One hundred and thirty two towns in Mexico have been designated pueblos mágicos by the Mexican government, but which ones are the best magical towns in Mexico?  Some are much more “magical” than others. The towns I’ve chosen for this list all have one thing in common; they have managed to keep their older, small town feel intact, at least in their historic centers.  These days, almost all the pueblos mágicos boast very fine, high end dining and accommodations. In addition, many of them are situated in wonderful natural settings.  A visit to one or two of the pueblos will change your experience in Mexico.  Here are my favorites.

The central plaza in San Miguel is a visual delight and a great place to relax.

San Miguel de Allende – By general acclaim, San Miguel de Allende is one of the most magical towns in Mexico. It has a healthy ex-pat community of retirees. However, this hasn’t detracted from the colonial atmosphere.  Tiny streets, colorfully painted buildings, excellent dining, and arguably the most beautiful plaza in Mexico all create an inviting atmosphere.  There are many beautiful museums and churches to visit.  Galleries featuring local and indigenous artists abound and there are literally dozens of cooking and Spanish classes you can take if you want to get a taste of the local culture.  San Miguel is unforgettable and definitely worth the trip.

The traffic-free cobblestone streets of San Miguel make for wonderful walking tours.

Taxco – In 2019 Mexico produced over 190 million ounces of silver.  Much of that came from Taxco but you’d never know it by looking at the town.  It’s still a beautiful colonial wonder to stroll about in.  And Taxco silverwork is known throughout the world for its quality and creative design.  I bought my wedding ring in Taxco from a tiny family-owned store just off the main plaza.  Most of the people in Taxco are connected to the silver industry and you’ll find little family shops selling beautiful original creations on every corner.  Taxco itself is very deserving of its “magical” designation.  The town is a maze of narrow cobblestone streets where you’ll find welcoming cafes, restaurants, and shops.  Around the main plaza many restaurants offer fine dining from roof-top patios with impressive views of the iconic 18th century Santa Prisca church.  It’s a lovely way to end a perfect day.  Taxco is less than three hours from Mexico City so it makes a great day-trip but I bet you’ll want to spend the night!

Taxco’s hill-side location creates some memorable views in town.

Pátzcuaro is our third pick for one of the best magical towns in Mexico. It amazes from the moment you step into its traditional porticoed plaza with its 16th century buildings.  This is the heart of the Purépecha indigenous community and you’ll often spot people in typical native dress.  After you visit the stunning churches, museums, and galleries, you can spend a day visiting indigenous villages around Lake Patzcuaro as well as visit the small car-free isle of Janitzio in the middle of the lake.  You’ll see fishermen using the wing-like dip nets that their ancestors used centuries ago.   It’s in Pátzcuaro and the surrounding villages where you’ll find some of the most traditional and authentic Day of the Dead celebrations.  Tourists pack the hotels at this time of year so book well in advance. 

Off the usual tourist track, Pátzcuaro feels ancient and genuine.

San Cristobal de Las Casas – This town boasts one of Mexico’s finest plazas and quiet cobblestone streets lined with beautifully painted buildings. There are some wonderful atmospheric cafes and bistros. In addition, there are pine-tree filled forests and two of the prettiest churches you’ll ever find. All of this contributes to a must-see destination.  San Cristobal is in the heart of the most indigenous area of Mexico so there’s plenty do here, including visits to local villages.  San Cristobal’s location keeps it below most tourists’ radar which is one of the reasons it has stayed so amazing and unchanged.  However, that makes getting here a little bit of a process. 

There are no direct flights so you either fly into Tuxtla Gutierrez and then catch a bus to San Cristobal (one and a half hours), or you spend many, many hours on a bus from Oaxaca or Villahermosa.  It’s an unforgettable experience if you have the time.  Two more reasons to visit San Cristobal; first, it’s relatively close (five hours) to Palenque, one of Mexico’s top Mayan ruins.  Second, outside of Tuxtla Gutierrez, the river trip down the Cañon del Sumidero is breathtaking.  Some of the sheer rock walls are half a mile high!

People gather in the plaza of San Cristobal to shop and visit with friends.

Tepotzlán – Mountains surround this beautiful gem.  It’s hard to remember that you’re only 80 kilometers (50 miles) from Mexico City.  That alone makes this quaint little town worth a day visit but it’s so peaceful and beautiful you’ll probably be tempted to spend the night.  A 16th century convent and an interesting museum that are both worth a visit but the real attraction is the small Aztec pyramid perched high over the town.  Be forewarned; the view from the top is spectacular but the only way up is on foot and the 1300 feet of altitude gain over 1.2 miles can be crushing if you’re not in shape.

Close to Mexico City, Tepotzlán is a unique day trip.

Valle Del Bravo – This one is a charmer, so charming in fact that it can get a little crowded on the weekends as folks from nearby Cuernavaca seek some peace and quiet.  But if you visit during the week, you’ll find a beautiful historic town on the shores of a pristine lake surrounded by high mountains.  Valle’s location means that it’s an easy place to visit and you’ll find plenty of quality shopping along with high end restaurants and accommodations.  If you’re feeling adventurous, you can try parasailing off the surrounding peaks.

The beautiful pedestrian streets of Valle are quiet and enjoyable.

Tequisquiapán – Ok, the name is a tongue twister but don’t let that hold you back.  Tequisquiapán is definitely one of the best magical towns in Mexico. Located in the heart of Mexico’s up and coming wine country, wine and cheese tasting tours are available. In addition, eco-tours to the surrounding Sierra Gorda mountains are also popular.  The town center is peaceful and quiet, with cobblestone streets that lead to the spacious central plaza with its colonial church.  Tequisquiapán is located only two and a half hours from Mexico City. From there it’s only another two hours to San Miguel de Allende, one of Mexico’s coolest pueblos mágicos.

Sit and enjoy a quiet moment in the plaza before heading out for some wine tasting adventures.

Malinalco – Ok, this might not be the place for you if you demand a lot of high-end activities to keep you occupied but if you’re looking for a beautiful, quiet place to hang out for a day, this could be your spot.  There are enough colonial churches to keep you busy and some minor yet interesting Aztec ruins that can be reached with a short hike from the town.  The streets are, of course, cobblestone and there’s hardly a car to be seen during the week.  The scenic views and interesting restaurants make your trip worth the while.  It’s only two hours from Mexico City so it makes a great day trip.

Malinalco – quiet and charming.

If you’d like to visit any of these incredible magical Mexican towns, I’d love to help. Check out some trip ideas for three of my favorite places in Mexico or contact me.

Market day in Malinalco is a chance to really get to know Mexico