This off-the-beaten-track adventure kicks off in Mexico City where you'll learn the area's pre-Colombian history and visit mysterious temples built by the Aztecs and Mayans. From here, fly to the Riviera Maya to ramble in the colonial streets of Valladolid and Mérida, dine on fresh cuisine, and chill out on the Caribbean Sea. Expect private guides and transportation throughout (except for your free day in Tulum).

Highlights

  • Let a private guide show you Mexico City's best sites in the historic center
  • Explore the most impressive Mayan archeological sites in two Mexican states
  • Ride bikes and take dips in Riviera Maya's hidden cenotes (sinkholes)
  • Learn to make tortillas by hand from a friendly village of Mayans
  • Spend two nights in coastal Tulum known for beaches, kite surfing, and yoga

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Mexico City - Walking Tour Mexico City
Day 2 Teotihuacan Archaeological Site & Basilica of Guadalupe Mexico City
Day 3 Fly to Cancún - Drive to Valladolid Valladolid
Day 4 Chichén Itzá & Yokdzonot Cenote Valladolid
Day 5 Ek Balam Archaeological site, Xcanche Cenote & Community Tour Valladolid
Day 6 Uxmal & Kabah Archaeological Sites - Transfer to Uxmal Uxmal
Day 7 Muná Viewpoint - Transfer to Mérida Mérida
Day 8 Mérida City Tour - Transfer to Tulum Tulum
Day 9 Free Day in Tulum Tulum
Day 10 Return to Cancún - Depart Mexico  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Mexico City - Walking Tour

Check out the colorful streets of Mexico City's historic district

Welcome to Mexico City! Upon arrival, you will be picked up at the airport and transferred to your hotel in the city center. You will then meet your private guide for a city tour where you'll visit the historic center including the Metropolitan Cathedral, the Museum of the Great Temple, and Zócalo—the main square in central Mexico City—among other sites of interest. Since some places close at 5 pm, the order in which you see them depends on your arrival time.  

Following the tour, you'll have a free evening to rest and enjoy the vibrant atmosphere of Mexico's capital.

Day 2: Teotihuacan Archaeological Site & Basilica of Guadalupe

Start the day at the Teotihuacan Archaeological Site

This morning, after breakfast at your hotel, your guide will pick you up for a visit to the amazing archaeological site of Teotihuacan—the largest and most revered city in the history of the New World. The site flourished in Mesoamerica's Golden Age, and you'll have some time to explore the grounds and ask questions. 

Following a stop for lunch near the site, you'll head north of the city to visit the famous Basilica of Our Lady Guadalupe, a Roman Catholic Church and national shrine of Mexico, which houses the cloak containing the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

In the evening you can take advantage of some free time for dinner, perhaps at one of Mexico City's best traditional restaurants (ask your guide for recommendations).

Day 3: Fly to Cancún - Transfer to Valladolid

Check out the restaurant and food scene in Valladolid

This morning, depending on the time of your flight, you will be picked up and transferred to the airport for your flight to Cancún. From here, your local transfer will be waiting to take you to the colonial town of Valladolid—a two-hour drive from the airport. You will then check into your hotel and can spend the rest of the day exploring the town.

Valladolid has a number of charming Spanish colonial buildings to see, including the 16th-century Convent of San Bernardino of Siena, with an ornate wooden altarpiece, as well as the baroque-style San Gervasio Cathedral.

In addition, Valladolid is a place full of colors, crafts, and flavorful local cuisine. In fact, a long list of typical Yucatecan dishes originated from here, such as los lomitos, la longaniza de Valladolid, and el escabeche oriental. Join the locals in the plaza next to the Parque Francisco Canton to gather and eat a range of these simple dishes that are muy ricos (very delicious)! For something more sophisticated, there are several good restaurants in the city center city—just ask your local specialist for suggestions.

Day 4: Chichén Itzá & Yokdzonot Cenote

The Kukulkan Pyramid at Chichen Itza

After an early but delicious breakfast at your hotel, you'll be picked up by your local guide who will take you to the archaeological site of Chichén Itzá (a 1.5-hour drive). This Pre-Hispanic city was the most outstanding capital of the Mayan area at the end of the Classic Period and during the beginning of the Post-Classic Period. After the arrival of the Spaniards, it was the most venerated center of worship and pilgrimage in the Yucatán Peninsula.

Following the visit, you can head to the lovely cenote (sinkhole) of Yokdzonot, which is rather unknown and, therefore, not as crowded as other cenotes in the Yucatan. Cenotes are magical, enigmatic and unique in the world, and were once the only source of fresh water in the local jungle. They were sacred to the Mayas for that reason, but also because they represented the entrance to the underworld. (The Yucatán Peninsula is a porous limestone shelf with no visible rivers, meaning all the freshwater rivers are underground.) You will have lunch and enjoy a leisurely swim in the area.

In the afternoon, it's time to head back to Valladolid with free time to enjoy the evening in town as you please.

Day 5: Ek Balam Archaeological Site, Xcanche Cenote & Village Tour

Xcanche cenote

After breakfast, get ready for a fun day of sightseeing starting with a visit to the archeological site of Ek Balam, or black jaguar, which refers to the Mayan king who constructed it. This site reached its peak during the Late Classic Period (600-900 AD); when the Mayas abandoned it, the area became surrounded by the dense low-lying jungle typical of the Yucatán Peninsula. The pyramids were later discovered when archaeologists and adventurers saw a group of hills with trees and brush growing out of them. Digging around the mounds, they uncovered treasures of buildings and artifacts, which had been hidden for hundreds of years.

After this interesting visit, you will take your own bike (or a bike taxi; whichever you choose) for a 1.5-mile tour of Sacbé (White Road in Mayan) to get to the Xcanché cenote. You'll also get to choose between various lunch options for some tasty regional food. Once in the cenote, there will be time to relax and take a refreshing swim. 

Next, you will head to the nearby village for a walking community tour, in which you will visit three homes to see the daily life of Mayan families. Learn how to make tortillas by hand, see how hammocks are knitted, and join an embroidery workshop before returning to Valladolid for the evening.

Day 6: Uxmal & Kabah Archaeological Sites - Transfer to Uxmal

Uxmal's ancient Mayan city

Today your private transfer will take you to Uxmal for a tour through its wonderful archaeological site. The name Uxmal means 'thrice-built' in Mayan, referring to the construction of its highest structure, the Pyramid of the Magician, built on top of existing pyramids. Uxmal was one of the largest cities of the Yucatán Peninsula on the Ruta Puuc (Puuc Route) and was, at its peak, home to approximately 20,000 Mayans.

During the excursion, you will also visit another treasure in the area: Kabah. This site is home to some very interesting and unusual buildings and sculptures. One of its most prominent buildings is the Palace of the Masks, one of the most impressive examples of Mayan architecture wearing a facade covered with hundreds of masks of the rain god Chac. Similar to other sites in the Puuc region, the people of Kabah were dependent on rain to water their precious crops of corn, thus their devotion to Chac.

Following the tour, you'll be dropped off at your hotel in Uxmal for the evening.

Day 7: Muná Viewpoint - Transfer to Mérida

Merida is the capital of Yucatan

This morning, you'll depart Uxmal and head to the Mirador Muná Chac-Nah to see a beautiful project by indigenous locals that combines nature conservation and traditional Mayan culture. While here, the natives will invite you to participate in a workshop of engraving jícara—a fruit that is grown in the Yucatán Peninsula, which was used to store food or water during ancient times. You will be amazed when seeing all the different types of crafts that can be made with natural fruits. You will also get the chance to visit the local craft workshop and an ecological museum.

If that's not enough ecological fun, you will then head towards the ecological center of Mun-Ha for a delicious regional lunch.

In the afternoon, you'll transfer to the beautiful and vibrant city of Mérida, the capital of Yucatan. Either rest at your hotel or get out and explore the area for dinner. 

Day 8: Mérida City Tour - Transfer to Tulum

The Caribbean Sea from Tulum Village

Today you'll start with a lovely tour around Mérida, an increasingly hip and happening city that is rich in Mayan and colonial heritage. Head to the city’s focal point called Plaza de la Independencia to see the fortresslike Mérida Cathedral and white limestone Iglesia de la Tercera Orden—both colonial-era churches built using relics from ancient Mayan temples. Also worth a stop is the Casa de Montejo, a 16th-century mansion.

From here, you'll begin a 3-hour journey to Tulum; you and your driver can decide where and when to stop along the way. Once arrived, you'll have the rest of the day to enjoy the village of Tulum and its sparkling stretch of turquoise Caribbean Sea. You'll find plenty of beaches and well-preserved ruins from this ancient Mayan port city, not to mention great restaurants to sample. 

Day 9: Free Day in Tulum

Head to one of Tulum's beaches for some sun and sea

Enjoy a free day in Tulum! There are plenty of open-air yoga studios and beaches to explore (and beach clubs offering chairs, umbrellas, and cabanas), as well as watersports like snorkeling, scuba diving, and kite surfing available.

You'll likely want to simply relax on the sand today but if you're anxious to see more of the area, your local specialist can offer suggestions or arrange a guided tour. 

Day 10: Transfer to Cancún - Depart Mexico

Sunset in Tulum

It's time to say goodbye to Mexico! At the designated time, you will be transferred to the airport in Cancun for your departure home. Have a safe flight home and come back soon! Hasta luego!

Map

Map of Mexico City & Riviera Maya - 10 Days
Map of Mexico City & Riviera Maya - 10 Days