- Go on food tours throughout Mexico City
- Visit the ancient Maya pyramids at Chichén Itzá
- Descend into underground rivers and cenote lagoons
- Enjoy the white-sand beaches of the famous Riviera Maya
|Day 1||Arrive in Mexico City||Mexico City|
|Day 2||Day Trip to Xochimilco & Coyoacán, Traditional Oaxacan Dinner||Mexico City|
|Day 3||Food Tour of Mexico City, Visit Chapultepec Park||Mexico City|
|Day 4||Mexico City to Playa del Carmen, Optional Activities||Playa del Carmen|
|Day 5||Visit Chichén Itzá & Underground Rivers||Playa del Carmen|
|Day 6||Day Trip to Cobá Ruins & Punta Laguna Nature Reserve||Playa del Carmen|
|Day 7||Puerto Morelos Snorkeling Tour||Playa del Carmen|
|Day 8||Playa del Carmen to Cancún, Depart|
Day 1: Arrive in Mexico City
Welcome to Mexico! This culturally rich and beautiful Latin American nation is full of history, art, music, and some of the most delicious food in the world. Upon arrival at the airport in Mexico City, a driver will transfer you to your hotel. After check-in, you can spend the remainder of the day however you wish. Feel free to head out and explore—just know it's one of the largest cities in the world. This metropolis is home to around 10 million people spread over 350 colonias (neighborhoods). It's also a high-altitude city (7,349 ft/2,240 m), so you'll want to acclimate before exerting yourself on any long walks.
Day 2: Day Trip to Xochimilco & Coyoacán, Traditional Oaxacan Dinner
Today you'll visit two of Mexico City's most colorful neighborhoods. First, travel to the far south of the city for a two-hour tour of Xochimilco. This UNESCO World Heritage Site has been settled since pre-colonial times and is known for its tranquil canals—remnants of the rivers that once 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 half-natural, half-artificial waterways, you'll nibble on antojitos (Mexican snacks) while boats filled with mariachis float past and serenade you. You'll also learn about the area's ancient history, such as the Aztecs' ingenious techniques for growing food on the fertile riverbeds. One such technique is the chinampa, a type of floating garden that's still in use today. Even the name Xochimilco is an Aztec word that translates to "Place of Flowers."
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.After the tour, you'll sit for dinner at a famous restaurant in Coyoacán specializing in traditional Mexican cuisine. Here you'll enjoy some authentic dishes from the region of Oaxaca, plus sample three different types of mezcal (an agave spirit) from that region.
Day 3: Food Tour of Mexico City, Visit Chapultepec Park
Save room after breakfast because in the morning, you're off to the historic center of Mexico City to sample its famous cuisine. Over 2-3 hours, your expert culinary guide will lead you to some of the best spots for street-food staples like tacos and sweet treats like churros. You'll even visit the famous Mercado de San Juan, a massive market specializing in gourmet foods and filled with fresh produce, fish, meats, and restaurant stalls. As you walk and eat, your guide will reveal the history of the foods you are tasting and their integral role in Mexico's history and culture.
Afterward, you'll walk off those calories on a three-hour tour of Chapultepec Park. At 1,695 acres, this is one of the largest urban green spaces in the world. It's also one of the oldest, as back in 1428, it was a summer retreat for Aztec rulers. Besides lakes and gardens, the park contains nine museums, a zoo, and an amusement park. One landmark you'll visit is Chapultepec Castle, which dates to 1785 and is located atop the park's hill. Once the residence of the Viceroy of New Spain, today it's the National Museum of History, home to a magnificent collection of historical artifacts and murals.
Day 4: Mexico City to Playa del Carmen, Optional Activities
In the morning, your driver will pick you up and transfer you to the airport for your flight to Cancún, located in Mexico's stunning Yucatán region. This southern peninsula is surrounded by beautiful Caribbean waters and is famous for its powdery white-sand beaches, ancient Maya ruins, rich indigenous culture, and otherworldly cenotes (limestone sinkholes). Upon arrival at the airport, a driver will be waiting to transfer you an hour south to Playa del Carmen. This resort town is the crown jewel of Mexico's famous Riviera Maya, a coast section stretching 100 miles (160 km) along the Caribbean.
After checking in to your hotel, you'll have free the remainder of the day. One optional activity is heading south of Playa del Carmen to enjoy the white-sand beach at Xpu-Ha. Closer to town, there are many beach clubs where you can pull up a lounge chair and while away the hours with a tropical drink or three. Active adventures include snorkeling at National Reef Park in nearby Puerto Morelos or swimming at the many cenotes in the area like Cenote Cristalino, Jardín Del Eden, and Cenote Azul. Another option is to go wildlife spotting in the 185-acre Nativa Natural Park.
Day 5: Visit Chichén Itzá & Underground Rivers
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
In the morning, you'll transfer about 3.5 hours inland to Chichén Itzá, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. This UNESCO World Heritage Site covers four square miles (10 sq km) and was first settled in the 5th century. It then enjoyed an impressive 1,000-year run as one of the great cities in the ancient Maya kingdom before declining around 1440. Highlight ruins you'll see on a guided tour include El Castillo (a majestic pyramid that rises 79 ft/24 m), the Jaguar Temple, the House of Eagles (a ceremonial platform), and El Caracol (a circular observatory), plus the largest ball court in Mesoamerica.
After touring the ruins, you'll head east to the town of Nuevo Xcán. The indigenous residents here are guardians of the surrounding 54,000 acres, part of a nature reserve. Before embarking on a guided tour of the reserve's underground waterways, you'll participate in a Maya purification ritual overseen by the local shaman. This ancient ceremony asks permission from the gods to safely enter the caverns, which represent Xibalbá (the Maya underworld). You'll then head down to the underground river system, where you can swim in its crystalline waters.
Day 6: Day Trip to Cobá Ruins & Punta Laguna Nature Reserve
In the morning, you'll make the hour drive from Playa del Carmen inland to the town of Cobá. Here you'll embark on a guided 3-mile (5-km) bike tour of its famous Maya archeological site. You'll get to cycle along ancient white pathways lined with the ruins of this former metropolis whose heyday was between 600-900. 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.
After touring the Cobá ruins, you'll continue to a small village known for its underground caves, ecotourism projects, and organic farms. This Maya community has been little touched by tourism; thus, the residents have retained their customs and culture. You'll also stop at the Punta Laguna Nature Reserve. Here you'll take a boat ride across its main lagoon, which is an excellent opportunity to do some wildlife spotting—notably the countless spider monkeys that populate the area.
Day 7: Puerto Morelos Snorkeling Tour
In the morning, your driver will pick you up for the 30-minute drive north from Playa del Carmen to the sleepy fishing village of Puerto Morelos. Besides its beaches and nearby cenotes, Puerto Morelos is famous for its National Reef Park. This marine reserve protects a nearby section of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the largest reef in the world after Australia's Great Barrier Reef.
In the morning, you'll head out on the water for a two-hour snorkeling trip in the marine park. All snorkeling/diving tours here are led by certified guides (it's mandatory), and within this nearly 150-acre park, you'll see a wide array of marine life. These include tropical fish congregating around a variety of colorful corals like brain and elk-horn coral. You'll also see rays, octopuses, parrotfish, barracudas, starfish, sea snails, turtles, and many more species.