9 Incredible Things Mexico is Known For… And One Bad Thing

Mexico is one of our favorite countries. It literally has everything – beaches, jungles, museums, a unique culture, and a culinary scene that will please even the pickiest eater. 

The largest Spanish-speaking country in the world, Mexico has made its fair share of contributions to the world – garnering fame for its landscapes, music, food and ancient history. But what is Mexico known for? We’ve laid out the country’s top claims to fame – not just focusing on the positive – but including one of the black marks on the country’s reputation.

Plaza mayor in Mexico City
Mexico City, the famous capital of Mexico.

9 GREAT things Mexico is known for

Whether you are planning a trip to Mexico or just wanting to learn more about the country, we’ve visited Mexico multiple times, explored different parts of the country – from the coast to the capital and even the border towns. So, from our experience and in talking with others who have asked us about our travels there, here are the things Mexico is known for. 

Cenotes

The Yokdzonot Cenote, One Of Thousands Of Cenotes In Mexico
The Yokdzonot Cenote, One Of Thousands Of Cenotes In Mexico. | Photo By Ruben Hanssen From Unsplash

Cenotes are a unique geological formation that Mexico is almost exclusively famous for. These natural sinkholes are prevalent in the Yucatán Peninsula

Created by the collapse of limestone bedrock which exposes crystal-clear groundwater, cenotes have become popular among visitors to Mexico, mainly for their breathtaking appearance and the allure of discovering something that feels hidden.  

Cenotes are believed to have held profound importance by the ancient Maya people as sacred sites for rituals and sacrifices. But it is the brilliant turquoise waters that attract tourists who want to swim, snorkel or scuba dive. 

Beaches 

beach in cancun
Mexico is known for its beaches, which span both the Caribbean side of the country and the Pacific.

Cenotes aren’t the only natural wonders Mexico is renowned for, the country is home to some of the most stunning beaches in the entire world. Whether you’re visiting Cancun, Playa del Carmen, or Tulum, you’ll find long stretches of coastline featuring white sandy shores and a seemingly endless ocean with vibrant coral reefs beneath the water’s surface. 

But Mexico doesn’t just have beaches along the Riviera Maya, on the Pacific side of Mexico, you’ll also find luxurious resorts lining cliffs overlooking beaches with dramatic waves crashing along the sand.

The beautiful beaches are one of Mexico’s biggest tourism draws. With a tropical warm climate, Mexico’s beaches are popular year-round. 

Ancient sites

The Pyramid At Teotihuacan.
The Pyramid At Teotihuacan. | Photo By Ruben Hanssen From Unsplash

Mexico has a long indigenous history. And the country is sprinkled with ancient sites and ruins left behind by pre-Columbian civilizations like the Maya, Aztec, and Zapotec people. 

Well-preserved sites such as Chichen Itza, one of the Seven Wonders of the New World, and Teotihuacan, home to the Pyramid of the Sun and Moon, draw millions of visitors annually. 

Although centuries old, the ruins of these ancient civilizations showcase advanced architectural, and astronomical understanding and unveil complex urban planning. Visitors get a glimpse of the spiritual and daily lives of these sites’ ancient inhabitants, making them some of the most intriguing attractions in Mexico.

Enjoy ancient Maya sites? Check out the Tikal in Guatemala or the Mayan ruins in Belize.

Food

Mexico City foods to eat - tacos al pastor
Mexico is known for its mouthwatering cuisine.

Authentic Mexican food is perhaps my favorite cuisine – or at least a close second to Thai food

Not to be confused with Tex-Mex – a version of Mexican food that Texas is famous for – authentic Mexican dishes like mole, tacos pastor, pozole, and tamales all showcase the uniqueness and flavor of the country.   

Additionally, popular and inexpensive street foods like elote, grilled corn slathered with toppings, and churros, cinnamon-sugar-coated pastries, add to the country’s appeal. The country’s capital, Mexico City, is particularly known for its street food scene. In fact, many of the best foods to try in Mexico City can be purchased inexpensively from street food vendors. 

Mexican cuisine’s combination of indigenous and Spanish influences, along with its emphasis on fresh, local produce, has earned it a cherished place on the global culinary stage.

Dia de los Muertos 

a dia de los muertos parade
A parade honoring Dia de los Muertos. | Photo by Brandao levir Coronado A from Pexels

Día de los Muertos, known as Day of the Dead in English, is a celebration in Mexico that is observed annually on November 1st and 2nd. Although unique to Mexico it has become famous worldwide.

This tradition honors deceased loved ones through colorful and elaborate altars, known as ofrendas, which are adorned with marigolds, candles, photos of their deceased loved ones, and even favorite foods of the departed. 

Día de los Muertos is often celebrated with grand parades, candlelit cemeteries and colorful artistic face painting. Places like Oaxaca are popular places to celebrate the Mexican holiday, and look like the setting of the Disney movie, Coco. 

Frida Kahlo

a depiction of the famous Mexican artist Frida Kahlo
a depiction of the famous Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. | Photo by Tim Mossholder from Unsplash

Mexico has also made some significant contributions to the arts, specifically the works of the country’s most famous artist, Frida Kahlo. Renowned worldwide for her vivid and deeply personal paintings that explore themes of identity, suffering, and resilience, her self-portraits are thought-provoking and emotional. 

Kahlo’s works are characterized by bold colors and surreal elements, often depicting her suffering and complex inner world, as well as her involvement in Mexican politics and her personal defiance of societal norms. 

Her former home, La Casa Azul in Coyoacán – just outside of Mexico City is now a museum and is one of the best things to add to your Mexico City itinerary.

Tequila

A bottle of Jose Cuervo, a famous brand of tequila.
Jose Cuervo is a famous brand of tequila. | Photo by Fidel Fernando from Unsplash

While Mexican food may get a lot of attention, the country also has several drinks that are loved well beyond Mexico’s borders. Tequila, a popular spirit used in drinks like margaritas, is one of the most popular drinks to try in Mexico. 

The distilled alcohol is made from the blue agave plant and often aged in oak barrels. Like other spirits, tequila has a high alcohol content, so a little goes a long way!

Mariachi Music 

a mariachi band
Mariachi isn’t just a musical genre; it is a significant part of Mexico’s cultural heritage. | Photo by Mark Williams from Unsplash

Go to any tourist city in Mexico and you will likely find a Mariachi band playing in restaurants, public squares or resorts. 

Mariachi music often includes instruments like trumpets guitarróns, and violins. Stemming from indigenous, Spanish and African musical influences, mariachi is lively and festive and frequently tells stories of love and heartbreak. The musical style is even recognized by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. 

Of course, aside from Mariachi, you’ll also find other genres of music in Mexico including Norteño music and Tejano, a type of Mexican country music popular closer to the Texas-Mexican border.

Its Cosmopolitan Capital

an art museum in Mexico City
Mexico City is filled with museums and historic landmarks.

While Mexico may be best known for its coastal cities and beach towns, the country’s capital, Mexico City, is a rich cultural experience in and of itself. Built on the site of an ancient city, Mexico City is home to the largest cathedral in the Americas, Aztec ruins, and countless restaurants ranging from boutique gems to high-end Michelin Star dining experiences. 

If you love history and art, the city has one of the highest concentrations of museums in the world. It truly is one of the most underrated cities in the world, and when visiting Mexico, it is well worth spending a few days in Mexico City.

One bad thing Mexico is famous for

Although we often sing Mexico’s praises, the country has its fair share of issues, just like anywhere else. So, while Mexico may be famous for its white sand beaches and delicious cuisine, Mexico is also known for one distinct and concerning problem. 

Cartels

I’m not going to sugar-coat it; Mexico has one really big issue. Violence and drug trafficking, mainly stemming from an organized criminal group known as the cartel, is an unfortunate but very real thing Mexico is known for. 

For many, this issue is enough for them to not want to visit the country. However, it is important to keep in mind that cartel violence rarely involves tourists or visitors to the country. Aside from that, many Mexican cities, like Merida, are considered some of the world’s safest.    

Even along the Mexico-USA border, where much of the cartel violence is centralized, you can still find safe border villages, like Boquillas del Carmen, where you can experience the uniqueness of Mexico without venturing too far into the country. 

Do you have a question or comment about any of these things Mexico is known for? We’d love to hear from you. Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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