Start your exploration of the Yucatán Peninsula in the original resort town of Cancun, before heading to the iconic Mayan ruins of Chichén Itzá. Next, head to the Yucatán’s self-proclaimed cultural capital Mérida, where you can unwind in the impressive Plaza Grande and visit the stately Mérida Cathedral. Travel to photogenic Tulum, where the turquoise waters and sandy beaches of the caribbean sea frame impressive Mayan ruins dedicated to the gods of wind and rain. Lounge on Playa del Carmen’s beaches and dive amongst pristine coral reefs, before ending your trip back in Cancun.

Key information

Destinations Destinations Mexico
Activity Activity Beach, Family, Culture
Physical Level Physical Level Mild
Season Season January - December

Suggested itinerary

Arrive in Cancun, the gateway to the Yucatán

Arrive in Cancun, the gateway to the Yucatán

Day 1 in Cancun

Most visitors to the Yucatán Peninsula will arrive at Cancun, more famous for its beach resort and Spring Break parties than historical heritage hotspot. This itinerary finishes back in Cancun, so save your beach R&R for the end of the trip: for now, head to your hotel and get some rest for a busy week of sightseeing.

Organised tours may skip the first overnight in Cancun and transfer you direct to a hotel closer to Chichén Itzá.

See Mexico’s most recognisable Maya site at Chichén Itzá

See Mexico’s most recognisable Maya site at Chichén Itzá

Day 2 in Chichén Itzá

One of the New Seven Wonders of the World, this Maya city was at its height in the 10th century, when it commanded a vast area of what is now the Yucatan Peninsula.

Chichén Itzá’s ceremonial, cultural and administrative centre sprawls out over 2.5 square miles, its edifices aligned with celestial bodies. Within this same area, there were sacred sinkholes (cenotes), where sacrifices to the rain god Chaac were made to ensure that life-giving water was always abundant.

A city built in stages from around 600 CE, it was finally abandoned around 1250 CE, but so mighty was its power, and so sacred the sinkholes, that Chichén Itzá continued to be a site of pilgrimage for the Maya for hundreds of years beyond.

Today, a different type of pilgrimage occurs, with almost 1.5 million visitors flocking to the site each year. The excavated structures and the pristine nature of this archaeological site have been part of the allure, as well as its proximity to tourist hubs like Cancun and Playa del Carmen. The stories that the city holds, and the displays of Maya astrological and architectural prowess make it a noteworthy stop.

Yes, it is busy, but it is worth braving the crowds to explore this ancient Maya city and learn more about the history, beliefs and enduring cosmology of the people who lived there.

Don't miss

Take a trip to the charming colonial town of Valladolid

Take a trip to the charming colonial town of Valladolid

Beat the crowds — and the tour buses — at Chichen Itza by staying an hour away in the peaceful bohemian Valladolid. With good public transport, beautiful pastel-coloured colonial architecture and a number of attractions, it is a worthy destination for any traveller touring the Yucatán.

Escape the resort crowds in cultural Mérida

Escape the resort crowds in cultural Mérida

Day 3–4 in Mérida

The Yucatán Peninsula’s largest city and self-proclaimed cultural capital is a delightful blend of colonial heritage and cosmopolitan living. Nicknamed “The White City”, Merida’s charming narrow streets, grand central plazas and abundance of colonial buildings make it a worthy stop for any traveller exploring the region. Make sure to visit the colonial-era, white limestone Iglesia de la Tercera Orden and the imposing Mérida Cathedral, which was erected amidst the ruins of the Mayan settlement of Ichcansiho.

See the astounding Maya artwork at Uxmal

See the astounding Maya artwork at Uxmal

Day 5 in Uxmal

Known for its rotund structures, the World Heritage site of Uxmal is steeped in myths and legends.

What really marks Uxmal out is its Maya artwork. The Governor’s Palace is covered in stone mosaics of serpents, astronomical symbols and depictions of ancient gods.

Uxmal can be visited as an easy day trip from Merida, or as part of the Puuc Route that takes visitors on a day trip to the Puuc Maya sites of Uxmal, Kabah, Sayil, Xlapak, and Labna as well as the caves of Loltun.

Explore picture-perfect Tulum

Explore picture-perfect Tulum

Day 6–7 in Tulum

Perhaps Mexico’s most photogenic archaeological site, Tulum’s clifftop Mayan ruins are framed by the pristine beaches and turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea. Between the 13th and 15th centuries it served as a major port town for fellow Mayan city Cobá, and accordingly the temples were dedicated to the gods of wind and rain, with offerings made to plead against the hurricanes which frequently battered the coastline. If stunning beaches and well-preserved ruins aren’t enough to sway you, the area also boasts fantastic cave diving and plenty of refreshing cenotes (sinkholes) to explore.

Return to Cancun and depart

Return to Cancun and depart

Day 8 in Cancun

Finish your trip by returning to Cancun. If you want to extend your trip with more beach downtime, consider Playa del Carmen or stunning Holbox Island.

Book this itinerary

This route booked with one of our specialist tour operators would cost from $3,200pp. Pricing varies by accommodation class, and can be tailored to suit your budget.

Pricing is typically inclusive of hotels, transfers, meals, and all guided excursions and activities.

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