The idea of luxury holidays in Mexico conjures images of white sandy beaches, sparkling blue waters and sweet margaritas, but Mexico offers much more to those who seek a cultural adventure. One way to experience an authentic side of Mexico is to leave the beach behind and head deep into its heartland.

Mexico’s colonial cities are alive, mixing old traditions with modern-day influences to create an unexpected atmosphere. One can easily spend days exploring the nooks and crannies of one of these inviting cities.

Guanajuato
Arguably one of the prettiest cities in the world, Guanajuato is a cluster of brightly colored houses built one atop another on a mountainous terrain. From dawn to dusk, the sun warms the city and creates a magical kaleidoscope of colors – reds, greens, blues and yellows with a hint of sparkling silver. As a former mining city, Guanajuato is rich with museums, plazas and summertime festivals.

San Miguel de Allende
Often voted as one of the top cities to live or visit in the world, San Miguel de Allende has been welcoming expats since the 1930’s. As a hub for culture, art and architecture set amidst mountains, canyons and valleys, the city has much to offer. In San Miguel de Allende, one can also be sure to have a fantastic meal ranging from a juicy organic burger to an assortment of Mexican delicacies.

Oaxaca
As the birthplace of chocolate, Oaxaca is all about life’s sweet pleasures. Shop for indigenous crafts in nearby villages or the city’s vibrant market; discover Mayan history at the hilltop ruins of Monte Albán, or simply explore the many museums and churches scattered around the city. Try to make it to Oaxaca in July for the annual Guelaguetza Festival to see ceremonial music and dances from the seven regions of the Oaxaca state.

San Cristobal de Las Casas
Sitting at the center of Mexico’s Chiapas state, San Cristobal de Las Casas is one of Mexico’s best preserved colonial towns due to its remoteness. Getting to San Cristobal de Las Casas requires a road trip through lush valleys, home to several indigenous groups including the Tzotzils and Tzeltals.

Merida
Steps away from the Riviera Maya, Merida is a burst of fresh air. While the colonial heritage is omnipresent through the cobblestoned streets and the lovely architecture, Merida now blends perfectly with modern-day amenities. One can easily go from a horse-carriage ride to a nightclub in less than five minutes.