Best places to spend Christmas in Mexico

Thinking about Christmas in Mexico? It's an alternative way to celebrate. Or an escape from festivities completely. And Mexico's a great winter sun destination. Here's our guide to Christmas in Mexico.
Temples of the Cross, Palenque. Photo: Diego Grandi/Shutterstock
Temples of the Cross, Palenque. Photo: Diego Grandi/Shutterstock

Thinking about Christmas in Mexico? Take a look at alternative ways to celebrate the holidays or escape festivities altogether and just enjoy Mexico as a great winter sun destination.

1. Guerrero Negro, Baja California

Experience mountains, desert and sea in Baja starting with a visit to Guerrero Negro in December. Guerrero Negro ended whaling in 1972 and in 1993 El Vizcaíno Biosphere Reserve became the world’s first whale sanctuary. So each year in December grey whales travel 9,500km from Alaska's Bering Sea to spawn and mate for four months off Baja's Pacific coast. 

The best times of day for whale sightings are early morning or late in the afternoon and you can either watch from shore with binoculars, use the Scammon’s Lagoon observation tower or book a whale watching cruise for the closest views of 15m (49ft) long grey whales and the chance to witness breaching and other activity. 

If you plan to whale watch at Christmas, think about staying at Hotel Los Caracoles in Guerrero Negro or at one of the other prime grey whale watching areas in Baja, like San Ignacio or Bahia Magdalena 

Spend Christmas in Mexico grey whale watching off the coast of Baja  Photo: HTurner/Shutterstock

2. Spend Christmas in Mexico City

Mexico City is a diverse, surprising and contradictory city that's incredibly vibrant at Christmas when it's a perfect time to visit for museums, restaurants and monuments, or to enjoy the atmosphere of bustling plazas, markets and busy streets.

Head to the Zócalo first, Mexico City's main square is a good base for exploring major attractions like the Templo Mayor Museum for its collection of Aztec archaeological finds and the National Palace for the world famous Diego Rivera murals.   

Gazing at the stunning stained glass windows of Catedral Metropolitana is another must-do and you really can't visit Mexico City without dropping in on the Frida Kahlo Museum, or better still, taking one of the excellent guided tours.  

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Metropolitan Cathedral overlooking the zócalo, Mexico City. Photo: Henryk Sadura/Shutterstock

3. Chiapas Highlands

Add Maya authenticity to Christmas with a visit to San Cristóbal de las Casas, the capital of Los Altos de Chiapas and the heartland of Mexico's living Maya culture.  

Sitting at an altitude of 2,100 metres (6,890ft), San Cristóbal de las Casas is a charming colonial city with a laid-back atmosphere and plenty of fresh mountain air. Its low-rise, red roofed houses mingle with restaurants, hotels and chic cafés. There is also a cluster of fine churches here, not least the vividly painted cathedral in the zócalo. 

Try to catch the local Mercado Indígena where you can buy traditional crafts, clothing and pottery as well as woven and leather goods. Always leave plenty of time to explore nearby Maya villages like San Juan Chamula and Zinacantán, just north of the city. And if you're visiting for Christmas, think about staying at Sombra del Agua

San Cristobal de las Casas in Los Altos de Chiapas, Mexico. Photo: Rubi Rodriguez Martinez/Shutterstock

4. Playa del Carmen

Playa del Carmen on the Riviera Maya is one the top Mexican resorts and its white-sand beaches, turquoise seas and coral reefs create the perfect setting to recharge at Christmas.  

Like nearby Cancun, Playa del Carmen is known for luxury hotels, but you can look forward to a more laid-back and authentic atmosphere here and the nightlife tends to be hip, cool and lively.  

If you want to do more than unwind, this is also a great area to try snorkelling and diving in clear, warm seas. Or you could think about booking a day at Xcaret, the thrilling eco-adventure park designed around the extraordinary natural landscape that was once the historic Maya port of Polé. 

Playa del Carmen on January.Playa del Carmen's beaches are perfect for Christmas breaks in Mexico Photo: posztos/Shutterstock

5. Mayan ruins

Mayan heritage is found in Guatemala, Belize, parts of Honduras and El Salvador, it's also strewn across Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula. so if you want to hit the Mayan trail at Christmas, make for Tulum, Palenque and Chichén Itzá.

The Maya pioneered arts and mathematics, but one of their main legacies is extraordinary urban architecture. Tulum is the site for striking Maya pyramids juxtaposed against radiant Caribbean seas, and Palenque is set in Chiapas' rainforest where most of its beautiful ruins are concealed by dramatic jungle. 

Chichén Itzá is probably the best known Mayan city of all. Founded in 300AD, it reached the peak of its influence around 900AD and remains remarkably well preserved to this day. This is where to see iconic examples of Mayan architecture, including ball game courts and stone carvings depicting ritual human sacrifice.

However, the most famous of all Chichén Itzá monuments has to be the El Castillo step pyramid, a stunning example of Maya engineering which stands at an impressive 30m (98ft) high.  For an insight into Mexican and Mayan culture, think about booking an Insight Guides Amazing Mexico trip. 

El Castillo pyramid at Chichén Itzá on the Mayan trail in Yucatan Mexico. Photo: curtis/Shutterstock

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