Gael Garcia Bernal, the famous actor and producer, once said: “There’s no such thing as a specific authenticity to what Mexico is, because Mexico is incredibly complex and varied, and the food is completely different if you travel 50 kilometers. It just changes all the time.”
And this description rings even more true when you see the variety of national parks in this country.
Mexico has 67 national parks, located from the east (Yucatan Peninsula) to the west (Baja California Peninsula) and, in fact, everywhere in between. So, if you’re planning on exploring the national parks of Mexico, you will need to select a few to begin with. Since all of them are amazing, making a choice can be challenging. We’re here to help.
Tulum National Park, Quintana Roo State
Tulum Beach is one of the most famous in Mexico, but this national park has a lot more to offer. You can visit the Tulum Ruins, which is believed to be the last city Mayans built. There are several preserved structures and buildings, including the Temple of the Frescoes, the Temple of the Descending God, and the Wind Temple, situated on the edge of a cliff. Tulum cenotes are also a treat, and the city itself is adorable.
Arrecifes de Cozumel National Park, Quintana Roo State
Are you ready to dive deep? Well, Arrecifes de Cozumel is an underwater national park that allows you to do just that. It is located in the Yucatan Peninsula and is a part of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System. It offers the best snorkeling and diving experience in all of Mexico. It is fairly approachable since there’s a small airport, but you can also take a ferry ride from Playa del Carmen.
Bahía de Loreto National Park, Baja California Sur State
Bahía de Loreto is a UNESCO World Heritage Site for a reason. It is an island popular for camping and hiking. There is also rich marine life, so look out for underwater canyons, orcas, blue whales, and sea lions. Popular activities include snorkeling, paddleboarding, and whale watching. To get there, you’ll need a private charter from Loreto or a boat.
Lagunas de Montebello National Park, Chiapas State
Montebello Lakes, or Lagunas de Montebello, is a scenic location perfect for enjoying nature and taking pictures. The bright blue color of the water will amaze even the most demanding tourist. Even better, the lakes are located within a forest, and there is a cave system within the park. Here, you can visit two Mayan Ruin Sites, including the Chinkultic Ruins, famous for its tall pyramid.
Palenque National Park, Chiapas State
When you’re entering Palenque, you’re entering an entire Mayan city. This is the home to some of the best-known ruins of Mayan civilization. You’ll need hours, maybe even an entire day, to explore them. It is also a beautiful rainforest, with plenty of gorgeous jungle pools and waterfalls, such as Misol-Ha and Agua Azul. The nearest city, San Cristóbal de las Casas, is a four-hour drive away, but it is well worth the visit. The locals are very pleasant, especially if you speak Spanish. It could help to learn some basic Mexican slang to get around.
Tepozteco National Park, Morelos State
If you’re in Mexico City and don’t have days to travel, there is a beautiful national park just an hour away. Here you’ll find a mysterious Aztec pyramid dedicated to Tepoztecatl — the god of pulque, an alcoholic drink made from agave. Many vendors are selling this homemade drink, so be sure to try at least a sip. Be aware that this is a difficult climb from the city to the pyramid, but the view from the peak is spectacular. And be sure to try the local food in Tepoztlan.
Iztaccíhuatl-Popocatépetl National Park, Puebla State
Located at the border of three states — Mexico State, Puebla, and Morelos — this park has incredibly unique plant and animal life, such as the endangered volcano rabbit. There are many different trails, the most famous being at the Paso de Cortes mountain pass. Iztaccihuatl and Popocatepetl are the second and third tallest mountains in Mexico, and they’re visible from the plane as you land in Mexico City. This national park is also a perfect day trip from the capital.
Pico de Orizaba National Park, Puebla State
We’ve mentioned the second and third tallest mountains; now let’s go to the tallest one. Pico de Orizaba is over 18 thousand feet tall, and it’s snow-capped throughout the year. At the peak, there’s a big yellow church called the Nuestra Señora de los Remedios. This dormant volcano has been a site of worship for many civilizations. Even today, it is a known place for mountain climbing, having numerous paths and trails for both beginners and advanced climbers.
These were eight very diverse national parks in Mexico for all types of travelers. Whether you love beaches, lakes, rainforests, or snow-capped mountains, Mexico won’t disappoint. Just make sure you know some basic Spanish and hire good guides if you’re going to less accessible places.
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