In just five days, you'll reach the heart of Maya Indigenous culture in Mexico's famous Yucatán Peninsula. Your base will be Mérida, the region's capital, where you'll walk amid colonial history and sample delicious street food with ancient roots. Then you're off to tour maíz fields, swim in cenotes (limestone sinkholes), and explore the awe-inspiring pyramid of Chichén Itzá. Finish the adventure with a day trip to a biosphere reserve known for flamingoes.

Highlights

  • Tour the charming colonial streets of Mérida and sample street food
  • Learn ancient Maya farming techniques and swim in a stunning cenote
  • Explore the legendary Chichén Itzá, a new wonder of the world
  • Take a boat tour at Celestún Biosphere Reserve and look for wildlife

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Mérida Mérida
Day 2 Mérida City & Street Food Tour Mérida
Day 3 Visit Chichén Itzá, Maize Fields & Cenotes Mérida
Day 4 Day Trip to the Celestún Biosphere Reserve Mérida
Day 5 Depart Mérida  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Mérida

The Yucatán's capital of Mérida is filled with colonial landmarks
Welcome to Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula! This region is famous for its long Caribbean coastline and beach resorts, although this trip focuses more on culture and history than sun and sand. You'll arrive in Mérida, Yucatán's capital city. Upon arrival, a driver will pick you up at the terminal and transfer you to your hotel. Get plenty of rest because tomorrow you'll take a full-day city and food tour.

Day 2: Mérida City & Street Food Tour

In Mérida, all roads lead to the Centro Histórico and the Plaza Grande
Plan your trip to Mexico
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

In the morning, you'll meet a local expert guide and embark on a walking tour of Mérida's 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. After the city tour, you'll return to the Plaza Grande for a delicious street food tour. This three-hour culinary adventure starts with refreshing drinks followed by your first dish: gorditas (fried tortillas with various fillings). Continue to one of the city's main food markets, where you'll sample more traditional dishes, like salbutes (deep-fried tortillas with avocado and shredded chicken), tamales (dough with various fillings steamed in corn husks or banana leaves), and local fruit like pitaya (dragon fruit). Finish the tour with some famous al pastor (roasted, seasoned pork) and carnitas (confit of pork) tacos.

Day 3: Visit Chichén Itzá, Maize Fields & Cenotes

Chichen Itza's towering pyramid of Kukulcan
Explore Chichén Itzá's towering pyramid of Kukulcan

After breakfast, you'll meet a local guide and travel east of Mérida to the archaeological site of Chichén Itzá, one of the seven wonders of the modern world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. During its heyday (around 600-900 CE), this pre-Columbian Maya city was the most revered religious center and pilgrimage site in the Yucatán Peninsula. Its most iconic attraction is the Kukulkán (El Castillo) pyramid, built to honor the feathered serpent god. During this two-hour tour, your expert guide will reveal the history and mythology of the ancient Maya world as you marvel at Kukulkán.

When you finish at Chichén Itzá, you'll transfer about 30 minutes south to Yaxunah. This area has been a vital maíz (corn) production center for thousands of years. Even today, this is a major 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-hour 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 stole.

From Yaxunah, it's a short drive north to the rural community of Yokdzonot. In 2005, a group of women residents transformed their village's cenote (limestone sinkhole) into a unique eco-tourism site. The result is one of the most beautiful lagoons in Mexico. Once here, feel free to dive right in and swim around these jade waters. The best part of Yokdzonot is that it's off the tourist trail, meaning you'll avoid massive crowds. To the ancient Maya, these cenotes were primary water sources and symbols of life, death, rebirth, and fertility. After the swim, you'll enjoy a traditional meal and return to Mérida. 

Day 4: Day Trip to the Celestún Biosphere Reserve

Get up close to the famous pink flamingoes of the Celestún Biosphere Reserve

In the morning, you'll meet a driver and head 1-2 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 Esperanza River, where you'll begin this day-long exploration of one of Yucatán's most unique ecosystems. This a birder's paradise because besides the famed flamingoes, you'll witness migratory ducks, Yucatán parrots, pelicans, and other water birds 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.

After the boat tour, head to Ojo de Agua, a canal and natural tunnel formed by overhanging branches where you can enjoy a refreshing swim. The trip ends with you enjoying a delicious meal overlooking the beach, after which you'll return to Mérida.

Day 5: Depart Mérida

Take a walk around Mérida's colonial architecture before departure

You've seen some incredible sights, learned a bit of history, discovered a rich culture, and tasted delicious food. Now it's time to pack up those memories for your trip home. At the appropriate hour, your driver will meet you at your hotel and transfer you to the airport, where you'll catch your departing flight. Adiós!

More Great Mexico Itineraries

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

Map

Map of Maya Culture Tour in Mexico's Yucatán - 5 Days
Map of Maya Culture Tour in Mexico's Yucatán - 5 Days