with a little more or less time if you simply don’t want to be on the road every day during your holiday.
4. Chase Waterfalls and Ruins in Chiapas, Mexico’s Southernmost State
Total Distance = 968 kilometers (601 miles)
Few people have ever heard of Chiapas, the small Mexican state next to the Guatemala border. If you have heard of it, you probably know that this luscious jungle state is full of amazing waterfalls and ancient ruins. The remoteness of the state means that fewer tourists descend on the attractions each year. This also means less commercialization when compared to some of its neighboring states. The Chiapas road trip in Mexico is the most remote of them all and will really get you off the beaten path a bit.
Chiapas Road Trip Highlights
A road trip through Chiapas will undoubtedly start in Tuxtla Gutiérrez, the state’s capital. Even from this sprawling metropolis, you can start your grand outdoor adventure as the backdrop of Tuxtla is none other than the Sumidero Canyon. This impressive canyon is only the beginning of nature’s wonders on this nature lover’s adventure as the next stop is the magnificent El Chiflon.
This mighty waterfall stands at 120 meters tall and flows with some of the bluest water I have ever seen. And this is only the beginning of impressive bodies of water. On this road trip in Chiapas, look forward to the peaceful Lagos de Montebello, off-the-beaten-path Lagos de Colon, roaring Las Nubes, and the mighty Agua Azul!
With so many outdoor adventures encased in the Lacandon Jungle, outdoor lovers will immediately fall in love with this Mexico bucket list destination.
And let’s not forget the amazing ruins that you will visit on a road trip in Chiapas. The most famed and visited is Palenque but Yaxchilán and Bonampak give Palenque a run for its money. As you can imagine all of the ruins in Chiapas are set against the most stunning backdrop of the Chiapas jungle which is unique when compared to other well-known Mexican ruins such as Teotihuacan in Central Mexico.
After exploring the rugged nature of Chiapas, it’s time to relax in the colonial town of San Cristobal de las Casas. Another destination in Mexico known for its incredible culinary scene, you will be surprised by the range of diversity in the food in San Cristobal. From Korean to Indian and from Italian to Thai, this up-and-coming Mexico destination is truly magical. With fewer tourists than other states in Mexico, you will wish you had more time to relax in the mountain town of San Cristobal de las Casas.
This is only a sneak peek as to what a road trip in Chiapas would entail. If these activities slightly interest you, you can read the full itinerary to find out all the other great things to see and do in Chiapas.
5. Mexico City to San Miguel de Allende, a Foodie’s Paradise
Total Distance = 400 kilometers (250 miles)
A road trip from Mexico City to San Miguel de Allende centers around the food, culture, and arts scene prominent in the Mexican culture. Ciudad de Mexico has a rich history dating back to the 1300s when it was settled by the Aztecs before being conquered by the Spanish conquistadors.
The influence of the Spanish acquisition is prevalent in San Miguel de Allende with beautiful churches, cobblestone streets, and colonial architecture.
This Mexico road trip focuses on the finer things in life and is probably the most expensive road trip on our list of the best road trips in Mexico.
Mexico City to San Miguel de Allende Highlights
It all starts in Mexico City. Mexico City is home to some of Mexico’s finest restaurants, tantalizing taco stands, and eclectic bars and cafes. If you love traveling for food then you will be in heaven upon arrival in Mexico City. We recommend you spend your time eating your way through Mexico City. And, if you have time, consider visiting some of Mexico’s most famed attractions such as the Frida Khalo Museum or the Bosque de Chapultepec before making your way to Teotihuacan on one of the best road trips in Mexico.
Teotihuacan is Mexico’s most famed and visited ruins located just an hour outside of Mexico City. Visit the Pyramid of the Sun and walk down the Avenue of the Dead. Just remember to bring plenty of water as the Mexican sun can be a bit relentless.
After walking around the ruins of Teotihuacan, I imagine you’ll be a bit thirsty. If so, your next stop should be Mexico’s second-largest wine-producing region just outside of Querétaro. From Tequisquiapan, embark on the Querétaro wine and cheese route. Sample local wines and cheeses as you continue your way on your foodie adventure on this Mexico road trip.
From here make your way to the charming town of Bernal, home to Mexico’s largest monolith. You might be wondering what a monolith is, but trust me you are not alone. A monolith is a solid stone and you cannot miss it upon arrival in Bernal. Spend a night drinking cervezas on a terrace, eating yummy gorditas, and marveling at the grandeur of the rock.
Next, you will make a quick pit stop in Querétaro before your final descent into San Miguel de Allende. Descending into this charming town in central Mexico is like entering a fairy tale. The cobbled stone streets, colorfully painted houses, and stunningly beautiful cathedral all give the feeling of a dream.
The main reason to visit San Miguel de Allende outside of being a picturesque town is to indulge in the delectable food scene that has emerged due to the influx of international tourists and snowbird retirees. Even if you are not a retiree and are on a bit of a budget, there are plenty of places to enjoy.
San Miguel de Allende is the perfect place to end your road trip through Central Mexico!
6. Discover Tequila in Jalisco and the Beaches of the Riviera Nayarit
Total Distance = 467 kilometers (290 miles)
The state of Jalisco is located on the north Pacific coastline of mainland Mexico. It is home to the second-largest metropolis in Mexico, Mexico’s largest export, tequila, and nearby Nayarit is home to some of the most stunning beaches in all of Mexico. While you probably can do this Mexico road trip in one week, we recommend two because Mexico’s beaches are simply stunning.
Our time on the Riviera Nayarit was our first glimpse at how great the beaches of Mexico really were. It is where we celebrated our birthdays (for Eddie the BIG 3-0). Where we fell in love with the Pacifico beer. And where we ate some of the best tacos in all of Mexico! Jalisco and Nayarit are two of our favorite states in Mexico, and I am sure you will love every minute of your Mexican road trip here!
Jalisco and Nayarit Road Trip Highlights
A road trip through Jalisco and Nayarit starts in none other than the capital of Guadalajara where the old world meets the new world. Guadalajara is Mexico’s second-largest city and is dubbed the Silicon Valley of Mexico. Here you will find tech companies alongside historic buildings such as the Guadalajara Cathedral. Catch a football (soccer) game and root on one of Mexico’s most popular and successful teams in the league.
Next, you will venture out to Ajijic, the next retiree haven after San Miguel de Allende. Ajijic is nestled on the shore of Lake Chapala, Mexico’s largest freshwater lake. Here you can explore the area with one of the nearby hiking trails, take a dip in a relaxing hot spring, and simply enjoy the laid-back atmosphere of the Mexican culture.
After relaxing in Ajijic, it is on to the party in Tequila. Tequila, the birthplace of Mexico’s most famous export, is a charming colonial town just an hour outside of Guadalajara. No trip to Jalisco would be complete without stopping here to taste Mexico’s most famous export in its origin. A host of nearby distilleries arrange tours and tastings from mom-and-pop shops such as Tres Mujeres to large-name brands such as Jose Cuervo at La Rojeña Distillery.
Don’t forget to pick up a few bottles to go as you continue on this Mexican road trip to the beautiful coastline of Jalisco and Nayarit.
Once at the beach, it is all relaxation, surfing, eating, and drinking. What else could you want out of a beach holiday? The beaches here are beautiful and you won’t want to end your holiday any time soon once you finally get to sink your toes into the soft white sand of San Pancho or grab a Pacifico from one of the beach bars lining Sayulita.
So what do you say? Does a Jalisco road trip sound interesting to you?
Three to Four Weeks Mexico Road Trips
To truly explore the diversity of Mexico, you need to travel slowly. With small beach towns, local communities, beautiful nature, and delicious food, the range of things to do and explore in Mexico is endless. We traveled through Mexico for over seven months and left still wanting more. If you have the time (and the resource), spending a month in Mexico will be one of your favorite trips of all time. I guarantee it with these iconic three to four weeks Mexican road trips.
7. Explore the Diversity of an Oaxaca Road Trip
Total Distance = 1,334 kilometers (829 miles)
The state of Oaxaca was one of our favorite places to explore during all of our road trips in Mexico. Whether it be the rugged coastline of Oaxaca, the arts and food scene of its state capital, or the warmth of the local rural mountain towns, Oaxaca kept surprising us. We spent over two months exploring this amazing state. While we may not be experts, we think we know just enough to ensure your road trip, holiday, or whatever it may be will be amazing.
Oaxaca Road Trip Highlights
Start your Oaxacan adventure in the food and arts scene of the city of Oaxaca. This small but diverse city is one of our favorite destinations in all of Mexico. Visit a local gallery, dine at one of their many delicious restaurants and drink mezcal all night long! All before you have even really scratched the surface of what Oaxaca has to offer. And don’t forget about one of the many ancient ruins nearby the city of Oaxaca. Consider visiting Monte Alban or Yagul to learn about the indigenous people of the state of Oaxaca.
After the city of Oaxaca, head out to one of the local communities for some nature exploration. Santiago Apoala and Pueblos Mancomunados are ecotourism communities that are a glimpse into what it is like to live in rural Oaxaca. This is also a great way to get active on holiday as there are many hiking trails to explore the natural landscapes of Oaxaca.
Next, it is time to hit the coast and visit some of Mexico’s best beaches. The beaches of Oaxaca are just as diverse as the state itself. Whether you want to visit the remote, desolate white sand beaches of Playa San Diego or if you want to be in the thick of things at Playa Zicatela in Puerto Escondido, or if you prefer a laid-back setting with all of your creature comforts like Mazunte and Zipolite, Oaxaca has it all.
If we have told you enough to pique your interest, then you are in luck! There are so many more amazing places to visit, beaches to explore, and things to do in Oaxaca. To find out more check out our one-month Oaxaca itinerary and start planning your Oaxaca Mexico road trip today!
8. Oaxaca to Chiapas, Combining Two of Mexico’s Greatest and Most Diverse States on a Mexico Road Trip
Total Distance = 1,109 kilometers (690 miles)
Combine the best of both worlds with a trip to both Oaxaca and Chiapas, two of our favorite Mexican states. Rich in history, arts and culture as well as teeming with an abundance of natural beauty, you will be spoiled with things to do on this Mexican road trip and should easily plan a full month to truly be able to experience everything on offer here.
Highlights of an Oaxaca to Chiapas Road Trip
Begin your Oaxaca to Chiapas road trip with the arts, cultural and culinary scene in Oaxaca City, the state’s capital. You can easily spend a week in Oaxaca wandering the cobbled streets, visiting art galleries, exploring nearby ancient ruins, eating outstanding Oaxacan food, tasting mezcal, and more. As you have already read in our highlights of an Oaxaca road trip, the list of things to do in the state’s capital is endless.
After exploring all that the state’s capital has to offer, this self-drive Mexico adventure takes you south towards the stunning coastline but first stopping at the gorgeous mountain town of San Jose del Pacifico. Known for its hongos magicos (or psychedelic mushrooms), it is all about going back to nature in San Jose. There isn’t much to do here but simply relax and enjoy the nature that abounds for a few nights before continuing onward to the Oaxacan beaches.
Oaxaca is known for having some of the best beaches in Mexico so you will want to make sure you spend quality time here. We recommend visiting the beaches of Mazunte, San Agustinillo, and Zipolite as part of this epic road trip. These beaches are roughly 10 kilometers apart and are easily accessible when exploring the area. If you would rather enjoy a bit of surfing during your time in Oaxaca, it is best to extend your trip further north to the popular surfing beaches of Puerto Escondido.
Mazunte, San Agustinillo, and Zipolite and recognizable by their lush, jungle-clad headlands, brilliant blue waters, and laid-back lifestyle. Here you will have vegan cafes, trendy bars, and bohemian cafes, all with a bit of a Mexican flair. Zipolite is also Oaxaca’s nude beach, just remember to lather up on sunscreen.
After a few relaxing days on these three iconic beaches, explore the lesser-known Playa San Agustín Huatulco. On the edge of one of Oaxaca’s protected national parks, it is a great place to be a bit local. Here you won’t find many (if any) modern conveniences, but a true Mexican beach town. Hire a boat from Don Taco and explore the beautiful bays of Huatulco National Park for stunning, unspoiled beaches.
After visiting Playa San Agustín Huatulco, it is time for a bit of driving to reach the state capital in Chiapas. If you have camping gear or are traveling by van, you can also stop at one of our favorite beaches in Oaxaca, Playa San Diego. Down a dirt track and past a few farmlands, you will find this stunning, desolate beach. You won’t find anything here so being self-sufficient here is key. No hotels, restaurants, or stores. Just kilometers and kilometers of unspoiled beaches, headlands, and peacefulness.
If you aren’t self-sufficient, this leg of the journey will be long as you drive from the beaches in Oaxaca to Tuxtla Gutiérrez. Chiapas is widely known for its outdoor adventures which is evident even in the state’s capital. The great Sumidero Canyon sits at the doorstep of Tuxtla and is easily one of the best things to do in Chiapas.
The outdoor adventures don’t end in Tuxtla with the Aguacero Waterfall and La Venta River Canyon in the nearby Ocote Biosphere Reserve, the mighty El Chiflon Waterfall just two hours away, and the cave network of the Cascada El Chorreadero just 30 minutes away. Tuxtla is a great place to base yourself for a few days to explore these great natural wonders in Chiapas.
Your last stop on this Oaxaca to Chiapas road trip is none other than the beautiful San Cristobal de las Casas. A town in Mexico quickly making a name for itself, San Cristobal de las Casas is on the rise in popularity for expats and retirees. Its cool climate and laid-back lifestyle are only a few of the reasons many people are starting to call this place home.
Outside of the charming city itself, the small town of San Cristobal is also becoming a culinary destination and gastronomic hub similar to San Miguel de Allende and the city of Oaxaca. Take a few days to enjoy the international flavors in San Cristobal de las Casas to celebrate this amazing road trip through two of Mexico’s most diverse states.
9. The Yucatan Peninsula Long Loop
Total Distance = 1,400 kilometers (870 miles)
As we already mentioned, the Yucatan Peninsula is a popular tourist destination. While it has risen in fame for spring break parties, there is more to see and do in the Yucatan Peninsula than to party in Cancun. To truly experience all the Yucatan has to offer, you need at least three weeks on this Mexican road trip through the Yucatan Peninsula.
Highlights of the Yucatan Peninsula Long Loop
The Yucatan Peninsula long loop follows the journey of the Yucatan Peninsula short loop to Tulum. From here, this Mexico road trip continues further south to the popular, yet stunning Bacalar. A small village on the shores of Lake Bacalar, the drawcard for visiting here is the brilliant hues of the lake. Known as Lagoon of Seven Colors, its blue and turquoise hues will transfix you immediately upon arrival.
The best thing to do in Bacalar is to relax. To spend your day lazily in a hammock overlooking the incredible beauty of the lake and pinch yourself every few hours to remind yourself that the beauty is real and you aren’t dreaming. Outside of simply enjoying life, other things to do in Bacalar include visiting one of the nearby cenotes or ruins, kayaking on the lagoon, grabbing a pint at the new cervezaria, and, of course, dining on Mexican food!
After relaxing in Bacalar, continue your journey inland into the wild jungle of the Yucatan Peninsula to Calakmul, one of the most powerful cities in the region during the Mayan period. Due to its location, Calakmul is one of the lesser-visited ruins on the Yucatan Peninsula which is a great reason in itself to visit. With fewer crowds to contend with, you will be able to better imagine life in Calakmul in the past compared to other ruins which may be a bit more crowded (like the ones closer to Cancun).
After soaking in the history lesson of Calakmul, get off the beaten path in the small and charming port town of Campeche. Perhaps it is the pack of tourists, colorful streets, or ancient walled city that make visiting Campeche worth it. but we recommend spending at least one night here.
After Campeche, head north towards Merida for your chance to see the flamingos in Mexico. Before traveling through the Yucatan Peninsula, we had no idea there were even flamingos here to see. I am not sure if it is their bright pink feathers, their lanky legs, or the fact that they sleep with one leg up that makes seeing flamingos fun, but we definitely recommend visiting them while in Merida.
Next, head onward towards Valladolid famous for cenotes and ruins which you would also visit on a short loop of the Yucatan Peninsula before continuing onward to the windy, fishing village of El Cuyo. Relatively unknown on the tourist circuit, El Cuyo reminds me of what Tulum must have been 20 years ago. Dirt roads connect family inns, cafes, and seafood restaurants. The wind, swept beaches are perfect for kitesurfing.
It is one of the most authentic Mexican beach towns that we have visited in all of Mexico and one we recommend you visit before the secret is out.
10. The Ultimate Mexico Road Trip: North to South
Last but not least on our list of the best Mexico road trips is an adventure from top to bottom. If you can’t choose between the Mexico road trips that we have designed, then we reckon you should just do them all. We recommend at least six months (which is the entire time you can be in Mexico on a tourist visit) to travel the entire country. Traveling the entire country of Mexico from top to bottom is an unforgettable experience and one that you are sure to enjoy.
Each of Mexico’s states has something unique to offer and taking the time to explore each and every one (or as many as you can following travel advisory warnings) is something to behold. Getting off the beaten path in Mexico opens up your eyes to the beauty of Mexican culture, food, and people.
We only spent seven months driving through Mexico but would have spent a lot more time if COVID had not struck sending us back to Australia. We love Mexico and a road trip through Mexico from top to bottom, we think, is the best way to see all there is to see in this fantastic place.
What about van life in Mexico?
Find out all you need to know to start your own van life adventure in Mexico with this ultimate list of FAQs!
Renting a Car in Mexico
Renting a car in Mexico is straightforward and similar to renting a car anywhere else in the world.
How to Rent a Car in Mexico
All of the big names in car rental companies (Hertz, Eurocar, Avis, Budget) operate out of the international airports in Mexico. To rent a car, however, most companies require you to be 25 or older although the Budget website lists 18+ drivers as acceptable. You also need a valid driver’s license from your home country plus an international driver’s license if your license is not in English or Spanish. And don’t forget about insurance. Third-party insurance is compulsory in Mexico even when renting a car.
Do I Need an International Drivers’ License in Mexico?
No. An international driver’s license is not required for driving in Mexico if your license is in Spanish or English. If your license is not in one of these two languages, you will need to obtain an international driver’s license prior to visiting Mexico. It is important to remember that your international driver’s license is only valid when presented with your valid regular driver’s license.
Driving From the USA to Mexico
Visiting Mexico from the United States with your own vehicle or with a US rental car is incredibly easy. The United States shares 48 border crossings (Wikipedia) with Mexico, however, many of these borders are listed in areas that government agencies deem “high risk” due to crime. Make sure to check your country’s travel advisory before deciding on where to cross the border.
Things to Remember When Driving in Mexico
Is driving in Mexico the same as driving in the US? Sort of.
Driving in Mexico is not markedly different from driving in the United States (or any other place), however, there are a few key things you should consider when planning a road trip through Mexico.
Drive on the Right Side
Driving in a foreign country comes with many challenges, but the first is knowing which side of the road to drive on. In Mexico, this is on the right side.
Watch Out for Topes
The thing to watch out for the most when driving in Mexico is topes. Topes are Mexico’s version of speed bumps, however, in Mexico, you usually won’t notice them until it is too late.
Don’t Drive at Night
Following along from the above, it is recommended not to drive at night. Not only are topes almost impossible to see, but crime is more prevalent once nighttime falls.
Hoy No Circula
If you plan on driving in Mexico City there are special rules for what days you are allowed to be on the road and when under the government rules “Hoy No Circula”.
Is it safe to drive in Mexico?
All your questions answered about driving in Mexico from real-life experience in our guide on safety in Mexico.
With these ten best road trips in Mexico, you are sure to find the perfect Mexico holiday! Enjoy Mexico and when in doubt… drink tequila!
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