Step back in time on this two-week itinerary highlighting ancient Aztec and Maya ruins. Along the way, you'll explore Mexico City, the colonial towns of Valladolid and Mérida, and the turquoise waters of the Riviera Maya. Other adventures include snorkeling in freshwater cenotes, hiking up pre-Hispanic pyramids, and meeting with Indigenous locals to learn about Maya history and culture.


  • Wander Mexico City's historic neighborhoods and ancient Teotihuacán
  • Marvel at Chichén Itzá, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World
  • Dive into the refreshing X'Canche Cenote outside of Ek' Balam
  • Learn to prepare handmade tortillas with a local Maya family
  • Relax on the white-sand beaches of Tulum

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Mexico City, Guided Tour Mexico City
Day 2 Visit the National Museum of Anthropology & Chapultepec  Mexico City
Day 3 Cycling Tour of Teotihuacán, "The City of the Gods" Mexico City
Day 4 Day Trip to Xochimilco, Coyoacán & Frida Kahlo Museum Mexico City
Day 5 Fly to Cancún, Transfer to Valladolid Valladolid
Day 6 Day Trip to Chichén Itzá & Yokdzonot Cenote Valladolid
Day 7 Explore the Pyramids of Cobá & Punta Laguna Nature Reserve Valladolid
Day 8 Visit the Lost City of Ek' Balam, Cenote & Maya Village Tour Valladolid
Day 9 Transfer to Mérida via Yaxunah & Cenotes, Afternoon City Tour Mérida
Day 10 Day Trip to Celestún Biosphere Reserve Merida
Day 11 Transfer to Tulum, Stop at Nuevo Durango & Cooking Class Tulum
Day 12 Visit El Castillo, Sailing in Bacalar Lagoon Tulum
Day 13 Day Trip to Xel-Há Park Tulum
Day 14 Transfer to Cancún, Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Mexico City, Guided Tour

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

Welcome to Mexico! You'll arrive in Mexico City, or "DF" (Distrito Federal), as it's known to locals. This metropolis of around 10 million people is the heart of the action—a hotbed of everything wonderful about Mexico, from its history and Indigenous culture to food, art, and architecture. At the airport, a private driver will pick you up and transfer you to your hotel in the city. 

After checking in, you'll meet a local expert guide for a walking tour of Mexico City's impressive historic center. There's a lot to see, as this city was founded by the Spanish in 1521, and before that, it was the capital of the Aztec Empire from the 14th century. A main point on the tour is the Plaza de la Constitución, also known as Zócalo. Around this massive public square, you'll visit the Metropolitan Cathedral (which dates to 1573), the 16th-century National Palace, and the ruins of the 14th-century Templo Mayor, a main temple of the Aztec Empire. 

Day 2: Visit the National Museum of Anthropology & Chapultepec 

Anthropology Museum of Mexico City
The National Museum of Anthropology is one of the finest museums in the country

This morning, dive into Mexico's past with a guided tour of the National Museum of Anthropology. This is one of the most important museums in Latin America—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 here, as well as 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.

Later, continue to Chapultepec Park. At 1,695 acres (686 ha), this is one of the largest urban green spaces in the world. It's also one of the oldest, as it was once a retreat for Aztec rulers. Besides lakes and gardens, the park contains nine museums, a zoo, and an amusement park. After walking around the park and enjoying the scenery, you'll return to your hotel and have the evening free.

Day 3: Cycling Tour of Teotihuacán, "The City of the Gods"

View of the Avenue of the Dead and the Pyramid of the Sun from the Pyramid of the Moon, Teotihuacan, Mexico
View down Teotihuacán's Avenue of the Dead from the Pyramid of the Moon

Another English-speaking guide will pick you up at your hotel this morning 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-square-mile (20 sq km) site was founded as early as 400 BCE, meaning it long predates 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, hop on a bike and cycle around the site, passing murals that decorate the structures and depict cultural and religious motifs and landscapes. Then, ride 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 most prominent structure at 215 feet (66 m), and the Pyramid of the Moon, which towers 140 feet (43 m). Later, stop at the Temple of Quetzalcoatl (Temple of the Feathered Serpent), which has bas-reliefs of the feathered serpent deity. After this full-day tour, you'll return to your hotel in Mexico City.

Day 4: Day Trip to Xochimilco, Coyoacán & Frida Kahlo Museum

Xochimilco canals
People have been floating along the Xochimilco canals since Aztec times

Today, you'll travel to the southern outskirts of the city and Xochimilco. This UNESCO World Heritage Site has been settled since pre-colonial times. It's known for its tranquil canals—remnants of the rivers that once crossed Mexico's valley floor and were used by the Aztecs for transport. A popular activity you'll enjoy is traveling down the canals on a trajinera (painted, gondola-like boat). As you float down the half-natural, half-artificial channels, you'll nibble on antojitos (Mexican snacks) and learn about Mexican history as boats filled with mariachi musicians float past and serenade you.

From there, head to Coyoacán, a neighborhood famous for its cobbled streets, shady plazas, and colorful homes. The area has retained its colonial charm, as it was its own municipality from the early 16th century through the 19th century. Here, you'll visit the 16th-century San Juan Bautista Church, plus stop at a local craft fair. Then, continue to La Casa Azul, the house where Frida Kahlo spent much of her life, which is now a museum displaying works by Kahlo and Diego Rivera. Afterward, you'll return to your hotel.

Day 5: Fly to Cancún, Transfer to Valladolid

Valladolid features some of the most well-preserved colonial landmarks in Mexico

Today, you'll leave Mexico City behind and catch a two-hour flight to Cancún in the Yucatán Peninsula. Upon landing, meet your driver and transfer a couple of hours inland from the airport to Valladolid. This charming colonial town is one of Mexico's famous Pueblos Mágicos (Magical Towns), a special designation the country has bestowed on over 100 places that have demonstrated historical importance, rich culture, great symbolism, and exceptional beauty.

After checking into your hotel, you'll meet a local guide for a walking tour to discover Valladolid's many virtues. Founded in 1543 and invaded several times by the Spanish, the city was the stage of vast confrontations between the Maya and the Conquistadores. Much colonial architecture remains today, and one of the finest examples is San Servacio Church, which dates to 1545 and overlooks the Parque Francisco Cantón, the main plaza.

The tour also includes stops at the 16th-century Convent of San Bernardino de Siena and the Calzada de Los Frailes, a cobblestone street lined with colorful shops, boutiques, and galleries. At the end of the walk, you'll have the rest of the day free. For a traditional gastronomic experience, head to Parque Canton to feast on typical Yucatecan dishes (many of which originated from Valladolid).

Plan your trip to Mexico
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Day 6: Day Trip to Chichén Itzá & Yokdzonot Cenote

Archaeological site of Chichen Itza
El Castillo, at Chichén Itzá, is the most famous step pyramid in the Yucatán

After an early breakfast, meet your local guide and head about an hour west to the archaeological site of the famous Chichén Itzá, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this pre-Columbian Maya city was once the most revered center of worship and pilgrimage in the Yucatán Peninsula. Its most iconic attraction is the stepped pyramid of Kukulkán (El Castillo), built in honor of the feathered serpent god, an important deity to the Maya.

You'll have a few hours to explore the site, then transfer to the nearby Yokdzonot Cenote. Cenotes (limestone sinkholes) were the main water supply in the middle of the jungle in ancient times and a vital part of developing early cities and settlements. They were also considered symbolic spaces for rain, life, death, rebirth, and fertility rituals and served a sacred function for the Maya. Tourists don't frequently visit this quiet cenote, so you're likely to have it to yourself, and its peaceful waters have the perfect temperature to feel refreshed from the heat. After a cooling swim, you'll sit for a delicious lunch.

Day 7: Explore the Pyramids of Cobá & Punta Laguna Nature Reserve

Explore the Punta Laguna Nature Reserve by boat, keeping an eye out for spider monkeys

In the morning, leave Tulum on an hour's transfer back toward the coast. You'll stop in the town of Cobá, which is famous for its ancient archaeological site. The heyday of this former Maya city was between 600 and 900 CE, and many pyramids and structures remain. But you won't merely walk around—you'll hop on a bicycle and ride along Cobá's ancient stone pathways. 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 a few minutes north to Punta Laguna Nature Reserve for a boat ride across the lagoon. It's an excellent opportunity to do some wildlife spotting—notably the countless spider monkeys that populate the area. Later, you'll return to Valladolid and your hotel.

Day 8: Visit the Lost City of Ek' Balam, Cenote & Maya Village Tour

Ek' Balam, Mexico
For centuries Ek' Balam was hidden by the Yucatán jungle

Rise bright and early for today's full-day excursion. Your first stop is to explore the Yucatec-Maya archaeological site of Ek' Balam. Once a thriving seat of a Maya kingdom, the city was absorbed into the dense jungle typical of the area and wasn't rediscovered until the late 1800s. Wander the complex and climb the steps of the Acropolis, taking in the site as well as the surrounding jungle.

From there, head to the nearby cenote of X'Canche. At the entrance to X'Canche, you'll rent a bike and cycle along the sacbé (white path), an ancient stone road that leads to the cenote. Enjoy a swim in the cool, fresh water and a bite to eat before transferring to a nearby Indigenous village for a walking tour. You'll visit the homes of three Maya families, where you'll learn to make tortillas, knit hammocks, and participate in an embroidery workshop. In the evening, you'll return to Valladolid.

Day 9: Transfer to Mérida via Yaxunah & Cenotes, Afternoon City Tour

Mérida's impressive cathedral dates back to the 16th century

After breakfast, you'll transfer about an hour west of Valladolid to the town of Yaxunah. The area has been a vital center of maíz (corn) production for thousands of years. Even today, this is a central crop (besides beans and squash) used in the intercropping milpa agricultural system developed by the ancient Maya. When you arrive, your guide will lead you on a 2.5 tour around the fields. During that time, you'll learn about the production process, from planting to harvesting to cleaning. You'll even sample traditional maíz beverages like pozol, pinole, and atole

Later, you'll visit another highlight of Yaxunah: the Lol-Ha cenote. Meaning "water flower" in ancient Mayan, this gem is located right in the center of town. It's an open limestone sinkhole filled with shimmering blue waters just begging you to take a dip—which is precisely what you'll do. After a refreshing swim, you'll continue driving to Mérida, the capital of the Yucatán region.

Upon arrival in Mérida, you'll meet a guide for a walking tour of this fascinating city, starting in the Centro Histórico (Historic Center). This city has a long, complex history, as it was founded in 1542 above the ancient Maya city of T'ho. The Spanish leveled its five pyramids and later used the remains to build Mérida Cathedral, which is one of the stops on the tour. Today, the famous church has its twin bell towers looming large over the Plaza Grande, the city's main square. Besides these landmarks, you'll also stroll the city's main avenue, Paseo Montejo, lined with stately colonial buildings.

Day 10: Day Trip to Celestún Biosphere Reserve

Flamingoes are some of the main residents of the Celestún Biosphere Reserve

Today's adventure takes you 1.5 hours west to the Gulf of Mexico coast and the Celestún Biosphere Reserve. This magnificent wetland sanctuary spans approximately 146 square miles (378 sq km) and encompasses a diverse range of habitats, including coastal dunes, mangrove forests, and freshwater springs, and is renowned for its abundant flamingo population and rich biodiversity.

Upon arrival, a boat will be waiting at the mouth of the Río Esperanza, where you'll begin this day-long exploration of one of Yucatán's most unique ecosystems. This a birder's paradise—besides the famed flamingoes, you're likely to spot migratory ducks, Yucatán parrots, pelicans, and other waterbirds like herons and ibises. During the boat ride, keep an eye out for other resident animals, including crocodiles, sea turtles, spider monkeys, and even boa constrictors.

Afterward, you'll visit the Ojo de Agua (Eye of Water), where you can swim through natural tunnels formed by mangrove branches which open up into a large natural pool with crystal-clear water. The adventure ends with you enjoying a delicious meal overlooking the beach, after which you'll return to Mérida and have the evening free.

Day 11: Transfer to Tulum, Stop at Nuevo Durango & Cooking Class

You're off to the palm-fringed beaches and clear waters of Tulum

Meet your driver in the morning for the three-hour drive east to the Caribbean coast and the resort town of Tulum. You'll break up the trip with a stop at Nuevo Durango. This charming village is known for its pristine underground caves, ecotourism initiatives, and dedication to organic farming. Guided by your host, Don Manuel, dive into a hands-on gastronomic workshop lasting a few hours. Join community members in gathering fresh ingredients from the garden and help prepare classic Maya dishes such as cochinita and chicken pibil, all while enjoying lively Mexican music.

Afterward, continue to Tulum. This famous beach town is located on Mexico's famous Riviera Maya, a section of gorgeous coast spanning over 100 miles (160 km) along the Caribbean. Besides the resorts and vivid turquoise waters, Tulum also boasts ancient Maya archaeological sites and many nearby cenotes. Upon checking into your hotel, you'll have the rest of the day to explore this paradise on your own.

Day 12: Visit El Castillo, Sailing in Bacalar Lagoon

Tulum features the only coastal Maya fortress in the Yucatán

This morning, you'll enjoy both the beauty and history of Tulum on a visit to its famous archaeological site. The ruins here once comprised a great Maya fortress city (the word tulum is a Yucatán Mayan word meaning "wall") built on 39-foot (12 m) cliffs overlooking the ocean. On a tour of the site, which dates to 1200 CE, you can visit the famous El Castillo. This iconic fortress stands 25 feet (7.5 m) tall and overlooks the sea. Afterward, head directly below the ruins for a swim at Playa Ruinas.

Later, you'll transfer a couple of hours south from Tulum to Bacalar. This pleasant town sits on a lake known as the "Lagoon of the Seven Colors" due to the many shades of blue of its waters. When you arrive, hop in an eco-friendly boat for a cruise around the lagoon. It begins with a visit to Pirates' Channel, a waterway known for its clear waters. It's said the Maya built this channel as a commercial link to connect the people of the south and north. As a result, pirate attacks became frequent, hence the name. Here, you'll have the opportunity to swim and snorkel. Afterward, you'll transfer back to Tulum.

Days 13: Day Trip to Xel-Há Park

Take a swim in the famous waters of the Xel-Há ecological park

Today, you'll transfer about 30 minutes north of Tulum to spend the day at Xel-Há. Located on the coast, this popular eco-park is known for its natural inlet and lagoon, which function as a giant open-sea aquarium. It offers a unique experience by integrating the beauty of the Caribbean with a variety of outdoor activities. During a self-guided visit here, you can enjoy such activities, like unlimited snorkeling at Xel-Há's splendid cove amid tropical fish and coral gardens. You can also swim around secluded bays, in the river, and take a refreshing dip in cenotes. 

Day 14: Transfer to Cancún, Depart

Tulum, Mexico
A colorful sunset over the Tulum coast

It's time to say a fond adiós to Mexico. After breakfast at the hotel, your driver will pick you up for the ride to the Cancún airport, where you'll catch your flight home. Safe travels!

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Map of Highlights of Mexico: From Mexico City to the Riviera Maya - 14 Days
Map of Highlights of Mexico: From Mexico City to the Riviera Maya - 14 Days