What Is Mexico Known For? 51 Famous Things About Mexico
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Traveling to Mexico and thinking what is Mexico best known for? This guide covers the 51 most famous Mexican things!
Whether you have a trip booked to Mexico already or you’re still on the fence about heading here, it’s worth knowing what makes this country so special.
When you think of Mexico, the first thing that probably comes to mind is beautiful white sand and a plate of delicious tacos.
While beaches and food are part of why Mexico is so famous, there are plenty of other things to see and do while in Mexico!
The very same places and things that made me choose Mexico as my second home 13 years ago and never left.
In this post, I will share them all so that you can choose what you want to see about Mexico, depending also on what kind of vacation you want to have.
So let’s dive in.
What is Mexico Known For?
This is a great question! Mexico is best known for its beaches, ancient Mayan ruins, and scrumptious large portions of food. Mexico also gives countless exports to the world including tequila, coffee, peppers, and chocolate.
If you’re heading to Mexico, you’ll want to explore some of the things that make this vibrant country so amazing.
Here is a breakdown of the 51 most famous Mexican things! This list will also help you plan your trip better and get some ideas of the best activities to do while south of the border.
One of the top things that attract travelers to Mexico is the stunning nature. The picturesque beaches and the islands are some of the most famous things in Mexico. You can also explore many natural wonders that are unique to Mexico.
1. White sand beaches
A majority of Mexico’s landscape is coastline giving it some of the best beaches in the world. Mexico has beaches on both the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean.
While Cancun is the top tourist beach destination, you can also find smaller beach towns if you want a local vibe.
Cenotes are naturally formed freshwater pools. They are often underground or in caves. With more than 6,000 cenotes, Mexico is the place to go if you’re dreaming of swimming in one of these sacred sinkholes. Most of the cenotes are found in Riviera Maya.
3. Natural wonders
Mexico is home to dozens of natural wonders. You can see many of them on your travels depending on which region or state you’re visiting. The most popular natural wonders for visitors are the Las Coloradas, The Tamul Waterfall in the Huasteca Potosina, and the Copper Canyon.
4. Tropical islands
Seeing some of Mexico’s beautiful islands is a great way to explore the culture of Mexico.
Most travelers come to Cozumel or Isla Mujeres. Isla Holbox and Isla Contoy are also both stunning and have some of the best beaches in the world.
Food & Drinks
Mexico has become synonymous with tacos and margaritas as this is what most people order when stepping foot into a Mexican restaurant.
Mexico also has many other wonderful dishes to try as well as locally-made liquor! To experience the best of Mexican food, try some of these local dishes.
Tacos are one of the most famous Mexican dishes. While the most popular tacos include chicken, beef, and shrimp; there are also some more exotic choices if you’re adventurous.
Try a taco with pork and pineapple or top one with mango salsa. Tacos al pastor is also a favorite choice and is most widely found in Mexico City.
If you love avocado, guacamole should be one of the first things you try while in Mexico. It’s a dip for tortilla chips made with avocado. Most places also add some onion and tomato as well as lemon juice and cilantro.
If you wonder “What is Mexico known for producing?”, the top thing people will tell you about is tequila! Ever had a shot or mixed drink made with Patron or Jose Cuervo? Then you’ve already drunk Tequila from Mexico!
The country has many tequila-producing regions.
You can do Tequila tastings in most big cities. If you’re near a tequila or Mezcal factory, you can also do a tour and see how the liquor is made.
Mezcal is another famous alcohol made from agave plants in Mexico. It has a bit of a smoky flavor thanks to how it’s roasted over wood and charcoal.
You can find Mezcal in a variety of different drinks and cocktails.
Even though tequila is the liquor in traditional margaritas, you’ll also find mezcal margaritas throughout the country.
Not a fan of tequila straight up? No worries. Mexico also puts its most famous liquor into delicious margaritas.
It’s also blended with triple sec and lime juice. Some places add simple syrup to make it a little sweeter.
If you want to get drunk easily it works like a charm but the most important safety tip is not to do it, especially if you travel alone. So be careful!
10. Chile en nogada
This is a must-try dish while in Mexico! It has many different local ingredients that make a fabulous mix of flavors. They take a poblano pepper and stuff it with fruit, meat, and nuts.
Once cooked, it’s coated with walnut sauce. Before serving, the chef will top it with cilantro and pomegranate seeds.
Chile en Nogada is actually considered the Mexican National dish and legend says that it was invented in Puebla to celebrate Mexican independence. In fact, it features the colors of Mexican flags.
Definitely one of the best dishes from Puebla to try.
One of the world’s leading producers of cocoa, Mexico has a lot to offer to chocolate fans. Mexico was also one of the first countries to start producing chocolate.
The country offers travelers many different opportunities to try this famous export including chocolate museums and chocolate tastings.
Tamales are maize dough filled with beans or meat. They are then wrapped in corn husks. Before eating you’ll remove them from the tusks and then add some toppings. Most places serve them with guacamole and pico de gallo with a bed of rice.
Mole was first created in Puebla (or Oaxaca, there is a debate). The dish is made with meat, usually turkey or chicken. The meat is then covered in a special sauce made with peppers, almonds, and even chocolate. Each region of Mexico makes mole a little differently, so you’ll see many varieties throughout the country.
14. Hot sauce
You can find traditional Mexican hot sauce in many supermarkets around the world. Valentina and Cholula are some of the most famous choices. Each sauce is made with a variety of different flavors from extra spicy to tangy to smoky.
If you’re a coffee lover, make sure to drink at least one cup of authentic Mexican coffee while on your travels.
The local coffee is traditionally brewed with cinnamon and sugar and it’s called cafe de olla. Since it’s all brewed together rather than added to the cup after, the taste is sweet with just a hint of spiciness.
For coffee purists, it may seem too light though. You will find regular americano or expresso coffee made with local beans either from Veracruz, or Chiapas.
Landmarks & Destinations
Not sure which places to put on your Mexico itinerary? There are famous landmarks and destinations throughout the country. From large cities to beaches to rural villages; Mexico has a variety of destinations.
16. Chichén Itzá
Many tourists coming to Mexico look forward to seeing Chichén Itzá. It’s one of the many ancient Mayan ruins in the country.
It’s also one of the seven wonders of the world! It’s located in the Yucatan Peninsula and is a popular day trip from Cancun, Valladolid or Merida.
17. Pueblos Mágicos
Pueblos Mágicos means “Magical Towns.” It’s a special initiative started by the tourism board in Mexico to try and encourage people to visit the more rural areas of the country.
These small towns are beautiful places that tourists can go to for local food, to see festivals, and to support the local economy.
You can read more about the top Pueblos Magicos in Mexico in my above linked post.
18. Mexico City
Mexico City is one of the most famous cities in the world. It’s one of the best destinations in Mexico for those that want to be immersed in the history and culture of Mexico. It’s also where all the offices of the federal government are located.
As the largest city in Latin America, there are endless things to do and see. There are also some of the best restaurants in the world as well as many shopping opportunities.
While in Mexico City, many people also like to visit the city’s many museums like the Frida Kahlo Museum and Museo Nacional de Antropología.
19. Cancun & the Riviera Maya
Cancun and the Riviera Maya are where most people come to when they visit Mexico. It’s the top destination for snorkeling, diving, and just suntanning on the beach. People also come here for vibrant nightlife scenes.
Mexico has a long history of Catholicism so there are stunning cathedrals throughout the country. While you can find them in most major cities, the most famous ones are Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral, Catedral de Puebla, and Catedral Basilica de Zacatecas to name just a few.
21. Aztec & Mayan Ruins
Mexico is home to many magnificent Aztec & Mayan ruins. You should definitely make a point to see one or two while visiting. The most famous is Chichén Itzá, but there are many others that are just as beautiful.
They are found scattered across the country so you should be able to see one no matter where you are.
Coba and Tulum are great ones to see as well as Teotihuacán and Ek’ Balam.
22. UNESCO World Heritage sites
Mexico has UNESCO World Heritage Sites all across the country including Mexico City, the historic center of Puebla, and many of the Mayan ruins that are scattered throughout Mexico. In total, there are 35 sites on the UNESCO list.
Culture & Traditions
Mexico is a vibrant country full of different traditions and festivities. There are also many indigenous groups that call Mexico home with their own traditions and way of life.
23. Danza de los Voladores
You can see this ritual performed in many parts of Mexico. The ritual was part of one of the original indigenous groups of Mexico as a way to ask the gods for a good harvest and plenty of rain. The ritual usually involves drum and flute playing among other things.
Since Mexico was colonized by the Spanish empire, the people were introduced to Catholicism.
Many people in Mexico are practicing Catholics. Mexicans who are Catholic usually observe all the traditions and customs including baptism, first communions, and confirmations.
The day of the dead celebration is one of the most beautiful examples of the synchronism between catholicism and prehispanic heritage.
You can appreciate the traditional rituals in many towns and cities but the two most important sites to experience this colorful and heartfelt tradition are Oaxaca and Pazcuaro.
For a long time, Mexican culture has been synonymous with sombreros. While they used to be worn to protect people’s faces and heads from the sun, now they have many more uses. Sombreros are also worn during important festivals and other cultural events.
Piñatas were first used in Mexico in the 16 century. In Mexico, they are an important symbol of culture and religion.
In the early times of their usage, they represented sin. The act of breaking them was a symbol of how people can break away from their sins and follow Jesus.
While many people still use them for religious purposes, piñatas nowadays are also used at other events like birthday parties, bachelorette parties, and other ceremonies.
27. Tarahumara barefoot runners
The Tarahumara barefoot runners live in the Sierra Madre mountains of Mexico in the State of Chihuahua. The legend is that this group of people ran into the mountains while trying to escape the Spanish colonizers. Many of the people still live very high up in the mountains with limited access to food, education, and other modern world facilities.
However, despite their limited resources, the people are some of the world’s best athletes. Many of them compete in sports events around the world only wearing sandals and their traditional clothing.
Sports & Entertainment
While in Mexico, you should immerse yourself in some of the local activities like watching a soccer game or going to a wrestling match.
You might already partake in some of Mexico’s finest entertainment at home if you’re a cinema or telenovela fan!
The national sport of Mexico is soccer, but Mexicans actually call it football! Mexico has been the world champion in soccer in both 1970 and 1986. You can find plenty of soccer sporting events here including local and professional leagues.
Not many people know that Soccer was introduced in Mexico by British miners that went to the mining town Real del Montes (Now a Pueblo Magico) in the State of Hidalgo and passed on the love for soccer and the delicious pastes.
29. Lucha Libre
Lucha Libre is another popular sport in the country. It resembles professional wrestling. It’s very interesting to watch especially as each region has its own variations and rules.
Mexico isn’t all just beaches. There are also some prime surfing spots for both beginners and advanced-level surfers. Most people coming to Mexico just to surf head to Sayulita where there are many training schools and instructors.
whether you are a beginner or advanced surfer you can also find many surf camps in Mexico where to find like-minded people and immerse yourself in the surfing culture.
Mexico is home to the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef. Thousands of divers come here every year. Whether you are a certified or beginner diver, Mexico has fantastic diving sites to enjoy the spectacular underwater world.
It’s a fantastic place to dive as it’s teeming with marine life and the water is always warm on the Caribbean Side.
Cozumel for example is the perfect destination for the best diving spots but Cancun is not short of amazing diving either.
32. Mariachi bands
You can find Mariachi band performances in a variety of different places in Mexico. You’ll often see them playing in the streets in the evening. Mariachi bands also play at ceremonies and events like weddings all across the country.
Telenovelas are the Mexican version of soap operas. The shows are usually about love, money, and betrayal. The storylines are super engaging and dramatic. There is also almost always a touch of forbidden love and crime.
34. Mexican cinema
Mexican cinema has recently been taking the world by storm. The way the films are made is very different from other countries around the world which is why they have become so famous.
Most of the films follow a naturalistic style of life that is very engaging for the audiences.
They also cover many topics that especially affect the people of Mexico including politics, immigration issues, and drug trafficking.
35. La Bamba
La Bamba is a famous Mexican folk song originally sung in Veracruz. La Bamba is also sung at most weddings in Mexico making it one of the most iconic Mexican things.
The bride and groom will dance to the song together while they try to tie a ribbon with their toes. The ribbon is meant to be a symbol of love between the new couple.
Mexico is home to some amazing animals, both large and small. Here are some of the beautiful animals that call Mexico home and how you can see them.
36. Swimming with whale sharks
Many people do a whale shark swimming excursion when they travel to Cancun, Holbox, Isla Mujeres, or other parts of the Riviera Maya. Baja California Sur is also a popular place for whale shark swimming from La Paz. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
37. Swimming with turtles
If swimming with whale sharks is intimidating, you can go swimming with turtles instead. Swimming with these huge creatures is a great way to explore the reefs and water around Mexico. You can swim with turtles in many different regions, but the best place is Akumal.
It’s known as the “Place of the Turtles.” It’s south of Cancun and has many turtles and different species of fish to see.
38. Whale watching
Whale-watching season in Mexico is from December to March. Humpback whales are the most common whale to spot.
You can also spot blue whales depending on where you’re traveling to. Cabo San Lucas and Banderas Bay are some of the most popular spots for whale watching.
My favorite spot is the entire Baja California Sur to spot all types of whales, Blue Whales in Loreto, the friendly grey whales from the Ocean Pacific coast.
As I am writing this I am actually in Loreto, on my third road trip in Baja California to see whales. It’s just addictive.
39. The gathering of the Monarch butterflies
Monarch butterflies are one of the most beautiful animals in Mexico. They usually start gathering in November and until the end of March. If you want to see the Monarch butterflies, make sure to head to Michoacán or Valle de Bravo in the State of Mexico.
It’s west of Mexico City. This is where the Oyamel Fir Tree Forests are located. The Monarch butterflies gather here to escape the winter and then they will head back to the north after the weather warms up.
40. Pink flamingoes
To spot the most beautiful pink flamingoes in the world, head to Celestun. Another popular place to see them is Rio Lagartos.
But also the Yucatan coast north of Merida in the lagoons right behind the beach road and in the Lagoon behind El Cuyo, one of my favorite beach getaways.
Flamingo season in most parts of the country is from November to February as this is mating season, but you can spot them almost all the time of the year.
Rio Lagartos has flamingos all year round. To see the most though you should be there from October to February.
Watching the thousands of flamingoes congregating, swimming, and flying together is an amazing experience.
Holidays & Festivals
Mexicans know how to party and any event or historical date is a great excuse for doing that. It’s a fantastic way to meet locals and learn more about culture. Here are Mexico’s most famous holidays.
41. Día de los Muertos
English speakers might know this holiday as the “Day of the Dead.” It’s a day to celebrate relatives and other loved ones that have passed away.
Mexican families will build small altars in their homes with photos of the deceased. Most years it’s celebrated on the first and second days of November.
42. Cinco de Mayo
If you’re from the USA, you might have already celebrated Cinco de Mayo a few times as the holiday has gained popularity there since it’s Mexico’s neighbor.
The day honors the win against France in the Franco-Mexican War in the Battle of Puebla, but it’s not very much celebrated in Mexico.
43. Semana Santa
This means “Holy Week.” It’s celebrated the week before Easter. It’s a week for Mexicans to relax with their families and eat good food. There are also music and dance celebrations.
This is probably even more important than Christmas in terms of celebrations. In fact during Semana Santa, Mexican families use to gather together for a few days or the entire week and they either travel to a local destination or go out in their own hometown.
At this time of the year, you will find crowded beaches and hotels and it’s the most expensive time to travel to Mexico.
Mexicans are famous for television, film, art, and more! You’ve probably heard at least one of these names before!
44. Frida Kahlo
Frida Kahlo is one of the most iconic artists in Mexico if not in the entire world. Many of her paintings are of herself depicting her injuries and suffering after a bus accident she had when she was a teenager. Some of her art also showcases the politics of Mexico.
45. Guillermo del Toro
Guillermo is a famous film director from Mexico. Some of his most popular films are Hellboy and The Shape of Water. His directing has won him two Oscars as well as many other awards.
46. Octavio Paz
Octavio Paz is a Mexican Poet. He has won countless awards including the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1990 for his very realistic portrait of Mexican society The Labyrinth of Solitude, a great read.
47. Salma Hayek
Salma Hayek was born in Mexico and started her acting career having small roles in telenovelas and Mexican films. She eventually moved to the USA and began an acting career in Hollywood.
48. Gael García Bernal
Gael is a Mexican actor that has starred in many Mexican as well as American films. In recent years, he has also begun directing his own films. His most popular movie was the Motorcycle diary where he had the role of a young Che Guevara.
Also known as Javier Hernandez, Chicarito is a soccer player. He has played for many different teams including the Los Angeles Galaxy and previously for Manchester United.
Just like most countries, Mexico has been made famous by some of its past wars and presidents. The current events in Mexico also have an effect on nations around the world.
50. Mexican Revolution
The Mexican Revolution began when Franciso Madero was assassinated. Since Madero was the leading figure in the fight for democracy, his murder set off a chain of events that ended up being a 10-year Civil War. The war ended in 1917 when a new constitution was signed.
51. US-Mexican border
The border between the USA and Mexico is always a hot topic in politics. Immigration restrictions are often ongoing and countries around the world both agree and disagree with how the US president handles the border.
52. Drug cartels
Unfortunately, one of the top things associated with Mexico is drug cartels. The good news is that most areas that travelers frequent are not highly affected by drug cartels or drug-related crimes, with some unfortunate exceptions.
What is Mexico famous for FAQ
What are 5 things Mexico is known for?
There are many things associated with Mexico. The five main things Mexico is known for its amazing food, white sand beaches, ancient Mayan ruins, tequila, and their many festivals including the Day of the Dead.
What are 5 facts about Mexico?
Here are 5 quick facts to know before visiting Mexico:
✅ Mexico is the most visited destination in Latin America.
✅ Mexico has the world’s largest pyramid. It’s the pyramid of Cholula.
✅ Despite Spanish being the main language, there are also 69 indigenous languages spoken around the country.
✅ Mexican food is on UNESCO’s list of Immaterial World Cultural Heritage.
✅ Mexico City is known for being one of North America’s oldest cities.
What is unique to Mexico?
Many people around the world wonder “Why is Mexico famous?” Mexico attracts thousands of visitors every year thanks to its famous beach landscape.
However, Mexico is more than just beaches.
Mexico is unique because of its rich culture and heritage.
Mexico is also unique because it’s one of the world’s leading producers of items that people of every nationality love including chocolate, hot sauce, and tequila.
Final thoughts: What is Mexico known for?
From tequila to cenotes to Frida Kahlo, Mexico is a country with diverse people, landscapes, food, and culture.
Knowing the answer to the question “What is Mexico known for?” before heading off on your vacation is a must.
Knowing what makes the country so special is the perfect way to make an itinerary or bucket list.
Isabella, author, editor, and founder
A passionate traveler and photographer, in love with life and adventures, Isabella is the founder and editor of Letstraveltomexico where she shares her love for Mexico, a fascinating country that she’s proud to call home. When she’s not exploring a new place you will find Isabella in a cafe, writing on this blog, or on her other sites Boundless Roads, Mexico Cenotes and Ruins and Letstraveltocancun.com where she loves to share her travels on and off the beaten path in Mexico and around the world.