Experience the best of Mexico's food and culture and still find time to relax on the beach on this 12-day trip from Mexico City to the Yucatán Peninsula. Start in the capital and explore the past, from Frida Kahlo's house to the pyramids of Teotihuacán. Then, head to Yalcobá to swim in freshwater cenotes and learn about Maya milpa farming before taking the ferry to Isla Holbox, where you'll fish, kayak in bioluminescent water, and chill in a hammock.


  • Float down the Xochimilco canals in a colorful trajinera
  • Soar past the pyramids of Teotihuacan in a hot air balloon
  • Plunge into an underground cenote near Chichén Itzá
  • Catch fish to make ceviche in Cabo Catoche

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Mexico City, Explore Mexico City
Day 2 Mexico City History, Culture & Gastronomy Tour  Mexico City
Day 3 Explore the Xochimilco Canals, Coyoacán & the Casa Azul Mexico City
Day 4 See Teotihuacán by Hot-Air Balloon & Narvarte Food Tour Mexico City
Day 5 Explore Mexico City Mexico City
Day 6 Transfer to Valladolid  Valladolid
Day 7 Learn about Maya Culture in Yalcobá Valladolid
Day 8 Visit Chichén Itzá & Swim at the Yokdzonot Cenote Valladolid
Day 9 Transfer to Isla Holbox, Bioluminescent Kayak Tour Holbox
Day 10 Explore Cabo Catoche Holbox
Days 11-12 Free Days on Isla Holbox Holbox
Day 13 Depart Holbox  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Mexico City, Explore

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

Welcome to Mexico City! Upon arrival at the airport, you'll be met by your private driver and transferred to your hotel. This afternoon, you'll have time to explore the city on your own. Stroll through local neighborhoods, like Roma with its Art Deco architecture, or relax in Chapultepec Park, one of the largest city parks in Mexico. Later, you can enjoy dinner at one of the city's many restaurants before returning to your hotel for the evening.

Day 2: Mexico City History, Culture & Gastronomy Tour

Aerial view of the Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City, during the day with some people walking in the plaza
Palacio de Bellas Artes

Today, take a walking tour past highlights like the Alameda Central Park, the oldest public garden in the Americas, and the Palacio de Bellas Artes. Continue on to the heart of the city: the Plaza de la Constitución, better known as the Zócalo. The square is home to the Metropolitan Cathedral, the ancient Aztec Templo Mayor, and the 16th-century Palacio Nacional. Along the way, try some of the local food, like tacos al pastor, (pork tacos), huitlacoche quesadillas (corn smut quesadillas), churros, and more.

Day 3: Explore the Xochimilco Canals, Coyoacán & the Casa Azul

A collection of trajineras (colorful wooden boats) sit empty in a canal in Zochimilco with strings of colorful paper cut outs hanging about them
Colorful trajineras in a canal in Xochimilco

After breakfast, head via private transfer to one of the most emblematic areas of Mexico City: the canals of Xochimilco. Xochimilco means the "Place of the Flowers" in Nahuatl, and its canals are the last reminders of the rivers that once crossed the valley floor. Explore the canals via a colorful boat called a trajinera (a wooden, flat-bottomed boat) to learn about chinampa, the Aztec technique for growing food upon the riverbeds that is still used to grow flowers in the city today. 

Afterward, head to Coyoacán, or "the place of coyotes" in Nahuatl, a bohemian, relatively quiet neighborhood in central Mexico City. Formerly a rural village, Coyoacán has become a rich pocket of art and history. Here, you'll find Casa Azul, where the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo spent most of her life, now a museum dedicated to her life and work. Learn about Kahlo's legacy through photos and personal items as you walk through her studio, kitchen, bedroom, and the beautiful garden in the courtyard.

Day 4: See Teotihuacan by Hot Air Balloon & Narvarte Food Tour

Sunrise with hot air balloons floating over the pyramids of Teotihuacan
Hot air balloons float over the pyramids of Teotihuacan at sunrise

View Teotihuacan, an ancient Mesoamerican city located northeast of Mexico City, from great heights today with a sunrise hot air balloon flight. Marvel at the views, the beauty, and the tranquility of the valley as you soar over the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Float past the majestic Pyramids of the Sun and the Moon and have a bird's eye view of the famous Avenue of the Dead. After enjoying spectacular views across the valley, you'll begin the flight back, where a delicious breakfast awaits upon landing.

Once you're back in the city, take a tour through the taquerías (taco shops) of Navarte, a neighborhood famous for its tacos. Sample volcanes, (crispy tortillas topped with cheese and poblano peppers) tacos al pastor (spit-roasted), and tacos suaderos (filled with a thin cut of meat) from vendors across the neighborhood. Later, visit a cantina (bar) to learn about cantina culture and try a chela (cold beer) or a flight of mezcal.

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

Day 5: Explore Mexico City

the Angel of Independence Monument in Mexico City at night
The Angel of Independence Monument

Today, you're free to revisit one of the neighborhoods you saw earlier or venture off to a totally new corner of the city. There's always more to see in Chapultepec Park with its 1,700 acres (686 ha) of walking paths, waterways, and trees. The park is also home to a zoo, a castle, and several museums—you could easily spend the whole day here! For something a little different, walk through quaint San Ángel, a neighborhood with cobblestone streets, art galleries, and sidewalk cafés. 

Day 6: Fly to Valladolid

A central square in Valladolid, MX
A quiet square in Valladolid

The next leg of your trip begins today with a direct flight from Mexico City to Cancún, followed by a private transfer to your final destination of Valladolid. Thanks to its beautiful streets, churches, gastronomy, and culture, Valladolid has earned the designation as a Pueblo Mágico (Magical Town), a special title reserved for places that have particular cultural, historic, or aesthetic importance in Mexico. 

Once you arrive, you'll have the rest of the day to explore. To fully experience the city, visit La Calzada de Los Frailes, where you can spend your day strolling along an iconic pastel-colored street. For a traditional culinary experience, head to Canton Parque Francisco to enjoy typical Yucatecan dishes (many of which originated in Valladolid). Try the lomitos de Valladolid (pork loin in tomato sauce), the longaniza de Valladolid (smoked pork sausage with achiote), or the escabeche oriental (grilled turkey and pickled vegetables).

Day 7: Learn About Maya Culture in Yalcobá

Aerial view of a cenote in Mexico. Wooden walkways surround a round hole in the ground filled with turquoise water with people swimming
A cenote in the Valladolid area

Visit the nearby Maya community of Yalcobá and enjoy a day of cultural immersion. Take a guided tour through farms using the traditional milpa system to grow maize, squash, and beans before heading to the forest, where you can explore caves and swim in cenotes (underground freshwater lagoons). Once you return to town, visit the handicrafts workshop, where artisans create jewelry out of bull horns and weave intricate hammocks, or participate in a gastronomic workshop to learn about Maya food.

Day 8: Visit Chichén Itzá & Swim in the Yokdzonot Cenote

Chichen Itza's towering pyramid of Kukulcan
Chichen Itza's towering pyramid of Kukulcan

Today you will meet your local guide to explore the archaeological site of Chichén Itzá. 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 iconic attraction is the stepped pyramid of Kukulkán (El Castillo), built in honor of the feathered serpent god, an important deity to the Maya people. Learn about the life of the Maya through the architecture and your guide's fascinating stories.

Afterward, head to the Yokdzonot Cenote, a quiet underground lagoon that is not as frequented by tourists. Once an important site to the Maya, in 2005, this rural cenote was transformed into a unique eco-tourism site by a group of local women. Take a dip in its peaceful waters to cool off after a long day in the heat and to support the local community.

Day 9: Transfer to Isla Holbox, Bioluminescent Kayak Tour

A boat in the water of Holbox at sunset with billowing pink clouds
As the sun sets, your chances of seeing bioluminescent phytoplankton rise

A private driver will pick you up at your hotel in Valladolid to take you to Chiquilá, where you will take the ferry across a lagoon to Isla Holbox, a car-free island located between the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. As part of the Yum Balam Biosphere Reserve, Holbox and its surrounding waters are home to flamingoes, pelicans, and whale sharks.

Tonight, admire the grandness of sea and sky on a kayak trip into the ocean off the shores of Playa Punta Cocos. As the trip begins, look to the sky to spot constellations, planets, and galaxies. If you're lucky, you might spot a shooting star. As you continue through the water, you may notice light coming off the water itself—this shine is caused by bioluminescent phytoplankton, which glow when they are disturbed.

Day 10: Explore Cabo Catoche

Explore Cabo Catoche
Explore Cabo Catoche by boat

Today's adventure is a boat ride to Cabo Catoche, the northernmost point on the Yucatán Peninsula, to see dolphins and other wildlife as well as sneak a little fishing in. The captain and your guides will pick out the perfect fishing spot so you can catch a good-sized fish. Afterward, head to Cuevones, an area whose 6-foot (2 m) depth makes it ideal for swimming and snorkeling among the fish and coral. Lastly, stop at a secluded beach to relax while the day's catch is transformed into ceviche.

Days 11-12: Free Days on Holbox Island

Spend a free day relaxing on Holbox Island
There are plenty of spots to chill out in on Isla Holbox
For the next two days, you're free to spend your time on Isla Holbox however you'd like. Choose one of the many beautiful white sand beaches to soak up some sunshine, swim in turquoise waters, and recharge your batteries. Or, because cars are not allowed on the island, consider renting a bicycle or a golf cart to travel around and explore the less crowded areas. Other great options include walking around town, browsing the street art for souvenirs, or simply relaxing at one of the many cafés. 

Day 13: Depart Holbox 

a hammock supported by two beams in the shallow ocean during a pink sunset in Holbox
A hammock at the end of a relaxing day in Holbox

On your last day in Mexico, a private transfer will take you to the Port of Holbox to take the ferry back to Chiquilá. From there, a driver will take you to the Cancun Airport for your next flight home or to your next destination. Safe travels!

More Great Mexico Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Mexico? Check out these other Mexico itineraries, explore different ways to spend 13 days in Mexico, or discover the best time of year to visit Mexico.


Map of History, Nature & Gastronomy in Mexico City, Valladolid & Isla Holbox - 13 Days
Map of History, Nature & Gastronomy in Mexico City, Valladolid & Isla Holbox - 13 Days