Ultimate Mexico Road Trip Zacatlan mosaic wall

Magical Road Trip in Mexico: Itinerary, Safety & Tips! 2024

Please share:

If you are looking for the perfect road trip in Mexico to experience the beauty and history of the famous Pueblos Magicos (or Magic Towns) and UNESCO Heritage sites, then look no further.

The part of Mexico between Mexico City and Oaxaca, with a detour towards the Gulf of Mexico, is home to 11 of these Magical Towns. Nowhere else will you have the chance to visit so many special places in such a short route.

This 3-week itinerary captures one of the most memorable stages of our epic 100 days on the road in Mexico and allows you to experience local culture, food, history, and natural beauty beyond your expectations.

If you are concerned is it safe to drive in Mexico we have you covered with our in-depth guide based on our experience.

Follow this itinerary as detailed below or modify it to suit your needs. Whichever way you choose, your road trip will be packed with wonderful experiences.

Mexico Road Trip Itinerary Overview: 3 Weeks

This road trip in Mexico can be comfortably driven in 2 weeks but if you have the extra time you will appreciate the chance to slow down and truly experience this part of the world.

The extra time also allows you to finish with a few extra days in Oaxaca, and that is something you will really want to do.

Day 1: Visit Atlixco, the beautiful “flower town” of Mexico.

Day 2: Climb the famous “Wide Staircase” of Atlixco.

Day 3: Discover the world’s largest pyramid in Chulula.

Day 4: Explore historic Puebla.

Day 5: Visit the Pueblos Magicos of Tlaxco and Chignahuapan.

Day 6: Have a day in beautiful Zacatlan.

Day 7: Swim at the Zacatlan waterfalls.

Day 8: Stay at the mountain village of Tetela de Ocampo.

Day 9: Enter the jungle at Cuetzalan.

Day 10: Visit the Archaeological site of the Yohualichan pyramid complex.

Day 11: Another day to hike and swim at waterfalls.

Day 12: Drive to the beautiful Pueblo Magico, Tlatlauquitepec.

Day 13: Awesome waterfalls and amazing views around Tlatlauquitepec.

Day 14: Head to Xalapa.

Day 15: Visit the Pueblos Magicos of Xico and Coatepec.

Day 16: Experience the city of Xalapa.

Day 17: Overnight in the desert at Tehuacan.

Day 18: Arrive in “the essence of Mexico”, the city of Oaxaca.

Day 19: Explore the Archeological site of Monte Alban.

Day 20: A day to learn about the nearby artisan villages.

Day 21: The end of the road!

Road Trip Day 1: Mexico City to Atlixco

  • Driving Distance – approximately 160km / 100 miles
  • Expected Driving Time – 2 hours and 50 minutes

There are few better places to experience the beauty of Mexico’s Pueblos Magicos than Atlixco, so it seems an ideal way to start this Mexico road trip.

Spend the afternoon around the gardens of the Zocalo (town square) before heading to the best viewpoint in the town, Capilla San Miguel Arcángel. From here you can watch the sunset behind the Popocatépetl volcano.

The church on the hill viewed from Atlixco zocalo
Pauline with her cocktail selection in atlixco

After sunset head back to the base of the hill to a restaurant that we think is so nice we went there twice, Tecuani. The rooftop area is great, prices are cheap, the food is delicious, and the cocktails are impossible to refuse.

Try the MargariChela, a large frozen Margarita with an upside-down bottle of Corona planted into it. And it’s only about $3!

Where to Stay in Atlixco

Hotel Vitorina is a great option for anyone wanting comfort and location at a budget-friendly price. This quaint hotel is just a couple of blocks from the Zocalo and provides car parking.

For a unique luxury experience, Hacienda Santo Cristo Hotel & Spa is the ideal choice. Located an easy 30-minute walk, or cheap taxi ride, from the centre. Car parking is available.

Road Trip Day 2: Explore Atlixco

Atlixco is a very walkable town with plenty to see in and around the centre. Take it easy and spend the day wandering through the colourful streets, admiring the beautiful flowers and gardens, or getting your fill of amazing Mexican food.

Be sure not to miss the famous “Wide Staircase” (la Escalera Ancha) with its impressive mural and floral clock. And maybe take time for a bit of people-watching while you relax in the pretty Zocalo park.

Road Trip Day 3: Atlixco to Cholula

  • Driving Distance – approximately 40km / 25 miles
  • Expected Driving Time – 40 minutes

Today’s leg of your road trip will be a short driving day to another of the Pueblos Magicos as you head to the famous town of Cholula. And why is it famous?

Not only is Cholula home to what is regarded as the world’s largest pyramid but it is considered the oldest continuously inhabited city in North America, with a history dating back over 2500 years.

Our Lady of Remedies Sanctuary in Cholula against Majestic White Cloud

Cholula is easily walkable and the centre is filled with colourful shops and restaurants. The view from the church at the summit of the pyramid not only gives you a great overview of the town but also the always smoking volcano in the distance.

Where to Stay in Cholula

Estrella de Belem B&B This restored 19th-century mansion is perfectly located with a touch of luxury with a rooftop pool and spa services. Car parking is available.

Hotel Vitorina is a highly rated Hotel located just a few easy-walking blocks from the Centro and everything the town has to offer. This property offers car parking.

Road Trip Day 4: Daytrip to Puebla

  • Driving Distance – approximately 40km / 25 miles
  • Expected Driving Time – 1 hour

While we have recommended staying in Cholula during this stage of your road trip, many people making their own plans would probably opt for a stay in nearby Puebla.

Puebla is a much larger city and more widely known, it also has a beautiful town centre. If you prefer staying in larger cities then this may be a good option for you and then take a day trip to Cholula.

However, we love the smaller town vibe and feel that you can experience enough of Puebla as an easy day trip from Cholula.

📍 Road Trip Day 5: Cholula to Zacatlan

Road Trip Day 5: Cholula to Zacatlan

  • Driving Distance – approximately 160km / 100 miles
  • Expected Driving Time – 4 hours including sightseeing

On paper (or in Google Maps) this looks like a quick and easy drive that can be knocked over in about 2 hours, and it can be done if you are in a mad rush to get to Zacatlan.

But to do so would have you missing out on seeing two more of Mexico’s Magical Towns, Tlaxco and Chignahuapan, and both of them are worth an hour or two of your time for a bit of sightseeing.

The first stop will be Tlaxco, a sleepy little town with a leafy Zocalo and an old county town feel. So much so that we watched a Cabellero in a big cowboy hat ride his horse past our cafe while we ate breakfast.

Speaking of breakfast, or brunch, we highly recommend grabbing a bite at a cute little cafe called La Tienda de Don Mariano. Cheap, delicious and bursting with atmosphere.

Shortly before arriving in Zacatlan you will come to Chignahuapan. There’s not a lot to do here but it is famous for its thermal springs and its Basilica, which houses the largest statue of the Virgin Mary in Latin America.

On to Zacatlan de las Manzanas, the apple town. A stunningly beautiful small town built right on the edge of a massive ravine, offering incredible views on the edge of town and a fun and interesting vibe around the centre.

mexico road trip zacatlan town centre

Spend the afternoon wandering the walkway along the top of the ravine and make sure to turn around every now and then to discover one of the most amazing mosaic walls you will ever experience.

The town oozes history and the town centre is active and vibrant. For a memorable, super cheap, and delicious dinner you have to try a local favourite, Taqueria Alba Hermanos Escamilla. Amazing tacos!

Where to Stay in Zacatlan de las Manzanas

Hotel Vista Markés is a budget-friendly hotel within walking distance of the town centre. Perched on the edge of the ravine, this hotel has amazing views and offers car parking.

Hotel Altavista offers a magnificent view across the town, over the ravine, and onto the distant mountains. They have one of the best breakfasts of our trip. They have onsite parking.

Road Trip Day 6: Explore Zacatlan

Today is a chance to slow down and soak up the atmosphere of one of Mexico’s most alluring Magical Towns. Take the whole day to experience everything Zacatlan has to offer.

The main hub of the town is very walkable and there is plenty to see and do. Start with the impressive topiaries and magnificent church in the town square before widening your wanders to check out the shops, cafes, and restaurants.

Glass Christmas ornaments, jewellery and keepsakes are the main attractions for souvenir hunters, but there is plenty of variety if you are looking for clothes or something else.

A few blocks from the centre you will find yourself at the edge of a spectacular cliff, heading along a path that borders the edge of the magnificent ravine. It’s a scenic and pleasant walk.

On the opposite side of the road to the ravine is the wall of the local cemetery. I don’t believe the cemetery is of particular note but the full length of the border wall is adorned with a colourful mosaic highlighting the attractions and history of the town.

You will notice that apples are a regular feature along the wall.

Road Trip Day 7: Explore outside Zacatlan

  • Driving Distance – approximately 25km / 15 miles
  • Expected Driving Time – 40 minutes

While Zacatlan is peaceful and beautiful, and could easily keep you amused for another day, there is a place nearby that will make the nature lover in you very happy. And provide some glorious photo ops.

Cascadas Tuliman, or the Tuliman Waterfalls, is a collection of falls, streams and ponds that make a great day out in nature. There is a small entry fee which is paid to the local community who maintain the operation.

The falls are quite impressive and for those who like a bit of adventure added to their day in the jungle, you will find ziplines, adrenaline-inducing rope bridge walks, and other activities.

There is a bit of effort needed to complete the hike but nothing dangerous, as long as you stick to the well-defined paths. We love finding waterfalls on our travels and these were well worth a visit.

Road Trip Day 8: Zacatlan to Tetela de Ocampo

  • Driving Distance – approximately 80km / 50 miles
  • Expected Driving Time – 1 hour and 50 minutes

Today is the day you head off the beaten track and make your way to the historic town of Tetela de Ocampo, located high in the mountains and seemingly a long way from pretty much everything else.

The roads here are not as high quality as those in the majority of Mexico and include plenty of steep climbs, tight turns, and unpaved sections. This is why you should expect to be driving for about two hours even though the distance is quite short.

Once you arrive the town seems to be little more than a town square and a surrounding street or two, but it does have strong ties to important historical events, which earned its classification as a Pueblo Magico.

The town centre is buzzing with activity and you will often find locals selling local produce and artisanal products. There is also a monument to local heroes who helped forge Mexican history.

Where to Stay in Tetela de Ocampo

Hotels are scarce in town but there are quality AirBnB options available.

Hostal Plaza Central is one of the few hotels in town but fortunately it is well-located, highly rated, and very affordable.

Stay with Isa No hotels were available during our stay so we spent a few nights at this AirBnB. And what a great decision it turned out to be. Highly recommended and they have secure onsite parking.

Road Trip Day 9: Tetela de Ocampo to Cuetzalan

  • Driving Distance – approximately 80km / 50 miles
  • Expected Driving Time – 2 hours and 10 minutes

Strap down your suitcases and make sure your seatbelts are secure… today you will be driving one of the worst-maintained roads you may ever drive. The good news is that the bad section is only about 20km long, the bad news is that it will take you about an hour to drive.

Don’t start panicking. It’s not that the road is particularly dangerous (as long as you concentrate), but it is covered with potholes and mostly it is just a poorly maintained gravel road.

After around two hours of white-knuckled driving you will find a town that makes it all worthwhile. Cuetzalan is a lovely place set on the side of a mountain, surrounded by lush jungle, magnificent waterfalls, and a very unique pyramid.

Take the whole afternoon to calm your nerves and just take a stroll around the town. The streets are lined with fabulous restaurants, vendors selling bags of the world-famous local coffee, and plenty of cafes ready to brew you a cup.

cuetzalan town centre

Around sunset is the perfect time to find a place to sit around the town square and watch the locals go about their daily routines. It’s also the time some good street food carts start to open.

Where to Stay in Cuetzalan

Posada El Volador This highly rated hotel is ideally located close to the town centre and offers accommodation beyond its budget-friendly price. Parking is available.

La Peña Hotel Boutique & SPA For those who like a few higher-end facilities this hotel ticks every box… location, comfort, and spa services. The hotel offers car parking.

Road Trip Day 10: Explore around Cuetzalan

  • Driving Distance – approximately 30km / 20 miles
  • Expected Driving Time – 50 minutes

After yesterday’s mentally draining driving experience you probably need a bit of an easier time of it today, so less than an hour today on good roads and with wonderful and a unique stop to break up the driving.

Just outside of Cuetzalan is an ancient pyramid that is rarely mentioned but has a unique style and, in our opinion, deserves far more recognition for its historical significance and distinct architecture.

The archaeological site of Yohualichan may not be as grand as some of the more famous offerings but it was interesting to hear of its history from our guide (quick tip: pay the small fee to have one of the locals at the ticket office show you around) and to learn about the unusual design.

The buildings are lined with hundreds of windows, which is very rarely found among any of the prehispanic ruins and really sets this apart as a special place to visit.

On the way back into town we highly recommend lunch at a very strange restaurant. I say strange because from the front door it appears they are either just building the place or it has tumbled down and been deserted.

This restaurant/cafe, Balcón de Asís, has a lovely facade but the entire interior is open to the surrounding area. And since it is perched on the edge of a cliff, the views across the valley to the city are spectacular.

The food is great and the prices are easy on the pocket, try the tostadas, you won’t be disappointed.

Road Trip Day 11: Explore outside Cuetzalan

  • Driving Distance – approximately 10km / 6 miles
  • Expected Driving Time – 30 minutes

Another very rewarding and very short driving day today, although you have the option of adding another hour or so behind the wheel if you are looking to visit as many Pueblos Magicos as possible.

The main attraction today is the nearby waterfall of Cascada el Salto, and while it isn’t the most spectacular waterfall you will see during this road trip it is an enjoyable hike and has a great swimming area at the base of the falls to cool down on a hot day.

If, like us, one of your goals is to visit as many of the Magical Towns as possible in Mexico then jump back in the car and head off to the mountaintop town of Zozocolco.

It’s a nice place to explore for an hour and has an impressive church overlooking the town. But we were glad that we had decided not to spend a night here. There’s not much to see and do.

Road Trip Day 12: Cuetzalan to Tlatlauquitepec

  • Driving Distance – approximately 70km / 450 miles
  • Expected Driving Time – 1 hour and 50 minutes

Time to move on and head to what has become one of our favourite towns in Mexico. Tlatlauquitepec is quite a mouthful to say and it’s also a real challenge to fit the whole town sign into a selfie!

The town has a beautiful and relaxing town centre, some impressive buildings, great food options, and plenty of interesting things to do and see on the outskirts of town.

Take it easy this afternoon. After checking into your hotel leave the car keys behind and wander the streets around the town centre. Do some shopping, have a cheap but large feed at one of the many restaurants, and maybe grab an icecream from one of the vendors around the park.

Recharge the batteries and take a moment to appreciate where you are and how lucky you are to have the chance to experience an adventure like this Mexico road trip. Tomorrow is going to be packed with outdoor fun!

Where to Stay in Tlatlauquitepec

Hotel San Jorge A family-run hotel that has everything you could want for a great stay. One of our favourite stays during our 6 months in Mexico and they have car parking.

Suite Aries The price may be cheap but this place is highly rated and perfectly located one block from the town centre.

Road Trip Day 13: Explore Tlatlauquitepec

  • Driving Distance – approximately 40km / 25 miles
  • Expected Driving Time – 1 hour and 20 minutes

Another day… another waterfall, or so it seems over these past few days. But stick with it because this one is a bit special. Not only is it larger than the previous couple but this time you can walk around behind the cascade.

Cascada Puxtla is only a short drive from town but it took longer to get there than expected because our GPS kept trying to send us the wrong way up one street and along another road that was completely closed off.

But the added frustration is worth it. We did have to pay the locals for parking but they sent their young son and his dog with us as guides, so it was well worth the few dollars they charged us.

Depending on how much time you spent at the falls, or how hungry you are, you could either head back into town and then continue the activities after lunch, or head straight over to Cerro Cabezon.

Cerro Cabezon is the mountain that overlooks the town from the other side of a deep ravine. They have some adrenaline activities there and an energy-zapping hike to the top to see a local mini version of Christ the Redeemer.

The views back across to the town and so much further are spectacular and well worth the effort it takes to get to the top.

“Do it for the ‘Gram” on the cliffside swing (the right angle makes it look far more dangerous than it really is) or walk across the scary-looking suspension bridge, or sit quietly and admire the impressive scenery.

Road Trip Day 14: Tlatlauquitepec to Xalapa

  • Driving Distance – approximately 160km / 100 miles
  • Expected Driving Time – 2 hours and 10 minutes

It’s time to start our trek back down the mountains today as we head for one of the larger cities on this road trip through Mexico, Xalapa. At the end of the day you will still be surrounded by some mountains but at a lower altitude.

Mexico road trip Xalapa centro

While Xalapa is not a Pueblo Magico itself, it is the perfect base for visiting another two small towns that are. Plus Xalapa has plenty of parkland and other attractions going for it.

Take the afternoon to explore the area around the town centre. On a clear day you will also have a distant view of one of the largest volcanos in Mexico.

The main square is large but mostly concrete so not the most beautiful you will see on this trip, however in the evening it starts to fill with food and novelty vendors and families start to come out.

Where to Stay in Xalapa

Centro Hotel Villa las Margaritas Another hotel that surprised us with how luxurious it felt for such a budget-friendly price. Highly recommended and includes secure parking.

Hotel Balcón del Parque Ideal for those looking for ultra-modern hotel packed with class and luxury. And are willing to pay a little more for it.

Road Trip Day 15: Day Trip to Xico and Coatepec

  • Driving Distance – approximately 60km / 50 miles
  • Expected Driving Time – 1 hours and 40 minutes

Not far from Xalapa are two very small towns that are both recognised as Magical Towns. Made up of little more than a few cobbled streets and some dirt roads, the towns of Xico and Coatepec give you a glimpse into rural life as it has been for generations.

Throw in another pretty decent waterfall nearby and you have the makings of a good slow-paced day experiencing the real Mexico.

Road Trip Day 16: Explore Xalapa

There is plenty to do in the city so why not have a day of exploring, shopping and eating?

You will find a great donut shop across the road from the main square that sells assorted mini donuts and other pastries filled with various flavoured creams. They are cheap and tasty!

Or maybe take a walk along the river and through the surrounding parks. It’s amazing how much more peaceful it is down there than just a few blocks away around Centro.

Being a bigger city you can expect to find just about anything you are looking for as far as shopping goes. So take your time and see what you can find.

Road Trip Day 17: Xalapa to Tehuacan

  • Driving Distance – approximately 210km / 135 miles
  • Expected Driving Time – 3 hours and 40 minutes

No real reason to stay in Tehuacan other than to break up what would be a very long driving day. If you don’t mind that then you could drive straight through to Oaxaca.

If you choose to stay here for the night there is really no need to wander more than a couple of blocks from the centre of town as most of the attractions are right there.

Where to Stay in Tehuacan

Hotel CR Tehuacan A great location just a short walk from Centro. This hotel is highly rated and great value for money. The ideal choice for an overnight stay with car parking.

Hotel Zenith offers 5 star luxury at a fraction of the price you would expect. Ideally located this hotel is the one to choose if you want to treat yourself.

Road Trip Day 18: Tehuacan to Oaxaca

  • Driving Distance – approximately 225km / 145 miles
  • Expected Driving Time – 3 hours and 20 minutes

Today is one of the longest driving days of the trip, and other than some impressive scenery along the way, there are few reasons to stop along the way.

Mexico road trip Oaxaca street art

Once you arrive in Oaxaca it is a whole different story. Widely regarded as the culinary heart of Mexico, Oaxaca is sure to not only make your belly very happy, but also offers plenty of other highlights.

Grab a coffee and sit in the pretty Zocala, explore the magnificent churches that seem to be on every corner, or experience the organised chaos of the local markets. Just have your camera ready at all times.

Where to Stay in Oaxaca

Hotel Casona Oaxaca This charming 19th-century building is one of the most popular high-end hotels in Oaxaca, and only one block from the Cathedral and has parking.

Hotel Dainzu Perfectly located close to all the main attractions this quaint hotel is great value for money in an area with plenty of cafes and restaurants. Parking is available.

Road Trip Day 19: Day Trip to Monte Alban & artisan villages

  • Driving Distance – approximately 100km / 65 miles
  • Expected Driving Time – 2 hours and 50 minutes

On a mountaintop overlooking the city is one of the most impressive archaeological sites in Mexico, the ancient city of Monte Alban. This engineering marvel is a must-see when in Oaxaca.

Oaxaca Monte Alban archaeological site

After a morning exploring the ruins it’s time to head out into the countryside for a very different experience.

Have you ever wondered where all of those amazing Mexican souvenirs come from? No, not China! The majority of the good quality offerings come from the villages around Oaxaca.

San Martín Tilcajete and the surrounding villages are unique in that each village manufactures a single type of product, and almost every inhabitant of that village is involved in the process.

For example, San Martín Tilcajete residents exclusively produce those incredible colourful carvings called alebrijes, while other villages may make pottery, rugs and woven products or other giftware.

Insider Top Tip – Many of the artisans offer a hands-on experience where you can do things like create your own pot, or paint an alebrije. It makes for a fun and interesting day out.

Road Trip Day 20: Explore Oaxaca

  • Driving Distance – approximately 140km / 90 miles
  • Expected Driving Time – 2 hours and 30 minutes

You may as well jam in as many once-in-a-lifetime activities and sights as you can as this epic Mexico adventure comes to a close. And this day will be one you will remember forever.

It starts with a bit of a long drive but the destination is worth every minute of it, you will eventually arrive at the world-renowned and jaw-dropping Hierve el Agua, one of only two petrified waterfalls in the world.

Get your pics at the pools early then take a few hours to hike the trails to witness this marvel from all angles and then head back to the top for a soak in the mineral pools. Try to arrive early so you beat the crowds as the tour groups start arriving.

Make your way to the nearby town of Mitla for some lunch and to see the small, but famous archaeological site in the centre of town. Maybe get some last-minute shopping done, clothing in particular was extremely cheap.

Insider Top Tip – Mitla is also on the “Mezcal Trail” so expect to see plenty of blue agave fields in the region. And on the way back to Oaxaca why not stop at a couple of distilleries to see how Mezcal is produced and maybe have a sample or two?

One final stop which is not overly exciting, but still interesting and won’t take long, is the small town of Tule to see the famous Tule Tree. This tree is believed to be over 2000 years old and to have the widest trunk in the world!

Road Trip Day 21: All Good Things Must End

Sadly this is where this itinerary ends, but if you have more time up your sleeve there is plenty more of Mexico to extend your trip. We continued from Oaxaca into the state of Chiapas and then into the Yucatan.

Or you could do this trip in reverse and extend into the beautiful colonial towns north of Mexico City on the Queretaro Wine and Cheese Route. Or you can head home with amazing memories and start planning your next Mexico road trip.

Road Trip Route Map

Ultimate South Central Mexico road trip itinerary map

Renting A Car In Mexico

Renting a car for a road trip in Mexico is generally easy and safe. We do recommend that you prebook your car through a reputable agency rather than trying to arrange something on arrival.

It is also much easier and more convenient to start and end your rental in Mexico and not go through the hassle of crossing the USA border. Also make sure you have comprehensive insurance cover on the rental.

Gas stations are all full service so simply stay in your car and an attendant will come to you. It is also customary to tip the attendants.

On many of the long stretches of road you will have to pay tolls. The tolls are cheap but make sure you have cash, preferably in small currency.

➡️ We recommend and use DiscoverCars when searching for the best rental car deals.

Save Money 728x90

Mexico Road Trip Safety

Contrary to what a lot of sensationalised news reports suggest, Mexico is quite a safe place, as long as you avoid a few known hotspots. We never felt in any danger throughout our time in this region.

Whenever I suggest a visit to Mexico to anybody they almost always ask me if it’s safe. We have been there 6 times, most of these while our daughter was quite young, and we have never felt in real danger.

As for driving safely in Mexico, here are a few points to note:

  • Try not to drive at night if possible
  • Stick to the speed limit at all times
  • Learn how to say a few helpful terms in Spanish, like “fill the tank please” and “please put air in the tyres”
  • Roads are generally very good but there is one small section of this trip where the road is possibly in the worst condition you will ever drive. For this section in particular do not be in a hurry to get through it, drive slowly and safely.

Is it safe to drive around Mexico as a tourist?

Depending on which part of the country… it is absolutely safe to drive in Mexico! There are a couple of points I will make that should help you avoid any issues:

  • Make sure that your Driver’s Licence is recognised in Mexico or whether you will need to get an International Permit. Generally if your licence is printed in English or Spanish you are OK. Any other language and you will need an International Permit
  • There is always a slim chance that you will encounter one of the corrupt cops Mexico is known for. If you are pulled over and they threaten to give you a ticket, just wait for the chance to be offered an “on-the-spot” fine (bribe). Make sure you have no more than a couple of hundred pesos in your wallet and if they ask for more, tell them that’s all of your cash. They’ll usually take whatever they can get and move on. (*we only had one experience in 100 days of driving and it was nowhere near this stage of the road trip)
  • Check that you have full insurance coverage on your vehicle. If you are involved in an accident the chances are that you will be judged as being at fault.
  • Finally, and no different from anywhere you drive in the world, a little common sense goes a long way. Don’t show any road rage, be a polite and courteous driver, and follow the road rules.

Things to know about driving in Mexico

Generally, I found Mexico quite an easy country to drive in. The only things that need to be considered are:

  • Mexicans drive on the right side of the road, which is fine for people from the USA, but for Aussies like us, it can take a little while to get used to.
  • As in most countries, Mexicans have a few “special” ways of doing some things. They like to use their blinkers/indicators and hazard lights to warn you they are slowing, that it is safe to overtake, or that they are parking (anywhere). What they don’t really do is use them to show they are turning a corner. So be careful!
  • As I just mentioned, Mexicans do tend to park anywhere. Around town squares in particular it is not uncommon to see them double-parked, even triple-parked. It seems that as long as their hazard lights are flashing, it’s OK to stop anywhere.
  • Another road rule you may not have previously experienced is the 2 lane / 3 lane variation on many of the main roads between towns. While they look like a normal 2 lane road with wide shoulder areas on either side, be prepared to drive halfway on the shoulder and create a third lane in the centre which is used, sometimes unwisely, as a dual-direction overtaking lane.
  • The roads are generally very good across Mexico. I had read a lot about them being in poor condition and being prepared for a lot of potholes and disrepair. In reality, we found them as good, or better, than we experience back in Australia with more major upgrades well underway.
  • Finally, one thing that is sure to annoy you whether you choose to use buses, private drivers, or self-drive, is the topes. These speed bumps are everywhere from main roads to the tiniest back street. The size, shape and location are not strictly controlled and some can be really nasty if you hit them at speed. Be prepared and watch the road!


And now that we have covered that let’s answer a few more of the questions you are probably thinking.

❔ Is it a good idea to drive into Mexico?

While it is certainly possible to cross the border from the USA, as many people do, there are reasons that this may not the best option, and picking up a rental car in Mexico would be better.

The two most obvious reasons are that border crossings can be a long, hot, and nerve-wracking experience, and that the parts of Mexico closest to the border are regarded as some of the most dangerous.

❔ Is 2 weeks enough for Mexico?

In a word… NO! But if that’s all the time you have then you can certainly pack plenty of food, culture, colour, and history into those 14 days. And you go away knowing that there is plenty more waiting for you on your next visit.

Mexico is a country that offers something for every type of traveller, no matter your budget or interests. So whether you have one week or one year, you will always find something new to do, see, or eat!

❔ When is the best time of year for this road trip in Mexico?

As the majority of this road trip is through the mountains of Puebla, the temperatures are quite pleasant all year round. However, the humidity and rain from June to October could ruin your plans of getting out and about.

❔ Do they speak English along this road trip route?

In some of the smaller villages English may not be widely spoken at all, but the locals are patient and you will find that a combination of hand gestures, your attempted Spanish, their attempted English, and a lot of smiles will usually get the message across.

Generally you will find English spoken around towns, especially in shops and restaurants. But don’t make this an excuse not to learn at least enough Spanish to say a few polite things when in the situation.

Our Opinion of this Magical Road Trip in Mexico

While Mexico has a much better than average bus system, and private drivers are very reasonably priced for short or medium distance journeys, there are some places you really need a car to visit.

Many of the beautiful little Pueblo Magicos are located between more popular towns and you would be travelling straight past if you took the bus everywhere.

The other reason to have a car is for the flexibility of being able to explore outside of the towns at your own pace. You may be able to easily arrange a driver to take you to local waterfalls, hiking trails, or archaeological sites but getting a ride back when you are ready might be more challenging.

Insider Top Tip – We found that car rentals in Mexico are great value compared to what you would usually pay in the USA or Australia. A medium or large car works out at just over $40USD per day for this 3 week Mexican road trip.

The best option for collecting your car would be at one of the depots in the south of Mexico City so that avoid the stress of trying to navigate through the centre of one of the world’s biggest cities.

Another option is to get a bus to Puebla and pick up a car there to start your adventure. It is a much easier city to drive through than the capital.

We recommend booking your car through Discover Cars and have used them to find great deals all over the world. They search through all of the major rental agencies to find you the best deal.

Our Mexico road trip spanned 100 days and covered over 5000km/3000 miles. We probably went over more than 2000 speed bumps, had one encounter with a corrupt cop, and visited some incredible places that we would never have found if not driving ourselves.

While there are probably a dozen or more great road trip itineraries to cover in Mexico, this route gave us a bit of everything that makes Mexico so amazing (except for a beach).

Mexico road trip selfie couple

You will visit 11 of Mexico’s Pueblos Magicos, plus several different but equally beautiful waterfalls, witness stunning scenery, see awe-inspiring ancient ruins, eat some mouth-watering local delicacies, and meet some of the nicest people on Earth.

If you are looking for somewhere new for your next road trip, this Magical road trip in Mexico should be at the top of your list. We loved every minute of it.

Like this post? Please Pin It!

A magical road trip from Mexico City to Oaxaca
Mexico City and Oaxaca are two of the most popular places for travellers visiting Mexico. But did you know that there is a road trip between them where you will find waterfalls, amazing scenery, unique food, and almost a dozen of the famous Pueblos Magicos?
Journey from Mexico City to Oaxaca on an epic road trip! Drive into a world of culinary delights, stunning scenery, and cultural treasures. Explore magical towns and soak in the natural beauty along the way. Ideal for those seeking adventure and a taste of authentic Mexico.
Please share:

Similar Posts