Discover Mexico's cultural and natural wonders and cuisine on this 11-day tour of Mexico City, Valladolid, and Isla Holbox. Sample the capital city's gastronomy and history, from a street food tour to the ancient pyramids of Teotihuacán. Visit the Maya community of Yalcobá in Valladolid to swim in crystal-clear cenotes and learn about Maya milpa farming traditions. Then, embark on a ferry to Isla Holbox, where fishing, kayaking in bioluminescent waters, and hammock lounging await.


  • Witness panoramic views of Mexico City high atop Chapultepec Castle
  • Observe crocodiles and flamingoes in the Ría Lagartos Biosphere Reserve
  • Take an exciting speedboat ride to Cabo Catoche
  • Swim in the Caribbean Sea alongside whale sharks 

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Mexico City, History, Culture & Gastronomy Tour  Mexico City
Day 2 Teotihuacán by Hot-Air Balloon, Float the Canals of Xochimilco & Cooking Class Mexico City
Day 3 National Museum of Anthropology, Chapultepec Castle & Narvarte Food Tour Mexico City
Day 4 Fly to Valladolid, Explore Valladolid
Day 5 Learn About Maya Culture in Yalcobá  Valladolid
Day 6 Boat Ride in the Ría Lagartos Biosphere Reserve, Visit Chichén Itzá Valladolid
Day 7 Eco Center & Traditional Maya Meal, Transfer to Holbox, Bioluminescence Show Holbox
Day 8 Free Day on Holbox Island, Bioluminescent Kayak Tour Holbox
Day 9 Speedboat Tour & Snorkeling in Cuevones Holbox
Day 10 Swim with Whale Sharks Holbox
Day 11 Transfer to Cancún, Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Mexico City, History, Culture & Gastronomy Tour

Pass by landmarks like the Palace of Fine Arts near Alameda Central Park on your walking tour

Welcome to Mexico City! After landing at the airport, your private driver will greet you and take you to your hotel. After settling in, head to the UNESCO-designated Historic Center of Mexico City for a four-hour walking tour through the streets of the Aztec capital, passing highlights like the Alameda Central Park, the oldest public garden in the Americas, and the Palacio de Bellas Artes. Continue 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, your guide will lead you to local food stalls to try tacos al pastor (pork tacos), huitlacoche quesadillas (corn and mushroom quesadillas), churros, and more. After the tour, stroll through local neighborhoods, like Roma with its Art Deco architecture, or relax in Chapultepec Park, one of the largest city parks in Mexico. If you're not too full of delicious street food, you can enjoy dinner at one of the city's many restaurants before returning to your hotel for the evening.

Day 2: Teotihuacán by Hot-Air Balloon, Float the Canals of Xochimilco & Cooking Class

Ride a hot-air balloon for aerial views of the Teotihuacán pyramids 

Gear up for a busy day of cultural and culinary excursions that will take you beyond Mexico City. Begin your morning with a sunrise hot-air balloon flight over Teotihuacán, an ancient Mesoamerican city located northeast of the capital. As you ascend to great heights, you'll be treated to aerial views of this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Glide above the iconic Pyramids of the Sun and enjoy a bird's eye perspective of the renowned Avenue of the Dead. Your landing will be greeted with a delicious breakfast.

Next, take a private transfer to the canals of Xochimilco, or "Place of the Flowers" in Nahuatl. Step aboard a trajinera (a traditional flat-bottomed wooden boat) and delve into the history of chinampa, the ingenious Aztec technique used for cultivating crops on riverbeds, which continues to flourish in the city, producing colorful blooms today. Your last stop is Casa Malinche Coffee Bar, where you'll acquire the culinary skills to create traditional Mexican dishes, including tortillas, noodles, tortilla soup, salad, and mole, during a hands-on cooking class. Then, learn about Mexican coffee and taste flavor-infused coffee creations.

Day 3: National Museum of Anthropology, Chapultepec Castle & Narvarte Food Tour

Enjoy the garden at Chapultepec Castle, home of the National History Museum in Mexico City

Continue learning Mexico's Indigenous history and culinary traditions with a full day of excursions, beginning with the National Museum of Anthropology. Dedicated to the conservation and exhibition of the country's most important archaeological objects, its 23 rooms contain pre-Columbian sculptures and ethnographic exhibits about Indigenous groups. Highlights include the Aztec Calendar, the Olmec colossal head (a giant stone head carved out of basalt), and the jade Mask of the Zapotec Bat God.

After the museum visit, transfer to Chapultepec. Spreading over almost 1,480 acres (599 ha), Chapultepec Woods constitutes one of the most important natural reserves in Mexico City. Chapultepec Castle, located on the highest part of one of the reserve's hills, is a Neo-classical building that has been expanded and remodeled since its construction as a summer palace for the Viceroys. In 1940, it was fitted to house the National Museum of History. As you learn about Mexico's history, enjoy the fantastic city views from the castle's windows.

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 pork), 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 4: Fly to Valladolid, Explore

Valladolid is designated a "Pueblo Mágico" (Magical Town) for its cultural significance

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 with particular cultural, historical, or aesthetic importance in Mexico. Once you've checked into your hotel, you'll have the remainder 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)—simple but delicious meals that the locals eat regularly.

Day 5: Learn About Maya Culture in Yalcobá 

Cenotes are natural sinkholes formed from collapsed cave systems

Embark on a full-day cultural and natural immersion in the Maya community of Yalcobá, just a 30-minute drive north of Valladolid. This eight-hour adventure unveils the heart of Maya culture and its deep connection to the land. Your experience begins with a guided exploration of the lush Maya forest and a captivating tour of milpa fields. Discover the ancient milpa system, an ingenious method of intercropping maize, squash, and beans. Venture into mysterious caves and take refreshing dips in pristine cenotes (hidden underground freshwater lagoons).

Upon returning to Yalcobá, you'll delve into the local crafts scene, witnessing artisans at work fashioning jewelry from bull horns and intricately weaving hammocks. Additionally, you have the opportunity to partake in a gastronomic workshop, unraveling the secrets of traditional Maya cuisine.

Day 6: Boat Ride in the Ría Lagartos Biosphere Reserve, Visit Chichén Itzá

Ría Lagartos Biosphere Reserve is home to one of the largest flamingo populations in North America

Today's excursions will provide a half day's worth of the Yucatán Peninsula's best natural and cultural destinations. Río Lagartos, located within the Ría Lagartos Biosphere Reserve, is one of the main flamingo nesting areas in the region. With your guide, embark on a two-hour boat ride through this natural reserve to discover the biodiversity of the mangrove ecosystem. Due to their salt concentration, you'll see Las Coloradas, beautiful salt ponds with a pinkish hue. Afterward, take an exfoliating Maya bath in the white clay mounds, which are beneficial for the skin as they moisturize and soften the dermis. 

Next, head to the archaeological site of Chichén Itzá, where, over the course of two hours, you'll discover this pre-Columbian Maya city. Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it 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.

Day 7: Eco Center & Traditional Maya Meal, Transfer to Holbox, Bioluminescence Show

Enjoy a traditional meal
Learn about animal conservation over a traditional meal

Savor your last day in day Valladolid by visiting Nuevo Durango, a small ecotourism and organic food production community whose people have maintained their cultural identity in both language and customs. You'll enjoy a traditional meal here and meet Don Manuel and his family. Don Manuel is a community member who operates an Environmental Management Unit (EMU), a project for the conservation of animals in the region that is in danger of extinction. As you learn about Don Manuel's work, you'll be able to see and meet some of the endemic species of the Yucatán Peninsula. 

Next, your driver will collect you at your hotel in Valladolid and take you to Chiquilá, where you'll take the ferry across a lagoon to Isla Holbox, a car-free island 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.

When the sun goes down, you'll witness Holbox's bioluminescence with a Pandora Luminescence experience under the starry night sky. As you touch the Caribbean waters, watch the shine caused by bioluminescent phytoplankton, which glows when disturbed. More than 1,500 species of fish, algae, bacteria, and even squid are known to produce this ethereal glow. Pandora Luminescence is your chance to be part of this display of nature's artistry, combining different arts and disciplines to create an intimate, three-hour dinner show that pays tribute to this natural wonder. 

Day 8: Free Day on Holbox Island, Bioluminescent Kayak Tour

Isla Holbox is a car-free paradise located in the northern part of Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula

Today, you can spend time on Isla Holbox however you'd like. Swim in turquoise waters and recharge your batteries. Cars are not allowed on the island, so 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. If you prefer to get out on the water, book a boat tour to Cabo Catoche for an afternoon of snorkeling and enjoying the underwater world. 

Tonight, admire the grandness of the sea and sky on a two-hour kayak trip into the ocean off the island's shores. The journey is short and easy enough for any level of experience. As the trip begins, look to the sky to spot constellations, planets, and galaxies. If you're lucky, you might glimpse a shooting star. As you continue through the water, you may notice the familiar ethereal glow of bioluminescent phytoplankton.

Day 9: Speedboat Tour & Snorkeling in Cuevones

Spot hawksbill turtles, octopuses, and lobsters in Cuevones

Embark on an exciting expedition to Cabo Catoche, the northernmost tip of the Yucatán Peninsula, with today's six-hour speedboat tour. Meet your local English-speaking guide and sail to this pristine area where the Caribbean Sea meets the Gulf of Mexico. Here, you'll encounter unspoiled beaches and remarkable marine life. During this adventure, you can fish with the captain and guides, who will offer traditional fishing techniques to catch the perfect fish.

Afterward, head to Cuevones, an area ideal for swimming and snorkeling among colorful fish and coral formations. Keep your eyes peeled for marine creatures like cat sharks, hawksbill turtles, octopuses, and lobsters hidden beneath the rocks. Lastly, unwind on a secluded beach, savoring the day's catch transformed into a delectable ceviche. If the tide is favorable, your return journey will take you through the captivating mangroves to the other side of Isla Holbox.

Day 10: Swim with Whale Sharks

Despite their enormous size, whale sharks are filter feeders, primarily consuming plankton and small fish

Dive into the underwater world as you swim with whale sharks in the waters of Isla Holbox on this full-day adventure. Fuel up with a continental breakfast and receive a comprehensive briefing and the necessary equipment. When you're ready, embark on a boat journey from the dock to commence your search for these gentle giants. Whale sharks are considered the world's largest fish and can grow as large as a bus. Along the way, keep your eyes peeled for other species, such as rays, dolphins, and turtles.

You'll be guided on how to enjoy this experience safely and confidently, and once you've located the whale sharks, relish the thrill of swimming alongside these peaceful titans of the sea. On the return trip, stop at a small reef for some snorkeling adventures. Finally, arrive at Santa Paula, where you can take a refreshing swim, stretch your legs, and savor fresh ceviche. The last leg of your journey back to Isla Holbox is just 45 minutes away.

Day 11: Transfer to Cancún, Depart

Cancún is one of Mexico's most popular and vibrant resort cities
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 Cancún 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 11 days in Mexico, or discover the best time to visit Mexico.


Map of Mexico's Culture, Nature & Cuisine: Mexico City, Valladolid & Isla Holbox - 11 Days
Map of Mexico's Culture, Nature & Cuisine: Mexico City, Valladolid & Isla Holbox - 11 Days