Explore a different side of Mexico's famous Yucatán Peninsula on this five-day escape to Mérida, the region's capital. Take part in a number of culture and nature experiences that include visiting Maya communities, boating to the Ría Lagartos Biosphere Reserve, touring the ancient milpa fields of Yaxunah, and visiting Chichén Itzá, the "famous wonder of the Maya world," which dates back over 1,500 years.


  • Tour the charming colonial streets of Mérida and visit Maya communities
  • Swim in a beautiful cenote and see flamingoes in the Ría Lagartos Reserve
  • Experience the pyramid at Chichén Itzá, a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Mérida, Self-Guided Tour Mérida
Day 2 Tour Chichén Itzá, Visit Yokdzonot Cenote Mérida
Day 3 Ría Lagartos Tour, Yaxunah Agriculture Experience Mérida
Day 4 Maya Culture Tour: Tekit & Mayapan Mérida
Day 5 Depart Mérida  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Mérida, Self-Guided Tour

Walk to Mérida's Spanish-colonial cathedral overlooking the Plaza Grande (central plaza)

Welcome to Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula! Best known for its resort cities like Cancún, this tropical region belies a more profound Indigenous heritage that dates back thousands of years. You'll arrive in the state's capital of Mérida, an impressive Spanish-colonial city that makes a great base to discover the area's rich Maya history. Upon arrival at the airport, a driver will pick you up at the terminal and transfer you to your hotel in the city.

After checking in, you can head out and explore. Mérida's history runs deep, evident by the historic landmarks and plazas around town. 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. The famous church remains to this day, with its twin bell towers looming large over the Plaza Grande, the city's main square.

In that square, you can sample street food and then stroll around the Centro Histórico to admire the colorful colonial architecture. Then, venture down the iconic Paseo de Montejo, with its opulent mansions and museums, stopping at the Palacio Cantón. From there, head to the Santa Lucía neighborhood, another historic enclave, to relax in the tranquil Parque de Santa Lucía and admire the historic red church. End your day by indulging in Merida's famous nightlife with bars, restaurants, and live music.

Day 2: Tour Chichén Itzá, Visit Yokdzonot Cenote

Chichen Itza's towering pyramid of Kukulcan
Start your day by visiting Chichén Itzá's towering pyramid

In the morning, 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 in honor of 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 El Castillo.

From Chichén Itzá, it's a short drive to the rural community of Yokdzonot. In 2005, a group of women residents transformed the cenote in their village 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. Interestingly, these cenotes were primary water sources and symbols of life, death, rebirth, and fertility. After the swim, you'll enjoy a local lunch and return to Mérida. 

Day 3: Río Lagartos Tour, Yaxunah Agriculture Experience

Flamingoes in the reserve
See flamingoes wading in the waters of the Ría Lagartos Biosphere Reserve
Plan your trip to Mexico
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

After breakfast at your hotel, you'll transfer north of Mérida to the coast and the Ría Lagartos Biosphere Reserve—one of the main flamingo nesting areas in the Yucatán Peninsula. Accompanied by a local guide, enjoy a fun-filled and educational afternoon while riding a boat through the reserve. See pink flamingoes foraging in the waters and learn about the biodiversity of the mangrove ecosystem.

The tour includes views of Las Coloradas, beautiful salt ponds that sport pinkish hues due to their high salt concentration, plus a soak in an exfoliating Maya mud bath. You'll disembark on the beach and apply the white clay extracted from the sand, which contains minerals, salts, and algae—all very beneficial for the skin. Afterward, rinse off in the ocean and enjoy free time on the beach before returning to Mérida.

After Ría Lagartos, you'll transfer 2.5 hours south to Yaxunah. The 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 atole. Afterward, you'll return to Mérida.

Day 4: Maya Culture Tour: Tekit & Mayapan

Learn how Mayapan was once a thriving city during the ancient Maya Postclassic Period

In the early morning, you'll take a full-day tour to see Maya communities and archaeological sites. First, you'll travel about one hour south of Mérida to Tekit. In this traditional Yucatecan town, everyday life revolves around the 16th-century church, the local market, and small businesses. Visit a local bakery where you'll learn to prepare fresh bread in a stone oven.

Later, take a walk to a Maya household, where the hosts will introduce you to the agroecological systems they use to grow food. You'll also tour a beekeeping operation, taste different honey varieties, and end your visit with a home-cooked Yucatecan meal. After lunch, visit a guayaberas factory to learn about the manufacturing process of this popular summer shirt worn in Yucatán. You can also stop at local shops to pick up some of these quality garments to take home.

Finally, head to the nearby archaeological site of Mayapan, one of the last capitals of the pre-Hispanic Maya era. It was a major political center from the 10th-15th centuries and is famous for its grand pyramids, palaces, and observatories. After touring the site, you'll return to Mérida. 

Day 5: Depart Mérida

Take one more walk in Mérida before departure

You've packed several adventures into just a few days, and now it's time to bring them back home. At the appointed hour, your driver will pick you up at your hotel in Mérida for the ride to the airport, where you'll catch your departing flight. Adiós!

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