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Best Day of the Dead Celebrations in Mexico

In Mexico, Day of the Dead, also known as Dia de los Muertos, is a multi-day holiday celebrated to honour the cycle of life and death with colourful costumes, parades and parties. Ancient festival traditions date back to the time of the Aztecs, and in 2008 it was even added to the UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

Day of the Dead statuettes

Photo| Day of the Dead statuettes| GETYIMAGES – INTI ST CLAIR

With over 400 million annual visitors to HotelsCombined, we’ve uncovered the best locations across Mexico worth visiting for experiencing Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico. Along with highlighting the country’s most popular festivities, we’ve also included the best places to stay nearby to get the most out of your trip.

When is Mexico’s Day of the Dead?

Day of the Dead celebrations are officially on November 2nd in Mexico. However, the Dia de Muertos celebrations have evolved to often include October 31st (Halloween) and November 1st (Dia de los Angelitos).

Contrary to what you may believe, Day of the Dead is not a gloomy or morbid occasion, instead its a festive holiday celebrating the lives of those who passed on. While face painting with the holiday’s skeletal symbol is the most notable tradition, there’s much more to this local holiday. Rituals vary from region to region, but some customs are common throughout the country.

Popular Day of the Dead Traditions

  • Constructing Altars – Colourful altars are decorated in oranges and purple, then piled high with offerings such as candles, flowers and personal possessions.
  • Sugar Skulls – Either bought or created by families, sugar skulls are a vital piece to any altar and include the name of the deceased inscribed on the top.
  • Pan de Muerto – A citrus-flavoured sweet bread commonly paired with hot chocolate and consumed during festivities.
  • Grave Cleaning/Decorating – A festive and social gathering where families clean the area surrounding the headstone, leaving behind cempasuchil (Mexican marigolds).

Best Day of the Dead Celebrations in Mexico

Oaxaca, Oaxaca

Church in Sierra Norte, Oaxaca, Mexico

Photo| Church in Sierra Norte, Oaxaca, Mexico| GETTYIMAGES – NORMA CORDOVA

Day of the Dead in Mexico

Photo| Ceramic skulls were on display on a community altar in Oaxaca| GETTYIMAGES – GABRIEL PEREZ

Oaxaca is a southern Mexican state known for its traditional artisans, regional cuisine and mezcal distilleries. During Dia de los Muertos, the region comes alive with a variety of colourful celebrations. Visitors can join candlelit vigils at the city’s cemeteries, see a burst of colour in the marketplaces in nearby villages and take part in evening processions. Don’t miss the sand tapestry competitions and intricate Day of the Dead altars set up around town. In addition, the city’s street parties (known as comparsas) are a must-see, offering a carnival-like atmosphere with massive puppets on stilts, costumed dancers, music and fireworks.

Where to Stay in Oaxaca

Quinta Real Oaxaca

Quinta Real Oaxaca, hotel for the day of the dead celebration

Photo| Quinta Real Oaxaca| Provided by ICE PORTAL

Oaxaca is full of luxury hotels, but Quinta Real Oaxaca is one of the best. Set in the expertly restored 16th-century Convent of Santa Catalina de Siena, it offers the perfect mix of old-world charm and modern amenities, including a garden pool and gym. Also, it boasts a travel agency, laundry, concierge and 24-hour room service.

Visit El Refectorio for international and Oaxacan food, or choose from over 100 types of Mezcal at Las Bugambilias Bar. Afterwards, relax in one of the cosy rooms and suites, which feature colonial-style decor and large windows overlooking the gardens, courtyards and streets of Oaxaca.

Star Rating: 4*
Price: USD 146 – USD 429
Guest Rating: 9
Address: Calle 5 De Mayo 300, 68000 Oaxaca, Oaxaca, Mexico

Hotel Location

Mexico City

Dia de los Muertos in Mexico City

Photo| Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe| GETTYIMAGES – JOHN COLETTI

Mexico City, Mexico

Photo| Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe| GETTYIMAGES – JOHN COLETTI

One of the easiest accessible celebrations, Mexico City’s annual Desfile de Dia de Muertos event first took place in 2016, inspired by the opening scene of the James Bond film “Spectre”. Locals gather in Plaza del Zocalo to watch a parade of people dressed as alebrijes (mythical creatures) or La Calavera Catrina (the skeletal symbol of Dia de los Muertos) march nearly five kilometres down the grand Paseo de la Reforma. Nearby Xochimilco, a neighbourhood on the outskirts of the city, features decorated canals, floating gardens and gondola rides that make the experience extra-special.

Where to Stay in Mexico City

Gran Hotel Ciudad de México

Gran Hotel Ciudad de México

Photo| Gran Hotel Ciudad de Mexico| Provided by BOOKING.COM

One of the most luxurious hotels in Mexico City, Gran Hotel Ciudad de México offers a prime location in the city centre. Chic rooms feature free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs, coffee makers and mini bars. Celebrating something special? Upgrade to a Master Suite for a four-poster bed and city views.

Marvel at the hotel’s impressive Art Nouveau architecture, then step inside the lobby to see the lavish Louis XV chandelier and Tiffany-style stained glass windows. The 5th-floor Terraza Restaurant and Bar is a highlight, offering a seasonal menu and spectacular panoramic views of the historic centre.

Star Rating: 4*
Price: USD 124 – USD 295
Guest Rating: 9.4
Address: Av 16 De Septiembre N 82, 06000 Mexico City, Mexico City Federal District, Mexico

Hotel Location

Janitzio and Patzcuaro, Michoacan

Day of the Dead ceramic skeleton Catrina

Photo| Day of the Dead ceramic skeleton Catrina| GETTYIMAGES – MARIE HICKMAN

Aerial Patzcuaro lake

Photo| Aerial Patzcuaro lake| GETTYIMAGES – MEXICO SHOOTS

One of the most moving celebrations takes place in the lake of Patzcuaro, where indigenous people from the countryside gather every year on November 1st. They paddle over to Janitzio, a small island in Patzcuaro Lake and illuminate the waters in their rowboats decorated with torches and candles. Upon arrival at Janitzio, there is an all-night vigil held in an indigenous cemetery. The elaborate Day of the Dead festivities also includes processions and music, folk dances, chanting and singing. The small island is about 360 kilometres west of Mexico City, below the state of Jalisco.

Where to Stay in Janitzio and Patzcuaro

Hacienda Ucazanaztacua

Built with adobes (sun-dried bricks) with an original method used centuries ago, Hacienda Ucazanaztacua showcases the region’s rich history and culture. In addition to complimentary breakfast, guests have access to a restaurant and bar, large sun terrace and outdoor infinity pool. In addition, there’s a luxe spa with wellness treatments.

The luxury suites feature Jacuzzis for two, king-size beds, mini bars and Nespresso machines. Alternatively, opt for one of the upgraded specialty suites with private balconies offering lake and Pacanda Island views, fireplaces and spacious living rooms.

Star Rating: 4*
Price: USD 164 – USD 307
Guest Rating: 9.2
Address: Camino a Sanabria-Ucazanaztacua km 10.5, 58440 Pátzcuaro, Michoacan de Ocampo, Mexico

Hotel Location

Merida, Yucatan

Street in the city

Photo| Street in Mérida| GETTYIMAGES – PETE SCHNELL

Three men wearing skeleton masks looking up at Day of the Dead puppet

Photo| Men wearing skeleton masks looking up at Day of the Dead puppet| GETTYIMAGES – TONY ANDERSON

Located in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, Merida’s annual Day of the Dead celebrations are known as Hanal Pixan, which means “feast for the souls”. Families make elaborate traditional dishes, such as a seasoned chicken tamale wrapped in banana leaves, in preparation for the return of their ancestors. There are also street festivities, evening processions and intricate altar displays in the main square, as well as live music, dancing and plays held in the city centre. The local cemeteries are also worth visiting from October 31st through November 2nd.

Where to Stay in Merida

Fiesta Americana – Merida

Fiesta Americana - Merida, hotel for the day of the dead celebration

Photo| Fiesta Americana – Merida| Provided by LEONARDO

With French-inspired architecture and warm Mexican hospitality, the 5-star Fiesta Americana – Merida is surrounded by the beautiful Paseo de Montejo. Experience the vibrant flavours of the Yucatan at the on-site restaurant and bar, then take a dip in the outdoor pool or let the kids loose in the play area. Additionally, guests have access to a luxe spa and gym.

Chic rooms feature flat-screen TVs and free Wi-Fi, as well as mini bars and coffee, with either a king or two double-size beds. Junior Suite Kings add large living rooms, while posh Presidential Suites boast 278 square metres of space with a full kitchen and private balcony.

Star Rating: 5*
Price: USD 85 – USD 343
Guest Rating: 9
Address: Avenida Colon 451 Paseo Montejo, 97127 Mérida, Yucatan, Mexico

Hotel Location

Aguascalietnes

Buildings along a street, Venustiano Carranza Street, Aguascalientes, Mexico

Photo| Buildings along a street, Venustiano Carranza Street, Aguascalientes| GETTYIMAGES – GLOW IMAGES

Statues in front of a railroad station building, Three Centuries Memorial Park, Aguascalientes, Mexico

Photo| Statues in front of a railroad station building, Three Centuries Memorial Park, Aguascalientes| GETTYIMAGES – GLOW IMAGES

About 225 kilometres north of Guadalajara, Aguascalientes is best-known as the birthplace of engraver Jose Guadalupe Posada. It’s Day of the Dead celebrations stretch to nearly a week during its Festival de Calaveras (Festival of Skulls), typically held from October 28th to November 2nd. It takes place on the city’s main even space Isla San Marcos, showcasing local exhibitions with artisan handicrafts, local food stalls and live theatre productions and concerts. It all leads to the grand parade that makes its way to Avenida Madero.

Where to Stay in Aguascalientes

Hotel Real Plaza Aguascalientes

Hotel Real Plaza Aguascalientes, hotel for day of the dead celebration

Photo| Hotel Real Plaza Aguacalientes| Provided by BOOKING.COM

A 10-minute walk from the National Museum of Death, Hotel Real Plaza Aguascalientes offers an unbeatable city-centre location. Take advantage of the rooftop terrace and outdoor pool, modern gym and business centre before sampling local cuisines at Restaurant El Mezzanine. Alternatively, opt for live music and drinks at Bar Winchester.

There are room configurations to suit all types of travellers, from cosy singles to spacious doubles, triples and suites. All rooms offer free Wi-Fi, air conditioning and flat-screens, while upgraded accommodation adds living and dining spaces equipped for bigger groups. The Junior and Master Suite also offer views of San Luis Potosi.

Star Rating: 3*
Price: USD 40 – USD 44
Guest Rating: 9.2
Address: Av. Adolfo López Mateos Ote. 320, 20000 Aguascalientes, Aguascalientes, Mexico

Hotel Location

San Miguel de Allende

San Miguel de Allende Mexico, destination for day of the dead celebration

Photo| San Miguel de Allende Mexico| GETTYIMAGES – FERRANTRAITE

Old World Colonnade

Photo| Old World Colonnade, San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato| GETTYIMAGES – MINT IMAGES

San Miguel de Allende is a renowned UNESCO-listed destination and picturesque town in north-central Mexico, where its colourful Colonial and Spanish architecture lures in visitors from across the globe. Its four-day Dia de los Muertos festivities include costumed revellers that make their way through the cobblestone streets to Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel, the 17th-century cathedral in the town’s square. Located 3.5 hours north of Mexico City, you’ll also find several parades, all-night celebrations, mariachi bands, art installations, dances and public altars.

Hacienda El Santuario San Miguel de Allende

Hacienda El Santuario San Miguel de Allende, hotel for the day of the dead celebration

Photo| Hacienda El Santuario San Miguel de Allende| Provided by BOOKING.COM

Immerse yourself in the rich history of San Miguel de Allende at Hacienda El Santuario San Miguel de Allende is made up of three beautiful houses. Adorned with artwork from Michoacan, Oaxaca, Chiapas and Guanajuato, the boutique hotel offers a pampering spa, small terrace and garden and restaurant serving traditional Mexican cuisines.

Adorned with pieces of Mexican folk art, its sophisticated collection of suites boast king-size beds and plasma TVs with cable. When you’re ready to explore, the hotel is just a short walk from the folk art exhibits at Museo del Juguete Popular Mexicano.

Star Rating: 3*
Price: USD 95 – USD 184
Guest Rating: 9
Address: Terraplen 42 Centro, 37700 San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico

Hotel Location

Mixquic, Mexico

Church in Mixquic, Mexico on the Day of the Dead

Photo| Church in Mixquic, Mexico on the Day of the Dead| GETTYIMAGES – SERGIO MENDOZA HOCHMANN

Aztec Man from Mixquic

Photo| Aztec Man from Mixquic | GETTYIMAGS – ©FITOPARDO

A Mexico City suburb, Mixquic is located in the Tlahuac Delegation south-west of the city centre. While it offers easy access to the capital’s bustling streets, it has retained much of its old-world charm and rural village atmosphere with its strong indigenous roots. Listen to the bells from the historic Augustinian convent toll and watch as the local community bring candles and flowers to the local cemetery, where they clean and decorate the graves of their loved ones. Browse local street stalls or watch as a lively procession winds its way through town, then ends with a candlelit vigil.

Where to Stay in Mixquic

Marquis Reforma Hotel Spa

Marquis Reforma Hotel Spa, hotel for the day of the dead celebration

Photo| Marquis Reforma Hotel Spa| Provided by LEONARDO

A short drive from the iconic Chapultepec Castle, Marquis Reforma Hotel Spa is in the heart of the exclusive Paseo de la Reforma neighbourhood. In addition to multiple on-site restaurants and a lavish spa with private massage cabins, there’s an adults-only indoor pool and fitness centre with a Crossfit area.

The stylish, Art Deco-inspired rooms feature LCD TVs, air conditioning and Wi-Fi, with Executive Rooms adding a large living area and work desk. A collection of posh Sky Suites add unparalleled luxury, with butler services and panoramic city views, while the Marquis Suite also includes a private terrace with a Jacuzzi.

Star Rating: 5*
Price: USD 166 – USD 245
Guest Rating: 9
Address: Paseo de La Reforma, 465 Colonia Cuauhtemoc, 06500 Mexico City, Mexico City Federal District, Mexico

Hotel Location

Chiapa  de Corzo, Chiapas

Church Bell Tower

Photo| Old bronze bell in bell tower| GETTYIMAGES – DC_COLOMBIA

Midsection Of Woman Holding Mask, day of the dead celebration

Photo| Woman Holding Mask, Chiapa De Corzo| GETTYIMAGES – MARICARMENORDOÑEZ VLEESCHOWVER – EYEEM

Chiapa de Corzo is a charming colonial town on the Rio Grijalva, about 12 kilometres from the capital of the Mexican state of Chiapas. In Chiapa de Corzo, the biggest celebration is at the cemetery. However, it’s not the doom and gloom that you’d expect from a typical cemetery. Instead, you’ll find multicoloured decorations with ribbons, flowers and candles. In addition to listening to live music, you can watch as families serenade their loved ones that have passed on. Around midnight, catrinas and calacas parade through the cemetery paths, offering a sense of celebration as they mingle, drink and dance.

Where to Stay in Chiapa de Corzo

La Ceiba Hotel Spa

La Ceiba Hotel Spa, hotel for the day of the dead celebration

Photo| La Ceiba Hotel Spa| Provided by BOOKING.COM

Get pampered at La Ceiba Hotel Spa, an inviting four-star hotel just two blocks from the Central Plaza. In addition to a spa with body treatments a temazcal, guests can enjoy typical Chiapas cuisine at the on-site restaurant. Alternatively, you can relax by the sparkling pool or enjoy your favourite cocktail at Arbol de la Vida Bar.

Cosy rooms are adorned with local arts and crafts and offer air conditioning, TVs and Wi-Fi. Got the kids in tow? Upgrade to the Front Standard Room for space for four and easy access to the pool.

Star Rating: 4*
Price: USD 45 – USD 50
Guest Rating: 8.4
Address: Av Domingo Ruiz No 300, 29160 Chiapa de Corzo, Chiapas, Mexico

Hotel Location

Riviera Maya

Tropical Beach Resort

Photo| Tropical beach resort in Cancun, Mexico | GETTYIMAGES – GORGEPETERS

Portrait of a mother and daughter with traditional make up for the day of the dead celebration

Photo| Women with traditional make up for Dia de los Muertos| GETTYIMAGES – MSTUDIOIMAGES

Riviera Maya is a beachfront paradise with luxury all-inclusive resorts, and its also home to the popular Xcaret theme park. At this eco-friendly, family-friendly attraction you can attend the annual Day of the Dead celebration, held from October 30th to November 2nd. Every year, the park honours the rituals of the Mayan world and traditions with workshops, handicrafts, concerts, theatre and dances. Set in the unique scenery of Xcaret, you can walk through the arch made of cempasuchil flowers and soak up the aromas, colours and traditions of the Day of the Dead.

Where to Stay in Riviera Maya

HM Playa del Carmen

HM Playa del Carmen, hotel for day of the dead celebration

Photo| HM Playa del Carmen| Provided by BOOKING.COM

Located next to Fifth Avenue, HM Playa del Carmen is just a 10-minute stroll to the beach as well as the shops and restaurants. Take a dive into the pool or sip cocktails at the poolside bar, then join the party at Kool Beach Club. The hotel also boasts a fully-equipped gym.

Inspired by the Caribbean Sea and Mayan traditions, colourful modern rooms offering complete relaxation with modern amenities such as air conditioning, free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs and mini-fridges. Accommodating up to four guests, upgraded Junior Suites also include a living room with a sofa bed and a furnished terrace.

Star Rating: 4*
Price: USD 80 – USD 194
Guest Rating: 8
Address: Avenida Constituyentes 180, 77720 Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Hotel Location

Experience Local Culture at These Top Day of the Dead Celebrations

México City: A Day of the Dead Altar at the Basilica of the Virgin Guadalupe

Photo| A Day of the Dead Altar at the Basilica of the Virgin Guadalupe| GETTYIMAGES – GABRIEL PEREZ

Celebrating the continuity of life and death, Mexico’s colourful and vibrant Day of the Dead traditions are worth adding to your bucket list. While you can find local Day of the Dead festivities throughout the country, these particular destinations are considered the best of the best. Join the party and learn about Mexico’s rich traditions and customs, then retreat to one of the top hotels nearby with inviting on-site perks.

Which is your favourite Day of the Dead destination in Mexico? Let us know in the comments below.

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