Mexico is the third largest country by land mass in Latin America, right after Brazil and Argentina. When compared to other countries in the world, it is the 13th largest. Despite the amount of land in the country, did you know that 4/5ths of the country’s population is centered in urban areas? Some of the largest cities by population are not necessarily the largest by area. So you can imagine the population density is pretty high in many of the cities in Mexico.
Often, cities are compared by their population size, but let’s take a look at how some of Mexico’s cities compare by land mass. Let’s discover the 8 largest cities in Mexico.
8) Leon: 471 mi²
Leon is a city in central Mexico, about 4 1/2 hours NW of Mexico City. At 471 square miles, it is larger than New York City which measures 303 mi². When you compare population sizes, you will see New York has a much higher population than Leon. New York has 8.38 million and Leon has 1.58 million people as of the 2020 census. The city is recognized for its production of leather, specifically fine leather shoes. The Sierra de Lobos Nature Preserve is just north of downtown Leon where there are hiking trails and you can find mesquite lizards, peregrine falcons and Mexican long-nosed bats.
7) Mexico City: 573 mi²
Mexico City is larger than New York City in size and population! In fact, it is one of the most populated cities in the world. Mexico City is 573 mi² in South-Central Mexico making it a prime location for the United States to the north and Central America to the south. The rich history of Mexico City dates back to 1325 when it was formed by the Mexicas and was originally called Tenochtitlan. Now it is a mix of people from all over the country and the world. The 2020 census put the population of Mexico City at 9,209,944 which makes for a city with a very high population density. For nature lovers, there are places to visit to get back to nature like the Mercado de Jamaica (Jamaica Flower Market) and the Chapultepec Zoo which is one of the few zoos that has Giant Pandas!
6) Acapulco: 726 mi²
The resort town of Acapulco sits on a semi-circle bay on the Pacific Ocean. It became a popular international vacation spot back in the 1950s and ’60s and continues to draw tourists from all over the world. While there has been some concern about the decline of tourism in Acapulco due to some safety and crime issues, people still come for the nightlife and sunny beaches. The city is 726 mi² and has a population of 658,609 with millions more visitors each year, especially during the summer months. For animal lovers check out the small zoo, Zoo at Papagayo Park (Parque Papagayo). This urban park has trails, an artificial lake, and green space right in the heart of the city. You can see parrots up close and iguanas, crocodiles, chimpanzees and a lion.
5) Cancun: 764 mi²
Another great resort town in Mexico, Cancun has a population of over a million and is the 5th largest city by area in Mexico at 764 mi². Cancun is known for its resorts, snorkeling and scuba diving, and its unique Mayan ruins. Many of the hotels are all-inclusive resorts making it easy for visitors to relax and enjoy their vacation without having to make so many decisions. Cancun is on the Yucatán Peninsula and is on the Caribbean Sea with white sandy beaches and turquoise blue waters. If you do go snorkeling you will be rewarded with colorful coral reefs, bright blue and yellow Queen Angelfish, green sea turtles, and maybe a passing pod of dolphins.
4) Reynosa: 1,219 mi²
Now we are looking at the largest cities in Mexico that are more than 1,000 square miles. For reference, the US state of Rhode Island has an area of 1,214 mi², which is really similar to the city of Reynosa which covers 1,219 mi². Reynosa is a border city with the US, right on the Texas border. It is about 90 miles west of South Padre Island, TX, and is on the south bank of the Rio Grande River. With a population of 691,557, it is the largest city by population in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas.
As a border city with the US, several US cities have manufacturing plants in the city including Panasonic and LG. 15 minutes from the downtown area is Laguna la Escondida (The Hidden Lagoon) with the Reynosa Cultural Park. The lagoon area is a place for migratory birds from Canada and the US to stop by during their migrations. You will also find a variety of turtles in the lagoon area.
3) Matamoros: 1,562 mi²
In the same state of Tamaulipas, about an hour east of Reynosa is the 1,562 mi² city of Matamoros. It also borders the US, just across from Brownsville, TX. Matamoros is just a short drive to the coast on the Gulf of Mexico where you can visit Playa Bagdad and the Playa Costa Azul beach. Here you can try your hand at surf fishing for flounder, redfish, speckled trout, or even a small bull shark. The city of Matamoros, population 587,000, got its name from the war hero Mariano Matamoros, a key player in the Mexican War of Independence of 1810-1821.
2) Minatitlan: 1,592 mi²
The second largest city in Mexico by land mass is Minatitlan, just a tad larger than Matamoros at 1,592 mi². Minatitlan is located all the way down the coast from Matamoros, in the state of Veracruz. It is about 7 hours SE of Mexico City near the Gulf of Mexico coast. While Minatitlan is not on the coast it is only 30 minutes from Coatzacoalcos, which is a port city located on the Gulf and the Coatzacoalcos River. The River runs through the south side of Minatitlan with the Parque Central Independencia just north of it. Here you will find a small park with shops and restaurants as well as green space where you might find a variety of iguanas (big and small) lounging in the park. Although Minatitlan is ranked second in land mass it is the 98th most populated city with only 149,162 residents.
1) Durango: 3,877 mi²
The largest city in Mexico by area is Durango with an area of 3,877 square miles. Durango is the capital of the state of Durango in north central Mexico, 10-11 hours northwest of Mexico City. It is 3 hours from the popular coastal city of Mazatlan on the Pacific Coast. At 3,877 square miles, it is larger in area than any US city, with the largest city in the US being Sitka, Alaska at 2,870 mi². Population-wise, Durango is the 31st most populated city in Mexico with a population of 616,068.
The city is known for its Cathedral and Plaza de Armas, a historic cathedral that sits on the main square of the city. Not far from downtown Durango is the “El Tecuan” Ecological Garden where you will find hiking trails, fishing, camping, and a variety of wildlife. The park is home to elk, coyotes, foxes and wolves in the desert-like habitat of northern Mexico. A welcome respite from the downtown life in the largest city in Mexico
Summary of the 8 Largest Cities in Mexico
|Rank by Land Area
|Name of City
|Size by Square Miles
The photo featured at the top of this post is © WitR/Shutterstock.com
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- , Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cities_in_Mexico
- , Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_United_States_cities_by_area
- , Available here: https://www.visitmexico.com/en/durango/el-salto/parque-ecologico-el-tecuan
- , Available here: https://www.nationsencyclopedia.com/mexico/Michoac-n-Zacatecas/Veracruz.html
- , Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coatzacoalcos