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Mexico’s Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, dates back thousands of years, offering a day of festivities that celebrate loved ones who have passed on to the next life, and temporarily welcoming them back to Earth. Día de los Muertos is traditionally celebrated over November 1 and 2 to coincide with All Saints Day and All Souls Day, and is typically spent with family and friends, filled with colorful costumes, lots of lively music and, of course, loads of food. If you’re lucky enough to be in Mexico for the holiday, consider any of these five great places to celebrate Día de los Muertos.

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México City

Photo courtesy of CDMX

Sometimes art imitates life and sometimes life imitates art. The latter is the case in Mexico City, where government official launched a large Día de los Muertos parade last year after being inspired by scenes from James Bond’s Spectre (traditionally, celebrations were reflective affairs that took place in people’s homes). But México City, perched atop ancient and colonial ruins, serves as the perfect backdrop for a full blown celebration that blends historic traditions and contemporary culture. Visitors can witness the not-to-be-missed Procesión de las Catrinas along Paseo de Reforma; a candlelight homage to “the lord and lady of the underworld” at San Andrés Mixquic Cemetery in Tláhua; and concerts at the Theatre and Cultural House of Mixquic. The most notable Ofrendas and Alters (offerings and alters) can be found in the San Angel neighborhood, and the Mega Ofrenda Zócalo in the Zócalo. The Tianguis del Día de Muertos, or Day of the Dead Market, along the canals and waterways of Xochimilco, is where market-goers will find expansive flower stalls and local handmade items.

Stay: Check in at Galeria Plaza Reforma, which puts you at the heart of the festivities, and impresses with its sleek design and rooftop pool.

Michoacán

Día de los Muertos celebrations in Michoacán are particularly important among the Purépecha indigenous communities, and go well beyond festive “showiness.” In the days leading up to November 1 and 2, cemeteries are covered with cempasuchitls, or marigolds, candles, fruit, bread and incense. The festive atmosphere is blended with a deep sense of community and ceremonial order, during a time in which it’s possible to “encounter those who are no longer here, but return for just one day a year to get together with their families.” The Purépecha also celebrate Ánimeecheri K’uínchekua (The Feast of the Souls), in which holiday food is prepared and shared within the community: tamales, pozole, atole, hot chocolate, bread and much more.

Stay: Consider lodging at the Hotel de la Soledad next to the Plaza de Armas in Morelia’s historic center. The hotel, with its gorgeous courtyard and fountain, beautifully blends high design with the building’s 18th-century details such as stone walls and archways.

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Oaxaca

Photo courtesy of Secretaria de Turismo y Desarrollo Economico

In Oaxaca, “Dead Markets” begin popping up mid-October, selling products that will be placed upon altars, when the Día de los Muertos festivities begin. The altars are usually placed the morning of October 31, with ofrendas (offerings) placed on different levels of the altars, including favorite items of the deceased. Among the most popular ofrendas are delicious black mole sauce, Oaxacan sweets, Oaxacan chocolate milk, Pan de Muerto, mezcal and huge, handmade tortillas. At 6 pm on November 1, Las Comparsas begins—a carnival-like procession of people in costumes, with music and dancing lasting until 8 pm on November 2.

Stay: The Quinta Real Oaxaca is housed in beautiful historic building on a cobblestone street in the Centro area, and puts you right next to the Quetzalli Gallery and the Museum of Contemporary Art of Oaxaca.

Cancún

Photo courtesy of Xcaret Park

This option, about an hour south of Cancún, is an especially great choice for families. The Xcaret “eco-archaeological” park invites Día de los Muertos revelers to participate in its Festival of Life and Death Traditions, held October 30 through November 2. Over the days of celebration, festival goers will experience the Hanal Pixan ritual, or Food for the Souls, through regional cuisine, as well as theater, dance and visual arts exhibits, crafts, workshops and gala concerts. Between events, be sure to check out the park’s trails that showcase the Mayan jungle and culture of Mexico through 50+ attractions.

Stay: There’s no shortage of great accommodations around Cancun, but the five-star Grand Fiesta Americana Coral Beach Cancun puts you right in front of the beach and features a spa, pool and kids’ pool.

San José del Cabo

The streets of downtown Cabo will be dressed in their colorful best with flowers and decorations, as well as many altars filled with ofrendas made by family members to remember their loved ones. The galleries will join in the celebrations, opening their doors and offering drinks to celebrants who fill the streets.

Stay: With its stunning infinity pool, terraces, outdoor bars and dining and a full-service spa, Hotel El Ganzo places you right at the marina and close to close to golf and the Wirikuta Garden.

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Tagged: Mexico

Susan Barnes

Susan Barnes

Susan B. Barnes, aka travlin’ girl, is a freelance travel journalist whose bags are always packed and ready for her next adventure, preferably with her rescued Miniature Schnauzer, Scout, aka travlin’ pup. Follow along on Susan’s travels on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, and with Scout on Instagram.

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