Mexico is a stunning country and it’s on pretty much everyone’s to visit or to visit again list. Sitting in Central America with two coastlines, cultural heritage, amazing beaches, and lots more, Mexico truly is a jewel in the crown of Latin America.
So, what is Mexico known for? Well, I’m sure you can guess some of them as Mexican culture is pretty much global these days but I’m sure you haven’t heard of some of the famous things about Mexico. But maybe not so many of its hidden gems.
Join me as we take a look at what is Mexico known for so you can get excited when planning to visit Mexico.
One of the things Mexico is famous for is its ancient temples and most of them are found on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.
Now, you have most likely heard of the ancient Mayan culture of Mexico but it was also home to Olmec Indians, and an Aztec empire too, plus a few more, and their ruins are scattered all over the place. The Olmec Indians came first followed by the Aztecs and the Mayans.
One of the most notable temples of Mayan culture Mexico boasts is Chichen Itza which is the remains of an entire Mayan city, which is spectacular to see.
You’ll find Chichen Itza on the Yucatan Peninsula and since it’s such an important place of heritage, Chichen Itza is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most impressive Mayan structures in Latin America. It’s somewhere you have to see when you visit Mexico.
If you’re looking to see some remains of the Aztec Empire then you should check out Mexico Tenochtitlan in Central Mexico, which is also the site where the Spanish built Mexico City much later on. When you visit Mexico City, you can go for a tour around the site and learn a lot about the heritage of Mexican culture.
Cenotes are also one of the things Mexico is famous and known for, and you might have heard of them but chances are you’re not quite sure what they are – I wasn’t.
Cenotes are natural sinkholes that form in areas with a lot of limestones which is very much the case in the Yucatan especially around the charming towns of Playa Del Carmen, Tulum, Cancun, and also inland from the Riviera Maya region.
When the sinkholes are created, groundwater flows up into them creating beautiful natural ponds with crystal clear blue waters. The cenotes aren’t just ponds, some of them have huge networks of tunnels and caves attached to them and people fly from all over the world to go diving in these amazing networks.
The cenotes were also extremely important for the Mayans as it gave them easy access to fresh, clean water for drinking, cooking, and washing, especially at Chichen Itza but it meant a lot more to them than that!
The cenotes represented “The Underworld” to the Mayans where supernatural beings dwelled and this included gods and ancestors and they often gave tributes to the gods at the cenotes. One of the most famous cenotes is at the Mayan site of Chichen Itza and after diving, people have found offerings to the gods the Mayans made into the cenote.
When one thinks “what is Mexico known for?” One might conjure up an image of God in one’s eyes as most Mexican people take their religion seriously. Mexico is very much a predominantly catholic country with 80% of Mexico’s population being catholic.
If there is one thing that comes with a religious culture it’s religious sites and the number of stunning cathedrals Mexico boasts is quite incredible. In fact, the cathedrals Mexico is famous for are some of the best cathedrals in the world.
One of the cathedrals Mexico is known for is the Catedral Metropolitana in Mexico City to the churches in the Oaxaca Region, and Cholula’s Santa María Tonantzintla and Los Remedios which is washed in stunning color.
Wherever you are in Mexico, you’re not going to be far from a church, cathedral, or at least a ruin of one. While visiting all these religious places probably won’t be at the top of the list on most family vacations, it’s a great thing to do while in Mexico City.
One of the things Mexico is known for all across the world and is at the heart of Mexican culture is yummy Mexican cuisine. Mexicans have come up with a style of making fantastic food that the world loves, and we all have to agree that Mexican food is pretty damn delicious and probably some of the best food in Latin America.
The most famous Mexican food is hard to pin down. Between corn tortilla and salsa to tacos and quesadillas along with loaded nachos – where do you start? Well, let’s start with that UNESCO has given Mexican food its own status and it’s now a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity – that’s saying something.
Not all Mexican food is tortillas and Quesadillas though, in fact, the food changes depending on what part of Mexico you’re in. If you’re on the Pacific coast around Riviera Nayarit then you’re likely to find a lot of amazing seafood, but if you travel north the food will be more meat-based, while places like the Oaxaca region are famous for savory tamales and tortillas.
While you’re in Mexico, you kind of have to try all the Mexican delights, just remember that lime juice and chili peppers are a Mexican state of mind, and to go full steam with them when eating there.
The Day Of The Dead or día de Los Muertos as Mexicans call it in Spanish is one of the funniest festivals in the world.
Day Of The Dead is actually a Catholic festival and it’s held every year on the 1st of November and it’s all about remembering your ancestors who have passed away – hence the name. When celebrating the Day Of The Dad, family members decorate a family shrine (ofrenda) and come together to remember their relatives.
Day Of The Dead has also evolved into large parades and festivities where everyone dresses up, usually with their face painted like a skull and they take to the streets to celebrate in true Mexican style.
A lot of people think that Halloween came from the Day Of The Dead Festival, especially as it’s at the same time of year but it’s not. Day Of The Dead Festival is catholic and about remembering Halloween is connected to Paganism on a day when a door to the other world opened up.
If you’re ever in Mexico over this festival, be prepared to have a load of fun and I highly recommend dressing up and getting involved.
Something Mexico is known for, more than most other things, is being a world-renowned beach destination and as far as beach destinations go, Mexico is a pretty amazing one.
Between Mexico’s two coastlines, Pacific and Caribbean, it has amazingly diverse and remarkably beautiful beaches.
If you head to one of the most popular cities in Mexico, Cancun, and south to Tulum, you’re going to find picture-perfect white sand beaches that look like they have come out of a postcard of paradise.
The sand is so white that you’ll need to wear sunglasses, and when you walk along the beach, you’ll hear it squeaking between your toes. The sea is crystal clear and azure blue in color, and it’s also teeming with life – you couldn’t ask for much more from a beach.
When you hit the west coast, especially in Baja, you’ll find a completely different kind of beach with arid mountains falling into the very blue seas. The ocean there is a little bit more volatile but just as, if not more alive than the seas of the Caribbean with whales, dolphins, and lots more.
Another of the famous things Mexico is known for, which has also been named a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity is Mariachi music. Mariachi bands are a huge part of Mexican culture and they are a traditional form of four mariachi musicians all playing stringed instruments.
Mariachi bands are traditionally formed of 4 instruments – violins, guitarron, guitar, and a vihuela. They are played together as the band walks around the songs are usually stories about things in life we all have to deal with such as death, love, death, betrayal, and lots more.
Mariachi music is said to have originated in the state of Jalisco and the word Mariachi actually comes from a French word that means wedding. Mexicans love to listen to Mariachi and you’ll find the bands playing all over the country, usually walking and singing down the street or in restaurants.
One thing Mexico is known for which is a little bit unfortunate is drug cartels. Drug trafficking in the form of smuggling illegal drugs into the US and the rest of the world has been something that happens in Mexico for years and it still continues today.
The cartels don’t just smuggle drugs, they also take control of parts of the country such as border towns like El Paso and Tijuana. Despite the Mexican Government teaming up with the US to create the Mexican American War on drugs, the cartels still seem to come out on top.
While the areas the cartels control are not safe, for both the local Mexican population and tourists, they don’t control that much of the country. You shouldn’t be put off traveling to Mexico, just be sure to travel to areas the cartels do not control such as south Baja, the Yucatan, Guadalajara, Mexico City, and lots more.
If you want some advice as to where to go on your travels to Mexico, you can follow the US Department of State travel advisory which lets you know which parts of Mexico are safe and which parts should be avoided.
Another thing Mexico is famous and well known for is surfing. The Pacific coast of Mexico is home to thousands of amazing waves and people have been traveling the coastline and surfing them since the 1940s.
One of the most famous waves in Mexico is Puerto Escondido which is a beach break in the region of Oaxaca. It’s famous mainly because the sandbank on this particular break can hold a huge swell and create a barrelling wave that only very experienced surfers can tame.
The great thing about surfing in Mexico is that there are waves for all abilities and you can literally drive from the border with the US down Baja and all the way to the Guatemalan border and find waves the whole way down the coast.
The surfing season in Mexico starts around March and then runs all the way to December with May to July holding the biggest and best swells of the year. If you’re looking for endless point breaks then Baja is the place to be and then as you head further south you’ll stumble upon more beaches and point breaks too.
If you really want to get lost in surfers paradise, head to Barra de la Cruz in Oaxaca. There is pretty much nothing there but a few surf bungalows and a wave you will want to ride every day for the rest of your life.
Since Mexico is famous for its marine life it stands to reason that Mexico would also be known for its fishing, and it sure is. The fishing in Mexico is some of the best in the world, and that’s when you look at just one of the country’s coastlines, when you add both of them, you’re in for a real treat.
Cabo San Lucas on the southern tip of the Baja California peninsula is a fisherman’s paradise. The ocean around Cabo is about as alive as it gets and you’ll find almost every sport fish on the planet there, especially when the sardine run happens between November and January.
The ocean is filled with marlin, sailfish, tuna, dorado, and wahoo plus there is a fleet of excellent sport fishers with world-class captains and crews waiting to make your fishing dreams come true. It’s not uncommon to catch more than 20 striped marlin in a day there.
You can also find fly fishing opportunities for roosterfish in Baja, right from the beach and the saltwater flats fishing around Ascension Bay on the Caribbean side is incredible too. You’ll find bonefish, permit, snook, tarpon, and barracuda that can all be caught with a fly rod.
There are numerous fishing lodges both in Baja and around Ascension Bay that are ready and waiting to help you catch the fish of your dreams.
Mexico is famous for its snorkeling and scuba diving and it’s due to the amazing marine life in the waters such as whale sharks, sharks, turtles, manta rays, whales, dolphins, tropical reefs, colorful reef fish, and lots more.
You also find some amazing cave and cavern diving in Mexico, particularly around Tulum where one can dive in the cenotes and explore the underwater tunnels and caves.
If you want to go diving and snorkeling in Mexico then you have the choice of both the Caribbean and Pacific sides. The Caribbean is home to warmer waters that often have better visibility and it’s a place where you can encounter stunning reefs, sharks, turtles, and beautiful fish.
You’ll also find the world’s largest underwater museum off Cancun where you can dive or snorkel around a kind of underwater gallery of statues.
Diving and snorkeling on the Pacific side of Mexico are a little bit more rough and ready. But it sees a huge whale shark migration as well as the sardine run which pulls in lots of whales, dolphins, and pelagics plus there are sea lions there too. If you want to dive up close with giants of the ocean, then Baja is the place to do it.
When it comes to Mexico and what is Mexico famous for, then one thing that has to be mentioned is Tequila. Tequila is a spirit made from the sugars of the blue agave plant and it gets its name from the place that Tequila was first made in – Tequila in the Jalisco region.
Tequila is a large part of Mexican culture and it’s a part of pretty much every bar in the world too. The Tequila industry is a billion-dollar industry and around 70% of the tequila made in Mexico is exported to the rest of the world to enjoy.
You might have had some bad hangovers from tequila but you should actually never get a hangover if you’re drinking proper tequila. If it’s made from 100% agave with no additives or chemicals, then a hangover should be impossible.
Along with tequila comes one of Mexico’s most famous cocktails, the Margarita. A combination of tequila, Cointreau, and lime juice comes together to make this delicious drink that is enjoyed all over the world.
Another drink from Mexico that has made its way around the world is beer. You have probably had a few of the most famous Mexican beers, Corona Extra, in your time but there is a lot more to Mexican beer than just Corona.
Mexican beer-making dates back to when German immigrants moved to Mexico in the 1800s and they missed their beers. They started using the malts, barley, and hops they brought with them and began making beer and it’s past time that hasn’t changed since.
You’ll find classic Mexican beers like Corona or Sol which are semi-watery lagers that come served with lime and are great for day drinking. Then you have Desperados which are similar just with some tequila added.
When you dig deeper into Mexican beers, you’ll start finding dark beers, golden beers, Bavarian beers, Austrian beers, pilsners, and more. All of these evolved from the German brewing periods and some of the beers are the exact same as the ones produced in the early 1900s.
Soap Operas also called telenovelas are incredibly popular in Mexico and they are so popular that Mexico makes more soap operas than any other country in the world.
The common theme in Mexican telenovelas is that the good always prevail and win the battle. Telenovelas are notoriously dramatic and they always seem to tell an emotional tale about a hero’s journey, betrayals, sacrifices, but the good guys always win, showing it’s worth the hard work.
Most telenovelas are very long and feature at least 60 episodes, so watching them really is a commitment but they are also highly addictive. The 60 episodes aren’t split into seasons or series, they are shown one after the other without any breaks, unlike series for the US and Europe.
People everywhere in the world love these series and they are exported and sold in every corner of the planet from Asia to Africa, the Middle East, and of course, the US and Latin America.
Football or soccer is one of the most popular sports in Mexico and is a big part of Mexican culture too. No matter where you go in Mexico, you will never be far from a local football game and they will play anywhere they can kick a ball around.
There are over 20,000 soccer teams in Mexico and even more clubs. Kids of every age play soccer at school, after school, on the weekends – pretty much anytime they like and they also support Mexican soccer teams with a lot of passion.
Mexico has been playing in the football world cup since the 1930s and their loyal fans are always there pushing them along, waving flags, and chanting for them to win.
If you have a chance to see a soccer game at the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City, don’t miss it. The atmosphere at these games is out of this world and you’ll have about as much as is possible at any sporting event.
Roger is a little obsessed with travel. He has been to over 40 countries, broken 3 suitcases and owned over 10 backpacks in 12 months. What he doesn't know about travel, ain't worth knowing!