From cascading falls to dramatic canyons, Mexico is blessed with a melange of natural phenomenons. Here’s a look at the best natural wonders of Mexico.
Dramatic canyons, bubbling hot springs, gorgeous forested mountains covered in millions of monarch butterflies – Mexico is home to some of the most impressive natural phenomenons in the world. These natural wonders are the stuff of scientific journals and geographic atlases, that you’ve got to see to believe. Some are hugely popular with foreign tourists, others are far-flung and remain unknown to the outside world. But all of them are stunners.
If you’re longing to be blown away by the creations of Mother Earth, Mexico definitely won’t disappoint with its huge offering of natural attractions. From the unique oasis of northern Mexico to the imposing volcanoes of the central highlands to the otherworldly cenotes of the Yucatan Peninsula, here’s our curated list of the most artistic, stunning natural wonders of Mexico.
Table of Contents
- Natural Wonders of Mexico
- 1. Copper Canyon, Chihuahua
- 2. Cenote Suytun, Yucatan
- 3. Grutas Tolantongo, Hidalgo
- 4. El Chiflón Waterfalls, Chiapas
- 5. Monarch Butterflies, Michoacan
- 6. Sanctuario de las Luciernagas, Tlaxcala
- 7. Hierve el Agua, Oaxaca
- 8. Peña de Bernal, Querétaro
- 9. Calakmul Biosphere Reserve, Campeche
- 10. Popocateptl and Iztaccíhuatl Volcanoes, Mexico City
- 11. Sumidero Canyon, Chiapas
- 12. La Isla Espíritu Santo, Baja California
- 13. El Sótano de las Golondrinas, San Luis Potosí
- 14. El Volcán de Colima, Colima
- 15. La Laguna de Bacalar, Quintana Roo
- 16. Cuatro Ciénegas, Coahuila
- 17. Prismas Basálticos, Hidalgo
- 18. Sistema Arrecifal Veracruzano, Veracruz
- 19. La Huasteca Potosina, San Luis Potosí
- 20. Bioluminescent Beach Xpicob, Campeche
- Tips for Visiting Natural Wonders in Mexico
- What Are Your Favorite Natural Wonders in Mexico?
Mexico Wonders Map
Here’s a map with the most amazing natural wonders in Mexico:
How to use this map: Click on the top left of the map to display the list of locations, then click on the locations to display further information. To open a larger version in a new tab, click on the top right corner of the map. Star the map to save it to your own Google Maps.
Natural Wonders of Mexico
1. Copper Canyon, Chihuahua
Located in the Sierra Madre Occidental mountain range in Northwestern Mexico, Copper Canyon is a vast network of canyons formed by six main rivers that have carved deep gorges into the rugged terrain. Copper Canyon, known as Barrancas del Cobre in Spanish, sprawls across an area of approximately 25,000 square miles (65,000 square kilometers), making it larger and deeper than the Grand Canyon in the United States.
The best way to traverse the Copper Canyon is on the scenic Ferrocarril Chihuahua Pacífico, also known as “el Chepe train“. Considered one of the greatest rail journeys in the world, El Chepe weaves through the ragged canyons, revealing stunning views of waterfalls, towering cliffs, and rugged ridges of the Sierra Madre Occidental. The train journey not only offers breathtaking views of the Copper Canyon, but it is also an impressive engineering marvel. The train traverses a network of 37 bridges and passes through an astonishing 86 tunnels along its route.
2. Cenote Suytun, Yucatan
A cenote (pronounced as “seh-no-tay”) is a natural freshwater sinkhole formed when limestone caves collapse. The natural sinkhole is fed by the filtration of rain and by the currents of underground rivers. That is why when swimming in a cenote you feel so much freshness. The water never gets above 75°F (23°C)!
The Yucatan Peninsula is scattered with over 7,000 cenotes and caves. This vast network of fractures drains the rainwater from the surface into many vast underground river systems. You can find cenotes worldwide, but only in the Yucatan Peninsula and especially the Riviera Maya can you find a concentration of cenotes in one area.
Of all the cenotes I’ve been, Cenote Suytun is certainly the most photogenic. Unlike the typical cenote, this is a closed cenote with just a small hole on the top that lets light in. It forms part of the larger Sistema Sac Actun, which is one of the world’s longest underwater cave systems. If you’re looking to get some good shots, I highly recommend including Cenote Suytun in your Yucatan itinerary.
Suytun gets its name due to this famous pathway; Suytun means “stone center”. This cenote goes as deep as 5 meters at its deepest point. One of the most striking features of Cenote Suytun is the impressive stalactites hanging from the ceiling of the cave. These mineral formations give it an ethereal feel and an atmosphere unlike any other.
3. Grutas Tolantongo, Hidalgo
With hot spring water tumbling over calcified travertine pools and cascading down waterfalls, Grutas Tolantongo is lauded as one of Mexico’s most beautiful hot springs. Tucked high in the mountains of Hidalgo, this spot may be just a 4-hour drive from the capital Mexico City, but it remains a remote area brimming with natural beauty.
The box canyon runs along the Mezquital Valley, etched between massive mountains at 4,200 feet (1,280m) above sea level. Getting to this remote part of the country isn’t straightforward, as you’ll need to navigate steep mountain roads and hair-raising corkscrew bends to get here.
Tolantongo is a word from the Nahuatl language, meaning “place of moving waters” — and it’s easy to see how it got its name. The canyon is brimming with hot springs and geothermal pools, which heat the water throughout the Grutas Tolantongo. Besides the natural pools and rivers, you’ll also find the highest zip line in Hidalgo, hotels, campsites, restaurants, and convenience stores. Read my guide to Grutas Tolantongo.
4. El Chiflón Waterfalls, Chiapas
Arguably the most impressive waterfalls in Chiapas, El Chiflón is a series of five-tiered whitewater falls and turquoise mineral pools, about 2 hours from San Cristobal de las Casas. The highest waterfall is known as Cascada Velo de Novia and is an impressive 230 feet (70m) tall.
The entry fee to the El Chiflon waterfalls is 50 MXN (US$2.50) per person and you pay for the tickets at the entrance of the Ecotourism Center. Once you’re at the park, there’s a short hike of about 15 minutes to get to the first waterfall. From there, it’s another 45-minute hike to get to Cascada Velo de Novia, the tallest of the waterfalls. Take the slippery steps up to El Mirador (viewpoint) with caution and prepare to get wet from the thundering falls.
Be sure to bring a swimming suit and towel if you want to swim in the pools. You can’t just plunge in any pool though; there are designated swimming areas as some parts can be quite dangerous due to the strong currents. I booked this day tour to visit both El Chiflon and Lagos de Montebello, which was an incredibly long day trip, but an easy way to see them without worrying about logistics.
TIP: The best time to visit is during the dry season (January to April) when the waterfalls are gloriously turquoise and spearmint color. When I visited in May, the rainy season was at its peak, it was too chilly to swim, and the water was a dull murky color.
5. Monarch Butterflies, Michoacan
Migrating Monarch butterflies travel in colonies of about 20 million insects in Michoacan every December to March. Sometimes if you’re lucky, you can even see many of them as early as November. It’s a sight to behold and truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
The Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve is a UNESCO World Heritage Site sprawling over 56,000 hectares. The two most popular sanctuaries are El Rosario (near the town of Ocampo) and Sierra Chincua ( near Angangueo). Getting to these sanctuaries by public transport is difficult; the easiest way is to book a day trip from Mexico City. However, these day tours take at least 12 hours. I suggest driving or taking a bus there and spending at least a night in Michoacan.
If you visit at the beginning of the season, there will be fewer tourists. It’s also the best time to visit Mexico City weather-wise, and the start of the migration also coincides with Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico City!
6. Sanctuario de las Luciernagas, Tlaxcala
Every year, millions of fireflies flock to the Santuario de las Luciernagas (Nanacamilpa Firefly Sanctuary) in droves during their mating season: June to August. The entire forest gets lit up with the glow of these gorgeous tiny creatures, and it’s stunning!
This natural phenomenon only happens during a short window of time, so you’ll need to time this day trip from Mexico City in summer if you really to see it! The light show is so consistent you can set your watch by it — the best viewing times are from 8:30 to 9:30 pm.
Technically, you’ll need to stay the night in Tlaxcala to experience the magic of the firefly sanctuary, but at 2.5 hours from Mexico City, it is still doable as a day trip for hardcore travelers. Book this tour that includes a night’s stay in a hacienda!
7. Hierve el Agua, Oaxaca
One of the most unique geological formations I’ve ever seen, Hierve el Agua is a series of natural mineral springs and petrified waterfalls perched on a clifftop overlooking the Oaxaca Valley. At just 70km east of Oaxaca City, it’s one of the best places to visit in Oaxaca. [Read my guide to Hierve el Agua.]
The name “Hierve el Agua” translates to “the water boils,” and refers to the natural springs that bubble up from the ground and create pools of mineral water. The water temperature is pretty low; technically it’s not a hot spring. But the petrified falls and mineral pools are a stunning natural formation that’s equal parts unique and beautiful.
But Hierve el Agua is more than just a natural wonder — it’s also a place of cultural and historical significance for the people of Oaxaca. The Zapotec people, an indigenous group that has inhabited the region for thousands of years, believe that the mineral-rich waters of Hierve el Agua have healing properties and have been used for medicinal purposes for centuries. Read my guide to these Oaxaca waterfalls.
8. Peña de Bernal, Querétaro
At 433 meters tall, Peña de Bernal is one of the world’s tallest monoliths and it looks really impressive up close. The monolith, composed entirely of pinkish-gray leucocratic-igneous rock, is thought to be over 65 million years old! It’s considered one of the most famous natural wonders of Mexico.
The stunning monolith attracts rock climbers from Mexico and around the world, with several routes of varying degrees of difficulty. For the less adventurous, a moderately strenuous 30-minute hike will take you as far as you can safely scale the rock without ropes. Get started early to beat the mid-morning rush and fierce heat.
The town located next to the monolith, San Sebastián Bernal (better known as Bernal) is a picture-perfect pueblo mágico that’s worth a visit. The town is home to the eloquently named Chapel of Souls and the Museum of the Masks. Both of these are good spots to stop off and have a look around. To get there, it’s just a 3-hour drive from Mexico City.
9. Calakmul Biosphere Reserve, Campeche
Situated within the untamed jungles of Campeche, the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve is strategically located at the heart of the second-largest tropical forests in the Americas. Spanning over an impressive 700,000 hectares, the reserve stands as a testament to the richness of biodiversity.
This is one of the best places in the Yucatan Peninsula to see wildlife in their natural habitat. Among the animals you are likely to come across on your visit to Calakmul are: spider monkeys, howler monkeys, blue-crowned motmots, tapirs, white-nosed coatis, ocellated turkeys, toucans and parrots.
Beyond its ecological treasures, the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve is a repository of history, dotted with a smattering of ancient Mayan ruins. Engulfed by the jungle, the Calakmul ancient city is one of the most impressive Mayan ruins in Mexico. During its heyday in the Classic Period 500 A.D. to 800 A.D., Calkmul was a powerhouse, with over 50,000 inhabitants, 6700 structures and various sacbes for commerce. The easiest way to get here is by booking a day trip from Campeche.
10. Popocateptl and Iztaccíhuatl Volcanoes, Mexico City
The majestic Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl volcanoes give Mexico City an extremely dramatic backdrop. Legend has it that these volcanoes (whose names are hard to pronounce even for Mexican people) are a result of a beautiful and tragic romance between a warrior and a princess.
Standing at an impressive 5,500 meters (1845 ft) above sea level, Popocatépetl is an active volcano and the second highest in Mexico (after Pico de Orizaba in Veracruz). You don’t have to be an experienced mountaineer to enjoy the Popocatépetl-Iztaccíhuatl National Park; here you can go hiking, ride a mountain bike, go horseback riding and camping.
The best time to hike both volcanoes is between November and March. Last January, I hiked the Iztaccíhuatl with a group of friends to take a close look at the Popocateptl spewing smoke out; it was an epic adventure and an amazing sight! If you’re not an experienced hiker, I recommend booking a private tour from Mexico City.
11. Sumidero Canyon, Chiapas
Forged throughout millions of years through the relentless erosion orchestrated by the Grijalva River, the awe-inspiring Sumidero canyon is one of the biggest attractions of Chiapas. The colossal walls, soaring to majestic heights of up to 1,000 meters, create a dramatic backdrop for the diverse array of wildlife that calls this canyon home. You can see the sheer scale of it from the numerous viewpoints on the top of the canyon.
But what really makes this natural wonder special is the boat ride through it. You’ll get to see how incredibly vast and deep the canyon is as you cruise past walls of lush greenery, towering cliffs, and even the occasional crocodile basking in the sun. Besides crocodiles, the national park is home to other endangered species such as spider monkeys and ocelots.
The boat ride costs 400 MXN per person (US$20) and takes about 2 hours to get to Chiapas de Corzo. The easiest way to get here is on a day tour; I booked this day trip and really enjoyed it.
12. La Isla Espíritu Santo, Baja California
The main appeal of the Espíritu Santo islands lies in the world-class diving and snorkeling experiences hidden in the waters surrounding it. Due in large part to its unique climate and geographic features, the Sea of Cortez harbors a rich marine ecosystem more diverse and spectacular than anywhere else on Earth. Its placid and protected waters harbor thousands of fish and mammal species, as well as some 5,000 species of micro-invertebrates.
Whether you’re a seasoned marine enthusiast or a nature lover seeking serenity, Espíritu Santo promises an unforgettable journey into the heart of Mexico’s wild Baja California. Espiritu Santo Island has been a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site since 2005 and a National Park since 2007. I highly recommend booking a snorkeling trip at Espíritu Santo to frolic with playful sea lions, majestic whale sharks, and graceful turtles.
13. El Sótano de las Golondrinas, San Luis Potosí
In the picturesque landscape of San Luis Potosí, the Sótano de las Golondrinas stands as a testament to the forces of nature, carved into existence by the erosive power of water.
This remarkable cave is undeniably one of the most awe-inspiring destinations in San Luis Potosí, showcasing an imposing abyss reaching a staggering 512 meters. Beyond its geological marvels, the Sótano de las Golondrinas (translates to mean “swallows’ basement”) serves as a natural sanctuary for various avian species, including swifts and parrots. It’s worth noting that despite its name, the cavern is not inhabited by swallows.
The breathtaking natural formation has earned it a distinguished reputation, consistently recognized as one of the most stunning natural sinkholes globally. Visitors to this mesmerizing abyss are treated not only to the geological wonders but also to the captivating sights and sounds of the diverse birdlife that calls this remarkable place home.
14. El Volcán de Colima, Colima
Often referred to as the “Volcán de Fuego” (Fire Volcano), the Colima Volcano is a majestic, active stratovolcano standing at 3,960 meters above sea level. Straddling on the state line dividing Colima and Jalisco, this volcanic wonder offers a challenging yet rewarding journey to its summit, providing an experience of great beauty.
The breathtaking scenery and the visible crater from nearby destinations make the Colima Volcano a favorite among nature enthusiasts. Beyond its volcanic allure, the surrounding areas offer a haven for those seeking diverse activities.
In essence, the Colima Volcano stands not only as one of the most astounding natural wonders of Mexico but also as a hub for various outdoor and cultural experiences. The best way to experience the beauty of Colima Volcano is to join a guided group tour, where you will be led on a safe route up to the summit.
15. La Laguna de Bacalar, Quintana Roo
Widely recognized as the ‘Lagoon of Seven Colors,’ Bacalar Lagoon is one of Mexico’s natural wonders. Situated within a Pueblo Mágico, this pristine lagoon unfolds its allure with breathtakingly clear waters that artfully reflect an array of mesmerizing hues, ranging from tranquil blues to vibrant greens.
Beyond its striking visual appeal, Bacalar Lagoon is a thriving ecosystem, playing host to a diverse community of wildlife. Within its depths, one can encounter graceful turtles, gentle manatees, and a spectrum of colorful fish, creating a harmonious coexistence in this aquatic haven. The Pueblo Mágico that cradles this natural wonder adds an extra layer of charm, providing visitors with an immersive and culturally rich experience.
16. Cuatro Ciénegas, Coahuila
As part of a Protected Natural Area, Cuatro Ciénegas is as one of the most peculiar and beautiful natural wonders in Mexico. Surrounded by a desert, the clear, turquoise waters of the oasis is home to several species of fish, turtles, and reptiles. Visiting this natural reserve is like traveling back in time a thousand years and getting to see some species of animals you didn’t even think would exist in this world.
Their presence is so vital that they are now an integral part of the Protected Natural Area. Scientists from various corners of the globe flock to this region, to study its flora, fauna, and the intriguing ecological features. The best way to explore Cuatro Ciénegas is taking a day trip from Monterrey, one of the coolest cities in Mexico.
17. Prismas Basálticos, Hidalgo
About a 3-hour drive from Mexico City lies another magic town: Huasca de Ocampo. Tucked in the state of Hidalgo, this place is most famous for its impressive basaltic prisms, geometric columns of basalt.
These basaltic prisms originated from a volcano’s explosion millions of years ago. The magma, cooling slowly in an aquatic environment, resulted in the hexagonal shape of the columns we admire today. Their discovery dates back over 200 years to one of the early visitors, the explorer Alexander von Humboldt. He first stepped foot here in 1803, and that moment was immortalized in a painting now housed in the British Museum in London.
If you’re traveling to Huasca de Ocampo from Mexico City, ADO has buses going from Mexico City to Huasca de Ocampo every 30 minutes daily, it’s a 1:40-hour trip and costs around 300 MXN (US$15) or you can book a tour here.
18. Sistema Arrecifal Veracruzano, Veracruz
With approximately 17 reefs boasting a history of around 10 million years, the Veracruz Reef System holds the prestigious title of one of Mexico’s 13 natural wonders. For both novice and seasoned divers, there are many options to explore the beauty of the reef and the 300-plus sunken ships scattered across the zone.
The best way to explore the reef is to jump on one of the lanchas (motorboats) near the Aquarium in Veracruz City to reach the remote islands boasting pristine and crystal-clear waters. Most boat tours will bring you to Cancuncito, a submerged sand bar off the coast, as well as Isla de Sacrificios, historically used for Totonac human sacrifice and later as a leper colony. Both form part of the protected marine reserve.
One of the well-kept secrets shared among locals, Isla de Enmedio is renowned for harboring the finest beaches in Veracruz. This meticulously safeguarded island is integral to the national park, offering crystalline waters rich with coral reefs and vibrant fish. Exercise caution while exploring the island, as the powdery sand conceals numerous turtle eggs. Book your boat trip to Isla de Enmedio!
19. La Huasteca Potosina, San Luis Potosí
One of my favorite natural wonders in Mexico, La Huasteca Potosina is a region in San Luis Potosí chocked full of river blue lakes, cobalt rivers, canyons, and lush rainforest. The Huasteca Potosina is home to some of the most beautiful waterfalls in Mexico, including Micos, Xilitla, and Puente de Dios. One of my favorite experiences was ziplining over the Micos Waterfalls on a bike!
The most spectacular and largest waterfall in la Huasteca Potosina is undoubtedly Tamúl. Soaring to a height of 105 meters (344 feet) and spanning 300 meters (984 feet) in width during the rainy season, Tamúl resides at the pinnacle of the Santa María River Canyon.
The best time to visit Huasteca Potosina is in the colder months, as it can be too hot and humid during the summer, and even though you might think the waterfalls and rivers will freshen you up, trust me, the walk through the jungle will be unbearably hot.
20. Bioluminescent Beach Xpicob, Campeche
The Xpicob beach in Campeche is known for the bioluminscent waters. The magic unfolds as night falls, with marine organisms lighting up the waters like tiny blue sparkles. When the water is stirred by a boat or rain, you’ll see luminous trails in the seas and on the beach. It’s said that the bioluminescence light up as a defense mechanism and for mating attraction. The optimal time to witness this phenomenon is from July to January, preferably guided by an expert companion.
Tips for Visiting Natural Wonders in Mexico
Planning to explore Mexico’s natural wonders? Get ready for an adventure! Whether you are dreaming of seeing the monarch butterfly immigration or the wildlife-rich Sea of Cortez in Baja California, here are some tips for a fantastic visit:
- Timing is everything – Plan your trip according to your main interests. Some wonders are better appreciated during certain times of the year and others can only be experienced during a special season, so if you want your trip to be worth it, consider timing.
- Guided wisdom – Enlist the expertise of a seasoned guide. These local guardians of nature not only enhance your understanding of the ecosystems but also ensure you catch every magical moment. They’ll unveil hidden gems and share anecdotes that truly bring the natural wonders to life.
- Dive into diversity – Mexico’s natural wonders are more than just the view of the landscape. Immerse yourself in the rich tapestry of biodiversity – from the graceful flight of marine swallows to the vibrant corals beneath the surface. Every corner reveals a new facet of nature’s wonders.
- Research before you go – Before visiting natural wonders in Mexico, research as much as possible so you get the most out of the experience once you’re there.
- Pack the essentials – Sunscreen, comfortable footwear, and a keen sense of curiosity – these are your essentials. Mexico’s natural wonders are meant to be explored, so equip yourself for the journey ahead. Oh, and don’t forget a camera to capture those jaw-dropping moments!
What Are Your Favorite Natural Wonders in Mexico?
Thank you for reading this far! I hope you’ve enjoyed this list of natural wonders in Mexico!
Which of these Mexico natural wonders have you been to? Let me know if you have any questions in the comments field below. I’ll be more than happy to answer them!
For those who are planning to travel more of Mexico, check out some of these articles:
- 10 Spectacular Waterfalls in Mexico
- 10 Best Hot Springs in Mexico
- 30 Best Books about Mexico
- 25 Best Mexican Movies
- Grutas Tolantongo Hot Springs Guide
- Hierve el Agua: Oaxaca Waterfalls
- How to Visit la Gruta San Miguel de Allende
- 30 Things to Do in San Miguel de Allende
- 30 Fun Things to Do in Guanajuato
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