Twelve Days in Mexico is just enough time to have a well-rounded, unforgettable experience in one or two regions. Get to the heart of the culture as you visit Aztec ruins, enjoy the highlights of the capital, and tour the historic cobbled streets of Guanajuato, Puebla, and Oaxaca. Or focus on the beautiful Yucatán Peninsula as you road-trip along the Riviera Maya, explore Maya archeological sites, and discover the wild beauty of underground rivers and remote islands.

Itinerary #1: Food, Culture & Adventure in Central Mexico

Spend 12-days on active (and delicious) adventures through central Mexico in which you'll sample street food, visit Aztec ruins, hike nature trails, participate in indigenous rituals, and enjoy some beach time.

Oaxaca is just one incredible place you'll visit
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Mexico City, History, Culture & Gastronomy Tour Mexico City
Day 2 National Museum of Anthropology, Visit Chapultepec Park Mexico City
Day 3 Bike Tour of Teotihuacán, Transfer to Cholula Cholula
Day 4 Puebla History Walk & Cholula Highlights Tour Cholula
Day 5 Day Trip to Tehuacán-Cuicuitlan Biosphere Reserve Oaxaca
Day 6 Oaxaca City & Gastronomy Tour Oaxaca
Day 7 Temazcal Ceremony in Capulálpam, Optional Activities Capulálpam
Day 8 Forest Hike Outside Capulálpam, Transfer to Oaxaca Oaxaca
Day 9 Oaxaca to San José Del Pacífico, Cloud Forest Hike San José Del Pacífico
Day 10 Transfer to Mazunte, Optional Activities Mazunte
Day 11 Horseback Riding in Manialtepec, Biominuliscence Tour Mazunte
Day 12 Mazunte to Puerto Escondido, Depart  

The adventure kicks off in Mexico City, where you'll hit the cobbled streets on a tour of its Centro Histórico (historic center) while also hunting for the best street tacos. A trip to the Museum of Anthropology reveals the most extensive collection of indigenous Mexican artifacts in the world. Following this is a stroll around the massive Chapultepec Park, once a summer retreat for Aztec royalty. Cap your time in the capital with a bicycle tour of Teotihuacán, an 8-sq-mile (20-sq-km) ancient city founded in 400 BCE and includes massive structures like the 140-foot (43-m) Pyramid of the Sun.

Then head south to Cholula, a historic district in the city of Puebla known for its Spanish colonial church built on top of an ancient pyramid. Take a nature hike amid columnar cacti in a nature reserve before touring the colonial landmarks in Oaxaca while enjoying the regional cuisine. Then visit a heritage town where you'll experience indigenous culture with an ancient steam bath purification ritual. After forest hikes in both the Oaxaca Valley and coastal mountains, you'll visit the beach town of Mazunte and enjoy adventures on the coast like horseback rides and nighttime bioluminescence tours. Learn more

Itinerary #2: Nature & Maya Culture in the Yucatán

Dive into the cenote lagoons and turquoise ocean waters of the Yucatán peninsula. Over 12 days, you'll explore Maya ruins, visit biosphere reserves, tour colonial cities, and relax on remote islands.

Tulum, on the Yucatán's Riviera Maya
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Cancún, Transfer to Tulum Tulum
Day 2 Chemuyil Cenotes & Tulum Ruins Tulum
Day 3 Free Day in Tulum Tulum
Day 4 Río Secreto Guided Tour Tulum
Day 5 Day Trip to Sian Ka´an Biosphere Reserve Tulum
Day 6 Tulum to Valladolid, Cobá Ruins & Culture in Nuevo Durango Valladolid
Day 7 Morning Tour of Chichén Itzá: Maíz Workshop in Yaxunah Valladolid
Day 8 Walking Tour of Colonial Valladolid, Transfer to Holbox Holbox
Days 9-10 Free Days in Holbox Island Holbox
Day 11 Holbox to Puerto Morelos, Optional Activities Puerto Morelos
Day 12 Puerto Morelos to Cancún, Depart  

You'll arrive in the resort city of Cancún, on Mexico's singularly beautiful Yucatán Peninsula. Follow the famous Riviera Maya section of the Caribbean coast down to Tulum, where you'll laze on its white-sand beaches and explore its fortress ruins. You'll also explore nearby underground rivers and dive into cenotes. Thousands of these limestone sinkholes are in the Yucatán, all fed by the same underground aquifer. After a trip to a coastal biosphere reserve, you'll visit the archeological site of Cobá and its Nohoch Mul pyramid, which, at 137 feet (41 m), is the tallest in Yucatán.

Then head north to Chichén Itzá, Mexico's most famous Maya archeological site. After marveling at its massive El Castillo pyramid (79 ft/24 m), you'll visit a farm that's been a center of maíz (corn) production for thousands of years. Then tour the Spanish-colonial landmarks in the heritage city of Valladolid before heading to the very top of the Yucátan and Holbox Island. Spend a couple of days relaxing on its beaches, lazing in a hammock, and taking boat tours to nearby islets. Transfer to Puerto Morelos and snorkel along its barrier reef before flying home on day 12. Learn more

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Itinerary #3: Discover Central Mexico

Enjoy a 12-day immersion in the culture of central Mexico, filled with treasures ranging from the cobbled streets of Guanajuato to the coffee farms of Cuetzalan to the markets of Cholula and Oaxaca. 

The Church of Nuestra Señora de Los Remedios, in Cholula
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Mexico City, Transfer to Morelia Morelia
Day 2 Morelia Walking Tour, Transfer to Guanajuato Guanajuato
Day 3 Guanajuato Walking Tour, Mountain Horseback Ride Guanajuato
Day 4 Transfer to Querétaro, City Tour & Transfer to Acaxochitlán Acaxochitlán
Day 5 Acaxochitlán Walking Tour, Nahua Cultural Workshops Acaxochitlán
Day 6 Acaxochitlán to Cuetzalan, Totonoca Culinary Experience Cuetzalan
Day 7 Visit Coffee Plantation, Cuetzalan Walking Tour & Transfer to Cholula Cholula
Day 8 Cholula Market Tour Cholula
Day 9 Cholula to Oaxaca, Tour Oaxaca City Oaxaca
Day 10 Hike the Puma Trail, Huatil Amaranth Workshop Oaxaca
Day 11 Guided Hike Near Teotitlán, Cultural Exchange Oaxaca
Day 12 Depart Oaxaca  

After touching down in Mexico City, you'll head north to Morelia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of many stunning Spanish-colonial cities in this region. On a walking tour, visit highlights like the 17th-century Cathedral and mile-long (2 km) stone Acueducto (aqueduct). Up next is Guanajuato, another colonial gem famous for its bright-yellow Basilica, a twin-steepled church that dates to 1671. Leave the cobbled streets behind for a horseback ride around the mountains, then complete this trio of historic cities by stopping at Querétaro, known for its colonial-era temples and convents.

Then travel south into the state of Hidalgo and the town of Acaxochitlán. Here you'll visit a 200-year-old wine store to sample local spirits before continuing into the Sierra Norte de Puebla mountains and one of Mexico's best-kept secrets: Cuetzalan. Located in a fertile coffee-growing region, the town dates to 1547 and is known for its neoclassical buildings, colonial cathedral, and historic main square. After visiting a nearby coffee plantation, you'll head to Cholula and Oaxaca for tours before finishing the trip in the great outdoors with hikes in the Oaxaca Valley and around indigenous villages. Learn more

Itinerary #4: Yucatán Road Trip

Explore the Yucatán on this 12-day road trip that covers the highlights, from the beaches of Tulum and Holbox to the pyramids of Chichén Itzá and all the cenotes and historic cities in between.

Take a dip in Chunyaxché in the Sian Ka'an Reserve
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Cancún, Transfer to Tulum, Optional Activities Tulum
Day 2 Day Trip to Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve Tulum
Day 3 Tulum to Bacalar, Optional Activities Bacalar
Day 4 Sailing Lake Bacalar Bacalar
Day 5 Bacalar to Valladolid, Optional Activities Valladolid
Day 6 Culture & Nature in Yalcobá Valladolid
Day 7 Valladolid to Mérida, Visit Chichén Itzá Mérida
Day 8 Explore Mérida, Culinary & Weaving Workshops in Yaxunah  Mérida
Day 9 Valladolid to Holbox, Optional Activities Holbox
Day 10 Day Trip to Nuevo Xcán & Underground Cenote Tour Holbox
Day 11 Holbox to Puerto Morelos, Optional Activities Puerto Morelos
Day 12 Puerto Morelos to Cancún, Depart  

From Cancún, you'll travel down the coast to Tulum. Then take a day trip to Sian Ka'an, a biosphere reserve that protects over 2,000 sq miles (5,180 sq km) of mangrove forests and unspoiled coastline. On day three, you'll head south to the tranquil Laguna Bacalar to sail its famous "Lagoon of the Seven Colors." Then hop a bus north to the heritage city of Valladolid, where you can see famous historical landmarks like its San Servacio Church, which dates to 1545. On day six, you'll visit the Maya community of Yalcobá to explore underground cave cenotes and participate in a culinary workshop.

After Valladolid, you'll tour Chichén Itzá then head to Mérida, the capital of Mexico's Yucatán state. It was built over an ancient Maya city in 1543 and boasts incredible colonial buildings like the 16th-century Municipal Palace. On day eight, you'll visit an ancient cornfield and participate in a hand-weaving workshop before hitting the road to Holbox. Besides enjoying some R&R on the island, you'll take a day trip to the underground cenotes near the town of Nuevo Xcán. Then it's off to Puerto Morelos to snorkel in its National Reef Park before heading home. Learn more

Itinerary #5: Food & Culture from Mexico City to the Yucatán

Over 12 days, you'll eat your way through Mexico, from the capital to the beach, as you visit colonial towns, tour ancient ruins, and enjoy unspoiled nature reserves. 

See the sunrise over El Castillo at Chichén Itzá
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Mexico City; History, Culture, & Gastronomy Tour Mexico City
Day 2 Day Trip to Xochimilco & Coyoacán, Mezcal Tasting Mexico City
Day 3 National Museum of Anthropology Tour Mexico City
Day 4 Bike Tour of Teotihuacán Mexico City
Day 5 Mexico City to Tulum Tulum
Day 6 Visit the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve Tulum
Day 7 Guided Tours of Cobá & Nuevo Durango, Transfer to Chichén Itzá Chichén Itzá
Day 8 Sunrise Tour of Chichén Itzá, Transfer to Valladolid Valladolid
Day 9 Valladolid Walking Tour, Transfer to Holbox Island Holbox
Day 10 Free Day in Holbox Holbox
Day 11 Holbox to Puerto Morelos Puerto Morelos
Day 12 Puerto Morelos to Cancún, Depart  

This tasty vacation begins in Mexico City with tours of its historic landmarks like the Plaza de la Constitución (better known as Zócalo), the 16th-century Metropolitan Cathedral, and the ruins of the 14th-century Templo Mayor, once a principal temple of the Aztec Empire. You'll also visit two historic areas of Mexico City: Xochimilco is famous for the colorful boats plying its network of canals, and Coyoacán is home to 16th-century buildings, plus the former home of Frida Kahlo, La Casa Azul. Throughout these tours, you'll snack on street food and dine at traditional restaurants. 

After visiting the Museum of Anthropology and cycling around Teotihucán, you'll fly to Yucatán. From Tulum, take a boat ride down the waterways at Sian Ka'an and hike the Nohoch Mul pyramid at Cobá. A real highlight is watching the sunrise over the El Castillo pyramid on day eight, followed by a trip to Holbox Island (via Valladolid) on day nine. Unwind for a couple of days on Holbox and enjoy the food (try the lobster pizza) before returning home on day 12. Learn more

More Great Mexico Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Mexico? Check out these other Mexico itineraries, with outdoor adventures, family-friendly trips, and best-of tours to hit the highlights.


Map of 12 Days in Mexico - 5 Unique Itinerary Ideas
Map of 12 Days in Mexico - 5 Unique Itinerary Ideas