Planning Your Stay in Mexico
Mexico is one of the larger nations in Latin America, which means it's hard to get the full experience in just a few days. That's why we think two weeks is the ideal length to see the country's highlights. With this much time, you can visit multiple locales and criss-cross the nation.
Arrive in Mexico City and from there you can fly or drive to many other regions, be it the states of Oaxaca, Chiapas, or Quintana Roo, on the Yucatán Peninsula. There are countless activities, tours, and excursions available in these areas, and in two weeks you'll be able to enjoy as many as possible.
Such ample time also allows you to combine sightseeing tours with cultural activities and nature outings you otherwise might not be able to enjoy. One example is going beyond the resorts of the Yucatán's Riviera Maya and visiting protected nature reservers.
Even without so much free time, you can still experience Mexico's highlights. If you're only here for five days or a week, try to focus on one or two regions. Both Mexico City and the Yucatán are good options. The former offers perhaps the widest array of culture and history in the nation, while the latter is home to the Caribbean coast, which boasts endless stretches of white-sands fronting turquoise waters.
Mexico in 5 Days
You can fly direct to many cities in Mexico, but for a five-day trip it's easiest to arrive in the capital of Mexico City, known as “D.F.” (Distrito Federal). Also convenient is Cancún, on the Yucatán Peninsula.
If you'd like to focus on a culture and history tour of Mexico City, one great itinerary includes stops at museums like the National Anthropology Museum (great for Aztec and Mayan history buffs) and La Casa Azul, where Frida Kahlo spent much of her life and which now displays her famous artworks. Also on the agenda is a trip to Teotihuacán, an eight sq. mile archeological site that pre-dates even the Aztecs and was once the largest city in the western hemisphere.
Perhaps you're traveling with children and a beach holiday sounds better than chasing little ones around museums. In that case, five days on the Yucatán is ideal. You'll arrive in Cancún and visit white-sand Caribbean beaches in nearby Playa del Carmen, the crown jewel of Mexico's beautiful Riviera Maya You'll also explore underground waterways at Río Secreto and visit Sian Ka’an's Biosphere Reserve, famous for its mangrove forests, turquoise lagoons, and Maya ruins at Muyil.
If Mexico's world-renowned gastronomy is your main interest, you can do no better than a foodie tour of Chiapas. This southern coffee-producing region is known for its indigenous heritage, which has informed its incredible food culture. Your home base will be the colorful colonial town of San Cristóbal. From here you'll visit a coffee plantation as well as an indigenous community where locals will teach you how to prepare a traditional meal from local ingredients like maize.
An added treat is a trip through nearby Sumidero Canyon. A boat tour along the Grijalva River, which cuts through the canyon, takes you between cliffs that tower up to 3,300 ft (1,000 m) overhead. On the ride you’ll pass families of massive crocodiles sunning themselves on the riverbanks as they leisurely wait for their next snack.
For more adventurous ideas, check out these other 5-day itineraries.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Mexico in 7 Days
Seven days allows enough time to enjoy a couple different regions of Mexico. It's a great opportunity to mix and match cultural outings with nature excursions and even some beach time.
That said, if you'd prefer to spend more time getting to know one place, that's certainly an option. One great 7-day culture and nature trip includes the Mexico City highlights mentioned above. You'll also enjoy a mini gastronomic tour by bicycle, then do as the Aztecs once did and float down the flower-lined banks of the Xochimilco canals. Finally it's a day trip from the concrete jungle of Mexico City to the very real jungles of Jungapeo, home to waterfalls, caves, and the incomparable monarch butterfly.
You can also let your taste buds guide you on a gastronomic adventure that runs from Mexico City, to nearby Puebla, and finally to the city of Oaxaca. After a trip to Teotihuacán to hike up the Pyramid of the Sun and Moon, you'll travel to Puebla, a small colonial city with beautiful baroque architecture and a great food scene. Local antojitos (snacks), tacos, and tamales are on the menu, plus regional desserts like flan. In Oaxaca you'll discover more culinary treasures and even take a cooking class given by a local indigenous Zapotec family.
Discover more indigenous culture on a Mayan history tour of the Yucatán Peninsula. From Cancún it's a relatively quick trip south to Tulum. This was once a thriving Mayan port city, and remnants of its past can be seen today in ancient ruins like El Castillo. You'll get to explore ruins like this on a bike tour, plus swim in the area's famous cenotes (limestone sinkholes) too. Rounding out the itinerary is a deep dive (literally) into the underground river at Río Secreto, as well as a visit to the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve.
Check out these other 7-day itineraries.
Mexico in 10 Days
10 days in Mexico gives you space to experience the highlights mentioned above while also tacking another locale or two onto your itinerary.
A great option is a combined Central Mexico and Pacific Coast adventure. After arriving in Mexico City and indulging in a street-food tasting, you'll see Teotihuacán on a bike tour. Then it's off to the Cholula area of Puebla, famous for its stunning architecture that mixes colonial and indigenous influences. In Oaxaca there's an unforgettable visit to to Monte Albán, a large, indigenous archeological site that dates to the 6th century BCE. The trip culminates on the Pacific Coast at the misty cloud forests of San Jose del Pacifico, then the surf village of Mazunte, famous for its sea turtle sanctuary and beautiful sunsets.
You can also spend 10 days exclusively in Oaxaca. Arrive in Oaxaca City and immediately head out to browse art galleries and Native American shops. The indigenous theme continues in the village of Teotitlán del Valle and Hierve el Agua, a plunging waterfall home to mineral-rich pools. You'll visit other indigenous towns in Oaxaca's northern highlands. These include stops at local produce markets and family farms. The perfect ending awaits in the coastal city of Huatulco, where you can enjoy some snorkeling or diving before heading home.
Or perhaps go a bit off the beaten path in Mexico city and the Riviera Maya. You'll still enjoy the highlights of Mexico's capital on walking tours, but you'll also visit the Basilica of Our Lady Guadalupe, a Roman Catholic church that's one of the most important pilgrimage destinations in the country. A trip to Cancún leads deep into the Yucatán, to Valladolid, a colonial town founded in 1543. Trips to nearby cenotes (limestone sinkholes) and the archeological site of Ek Balam are also included in the itinerary, as is a day spent relaxing on the beaches of Tolum.
Want more options? Consider these 10-day itineraries.
Mexico in 2 Weeks
On a two-week vacation you'll still likely only be able to visit three regions of the country in total. The difference is you'll be able to pack in as many sights and locales within these destinations as possible.
An ultimate culture tour of Mexico features a visit to Santiago de Querétaro, a stunning colonial city filled with baroque architecture. A great day trip from here is the town of San Miguel Allende, home to UNESCO-designated Franciscan missions. Other stops include 16th-century Zacatecas, and Tequila, known for producing Mexico's most notorious spirit. The ancient aqueducts at Santiago Tepeyahualco are also part of the itinerary, plus coastal Veracruz and nearby pre-Hispanic cities like Tajin.
Another option is to combine Mexico City with Guadalajara and Puerto Vallarta. Upon arrival in Guadalajara, the capital of Jalisco State, you'll discover the colonial heart of the city. Day trips to the surrounding agave fields and countryside lakes are also highlights. South of Guadalajara, on the coast, is Puerto Vallarta, a fun port of call that offers postcard beaches and raucous nightlife. A return to Mexico City gives you time to visit museums and explore famous food markets like the Mercado Roma.
You can also travel with the whole family from one region of Mexico to another. That's the appeal of this family trip to Chiapas and the Riviera Maya. Kids will love the boat trip down Sumidero Canyon, but they'll equally thrill at El Chiflón, the tallest waterfalls in Chiapas at 400-feet (120 meters) high. Other exotic activities include trekking at the 8th-century Maya ruins of Palenque, a stop at the 16th-century village of Izamal, and touring the Yucatán's incredible Maya ruins at Chichén Itzá, an archeological site over 1,500 years old.
Get inspired with these other 2-week itineraries.