THE HIGHLIGHTS OF YUCATÁN AND CHIAPAS IN 3 WEEKS
On this 25-day round trip you will explore the highlights of the Yucatán Peninsula: Caribbean beaches, ancient Mayan ruins and colonial cities. Since there is a lot to discover in a small area, you are flexible with a rental car. If you book it in advance, the prices are unbeatable.
Afterwards you will visit the ruins of Palenque and the colonial city of San Cristobal de las Casas in Mexico’s southernmost state of Chiapas. The best way to cover these long distances is with the comfortable night buses.
DAY 1: START IN CANCUN
Your adventure starts in Cancun. You’ll probably arrive here by plane or bus. Cancun is a major transportation hub on the Yucatán Peninsula. However, since the city is worthwhile at best for party vacationers, it’s best to continue straight to the Caribbean island of Isla Mujeres. From the airport or the bus station you take a cab or an UBER and get a ride to Puerto Juarez. There you get on the ferry and 20 minutes later you are in paradise. The ferries run until 10 pm.
Tip: Book your accommodation before you arrive, there are not many low budget alternatives on the island.
Day 2-4: ISLA MUJERES
Isla Mujeres is much more relaxed than Cancun. However, if you are looking for solitude you are wrong here, but it is not overcrowded. The main beach – Playa Norte – has often been voted one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. At the many beach bars you can enjoy the Caribbean flair and the cocktails taste excellent. In the evening there is live music in the many bars of the island. Be sure to stop by Bob’s Bar for a burger dinner. During the day it is worth renting a golf car to explore the island. Also for diving and snorkeling the surrounding reefs are excellent and you will find first class diving schools.
On the 4th day you should leave at the latest in the afternoon to go to Tulum. First you take a cab from the port to the airport to pick up your rental car. The drive to Tulum takes about 1.5 hours.
DAY 5-7: TULUM
Tulum used to be a haven for backpackers looking to escape the hustle and bustle of Cancun. Today, there are almost only boutique hostels at the beach, with budget accommodations located in town about 5 km away. Here you can meet yuppies and backpackers from all over the world. The nightlife is very lively both on the beach and in the city. In the hostel you will get tips for the best party in the evening. On the beach you should definitely visit Eufemia – this taco place has the best price-performance ratio on the beach and the cocktails are great. Accordingly, it is crowded there and the mood is very exuberant.
Don’t miss a visit to the Mayan ruins. The best time to visit them is early in the morning, as the crowds are still limited at that time. On one day you should make a trip to the Siaa Ka’National Park. Here you go by boat through the mangrove forests, watch birds and visit white sandbanks and turquoise lagoons. With a rental car it is very difficult to drive along the gravel road, but every hostel offers organized jeep tours.
Continue on to Valladolid early on day 7, stopping in Coba on the way to see the ruins. They are especially worthwhile as you can even climb the highest pyramid on foot.
DAY 8-9: VALLADOLID
Most people are drawn to Valladolid because of the cenotes, but the center of this cute little town also has a lot to offer. At the small main square you can watch the hustle and bustle of the Mexican population and the many nice bars are worth a visit: especially recommended is the Mezcaleria. The most impressive cenotes are Cenote Zaci, X’Kekén, Samula and San Lorenzo Oxman. Visit Cenote Samula early in the morning when the sunlight is coming through the ceiling. Head out early on day 9 – if you want to visit the wonder of the world, Chichen Itza – to escape the crowds of visitors. Otherwise, the Mayan ruins of Ek Balam offer a great and less touristy alternative. Afterwards, head to Chiquilá, where the ferry to the Caribbean island of Holbox departs. Note that the last ferry leaves the mainland at 8pm.
DAY 10-13: HOLBOX
Holbox Island in the northeast of the Yucatán Peninsula is still a real insider tip. Since it is more difficult to reach than the places on the Riviera Maya, you won’t find any package holidaymakers here and it is generally very quiet. Instead, there are miles of lonely, white sandy beaches and untouched nature. Here you can relax for days in a hammock and enjoy the paradise or take long walks on the endless beaches and watch the birds. If you are there in the summer months, you should definitely take a tour to snorkel with whale sharks. It is an unforgettable experience.
Leave at noon on day 14, return the rental car in Cancun and get a ride to the bus station. Get on the night bus to Campeche. The trip takes about 7 hours.
DAY 14-15 CAMPECHE
Campeche is a real insider’s tip on the peninsula. The city is located on the west coast on the way south and it is worth stopping there. The colorful colonial houses are perfectly restored and you will find many relics of the Mayan era in the surrounding area. Stroll through the small streets and visit the bastion and the well-preserved city wall – one of the main sights of the city. In beautifully restored courtyards, you’ll find excellent restaurants serving traditional Mexican cuisine and excellent seafood.
Take a day to explore the pretty town before boarding the overnight bus to Palenque on day 15.
DAY 16-18 PALEQUE
One of the most fascinating sites of the Mayan era can be found in Palenque. Hidden deep in the jungle of the southernmost state of Chiapas, the heritage of the past advanced civilization lies dormant. Monkeys roar from the trees and you can hear waterfalls splashing – a true jungle adventure. Even the hostels are located in the middle of the jungle and you become one with nature. Visit the ruins early in the morning and take a guide. It’s worth it, as he can show you many facets of the ruins that you would not have discovered otherwise and you will learn a lot about Mayan history. Drive to San Cristobal de las Casas the next day as part of a tour that stops at the Agua Azul and Misol Ha waterfalls. The pure driving time is 5 hours.
DAY 19-21: San Cristobal
This old colonial town in the heart of the Mexican highlands is one of our personal highlights in Mexico. The cityscape is characterized by cobblestone streets, colorful houses and lofty churches. It is also home to Mexico’s most beautiful market, where you can pick up great souvenirs. In the surrounding countryside you can visit small villages where Mayan descendants live – the perfect place to learn about their customs and traditions. You can ride horses to Chamula and watch the Mayan ceremony in the church. But be careful, do not use cameras! San Cristobal is also a gastronomic highlight and the nightlife offers many facets. Be sure to visit the wine bar Vina de Bacco in the late afternoon. Every glass of wine is accompanied by small tapas and musicians play in the street. The best way to get back to Cancun is by plane from Tuxtla Gutiérrez, an hour away.