Take in the views from atop ancient Mayan pyramids and underneath waterfalls with this two-week trip through some of the region's top spots. You'll wander through complex Mayan ruins, along turquoise shores, and into jungles as you learn about Mexican history and ecosystems.

Highlights

  • Discover waterfalls and hidden caves in Sumidero Canyon
  • Explore the Mayan ruins of Palenque, Chichén Itzá, and Tulum
  • Dive into the Bacalar Lagoon and X'Canche cenote

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Palenque Palenque
Day 2 Palenque Archaeological Site Palenque
Day 3 Roberto Barrios Waterfalls Palenque
Day 4 Yaxchilan and Bonampak Palenque
Day 5 Lacandona Forest Track Palenque
Day 6 Palenque to Calakmul Calakmul
Day 7 Calakmul Archaeological Site to Bacalar Bacalar
Day 8 Sail in Bacalar Lagoon Bacalar
Day 9 Free Day in Bacalar Bacalar
Day 10 Bacalar to Tulum Tulum
Day 11 Muyil Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve Tulum
Day 12 Archaeological Sites of Cobá & Tulum Tulum
Day 13 Chichén Itzá & Cenote Swim Valladolid
Day 14 Depart Valladolid  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Palenque

Cancun
Neighbor city Cancún

Welcome to Mexico! Your route to Palenque will take you through Cancún's international airport, followed by a local flight to Villahermosa and drive to Palenque in southern Mexico.

Day 2: Palenque Archaeological Site

Palenque
Palenque

After breakfast, you'll drive out to the archaeological site of Palenque, one of the most intriguing archaeological cities in Mexico. The site gives you a window into the Mayan world's myths, rituals, and beliefs, and of course, the majestic architecture.

The city and its surrounding national park were added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1987 as one of the most important Mayan sites in the Usumacinta river basin. It covers an area of roughly 10 miles (16 km), with more than 200 architectural structures and constructions. Particular highlights include the Temple of the Inscriptions, the Grand Palace, Temple XI, the temples of La Foliada, del Sol and Conde, and the Ball game. 

After visiting the buildings themselves, venture out into the surrounding vegetation and trek along the eco-archaeological path of Motiepá, home to a slew of flora and fauna, including jaguars and howler monkeys.

End the exploration at the Alberto Ruz Lhullier site museum, where original pieces found from different periods of Palenque are housed.

Day 3: Roberto Barrios Waterfalls

Roberto Barrios waterfall
Roberto Barrios waterfall

Follow the river to the Roberto Barrios waterfalls, about 9 miles (14 km) from Palenque. These natural formations along the Bascan's River are known for their clear turquoise water and surrounding landscapes. Stroll around, take photos, or jump in the river before you return to Palenque for the afternoon.

Day 4: Yaxchilan and Bonampak

Yaxchilan
Yaxchilan

Get an early start this morning as you head out to the Chól community in Frontera Corozal. From there, you'll board a motorboat to take you out into the jungle, to the archaeological site of Yaxchilan, "the place of green stones."  You'll visit the great and small Acropoli and 33 temples before you return to Frontera Corozal. Then continue to your second site of the day at Bonampak in the Lacandon jungle. See original paintings with 1,100 years of antiquity along with steles and lintels that narrate the lifestyle and government of this pre-Hispanic city.

Day 5: Lacandona Forest Track

Lake
Lake in the forest

Meet your guide after breakfast for a roughly 3.5-hour trek through the forest to enjoy the nature and archaeological area at Lacanja. You'll learn about the animal and plant life in the area, especially the medicinal plants, and even pass a waterfall where you can take a swim break.

Day 6: Palenque to Calakmul

Calakmul Pyramid
Calakmul Pyramid

Transfer in the morning to the region of Calakmul, a combination of tropical reserve and Mayan historical sites.

Day 7: Calakmul Archaeological Site to Bacalar

Calakmul Arqueological site
At the archaeological site

Get out into the ancient Mayan city of Calakmul, one of the main capitals of the Mayan world and most significant archaeological findings of the 20th century.

The route there leads you through the jungle biosphere reserve, where you may spot monkeys, toucans, oscillated turkeys, deer, and, if you're lucky, jaguars and pumas. You'll also stop at the Natural History and Archaeology Museum, where you'll take a guided tour to introduce you to the regional nature and archaeology. Your guide will accompany you as you move on to the paths of the archaeological site itself, telling you about the meanings and uses of the buildings along with the city's history.

After you leave the site, you'll continue to the shores of Bacalar, the Seven Colors lagoon, where you'll spend the night.

Day 8: Sail in Bacalar Lagoon

Laguna de Bacalar
On the lagoon

Venture out to the pier and board a sailboat for a trip through the lagoon. Sail across the clear waters that change color as you pass through them on a 4-hour tour, including stops to swim and snorkel.

Day 9: Free Day in Bacalar

Bacalar Lagoon
Swinging away

How you spend today in the relaxed village of Bacalar is up to you. There is plenty of history to learn about the conflicts between the Mayans and Spanish that happened here, as well as English, French, and Dutch pirates. Pay a visit to the Fort Museum for a look at the nautical history, or visit the house of culture to learn about poetry, theater, and traditional dance.

Day 10: Bacalar to Tulum

Bacalar's lagoon
Lagoon views

Keep lounging on the lagoon shore until lunchtime, at which point you'll transfer toward Tulum city. This popular destination sits in the highest zone of the eastern coast, giving it stunning sunrise views.

After you arrive, you'll have the afternoon free to swim in the cenotes or stroll around the city archaeological site.

Day 11: Muyil Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve

Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve
Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve

Start early for an excursion in Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve. You'll follow a local guide to the archaeological site at Muyil, walking along an interpretive path through the jungle, up to the edge of the turquoise Chunyaxche lagoon.

Board a boat through the mangroves to get to a swimming spot and float down the slow river back toward the community center.

Day 12: Archaeological Sites of Cobá & Tulum

Tulum archaeological site and beach
Tulum archaeological site and beach

Start your day with a trip out to Cobá, surrounded by trees alongside a lagoon. The design and purpose of this area were different from the other Mayan cities', with white roads leading from each settlement up to the main pyramid of Nohoch Mul—the largest in the Yucatan Peninsula. You have the option to climb to the top of the pyramid to take in the views.

Continue to the ruins of ancient Tulum, a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of Mexico's most famous attractions. The city played an important role in maritime trade and functioned as both an astronomical observatory and a defense system. It sits within a mangrove ecosystem overlooking the Caribbean, making it extra enticing.

Day 13: Chichén Itzá & Cenote Swim

Archaeological site of Chichen Itza
The archaeological site of Chichen Itza

Visit a different archaeological site today at the Mayan ruins of Chichén Itzá. This pre-Hispanic city was once the most venerated center of worship and pilgrimage of the Yucatán Peninsula. Its main draw is the step Pyramid of Kukulkán (El Castillo), though there are many significant Mayan and Toltec buildings, sculptures, and reliefs that will pull you in. Look for the Chacmools, Temple of the Warriors, Hall of the Thousand Columns, and the ball courts, to name a few.

After you've finished exploring the extensive complex, head to the nearby Yokdzonot cenote. These unique natural sinkholes were once the only source of fresh water in the jungle, and were sacred to the ancient Maya, and believed to represent the entrance to the underworld. You'll spend the night in the nearby town of Valladolid.

Day 14: Depart Valladolid

Have a safe flight!
Fwoosh

Enjoy one last Mexican breakfast before you transfer to the airport to your flight home.