During the pandemic, Mexico is one of the very few countries in the world that didn’t close its borders. This leads to a lot of people finding themselves planning a trip there. Mexico is a paradise for beach lovers, hiking enthusiasts, and of course, foodies. It’s also a popular honeymoon destination for many visitors coming from North America and Europe.
Spending 3 weeks in Mexico is an easy task. There are many places to go where your budget can go far and enjoy luxury and comfort. Even travelling with young children, Mexico can be a fantastic destination to spend your annual vacation.
For backpackers, Mexico is one of the best places to explore in Latin America. It’s now also getting popular with digital nomads or remote workers.
It’s hard to deny why many people from all over the world are attracted to visiting Mexico. From romantic spots, outdoor activities, delicious local dishes, to interesting history – Mexico has it all. In this article, I will show you a sample of an itinerary for 3 weeks in Mexico. You don’t have to follow it through, but it will help you plan and visualise a more suitable trip.
THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE GOING TO MEXICO
To help you with visualising your trip to Mexico, below are some basic yet important things to remember when travelling there. These tips include when you should go to Mexi, what to bring, getting around, and travel documents to prepare.
If this is your first time in Mexico, perhaps these books about Mexico will help you understand and have a visual idea of the country. These books are also suitable for children and some even come with very cool drawings that describe Mexico very well.
When is the best time to go to Mexico
The most ideal time to visit Mexico is during its dry season which is from November until March. It’s less likely that it will rain, but it also means that it’s the peak season. Hotels booked up fast, there is a bigger crowd, and the prices are higher, especially during holidays such as Christmas.
Personally, I think November is the best time to travel to Mexico; the climate is cool, there’s less rain, and it’s before the high season hits. January is also a good month, but it can be cold for some people.
Are 3 weeks enough for Mexico
20 days in Mexico is plenty of time, but you still have to be mindful of the places you want to visit. You don’t want to overload your itinerary and plan to see places that are too far from one another or where there are no easy or quick ways to get there.
Cramming your itinerary and getting to super rural areas could mean that you will be spending most of your time in bus terminals and airports. This doesn’t mean that you can’t go off the trail; it just means that you should add 1-2 rural areas to your Mexico travel itinerary.
Plan to see 3-4 major cities and check if there are areas near those places that are less touristy if you want to get away from the usual crowd. When the bus or driving takes more than 6 or 7 hours, it might be best to take a flight if that’s an option.
Average cost for 20 days in Mexico
A good budget for 3 weeks in Mexico is around $1,600. That allows you to spend around $80 a day, which should cover a mid-range hotel, food, tours, and transportation. Of course, you won’t be going on a tour every day. So, on some days, you will be spending less than $80 or more than that.
If you’re on a shoestring budget, you can make this trip at around $1,000 if you stay in hostel dorm rooms, take buses for long-distance trips, and travel on foot around the cities.
Let’s say you’re on a honeymoon or celebrating an anniversary and looking to make your Mexico trip luxurious. In that situation, plan to spend around $2,300 to $4,000, which covers high-end hotels and resorts, using private transfers, taking domestic flights, and booking premium tours.
Keep in mind that these budgets don’t cover your flight to Mexico and back home, plus travel insurance and other travel gear that you need.
What to pack
Your packing list depended on the activities you plan to do while spending 3 weeks in Mexico. If you plan to spend time on the beach, don’t forget your swimsuit, we have a packing list for a beach vacation. But if you are also thinking to go hiking, it’s vital to bring proper clothing, as the hiking trails can be challenging at times.
Pack proper hiking shoes and clothing. At the same time, if you want to visit sacred or religious spots, pack clothing that will cover your shoulders and legs. It’s also vital to bring medicines and other items that might be hard to find in Mexico. Check out our article on what to pack for a 3-week trip.
How to get around
Using a local bus will be the cheapest and often the only option to travel between cities. There are also buses that go on long-distance travel between provinces (called camiones). However, if you are short on time or don’t feel like you can survive overnight buses, it’s best to take a domestic flight especially if the land travel is longer than 6-hours.
You can use ride-hailing apps in major cities. And finally, if you have a driver’s license (from any country), you can drive in Mexico without converting or translating your license to a local one. This is the easiest way to travel around Mexico, plus you get to control your own time, leave when you want, and go when you feel like it.
Visa and COVID-19 protocol
People who wish to visit Mexico with passports from nearly anywhere in the Americas, most of Europe, some East and South East Asia, and most of Oceania are free to enter without a visa for up to 180 days. If your nationality is not on this list, you will have to coordinate with the nearest Mexican Embassy or Consulate to apply for a visa.
As I mentioned above, Mexico never shut down their border and restricted any flights to high-risk areas. As of writing this (June 2022), vaccinated and unvaccinated tourists can enter Mexico. The government also does not require testing upon entry, however, airlines might require you to wear a mask and/or present a COVID-19 test before boarding.
Other travel tips
MUST-SEE PLACES IN MEXICO (pinned map)
Click the enlarge button on the top right corner. Credit: map data: Google
3 WEEKS IN MEXICO ITINERARY
Below is a sample travel itinerary if you plan to explore Mexico for 3 weeks or about 20 days. This itinerary will take you to visit popular spots, go to stunning beaches, and explore the country’s less travelled path.
ANOTHER ITINERARY TO CONSIDER: 3 weeks in Ecuador and Colombia
Mexico City for 3 days
Mexico City, also called CDMX, is the capital of Mexico and it has about 9 million residents. It is situated southeast of the country and known for being one of few capital cities sitting at a high altitude. It’s popular for Templo Mayor (13th-century Aztec Temple), delicious local dishes, friendly people, and lively culture.
3-days in this city is plenty. If you are coming all the way from Europe, Asia, Oceania, and even Africa, three days here will allow you to catch up on sleep, compose your thoughts, and buy items that you will be needing during your entire trip. This includes a local sim card with data, renting a car, and booking domestic flights and tours that you wish to join.
The easiest way to explore Mexico City if you don’t want to rent a car is to buy a hop-on hop-off bus ticket valid for a day. The bus will stop at a specific popular tourist spot where you can get on and off the bus. You can also make your arrival at the very busy Mexico City airport less chaotic by booking a private airport service.
What to see and do in Mexico City
- Day trip to Teotihuacán – you can book a tour with a guide or explore the ruins with a hot air balloon ride
- Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral
- The Angel of Independence
- Explore Puebla, Cholula, & Tonantzintla – you can book a guided tour to visit all three places in one day
- Museo Nacional de Antropología
- Tula and the Tollán Ruins
- Hot Spring os Tolatongo Caves – book a tour from Mexico
- Soumaya Museum
- Templo Mayor Museum (Aztec)
- Zona Arqueológica Tenayuca I y II
- Frida Kahlo Museum – join a 3-destination tour featuring Coyoacán, visit Frida Kahlo Museum, and ride a traditional boat through Xochimilco
- Hike Cerro del Ajusco
- Summit the Nevado De Toluca – hike with professionals
- Parque Nacional Grutas de Cacahuamilpa
- Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl – join an incredible volcanic trek with a lunch and a guide
Accommodations in Mexico City
- Affordable: Hotel H – Adults Only or Panorama Hotel
- Mid-range: Hotel Catedral or MC Suites
- Luxury: Hotel Marquis Reforma or Gran Hotel
Puebla for 2 days
For food lovers, you have to visit Puebla. It is located about a 2-hour drive east of Mexico City. Since it’s not that far, some people prefer to take a day trip from Mexico City instead, in this way, you can use the extra time on a different destination or add it to a different city.
But before you do that, you should really take a look at Puebla first. It’s a very lively city with colourful buildings and locals who love to dance. Not only it’s the food capital of the country but it’s also loved for its colonial architecture and pottery.
What to see and do in Puebla
- Museo Amparo
- Cholula and Atlixco – check this private tour with food tasting
- Museo Nacional de los Ferrocarriles Mexicanos
- Living Museum Puebla
- You can also hike the Iztaccihuatl and Popocatepetl National Park from Puebla
- Museo Internacional del Barroco
- Africam Safari – enjoy a private tour
- Estadio Cuauhtémoc
- Book a food and bar tour – join a 3-hour food tour and historic bars and canteen tour
Accommodations in Puebla
- Affordable: Hostal Casa De Arcos or Hostal Azul Puebla El Alto
- Mid-range: Hotel Nube or Hotel Diana
- Luxury: El Sueno Hotel & Spa or L Hotel Perla Boutique
Oaxaca for 3 days
It takes just a bit over 4-hours to get from Puebla to Oaxaca. The entire drive will take you to little villages and showcase how the atmosphere changes as leave the high altitude and go towards the beach. Oaxaca is still about 1,500m high from sea level and provides a really cool climate.
It’s also popular for very cheerful and diverse local markets. They sell food, handicrafts, souvenirs, and so much more – most products are produced all over Mexico. If you want to visit Zapotex and Mixtec archaeological sites, you definitely have t visit Oaxaca.
What to see and do in Oaxaca
- Join a full-day tour of Oaxaca if you have limited time
- Zócalo Oaxaca
- Plaza de la Danza
- Zona Arqueológica de Monte Albán – book a half-day trip
- Zona Arqueológica de Atzompa
- Hierve el Agua, Tule Tree, Mitla and Mezcal – join a full-day distillery tour
- Zona Arqueológica San Jose El Mogote
- Hike Cerro Zempoaltepetl
- Join an Oaxaca traditional cooking class or a vegetarian cooking class, you can also simply do a food tour
Accommodations in Oaxaca
- Affordable: Los Nardos Hostel or Hostal Lyz de Luna Nuyoo
- Mid-range: One Oaxaca Centro or Hotel Dainzu
- Luxury: Hotel Siglo XVII Art Gallery or Hotel PArador de Alcala
Merida for 3 days
3 weeks in Mexico is not complete without visiting the Yucatan region. To get to Merida from Oaxaca, you have to a bit over an hour and a half direct flight. Merida is a less-known destination in Mexico, making it a great spot to simply relax and process everything you did and have seen in the last 7 days.
Merida is an interesting place to visit during your 3 weeks in Mexico vacation. It’s rich in Mayan and colonial heritage, which means that it’s an incredible spot to learn the history pre and during colonial times in Mexico. There are a handful of day trips you can take from Merida city centre to its surrounding area.
What to see and do in Merida
- Mayan World Museum of Mérida
- Zona Arqueológica de Uxmal – book a full-day tour
- Quinta Montes Molina
- Palacio de la Música
- Visit Cenote Noc Ac – book a Cenotes tops attraction tour
- Walk around Acuaparque
- Chichén-Itzá – join a guided tour
- Day trip to Reserva Ecológica Cuxtal
- Explore Reserva Estatal Geohidrológica
- Hike to Punta Lastre
- Explore Merida through a food tour or a cooking class
- Parque Natural Petenes – Ría Celestún
- See the pink beach at Playa Las Coloradas – a combo tour of Playa Las Coloradas and Chichen Itza
Accommodations in Merida
- Affordable: Hostal La Ermita or Hostel San Jose
- Mid-range: Ontico Urban Design Hotel or Hotel Plaza by Kavia
- Luxury: Villa Orquidea or Fiesta Americana Merida
Cancun and Playa del Carmen for 5 days
Cancun is one of the most popular beach destinations in Mexico. Visitors are mostly from the US, but there are also Europeans and even tourists all the way from Asia. Cancun’s beaches are beautiful. It’s covered in fine white sand, crystal clear blue water, and lots of spots to go snorkel. If you have never been here, this list of travel tips for Cancun will definitely be helpful.
On the other hand, Playa del Carmen is a smaller town but equally popular and stunning. There are many things to do here than just laying on the beach and drinking coconut. It is also a turtle nest, this means that if the season is right, you’ll have an easy time spotting them.
You definitely have to include Cancun and Playa del Carmen in your 20 days in Mexico. It has so much to offer and is very different from the highland cities of Mexico, Puebla, and Oaxaca. If you have some extra time, you can spend a few days in Tulum as well.
You can get to Cancun from Merida via bus or driving, which takes about 4 hours. Playa del Carmen is only an hour away from Cancun. I recommend you choose between staying in Cancun or Playa del Carmen and taking a day trip to other parts of the region.
What to see and do in Cancun
- Museo Maya de Cancún y Zona Arqueológica de San Miguelito
- Punta Cancun Lighthouse
- Swim at Playa Delfines
- Eco-friendly whale shark swim – Riviera Maya and Whale Shark tour
- Check out Captain Hook Cancun
- Cenotes swimming – book a package tour for Cenotes, Chichen Itza, and Valladolid
- Snorkel the Underwater Museum (MUSA) – Isla Mujeres
- Dance at an adult-only boat party
- Visit Chichen Itza Maya Ruins
- Drive an ATV and try zipline – get on a fun tour
- Xcaret – an amusement that offers night shows, cave boat ride, and water activities – get your ticket
- Scale the Scenic Tower (Torre Escénica del Embarcadero de Cancún)
- Tulum Ruins – you can combine this with a reef snorkelling, Cenote, and cave visit
- You can also get to the pink beach of Playa Las Coloradas from Cancun
- Sail to Isla Mujeres – on a Catamaran cruise
- Try out jetski, speedboat, or parasailing combo
What to see and do in Playa del Carmen
- Swim with sea turtles
- Try parasailing
- Check out Rio Secreto’s Caves
- Boat trip to Cozumel
- Walk around 5th Avenue
Accommodations in Cancun
- Affordable: La Luz Hostal Cancun or Hostalito
- Mid-range: Adhara Hacienda Cancun or Bed and Breakfast Pecari
- Luxury: The Royal Cancun Suites Resort or Renaissance Resort
- Special Resorts: Royalton All-inclusive, Adults-only or Atelier Playa Mujeres (all-inclusive resort)
Accommodations in Playa del Carmen
- Affordable: Wabi Hostel or Casa Fausta
- Mid-range: Hotel 12 BEES or Hotel Kinbe
- Luxury: The Reef Coco Beach & Spa (optional all-inclusive) or El Taj Oceanfront Condo Hotel
- Special Resorts: Hotel Xcaret Arte (adults-only)
Guadalajara and Puerto Vallarta for 3 days
You can take a flight from Cancun to Guadalajara. Remember to book an airport pick-up in Cancun to make sure you don’t miss your flight.
When travellers decide which “big city” to visit in Mexico, they are often divided between Mexico City and Guadalajara. If you are visiting Mexico for three weeks, you have plenty of time to visit both.
After sunbathing the last 5 days, let’s head back to the valley, Guadalajara stands at 1,566 m above sea level. It is popular for tequila and mariachi music. Guadalajara is also known for its local food; from cheesy tacos to birria, there is something for everyone. Not to mention that these local and mouthwatering food are very affordable.
On the other hand, Puerto Vallarta has become one of the new and favourite beach towns for tourists and even digital nomads. It’s more affordable, the beach is to die for, try surfing, and discover the diverse marine life of this region – there’s no reason not to visit.
The beach is always a great spot to end your trip. Here, you can relax, buy some souvenirs, and enjoy the last few days of your well-deserved vacation. You can reach Puerto Vallarta by taking a 4.5-hour drive or taking the train which is about 6 hours.
What to see and do in Guadalajara
- Walk around Guadalajara Cathedral and Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Zapopan
- Lake Chapala – combine with Ajijic tour
- Check out Glorieta de los Niños Héreos and Centro Cultural El Refugio
- Explore downtown Guadalajara – join a guided tour
- Eat Tortas Ahogadas
- Visit Guachimontones Pyramids – enjoy a full-day tour
- Enjoy Mariachi Bands
- Visit a mining location of Opal – Magdalena Opal tour
- Buy souveneirs at Tlaquepaque
When it comes to tequila, Guadalajara is the best. Well, kind of. Tequila is a town north of Guadalajara. It is popular for the production of the spirit “tequila”. On the foot of Tequila Volcano, you will find fields of blue agave, which is the main ingredient of the spirit. You can learn more about Tequila by joining a guided tour.
There are many tequila tours you can book from affordable to premium. There is an affordable full-day tequila tour, you can also book a premium version. For something unique, you can explore Tequila, do some tasting, and go horseback riding. All these tours include a pick-up from your hotel, food, a knowledgeable local guide, and a visit to various distilleries.
What to see and do in Puerto Vallarta
- Lie on the beach of Playa De Los Muertos, Tranquila Beach, Sayulita, and Las Glorias
- Explore Islas Marietas National Park and Hidden Beach – enjoy it on a luxury yacht or fun boat tour
- Hike the Mirador el Cerro de la Cruz
- Go on an adventure – ride an ATV on Jorullo Bridge, go zip lining with a canopy tour
- Sign up for a food tour and mixology tour
- Try sky diving
- Enjoy a candlelight dinner show and cruise – check the price
- Visit Vallarta Botanical Gardens
- Get yourself a hop-on hop-off bus ticket
Accommodations in Guadalajara
- Affordable: Hostal La Paz & Love or Hotel Gallo Rubio
- Mid-range: Hotel San Franciso Plaza or Hotel Dali Plaza Ejecutivo
- Luxury: Rui Plaza or Quinta Real
Accommodations in Puerto Vallarta
- Affordable: Chanclas Hostel or El Sunset Hostel
- Mid-range: Tropicana Hotel or City Plus
- Luxury: The Paramar Beachfront Boutique Hotel or Hotel Luxury Patio Azul
- Special Resorts: Fiest Americana All Inclusive & Spa or Hotel Mio (adults-only)
SUMMARY OF 3 WEEKS IN MEXICO ITINERARY
Mexico is a wonderful destination to spend your 3-week vacation. It offers a lot of activities from hiking, trying out different food, learning about Mayan culture, and of course enjoying its amazing beaches. You will not have a hard time finding things to do here. I hope that you found this 3 weeks in Mexico itinerary helpful in creating your own travel plan.