Top 7 Day of the Dead Destinations

Where to Celebrate Day of the Dead in Mexico

Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) is a time when people remember and honor their deceased loved ones, with the idea that the spirits return on this one day of the year to be together with their families. Festivities take place in cities and villages throughout Mexico, though each location may have different customs and ways of honoring their dead. You can witness Day of the Dead celebrations anywhere in Mexico, but here are a few of the places where festivities are particularly colorful.
  • 01 of 07

    Oaxaca, Oaxaca

    Oaxaca on Day of the Dead
    ••• Melissa Kuhnell/Getty Images

    Visitors to Oaxaca during Day of the Dead can visit colorful marketplaces in nearby villages (the Friday market in Ocotlan is outstanding), witness vigils in a variety of cemeteries and take part in night-time carnival-like processions called comparsas. There are also sand tapestry competitions and Day of the Dead altars set up throughout town.

    Learn more about Day of the Dead in Oaxaca

  • 02 of 07

    Janitzio and Patzcuaro, Michoacan

    Day of the Dead on Janitzio Island in Mexico
    ••• Tom Owen Edmunds/Getty Images

    Janitzio is a small island in Patzcuaro Lake and is easily reached by boat from Patzcuaro. The island is home to the Purepecha indigenous group (sometimes called Tarascans) who have elaborate Day of the Dead rituals. There are processions and music, folk dances are performed and families gather in the cemetery to spend the night chanting and singing. Perhaps the most impressive sight is the fishermen in their rowboats with torches lighting up the lake.

  • 03 of 07

    Mixquic, Mexico

    Church in Mixquic, Mexico on the Day of the Dead
    ••• The church in Mixquic, Mexico, on the Day of the Dead. Sergio Mendoza Hochmann/Getty Images

    Mixquic, located in the Tlahuac Delegation of Mexico City (southwest of the Mexico City center) has been swallowed up by the megalopolis's urban sprawl, but retains the ambiance of a rural village with strong indigenous roots. Street stalls are set up in the days before the celebrations. A procession through town with a cardboard coffin leads the way to the cemetery where a candle-light vigil will take place.

  • 04 of 07

    Merida, Yucatan

    Three men wearing skeleton masks looking up at Day of the Dead puppet
    ••• Tony Anderson/Getty Images

    In the Maya language, Day of the Dead celebrations are referred to as Hanal Pixan, which means "feast for the souls." Families gather to prepare a special seasoned chicken tamale wrapped in banana leaves (called pibipollo), which is cooked underground in a pit. The dish is enjoyed by both the spirits, who are believed to consume its essence, and the living, who enjoy the real thing! There are also festivities in the streets and cemeteries. See our Merida City Guide.

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  • 05 of 07

    Aguascalientes

    Festival de las Calaveras
    ••• Calaveras Festival in Aguascalientes. Courtesy of Festival de las Calaveras

    The birthplace of engraver Jose Guadalupe Posada celebrates Day of the Dead every year with the Festival de las Calaveras (Festival of Skulls) from October 28 to November 2. The festival takes place on the city fairgrounds with exhibitions of handicrafts, stands with traditional food and seasonal fruit, and varied theater productions, and concerts. The grand parade of calaveras along Aguascalientes' Avenida Madero is a highlight of the festival.

    Festival Website: Festival de las Calaveras | More about Aguascalientes

  • 06 of 07

    Riviera Maya

    Xcaret theme park in the Riviera Maya
    ••• Courtesy of Xcaret

    Xcaret theme park in the Riviera Maya hosts an annual Festival de la Vida y la Muerte, "Festival of Life and Death," in honor of the Day of the Dead. The festival runs from October 30th to November 2nd, and includes theater and dance performances, concerts, conferences, parades and special tours, as well as special Day of the Dead rituals.

    Festival Website: Festival of Life and Death

  • 07 of 07

    Chiapa de Corzo, Chiapas

    Day of the Dead in Chiapas, Mexico
    ••• fitopardo.com/Getty Images

    This pleasant colonial town on the Rio Grijalva is 7 miles (12 km) from Tuxtla de Gutierrez, capital of the Mexican state of Chiapas. For Day of the Dead the cemetery is decorated in a lively manner with colorful ribbons, flowers and candles. There is live music in the cemetery as families serenade the deceased on their short-lived return.