Day of the Dead, or Dia de los Muertos in Spanish, is one of the most popular celebrations in Mexico. As many travelers are unsure where to go to witness the best Day of the Dead Celebrations, we decided to write a post answering the question “where is the best place to celebrate Day of the Dead in Mexico?” If you are looking for more background information on Day of the Dead itself, I wrote all about that in a different post. This post will list the top 5 best places to celebrate Day of the Dead in Mexico and explain why each of them make this list.
Atlixco is a small town located about 45 minutes away from the city of Puebla. While Puebla itself is an incredible place to celebrate Day of the Dead, its small neighbor of Atlixco edges it out for a spot on this list. Atlixco is a very charming Pueblo Magico, or Magic Town, and it is filled with beautiful little corners and alleys to explore. One of its most noteworthy traits its the abundance of marigold fields that surround it, making for very beautiful views!
This little town takes Day of the Dead very seriously, and everyone in Puebla kept telling me that Day of the Dead in Atlixco is one of the state’s best kept secrets. While the town is small, the celebration is huge and the people are very welcoming. To get to Atlixco from Puebla, the easiest way is just to Uber. Uber is very cheap in Mexico, and a round trip from Puebla to Atlixco shouldn’t cost you any more than $25USD.
4. San Miguel de Allende
San Miguel de Allende was once a small town populated by many conquistadors and their families along with the native people of the area. As time went on, the city slowly grew bigger and bigger, and recently it has become a truly large and independent city. San Miguel de Allende is frequently cited as the most beautiful city in Mexico, and as a visitor it is hard not to feel as though you’re in Southern Europe. Walking through the cobblestone streets of San Miguel de Allende feels strikingly similar to walking through a Tuscan city like Siena or a southern Spanish city like Seville.
The celebrations in San Miguel de Allende are some of the best in all of Mexico. Being in a medium-sized city, you get a great combination of local charm with big city flare. We spent Day of the Dead in 2020 in San Miguel de Allende and it truly is the best time of the year to visit this beautiful city. If you are looking for more information on planning trip to San Miguel de Allende, including how to get there and the best things to do, be sure to check out my San Miguel de Allende travel guide.
3. Mexico City
It would be a crime to leave Mexico City off of this list. To be honest, just about any list you make about any topic regarding Mexico will probably include Mexico City. It is just so big and so diverse that it offers a little (or a lot) of everything. Mexico City is roughly twice the size of New York City, for reference, and there is no shortage of things to do at any time in the year.
When it comes to Day of the Dead, no city does it bigger than Mexico City. The sheer size of Mexico’s capital city allows for giant celebrations, and the Day of the Dead parade in Mexico City is unmatched in size anywhere else. If you are looking for an authentic and fun celebration of Day of the Dead and don’t mind sacrificing a bit of the local charm, Mexico City may be the best place for you to go.
As the celebrations are made with tourists in mind, Day of the Dead in Mexico City feels a lot more commercialized than it does in the other places on this list. If that is okay with you, then you should strongly consider heading to Mexico City to celebrate this sacred holiday!
Oaxaca is the second largest city on this list, second only to Mexico City, and it was very tough not to rank it as the singular best place to celebrate Day of the Dead in Mexico. Oaxaca is one of the biggest cities in Mexico, but it has maintained very close ties to its indigenous heritage even as the city has expanded vastly. Few cities have created such a unique dynamic between Spanish Catholic culture and indigenous Mexican culture, and that is what really sets Oaxaca apart when it comes to Day of the Dead celebrations.
Day of the Dead is an interesting holiday, and it is very sacred to Mexican people. The holiday itself is a blend of indigenous religious concepts and Catholic religious concepts, making it truly one of the most unique celebrations I have ever experienced. Due to this mixing of indigenous and Catholic religious and cultural elements, the unique vibe that I mentioned in Oaxaca really makes it the perfect place to celebrate Day of the Dead.
The city that claims the top spot on our list of the best cities to celebrate Day of the Dead in Mexico really isn’t much of a city at all. Much like the town of Atlixco, Patzcuaro is usually cited as one of Mexico’s best kept Day of the Dead secrets. This little town in the state of Michoacan has long been considered by locals to be the single best place to celebrate Day of the Dead in all of Mexico.
Patzcuaro is located on a lake, and they certainly use that to their advantage when they celebrate this sacred Mexican holiday. You really need to see it to believe it, and while I don’t want to spoil any of what they do, I can honestly say it is one of the most beautiful experiences that you can have in Mexico. This is easily the top place on our list.
The only problem with Patzcuaro is that is is not convenient to get to, especially if you are coming from out of the country. To get to Patzcuaro, you need to first arrive in Morelia and then secure transportation to complete the trip. Morelia is located about 4 hours from Mexico City, and its airport is pretty small. So, realistically as an international tourist you would need to fly into either Guadalajara or Mexico City, ride four hours to Morelia, and then ride another hour or two to Patzcuaro. The journey isn’t easy, but it is certainly worth it!
Thanks for reading my post on the 5 best places to celebrate Day of the Dead in Mexico! Hopefully you have an incredible time visiting any one of these amazing destinations. Remember, Day of the Dead is a sacred holiday in Mexico, much like Easter is in the United States. If you decide to go, remember to be respectful. Day of the Dead isn’t just Mexico’s version of Halloween!