Pueblos Mágicos, or “Magical Towns,” is a designation given by the Mexican government to certain towns or villages in the country that are considered to have special cultural, historical, or natural significance.
These towns are promoted as tourist destinations and are expected to maintain a high standard of preservation and upkeep. Some examples of Pueblos Mágicos in Mexico include Tepotzotlan, Patzcuaro, and Taxco.
Taxco is a picturesque mountain town with red tile houses and windy cobblestone streets
As of 2023, there are around 180 Pueblos Magicos in Mexico. The program was created by the Mexican Secretariat of Tourism (SECTUR) in 2001, and since then, more towns have been added to the list over time. The number of Pueblos Magicos can vary, as some towns may lose the designation if they do not maintain the requirements, and new towns can apply for the designation. The Pueblos Magicos program is a dynamic one, and it continues to grow and evolve over time.
Pueblos Magicos are special for a variety of reasons. Some of the criteria that towns must meet to be designated as a Pueblo Mágico include:
Rich cultural and historical heritage: Many Pueblos Magicos have played an important role in Mexico’s history or have a unique cultural tradition that sets them apart.
Beauty and preservation: Towns must maintain a high standard of preservation and upkeep, and must have a unique natural or architectural beauty.
Tourism potential: The town must have the potential to attract tourists and offer a good variety of activities, accommodation and services.
Services and infrastructure: Towns must have the necessary infrastructure and services to provide a good quality of life for residents and to accommodate tourists.
Overall, Pueblos Magicos are considered to be towns that have something special to offer visitors, whether that be beautiful colonial architecture, a rich cultural tradition, or a stunning natural setting.
The town of Bernal, with one of the tallest monoliths in the world in the background
There is of course no one way to answer this question correctly. With close to 180 towns to choose from, and more being added to the program every year, and each of them having that little something that makes them charmingly unique, it is impossible to name “the best ones” to visit. These are, however, among our team’s favorites, listed in no particular order:
Flower pots line the colorful streets of Atlixco, Puebla
1. San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas
Nestled in the Chiapas Highlands, San Cristóbal de las Casas is known for its colonial architecture, vibrant indigenous culture, and surrounding natural beauty. Explore cobbled streets, visit local markets, and experience the rich traditions of the Tzotzil and Tzeltal Mayan communities.
2. Tulum, Quintana Roo
Tulum is famous for its stunning Mayan ruins overlooking the Caribbean Sea. This Pueblo Magico offers a unique blend of ancient history, beautiful beaches, and a bohemian atmosphere. Don’t miss the chance to explore the nearby cenotes (natural sinkholes) and the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve.
3. Bacalar, Quintana Roo
Often called the “Lagoon of Seven Colors,” Bacalar boasts crystal-clear waters that shift in hues from turquoise to deep blue. Explore the historic fort, kayak on the lagoon, and relax in the serene surroundings. It’s a hidden gem in the Riviera Maya.
4. Valle de Bravo, State of Mexico
Located by a picturesque lake, Valle de Bravo is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. You can enjoy water sports, paragliding, or simply strolling through the charming town with its red-tiled roofs and cobblestone streets. The town is also known for its vibrant arts scene.
Valle de Bravo, nestled next to a beautiful lake and surrounded by mountains
5. Real de Catorce, San Luis Potosi
Real de Catorce is a unique desert town known for its spiritual and mystical atmosphere. Explore the old silver mines, walk through the narrow streets, and experience the Huichol culture. Don’t miss the breathtaking drive through the Ogarrio Tunnel.
6. Tepoztlán, Morelos
Tepoztlán is a spiritual and artistic hub nestled beneath the Tepozteco Mountains. It’s known for the Tepozteco Pyramid, artisan markets, and its lively food scene. The town’s energy is said to have a magnetic quality.
7. Mazamitla, Jalisco
Often referred to as the “Switzerland of Mexico,” Mazamitla is a charming mountain town with a distinct alpine feel. Enjoy outdoor activities like hiking and horseback riding, and explore the picturesque town center with its wooden cabins and lush greenery.
8. Patzcuaro, Michoacan
Patzcuaro is famous for its Day of the Dead celebrations and its beautiful Lake Pátzcuaro. The town exudes colonial charm, with colorful buildings and bustling markets. Visit Janitzio Island, known for its butterfly fishermen.
Ancient colonial buildings, cobblestone streets and local handcrafts await in Patzcuaro
9. Huasca de Ocampo, Hidalgo
Huasca de Ocampo is home to stunning natural wonders, including the Prismas Basálticos, unique rock formations formed by volcanic activity. Explore the colonial architecture, visit haciendas, and enjoy the cool mountain climate.
10. Malinalco, State of Mexico
Malinalco is a tranquil pueblo known for its pre-Hispanic archaeological site and beautiful natural surroundings. Hike up to the Templo de los Guerreros for panoramic views, explore the cobblestone streets, and unwind in the peaceful atmosphere.
Nestled in the mountains of Guerrero, Taxco is renowned for its stunning silver craftsmanship and colonial charm. This Pueblo Magico is a maze of narrow, winding streets lined with white-washed buildings and red-tiled roofs.
Known as the “Yellow City” due to its distinctive golden-hued buildings, Izamal is a captivating Pueblo Magico that showcases the rich heritage of the Yucatán Peninsula. Explore the town’s cobblestone streets and colonial architecture, including the stunning Convento de San Antonio de Padua, as well as Yucatan’s cultural heritage and flavors.
The brightly colored buildings of Izamal provide a unique, contrasting sight
In the heart of Mexico’s Pueblos Magicos, you’ll discover a tapestry of culture, history, and natural beauty that’s as diverse as the country itself. From the enchanting streets of San Cristobal de las Casas to the glistening waters of Bacalar’s Lagoon of Seven Colors, each Pueblo Magico weaves its own unique spell. Whether you’re captivated by the silver craftsmanship of Taxco, or the golden allure of Izamal, Mexico’s Pueblos Magicos promise an unforgettable journey through a world of enchantment. So, pack your bags, immerse yourself in the magic, and let Mexico’s hidden gems reveal their stories, flavors, and wonders.