There are 34 places in Mexico that hold World Heritage status, a distinction given by the United Nations to areas that are considered to have cultural, historic, or scientific significance.
The program was created as a way to protect and preserve these sites, which are constantly under threat of human and animal trespassing or local administrative negligence. In Mexico, World Heritage sites can be grouped into three broad categories: archaeological sites, colonial downtowns, and natural wonders. We give you the top sites in each one!
The many ancient civilizations that inhabited what is modern day Mexico left their trace in the form of stunning buildings and complete cities, which survived as ruins.
During the past couple of centuries, many of these have been discovered underneath layers of wilderness, to the amazement of the whole world. The most important ones are Teotihuacan, the old metropolis that inspired many other cultures that came after; Chichen Itzá, the last one of the great Mayan capitals; Templo Mayor, one of the few remaining pieces of the Aztec Empire; Monte Albán, the beautifully laid out Zapotec city.
Also worth mentioning are the Mayan cities of Palenque, in Chiapas, and Calakmul, which became the first site to be granted Mixed World Heritage denomination, due to its combination of ancient ruins and natural diversity.
When the Spanish arrived in these lands, they began to build cities that resembled their own. During three full centuries, they mimicked the architecture that was popular at Europe at different points in time, which is why most old downtowns in Mexican cities are a blend of renaissance, baroque, neoclassical, and neo-gothic styles.
Many of them are extremely well preserved and as such have reached World Heritage status. Beyond the obvious Mexico City, Puebla, and Guanajuato, there are beautiful places such as San Luis Potosí, Morelia, Querétaro, Zacatecas and Oaxaca, to name a few, that have entered the program.
There are six places in Mexico that have been inscribed as World Heritage sites due to their natural value.
The first one of them was Sian Ka’an, one of the very last virgin spots in the Mexican Caribbean. Perhaps the most famous and visited site is the area in Michoacán and Estado de México where the monarch butterflies spend their winters and early springs every year.
El Pinacate, in Sonora, is a humongous desert with colorful vegetation and dreamy landscapes. In the Baja California Peninsula, there are a group of islands that have been jointly inscribed as Islands and Protected Areas of the Gulf of California. There’s also El Vizcaíno, in South Baja, known as the summer home of species like the blue and grey whales. The Revillagigedo Archipelago is the last one in the Pacific, it was inscribed because of its extraordinary geographic features.
With this list of the top World Heritage sites in Mexico, you have more than enough to plan your next vacation here. Enjoy the historical and natural wonders of Mexico and remember to always look for a City Express hotel, we are everywhere!