One of the great things about having a blog is connecting with amazing people from all over the world … and picking their brains for new ideas! One of the amazing people I’ve met is Brittany, a travel blogger at www.brittanymthiessen.com. After a few minutes of browsing her blog, it’s clear this girl is in love with Mexico (can you blame her?)
She’s also kind and generous; Since I’m currently ‘honeymoon-ing’ (in other words a bit busy … ah-em) she has graciously offered to write this guest post for us! She has put together an AMAZING 10-day itinerary for me and I will be testing it out later on my trip (stay tuned!) I’m feeling incredibly excited and inspired about travelling in Mexico now and I have no doubt this itinerary will inspire you as well. This is a super comprehensive 10 day Yucatán Mexico itinerary with details of transport, budget accommodation and cheap eating tips!
Guest post by Brittany from www.brittanymthiessen.com.
Note this post contains some affiliate links – thank you for your continued support!
This itinerary showcases some of the best cities, towns and attractions that the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico has to offer! It includes a combination of adventure, history, nature, culture, and relaxation.
You will explore well-known and off the beaten path Mayan ruins and learn about the history of this ancient civilization; swim or snorkel in a variety of stunning cenotes, a stunning natural wonder that are unique to the Yucatan; wander cobblestone streets while admiring the colourful and colonial architecture of cities and authentic Mayan towns and villages; immerse yourself in and experience the Mayan culture and Spanish language while exploring off the beaten path places; and relax on the beautiful and world-famous beaches along the Mayan Riviera.
Playa del Carmen – Playa del Carmen is located along the gorgeous beaches of the Gulf of Mexico in the Mayan Riviera. It is a bustling small city, full of tourist activity.
Playa del Carmen features a wide variety of restaurants and cuisines from street food carts to authentic local taquerias to full-service casual and fine dining restaurants. Playa del Carmen is known for its nightlife and bars, its beaches and its shopping. You will find a multitude of shops and restaurants along the busy Fifth Avenue, which is completely closed to traffic and runs parallel to the white-sand beach.
When you venture away from Fifth Avenue and wander the streets that the locals frequent, you will be rewarded with the discovery of small local shops, authentic family-owned taquerias serving delicious traditional Mexican cuisine, and an often relaxing environment where you are able to immerse yourself deeper into the culture.
Your flight will arrive at the Cancun International Airport. Try to schedule your flight so that it arrives earlier in the day or midday. The ADO (Mexican bus company) buses run more frequently and are easier to catch during the daytime.
Collect your baggage and purchase a first-class ADO bus ticket to Playa del Carmen, from the booth before exiting the terminal.
After leaving the airport, turn right and continue walking until you see the red and white ADO buses. Board the bus and make your way to Playa del Carmen.
After an hour-long bus trip, you will find yourself at the bus terminal on Playa del Carmen’s popular shopping district known as Fifth Avenue.
Make your way to your accommodation on foot or via taxi.
Spend the remainder of your day or evening exploring and wandering the side streets in Playa del Carmen.
In the evening, head to a local taqueria (taco place) to sample some traditional and authentic Mexican cuisine.
- The Yak – Located on Calle 10 Norte Bis between Avenidas 10 and 15. The Yak is a popular and well-known hostel in town with a social and party atmosphere, which makes it a great place to meet new people. There are also quieter areas where you can relax. You can choose to stay in mixed dorms ranging from four to twelve beds as well as private rooms. This hostel features a bar with cheap prices, a cafe, a social courtyard and fun and different activities every day. Book at HostelWorld. ($23 AUD/night or $17 USD/night)
- Tres Mundos Hostel – Located on Calle 6 Norte between Avenida 20 and 25. Tres Mundos is a unique, colourful and comfortable hostel with a friendly social atmosphere and where guests are treated like family. The hostel features common areas, wireless internet and free continental breakfast. You can choose to stay in a mixed dorm with 6 or 8 beds and they also offer private rooms with bathroom en-suite. Book at HostelWorld. ($15 AUD/night or $11 USD/night)
Recommended Budget Hotels:
- Barrio Latino Hotel – Located on Calle 4 between Avenidas 10 and 15. This hotel is simple, clean and comfortable with a relaxed and peaceful atmosphere. Barrio Latino features a lush treed garden and courtyard where complimentary breakfast is served daily. The rooms all face towards the courtyard, they are spacious and comfortable and feature a hammock to relax in right outside your door. There are no TVs in the rooms, but there is free and fast Wi-Fi and air conditioning. The staff are also friendly and helpful. Book at Expedia . ($62 AUD/night or $45 USD/night)
- Hotel Colorado – Located on Calle 4 Norte between Avenidas 20 and 25. This small hotel is charming and has a laid-back atmosphere with unique and colourful decor. It features a tropical garden and common terrace and has colourful decor infused with a Mexican flavour. The private double rooms include a fan, fridge, cable TV, and fast and free Wi-Fi. Book at HostelWorld. ($32 AUD/night or $23 USD/night)
- El Fogon – Calle 6 Bis at Avenida 30 or Avenida Constituyentes at Avenida 30. El Fogon is a local taqueria that is always busy and popular with the locals. It is located off the beaten path of the touristy 5th Avenue and they serve the tastiest traditional Mexican food I have tasted in Playa del Carmen!
- No-Name Taqueria – Calle 4 and Avenida 15. This taqueria has no name and is definitely an authentic hole-in-the-wall place and you will sit at plastic Coca Cola tables and chairs. This place serves the cheapest tacos in Playa del Carmen at 7 pesos per taco. The menu is painted on the wall.
- La Senda – Avenida 10 between Calles 8 and 10. La Senda is an adorable restaurant that serves a variety of unique Mexican dishes, specializing in vegetarian and vegan options.
- El Nativo – Avenida 30 between Avenida Constituyentes and Calle 20. El Nativo is located just around the corner from the restaurant El Fogon. They serve freshly made and healthy smoothies and juices that are super tasty.
- Flor de Michoacan – Calle 2 between Avenida 15 and 20. Flor de Michoacan serves a variety of unique and tasty ice cream flavours as well as fresh-fruit and cream-based Mexican popsicles (known as “paletas”).
Spend the morning strolling down Fifth Avenue and do some souvenir shopping. Explore the side streets away from Fifth Avenue and find somewhere to buy a fresh fruit smoothie or juice.
Grab lunch somewhere along Avenida 10, where the food is cheaper, tastier and more authentic than on the popular Avenida 5.
Spend the afternoon relaxing on the white-sand beaches of Playa del Carmen or going for a leisurely walk in the beautiful gated community of Playacar, just a short walk south of Playa del Carmen. There are gorgeous mansions and beach-side all-inclusive resorts, as well as some small hidden Mayan ruins located in the jungle along the side of the street.
Tulum – Tulum is a small Mexican town with a laid-back, relaxed vibe and a slow-paced atmosphere.
The town is located in the Mayan Riviera, just a little ways inland from the Gulf of Mexico coast. Tulum is the perfect base for visiting the ruins of Tulum and Coba, along with some of the many cenotes that surround the area. It is located within minutes of some of the most beautiful white-sand beaches in the world.
Purchase a bus ticket from the ADO terminal on Fifth Avenue or take a local colectivo shuttle van from Calle 2 between Avenidas 15 and 20 to the town of Tulum, located about one hour south of Playa del Carmen.
Walk or take a taxi to your accommodation.
Spend the afternoon swimming and/or snorkeling in Gran Cenote. You can rent a bicycle from one of a few places along the main avenue in town and bike there along the highway or take a short five-minute taxi ride from town to the cenote.
- Mama’s Home – Located on Calle Orion between Calles Venus and Sol. Mama’s Home is an amazing hostel located in a quiet neighbourhood in the town of Tulum, with a laid-back and chill yet friendly and social atmosphere. The hostel features an outdoor courtyard with hammocks and communal tables, fun nightly social activities, super fast wireless internet and the most elaborate and delicious free breakfasts I have ever experienced at a hostel. They also offer a discount on bike rentals from town. You can choose to stay in a spacious and air conditioned private room or a mixed dorm (6 or 10 beds). Book at HostelWorld. ($15 AUD/night or $11 USD/night)
Recommended Budget Hotels:
- Mango Tulum Hotel – Located on Calle Polar at Avenida Coba (behind the OXXO convenience store). Mango Tulum is a comfortable, clean and simple budget hotel. It is family-run and small. The hotel features free internet, a large garden and outdoor swimming pool and air conditioned in all rooms. You can choose to stay in a private room or a 4-bed mixed dormitory. Book on HostelWorld. ($16 AUD/night or $12 USD/night)
- El Rincon Chiapaneco – Located on Calle Jupiter Sur, just south of the main avenue (across from the ADO bus terminal). El Rincon Chiapaneco serves cheap and tasty authentic Mexican food. This is a simple, open-air restaurant that is always packed with locals.
- El Camello Jr. – Located at the corner of Avenida Tulum (main avenue) and Calle Luna Sur. El Camello is a simple restaurant that doesn’t look like anything special when you are walking towards it, but they are well-known for their delicious selection of seafood among other traditional Mexican eats. This place is always busy with both locals and tourists.
- Antojitos La Chiapaneca – Located on Avenida Tulum (main avenue) between Calles Jupiter and Acuario Norte. This place doesn’t look like anything special during the day, but after they open at 6 PM, it becomes a hub of local activity! It is a small, casual and authentic eatery that serves the cheapest tacos in Tulum (7 pesos each) complete with a self-serve salsa bar.
Wake up bright and early and head to the Tulum Ruins (you can get there via taxi or colectivo van from the main avenue in the town of Tulum. You can also rent bicycles and follow the paved bike path along the highway to the ruins) when they open at 8 AM.
You will most likely be one of the few touring the ruins site and you will be thankful that you were able to beat the midday crowds and heat! Take your time exploring the ruins and learning about the history. There is no need to hire a guide, as there are many signs throughout the ruins site and you can also read about the history from a guidebook or online before you visit.
In the afternoon, take a colectivo from the town’s main avenue to Casa Cenote. The colectivo will drop you off along the highway at the junction of a long gravel road. Keep walking to the end and turn left. Walk some more down this scenic road of vacation homes and the ocean on one side and you will see the cenote on your left side. This cenote is different from many others as it is completely above ground and surrounded by mangroves, resembling the look of a natural swimming pool.
You can snorkel, swim or dive at this cenote. Be aware, there is a strong current in the water which makes it difficult to actually get anywhere when you’re swimming.
Alternative Day Plans:
Wake up early and catch a first or second class ADO bus from the terminal on the main avenue to the ruins of Coba, located approximately 45 minutes from Tulum. Make sure to buy a return bus ticket from Coba back to Tulum, as there are not many buses that go to and from these places.
Upon arriving in the village of Coba, walk from the bus stop along the lagoon to your right for a few minutes until you reach the entrance to the ruins. I recommend renting bicycles once you are inside the ruins site, which makes it easier and faster to get around and explore the ruins, which are very spread out through the jungle.
You are able to touch and climb most of the structures at Coba. These ruins are lesser frequented by tourists than the popular ruins of Tulum and Chichen Itza and you will discover that many of the structures are still be excavated.
Take your time exploring the ruins and don’t forget to climb to the top of the second highest Mayan pyramid in the Yucatan – the Nohoch Mul. The views from the top are unbelievable!
After you are finished touring the ruins, take some time to eat at one of the authentic small eateries serving traditional Yucatecan cuisine, located in the parking lot of the ruins or by walking back along the lagoon into the village of Coba.
Catch your bus back to Tulum and spend the remainder of the day visiting a nearby cenote (Casa Cenote or others located near Gran Cenote).
Valladolid – Valladolid is a gorgeous, charming and tranquil colonial city located in the heart of the Yucatan Peninsula. The Mayan culture is very prominent in the language spoken and traditional clothing worn by the locals.
This city is a fantastic place to learn about and immerse yourself in the local culture and history. It is located in close proximity to the ruins of Chichen Itza, Ek Balam and Coba as well as a variety of uniquely gorgeous cenotes.
Wake up early and purchase a first or second class bus ticket to Valladolid.
After a one and a half hour bus ride, you will arrive in Valladolid. You will likely be able to walk to your accommodation, as most are located close to the central square.
Spend the remainder of the day exploring this charming colonial city. I recommend spending time relaxing and people-watching at the central square; checking out the Cathedral de San Gervasio located on the south side of the square; strolling down the historic street known as Calzada de los Frailes, which is a well-maintained narrow cobblestone street lined with colourful colonial buildings; wandering through the abandoned hallways of the Ex-Convent de San Bernardino, which is located at the end of Calzada de los Frailes; and walking to Cenote Zaci, which is situated in the middle of the city.
This cenote charges a cheap admission fee and is a gorgeous and refreshing place to take an afternoon swim (the water can sometimes be a little murky though). You may discover that you are the only ones there.
- Hostel La Candelaria – Located on Calle 35 between Calles 42 and 44 (on Candelaria Square and Park). Hostel La Candelaria is a unique social hostel located in an old colonial house with colourful decor and a laid-back and relaxing atmosphere. The hostel features a lush garden with hammocks, lots of communal areas, rooftop terrace, bike rentals, free breakfast, free internet, a movie lounge and lots of helpful travel information for the nearby local attractions. You have the option of staying in a private room or 8-bed mixed dorm. There is no air conditioning but there are lots of fans to keep things cool. Book at HostelWorld. ($14 AUD/night or $10 USD/night)
Recommended Budget Hotels:
- Hotel Maria Guadalupe – Located on Calle 44 between Calles 39 and 41. Hotel Maria Guadalupe is a clean and simple budget hotel located in the centre of Valladolid. The rooms have air conditioning, a safe, cable television and private bathroom. The hotel features wireless internet, an outdoor terrace and free breakfast. Book at HostelWorld. ($15 AUD/night or $11 USD/night)
- Hotel Colonial La Aurora – Located on Calle 42 between Calles 35 and 37. Hotel Colonial La Aurora is a budget hotel with colonial decor located in Valladolid’s historical district. The hotel offers an outdoor swimming pool and wireless internet, but breakfast is not included. The private rooms are air conditioned and have a safe and cable television. Book at Expedia. ($35 AUD/night or $27 USD/night)
- Loncheria El Amigo Casiano – Located at Calle 39 and 40. Loncheria El Amigo Casiano is a casual “fast food” eatery located inside Valladolid’s open-air food court and is very popular with the locals. They are open for lunch only and serve a variety of traditional and authentic Mexican and Yucatecan dishes. I recommend the huevos rancheros, panuchos and tacos and the watermelon flavoured agua fresco!
- Taberna de los Frailes – Located at the corner of Calle 49 and Calle 41A. Taberna de los Frailes is located beside the Ex-Convent de San Bernardino and is a great place to eat for a nice dinner. It is a well-known restaurant in Valladolid that was featured in the New York Times. They serve a variety of moderately-priced authentic Yucatecan dishes. The setting is lovely and the seating is situated in a lush garden outside on the restaurant grounds.
- El Meson del Marques – Located on Calle 39 between Calles 40 and 42. El Meson del Marques is a more upscale restaurant that features a beautiful courtyard with a peaceful and relaxing setting and Mexican decor. They have a large menu of fresh, delicious and quality dishes that are reasonably priced.
- Yerba Buena – Located on Calle 54A across the street from the Ex-Convent de San Bernardino. Yerba Buena is a charming and unique restaurant with cute and colourful decor. They serve inexpensive healthy Mexican dishes with vegetarian and vegan options. You can choose to sit inside the restaurant or outside surrounded by a lush garden behind the restaurant. The free wireless internet here is also the fastest that I experienced in Mexico.
Wake up early and take a shared colectivo taxi from Calle 44 between Calles 35 and 37 to the ruins of Ek Balam, located about 25 minutes north of Valladolid.
Try to arrive there around 8 AM, when the ruins open. If you can find another random couple to join you, your taxi driver will leave right away (they will wait until they have a full car of passengers before departing, so you may have to wait up to 15 minutes before leaving for the ruins).
The Ek Balam ruins are surrounded by dense jungle and they are more off the beaten path and lesser known than other ruins in the area. You are able to climb and touch all of the structures. Take your time touring around the ruins, and make sure to climb the main pyramid to admire the stunning views from the top!
You will find that there are many structures within the ruins site that are completely engulfed in the jungle and new ruins continue to be uncovered to this day.
After you are finished visiting the ruins, make your way back to the entrance of the ruins. You will see a dirt path. This is the entrance to Cenote X’Canche, which is an absolutely gorgeous and off the beaten path cenote, that is operated and maintained by the local community.
In the morning, take a taxi or rent a bicycle to Cenotes Xkeken and Samula, located 7 km from Valladolid. Both of these cenotes are located completely underground and they are across the road from each other near the small village of Dzitnup.
In the afternoon, you can take a taxi or bicycle to Hacienda San Lorenzo Oxman Cenote, which is located just 4 km south of Valladolid. This is my absolute favourite cenote in the Yucatan! Take some time to swim in this gorgeous underground sinkhole and jump into the water using the rope swing! Then spend some time swimming in the pool and lounging with a Mexican beer next to the water (use of the pool is included in the cheap admission price for the cenote).
In the evening, head to the central square to experience the vibrancy and local activity. Take a leisurely stroll and check out the vendors and street food carts. There might even be a dance or musical performance.
Merida – Merida is a bustling and vibrant city, full of culture and history. It is the capital city of the state of Yucatan and is also the largest city on the Peninsula.
Merida makes a great base for exploring the surrounding Mayan ruins, many of them being off the beaten tourist path, uniquely beautiful cenotes, and authentic Mayan villages.
Wake up early and purchase a first or second class ADO bus ticket from the terminal on Calle 39 in Valladolid to Merida.
After the two-hour bus ride, you will arrive in the vibrant cultural capital of the Yucatan – Merida.
Spend the entire day exploring this bustling Mexican city which is full of activity and has no shortage of things to see and do. Take a stroll around the Plaza Grande (central plaza) and admire the stunning cathedral overlooking everything, visit the Government Palace on the square for great views from the second floor, the Museo Casa Montejo, go shopping for local handicrafts and try some fresh produce at the Mercado Municipal, and go for a walk down Paseo de Montejo which is a well-maintained street lined with gorgeous old mansions.
- Hostel Nomadas – Located at the corner of Calle 62 and Calle 51. Hostel Nomadas is a popular hostel near the colonial and historic centre of Merida. It has a charming, friendly and laid-back social atmosphere. The hostel features a gorgeous outdoor swimming pool with hammocks situated overtop of the water, free wireless internet, and free breakfast. They also have nightly classes, lessons and activities to participate in like salsa dancing lessons, morning yoga classes and Mexican cooking lessons. You can choose to stay in a mixed dorm or a private room. Book at HostelWorld. ($16 AUD/night or $12 USD/night)
Recommended Budget Hotels:
- Hotel Medio Mundo – Located on Calle 55 #533 between Calles 64 and 66. Hotel Medio Mundo is a small and charming hotel with colonial architecture and tropical garden patios located in the historical centre of Merida. It has a serene and peaceful atmosphere and features an on-site restaurant serving vegan and international cuisine, gift shop, an outdoor swimming pool, free wireless internet and bright Mexican decor. All rooms have a private bathroom. Book at Booking.com. ($93 AUD/night or $68 USD/night)
- Hotel Dolores Alba Merida – Located on Calle 63 #464 between Calles 52 and 54. Hotel Dolores Alba is located inside a beautiful colonial mansion in Merida’s historical district. The rooms feature a television, safe and fast wireless internet. The hotel has a central courtyard with a lovely swimming pool, and the lobby and corridors are decorated with beautiful paintings. Book at Booking.com. ($40 AUD/night or $29 USD/night)
- La Chaya Maya – Located at the corner of Calle 62 and Calle 51 OR Calle 55 between Calles 60 and 62. La Chaya Maya serves authentic Yucatecan cuisine at reasonable prices. They have excellent service, a great atmosphere with a garden courtyard, a varied menu and the place is always busy with locals and travelers. They are open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
- Apoala Mexican Cuisine – Located at Calle 60 and Calle 55. This restaurant serves delicious traditional Mexican and Oaxacan-style cuisine. The restaurant is situated on a pleasant square where there is dancing and music on Thursday nights. The service is excellent and the seating is outdoors overlooking the square.
Get an early start to your day and catch an early morning bus to the ruins of Uxmal from Merida’s second class bus terminal. You can flag down a bus along the highway on the way back to Merida.
Alternatively, you can book a tour with Hostel Nomadas or you can rent a car and drive yourself.
Uxmal is an impressive set of ruins, and is a large site with many fascinating structures. Spend two to three hours exploring these ruins.
If you have rented a car, you can also explore the nearby ruins of Kabah, Sayil and Labna, as you make your way to the Grutas de Loltun.
If you took the bus, catch a taxi to the nearby town of Santa Elena and then a second class bus or colectivo from there to the town of Oxkutzcab. From there, you can take a taxi to the Grutas de Loltun.
The Loltun Caves are one of the largest dry-cave systems on the Yucatan Peninsula. A guide is required to tour the caves and there are set times for tours from 9 AM to 4 PM daily.
Take a taxi back to Oxkutzcab and then another second class bus back to Merida or drive your rental car back to Merida.
Spend the evening at Merida’s Plaza Grande. There is a lot of activity in the evenings and there is always some kind of musical or dance performance going on.
Wake up early and take a shared colectivo van from Calle 67 between Calles 50 and 52 in Merida to the small town of Cuzama. From there, you will take a ride on a horse-drawn rail cart to a series of three amazing and off the beaten path cenotes.
Spend time exploring and swimming in each cenote and enjoying the natural beauty and magical atmosphere of these unique underground sinkholes. Take a shared van back to Merida.
After lunch in Merida, take a second class bus from the Noreste Terminal to the colourful and colonial town of Izamal. Izamal is a quiet town and the colonial buildings near the central plaza are all painted a bright yellow colour. Spend the afternoon exploring this lovely town and then take a bus back to Merida.
I hope you have enjoyed your trip to the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico!
Again, thank you so much to Brittany of www.brittanymthiessen.com for this incredibly in-depth itinerary! I’m so excited to try out this itinerary; I’ll definitely report back and let you know how my trip goes.
What do you think of this itinerary? I’d love to hear any more tips or suggestions (or questions.) Let me know in the comments! x
All photos by Brittany of www.brittanymthiessen.com // Used with permission