Over 12 days, you'll experience the cultural highlights of Mexico City and the Yucatán Peninsula, from the cuisine to the historic landmarks to the natural beauty. It starts with a whirlwind tour of Mexico's capital, during which you'll nibble on street food, stroll the colonial streets of Coyoacán, and hike the pyramids of Teotihuacán. Then it's off to the stunning Yucatán region to laze on white-sand beaches, visit biosphere reserves, and hike around ancient Maya ruins.


  • See the historic center of Mexico City and enjoy its street food
  • Hike the Pyramid of the Sun in Teotihuacán
  • Float down the tranquil waterways of the Sian Ka'an reserve
  • Laze on the white-sand beaches of Holbox Island

Brief Itinerary

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 Float in the Muyil 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 Transfer to Puerto Morelos Puerto Morelos
Day 12 Transfer to Cancún, Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Mexico City; History, Culture, & Gastronomy Tour

Mexico City's Metropolitan Cathedral
Mexico City's famous Zócalo

Welcome to Mexico! This beautiful Latin American nation is full of history, art, music, and some of the most delicious. The adventure begins in the nation's capital: Mexico City. Upon arrival at the airport, a personal driver will pick you up for the transfer to your hotel. After settling in, you'll head out and stretch your legs on a four-hour walking tour of "DF" (Distrito Federal), as the locals call this city. On tour, you'll marvel at the historic architecture while enjoying Mexico's renowned gastronomy.

It begins in the Centro Histórico (historic center), a UNESCO World Heritage Site home to many colonial and Aztec landmarks. You'll visit the Palacio de Bellas Artes (a white-marble cultural center and concert hall built in 1905), the pedestrian-only Madero Street, and the Plaza de la Constitución, better known as Zócalo. This massive public square is home to historic buildings like the Metropolitan Cathedral (built over 250 years beginning in 1573), the 16th-century National Palace, and the ruins of the 14th-century Templo Mayor, once a principal temple of the Aztec Empire.

During the tour, you'll periodically stop to indulge in the local street food. Sample traditional favorites like the famous tacos al pastor and quesadillas with melted cheese and huitlacoche, also known as Mexican truffle. If you have room, enjoy a dessert of fresh hot churros dusted with sugar and cinnamon. As you go, you'll realize that in this former Aztec capital, there's an incredible variety of delectable tidbits, and in every bite is a taste of Mexico City's history and culture.

Day 2: Day Trip to Xochimilco & Coyoacán, Mezcal Tasting

Take a ride down  Xochimilco's canals

Today, you'll head to the city's southern outskirts and Xochimilco. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is known for its tranquil canals—remnants of the rivers that once crossed the valley floor of Mexico and were used by the Aztecs for transport. A popular activity you'll enjoy here is traveling down the canals on a trajinera (painted, gondola-like boat). You'll also learn about chinampa—the ancient Aztecs' techniques for growing food on the fertile riverbeds—and visit a maíz (corn) conservation project. Enjoy a delicious pre-Hispanic meal in a restaurant specializing in maíz recipes for lunch.

Later, you'll visit Coyoacán, a well-preserved Spanish-colonial neighborhood famous for its cobbled streets, shady plazas, and colorful homes. On a guided tour, you'll see the 16th-century San Juan Bautista Church and La Casa Azul, the house where Frida Kahlo spent much of her life and is now a museum. Then you'll take a break for a mezcal tasting and sample three artisanal versions of this popular spirit made from the agave plant. For dinner, you'll sit down at a restaurant in Coyoacán that specializes in traditional Mexican cuisine. Be sure to try the Oaxacan mole.  

Day 3: National Museum of Anthropology Tour

Tour the Museum of Anthropology
Today you'll enjoy a 2.5-hour guided tour of one of the most important museums in Latin America. The Museum of Anthropology is an architectural marvel built in the '60s by architect Pedro Ramírez Vázquez; its 23 rooms and outdoor exhibit spaces are home to the world's largest collection of ancient Mexican art. There are many pre-Columbian sculptures and ethnographic exhibits about modern-day indigenous groups. Highlight items include the Aztec Calendar, The Olmec colossal head (a giant stone head carved out of basalt), and the jade mask of the Zapotec Bat God.

Day 4: Bike Tour of Teotihuacán

View of the Pyramid of the Sun and the Avenue of the Dead
The Pyramid of the Sun and Avenue of the Dead

In the morning, your guide will pick you up at the hotel for the one-hour drive outside the city to one of the most impressive archaeological sites in Mexico: Teotihuacán. Known as the "City of the Gods," this 8-sq-mile (20-sq-km) site was founded as early as 400 BCE, meaning it long pre-dates the Aztecs. During its heyday (around 500 CE), it was home to 200,000 people and over 2,000 buildings, making it the largest city in the western hemisphere. Rather than taking a walking tour of its wide pathways, you'll experience Teotihuacán a bit differently—on a bicycle.

Upon arrival, you'll hop on a bike and cycle around the archaeological site, first passing the many murals that decorate the structures and which depict cultural and religious motifs as well as natural landscapes. Then travel down the Avenue of the Dead, Teotihuacán's main path that runs for 2 km. You'll also visit the Pyramid of the Sun, the largest structure at 215 feet (66 m), and the Pyramid of the Moon, which towers 140 feet (43 m). Then stop at the Temple of Quetzalcoatl (Temple of the Feathered Serpent), which has bas-reliefs of the feathered serpent deity carved into its sides.

After this six-hour tour, you'll return to your hotel in Mexico City.

Day 5: Mexico City to Tulum

Visit Tulum's ruins in your spare time
In the morning, your driver will pick you up and transfer you to the airport for your flight to Cancún, located on Mexico's famous Yucatán Peninsula. Upon arrival, you'll pick up a rental car and make the 2-hour drive south to the resort town of Tulum. This route is part of Mexico's famous Riviera Maya, a section of gorgeous coast spanning over 100 miles (160 km) along the Caribbean. Enjoy the ride because there's breathtaking coastal scenery the whole way. When you do get to Tulum, you'll check in to your hotel and can relax after your flight.

Day 6: Float in the Muyil Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve

Floating in Sian Ka'an Reserve
Taking a dip in Sian Ka'an
Plan your trip to Mexico
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

In the morning, you'll head out on a six-hour hiking tour of nearby Sian Ka'an, a biosphere reserve, and UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is one of the largest protected areas in Mexico, covering over 2,000 sq miles (5,180 sq km). The site has natural wonders like tropical forests, palm savannas, wetlands, mangroves, lagoons, and an unspoiled coastline. The region's sheer beauty is represented in its name—in the Mayan language, Sian Ka'an means "origin of the sky." Today's activity is part of a community-based ecotourism cooperative focusing on conservation and a commitment to responsible tourism.

You'll arrive at a community center where you'll join your tour group and start the excursion. After hiking for a while on a jungle trail, you'll arrive at the temple ruins at Muyil, an ancient Maya site settled in 300 BCE. Continue hiking until you reach the edge of the turquoise Chunyaxche Lagoon, where you'll ride a boat through a mangrove channel and arrive at a small dock. Once there, you can take a refreshing dip in the water. The real joy here is floating slowly along the channels amid the peaceful surroundings and listening to the calls of howler monkeys and exotic birds in the trees.

After the swim, you'll head back to the community center, where you'll find a hearty meal. Then it will be time to return to your hotel in Tulum.

Day 7: Guided Tours of Cobá & Nuevo Durango, Transfer to Chichén Itzá

Nohoch Mul at Cobá

In the morning, you'll leave Tulum and head northwest into the interior of the Yucatán, stopping at a couple of interesting places along the way. First, you'll enjoy a guided bicycle tour of the ancient Maya archaeological site in the town of Cobá. As you cycle along the ancient white pathways, you'll marvel at the ruins of this former metropolis whose heyday was between 600-900 CE. The real highlight is hiking up the 120 stone steps of Nohoch Mul, which, at 137 feet (41 m), is the tallest pyramid in Yucatán. Once at the top, you'll be rewarded with incredible views of the surrounding jungle.

After touring the Cobá ruins, you'll continue north to Nuevo Durango, a small village known for its underground caves, ecotourism projects, and organic farms. Tourism has little touched this charming community, and thus the residents have retained their customs and culture. Here you'll enjoy a traditional meal with the family of Don Manuel, who operates a project for the conservation of endangered animals. As you learn about Don's work, you'll see a few of the region's endemic species. Also, there is an insectarium, which holds a variety of spiders, scorpions, and butterflies. 

Say goodbye to Manuel and his family and then continue into the heart of the Yucatán and the village of Pisté. Few would know this town if it weren't the location of one of the New Seven Wonders of the World: Chichén Itzá. This is the most famous ancient Maya archaeological site in the Yucatán, and it routinely draws over two million visitors annually. En route to Pisté, you'll stop at the Punta Laguna Nature Reserve for a boat ride across the lagoon. It's an excellent opportunity to do some wildlife spotting—particularly the countless spider monkeys that populate the area. 

Day 8: Sunrise Tour of Chichén Itzá, Transfer to Valladolid

Sunrise at Chichén Itzá & visit a beautiful cenote
Sunrise over Chichén Itzá

It's an early start today, as you'll wake up at 5:30 am to arrive at the archaeological site of Chichén Itzá in time to see the sunrise over the pyramids. This ancient Maya city dates to the 5th century, and on a guided tour, you'll see all the highlights. Famous ruins include the iconic El Castillo (a majestic pyramid that rises 79 ft/24 m), the Jaguar Temple, the House of Eagles (a ceremonial platform), and El Caracol (a circular observatory), plus the largest ball court in Mesoamerica.

After Chichén Itzá, hop in the car and drive about an hour east to the historic city of Valladolid, stopping along the way at a remote cenote. Thousands of these limestone sinkholes are found throughout the Yucatán region, all fed by the world's largest underground aquifer. Moreover, they are sacred to the Maya people and have existed since antiquity, representing the doorway to Xibalba (the Maya underworld). You'll take a refreshing dip in its clear waters at this cenote and then enjoy a traditional Yucatecan lunch. Afterward, continue to Valladolid and check in to your hotel.

Day 9: Valladolid Walking Tour, Transfer to Holbox Island

The "magical city" of Valladolid

Valladolid is known as one of Mexico's Pueblos Mágicos (Magical Towns). This is a special designation the country has bestowed on some 132 places that have demonstrated historical importance, rich culture, great symbolism, and exceptional beauty. And Valladolid certainly qualifies. Founded in 1543, this small city saw many confrontations between the Maya and the conquistadores, plus it was the site of the uprising that sparked the Mexican Revolution of 1910.

You'll learn about Valladolid's history, plus see its colonial architecture on a guided walking tour. This includes landmarks like the Convento de San Bernardino de Siena (founded in 1552) and the San Servacio Church, which dates to 1545 and overlooks the Parque Francisco Canton, the town's main plaza. You'll also stroll the historic cobbled street of Calzada de Los Frailes. When you get hungry, head to the plaza to enjoy typical Yucatecan dishes (many of which originated in Valladolid). Try the lomitos (pork loin in tomato sauce) with a marquesita (a type of rolled, fried crepe) for dessert.

Then you'll drive north two-hours to the tip of the Yucatán Peninsula and the town of Chiquilá. Here you'll leave the car, take a 15-minute ferry ride to Holbox Island, and check in to your hotel.

Day 10: Free Day in Holbox

Holbox Islands
Relaxation therapy on Holbox

Welcome to Holbox! This sleepy island couldn't be more different than the tourist hotspot of Cancún, which is just a couple of hours away. There are no paved roads here, so most people get around on foot, bicycle, or golf cart. And while there are many activities on offer, one of the most popular is whiling away the hours lazing in a hammock perched on the shallow turquoise waters of Holbox's shores. You'll have the whole day free to enjoy this paradise however you like.

While beach time is the order of the day here, there are also plenty of active excursions in Holbox. For example, kitesurfing is a popular activity along shallow shores, particularly during the winter when the winds are up. Also, May to September is whale shark season, and you can book an excursion to go swimming with these gentle giants during this time. You can also take a kayak tour along the coast, which is most incredible at night, where, if you're lucky, you'll witness electric blue bioluminescence lighting up the water.

Day 11: Holbox to Puerto Morelos

The crystalline waters of Puerto Morelos are great for snorkeling
In the morning, you'll leave Holbox and transfer a few hours by car to Puerto Morelos, located on Yucatán's Caribbean coast. This is the very definition of a sleepy Mexican fishing village, but there are several attractions in the area. Besides the surrounding jungle and nearby cenotes, Puerto Morelos is famous for its National Reef Park. This marine reserve protects a nearby section of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the largest reef in the world after Australia's Great Barrier Reef.
After checking in to your hotel, you'll have free the remainder of the day. The most exciting thing to do is head out for a 2-hour snorkeling trip in the marine park. All snorkeling/diving tours here are led by certified guides (it's mandatory), and within this nearly 150-acre park, you'll see a wide array of marine life. These include tropical fish congregating around various colorful corals like brain and elk-horn coral. You'll also see rays, octopuses, barracudas, starfish, sea snails, turtles, and many more species. 

Day 12: Puerto Morelos to Cancún, Depart

Goodbye, Mexico
Your grand vacation to Mexico has come to an end. In the morning, you'll transfer by car to the airport in Cancún, where you'll catch your flight home. ¡Buen viaje!

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Map of Food & Culture from Mexico City to the Yucatán - 12 Days
Map of Food & Culture from Mexico City to the Yucatán - 12 Days