The Perfect 3 Weeks in Mexico Itinerary

An orange beach sunset in Puerto Escondido, Mexico

Mexico has a bit of everything — huge cities, cute and colorful small towns, gorgeous beaches, fascinating history, a vibrant artistic community, and last but not least, amazing food. It’s a place that I had always dreamed of going to, and since visiting, I’ve pretty much been dying to go back. Mexico is huge, and while there’s so much more I have yet to see, following this three-week itinerary made me feel like I’d experienced the perfect mix of cities, relaxing beach time, and lots of cultural sites. Read on in this three weeks in Mexico itinerary, packed with all the things you must see, do and eat in Mexico City, Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca City, Puebla and Cholula.

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What to Know Before You Go

Let’s talk about some logistics first. If you want to skip ahead, feel free to use the table of contents to hop down to the itinerary:) 

(If you’d rather come back to this post later, save it on Pinterest here!)

What are the requirements for traveling to Mexico?

If you’re a U.S. citizen, all you need is a valid passport. You won’t need a visa, as long as you’re planning to stay less than 180 days.  

Is it safe to travel to Mexico right now?

Sadly, safety is something that often comes up when Mexico is mentioned. The U.S. State Department has issued a few warnings for Mexico, but they’re mainly directed toward specific regions not included in this itinerary. All of the cities included here are very touristy, and only require basic common sense and typical safety precautions you’ll want to keep in mind in all cities, like not carrying all your money with you and being careful with your electronics. For all my best safety tips that I follow on every trip, check out this guide. 

In my opinion, most of Mexico is much safer than how it’s typically depicted in the media. Personally, I felt completely safe throughout my entire time there. Just make sure you get travel insurance! This is super important for having peace of mind when traveling. I’ve always used World Nomads when traveling internationally — get more information here.

How many days are enough for Mexico?

If you’re coming from the U.S., it’s most likely not that long of a trip or a super pricey flight. So, you definitely don’t need three weeks to have an amazing time and make your trip worth it. If you’d rather just stick to one area like Mexico City, four or five days at minimum is a great amount of time to get a good feel for the city and hit the main sites. 

But in my opinion, the more time, the better! Mexico is a huge, diverse country and this three-week itinerary doesn’t even cover the majority of beautiful and interesting places to visit. If you do plan to take a three-week trip, I probably wouldn’t add any extra stops to this itinerary. Otherwise, you won’t get to experience enough of each destination. You could also easily cut down on the number of cities here, and extend your time in just a couple of these destinations. 

Now that that’s all out of the way, let’s get to the fun part.

3 Weeks in Mexico Itinerary

Days 1-6: Mexico City

Mexico City is one of my favorite cities, and the perfect way to kick off your three weeks in Mexico. 

Use these few days to settle into Mexico, explore the different neighborhoods like Coyoacán, Roma Norte, Condesa, Polanco, and Centro, check out museums, and relax in the city’s many urban parks. 

As for sightseeing, here are some highlights to check out:

Frida Kahlo’s House, known as “Casa Azul” is one of my favorite things to do here, and is an absolute must, in my humble opinion. Not only is it beautiful, but it’s a fascinating look into the life of iconic Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, as well as her husband, Diego Rivera. Admission is $320 Mexican pesos, which is $19.45 USD. (Londres 247, Del Carmen, Coyoacán, 04100 Ciudad de México)

Chapultepec Park is an absolutely enormous park (seriously, I’d recommend screenshoting a map before you go) that’s not only fun to just walk around, but also has a number of cool destinations to check out, like the Anthropology Museum. Admission is 95 Mexican pesos, or $5.63 USD. (Av. Paseo de la Reforma y Calzada Gandhi s/n Col. Chapultepec, Polanco. Del. Miguel Hidalgo, C.P. 11560, Ciudad de México) Within this park there’s also the The Natural History Museum as well, which is located in a castle, the Castillo de Chapultepec. 

Spend time in Centro, which is Downtown. Here, you can visit the Palacio de Bellas Artes (Palace of Fine Arts), a beautiful art museum and cultural center. Admission is 75 pesos, or $4.50 USD from Tuesdays through Saturdays, or visit on a Sunday for free. In Centro, you’ll also want to spend some time in the Zócalo, a historic public square. Stop by Templo Mayor, an ancient temple located in the former capital of the Aztec empire. Admission to both the archeological site and on-site museum is 95 pesos or $5.79 USD. There is no entry fee on Sundays. 

For nightlife, there are a lot of bars around Calle Regina, a street in Centro. 

Keep in mind that most museums in Mexico City aren’t open on Mondays.

Try these in Mexico City

One of the highlights of Mexico City (and Mexico in general, let’s be honest) is the food and drinks. From the street food and traditional markets to sit-down restaurants and bakeries, Mexico City is known as a culinary destination for a reason. Must-tries include tacos (obviously, and salsa, onion, cilantro and a squeeze of lime are also mandatory), chilaquiles (and also try them in torta form, a.k.a. as a sandwich), and enchiladas. If you’re feeling brave, give chapulines, or grasshoppers a try. They’re grilled and seasoned, and you can either eat them on their own as a crispy snack, or on top of tacos or other foods. 

For even more Mexico City recommendations (and lots more food recommendations), check out this guide.

Where to stay in Mexico City

Selina Mexico City Downtown is beautiful, has an onsite restaurant (and room service), and is in a very central location close to other food options and sightseeing. I loved my stay here! Get more information and book here.

If you’d rather stay in the Condesa neighborhood (Condesa is considered to be one of the most beautiful areas and is really popular for tourists) Condesa Cibel is a really pretty, and highly-rated boutique-style hotel. Find out more here.

Days 7-10: Puerto Escondido

To get to Puerto Escondido, flying is your easiest option. You should be able to find a nonstop flight for under $100 (maybe even in the ~$30-50 range if you’re lucky) and you’ll get to Puerto Escondido in just over an hour. Check out options on Skyscanner here. There are also buses you can take, but it would take 16ish hours and not save you much money. (You can check out options here if that hasn’t deterred you.)

After spending the past few days in a high-energy city, it’s time to recharge for a bit in the tiny surf town, Puerto Escondido, located in the state of Oaxaca. I’ll admit, this town felt pretty touristy. But nonetheless, the beaches were overwhelmingly beautiful. In my opinion, all the best trips need a few high-quality beach days, and this is one of the best places to do it. 

The main beaches you’ll want to check out while here are Playa Carrizalillo, Playa Manzanillo, Playa Principal, Playa Zicatela, and Playa Bacocho. (If you end up having only one day here, I’d go to Playa Carrizalillo. It’s insanely beautiful, but keep in mind there are a bunch of steps leading to the beach.) 

At Playa Bachoco, stop by around 5 p.m. to help release baby sea turtles into the ocean! This experience is surprisingly adorable, plus, you get to support a good cause. It costs 100 pesos, which comes out to just under $6 USD. The money you pay supports conservation efforts, like housing sea turtle egg hatcheries. These protect the eggs from being hunted as well as from rising temperatures, which somehow cause more females to be born (Find out more about the organization running the program here. They’ll definitely give you a better explanation than I can!)

If you’re up for it, this is also a great place to take a surfing lesson, go snorkeling, or swim with bioluminescent plankton. Or, just do what I did, and go the lazy route and just use the time to relax. (But if any of those activities speak to you, check out some tour options here.)

Try these in Puerto Escondido

Get your fill of seafood here, especially seafood tacos and ceviche. There are plenty of restaurants to check out here, ranging from pricier restaurants to more affordable, casual spots.

Considering that you’re in Oaxaca, this is also a great place to try lots of traditional Oaxacan foods like mole. Mole negro is the most common type — if you’ve tried it in the U.S. or elsewhere, it was probably this kind. It’s a sauce made of chocolate, chiles, and other seasonings, and is commonly paired with chicken or fish. But more on that when we get to Oaxaca City!

Where to stay in Puerto Escondido

I stayed at Tower Bridge Hostel. This spot has a pool, and has private rooms for a very affordable price. It was also a short walk to a number of food options as well as all the beaches. The one downside is that there was no air conditioning, which was pretty rough, to be honest. Check it out here.

Luckily, there are plenty of options for any price range in Puerto Escondido. 

Casa Terranova is another great (air-conditioned) option. It has a pool, plus an onsite restaurant, and is within walking distance of Playa Zicatela and other food options and excursions. Book it here.

Days 11-15: Oaxaca City

→ To get from Puerto Escondido to Oaxaca, I’d suggest taking a shuttle or a bus. Be warned that the route involves lots of winding roads, so prepare accordingly if you’re prone to car sickness. The trip is about 3 hours and should only set you back $20 or so. Check out bus options here.

Oaxaca is an epicenter for culture, food, and art, and is perfect for just wandering around and exploring. You’ll want to spend a few days here at least to give you time to experience as much as you can. Oaxaca City is relatively small, so it’s super easy to navigate by walking. 

First things first, explore the historic downtown. While here, the Santo Domingo Church is worth a stop. I’ll confess, while I can appreciate the architecture and history of churches and usually pop into one or two on my travels, I don’t typically care much for them. This former convent, which dates back to the 1500s, was actually really interesting to explore (I promise). 

You can also find the Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca here, a historic library, and there’s also a really pretty surrounding garden that’s fun to check out and photograph. Admission is 90 pesos, which is around $5.32 USD. (1a. Cerrada de Macedonio Alcala s/n, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro)

Wander around and explore the many artisan shops, galleries and museums while here. It’s pretty much a shopper and art lover’s paradise here. There are so many options to explore, but here are a few highlights. 

Instituto de Artes Gráficas de Oaxaca is an arts school and cultural space that houses one of Latin America’s most significant collections of graphic arts. It also has three exhibition rooms and a library dedicated to art books. It has two headquarters (507 Macedonio Alcalá Street and Avenida Juárez 203). 

Museo de los Pintores Oaxaqueños, (The Museum of Oaxacan Painters) features temporary exhibits by lesser-known Oaxacan painters. It’s closed on Mondays and costs 20 pesos, less than $2 USD. (Avenida de La Independencia 607 Calle de Manuel Garcia Vigil).

If you’re a photography fan, the Centro Fotográfico Manuel Álvaro Bravo is a must. This space has seven exhibition rooms with temporary exhibitions, some of which feature work by really prominent photographers, like Henri Cartier-Bresson, Mary Ellen Mark, Graciela Iturbide, and of course, Manuel Álvarez Bravo. Just keep in mind that it’s closed on Tuesdays. (M. Bravo 116, corner with García Vigil)

Mercado Benito Juárez is also a great place to check out everything from souvenirs, pottery, and art, plus lots of food and drinks to try. It’s one of the oldest trading centers in Oaxaca City and worth a stop.

Try these in Oaxaca

Apart from museums and galleries, Oaxaca is all about the food!  

The food and drinks to try in Oaxaca and Mexico as a whole definitely deserves its own post, but here are a few musts to get you started:

If there’s only one thing you try in Oaxaca, it should be mole. I didn’t know this before coming here, but there are actually many different types of mole, all incorporating different seasonings and ingredients. Although mole officially comes from Puebla (a city we’ll get to soon), Oaxaca famously has seven different types of mole. 

Drinking mezcal is also non-negotiable in Oaxaca (as long as you drink, that is). If you’re unfamiliar, mezcal is like a smokier version of tequila. Try it either as a shot or in cocktail-form, which is my preference. Check out one of the many mezcal bars here or just sample at a restaurant. 

Have chocolate. Specifically, drink it if you can. Chocolate is ingrained in the Indigenous Oaxacan culture, and Oaxaca is recognized as an important region for the preservation of historic chocolate-making practices. So obviously, it’s amazing here.

Try tejate, a frothy drink made of corn and cacao that’s popular in Oaxaca.

Tlayuda is another traditional Oaxacan food consisting of a large fried tortilla filled with things like beans, cheese, and meat. 

For even more things to do in Oaxaca, and things to try (and where to try them), check out my Oaxaca City guide.

Where to stay in Oaxaca

Hotel Casa de la Tía Tere is one of my favorite hotels I’ve stayed in. Not only was it a beautiful property — it’s in the colonial style with a courtyard — but it has a pool, is in a great location, and a delicious breakfast is included. It’s definitely a very calm environment, so I probably wouldn’t stay here if you’re looking to meet other travelers. Find out more here.

If you prefer more of a hostel atmosphere, Azul Cielo Hostel is a great option. Your stay includes breakfast, and it’s rated highly for cleanliness, security, and every other category listed on HostelWorld. Learn more here.

Days 16-19: Puebla & Cholula

→ I’d suggest taking the bus from Oaxaca to Puebla. Prices typically range from $30 to $45 and the trip can range from 4 to 6 hours. Check out options here. Alternatively, you can take a flight that’s about 1 hour and 20 minutes or so. Check out options on Skyscanner here.

For the last leg of our three weeks in Mexico journey, it’s time to head over to Puebla and Cholula for a couple of days. Puebla is known for its gorgeous talavera tiles (a distinct pottery style that you’ll know when you see). This town is filled with colonial architecture, and is home to delicious food, interesting culture, and gorgeous art. 

As for the nearby Cholula, it’s one of Mexico’s “magical towns,” or a “pueblo mágico.” This is a special status granted by the Mexican government to cities that are seen as especially culturally or historically significant, and that offer visitors things like great food, art and hospitality. Cholula definitely feels magical — it’s super colorful and full of gorgeous buildings. And it’s definitely historic. In fact, it’s considered the oldest continually inhabited place in North America.

Both towns are super cute and colorful, and you should definitely make it to both places while you’re here. Uber operates in Puebla and Cholula, and this is the easiest way to get between the two cities, which are just about 9 miles apart.

In Puebla, check out the historic center, as well as Barrio las Artistas, a small neighborhood where you can see artists painting. It’s near El Parian Market, which is Puebla’s only traditional handicraft market. I always love visiting traditional markets, and this was no exception. You can find lots of jewelry, pottery, textiles, food items and of course, lots of the famous talavera. Even if you’re not looking to buy anything, it’s still fun to peruse.

In Cholula, one of the main things to do is to hike up to Santuario de la Virgen de los Remedios, a gorgeous church situated on top of Tlachihualtepetl. By volume, this is actually the world’s largest pyramid. While the church is free to visit, the pyramid is not. It costs about 80 pesos, which is under $5 USD to walk around the tunnels and explore. I didn’t do this and am honestly regretting it. Spend time wandering around the town. And definitely hang out for a bit in the Plaza de la Concordia, the Zócalo, and the nearby park. There are lots of vendors selling snacks here.

For nightlife, go to Cholula’s Container City. This unique little neighborhood has lots of bars to choose from. Oh, and all the buildings are made up of recycled shipping containers.

Try these in Puebla and Cholula

During your time in Puebla and Cholula, be sure to try some regional foods. Puebla’s most popular dishes include mole poblano (a sauce made of chiles and chocolate) and chiles en nogada. This is a poblano pepper stuffed with picadillo (a ground meat mixture), and topped with a walnut cream sauce and pomegranate seeds. Also grab a cemita while here. This is similar to a torta, but it uses a round bread with sesame seeds, and is popular in Puebla. It typically has some sort of fried meat, avocado, cheese, and other toppings like lettuce and onion. 

Where to stay in Puebla

Casa Vee Yuu is located right in the heart of Puebla’s historic center, and offers cute private rooms at a great price. Book here.

Casa Pepe Hostal Boutique Puebla is another highly rated option in a great location. Learn more here.

Day 20-21: Back to Mexico City, head home

→ To get back to Mexico City, take a 2-hour bus ride, which should range from $15 to $22ish. Check out options here. 

Since you’ll be flying home from Mexico City, I suggest traveling back to Mexico City a day or two ahead of your flight. This not only is a stress-saver, but cuts down on your travel on your final day.

Plus, Mexico City is the best, as you’ll know by now. Use your last day or two here to visit any spots you may have missed at the beginning of your itinerary, or just relax and enjoy more of this amazing city.

What’s at the top of your list for a three-week trip to Mexico? And if you’ve already been to Mexico, I’d love to know what city you think I should visit next.

Happy travels,

Tess

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20 Comments

  1. Sara Meyer
    May 10, 2024 / 7:13 am

    Thank you for touching on the safety issue as itโ€™s some thing thing that has crossed my mind as well when traveling to Mexico is brought up in conversation. This is a very informative and helpful blog.

    • Tess
      Author
      May 11, 2024 / 6:58 pm

      Thanks so much, Sara! I’m glad you found it helpful ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. May 10, 2024 / 10:37 am

    This really does sound like a perfect 3 weeks. I’d love to see Frida Kahlo’s house and Oaxaca. And I bet releasing baby turtles was pretty special x

    • Tess
      Author
      May 11, 2024 / 6:58 pm

      definitely a core memory ๐Ÿซถ

  3. Marilyn
    May 10, 2024 / 4:57 pm

    Would love to see Frida Khaloโ€™โ€™s house! Such a great itinerary.

    • Tess
      Author
      May 11, 2024 / 7:00 pm

      Thanks Marilyn! her house was definitely one of my favorite places ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. May 11, 2024 / 6:21 pm

    I love Mexico! This is an excellent 3-week itinerary. I want to release baby sea turtles! Thanks for the tips!

    • Tess
      Author
      May 11, 2024 / 7:00 pm

      Mexico’s the best! thanks so much for reading ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. May 11, 2024 / 8:04 pm

    It has been quite awhile since we spent any time in Mexico. This 3 week itinerary looks like a great way to really see different parts of the country. And we really want to spend a few days in Mexico City for the first time.

    • Tess
      Author
      May 13, 2024 / 5:49 am

      Thanks for reading, Linda! I’m sure you’ll love Mexico City!

  6. Shweta
    May 12, 2024 / 4:28 am

    Great info on the cultural sites in Mexico. I particularly like all that is on offer in Mexico City.

    • Tess
      Author
      May 13, 2024 / 5:48 am

      Thanks so much for reading, Shweta!

  7. May 12, 2024 / 4:59 am

    This is a great itinerary. I have yet to visit Mexico and will keep these spots in mind.

    • Tess
      Author
      May 12, 2024 / 7:25 pm

      Thanks for reading, Christy! Hope you get to visit Mexico soon ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. May 12, 2024 / 1:41 pm

    The itinerary is well layered out and its great that you included only the safe areas worth visiting. 3 weeks is ample enough to explore the different parts of Mexico and I’d love to explore the list soon.

    • Tess
      Author
      May 12, 2024 / 7:29 pm

      Thanks so much for reading, Lucia! Hope you get to visit soon ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Alyson Pierce
    May 12, 2024 / 7:08 pm

    I have visited a Mexico a few times and def agree on the safety thing. Media makes it seems worse than it is. I visited Mexico City but Oaxaca has been mentioned a few times to me. I’m glad to see you found taking buses easy! I wasn’t sure about them and never looked into it.

    • Tess
      Author
      May 12, 2024 / 7:33 pm

      For sure! you can’t blame people for being worried when media portrays it a certain way, but it makes me sad when that’s taken at face value without looking into it further. And yeah, I don’t consider myself the most savvy when it comes to public transportation haha, but the buses were pretty straightforward! Hope you make it to Oaxaca soon ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. May 14, 2024 / 2:41 pm

    Puebla is my favorite city in Mexico next to Taxco. I need to go back! Thank you for sharing your experience!

    • Tess
      Author
      May 14, 2024 / 8:10 pm

      I just looked up Taxco and wow ๐Ÿ˜ I’ll definitely have to go there next!

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