The Most Colourful Towns in Mexico
Mexico is a super colourful country, perfect for photographers who want that picture-perfect Instagram background or pretentious artsy types like myself, who love a good I-don’t-know-you’re-taking-this-photo-except-really-I-do photo. But I digress. Whether you like street art or just straight up bright colours, you’ll feel right at home not only in the capital, Mexico City, but throughout the tiny towns and villages that have made a name for themselves due to their super colourful reputation. In this post, I’ve rounded up just a selection of the most colourful towns in Mexico, from the Baja to the Yucatán Peninsula, most of which I’ve visited and some of which I shamefully haven’t.
THE MOST COLOURFUL TOWNS IN MEXICO
Charming Guanajuato, officially the most beautiful city in Mexico, and easily one of the most beautiful cities in the world, is also one of the most colourful. All subterranean tunnels, winding cobbled streets and quaint cafés, Guanajuato is known for its traditional Mexican markets, the towering Pípila statue which offers and bird’s eye view over the city and an only marginally unsettling mummy museum. It’s also the place I got a hair braid (the string kind, not the culturally appropriative kind) and realised I was in love with my boyfriend, although I doubt those two things are connected.
The site of my first ‘real’ holiday with aforementioned boyfriend, I cannot even put into words how much I loved Oaxaca City. It has so much going for it, but mainly, you know, food. While I have my preferred tamal oaxaqueño vendor in Mexico City (because, who doesn’t?!), they will never come close to those we had in Oaxaca, not to mention the stringy Oaxaca cheese and typical tlayudas that we scoffed on the daily. I could wax lyrical about Oaxaca cuisine for hours (maybe I’ll even treat you to a blog post on the very topic one day), but for now I’m all about the colourful houses that dominate the historic centre.
One of Mexico’s many, many magical towns, the pueblo mágico Izamal is also alternatively known as the Yellow City, because all the houses are painted in a rather charming shade of mustard yellow. (I honestly get the feeling they just wanted some kind of novelty factor to set them apart from all the country’s other magical towns, someone suggested yellow and everyone else ran with the idea.) Although Izamal is basically Mexico’s answer to the newly-Instagram famous blue city of Chefchaouen in Morocco, I did find it a bit meh when I visited. I’d only really recommend stopping by if, like, yellow is your favourite colour or something.
I’ve written before about how Toluca makes for a really underrated half day trip from Mexico City before now, but I don’t think I quite emphasised just how colourful this city is too. Looming over downtown is a Toluca barrio with a less than savoury reputation, but a delightfully colourful façade which was painted back in 2015, in anticipation of then-President Barack Obama’s visit (RIP American democracy). Many criticised the Mexican government at the time for essentially trying to spruce up a pretty rundown neighbourhood in singularly superficial way, instead of, you know, being generally less corrupt and actually helping them. Either way, it still makes Toluca a colourful Mexican destination.
Isla Mujeres is another place I absolutely loved when I visited back in December 2014, and although it’s super touristy and gross in many ways, it’s also so beautiful and laidback and charming that you can’t help but love it. Just off the coast of Yucatán, Isla Mujeres has pristine Caribbean beaches, golf carts and tiled mosaic with feminist undertones. What more could you want?
One of Mexico’s many North American expat enclaves, you’re more likely to hear English being spoken in tiny Ajijic, Jalisco than you are Spanish and while that fact alone should make me hate the place (if you move to a country, learn the language for Christ sake), it’s beautiful street art and colours won me over. If that doesn’t convince you it’s worth half a day of your time, there’s also a bar in Ajijic that has actual real life peacocks just roaming around the gardens. Sometimes they even sneak up from behind while you’re enjoying a michelada and scare the living shit out of you.
The Campeche entry marks the start of the colourful Mexican towns that I haven’t been to, unfortunately. However, if you like slow paced, fairly tourist-free destinations and muted pastels that look like they belong on a Caribbean island, then the port city of Campeche will be right up your street.
San Cristóbal de las Casas
San Cris, to give it it’s street name, is on my list for later this year before I leave Mexico (again) but as of right now, I still haven’t been. Having said that, I’ve heard word that it’s easily one of Mexico’s top colourful destinations, as well as being a well-established spot on the backpacker route through southern Mexico, as a result of its proximity to the gateway to Central America, Guatemala. Colonial in style, like the aforementioned Guanajuato, it’s super cute, colourful and the unrivalled cultural capital of Chiapas.
Where? Yeah, that’s what I thought too, but apparently Tlacotalpan (with its recognisably Mexican name) is a coastal town in the eastern Mexican state of Veracruz and it’s also a World Heritage Site. And it’s now a new addition to my bucket list, as a result of its eclectic coming together of Andalusian architecture and Caribbean colour pops.
San José del Cabo
Moving over to the Baja Peninsula for the final entry, the city of San José del Cabo is a must for photography fans and celeb spotters alike, given that it makes up the plural Los Cabos popular with Jen Aniston et al, alongside big brother Cabo San Lucas. I’ve actually never even been to the Baja Peninsula, never mind Los Cabos (what am I, made of money?) but the colourful streets of this quieter Baja Californian spot could convince me to stop by.
Which town would you like to visit the most? Are there any colourful destinations I missed off this guide? Tell me in the comments!