Mexico’s winter season begins on or around December 21 each year, and although the seasonal change does not feel as marked as it does further north in the hemisphere, if you’re living or visiting here during this time of year, you’ll feel a distinct change in the air and its temperatures.
The climate in Mexico begins to turn during the Autumn when temperatures at higher altitudes will begin to feel generally cooler from late September. By mid-to-late December, towns and cities situated at higher elevations can feel chilly or even cold after sundown.
How marked the temperature change feels depends on where you are in Mexico. Areas situated at lower elevations and near the coasts lose their high humidity and heat to become pleasantly warm, whereas the central highlands and some areas along the Gulf Coast are cooler and also become subject to temporary cold fronts from the north —colloquailly called nortes in Spanish— which can bring gusts of icy wind and even overnight frost for a few days at a time. Cold spells tend to pass surprisingly quickly and on most winter days daytime-high temperatures can reach a pleasantly-warm 21-23 degrees centigrade; 70-74 degrees Fahrenheit.
Cooler winters in Mexico’s central highland regions
As we outlined in a related article, Mexico is a land of three lands, featuring low-lying coastal plains, central highland areas, as well as some settlements situated high-up in the mountains.
Winter climates in Mexico’s central highlands range from temperate to cool, and can turn cold on occasions.
Mexico’s northern regions (as well as Mexico’s Copper Canyon) can experience sub-zero temperatures and even snowfall through the winter months.
In the central highland states of Querétaro, Guanajuato, San Luis Potosí, Aguascalientes, and Zacatecas, as well as the western highland areas of Guadalajara and Chapala/Ajijic winter temperatures can oscillate between being comfortably warm during the day, to freezing overnight; these areas are also subject to cold spells brought by inclement weather fronts from the north.
Temperatures in the valley of Mexico City, situated at an elevation of ~7,300 feet above sea level, can feel quite cool and sometimes cold overnight between late November and early February.
Where to find warmth during winter months in Mexico
For warmth during December, January and February, you’ll need to be situated in lower-lying areas, or near Mexico’s coasts. Los Cabos and Baja California Sur, Mazatlán, Puerto Vallarta, Cancún and the Riviera Maya, Manzanillo, Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo, Acapulco, Huatulco, Mérida and the Yucatán peninsula —places which can get very hot during the summer months— tend to enjoy gloriously comfortable and warm temperatures during the winter, which is why they are so popular with part-time winter residents (“snowbirds”). These are also favorite winter-getaway for residents of Mexico’s highlands who may repair to the coast for a few days’ dose of sweet warm air, especially if a cold front lingers.
Further south, in less arid states and those which slope down to the coasts, the climate tends to be more temperate year-round, and while winters can feel cool and be subject to cold spells, they don’t get as cold as those states situated further north. South of Mexico City, the states of Morelos, Puebla, Guerrero, Oaxaca, and Chiapas are less prone to cold or freezing temperatures during the winter months. West of Mexico City in Michoacán, one of the states which features highland areas inland and coastal plains as you travel west to the Pacific, temperatures can vary dramatically: Pátzcuaro can feel quite cold after sundown during winter months, whereas a three-hour drive west from there to Zihuatanejo the climate becomes pleasantly warm.
Enjoy Mexico’s long daylight hours, even during winter
A big attraction of Mexico’s climate is that, temperatures aside, it offers long hours of daylight all year-round. During winter, daylight hours do shorten a little, and while most of the country observes Daylight Savings Time, most places in Mexico enjoy between ten and eleven hours of daylight every day of the year—in contrast to Canada and the northern US and Europe, where you can experience as little as five hours of daylight in the depths of winter.
Winter brings the Monarch Butterflies to Mexico
The Monarch Butterflies begin to arrive in Mexico from around mid-November. The highland oyamel fir-tree forests where they overwinter are coldest during December, causing the insects to cluster together on the trees for warmth, so if you want to see the butterflies in a more active state, then the ideal time to visit them is from mid-January to mid-March —the peak viewing season— when the daytime temperatures are warmer.
Late winter climates in Mexico
By late January, you can begin to feel the climate shifting again, and by late February temperatures in the central highlands can return to feeling quite warm as winter yields to spring in Mexico, ushering-in some of the driest days of the year before the rain season begins in May or June. Temperatures near the coasts begin their transition back from warm-to-hot during the spring, which is also when the coastal humidity returns.
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