Explore two of Mexico's highlight regions: historic Mexico City and the beautiful Yucatán Peninsula. In the former, you'll hike up Aztec pyramids and stroll the cobbled streets of its Centro Histórico—all while indulging in delicious street food. Then you're off to the white-sand beaches of the Yucatán, where you'll tour ancient Maya ruins, participate in indigenous workshops, and snorkel marine reserves.

Highlights

  • Enjoy a culture and foodie tour of Mexico City
  • Take a bicycle tour of Teotihuacán and hike giant pyramids
  • Explore the biosphere reserves, lakes, and rivers of the Yucatán
  • Visit famous Maya archeological sites like Chichén Itzá and Cobá

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Mexico City, Evening Food Tour Mexico City
Day 2 Mexico City History & Gastronomy Tour Mexico City
Day 3 Bike Tour of Teotihuacán Mexico City
Day 4 Mexico City to Cancún, Transfer to Valladolid, Optional Activities Valladolid
Day 5 Day Trip to Chichén Itzá, Cultural Experience in Yalcobá Valladolid
Day 6 Day Trip to Río Lagartos Reserve & Las Coloradas Valladolid
Day 7 Valladolid to Nuevo Durango, Tour Cobá Ruins & Maya Culinary Workshop Nuevo Durango
Day 8 Punta Laguna Wildlife Tour, Transfer to Tulum Tulum
Day 9 Visit Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve, Transfer to Puerto Morelos Puerto Morelos
Day 10 Puerto Morelos Snorkeling Tour Puerto Morelos
Day 11 Puerto Morelos to Cancún, Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Mexico City, Evening Food Tour

Mexico City's Metropolitan Cathedral overlooks the Zócalo
Mexico City's Metropolitan Cathedral overlooks the Zócalo

Welcome to Mexico! This culturally rich and beautiful Latin American nation is full of history, art, music, and some of the most delicious food in the world. Upon arrival at the airport in Mexico City, a driver will transfer you to your hotel. You'll have some time to unpack and unwind, but get ready because your day is just starting once the sun goes down.

In the evening, you'll head to Narvarte. This residential neighborhood has become a prime foodie destination due to its many traditional taquerias. On a four-hour guided tour, you'll visit food stalls run by vendors who've been in the neighborhood for decades. Delicious tacos you'll enjoy include volcanes (flame-grilled tortillas smothered in cheese and peppers), suadero (a lean cut of beef), and of course the famous al pastor (pork shoulder roasted on a spit). Then toss back a chela ("beer") at a local cantina and finish the night with a mezcal tasting led by a local chef.

Day 2: Mexico City History & Gastronomy Tour

Discover Mexico one bite at a time

In the morning, you'll take a guided four-hour tour of Mexico City's Centro Histórico, an area so historic it's earned UNESCO World Heritage status. You'll visit the Palacio de Bellas Artes (a white-marble 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 landmark 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 significant temple of the Aztec Empire.

Afterward, head just south of the Zócalo to the Mercado de San Juan. This covered market takes up an entire city block and is a great place to take the pulse of the city, as it's always abuzz with activity. This is where everyone from renowned chefs to local grandmothers shop for fresh produce; however, besides the traditional fruits and vegetables, you'll also find more exotic items like scorpions. On a three-hour tour, you'll stroll the aisles and taste local fruits, cheeses, jams, coffees, and other delicacies as you learn about the history and culture of Mexican gastronomy.

Day 3: 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, at Teotihuacán

In the morning, your guide will pick you up at your hotel for the 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 depict cultural and religious motifs and natural landscapes. Then travel down the Avenue of the Dead, Teotihuacán's main path that runs for a mile (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.

Day 4: Mexico City to Cancún, Transfer to Valladolid, Optional Activities

Welcome to historic Valladolid

In the morning, you'll catch a flight to Cancún, located in Mexico's stunning Yucatán region. This southern peninsula is surrounded by the Caribbean and is famous for its white-sand beaches, ancient Maya ruins, indigenous culture, and otherworldly cenotes (limestone sinkholes). Upon arrival at the airport, a driver will meet you for the 2-hour ride inland to Valladolid, one of Mexico's celebrated 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.

Upon arrival, you'll check in to your hotel and have the rest of the day free to explore Valladolid. You should visit San Servacio Church, which dates to 1545 and overlooks the Parque Francisco Canton. This is the town's main plaza and is filled with leafy trees, fountains, and street vendors operating wooden push carts. If the mood strikes, take a ride in a horse-drawn carriage or hop in a car for the short drive to Cenote Zaci lagoon. Another highlight is the Regional Museum, which charts the area's history from pre-colonial times through the founding of Valladolid and beyond.

Day 5: Day Trip to Chichén Itzá, Cultural Experience in Yalcobá

Chichen Itza's towering pyramid of Kukulcan
The iconic El Castillo, at Chichén Itzá

In the morning, you'll transfer 45 minutes to Chichén Itzá, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. This UNESCO World Heritage Site covers four sq miles (10 sq km) and was first settled in the 5th century. It then enjoyed an impressive 1,000-year run as one of the great cities in the ancient Maya kingdom before declining around 1440. Highlight ruins you'll see on a guided tour include El Castillo (a majestic pyramid that rises 79 feet/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, spend the rest of the day on a cultural immersion in the Maya community of Yalcobá, located just outside Valladolid. This 8-hour experience is full of adventure, beginning with a guided hike through the Maya forest and a tour of the milpa fields—an ancient agriculture system that intercrops corn, beans, and squash. After exploring caves and virgin cenotes, you'll return to town and visit a handicraft workshop to see how locals produce artisanal jewelry and weaved hammocks. Then participate in a gastronomic workshop to learn about traditional Maya cuisine.

Day 6: Day Trip to Río Lagartos Reserve & Las Coloradas

Sky reflected in Las Coloradas
The pink hue of Las Coloradas

In the morning your driver will pick you up for the 1.5-hour ride to the northern tip of the Yucatán Peninsula and the town of Río Lagartos. It's located within the Río Lagartos Biosphere Reserve, which encompasses 233 sq miles (603 sq km) of protected wetland ecosystems, and is one of the main flamingo nesting areas in the Yucatan. You'll embark on a boat ride with your local guide through the reserve to admire the local flora and fauna. These include flamingos and birds such as herons, kingfishers, pelicans, hawks, cormorants, and more. There are even crocodiles here.

This tour also includes visiting Las Coloradas—glassy ponds famous for their pinkish hue due to the water's high salinity. Here you'll have the opportunity to take an exfoliating "Maya bath," in which you'll apply local clay to your body. This clay is high in nutrients and acts as a natural exfoliant to moisturize and soften the skin. Wash off the clay in the water and finish the day with some free time on the beach.

Plan your trip to Mexico
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Day 7: Valladolid to Nuevo Durango, Tour Cobá Ruins & Maya Culinary Workshop

Hike up Nohoch Mul, at Cobá

After breakfast, your driver will take you an hour east from Valladolid 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. Upon arrival, you'll check in to your hotel and will then head out for a tour of the nearby ruins at Cobá

Once there, you'll hop on a bicycle and embark on a 3-mile (5 km) tour of this archeological site. You'll get to cycle along ancient white pathways lined with 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. The views from the top are, needless to say, exceptional.

After Cobá, you'll have the opportunity to attend a local cooking workshop and tasting of traditional Maya cuisine. This is a real treat for foodies, as part of the experience involves gathering fresh ingredients from a local garden. Then, alongside community members, you'll learn how to prepare a delicious and traditional dish that you'll sit down and enjoy at the end.

Day 8: Transfer to Tulum, Stop at Punta Laguna

Keep an eye out for spider monkeys
Keep an eye out for spider monkeys

In the morning you'll leave Nuevo Durango for the drive south to the resort town of Tulum. On the way, you'll stop at the Punta Laguna Nature Reserve. This 12,355-acre protected area is known as Otoch Ma'ax yetel Kooh, which in Mayan means "The home of the spider monkey and the puma." And since 1950, local Maya families have been overseeing this area to protect just such exotic animals. There are hundreds of monkeys within the reserve as well as jaguars, pumas, crocodiles, white-tailed deer, and many species of exotic birds—11 of which are endemic.

On this visit, you'll take a canoe ride on the reserve's lagoon to admire the local flora and fauna. With a bit of luck, you'll spot several species of wildlife including, of course, the iconic spider monkey. After the tour, you'll continue to Tulum, where you'll check in to your hotel. You'll want to head out and visit the town's main attraction: its famous archeological site. The ruins here were built on 39-foot (12-m) cliffs overlooking the ocean and once comprised a great Maya fortress city that dates to 1200. 

Day 9: Visit Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve, Transfer to Puerto Morelos

Floating in Sian Ka'an Reserve
Enjoying the canals of Sian Ka'an

After breakfast, you'll head just outside Tulum to Sian Ka'an, a biosphere reserve and Unesco World Heritage Site. It's the largest protected area in Mexico, covering over 2,000 sq miles (5,180 sq km). The site contains tropical forests, palm savannas, mangroves, lagoons, and unspoiled coastline. The region's beauty is represented in its name—in Mayan, Sian Ka'an means "origin of the sky." Today's activity is part of a community-based ecotourism cooperative focusing on responsible tourism.

You'll arrive at a community center where you'll join your tour group and start the six-hour 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 to a small dock. Once there, you can take a refreshing dip in the water. The absolute 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 tour, you'll drive about 1.5 hours north from Sian Ka'an to the fishing village of Puerto Morelos, located just south of Cancún on the Riviera Maya.

Day 10: Puerto Morelos Snorkeling Tour

Snorkeling in the beautiful marine park of Puerto Morelos
Snorkeling in the marine reserve at Puerto Morelos

Spend your penultimate day in Mexico enjoying Puerto Morelos. 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, which is the largest reef in the world after Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

In the morning you'll head out on the water for a two-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 a variety of colorful corals like brain and elk-horn coral. You'll also see rays, octopuses, parrotfish, barracudas, starfish, sea snails, turtles, and many more species. 

Day 11: Puerto Morelos to Cancún, Depart

Goodbye, Mexico
Wake up early to enjoy a beautiful sunrise over the Caribbean. Then, at the appropriate time, you'll make the 30-minute drive north to the airport in Cancún, where you'll catch your flight home. See you soon!

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Map

Map of Highlights of Mexico City & the Riviera Maya - 11 Days
Map of Highlights of Mexico City & the Riviera Maya - 11 Days