- Cruise between the massive cliffs of Sumidero Canyon on a boat tour
- Hike to waterfalls in Chiapas, including El Chiflón
- Dive into the Yucatán's cenotes (sinkholes) for a refreshing swim
- Relax on the white-sand beaches of windswept Holbox Island
|Arrive in Cancún, Gateway to the Yucatán Peninsula
|Fly to Tuxtla, Sumidero Canyon Boat Tour
|San Cristobal de las Casas
|Day Trip to El Chiflón Waterfalls & Amatenango del Valle
|San Cristobal de las Casas
|Transfer to Palenque via Agua Azul & Misol-Ha Waterfalls
|Explore Palenque, Transfer to Campeche
|Campeche Walking Tour, Transfer to Izamal
|Transfer to Valladolid, Stop at Chichén Itzá & Cenotes
|Day Trip to Ek' Balam, Cenote & Maya Village Tour
|Transfer in Tulum, Optional Activities
|Day Trip to Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve
|Day Trip to Punta Laguna, Transfer to Holbox Island
|Free Days on Holbox Island
Day 1: Arrive in Cancún, Gateway to the Yucatán Peninsula
Welcome to Mexico! You'll arrive on the sun-dappled shores of Cancún, the most popular resort city on the famous Yucatán Peninsula. This metropolis is known as much for its powdery white-sand beaches and turquoise waters as it is for glitzy hotels and world-class nightlife. You'll get to enjoy the highlights of this region later in the trip; for now, transfer to your hotel near the airport and rest up—it's another travel day tomorrow.
Day 2: Fly to Tuxtla, Sumidero Canyon Boat Tour
Transfer back to Cancún's airport in the morning for the two-hour flight to Tuxtla Gutiérrez, the capital of the beautiful state of Chiapas. This is one of Mexico's main coffee-producing regions (along with Oaxaca and Veracruz) and is known for its rich Indigenous heritage, which reveals itself in the food, culture, and dress of the people.
Upon arrival, you'll transfer by private car to the village of Chiapa de Corzo. Founded in 1528, it's one of the oldest cities in Latin America. However, it's most famous as the embarkation point into Sumidero Canyon National Park, a protected area home to one of the most awe-inspiring river canyons on Earth.
At the pier, you'll board a boat and follow the river through the canyon, whose vertical limestone cliffs soar as high as 3,280 feet (1,000 m). On this tour, you'll see various flora and fauna, including giant crocodiles sunning themselves on the riverbanks. The boat also passes by cascading waterfalls and natural caves. Afterward, you'll transfer to your hotel in Tuxtla and have the rest of the day free.
Day 3: Day Trip to El Chiflón Waterfalls & Amatenango del Valle
Today, head deep into the jungles of Chiapas to a romantic oasis home to the tallest waterfalls in this part of Mexico. Your destination is El Chiflón Waterfall Park, a protected ecotourism area home to a series of terraced waterfalls cascading down from the Río San Vicente. The largest of the falls, Velo de Novia (Bridal Veil), plunges 394 feet (120 m) into a turquoise lagoon. Over a few hours, you can swim in designated areas, relax, and do some nature photography.
On the way back to Tuxtla, you'll stop in Amatenango del Valle, a Tzotzil Maya Indigenous village known for its artisanal pottery and the colorful, traditional dress of its residents.
Day 4: Transfer to Palenque via Agua Azul & Misol-Ha Waterfalls
It's an early start today as you'll discover some of the most beautiful waterfalls in the region on your way to Palenque. Your driver will take you on a scenic route toward your first stop of the day, the Agua Azul waterfalls. Marvel at the indigo color of the water and the bright green vegetation, and relax amid the cool breeze.
Next, visit the Misol-Ha waterfall, which cascades from 115 ft (35 m). Take a refreshing dip in the water and snap some photos as you enjoy the peaceful atmosphere. You'll reach Palenque just in time to enjoy the sunset behind one of Mexico's most famous archaeological sites.
Day 5: Explore Palenque, Transfer to Campeche
This morning, you'll explore the lesser-known archaeological area of Palenque, where you can see how quickly the jungle can reabsorb an entire city. Once a center of civilization until the seventh century, the now-abandoned city, which includes more than 200 architectural structures, was taken over by the forest until rediscovered in the early 1950s. Since then, the site has been recognized for its historical value and awarded a UNESCO designation.
The ruins are one of Mexico's most interesting Maya sites, featuring over 200 architectural structures. The Temple of the Inscriptions and the Grand Palace are special highlights, but you'll see many other artifacts and awe-inspiring landmarks here. And every structure reveals something about the ancient Maya's myths, rituals, beliefs, and lifestyles.
After lunch, hit the road for the five-hour drive north to the port city of Campeche, on the Yucatán Peninsula. Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, Campeche sits on the Gulf of Mexico and was founded in the 16th century, quickly becoming one of the most vital ports in Spain's New World. In the 17th century, protective walls were built around the city, and they still stand today. Also remaining are two hilltop fortresses that were used as lookouts to spot invaders. Upon arrival, you'll check into your hotel and can visit these landmarks on a self-guided tour.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 6: Campeche Walking Tour, Transfer to Izamal
Meet your guide in the morning for a three-hour walking tour into the heart of the city's storied past. Stroll the iconic walls, fortresses, and bastions—plus tour Pirate's Alley, the once-fortified entrance to the city. Today, it's part of Campeche's historic center and is flanked by colorful colonial homes. Then, visit the tree-shaded Plaza de la Independencia, which is lined with Spanish colonial buildings, and the famous Baroque Cathedral, which dates to 1540. Perhaps hop on one of the vintage trams that rumble along the cobbled streets of Campeche's center.
Afterward, your driver will take you farther north on a three-hour drive to Izamal, the famous "Yellow City of the Yucatán." It was founded in the 16th century on the ruins of an ancient Maya city, and after checking into your hotel, you can visit Izamal's well-preserved Spanish colonial landmarks. The most famous is the bright yellow Convent of San Antonio. Founded in 1553, 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.
Day 7: Transfer to Valladolid, Stop at Chichén Itzá & Cenotes
Hit the road this morning on a 1.5-hour trip farther east to the well-preserved colonial city of Valladolid. It's about a 1.5-hour drive, but you can stop along the way at Chichén Itzá, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this pre-Columbian Maya city was once the most revered center of worship and pilgrimage in the Yucatán Peninsula. Its most iconic attraction is the stepped pyramid of Kukulkán (El Castillo), built in honor of the feathered serpent god, an important deity to the Maya.
After marveling at the ruins, you'll transfer to the nearby Yokdzonot Cenote. Cenotes (limestone sinkholes) were the main water supply in the middle of the jungle in ancient times and a vital part of developing early cities and settlements. They were also considered symbolic spaces for rain, life, death, rebirth, and fertility rituals, and served a sacred function for the Maya. Tourists don't frequently visit this quiet cenote so you're likely to have it to yourself, and its peaceful waters have the perfect temperature to feel refreshed from the heat. After a cooling swim, you'll sit for a delicious lunch.
Later, continue on to Valladolid and check into your hotel. This charming colonial town is one of Mexico's famous Pueblos Mágicos (Magical Towns), a special designation the country has bestowed on over 100 places that have demonstrated historical importance, rich culture, great symbolism, and exceptional beauty. Much colonial architecture remains today, and one of the finest examples is San Servacio Church, which dates to 1545 and overlooks the Parque Francisco Cantón, the main plaza.
Day 8: Day Trip to Ek' Balam, Cenote & Maya Village Tour
Rise bright and early for today's full-day excursion. Your first stop is to explore the Yucatec-Maya archaeological site of Ek' Balam. Once a thriving seat of a Maya kingdom, the city was absorbed into the dense jungle typical of the area and wasn't rediscovered until the late 1800s. Wander the complex and climb the steps of the Acropolis, taking in the site as well as the surrounding jungle.
From there, head to the nearby cenote of X'Canche. At the entrance to X'Canche, you'll rent a bike and cycle along the sacbé (white path), an ancient stone road that leads to the cenote. Enjoy a swim in the cool, fresh water and a bite to eat before transferring to a nearby Indigenous village for a walking tour. You'll visit the homes of three Maya families, where you'll learn to make tortillas, knit hammocks, and participate in an embroidery workshop. In the evening, you'll return to Valladolid.
Day 9: Transfer to Tulum, Optional Activities
You're in for a treat, as this morning, you'll transfer back to the Yucatán's Caribbean coast and Tulum. This famous beach town is located on Mexico's famous Riviera Maya, a section of gorgeous coast spanning over 100 miles (160 km) along the Caribbean. Besides the resorts and vivid turquoise waters, Tulum also boasts ancient Maya archaeological sites and many nearby cenotes. Upon checking into your hotel, you'll have the rest of the day to explore this paradise on your own.
Day 10: Day Trip to Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve
Leave early for a day trip to nearby Sian Ka'an, a biosphere reserve and UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is the largest protected area in Mexico, covering over 2,000 square miles (5,180 sq km). Within the site are natural wonders like tropical forests, palm savannas, wetlands, mangroves, lagoons, and an unspoiled coastline. The region's beauty is in its name—in the Mayan language, Sian Ka'an means "origin of the sky."
You'll arrive at a local community center and join a tour group for the excursion. After hiking for a while through a jungle trail, you'll arrive at the temple ruins at Muyil, an ancient Maya site settled in 300 BCE. Continue hiking until you reach the edge of the turquoise Laguna de Chunyaxché, where you'll ride a boat through a mangrove channel and arrive at a small dock. Once there, you can take a refreshing dip in the Boca Paila lagoon and later visit a cenote and a butterfly habitat. Afterward, you'll return to Tulum.
Day 11: Day Trip to Punta Laguna, Transfer to Holbox Island
After breakfast, you'll take a day trip to Punta Laguna, part of a 12,350-acre (5,000 ha) area known as Otoch Ma'ax Yetel Kooh (meaning "the home of the spider monkey and the puma" in the Yucatec Mayan language). Since 1950, local Maya families have been protecting the reserve where animals like spider monkeys, howler monkeys, birds, jaguars, and pumas can be observed in complete freedom. Once here, you'll enjoy a leisurely canoe ride through the biosphere and can snap photos of the resident primates playing around in the tree line.
Later, continue 1.5 hours north to the tip of the Yucatán and the town of Chiquilá. Here, you'll board a ferry for the 15-minute ferry ride to Holbox. This sleepy island couldn't be more different from the tourist hotspot of Cancún. There are no paved roads in Holbox, so people get around either on foot, by bicycle, or by golf cart. And while there are many activities on offer, one of the most popular is whiling away the hours lazing in a hammock perched in the shallow turquoise waters of Holbox's shores. Upon arrival, you'll check into your hotel and have the rest of the day free to do exactly that.
Days 12-13: Free Days on Holbox Island
The only requirement for the next two days is to kick back and relax. Beach time is a great option, but there are plenty of active excursions in Holbox, too. Kitesurfing is a popular activity along the shallow shores, particularly during the winter months when the winds are up. Also, May to September is whale shark season, and during this time, you can swim with these gentle giants. Perhaps take a kayak tour along the coast, which is most incredible at night where, if you're lucky, you'll witness electric blue bioluminescence lighting up the water.
Day 14: Transfer to Cancún, Depart
It's an early start as you head to the port in the morning and catch the ferry from Holbox to the mainland. Then, transfer by bus to Cancún International Airport. There, you'll catch your flight home. Safe travels!