Take a step back in time to explore ancient Mayan cities shrouded in mystery—some of which were inhabited since around 1800 BCE—on this five-day adventure. You'll visit Chichén Itzá, one of the New Wonders of the World, as well as Izamal and Mérida, which will offer insight into the transition from ancient Mayan civilization to contemporary Mayan ways of life.

Highlights

  • Explore Chichén Itzá, one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World
  • Go swimming in a cenote filled with aquamarine water
  • Visit the impressive archaeological sites of Uxmal and Kabah
  • Find the perfect photo op in the "Yellow City" of Izamal

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Bienvenidos a México! From Cancún to Valladolid Valladolid
Day 2 Visit the stunning archaeological site of Chichén Itzá & Yokdzonot Cenote Mérida
Day 3 Uxmal and Kabah archaeological sites Mérida
Day 4 The beauty of Mérida & Izamal Valladolid
Day 5 Cancún International Airport: Adiós Mexico!  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Bienvenidos a México! From Cancun to Valladolid

Valladolid's 16th-century San Gervasio Cathedral
Valladolid's 16th-century San Gervasio Cathedral

Welcome to Mexico! Upon your arrival, your local driver will be waiting to take you to the colonial town of Valladolid, a two-hour drive from the airport. Check in to your hotel and can spend the rest of the day exploring the town.

Valladolid has a number of charming Spanish colonial buildings to see, including the 16th-century Convent of San Bernardino of Siena, with an ornate wooden altarpiece, as well as the baroque-style San Gervasio Cathedral. Valladolid is a place full of colors, crafts, and flavorful local cuisine: in fact, a long list of regional dishes originated here. Join the locals in the plaza next to the Parque Francisco Canton to gather and eat a range of these simple dishes.

Day 2: Visit the stunning archaeological site of Chichén Itzá & Yokdzonot Cenote

Archaeological site of Chichen Itza
Admiring the scale of Chichén Itzá

After an early breakfast, meet your local guide and head west to the Mayan ruins of Chichén Itzá. This pre-Hispanic city was once the most venerated center of worship and pilgrimage of the Yucatán Peninsula. Its main draw is the step Pyramid of Kukulkán (El Castillo), though there are many significant Mayan and Toltec buildings, sculptures, and reliefs of interest— the Temple of the Warriors, the Hall of the Thousand Columns, and the ball courts, to name just a few.

After exploring the sprawling complex, travel the short distance to the lesser-known Yokdzonot Cenote. The Yucatán Peninsula is a porous limestone shelf with no visible rivers: all of its freshwater rivers are underground. A key feature along the rivers are cenotes—water-filled pits or sinkholes—once the only source of fresh water in the jungle. They were therefore sacred to the Mayans, and they also represented the entrance to the underworld.  Enjoy a refreshing swim in the cenote before continuing along the journey.

Day 3: Uxmal and Kabah archaeological sites

Ancient Mayan ruins on the Yucatán Peninsula
Ancient Mayan ruins on the Yucatán Peninsula

Today you'll tour the archaeological site of Uxmal. This name means "thrice built" in Mayan, which refers to the construction of its highest structure, the Pyramid of the Magician, which was built on top of existing pyramids. Uxmal was one of the largest cities of the Yucatán peninsula on the Ruta Puuc (Puuc Route), and at its peak, the city was home to approximately 20,000 Mayans.

After visiting this impressive site, move onto Kabah, home to some very interesting and unusual buildings and sculptures. One of its most prominent buildings is the Palace of the Masks, with a facade completely covered with 250 masks of the rain god Chac, one of the most powerful deities in the Mayan tradition. 

Day 4: The beauty of Mérida & Izamal

Colorful architecture in the "Yellow City" of Izamal

Today, after breakfast, you will explore Mérida, a beautiful colonial city that developed a strong cultural and political identity due to its isolation from the rest of the country. The city is a symbol of the Mayan legacy, as you will discover during your tour. You'll learn about religious history, specifically the pre-Hispanic and Christian elements that run through Mayan culture, and visit the cathedral, the main square, and the government hall, filled with incredible paintings.

Then, you will head to the "Yellow City" of Izamal. This small colonial city, built in the middle of the 16th century on the ruins of a Mayan city, is also known as the “City of the Three Cultures” due to its combination of influences from a pre-Hispanic era, a colonial era, and today’s contemporary time. Its most important building is the Convento de San Antonio, a Franciscan convent built over the Mayan shrine, Pap Hol Chac. Finally, arrive at Valladolid where you will rest and spend the evening. Have one last Mexican meal before the next day's flight out.

Day 5: Cancún International Airport: Adiós Mexico!

One last look back at Mexico over the beaches of Cancún
One last look back at Mexico over the beaches of Cancún

Today, a driver will pick you up from your hotel in Valladolid to take you back to the airport of Cancun. It's time to say goodbye to paradise. Safe travels!