This eight-day journey combines Mexico City's famous landmarks with a quick flight to the Riviera Maya for beach time on the Caribbean coast. Visit the capital's Spanish-colonial cathedrals and Aztec archeological sites before riding down ancient canals on a gondola. There are even more aquatic activities in store in the Yucatán region, where you'll dive into cenote lagoons and swim in underground rivers.


  • See Mexico City's historic sights, like Palacio de Bellas Artes, on a walking tour
  • Pedal amid Aztec pyramids at Teotihuacán on a bicycle tour
  • Explore the ancient Maya fortress ruins at Tulum
  • Cool off with a refreshing swim in underground rivers and cenotes

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Mexico City, Walking Tour Mexico City
Day 2 Visit Xochimilco & Coyoacán Mexico City
Day 3 Bike Tour of Teotihuacán Mexico City
Day 4 Mexico City to Cancún, Transfer to Tulum Tulum
Day 5 Río Secreto Guided Tour Tulum
Day 6 Day Trip to the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve Tulum
Day 7 Free Day in Tulum, Optional Activities Tulum
Day 8 Transfer to Cancún, Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Mexico City, Walking Tour

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

Welcome to Mexico! This beautiful Latin American nation is full of history, art, music, and some of the most delicious food in the world. The adventure begins in the capital of Mexico City. Upon arrival at the airport, a personal driver will pick you up for the transfer to your hotel. After settling in, you'll head out and stretch your legs on a three-hour walking tour of "DF" (Distrito Federal), as the locals call this city. 

It begins in the Centro Histórico (historic center), a UNESCO World Heritage Site home to many colonial and Aztec landmarks. You'll visit the Palacio de Bellas Artes (a white-marble cultural center and 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 historic 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 principal temple of the Aztec Empire.

After the tour, you can continue exploring on your own. Famous landmarks you won't want to miss include the Angel of Independence, a towering victory column on a roundabout in the center of the Paseo de la Reforma thoroughfare. There are also museums and art galleries in the trendy neighborhoods of Roma and San Miguel Chapultepec. There's also Chapultepec Park. At 1,695 acres, this is one of the largest urban green spaces in the world. After taking a stroll, maybe relax at a café in the bohemian enclave of La Condesa and admire the Art Nouveau architecture.

Day 2: Visit Xochimilco & Coyoacán

Enjoy the views from the canals in Xochimilco from a "tranijera"
San Juan Bautista Church, in Coyoacán, Mexico City

Today you'll visit two of Mexico City's most colorful neighborhoods. First, travel to the city's south for a two-hour Xochimilco tour. This UNESCO World Heritage Site has been settled since pre-colonial times and is known for its tranquil canals—remnants of the rivers that crossed the valley floor of Mexico and were used by the Aztecs for transport. The visit includes riding down these canals on a trajinera (a brightly painted, gondola-like boat). As you float down these waterways, you'll nibble on antojitos (Mexican snacks) while boats filled with mariachis float past and serenade you.

After Xochimilco, you'll head north to the historic (and colorful) neighborhood of Coyoacán. You'll visit its most famous landmarks on a two-hour guided tour of this bohemian enclave with its leafy plazas and brightly painted homes. Walk along the Callejón del Aguacate, a narrow street lined with colonial houses famous for their myths and legends. You'll also stop at old churches built in the viceregal era on orders by Hernán Cortés himself. And no trip here is complete without visiting the main square and Centennial Garden, where you can take a break and enjoy traditional desserts like churros and ice cream.

Day 3: Bike Tour of Teotihuacán

View of the Pyramid of the Sun and the Avenue of the Dead
View of the Pyramid of the Sun and the Avenue of the Dead
Plan your trip to Mexico
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

In the morning, your guide will pick you up at the hotel for the 1-hour 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 most prominent 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.

After the tour, you'll enjoy a pulque tasting. Known to the Aztecs as "the blood of the gods," this traditional Mexican spirit is made from the maguey plant's fermented aguamiel (sap), a type of agave. You'll also visit a workshop specializing in the pre-Hispanic flavors of the Teotihuacán region, which makes products from local flora like the fruits of the nopal and xoconostle plants.

Day 4: Mexico City to Cancún, Transfer to Tulum

Welcome to Tulum

In the morning, you'll transfer to the airport in Mexico City for the flight to Cancún, located on Mexico's stunning Yucatán Peninsula. A driver will meet you at Cancún's airport for the two-hour drive south to the resort town of Tulum. This route is part of Mexico's famous Riviera Maya, a section of gorgeous coast spanning over 100 miles (160 km) along the Caribbean. Enjoy the ride because there's breathtaking coastal scenery the whole way. When you do arrive in Tulum, you'll check in to your hotel and can relax after your long flight.

After settling in, you can enjoy the town, which offers many activities. One enticing option is to while away the hours on Tulum's white-sand beaches. It's also known for dining and nightlife, so when the sun goes down, head to the center, where you'll find restaurants, bars, and nightclubs lining the main highway. Stroll the waterfront shopping district of Tulum Beach Road for retail therapy, which is lined with boutiques, clothing stores, and art galleries.

Day 5: Río Secreto Guided Tour

Making your way through the underground waterways
Head underground to the "secret river" north of Tulum

There are thousands of cenotes (limestone sinkholes) in the Yucatán Peninsula. These freshwater lagoons make great swimming holes, but there are also plenty of underground cenote caves and waterways worth exploring. One of the most incredible is Río Secreto. This natural wonder is one of the largest underground river systems in the world. The best part is it's located only about 45 minutes north of Tulum in the heart of the Riviera Maya.

On a 3.5-hour tour, you'll strap on a helmet and head into the river to explore its wonderland of geological formations, massive caverns, hanging stalactites, and crystalline waterways. This is a guided tour, and as you make your way through the cave network, your guide will explain the history of Río Secreto and offer insight into its geology. 

Day 6:  Day Trip to the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve

Floating in Sian Ka'an Reserve
Floating in Sian Ka'an reserve

In the morning, head out on a full-day tour of nearby Sian Ka'an, a Biosphere Reserve and Unesco World Heritage Site. It's Mexico's largest protected area, covering an area of over 2,000 sq miles (5,180 sq km). The site has natural wonders like tropical forests, palm savannas, wetlands, mangroves, lagoons, and unspoiled coastline. The region's sheer beauty is represented in its name—in the Mayan language, Sian Ka'an means "origin of the sky." Today's activity is part of a community-based ecotourism cooperative focusing on conservation and a commitment to responsible tourism.

You'll arrive at a community center where you'll join your tour group and start the 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 and arrive at 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 swim, you'll head back to the community center, where you'll find a hearty meal. Then it will be time to return to your hotel in Tulum.

Day 7: Free Day in Tulum, Optional Activities

Playa Ruinas, a beach frequented by visitors to the Tulum archeological site
Enjoy the ruins and beaches of Tulum

Enjoy a free day in Tulum. You'll want to head out and visit the main attraction: Tulum's 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 (the word tulum is a Yucatán Mayan word meaning "wall"). 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.

You can also visit a nearby cenote, one of the true natural wonders of Yucatán. There are many within just a few minutes' drive of Tulum, including Gran Cenote and Cenote Corazón del Paraíso (Heart of Paradise Cenote). The most romantic might be Cenote Dos Ojos, a cave lagoon with electric blue waters.

Day 8: Transfer to Cancún, Depart

Sunset over Tulum's El Castillo

At the appropriate time today, your driver will transfer you from Tulum to the airport in Cancún, where you'll catch your flight home. 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 eight days in Mexico, or learn about the best time to visit Mexico.


Map of Mexico City to the Riviera Maya: Culture, Ruins & Cenotes - 8 Days
Map of Mexico City to the Riviera Maya: Culture, Ruins & Cenotes - 8 Days