Mexico is chock-full of natural wonders and landscapes that will simply take your breath away.
Having lived as a digital nomad in Mexico for nearly three years, I was able to travel around the country enough to see some of its most beautiful and wild natural wonders (not nearly as much as I would have liked, though).
Some of the natural wonders in Mexico break world records – whether it’s for having the tallest peaks, the deepest canyons or sinkholes, the longest subterranean rivers, or the biggest natural stone arches.
When I say Mexico is truly an underrated country and travel destination – I mean it! I think it is one of my all-time favorite places to travel and live in, especially as an adventure traveler enamored with wild landscapes and the diversity of this world.
There are 32 states in Mexico and each one has its own charm and collection of outdoor attractions and activities. In my guide, we will highlight natural wonders across 17 of those Mexican states!
There are simply so many incredible places to visit in Mexico that you just have to see to believe. I hope this list of bucket-list-worthy natural wonders inspires your next trip!
Here are 23 of the best Mexican natural wonders!
23 Unmissable Natural Wonders in Mexico
1. Cañón del Sumidero, Chiapas
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The Cañón del Sumidero (Sumidero Canyon) is a deep canyon in the state of Chiapas, Mexico that began forming 35 million years ago due to a crack in the earth’s crust – similar to the timeline of the world-famous Grand Canyon in Arizona, USA – and then was eroded by the powerful La Grijalva River across time.
Today, you can visit Sumidero Canyon via a thrilling riverboat cruise that affords you the chance to spot endangered wildlife – such as river crocodiles and bird species – as well as marvel at its towering 3,300-ft-high cliff walls.
Experiencing the Sumidero Canyon from the seat of your boat is one of the best things to do in Chiapas, considering it’s one of the most magnificent and alluring natural wonders in Mexico.
2. Las Islas Marietas, Nayarit
Las Islas Marietas (Marietas Islands) is a small yet stunning archipelago off the coast of the Riviera Nayarit in the Bahía de Banderas (Bay of Banderas). While there are many fun things to do in Riviera Nayarit, one of the most popular is to take a boat tour out to these uninhabited islands which are now protected inside the Islas Marietas National Park.
There, you can jump off your boat and swim to a hidden beach called Playa Escondida, where you can marvel at the blue sky overhead through the open roof as you bask in golden sand. You can also go on thrilling catamaran, snorkeling, or scuba diving tours to see the abundance of marine and bird life underneath its rocky archways. Most tours offer you the chance to encounter wild dolphins, whales, colorful fish, and observe the blue-footed booby and other tropical birds.
The Marietas Islands are a natural wonder in Mexico not only for their picturesque setting but also for their ecological importance.
3. Hierve El Agua, Oaxaca
Hierve El Agua is one of the most famous of Mexico’s wonders. *Update: sadly Hierve El Agua is now permanently closed to all national and foreign tourists*
Hierve El Agua is located in the community of San Lorenzo Albarradas in the diverse state of Oaxaca. Hierve El Agua (meaning “boiling water or boil the water” is a fascinating natural geological formation comprising of a petrified waterfall made from calcium deposits and yellow and green springs and pools.
Pre-2020, the tourist attraction was receiving approximately 2,000 visitors per day and was one of the most popular outdoor natural wonders in the state.
4. Calakmul Biosphere Reserve, Campeche
The Calakmul Biosphere Reserve in the jungly state of Campeche is one of the most underrated natural wonders to see in Mexico.
Not only does it house the lost Mayan ruins of Calakmul, with towering pyramids peeking out above the forest canopy, but it also boasts an abundance of wildlife, including 86 mammals, 365 bird species, 75 reptile species, 400 species of butterflies, 18 species of amphibians, and 31 species of fish. The most notable of all are the jaguar, spider monkey, the tapir, brown spotted deer, and ocellated turkey.
Calakmul is one of my all-time favorite Mayan ruins in Mexico, too!
5. Peña de Bernal, Querétero
Peña de Bernal is a humongous monolith rock towering at 1420 ft (433 m), making it one of the largest monoliths not just in Mexico – but the world (the third largest, to be exact).
It is also officially considered one of the 13 Wonders of Mexico, including other sites such as Chichen Itza (aka not just natural wonders but historically and culturally significant locations).
You can find this giant rock towering over the colorful pueblo mágico of San Sebastián Bernal in the small yet geographically diverse state of Querétero. In fact, this community is the only registered and official “Magic Town” in the state.
6. Cenotes, Yucatán Peninsula
There are over 6,000 cenotes across the Yucatán Peninsula (comprising the states of Yucatán, Quintana Roo and Campeche). By far, one of the most incredible Mexican natural wonders is cenotes themselves. Pick any of the cenotes to highlight, it doesn’t matter, because they all share the same origin story.
It is said that cenotes formed due to the Chicxulub crater that impacted earth off the coast of what today is known as the Yucatán Peninsula. The impact formed limestone sinkholes across the land, which over time flooded with fresh rainwater. Today, you can enjoy cenotes by swimming, snorkeling, or diving.
The longest subterranean river in the world is actually comprised of many cenotes connected all together (Cenotes Sac Actun) underneath the state of Quintana Roo. In the Mayan culture, cenotes have been historically used and revered as sacred entrances to the Underworld.
Some of my favorite cenotes in Mexico are the dozens of cenotes near Tulum – including the ones around Tulum itself (like Gran Cenote, Cenote Calavera, Dos Ojos Cenote, or Cenotes Cristal y Escondido), plus the cenotes stretching to and around Playa Del Carmen and Valladolid, all the way past Chichén Itzá onward to Mérida, the capital of the Yucatán state.
There have been several documentaries about the cenotes in Mexico, revealing in every way that they are one of the most magical natural wonders in Mexico – if not in the entire world.
7. Grutas Tolantongo, Hidalgo
The Grutas Tolantongo form beautiful series of steamy hot springs, geysers, and caves in the state of Hidalgo. No doubt, you’ve probably seen these turquoise-blue springs on Instagram.
Despite its overwhelming popularity, there’s no denying the natural beauty of these thermals along with the river, caves, and abundant flora and fauna. The area is quite developed nowadays, with on-site restaurants, hotels, ziplining, etc.
Grutas Tolantongo is only a 3-4 hour drive from Mexico City (CDMX), making it a popular weekend adventure for city-dwellers as well as foreign tourists.
8. Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, Quintana Roo
The magnificent and diverse Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve spans over 528,000 hectares, making it the second-largest biosphere in Mexico. It is also one of the largest protected areas in the entire Mexican Caribbean and is declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
You can visit the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve on a day trip from Tulum. Once there, you can float down ancient Mayan canals from the seat of your life jacket, take a boat tour to see crocodiles and manatees in the wild, climb a watchtower for panoramic views, and explore the grounds of the ancient Mayan city known today as the Muyil Ruins.
9. Barrancas del Cobre (Copper Canyon), Chihuahua
Las Barrancas del Cobre (Copper Canyon) is an immense series of six deep canyons in the Sierra Madre Occidental mountains, each carved out by rivers across millions of years that merge into the Río Fuerte. The canyons are filled with outdoor adventure activities and feature a pitstop via the regional passenger train – El Chepe – which crosses over the entire state.
Copper Canyon is supposed to be 4x as extensive and 2x as deep as the Grand Canyon in Arizona, USA. As such, it is one of the must-see natural wonders in Mexico.
You can go hiking, ziplining, camping, horse riding, mountain biking, and more in Copper Canyon, which is named after its copper-green walls. Should you end up visiting, there is also the opportunity to learn about the history and culture of the Rarámuris indigenous peoples and their colorful traditional clothing and dress.
10. Lagos de Montebello, Chiapas
One of the most beautiful natural wonders in Mexico is none other than the 52 natural and sparkly blue lakes inside the Lagos de Montebello National Park, near the border of Mexico and Guatemala in southeastern Chiapas.
Of the 52 lakes, only about a dozen or so can be visited by the public. While here, you can rent a wooden raft out to an orchard on Lake Pojoj, cross the Mexico-Guatemala border on foot at International Lake, or rent a lakeside cabin on the shores of Lake Tziscao, neighboring the community with the same name.
On particularly sunny days, the blue and green hues of the lake pop in wildly vivid colors. Because of this, the Montebello Lakes are considered a natural wonder of Mexico and are a must-see on any Chiapas road trip itinerary.
11. Playa Balandra & El Arco de Cabo San Lucas, Baja California Sur
Baja California Sur is one of the most popular states in Mexico for foreigners, thanks to Cabo San Lucas and the famous Los Arcos rock arches.
The state also boasts the Espíritu Santo island teeming with marine life and scuba diving sites, plus a myriad of pristine beaches, one of which is none other than the gorgeous Playa Balandra.
Altogether, these natural wonders greatly contribute to Mexico’s regal landscapes and diverse beauty.
12. Huasteca Potosina, San Luis Potosí
Huasteca Potosina is a region in the state of San Luis Potosí that is simply teeming with natural wonders, like the majestic Tamul Waterfall, the dense Huasteca jungle, the Potosinan Huasteca river, and the magic town of Xilitla.
Whenever you see pictures of Huasteca Potosina, it’s likely of the Tamul Waterfall which free falls from nearly 350 ft high (105 m).
With its saturated turquoise blue color and surrounding jungle, it can easily be said that Huasteca Potosina is one of the most beautiful destinations and natural wonders in Mexico.
13. Laguna de Siete Colores, Quintana Roo
The Laguna de Siete Colors (Lagoon of Seven Colors) is a beautiful lagoon set in the picturesque pueblo mágico of Bacalar in the southernmost part of Quintana Roo, near the border of Belize.
Although its name suggests there are seven different colors, the lagoon is more accurately seven different shades or hues of blue. That said, you can expect to see colors from aqua green to deep teal to bright turquoise.
Swimming and kayaking in Bacalar’s lagoon are two popular activities, but many people come to just simply gawk at its natural beauty. Bacalar is also an up-and-coming town, known in particular for its eco-glamping resorts dotted around the lake.
14. Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, Michoacán
There are many beautiful places to see in the state of Michoacán, such as the round inhabited island towns of Lake Patzcuaro and Janitzio. But one of its natural wonders can be found in the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve.
This immense reserve is home to wintering Monarch butterflies, which cluster each winter on the pine, oak, and oyamel trees inside the park.
The Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve in Michoacán has been designated at UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2008 and sees nearly 200 million migrating butterflies each year.
15. Cascadas El Chiflón, Chiapas
There are at least a dozen waterfalls in the state of Chiapas alone, but the most impressive out of the lot are the El Chiflón Waterfalls.
This set of waterfalls, comprising of five main series, are absolutely stunning. With their saturated turquoise blue water and roaring falls – with Velo de Novia waterfall towering at 390 ft (120 m) tall – the Casacadas El Chiflón are perhaps one of the most mesmerizing natural wonders in Mexico.
In addition to visiting and photographing the falls, you can also camp alongside the river, hike up to its highest point at Cascada Quinceañera, and go ziplining through the forest canopy over its bright blue, tumbling pools.
16. Izta-Popo Zoquiapan National Park, Puebla
Izta-Popo Zoquiapan National Park is home to two active volcanoes – Popocatépetl and Iztaccihuatl – making this area one of the wildest natural wonders in Mexico. The volcanoes are also some of the highest peaks you can find in Mexico.
Of course, trekking and camping in the park are allowed, if not encouraged! Photography lovers flock here to capture the snow-capped volcano which makes the perfect backdrop for the town of Cholula and its golden-yellow Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de Los Remedios.
17. Las Coloradas, Yucatán
Las Coloradas is a town in the northern part of Yucatán state, but most people know it for its “pink lakes”.
Indeed, Las Coloradas quickly became famous for its pink-hued lagoons, which are rosy-colored because of the critters, algae, and sediment. On sunny days, the lakes are exceptionally pink.
Other than photo-ops of the pink lakes, you can also visit the flamingoes in nearby Río Lagartos. Further right off the coast lies the boho tropical island of Isla Holbox, a must-visit if you want to swim with whale sharks and lounge on pristine beaches.
18. Grutas de Cacahuamilpa, Guerrero
Grutas de Cacahuamilpa Caverns make up the largest-recorded cave systems in the world, making it one of the top natural wonders in Mexico you simply can’t miss out on (especially if you enjoy hiking and spelunking!).
You can find these caverns inside the Grutas de Cacahuamilpa National Park in the southwestern state of Guerrero. Also nearby is the charmingly white town of Taxco, another must-visit!
19. Parque Nacional Volcán de Colima, Jalisco
Having lived nearby the coastal resort town of Puerto Vallarta, the state of Jalisco has become one of our favorite Mexican states. Choosing just one natural wonder to visit was tough, with its hidden coves like Yelapa and enormous agave plantations, but the most impressive is perhaps the Nevado de Colima Volcano National Park (Parque Nacional Volcán de Colima).
Actually, this national park cross state lines with Colima (hence the name), but at least 80-85% of it is located in Jalisco. You can explore the vastness of the park and its pine tree forests and volcanic mountains by hiking and camping.
20. Nevado de Toluca, Mexico State
The Nevado de Toluca is an active stratovolcano in the state of Mexico and the fourth-tallest peak in the country at 15,354 ft or 4680 m.
It is particularly well-known among trekkers and mountaineers thanks to its challenging ascents up to Pico del Fraile and mesmerizing dark teal glacier lagoons, which together make for an exciting and adventurous trip. It is recommended to climb Toluca with a guided tour.
21. Arco del Tiempo, Chiapas
El Arco del Tiempo is the world’s largest natural stone arch and it can be found hidden deep in the jungle of Chiapas state.
To get there requires a sense of adventure, hiking boots, and a tent for overnight camping underneath the arch on sandy inlets. You can also go rafting, kayaking, or partially do the hiking portion of the trip on horseback.
Further down the canyon and the river (Río La Venta), you will find plenty of hidden waterfalls, one of which is the majestic Cascada El Aguacero.
22. Pico de Orizaba (Citlaltépetl), Veracruz
Volcano Pico de Orizaba, also known as Citlaltépetl, is Mexico’s highest mountain and peak and the third-highest in all of North America, but also the tallest volcano in North America towering at 18,491 ft (5,636 m). It can be found straddling the states of Veracruz and Puebla. Its origin name from Nahuatl means ‘Star Mountain’. The volcano is also one of the few that still has glaciers, which are popular among mountain climbers and trekkers.
23. Sótano de las Golondrinas, San Luis Potosí
Last but not least on this list of amazing Mexican natural wonders is the deep abyss called the Sótano de las Golondrinas (Swallows Basement) located in the Huasteca region in the state of San Luis Potosí.
It is the seventh-largest in the world with a depth of 1679 ft (512 m) and a diameter of nearly 200ft (60 m).
There are several other abysses in Mexico similar to this one, but the Swallows Basement is one of the most grandiose. There are several others in the state of Chiapas, as well.
I hope this guide to Mexico’s natural wonders inspires you to add a few of these destinations (or all) to your bucket list! If you have any other amazing places you know of in Mexico not mentioned here, please drop them in the comments down below.
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Photo Credit: 1, 4, 6, 8, 10, 13, 15. Bucketlist Bri 2. Gabriel Ortiz 3. Francisco Curro 5. Jose Carlos Macourzet Espinosa 7. JessicaPichardo 9. Arturo Peña Romano Med 11. MattGush 11A. Francisco Javier Zea Lara 12. Luis Cuevas 14. javarman3 16. American Wildlife 16A. Byelikova_oksana 17. Walter Rodriguez 18. mofles 19. drferry 20. MStudioImages 21. corazondechiapas.com 22. Robert Patrick Briggs 23. visitsanluispotosi.com
Bri your photos are so inspiring! I want to visit every single one of these places!
Thanks so much, Katie!! I do too! I haven’t been to all of them yet but they’re on my list!