- Learn the secrets of hammock weaving in the Maya village of Yaxunah
- Discover the ancient Maya kingdom at Ek' Balam, Chichén Itzá, and Uxmal
- Swim in freshwater cenotes in Yalcobá
- Tour an 18th-century hacienda and cenote complex
|Arrive in Mérida, Transfer to Yaxunah, Hammock-Weaving Workshop
|Tour a Sustainable Corn Milpa, Swim at Lol-Ha Cenote
|Transfer to Valladolid, Take a Historic Walking Tour
|Visit Ek' Balam Archaeological Site, Culture & Cusine in the Local Community
|Explore Yalcobá's Culture & Nature
|Discover Chichén Itzá & Yokdzonot Cenote, Transfer to Mérida
|Mérida Street Food Tour
|Cenote Diving Excursion, Optional Activities in Mérida
|Cenote Swimming, Tour Hacienda Mucuyché
|Boat Ride in Celestún Biosphere Reserve
|Transfer to Uxmal, Discover Uxmal Archaeological Site
|Jícara Engraving Workshop, Eco-Tour in the Mun Ha Community
|Transfer to Mérida via Izamal, the "Yellow City of the Yucatán"
Day 1: Arrive in Mérida, Transfer to Yaxunah, Hammock-Weaving Workshop
Welcome to the Yucatán! This state in southeastern Mexico straddles the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean and is famous for its popular resort cities of Cancún and Tulum, but you'll tour well beyond these tourist sites. Upon arrival in Mérida, a driver will be waiting to transfer you to the village of Yaxunah, located about two hours outside the city. This small Maya community is known for its remarkable archaeological sites, which blend into the natural surroundings and are an important part of the region's cultural identity.
There's a lot to see here, but today, you'll take it easy with a visit to the Káabal Kuxtal workshop, where you'll meet local community members to learn about hammock weaving during a one-hour workshop. Teachers Ruby and Jenny will demonstrate how these traditional hammocks are crafted, and you'll even get to try your hand at weaving one of the workshop's hammocks with their guidance. Afterward, you'll be taken to your accommodations to check in and rest up for tomorrow's activities.
Day 2: Tour a Sustainable Corn Milpa, Swim at Lol-Ha Cenote
Today starts with a two-hour tour of a sustainable corn milpa (the Indigenous Nahuatl phrase for a cultivated field). Here, you'll learn everything that goes into eco-friendly corn—a staple of Mexican cooking—from cleaning and planting to harvesting and, eventually, cooking. Best of all, the work in the milpas directly supports the local community. After your lesson, you'll get to taste several corn-based beverages and ingredients/foods, such as pozole (traditional stew), pinole (ground maize mixed with other spices), nixtamal (boiled and soaked corn), and atole (a traditional drink).
Head back to Yaxunah afterward, where you'll spend some time at the Lol-Ha Cenote. Dotted throughout the Yucatán Peninsula, cenotes (limestone sinkholes) have played a significant role in the lives of the people here for hundreds of years as both freshwater sources and sacred sites. This afternoon, you'll have the opportunity to dive into the clear blue waters of this local cenote amid the unspoiled natural surroundings before enjoying a dinner of home-cooked local fare.
Day 3: Transfer to Valladolid, Take a Historic Walking Tour
This morning, you'll say your goodbyes to Yaxunah and its people and join your driver for the one-hour transfer to Valladolid, your base for the next three nights. 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.
Upon arrival, meet your tour guide for a 1.5-hour walking tour of the city's historic center. Founded in 1543 and colonized by the Spanish, your guide will tell you about the tumultuous history here, giving way to the style of architecture surrounding the square. As you continue the tour, you'll stop at the ex-convent of San Bernadino de Siena, taste local honey from the region, and walk through the beautiful Calzada de Los Frailes (Road of the Friars)—a bustling street lined with coffee shops, restaurants, and mezcalerias.
Day 4: Visit Ek' Balam Archaeological Site, Culture & Cusine in the Local Community
Today's itinerary starts with a thirty-minute transfer from Valladolid to the incredible archaeological site of Ek' Balam. This ancient city reached its heyday between the seventh and 10th centuries before being lost to the jungle for years and ultimately rediscovered in the 1800s. An hourlong tour will lead you through these fascinating ruins as your guide points out temples, ball courts, and an acropolis. Don't miss the chance to climb 95 feet (29 m) to the top of the highest pyramid, where you'll be rewarded with incredible views of the surrounding Yucatán jungle.
After your visit to the ancient past, it's time to meet the local Maya community and those who call Ek' Balam home today. Over the next 2.5 hours, you'll gain insight into Maya culture. Stop by the house of a welcoming community member, where you'll learn more about hammock weaving and revisit some of those methods you learned while in Yaxunah. Continue to another home to learn how traditional garments from the region are embroidered and even sew one yourself, which you can take home as a souvenir. End with rolling out corn tortillas with the locals before returning to your hotel.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 5: Explore Yalcobá's Culture & Nature
In the morning, embark on a full-day adventure to discover the rich Maya culture of Yalcobá, a community nestled in the jungle on the outskirts of Valladolid. Begin with a two-hour guided hike through dense forests, where you'll gain additional insights into the traditional milpa fields, learning more about this ancient agricultural system of intercropping maize, beans, and squash. As you meander through the jungle, you'll encounter various butterflies, insects, and local flora. Next, venture into cave cenotes, where you'll experience the allure of underground freshwater lagoons surrounded by geological structures.
During this adventure, you'll also be guided on a 90-minute journey to learn about the cenote cycle. Visit a rejollada cenote, or a cenote at the end of its life cycle, teeming with biodiversity amid lush vegetation. Next, explore a cave with impressive geological formations. The adventure continues as you descend into the depths of the Maya underworld (Xibalba) to reach a pristine, underground cenote and take a refreshing swim. Later, your day concludes with your driver returning you to your hotel in Valladolid.
Day 6: Discover Chichén Itzá & Yokdzonot Cenote, Transfer to Mérida
Get ready to discover one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. After breakfast, your driver will take you 45 minutes west to Chichén Itzá, an ancient Maya city that, during its heyday (around 600-900 CE), was the most revered religious center and pilgrimage site in the Yucatán. 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 the site's construction and craftsmanship.
Continue to Yokdzonot, an ecotourism destination built around a Maya cenote by a group of women from the local community. Here, you can swim for two hours and join your local hosts for a delicious lunch. Then, get back on the road for the 1.5-hour transfer to your next destination of Mérida, the capital of the Yucatán region. You'll head to the Yucatán Gastronomy Museum (MUGY) for a two-hour tour. Here, the traditional flavors of the Yucatán cuisine meet the modern creativity of local chefs, and you'll learn about the historical legacy of the dishes and ingredients and try some for yourself.
Day 7: Mérida Street Food Tour
In the morning, you'll hit the colonial streets of Mérida's Centro Histórico (Historic Center) and discover the city's rich cultural heritage through its famous street food. This three-hour culinary adventure begins when you meet your local expert guide at the Plaza Grande, Mérida's central square. Start by enjoying some refreshing drinks before sampling your first dish of the day: gorditas (thick fried tortillas with various fillings).
Then, continue walking to one of the main food markets in town, where you'll sample more traditional dishes. You'll try salbutes (puffed deep-fried tortillas with avocado and shredded chicken), tamales (dough with various fillings steamed in corn husks or banana leaves), and also some local fruit like pitaya (dragon fruit). Finish the tour with a sampling of famous al pastor (roasted, seasoned pork) and carnitas (confit of pork) tacos. Return to your hotel in Mérida to settle in before an adventurous day of underwater exploration.
Day 8: Cenote Diving Excursion, Optional Activities in Mérida
Gear up for a half-day cenote diving adventure. With clear waters and perfect natural lighting, you're in for an experience that can only be had in the Yucatán Peninsula. Meet your experienced dive guide and journey to one of the region's enchanting cenotes. After a thorough safety briefing and gear check, it's time to plunge into the crystal-clear waters and submerge yourself in the cenote's depths, where you may find small fish, freshwater shrimp, or fossilized animal remains. Glide through limestone formations and discover the hidden wonders of the Yucatán's subterranean landscapes.
The gentle, dappled sunlight filtering through the cenote's openings provides the perfect illumination for exploring caves, tunnels, and chambers. Be sure to snap some photos, as the calm waters of cenotes often offer ideal conditions for mirror-like reflections, creating captivating visual effects. If you're not too tired from your time below the surface, return to Mérida for a leisurely walk along Paseo de Montejo, a grand avenue lined with historic mansions and museums. Savor more Yucatecan cuisine, like panuchos (tortillas with beans and toppings), for dinner and relax in Santa Lucía Park, the perfect place to people-watch.
Day 9: Cenote Swimming, Tour Hacienda Mucuyché
After breakfast, drive an hour southwest of Mérida to continue your exploration of cenotes at Cenotes Hacienda Mucuyché, a cenote complex. This historic site includes the remains of an 18th-century hacienda and plantation, plus two cenotes—the perfect place to dive into both natural and cultural aspects of the Yucatán region. While here, you can take a dip in the sapphire blue waters of cenotes Azul Maya and Carlota. The latter earned its name when the empress of Mexico (Charlotte of Belgium) visited in 1885—supposedly, she was the first to bathe in its waters.
The history of Hacienda Mucuyché is deeply intertwined with the colonial and agricultural heritage of the Yucatán Peninsula. It was a valuable property belonging to the prominent Peón family for a significant period. In addition to livestock and agriculture, Hacienda Mucuyché became known for its henequen, a type of agave plant that was cultivated for its strong and durable fiber. During the henequen boom in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, this plant was a major cash crop in the Yucatán, and the fiber from henequen plants was used to produce various goods, including ropes and textiles.
Day 10: Boat Ride in Celestún Biosphere Reserve
Today's trip takes you 1.5 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. It's renowned for its abundant flamingo population and rich biodiversity. Upon arrival, a boat will be waiting at the mouth of the Río Esperanza, where you'll begin this daylong exploration of one of Yucatán's most unique ecosystems.
This a birder's paradise—besides the famed flamingoes, you'll likely spot 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. Afterward, you'll visit the Ojo de Agua (Eye of Water), where you can swim through natural tunnels formed by mangrove branches that open into a large pool with crystal-clear water. Enjoy a delicious meal overlooking the beach, after which you'll return to Mérida to enjoy your evening at your leisure.
Day 11: Transfer to Uxmal, Discover Uxmal Archaeological Site
Today, after traveling 1.5 hours south of Mérida, you'll have a full-day tour of Uxmal. Along with Chichén Itzá, it's one of Mexico's most important ancient Maya archaeological sites. Meet your guide, who will tell you a little more about these impressive pyramids. Located in the low hills of Yucatán's Puuc region, Uxmal's early structures here date to the sixth century CE, and the city was a major seat of power until its influence waned in the 10th century.
The name Uxmal means "thrice built" in Mayan. This name refers to the construction of its tallest structure, the Pyramid of the Magician, which was built on top of the existing pyramids. Legend has it that the Pyramid of the Magician was built in a single night. Wander among the ruins, where you'll notice embedded in its ruins are ornate friezes, sculptures, and carvings that archaeologists regard as some of the finest architectural sculptures in the ancient Maya world. After you've wandered the ruins to your heart's content, your driver will take you to your hotel in Uxmal.
Day 12: Jícara Engraving Workshop, Eco-Tour in the Mun Ha Community
Your day begins by driving one hour to meet your guide in the community of Muná for a 2.5-hour ecological tour that combines nature conservation and traditional Maya culture. Visit a scenic lookout point and snap photos of the Yucatán jungle landscape. As you venture farther down the trail, you'll see the grotto of the Maya aluxes. According to Maya mythology, these mythical beings inhabit the jungle, infusing it with legends and magic. Hear stories about how Maya sorcerers and wise men crafted aluxes figures, believed to come to life at night to protect property, animals, and the jungle itself.
In the afternoon, spend four hours with a local community renowned for its dedication to nature conservation and traditional Maya artistry. The welcoming members of the Mun Ha community will guide you through an engaging workshop on jícara engraving. Jícara is a fruit native to the Yucatán Peninsula, traditionally used for storing food and water for millennia. Try your hand at engraving this historical vessel, creating your own piece of Maya art, before exploring the local craft workshop and ecological museum. Following the workshop, your driver will be waiting to return you to your hotel in Uxmal.
Day 13: Transfer to Mérida via Izamal, the "Yellow City of the Yucatán"
Today, you'll return 1.5 hours north to Mérida to check into your hotel and begin the adventures of the penultimate day of your trip. Once you're settled, set out for a self-guided exploration of Izamal. Just one hour east of Mérida, this well-preserved colonial town makes for the perfect day trip. It's known as the "Yellow City of the Yucatán," as its historic buildings are painted canary yellow and surrounded by cobblestone streets.
Walk these streets as you visit grand historic landmarks like the Convent of San Antonio. The convent was founded in 1553, and its massive walled atrium covers 84,023 square feet (7,806 sq m), making it the second-largest in the world after St. Peter's Square in Rome. After touring Izamal, you'll transfer back to Mérida for one final chance to soak up the culture and experience the nightlife before tomorrow's departure.
Day 14: Depart Mérida
Say your goodbyes to Mérida and the Yucatán as your two-week exploration of the region comes to a close this morning. You may be able to squeeze in a walk or shop for Yucatecan handicrafts at Lucas de Gálvez Market, depending on your departure time. Then, your driver will take you to Mérida International Airport to catch your departing flight. Adiós!