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Are you curious about a fun place to celebrate the Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos? Keep scrolling to find out some of the best small towns in Mexico to visit on the Day of the Dead.
This list of the best small towns in Mexico to visit on the Day of the Dead contains affiliate links which means if you purchase something from one of my affiliate links, I may earn a small commission that goes back into maintaining this blog.

Do you want to celebrate Dia de los Muertos in Mexico?

If so, then these are the best small towns in Mexico for a Day of the Dead celebration. You’ll find yourself surrounded by vibrant colors and traditional Mexican culture as you experience this unique holiday.

Whether you’re looking for an authentic cultural experience or just want to get away from it all, here are some great places to visit on your next trip south of the border.

We know that traveling can be expensive. But we promise that these destinations will be worth every penny spent on flights and accommodations.

These small towns have a lot to offer visitors who love art, music, food, and history. Not to mention they make excellent vacation spots year-round!

So pack your bags because we’re about to show you how much fun there is waiting for you down south!

Day of the Dead in Mexico FAQs

How is the Day of the Dead celebrated in Mexico?

Day of the Dead, also known as Día de Muertos in Spanish, is celebrated from October 31st to November 2nd. During this holiday Mexicans remember and honor their deceased loved ones through visiting cemeteries where they decorate graves together with them.

Why is the Day of the Dead mostly celebrated in Mexico?

Dia de los Muertos is a vibrant Mexican celebration that draws on European and indigenous traditions. Some say it started with the Aztecs. The tradition has spread to many Latin American countries, including Colombia, Ecuador, Honduras, El Salvador Nicaragua, Peru.

Can you celebrate the Day of the Dead if you aren’t Mexican?

Yes! You can absolutely participate, just remember to always be respectful of Mexican culture and traditions.

What is the Day of the Dead?

Celebrated in early November, the Day of the Dead is a traditional Mexican festivity. It’s meant to celebrate the lives of those who are no longer with us.

Even though Día de Muertos has managed to become a global festivity in recent years, there’s no better place than Mexico to fully experience what Day of the Dead is all about.

In Mexico, Day of the Dead is more than just colorful catrinas and dances (although that’s a huge part of the celebration, too!). Legend has it that spirits cross from the afterlife to celebrate the date. 

Friends and families usually flock to cemeteries to decorate the graves of their deceased loved ones. They also create altars with things they used to love (think flowers, their favorite food, photos, and more).

Aside from that, in some cities and towns, traditional dances and parties are held in order to welcome the spirits and give them a joy-filled stay in our world.

If you’re dying (pun intended) to experience Day of the Dead in Mexico but have no idea where to go for an authentic celebration, here are a few small towns in Mexico that need to be on your travel radar.

Small Towns in Mexico to Spend Day of the Dead in:

Isla Janitzio, Michoacan

Set a few hours away from Mexico City in the state of Michoacan, Isla Janitzio is one of the most authentic places to visit to celebrate a truly traditional Day of the Dead.

Isla Janitzio is one of the most authentic places in Mexico to celebrate Day of the Dead. Image of a little island in the middle of a lake.
Isla Janitzio in Lake Patzcuaro

Isla Janitzio is a tiny island in the middle of Lake Patzcuaro. Here, Day of the Dead traditions remain as authentic as they were back in the day.

To get there, you must get to the town of Patzcuaro and hop on a boat to get to the island.

During the morning, women and children decorate the graves of their loved ones at the local cemetery. They create a colorful display of memories and cempasuchil flowers.

In the afternoon, live music performances, traditional dances, and joyful activities are held in order to celebrate and welcome spirits.

Where to stay in Patzcuaro for Day of the Dead

Eco Hotel Ixhi

Eco Hotel Ixhi is a great hotel with great views of Lake Patzcuaro and includes an American breakfast. The eco-friendly building has many renewable energy sources that are made from local materials. Check latest rates and availability.

Sayulita, Nayarit

If you’re looking for a Day of the Dead + beach combo, look no further than Sayulita in Riviera Nayarit. 

Sayulita is one of the best small towns in Mexico to celebrate Dia de los Muertos. Image of a beachy town in Mexico.
Sayulita, Mexico

During the Day of the Dead festivities, this hippy beach town on the Pacific Ocean becomes as lively as ever. The streets fill up with colorful papel picado, life-size catrinas, livening up the streets. And an array of bright flowers decorate every corner.

Once the night arrives, both locals and tourists take part in a traditional night walk from the town’s center and into the local cemetery.

While strolling, you’ll get to learn all about the Day of the Dead and how it’s celebrated in this coastal town in Mexico.

Where to stay in Riviera Nayarit for Day of the Dead

Hotel Ysuri Sayulita

The Hotel Ysuri Sayulita offers 5-star accommodations with a restaurant, free private parking, an outdoor swimming pool, and a bar. The hotel features air-conditioned rooms each with a private bathroom.

With family options available, the hotel also has many other amenities such as WiFi throughout to keep you connected during your stay in Mexico! Check latest rates and more information.

Oaxaca, Oaxaca

Even though it’s not as small as Janitzio or Sayulita, Oaxaca is probably the best destination to celebrate Day of the Dead in Mexico for first-timers.

Oaxaca is one of the best small towns in Mexico to celebrate the Day of the Dead. Image of a cathedral lit up at dusk.
Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption in Oaxaca, Mexico

It’s one of the most tourist-friendly places in Mexico and the folklore capital of the country. Oaxaca is your go-to place if you’re hoping to get fully immersed in the celebration and experience the festivities first-handed.

Aside from the colorful altars and decorations you’ll encounter every step of the way, visitors are encouraged to join in the celebrations. Dress up in traditional clothes and dance the night away at the lively street parties held in every corner of Oaxaca.

Where to stay in Oaxaca City for Day of the Dead

Casa De Sierra Azul

This 19th-century mansion is only 2 blocks from the main square and cathedral. UNESCO has recognized it as a patrimony of humanity, making Casa De Sierra Azul one of Oaxaca’s most luxurious hotels!

Facts about Mexico: Day of the Dead

It’s Not Mexican Halloween

While Halloween is celebrated on Oct. 31, Día de los Muertos occurs right after on Nov 1st and 2nd.

Many communities who also celebrate this Mexican holiday during the same time as Halloween often create unique and creative celebrations that reflect both traditions simultaneously.

It Has Aztec and Mayan Roots

Día de los Muertos originated in ancient Mesoamerica where indigenous groups, including Aztec and Maya had specific times to commemorate their loved ones who died.

After the arrival of Spanish colonizers, this ritual was intertwined with two holidays: All Saints Day (Nov 1) and All Soul’s day (Nov 2).

The Ofrenda is an Integral Part of the Holiday

On the Day of the Dead, each family puts together an altar for their ancestors. The most recognizable symbol is that of a decorated “ofrenda.”

This includes pictures and objects representing memories or items belonging to those who have passed away.

And the candles are there to help guide their way.

Hairless Dogs are Part of Dia de los Muertos Decor

The Xoloitzcuintli, or more commonly known as the hairless Mexican dog is considered a spiritual guide.

As such, these dogs are often included in festivities for this holiday and can be found on decorations throughout Mexico during Dia de los Muertos celebrations.

You’ll See Lots of Butterflies

On Día de los Muertos, people believe that monarch butterflies hold the spirits of departed loved ones. This belief stems from their arrival in Mexico on Nov 1 each year.

Wrap Up

More than just a festivity, the Day of the Dead is a way to remember and celebrate the lives of our loved ones.

I hope this list of authentic small towns to celebrate Day of the Dead gave you some pointers as to where to head to in order to experience this unique and magical date.

Looking for more Day of the Dead content? Find out the cutest Day of the Dead books for kids, Dia de los Muertos craft ideas, and learn how to make a sugar skull craft.

Author

Marcie writes the family travel blog Marcie in Mommyland. When she's not traveling the world, she's home in Seattle with her husband and two little boys.

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