10 Best Road Trips in Mexico Not to Miss + Tips For Driving in Mexico

Who doesn’t love a good road trip?

Ok, I admit when I was younger road trips meant being squished between my two older siblings vying for elbow room and counting down the minutes until we got there. Now, however, road trips mean freedom. The freedom to do what I want and when I want it. To go to unchartered territories, remote and desolate beaches, or rugged mountain tops where few others venture to go.

This is never more true than for exploring Mexico.

Many of the best destinations in Mexico are those that are off the beaten path. Embarking on a road trip in Mexico allows you to truly experience Mexico. With these seven Mexico road trips, you will

Before we set off for Mexico, I thought Mexico was only going to be about three things…tacos, tequila, and beaches. And while these three things exist in abundance there are plenty of other things to do and places to see on a road trip throughout Mexico.

Luckily for you, we have done most of the legwork. We have traveled the open roads, sunbathed at the best beaches, tasted countless tacos, and sampled all the cervezas. We have put together what we think the best road trips in Mexico each catering to something unique. Whether you want to explore the wild jungle of Chiapas, the diversity of the state of Oaxaca, the Jalisco beaches, or the food and arts scene of Central Mexico, there is something for everyone.

So what are you waiting for? Let’s get to road-tripping!

Is It Safe to Do a Road Trip in Mexico?

A road trip in Mexico, like a road trip anywhere else, comes with some inherent dangers. However, sometimes the media’s focus on the sensational can distract us from the true dangers of a Mexico. Driving in Mexico, through Mexico, and around Mexico is safe as long as you follow the necessary precautions.

Firstly, the best way to stay safe is to make sure you research your planned route for driving in Mexico in advance. Government agencies, such as the Department of State , regularly publish a travel advisory that lists the areas in Mexico which are deemed high risk. Make sure you plan to avoid these areas during your Mexico road trip.

Secondly, you can stay safe while driving through Mexico by avoiding driving at night. My mother use to say that nothing good ever happens at night and while she may have been exaggerating a bit, this is especially true for driving in Mexico and in any foreign country. Chances of running into a hairy situation increase once the lights go out.

One Week Road Trips in Mexico

Mexico is a country that is easy to fall in love with but if you only have one week in Mexico, here are our favorite road trips in Mexico that can be completed in a week or less.

1. Riviera Nayarit

Total distance= 350 kilometers (217 miles).

One of Mexico’s premier beach destinations is the stunning Riviera Nayarit. The 200-mile stretch of coastline from Puerto Vallarta in northern Jalisco to San Blas is the perfect place for your first foray into Mexican road trips. Designed for the quintessential beach bum, this road trip in Mexico chases fun in the sun from one stunning Rivieria Nayarit beach town to the next.

Highlights of the Riviera Nayarit

Your first stop on this Mexico road trip is none other than Puerto Vallarta. A hub for tourism on Mexico’s west coast, Puerto Vallarta is a popular destination for national and international tourism, particularly LGBTQ+ tourism. With a bustling nightlife, beautiful beaches in Jalisco only minutes away, and, in my opinion, some of the best al pastor tacos outside of Mexico City , Puerto Vallarta is a great place to relax for a night or two before continuing onward.

From Puerto Vallarta, continue north to the quintessential beach towns for which the Riviera Nayarit is known. Stop first is Sayulita. This seaside village is a popular destination for trendy, international tourists. The small beach town caters to all the whims and desires of millennials with trendy cafes and restaurants, hip bars , and yoga classes. Sayulita also has one of the best waves on the Riviera Nayarit to learn how to surf.

A little further north from Sayulita, you will find our favorite hideaway along the Riviera Nayarit, San Fransisco (also referred to locally as San Pancho). Just like Sayulita, San Pancho has all of the same amenities with a fraction of the tourists. This beach is the perfect place to relax and unwind with a beer in hand as you watch the sunset over the Pacific Ocean.

As you continue even further north you will find the beautiful beach towns of Lo de Marco, Chacala, and San Blas. Each beach offers a laid-back atmosphere expected in a traditional Mexican beach town. The further north you travel along the Riviera Nayarit, the quieter it gets with fewer modern amenities and crowds.

Popular activities when visiting this area include hiking to secluded beaches, surfing, fishing, and simply enjoying the warm Mexican sun.

On your way back to Puerto Vallarta, stop off in Punta Mita for some of the Riviera Nayarit’s best surfing!

2. Mexico City to Oaxaca, a Mexican Route Steeped in History and Amazing Food

Total distance = 500 kilometers (310 miles).

While you could easily spend more than one week in both Mexico City and Oaxaca in their own right, this Mexico City to Oaxaca self-drive itinerary can be completed in a week. On this Mexican road trip, expect to be amazed by the history of Mexico City, incredible Mexican food, ancient ruins, and charming Mexican towns.

Mexico City to Oaxaca Highlights

Fly into Mexico City but make sure to stay a few days. Mexico City is full of life with over 28 million people bustling through the streets. Explore the old historic city center with a free walking tour, eat street food at one of the many local stalls, visit the Frida Khalo museum for an in-depth look at one of Mexico’s finest artistic creators, take a stroll through Latin America’s second-largest city park Bosque de Chapultepec or even dine at one of the world’s top ten restaurants! The possibilities of things to do in Mexico City are endless so make sure you plan at least three days here to truly take in all this beautiful city has to offer.

After leaving Mexico City, make sure to stop at the floating gardens of Xochimilco. Perhaps a bit touristy for some, the floating gardens of Xochimilco are a popular activity in Mexico City. Here you can rent a colorful boat and cruise through the waterways dining on traditional Mexican fare and listing to, of course, mariachi. Don’t forget to ask to be taken by the Isla de las Muñecas (aka the Island of the Dolls) for a frightful surprise!

After visiting the floating gardens of Xochimilco, it’s time to continue onward to the “pueblo magico” of Cholula. Perhaps you may recognize the name from the wildly popular hot sauce found in the US, but Cholula has more to offer than hot sauce. Cholula is best known for the Great Pyramid adorned with the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de los Remedios, as well as, the numerous churches that dot the streets of this charming town.

After a day in Cholula, spend your evening in the state’s capital of Puebla. Often overlooked for cities such as Oaxaca and San Miguel de Allende, Puebla has plenty to offer and is worth a night. The best things to do in Puebla include admiring the beautiful, old buildings, dining on mole (it’s from Puebla!), and brushing up on your Mexican history at the Amparo Museum.

Your final destination on this epic road trip is none other than Oaxaca. As we already mentioned you can easily spend a week in Oaxaca exploring the city and the nearby surroundings, but even just after a few days, you will already be planning your trip back.

A city known for its arts, culture and amazing food, you won’t be short of things to do here. Start your morning off in Oaxaca with a walking tour to learn about the rich history of this iconic Mexico town. Being in one of Mexico’s gastronomic hubs, continue your day with a food tour or perhaps a cooking class. Explore the ancient ruins of Monte Alban or Yagul or embark on a distillery tour in the birthplace of mezcal. The possibilities of exploring Oaxaca are endless and you will quickly see why Oaxaca is one of our favorite cities in all of Mexico.

3. The Yucatan Peninsula Loop (Short)

Total distance = 465 kilometers (290 miles).

The Yucatan Peninsula is one of the most visited areas in Mexico. With Cancun (and now Tulum) firmly on the tourist circuit, you may think the Yucatan Peninsula is all about college spring breaks and over-priced all-inclusive resorts. But those who take the time to explore the areas outside of these touristy hotspots will be surprised by the diversity and culture found on the Yucatan Peninsula.

Highlights of the Yucatan Peninsula Loop (short)

After landing in Cancun and clearing customs , it’s time to get in the car and head toward the beautiful Tulum. Tulum rose in the rankings as one of Mexico’s best travel destinations in the mid-2000s and its popularity does not seem to be waning. Before giving pause as to why I would send you to one of the most touristy places in Mexico, keep reading.

Despite its apparent over-tourism, Tulum does have a few redeeming graces about it. Firstly, if you are headed to Mexico to party, then Tulum is your best bet. Chic beach resorts, late-night DJs, and trendy bars, Tulum hits everything you would want in a party destination.

Secondly, Tulum is close to a few of the best cenotes in Mexico. Cenotes are sinkholes from fall limestone filled with water located on the Yucatan Peninsula. The best cenotes near Tulum include Grand Cenote and Cenote Carwash.

Lastly, Tulum may be overtly touristic but you will have all of your creature comforts. If you are worried about things in Mexico being “too rustic”, head to Tulum. With chic hotels, trendy and modern cafes, you will have all of the things you love from home in the Mexican paradise of Tulum.

After partying down in Tulum, it’s now time to head to the archaeological site of Coba for a quick history lesson into the ancient civilizations that once called the Yucatan Peninsula home. Believed to have been settled between 50 and 100 AD, the Coba was once a powerful force on the peninsula and constant rival of nearby Chichén Itzá. Coba is also home to the largest network of stone causeways of the ancient Mayan world.

Continue onward on this Mexican road trip to the pueblo magico, Valladolid . Valladolid is most famous for two things, cenotes and ruins. Valladolid is surrounded by some of the Yucatan’s most iconic ruins, Chichén Itzá and Ek’ Balam. Whether you enjoy history or not, no trip to the Yucatan is complete without visiting at least one of these ancient ruins if only to be impressed by the skills of the people designing and crafting these enormous structures without cranes and the modern conveniences of today’s construction world.

Outside of these ancient Mayan ruins, Valladolid is also synonymous with cenotes. In fact, Valladolid has a cenote, Zaci, in the center of town. The perfect way to cool down after walking around in the hotel Mexican sun visiting the ruins.

This Mexican road trip is the perfect combination of beach lounging, history, and off-the-beaten-path destinations on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.

Two Week Mexico Road Trip Itineraries

This set of Mexican road trips is ideal for the two-week vacation although each can be adjusted to suit travelers with a little more or less time if you simply don’t want to be on the road every day during your holiday.

4. Chase Waterfalls and Ruins in Chiapas, Mexico’s Southernmost State

Total distance = 968 kilometers (601 miles).

Few people have ever heard of Chiapas, the small Mexican state next to the Guatemala border. If you have heard of it, you probably know that this luscious jungle state is full of amazing waterfalls and ancient ruins. The remoteness of the state means that fewer tourists descend on the attractions each year. This also means less commercialization when compared to some of its neighboring states. The Chiapas road trip in Mexico is the most remote of them all and will really get you off the beaten path a bit.

Chiapas Road Trip Highlights

A road trip through Chiapas will undoubtedly start in Tuxtla Gutiérrez, the state’s capital. Even from this sprawling metropolis, you can start your grand outdoor adventure as the backdrop of Tuxtla is none other than the Sumidero Canyon. This impressive canyon is only the beginning of nature’s wonders on this nature lover’s adventure as the next stop is the magnificent El Chiflon .

This mighty waterfall stands at 120 meters tall and flows with some of the bluest water I have ever seen. And this is only the beginning of impressive bodies of water. On this road trip in Chiapas, look forward to the peaceful Lagos de Montebello, off-the-beaten-path Lagos de Colon, roaring Las Nubes, and the mighty Agua Azul !

With so many outdoor adventures encased in the Lacandon Jungle, outdoor lovers will immediately fall in love with this Mexico bucket list destination.

And let’s not forget the amazing ruins that you will visit on a road trip in Chiapas. The most famed and visited is Palenque but Yaxchilán and Bonampak give Palenque a run for its money. As you can imagine all of the ruins in Chiapas are set against the most stunning backdrop of the Chiapas jungle which is unique when compared to other well-known Mexican ruins such as Teotihuacan in Central Mexico.

After exploring the rugged nature of Chiapas, it’s time to relax in the colonial town of San Cristobal de las Casas. Another destination in Mexico known for its incredible culinary scene, you will be surprised by the range of diversity in the food in San Cristobal . From Korean to Indian and from Italian to Thai, this up-and-coming Mexico destination is truly magical. With fewer tourists than other states in Mexico, you will wish you had more time to relax in the mountain town of San Cristobal de las Casas .

This is only a sneak peek as to what a road trip in Chiapas would entail. If these activities slightly interest you, you can read the full itinerary to find out all the other great things to see and do in Chiapas .

5. Mexico City to San Miguel de Allende, a Foodie’s Paradise

Total distance = 400 kilometers (250 miles).

A road trip from Mexico City to San Miguel de Allende centers around the food, culture, and arts scene prominent in Mexican culture. Ciudad de Mexico has a rich history dating back to the 1300s when it was settled by the Aztecs before being conquered by the Spanish conquistadors.

The influence of the Spanish acquisition is prevalent in San Miguel de Allende with beautiful churches, cobblestone streets, and colonial architecture.

This Mexico road trip focuses on the finer things in life and is probably the most expensive road trip on our list of the best road trips in Mexico.

Mexico City to San Miguel de Allende Highlights

It all starts in Mexico City. Mexico City is home to some of Mexico’s finest restaurants, tantalizing taco stands, and eclectic bars and cafes. If you love traveling for food then you will be in heaven upon arrival in Mexico City. We recommend you spend your time eating your way through Mexico City. And, if you have time, consider visiting some of Mexico’s most famed attractions such as the Frida Khalo Museum or the Bosque de Chapultepec before making your way to Teotihuacan on one of the best road trips in Mexico.

Teotihuacan is Mexico’s most famed and visited ruins located just an hour outside of Mexico City. Visit the Pyramid of the Sun and walk down the Avenue of the Dead. Just remember to bring plenty of water as the Mexican sun can be a bit relentless.

After walking around the ruins of Teotihuacan, I imagine you’ll be a bit thirsty. If so, your next stop should be Mexico’s second-largest wine-producing region just outside of Querétaro. From Tequisquiapan, embark on the Querétaro wine and cheese route . Sample local wines and cheeses as you continue your way on your foodie adventure on this Mexico road trip.

From here make your way to the charming town of Bernal , home to Mexico’s largest monolith. You might be wondering what a monolith is, but trust me you are not alone. A monolith is a solid stone and you cannot miss it upon arrival in Bernal. Spend a night drinking cervezas on a terrace, eating yummy gorditas, and marveling at the grandeur of the rock.

Next, you will make a quick pit stop in Querétaro before your final descent into San Miguel de Allende. Descending into this charming town in central Mexico is like entering a fairy tale. The cobbled stone streets, colorfully painted houses, and stunningly beautiful cathedral all give the feeling of a dream.

The main reason to visit San Miguel de Allende outside of being a picturesque town is to indulge in the delectable food scene that has emerged due to the influx of international tourists and snowbird retirees. Even if you are not a retiree and are on a bit of a budget , there are plenty of places to enjoy.

San Miguel de Allende is the perfect place to end your road trip through Central Mexico!

6. Discover Tequila in Jalisco and the Beaches of the Riviera Nayarit

Total distance = 467 kilometers (290 miles).

The state of Jalisco is located on the north Pacific coastline of mainland Mexico. It is home to the second-largest metropolis in Mexico, Mexico’s largest export, tequila, and nearby Nayarit is home to some of the most stunning beaches in all of Mexico. While you probably can do this Mexico road trip in one week, we recommend two because Mexico’s beaches are simply stunning.

Our time on the Riviera Nayarit was our first glimpse at how great the beaches of Mexico really were. It is where we celebrated our birthdays (for Eddie the BIG 3-0). Where we fell in love with the Pacifico beer. And where we ate some of the best tacos in all of Mexico! Jalisco and Nayarit are two of our favorite states in Mexico, and I am sure you will love every minute of your Mexican road trip here!

Jalisco and Nayarit Road Trip Highlights

A road trip through Jalisco and Nayarit starts in none other than the capital of Guadalajara where the old world meets the new world. Guadalajara is Mexico’s second-largest city and is dubbed the Silicon Valley of Mexico. Here you will find tech companies alongside historic buildings such as the Guadalajara Cathedral. Catch a football (soccer) game and root on one of Mexico’s most popular and successful teams in the league.

Next, you will venture out to Ajijic, the next retiree haven after San Miguel de Allende . Ajijic is nestled on the shore of Lake Chapala, Mexico’s largest freshwater lake. Here you can explore the area with one of the nearby hiking trails, take a dip in a relaxing hot spring, and simply enjoy the laid-back atmosphere of the Mexican culture.

After relaxing in Ajijic, it is on to the party in Tequila. Tequila , the birthplace of Mexico’s most famous export, is a charming colonial town just an hour outside of Guadalajara. No trip to Jalisco would be complete without stopping here to taste Mexico’s most famous export in its origin. A host of nearby distilleries arrange tours and tastings from mom-and-pop shops such as Tres Mujeres to large-name brands such as Jose Cuervo at La Rojeña Distillery.

Don’t forget to pick up a few bottles to go as you continue on this Mexican road trip to the beautiful coastline of Jalisco and Nayarit.

Once at the beach, it is all relaxation, surfing, eating, and drinking. What else could you want out of a beach holiday? The beaches here are beautiful and you won’t want to end your holiday any time soon once you finally get to sink your toes into the soft white sand of San Pancho or grab a Pacifico from one of the beach bars lining Sayulita .

So what do you say? Does a Jalisco road trip sound interesting to you?

Three to Four Weeks Mexico Road Trips

To truly explore the diversity of Mexico, you need to travel slowly. With small beach towns, local communities, beautiful nature, and delicious food, the range of things to do and explore in Mexico is endless. We traveled through Mexico for over seven months and left still wanting more. If you have the time (and the resource), spending a month in Mexico will be one of your favorite trips of all time. I guarantee it with these iconic three to four weeks Mexican road trips.

7. Explore the Diversity of an Oaxaca Road Trip

Total distance = 1,334 kilometers (829 miles).

The state of Oaxaca was one of our favorite places to explore during all of our road trips in Mexico. Whether it be the rugged coastline of Oaxaca, the arts and food scene of its state capital, or the warmth of the local rural mountain towns, Oaxaca kept surprising us. We spent over two months exploring this amazing state. While we may not be experts, we think we know just enough to ensure your road trip, holiday, or whatever it may be will be amazing.

Oaxaca Road Trip Highlights

Start your Oaxacan adventure in the food and arts scene of the city of Oaxaca . This small but diverse city is one of our favorite destinations in all of Mexico. Visit a local gallery, dine at one of their many delicious restaurants and drink mezcal all night long! All before you have even really scratched the surface of what Oaxaca has to offer. And don’t forget about one of the many ancient ruins nearby the city of Oaxaca. Consider visiting Monte Alban or Yagul to learn about the indigenous people of the state of Oaxaca.

After the city of Oaxaca, head out to one of the local communities for some nature exploration. Santiago Apoala and Pueblos Mancomunados are ecotourism communities that are a glimpse into what it is like to live in rural Oaxaca. This is also a great way to get active on holiday as there are many hiking trails to explore the natural landscapes of Oaxaca.

Next, it is time to hit the coast and visit some of Mexico’s best beaches. The beaches of Oaxaca are just as diverse as the state itself. Whether you want to visit the remote, desolate white sand beaches of Playa San Diego or if you want to be in the thick of things at Playa Zicatela in Puerto Escondido, or if you prefer a laid-back setting with all of your creature comforts like Mazunte and Zipolite, Oaxaca has it all.

If we have told you enough to pique your interest, then you are in luck! There are so many more amazing places to visit, beaches to explore, and things to do in Oaxaca. To find out more check out our one-month Oaxaca itinerary and start planning your Oaxaca Mexico road trip today!

8. Oaxaca to Chiapas, Combining Two of Mexico’s Greatest and Most Diverse States on a Mexico Road Trip

Total distance = 1,109 kilometers (690 miles).

Combine the best of both worlds with a trip to both Oaxaca and Chiapas, two of our favorite Mexican states. Rich in history, arts and culture as well as teeming with an abundance of natural beauty, you will be spoiled with things to do on this Mexican road trip and should easily plan a full month to truly be able to experience everything on offer here.

Highlights of an Oaxaca to Chiapas Road Trip

Begin your Oaxaca to Chiapas road trip with the arts, cultural and culinary scene in Oaxaca City, the state’s capital. You can easily spend a week in Oaxaca wandering the cobbled streets, visiting art galleries, exploring nearby ancient ruins, eating outstanding Oaxacan food, tasting mezcal, and more. As you have already read in our highlights of an Oaxaca road trip, the list of things to do in the state’s capital is endless.

After exploring all that the state’s capital has to offer, this self-drive Mexico adventure takes you south towards the stunning coastline but first stopping at the gorgeous mountain town of San Jose del Pacifico . Known for its hongos magicos (or psychedelic mushrooms), it is all about going back to nature in San Jose. There isn’t much to do here but simply relax and enjoy the nature that abounds for a few nights before continuing onward to the Oaxacan beaches.

Oaxaca is known for having some of the best beaches in Mexico so you will want to make sure you spend quality time here. We recommend visiting the beaches of Mazunte, San Agustinillo, and Zipolite as part of this epic road trip. These beaches are roughly 10 kilometers apart and are easily accessible when exploring the area. If you would rather enjoy a bit of surfing during your time in Oaxaca, it is best to extend your trip further north to the popular surfing beaches of Puerto Escondido.

Mazunte, San Agustinillo, and Zipolite and recognizable by their lush, jungle-clad headlands, brilliant blue waters, and laid-back lifestyle. Here you will have vegan cafes, trendy bars, and bohemian cafes, all with a bit of a Mexican flair. Zipolite is also Oaxaca’s nude beach, just remember to lather up on sunscreen.

After a few relaxing days on these three iconic beaches, explore the lesser-known Playa San Agustín Huatulco . On the edge of one of Oaxaca’s protected national parks, it is a great place to be a bit local. Here you won’t find many (if any) modern conveniences, but a true Mexican beach town. Hire a boat from Don Taco and explore the beautiful bays of Huatulco National Park for stunning, unspoiled beaches.

After visiting Playa San Agustín Huatulco, it is time for a bit of driving to reach the state capital in Chiapas. If you have camping gear or are traveling by van, you can also stop at one of our favorite beaches in Oaxaca, Playa San Diego. Down a dirt track and past a few farmlands, you will find this stunning, desolate beach. You won’t find anything here so being self-sufficient here is key. No hotels, restaurants, or stores. Just kilometers and kilometers of unspoiled beaches, headlands, and peacefulness.

If you aren’t self-sufficient, this leg of the journey will be long as you drive from the beaches in Oaxaca to Tuxtla Gutiérrez. Chiapas is widely known for its outdoor adventures which is evident even in the state’s capital. The great Sumidero Canyon sits at the doorstep of Tuxtla and is easily one of the best things to do in Chiapas .

The outdoor adventures don’t end in Tuxtla with the Aguacero Waterfall and La Venta River Canyon in the nearby Ocote Biosphere Reserve, the mighty El Chiflon Waterfall just two hours away, and the cave network of the Cascada El Chorreadero just 30 minutes away. Tuxtla is a great place to base yourself for a few days to explore these great natural wonders in Chiapas.

Your last stop on this Oaxaca to Chiapas road trip is none other than the beautiful San Cristobal de las Casas. A town in Mexico quickly making a name for itself, San Cristobal de las Casas is on the rise in popularity for expats and retirees. Its cool climate and laid-back lifestyle are only a few of the reasons many people are starting to call this place home.

Outside of the charming city itself, the small town of San Cristobal is also becoming a culinary destination and gastronomic hub similar to San Miguel de Allende and the city of Oaxaca. Take a few days to enjoy the international flavors in San Cristobal de las Casas to celebrate this amazing road trip through two of Mexico’s most diverse states.

9. The Yucatan Peninsula Long Loop

Total distance = 1,400 kilometers (870 miles).

As we already mentioned, the Yucatan Peninsula is a popular tourist destination. While it has risen in fame for spring break parties, there is more to see and do in the Yucatan Peninsula than to party in Cancun. To truly experience all the Yucatan has to offer, you need at least three weeks on this Mexican road trip through the Yucatan Peninsula.

Highlights of the Yucatan Peninsula Long Loop

The Yucatan Peninsula long loop follows the journey of the Yucatan Peninsula short loop to Tulum. From here, this Mexico road trip continues further south to the popular, yet stunning Bacalar. A small village on the shores of Lake Bacalar, the drawcard for visiting here is the brilliant hues of the lake. Known as Lagoon of Seven Colors, its blue and turquoise hues will transfix you immediately upon arrival.

The best thing to do in Bacalar is to relax. To spend your day lazily in a hammock overlooking the incredible beauty of the lake and pinch yourself every few hours to remind yourself that the beauty is real and you aren’t dreaming. Outside of simply enjoying life, other things to do in Bacalar include visiting one of the nearby cenotes or ruins, kayaking on the lagoon, grabbing a pint at the new cervezaria, and, of course, dining on Mexican food!

After relaxing in Bacalar, continue your journey inland into the wild jungle of the Yucatan Peninsula to Calakmul, one of the most powerful cities in the region during the Mayan period. Due to its location, Calakmul is one of the lesser-visited ruins on the Yucatan Peninsula which is a great reason in itself to visit. With fewer crowds to contend with, you will be able to better imagine life in Calakmul in the past compared to other ruins which may be a bit more crowded (like the ones closer to Cancun).

After soaking in the history lesson of Calakmul, get off the beaten path in the small and charming port town of Campeche . Perhaps it is the pack of tourists, colorful streets, or ancient walled city that make visiting Campeche worth it. but we recommend spending at least one night here.

After Campeche, head north towards Merida for your chance to see the flamingos in Mexico . Before traveling through the Yucatan Peninsula, we had no idea there were even flamingos here to see. I am not sure if it is their bright pink feathers, their lanky legs, or the fact that they sleep with one leg up that makes seeing flamingos fun, but we definitely recommend visiting them while in Merida.

Next, head onward towards Valladolid famous for cenotes and ruins which you would also visit on a short loop of the Yucatan Peninsula before continuing onward to the windy, fishing village of El Cuyo . Relatively unknown on the tourist circuit, El Cuyo reminds me of what Tulum must have been 20 years ago. Dirt roads connect family inns, cafes, and seafood restaurants. The wind, swept beaches are perfect for kitesurfing.

It is one of the most authentic Mexican beach towns that we have visited in all of Mexico and one we recommend you visit before the secret is out.

10. The Ultimate Mexico Road Trip: North to South

Last but not least on our list of the best Mexico road trips is an adventure from top to bottom. If you can’t choose between the Mexico road trips that we have designed, then we reckon you should just do them all. We recommend at least six months (which is the entire time you can be in Mexico on a tourist visit) to travel the entire country. Traveling the entire country of Mexico from top to bottom is an unforgettable experience and one that you are sure to enjoy.

Each of Mexico’s states has something unique to offer and taking the time to explore each and every one (or as many as you can following travel advisory warnings) is something to behold. Getting off the beaten path in Mexico opens up your eyes to the beauty of Mexican culture, food, and people.

We only spent seven months driving through Mexico but would have spent a lot more time if COVID had not struck sending us back to Australia. We love Mexico and a road trip through Mexico from top to bottom, we think, is the best way to see all there is to see in this fantastic place.

What about van life in Mexico?

Find out all you need to know to start your own van life adventure in Mexico with this ultimate list of FAQs!

Renting a Car in Mexico

Renting a car in Mexico is straightforward and similar to renting a car anywhere else in the world.

How to Rent a Car in Mexico

All of the big names in car rental companies (Hertz, Eurocar, Avis, Budget) operate out of the international airports in Mexico. To rent a car, however, most companies require you to be 25 or older although the Budget website lists 18+ drivers as acceptable. You also need a valid driver’s license from your home country plus an international driver’s license if your license is not in English or Spanish. And don’t forget about insurance. Third-party insurance is compulsory in Mexico even when renting a car.

Do I Need an International Drivers’ License in Mexico?

No. An international driver’s license is not required for driving in Mexico if your license is in Spanish or English . If your license is not in one of these two languages, you will need to obtain an international driver’s license prior to visiting Mexico. It is important to remember that your international driver’s license is only valid when presented with your valid regular driver’s license.

Driving From the USA to Mexico

Visiting Mexico from the United States with your own vehicle or with a US rental car is incredibly easy. The United States shares 48 border crossings (Wikipedia) with Mexico, however, many of these borders are listed in areas that government agencies deem “high risk” due to crime. Make sure to check your country’s travel advisory before deciding on where to cross the border.

Things to Remember When Driving in Mexico

Is driving in Mexico the same as driving in the US? Sort of.

Driving in Mexico is not markedly different from driving in the United States (or any other place), however, there are a few key things you should consider when planning a road trip through Mexico.

Drive on the Right Side

Driving in a foreign country comes with many challenges, but the first is knowing which side of the road to drive on. In Mexico, this is on the right side .

Watch Out for Topes

The thing to watch out for the most when driving in Mexico is topes. Topes are Mexico’s version of speed bumps, however, in Mexico, you usually won’t notice them until it is too late.

Don’t Drive at Night

Following along from the above, it is recommended not to drive at night. Not only are topes almost impossible to see, but crime is more prevalent once nighttime falls.

Hoy No Circula

If you plan on driving in Mexico City there are special rules for what days you are allowed to be on the road and when under the government rules “Hoy No Circula”.

Is it safe to drive in Mexico?

All your questions answered about driving in Mexico from real-life experience in our guide on safety in Mexico.

With these ten best road trips in Mexico, you are sure to find the perfect Mexico holiday! Enjoy Mexico and when in doubt… drink tequila!

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From a small town in the USA, I had my first taste of travel when I was 17. Since then, I have traveled to over 80 countries and every continent bar Antarctica. I love to experience new places, cultures, and food. While you may occasionally find me in popular tourist destinations, I tend to gravitate to up-and-coming destinations, hidden gems waiting to be uncovered.

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23 Comments

I want to goooo! I’ve been to Mexico 5 times but still haven’t explored Chiapas and Oaxaca. Where is that first photo from, by the way? It looks beautiful!

The cover photo is Chiapas and the first photo Oaxaca! Two of our favorite places in Mexico!

Wow, I’ve been reading a lot about Mexico and didn’t thought I could do road trips! Now, when I visit Mexico, I should try these. Thanks!

We highly recommend road tripping Mexico! So many off the beaten path places you can explore!

I like Mexico. It is so interesting and the food is just fabulous. And I like road trips cause you see places you wouldn’t ordinarily see. Thanks for a great post. I’m looking forward to getting back to Mexico one day.

We couldn’t agree more!

I’ve always wanted to go to Mexico! These road trips look great 🙂

Road tripping Mexico is definitely the way to go! So many more places you can explore!

Oh wow – i never thought to road trip Mexico.. but now i will have to! Sounds amazing!

Me either until we did it! Highly recommend!

Ooh, I loved our Querétaro road trip, but I’ll have to try some of the others you’ve detailed here! Oaxaca sounds amazing to me!

Oaxaca was probably our favorite state that we visited in Mexico. Highly recommend!

Mexico is such a beautiful country and I totally need to see more of it. This is a great article and I will definitely be keeping it handy for the future. 🙂

I agree, as an American, I always wanted to go somewhere else further away, but after spending 6 months in Mexico I cannot wait to go back!

Mexico is on my list for some time so I am bookmarking this for the future.

Yes! We LOVED Mexico! There are soooo many great places to visit!

Mexico has always been on my list. And this post is very useful as I can add these places to my itinerary if I can. I would love to visit Mexico soon after this virus thing is over.

We highly recommend Mexico! We were bummed COVID cut our trip a bit short!

So many amazing places to see in Mexico. I travelled through the Yucatán in Feb so I’m itching to see other parts of Mexico.

Yes, so many places! We were there for over 6 months and barely scratched the surface!

I really need to visit Mexico soon, and these road trips all look incredible!

We highly recommend!

Castaway with Crystal

Mexico Road Trip: All You Need To Know About Driving in Mexico

Cactus reserve for driving in Mexico road trip planner

  • 03 September, 2021

Crystal Egan

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This page may contain compensated links. For more information read our disclaimer .

Picture this.  You’ve just tossed all your belongings into the back of your car to embark on a Mexico road trip. You’ve planned it all and you want to go off the normal tourist trail to explore the “real”  Mexico .

You’ll drive through deserts filled with cactuses, explore colorful colonial cities and visit ancient ruins. Cruise past jungle (and maybe even spot a wild big cat), over misty mountain ranges and pull up at the most beautiful secluded beaches you’ve ever seen. Dive into the crystal-clear waters of a cenote, spot incredible sea life just offshore and marvel at bright pink flamingoes milling around in shallow lakes. This is what it’s like driving in Mexico, on the ultimate road trip of a lifetime.

We have done two Mexican road trips in our time and we have written this guide to really help you to plan and embark on your own ultimate road trip to Mexico!

MEXICO ROAD TRIP PLANNER 2022 – CONTENTS

❶ Car Rental in Mexico ❷ Driving in Mexico Tips ❸ USA into Mexico ❹ Choose a Mexican Road Trip

❺ Road Trips in Northern Mexico ❻ Road Trips in Central Mexico ❼ Road Trips in the Yucatan Peninsula

HOW TO RENT A CAR IN MEXICO

Renting a car in Mexico is super easy. It’s generally the same as it is anywhere else in the world. To rent a car in Mexico, you have to be 21 years old or over (max 75 years old) and have held your license for a minimum of two years. Drivers under 25 may incur a young driver surcharge. These guidelines may vary between rental suppliers though.

When I rent a car, I always check the prices online across a variety of offers to get the lowest price. However, I almost always end up going with Hertz Car Rental as they have great prices and are very trustworthy.

Do you N eed an International Driver’s License in Mexico?

Foreign drivers licenses are recognized in Mexico so long as they are written in English or Spanish. You are fine to both rent a car and drive in Mexico with a driver’s license written in English or Spanish. The License must be valid for the entire rental period.

An International Driving Permit (IDP/IDL) or an official translation in English is strongly recommended if your domestic driver’s license is not in English (Arabic, Japanese, Mandarin, etc) when renting a car or driving in Mexico. If you have an IDL, you must present both this and your domestic driver’s license to the office when you rent a car.

In Mexico, if you are pulled over by police it is highly unlikely they will ask to see an international driver’s license. But it can happen. Unfortunately, even if you are in the right and have done nothing wrong the police may still ask you for a bribe. It is up to you whether you want to fight it or pay it. Usually, police don’t want to cause a scene so you could ask to be taken to the official office for processing as a way to get out of paying a bribe. Our experience with police has, for the most part, been amazing. But we did have to pay $5 for a broken tail light once. We think that’s pretty fair though.

Car Rental Dangers

As with everywhere in the world, you need to cover your butt when renting a car. And I’m not just talking about insurance here. I’m not going to tell you how much insurance coverage you should opt for when renting as that is up to you.

What I do strongly recommend though, is to not only scrutinize the check-out form (the diagram of a car that the rental company uses to mark down the condition of the car) but to also run your phone’s video camera over the entire car when you pick it up. It’s not enough to just take photos because you might miss important parts of the car. Don’t forget to take a quick picture of the fuel gauge to easily remember the level!

To see how we film over a car when we pick them up from the car rental agency; watch this video . Recording a video has saved us from paying unfair damage costs on at least two occasions.

A truck near Mexico City - Driving in Mexico Road Trip

DRIVING IN MEXICO: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

The roads in Mexico are bad. Honestly, driving in Mexico is an extremely intense experience, only made better by knowing what you’ll be getting yourself in for.

Look out for topes

Topes are speed bumps in Mexico. Look out for the signs, they are easy to miss! The signs vary between each signpost and they aren’t like the ones you might be used to at home. Some signs are even hand-written by residents of the area!

Topes can be found on major highways and in small towns. Some topes are actually built by locals out of dirt and concrete, and sometimes they aren’t even signposted at all! Hitting one going too fast could really damage your car. For this reason, it’s better to avoid driving at night. If you must drive at night, we recommend you use the paid roads ( carretera cuota) if you have the option.

Carretera Cuota vs Carretera Libre

The best roads to drive on in Mexico are called cuota and they are good quality and FAST. However, you do have to pay for these and they are surprisingly expensive. But you’ll save a lot of driving time and avoid the endless topes.

All cuota roads are paid for by cash (no credit cards) so keep lots of money for them. If you have rented a car you may have a tag in it that allows you to go through and pay with the rental agency at the end.

Otherwise, you can also use the secondary free highways called libre , which usually run alongside the quota highways and go through all of the small towns along the way. It will take a much longer time to use these roads, and there will be loads of topes on them.

Expect delays

As mentioned Mexico’s roads aren’t the best. We would compare the time that Google Maps said it would take with how long it actually took us and it would almost always take twice as long as what Google Maps had said. There are also lots of military stops, especially between states. You are required to line up, then let them search the car before you’ll be able to move on.

Safety While Driving in Mexico

The #1 concern for everyone considering this type of travel is: “is it safe to road trip through Mexico?”

Firstly, driving through Mexico is quite safe, for the most part. There are some occurrences of drug-related violence which I will talk about below. To avoid drug violence, you need to plan your route according to the latest news. Mostly, however, it is the lack of quality of the roads that will be the biggest problem for you on this trip. You will need to take most of Mexico’s roads slowly and tentatively, always being alert. Don’t try to rush this road trip, as that will cause fatigue.

If you’re headed out on a less-explored route, you may like to know the current conditions of the road (spoiler: it’s probably terrible, hah ), whether there is gang presence there, and how many gas stations you’ll likely come across.

Since there isn’t much online about these sorts of things, you might find it useful to ask a forum about your planned route. Expats in Mexico is a great Facebook group to join (or search Facebook for ‘Expats in Whatever City You’re Headed To ‘). No doubt you’ll easily find someone who has recently done the same route and is happy to give you advice.

Drug Violence in Mexico

Possibly one of the scariest problems you might encounter while doing your road trip through Mexico would be the drug-related problems, especially if you are driving south coming from the USA .

If you are crossing from the USA, log all your plans with family or friends. Do a bit of research into which entry/exits are better than others. Here’s a great forum with this exact question asked. However, it will really depend on where you plan to cross.

Driving in Mexico isn’t Cheap

It’s actually quite expensive. Expect petrol to be the same price as home (possibly even more expensive) and the tolls on the highways too. Everything else is cheap in Mexico, but driving is definitely not!

A parked black beetle car - Driving in Mexico Road Trip

CROSSING INTO MEXICO FROM THE USA

Are you coming from a road trip from the USA ? When you drive your American (or Canadian) registered vehicle into Mexico from the USA you will need to buy insurance and fill out the required paperwork either at the border or before you leave. You may also need to purchase a Temporary Import Permit for your vehicle. Read on for more details.

If you are traveling to Mexico by car, it is Mexican law that all drivers have insurance, and you will need to prove your insurance once you have crossed the Mexican border.

What you will need to show at customs:

  • Passport of the registered owner (original and 1 copy).
  • Vehicle registration (original and 1 copy).
  • Drivers license of the registered owner (original and 1 copy).
  • Mexico Tourist Card you received when you crossed the border

At the border the owner of the vehicle gains entry at immigration, their passport is stamped and they are given a Mexico Tourist Card. The owner of the vehicle may also be required to obtain a Temporary Import Permit for the vehicle as well.

The Mexpro website explains that if you plan to drive a vehicle beyond the  Mexico Free Zone  you will need to purchase a Mexico Temporary Vehicle Importation Permit (TIP). This permit can only be obtained from Banjercito, which is the official Mexican issuing agency. 

If you are only doing a short road trip through Mexico, you may be in luck. You won’t need a TIP if you are driving your car in any part of the Baja Peninsula or the Sonoran Free Zone.

Mexico Vehicle Insurance

Insurance is mandatory in Mexico, and you will have problems with the police if you don’t purchase it. You can buy it at the border, or many companies exist online that piggy-back on your USA car insurance.

Some American policies cover you in Mexico, but they may have limitations. If you are taking a USA rental car, verify the insurance and terms of driving in Mexico with the rental agency. If insurance is not included, add it to your rental policy.

Mexico car insurance companies:

  • ICI Insurance Agency
  • Sansborns Mexico Insurance
  • Mexico Auto Insurance
  • Bajabound (cheaper to call than online)

Note that you must maintain your home country comprehensive/collision insurance while you are in Mexico.

Do You Need to Speak Spanish?

You won’t NEED Spanish while on the road in Mexico, you can definitely get by without it. Many Mexicans speak English, especially the ones who work in the tourism sector. But I do suggest you spend some time learning if you want to make the most out of your travels and get the local prices, etc. You can take private lessons all around Mexico for as little as $5 USD an hour. 

Right. Enough of the formalities, let’s decide where to go on a Mexico road trip!

WHERE TO GO ON A ROAD TRIP IN MEXICO

Going on a road trip really is one of the best ways to explore Mexico. Not everything can be accessed by a colectivo, bus or even a taxi. Mexico is incredibly diverse, and having your own transport will allow you to experience more and enjoy this amazing country in an immersive way.

What road trip route you decide to take will probably depend on where you leave from and how much time you have. Below, we have color-coded each recommended road trip in Mexico on a map. We have also listed how long you will need to complete that road trip. If available, we give you the opportunity to read even more about each destination so you can plan accordingly.

Where to Stay on Your Mexico Road Trip

Our best recommendations on where to stay during this road trip are at the bottom of each section. We tend to suggest value-for-money hotels with private rooms in an intimate setting. Only hotels that are packed with character, have great ratings, and excellent service passes our recommendations test. Plus, all these hotels have FREE parking, either securely on site or on the street nearby.

We also rave about Booking.com as the best hotel booking agency since they consistently have the lowest price and amazing loyalty discounts that are put on automatically after your first few bookings with them.

Mexico Road Trip Map

This custom map of all the road trips in Mexico includes all of the best Mexican road trips, and where you should stop to sightsee and/or stay a night or two.

To open any of the road trip maps into your own Google Maps app, simply tap the small square icon on the top right-hand side of the map when looking at this article from your phone. 

The map will automatically save into “Your Places” > “MAPS”. You can then select an area to download and use offline ready for when you don’t have access to mobile data in Mexico. For more information on how to download maps for offline use,  click here . 

3 NORTHERN MEXICO ROAD TRIPS

Need cheap road trip ideas? Mexico is the place to be! Vast deserts filled with cactus, incredible beaches covered in white sand, calm bays, swaying palm trees and lush mountain ranges. This is northern Mexico, and it is the road trip of a lifetime!

USA TO TIJUANA AND GUADALUPE LOOP

If you are going to be in San Diego, California as part of a larger west coast road trip why not cross the border into Mexico? After all, the Mexico border is only approximately 20 minutes from San Diego.

If you are crossing into Mexico from the USA in your own vehicle, be sure to read my tips above about bringing your car into Mexico. Below is a route planner for the USA to Mexico road trips.

DISTANCE COVERED: 277 km (172 miles)
TIME NEEDED: 5 – 7 Days

A Mexican man crossing a desert road - Driving in Mexico Road Trip

Tijuana and Rosarito

After making your way across the border plan a stop in Tijuana. This city has some amazing food options. Besides the Cesaer salad originating in Tijuana, over the past decade, food has been putting Tijuana on the map. They now have an established gastro district that extends from downtown to Zona Río on Avenida Sonora in the Chapultepec area.

Once your belly is filled, head to the seaside town of Rosarito. There are oodles of things to do here. Try ziplining or ride an ATV on the dunes . Learn to surf or horseback ride on the beach. If you like art, you can find plenty of that as well as wood and metal craft at Artist Alley along the Free Road (Km 30). If it’s shopping you want, check out the cigar shops, jewelry stores, and souvenir stalls along the boulevard. Be sure to make a stop at the candy store, Dulceria Ayala.

Valle de Guadalupe

After spending the night in Rosarito, head to Baja’s Wine Country in Valle de Guadalupe. Vineyards, old and new, dot the landscape along Valle’s main thoroughfare, Mexico’s Route 3. Currently, there are over 120 vineyards in Valle de Guadalupe. Obviously, you can’t visit them all in one trip. Some of the most memorable include Santo Tomas and AlXimia. AlXimia is a can’t miss.

Next, head to Tecate. But before leaving Valle you may want to stop at the Wine Museum. It’s interesting and deserving of a visit.

Tecate is an underrated small town with a lot to offer. Art, culture, wine, gastronomy, and nature are just a few reasons to visit. If you choose to stay the night you could spend one day exploring the culture and gastronomy of the town and another exploring nature. The breathtakingly beautiful La Rumorosa is just 40 minutes outside of town.

Upon your return, you can cross the border back into the US at Tecate or head west to Otay Mesa. Both will take approximately the same amount of time. There is rarely a wait at Tecate.

Where to Stay on a Northern Baja Road Trip

  • Rosarito: Vista Hermosa Resort and Spa | Las Rocas Resort & Spa
  • Valle de Guadalupe: Contemplacion | El Cielo Winery & Resort
  • Tecate: Hotel Kumiai Inn | Short Stay Tecate Hotel Boutique

BAJA CALIFORNIA SOUTH ROAD TRIP

Ruta 1 is a more than 1,000 km stretch of Mexico that takes you through wine country, valleys, and desert, and along the coastline, past mountains and through many charming little villages and beach towns. You could say it offers a sampling of much of what the country of Mexico has to offer.

DISTANCE COVERED: 1,660 km (1,031 miles)
TIME NEEDED: 2 – 3 Weeks

Los Caos rock arch - Driving in Mexico Road Trip

Ensenada is less than 2 hours south of Tijuana and makes a good place to stop overnight or, if time allows, take a day wine tasting in Valle de Guadalupe (see the road trip loop above).

Guerrero Negro

Guerrero Negro is eight hours driving south of Ensenada. It’s an amazing place to whale watch if you’re there between December and April. Otherwise, it’s a welcome overnight break after a grueling day of driving windy roads through fields of giant cacti as far as the eye can see.

San Ignacio and Mulege

If you’re taking it slow, you can take overnight stops at San Ignacio, a cute village on a lake, or Mulege for beautiful beaches. Short on time? You can head straight to Loreto, 6 hours southeast of Guerrero Negro.

This lovely little mission town charmed us into staying two nights and we could have stayed longer. Next, stop in overnight at La Paz, which is just over 4 hours from Loreto.

La Paz and Todos Santos

La Paz is the largest town on the Baja and has everything you would need in a city. Plus it boasts a pretty malecon , a big sailing community, and some great restaurants. Do a street art walking tour or swim with whale sharks .

Slower road trippers should stop in Todos Santos next. This is another mission town and the location of the Hotel California which many say is the famed one from the Eagles song.

The final stop on your South Baja California road trip is Los Cabos, another 2 hours south of La Paz. Actually, there are two towns here:  Cabo San Lucas with its popular beaches, bars, restaurants, and resorts and the quieter, less touristy San Jose del Cabo.

We stopped from one to three nights in each place. Returning north we followed the same route, overnighting in mainly the same locations and taking in other sights that we skipped going down. Alternatively, there is a car ferry that departs from the Pichilingue Terminal in La Paz to two different ports on mainland Mexico up to nine times per week. Check this timetable for prices and timings.

Cabo San Lucas Tours

Where to stay on the southern baja road trip.

  • Ensenada: Viña Calabria
  • Guerro Negro: The Halfway Inn
  • San Ignacio: La Huerta Hotel
  • Loreto: Bugambilias Suites Hotel
  • La Paz: Casa Juarez B&B
  • Todos Santos: The Hotelito
  • Cabo San Lucas: Cabo Vista Hotel (Adults Only)
  • San Jose del Cabo: Marisol Boutique Hotel

MEXICO CITY TO SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE, REAL DE CATORCE AND GUADALAJARA TRIANGLE

This road trip is for people who like colonial-style cities and the wild, wild west. Beautiful architecture, tequila, gothic churches, rough local bars, and abandoned villages dominate this route. It’s the best of Mexico’s central highlands, bundled into just 10 days.

DISTANCE COVERED: 1,839 km (1,143 miles)
TIME NEEDED: 10 – 14 Days

Mexico City Driving in Mexico Road Trip

Mexico City

Your road trip starts in Mexico City, where you will see the country’s beating heart. It’s rough around the edges and full of people (did you know Mexico City’s population is the same as the whole of Australia’s?) but with a charm that cannot be ignored. And some of the best food in Mexico! Make sure you spend at least a couple of days here. If you get time, be sure to spend the day drinking on the Canals on Xochimilco . Visit the famous gothic churches, Teotihuacan Ruins and marvel at some of Diego and Frida’s artwork .

San Miguel de Allende

After driving for about 6 hours you’ll arrive in the beautiful city of San Miguel de Allende. Stay another few days, because this artsy town has stolen the hearts of many American expats who now call it home. San Miguel de Allende is known for its baroque/neoclassical Spanish architecture, in particular, the pink gothic church that sits in the center of the city.

The streets are lined with cobblestones and flowers and the buildings are filled with beautiful restaurants, bars, and art galleries, all of which have kept their Mexican flair. Be sure to try a world-renowned meal, see the sunrise over Canada de la Virgen Ruins and soak up the addictive atmosphere. It’s no wonder Travel + Leisure called it the best city in the world in 2017!

Check out these amazing tours in San Miguel de Allende .

San Luis Potosi City

San Luis Potosi (or SLP) is another 6-hour drive from San Miguel. It was a major trading hub for gold and silver in the 16 th to 19 th centuries. ‘Potosi’ means silver in Spanish but most of the Potosino locals simply call it San Luis. Another baroque-style city, San Luis Potosi boasts its own (but less impressive in my opinion) gothic-style church as well as more beautiful architecture scattered around the city. The Centro Historico, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as the many quaint shopfronts, bars, and cafes, will surely delight your senses.

It is much larger than San Miguel de Allende and not so much on the “tourist trail” which can make it a bit harder to explore. But that’s fine; just see what you can, because the place you will visit next will be sure to impress you the most!

Real de Catorce

This is the reason you have made this trip, to visit the partially abandoned mind-blowing village of Real de Catorce.

Maybe you’ve heard of it before in association to peyote and how it is somewhat a pilgrimage for drug-taking hippies? I’m not going to tell you it isn’t, but the entire village should not be reduced to just that. It is honestly one of the coolest places I have ever visited in my life. For starters, just to get into the town you have to drive through a 2 km tunnel through the mountains.

Do a tour of the church where you will learn that Real de Catorce is also a pilgrimage site for Mexicans who want to pray to the shrine of Saint Francis of Assisi. I don’t want to give away too much, but the stories are heartwarming and so very interesting!

You can also take a horseback ride to see views of the city and other important landmarks nearby, go on a hike or ride on the top of a Willy’s Jeep through the spectacular valleys nearby. My favorite thing to do in Real de Catorce, though, was to simply walk the streets taking pictures.

If you have your own transport, I implore you to stay in one of the magical hotels in Real de Catorce for at least a couple of nights. It is the type of place that will change your life forever!

Guadalajara

You’ve seen the pictures, now it’s time to explore this famous multicolored city! But after driving a long 8 hours you’ll probably want to just curl up in your hotel and explore the city properly the next day. If 7-8 hours driving is too much, split your trip in half by stopping in at Leon (known as the “shoe capital of the world and is a pretty colonial, industrial city) for a night.

Famous for its tequila and mariachi music, Guadalajara is where you will come to soak up some authentic Mexico feels far off the busy tourist trail. You will be able to visit more gothic-style churches , including a cathedral with twin gold spires, and immerse yourselves in the vibrant streets steeped in tradition and culture. Visit the nearby town of Tequila to experience the makings of this famous drink yourself or explore the labyrinth of a local market.

Then take a break to relax and listen to the mariachi while you sip on premium tequila cocktails and much on torta ahogada (a crusty baguette stuffed with succulent slow-cooked pork). Bliss.

When you finally decide to bring your road trip to an end, it’ll take 6 hours driving to Mexico City from Guadalajara.

Where to stay on the Golden Triangle Road Trip

  • Mexico City: Hotel Catedral
  • San Miguel de Allende: Casa Mia Suites
  • San Luis Potosi: Microtel Inn & Suites by Wyndham
  • Real de Catorce: Casa Curtos
  • Leon: Entre Patios Hotel Boutique
  • Guadalajara: Hotel Real Maestranza

CENTRAL MEXICO ROAD TRIP

This quintessential road trip takes you through some of the most spectacular driving scenery Mexico has to offer. Visit areas in Mexico, renowned for their strong cultural identity and bizarre religious practices. Eat food to die for, explore cactus gardens and swim in warm, pristine oceans.

On this Central Mexico road trip you’ll drive from Mexico City to Oaxaca, stopping in at the pretty city of Puebla and an incredible UNESCO heritage biosphere reserve to see thousands of cactuses. In Oaxaca, you’ll experience deep, colorful Mexican culture and some of the best cuisines in Mexico.

You’ll then follow the spectacular Oaxacan coast for a while before turning off to head back up the mountains of Chiapas to the gorgeous colonial city of San Cristobal de las Casas. You’ll finish your road trip in Palenque where you can visit important Mayan ruins and relax in vivid baby blue waterfalls.

💡 If you don’t have much time, you can shorten this to a road trip from Mexico City to Oaxaca City via Puebla. A Mexico City / Oaxaca road trip would give you a great taste of pretty cities, cactuses, mountains and culture achievable in just a few days. Plus the drive between the two cities is pleasurable and relatively easygoing.

DISTANCE COVERED: 1,739 km (1,080 miles)
TIME NEEDED: 3 Weeks – 1.5 months

Mexico City Palacio Bellas Artes building - Driving in Mexico Road Trip

First up, Mexico City is the multicultural melting pot of Mexico. It’s dirty, grungy and a pla ce you might not immediately like.

Give it some time though, and you’ll find reasons to remember this city. From the ancient skulls buried under the main Cathedral, Aztec ruins in the city center to the gothic-style buildings looming overhead. Explore ancient ruins, watch a wrestling match or explore mind-altering museums until your feet scream. You’ll soon warm up to Mexico City.

Puebla City (Heroica Puebla de Zaragoza)

Puebla is a picturesque colonial city just a 3 hour drive outside of Mexico City. It’s famous for its incredible Mexican food, impressive architecture and beautiful pottery. Stop here overnight to explore the city.

A mere two hours outside of Puebla, you can find the incredible Tehuacán-Cuicatlán Biosphere Reserve which offers a barren rugged landscape interrupted by gigantic cacti in large numbers. If you’re after that quintessential “I’m in Mexico” photo, this is the place to get it.

We suggest you leave early from Puebla City to the Biosphere Reserve so you have as much time to explore as you need before overnighting in Tehuacán. The next day will be a 4-hour drive to Oaxaca City.

Oaxaca City (Oaxaca de Juarez)

Oaxaca City is a magical place. Not as many tourists get here, as it’s not so much on the main tourist path. But boasting some of the strongest native cultures in Mexico, surrounded by dramatic mountains, history-rich ruins, and even a petrified waterfall.

The state of Oaxaca is probably best known for its indigenous peoples; the Zapotecs and Mixtecs. These cultures have survived better than most others due to the rugged and isolated terrain in which they live. In the city, you’ll be able to buy vibrant arts and crafts and sample unique delicious Oaxacan cuisines.

Driving over the mountains from Oaxaca City to Puerto Escondido is absolutely beautiful, but also scary as shit due to the tight narrow winding roads and the large trucks that go up and down these mountains. This drive will take you between seven to ten hours, depending on whether you get a good run. Carsickness can also be a problem on these roads, so buy some tablets in Oaxaca before you leave. Take these roads slowly and don’t drive tired.

Also, make sure you keep the petrol topped up! I’m talking from experience here after we ran out of petrol on the Oaxacan mountains one night and had to sleep in the car at a roadhouse. The next day we took a Camioneta to the closest tiny town to buy petrol from some random man’s garage. HA!

Letting go a bay turtle in Puerto Escondido - Driving in Mexico Road Trip

Puerto Escondido and Huatulco

Puerto Escondido is a small coastal town popular with surfers from all around the world. The beaches are deliciously sandy, clear and usually pretty quiet, especially outside of high season. Huatulco is only a 2.5 hours drive from Puerto Escondido and the beaches along this part of the Oaxacan Coastline are even quieter. The beaches in Huatulco were some of my favorite in Mexico. If you enjoy the laid-back, sun-soaked life, be sure to spend at least a week in these two towns.

In Puerto Escondido, take a surfing lesson and release a baby turtle while you’re there. Go on an incredibly cheap dolphin-watching boat trip and drive around to see as many tranquil bays and beaches as you can find. Psst, I wrote a post to help you choose which Oaxacan beaches are best to visit .

If you have the time, be sure to visit the even smaller and cuter Mazunte and Zipolite . You may also like to take a detour back up the mountains to San Juan del Pacifico. This tiny, misty mountain town is a highlight, especially if you love a town with a strong community (read: hippy) feel. Just FYI, magic mushrooms grow freely here and the town has made a name for itself as being a popular place to go to try them out in a gorgeous natural setting.

Once you’ve finished with Huatulco, you’ll be crossing the state border into Chiapas . It’s a whopping 8 hours drive before you’ll arrive for an overnight in Tuxtla Gutierrez (add an extra 1 hour onwards to San Cristobal de las Casas if you don’t want to stay in Tuxtla).

You may want to split this drive up by staying overnight in Selina Cruz before tackling the mountains in Chiapas. But there really isn’t anything to do in Selina Cruz, so you would only sleep there.

The mountains around San Cristobal are a lot less crazy than the mountains from Oaxaca City to Puerto Escondido. And the state of Chiapas is absolutely picturesque to drive through.

Tuxtla Gutierrez and San Cristobal de las Casas

Tuxtla Gutierrez isn’t the most impressive of towns. However, from this town, you should embark on a tour through the Canyon de Sumidero to see the Christmas Tree Falls.

The best of these two places though is San Cristobal de las Casas. A small colonial city complete with narrow cobblestone streets, colorful houses with plant pots on every patio, surrounded by lush mountains and flower farms.

From San Cristobal de las Casas you can either take a long day trip to the remote El Chiflon falls, or you can go there on the way to your next stop of Palenque. This mountainous drive will take 3 hours to get to El Chiflon from San Cristobal de las Casas. Once there, however, mighty Rainbow Falls at El Chiflon will certainly blow you away.

💡 Going from El Chiflon to Palenque will take you another grueling 8 hours of slow mountainous driving. However, halfway through this drive, a small town called Ocosingo closed down due to protests and it was dangerous to drive through (in mid-2018). The protests lasted for many months. If you want to travel this road, be sure to ask any forums you are a part of or join the San Cristobal Expat Facebook group to ask. If it is closed, you will have to get to Palenque via Villahermosa and Tabasco, which will take about 8 hours from San Cristobal.

A cute mountain town bursting with beauty and history, Palenque is a stop you cannot miss. Visit beautifully secluded falls like Agua Azul, Misol-Ha and Roberto Barrios. Don’t forget to spend a day marveling at the history and temples of the ancient Maya at Palenque ruins and museum too.

If you’re renting a car that must be returned to Mexico City, this is a great opportunity to change up the scenery by running along the top of Mexico through Tabasco (stopping in at Villahermosa), Veracruz and Córdoba.

Where to Stay on the Central Mexico Road Trip

  • Puebla: Hotel 5 de Mayo
  • Tehuacán: Hotel Zenith
  • Oaxaca City: Parador San Agustin
  • Puerto Escondido: Hotelito Swiss Oasis (Adults Only)
  • Huatulco: Xquenda Huatulco Spa
  • Tuxtla Gutierrez: Hostal Tres Central
  • San Cristobal de las Casas: Hotel Casa Selah
  • Palenque: Hotel Chablis Palenque

YUCATAN PENINSULA ROAD TRIP

If you’re coming from Palenque this will be an easy drive that takes you out of the gorgeous jungle and Northeast towards the Colonial City of Merida, the mind-blowing Chichen Itza pyramids, white-sandy islands, and bustling Playa del Carmen and Tulum.

Although quite touristy, the Yucatan Peninsula is one of the best places to road trip in Mexico. It’s like a huge playground for water-related activities. Everyone here can find something they will love and you’ll have endless fun in the sun. With a car, you’ll be able to go off-course and visit some of the less busy areas as well.

In the Riviera Maya in Mexico, you can see baby turtles hatch (August to November), swim with whale sharks (May to August) and check out amazing underground rivers called cenotes (year-round) that are found only in the Yucatan. Cancun is a popular place to hire cars so it’s easy to start and end your Mexico road trip here.

The roads in the Yucatan are some of the best we traveled on in Mexico. Although if you only take the free roads ( carretera libre), you may not think so. Traveling at night is more feasible in most of these areas, so long as you take the paid roads ( carretera cuota ).

DISTANCE COVERED: 1,411 km (877 miles)
TIME NEEDED: 2 – 4 Weeks

Do a whale shark tour from either Isla Mujeres or Isla Holox - Driving in Mexico Road Trip

Cancun and Isla Mujeres

Unless you’re staying in a fancy beachside resort or partying it up in enormous nightclubs, you’ll probably want to leave Cancun as soon as possible. My recommendation would be to first head over to Isla Mujeres for a day or two before picking up your rental car and heading off to see the rest of Quintana Roo state .

Got your own car? You have two other options. You can pop your vehicle on a car ferry, or you can leave it in the secured parking lot at Puerto Juarez in Cancun. I’d just recommend leaving it on the mainland safely in the parking lot because you really don’t need a car on Isla Mujeres.

Isla Mujeres is one of those places that quickly captures the hearts of everyone who goes there. It’s a small, pregnant-fish-shaped island filled with amazing snorkeling and scuba diving. Soak up the sun on pristine beaches with a cocktail, tear around the island in a golf cart or head out on day tours to swim with whale sharks (seasonal) or marvel at the underwater museum.

Once you’ve managed to tear yourself away from Isla Mujeres, you’ll be picking up your car and driving a measly 1.5 hours down the carretera to Playa del Carmen. We highly recommend stopping in to visit cenotes near Puerto Morelos . Especially Cenote Lucero Verde which was one of my favorites. Head to the beach in Puerto Morelos for lunch before carrying on.

Playa del Carmen and Tulum

Playa del Carmen is a bustling touristy town with beautiful but busy beaches, huge nightclubs, and even bigger water parks. It’s worth a night here if you like that sort of atmosphere, but if you don’t, I suggest carrying on down the highway for an hour to the smaller and much more beautiful Tulum to stay the night.

On the way to Tulum, stop in at one of the many cenotes such as Cenote Azul , Garden of Eden Cenote or Yal-Ku Lagoon . Alternatively, you can do these activities as day trips from Tulum or Playa del Carmen. Read more about all these cenotes and more in this epic cenote guide . Near Yal-Ku you can swim with turtles at Akumal – a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Lovely Tulum has two parts to it, the main beach area and the town. I highly recommend heading to the beach area to stay because the town can be quite hot and dusty. However, if you’re on a budget, stay in town to save money. From Tulum, you can visit even more amazing cenotes (my favorites are Cenote Carwash , Cenote Calavera and Dos Ojos ), or you can explore Tulum ruins.

If you would like to take your car to a Mexican island, Cozumel is going to be your best bet. The car ferry leaves from Playa del Carmen and is much more frequent than the Isla Mujeres car ferry. Plus, Cozumel is built up perfectly for cars. Isla Cozumel is an extremely pretty island, but I personally don’t like places that are super touristy, which Cozumel most definitely is.

Bacalar and Calakmul

Next, you’ll drive about 3 hours to Bacalar, where you’ll experience Mexico’s version of Bora Bora or the Maldives (but on a budget!). Bacalar boasts a crystalline lake called Siete Colores (Seven Colors) as well as another mind-blowing cenote ( Cenote Azul ). Have fun cramming as many water-based activities that you can fit in your schedule.

If you haven’t seen enough ruins yet, be sure to rise super early for a stopover at Calakmul, one of Mexico’s more impressive but lesser-visited ancient Mayan ruins. Calakmul is a 6-hour drive from Bacalar, so you will need to stay the night here.

Next, overnight in Campeche after a 7-hour drive, and explore the beautiful walled-in colonial city on the still waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

Campeche Buildings - Driving in Mexico Road Trip

Merida, Celestun and Chichen Itza

Head Northeast 3 hours to Merida, and explore one of the largest historic center districts in the Americas. The city is adorned with gorgeous brightly colored buildings, in which you can sample some exquisite traditional Yucatec dishes, and drink in rustic Mexican bars.

Day trip from Mérida to Celestún to take a boat trip and see the bright pink flamboyance of flamingos and relax on the water’s edge. If you have time, take another day trip to the cenotes of Cuzama , where you’ll take a tour by horse and cart along the train tracks to three different but impressive cenotes.

From Merida, it’s an easy 2-hour drive to the ruins of Chichen Itza. Although touristy, there’s a reason why. The Kukulkan Pyramid is so smooth and symmetrical, it will leave you speechless no doubt. Don’t stay the night here though, it’s terribly overpriced. Drive just an hour to Valladolid – my favorite town in Mexico.

Valladolid and Coba

Valladolid was originally a Mayan settlement called Zaci, but after Spanish settlement, the name only remains on its most famous cenote. The small town boasts all of the comforts of a touristy town, without the tourists. Spend a couple of days in Valladolid and visit Cenote Oxman (my favorite cenote ever – it’s like straight out of the Jungle Book), Cenote X’canche and the ruins of Ek Balam. If you have a lot of time, be sure to do a day trip to Las Colores, the pink lakes.

If you haven’t got your cenote fix yet, visit Coba for a handful of really cool underground cave cenotes (which are super cheap) and Coba Ruins if you want to climb to the top of the tallest ancient Mayan temple in the Yucatan.

From Cobá you’ll drive an easy 2.5 hours to Chiquilá where there are plenty of places to store your car at the ferry terminal (for only $50 pesos per day). Jump on one of the hourly ferries and spend your last few days relaxing on the white sandy secluded beaches of Isla Holbox.

Isla Holbox

If you can only go to just one island in Mexico, I suggest you make it to Isla Holbox. Complete with small sandy streets (no tar or cars in sight!), fresh seafood restaurants by the bucketful, golf carts to explore the island on and hammocks set up on the calm tranquil ocean waters (that’s right – IN the water). Honestly, there’s nowhere else quite like Isla Holbox.

Complete your Yucatan Road trip, Mexico by returning to Cancun (only 3 hours away) and dropping back your rental car.

Where to Stay on a Yucatan Peninsula Road Trip

  • Cancun: La Villa du Golf à Cancun
  • Isla Mujeres: Villa Elena Isla Mujeres
  • Playa del Carmen: Mahekal Beach Front Resort & Spa
  • Tulum: Habitas Beach Hotel
  • Bacalar: Hotel Casa Lima Bacalar
  • Calakmul: Casa Ka´an
  • Campeche: Hotel Plaza Colonial
  • Merida: Hotel Luz en Yucatan
  • Valladolid: Hotel Zentik Project & Saline Cave
  • Isla Holbox: Hotel Villas Tiburon

GOT ANY QUESTIONS ABOUT THESE ROAD TRIPS?

We would love to hear from you and especially answer any questions about your own Mexico road trip itinerary. Feel free to ask! We strive to get back to you within 24 hours 😄

READ: 10 Guaranteed Reasons You’ll Definitely Love Mexico

Mexico Roadtrip FAQs

Yes, driving in Mexico with US plates is allowed, but you must have the proper documents. If you are planning to drive anywhere outside of the Mexico Free Zone (an area that is around 20 miles within the border of USA in Mexico, Baja Peninsula, a large portion of Sonora, and Quintana Roo), then you must get a Temporary Vehicle Importation Permit (TIP). Besides a TIP, all drivers in Mexico must have Mexico car insurance, even if you already have car insurance from the United States. More often than not, it is more affordable to just rent a car in Mexico and do your road trip in a rental vehicle.

Driving across Mexico isn’t exactly a stroll through the park. While most Mexico roads are safe to drive (especially the ones included in our Mexico road trip guide), there are some hazards you will need to be aware of. The main concern when driving in Mexico is gang violence, which is an unpredictable issue with constant changes. To minimize this risk, we recommend you to always drive in the day and stay up to date with the news. Once again, our suggested road trip in Mexico itineraries do focus on safer and more touristy areas in Mexico. Additionally, the roads in Mexico aren’t always in the best conditions. Drive with care, always go under the speed limit, follow all regulations, and you will do just fine. It is common for police to stop tourists and try to get some money out of them. As long as you know you have not broken the law, there is nothing you need to worry about.

There is not necessarily a “safest route” through Mexico, as situations change frequently and suddenly. When deciding on your route through Mexico, there are certain things you can do to make your road trip safer. Avoid driving at night and don’t stop in towns or states that are known for drug violence. Plan your days accordingly so you don’t have to stay the night in remote places.

Driving in Mexico is not difficult, but there are a few differences you might need to adjust to. In Mexico, people drive on the right-hand side of the road. The speed limit is posted in kilometers (not miles), so North American drivers in Mexico must be aware. Some drivers in Mexico can get a little bit aggressive. Remember to drive defensively and have 100 percent of your attention on the road at all times. This way, you can also keep an eye out for the potholes and other hazards on the road!

The speed limit changes depending on where you are driving in Mexico (duh)! On major highways, the speed limit is usually at 110 km/hr (68mph). As you get closer to towns and cities, the speed limit usually becomes 100 km/hr (62 mph). In major highways inside cities, 90 to 100 km/hr is the usual speed limit. On two-lane highways, the speed limit is most likely to be 90 km/hr (56mph).

The crossing at Colombia and Laredo is known for their safety and popularity. Try to avoid the states in Chihuahua State and Sonora State, as cartel activity is relatively high in those places.

Highway 57 is a free federal highway that connects the border of US and Mexico in the north with Mexico City. Because of this, it is one of the busiest highways in Mexico. There are a total of 6 to 8 lanes and the condition of the lanes is generally very good. However, what makes Highway 57 in Mexico a little dangerous is the amount of traffic it gets daily.

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Splice of 3 Mexico images with text olay: "5 Incredible Mexico Road Trips"

Originally Posted:  27 May 2017. Frequently updated.

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Passionate baby goat cuddler and part-time adventurer, Crystal can often be found doing headstands on the edges of cliffs, taking photos of abandoned buildings or sleeping on deserted islands with dangerous criminals. She has too many awesome stories and helpful tips to keep them all to herself so follow along and in return she will bring you inspiring pictures, travel videos and a whole load of fun!

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Road trip Mexico: The best itineraries for 10, 15, 21 days and 1 month

Visiting mexico by car: the 4 best road trip itineraries.

You’re planning a road trip in Mexico and you’re looking for the best itinerary?

You’ve come to the right place!

Mexico is a huge country that covers an area as big as several European countries combined.

Renting a car is the best way to explore this vast land full of stunning natural and archaeological sites, and stop whenever and wherever you want!

To help you plan your road trip in Mexico, I have prepared 5 itineraries for different durations: 1 week, 10 days, 2 weeks, 3 weeks and 1 month.

And at the end of this guide, I will also give you my list of the best accommodations in Mexico depending on your budget as well as my best tips to enjoy the perfect road trip.

Quick note: if you want to only visit the Yucatan Peninsula during your road trip, you should rather read my other article: Road Trip in Yucatan: The 5 Best Itineraries .

How to choose the best airport for your road trip in Mexico?

Rent a car for your roadtrip in mexico.

  • 1) Mexico City (2 days)

2) San Cristobal de las Casas (3 days)

3) palenque (1 day), 4) merida (2 days), 5) chichen itza and riviera maya (2-3 days), 1) cancun (1 day), 2) ek balam and chichen itza (1-2 days), 3) merida, uxmal and kabah (1 day), 4) campeche and edzná (1 day).

  • 5) Palenque (2 days)

6) San Cristobal de las Casas (2 days)

8) balamkú and calakmul (2 days), 9) tulum (2 days), 10) cancun (1 day), 1) mexico city (2-3 days), 2) cholula and puebla (1 day), 3) oaxaca (3 days), 4) san cristobal de las casas (3 days), 5) palenque (1 day), 6) campeche (1-2 days), 7) merida (2 days), 8) chichen itza and valladolid (1 day), 9) holbox (2-3 days), 10) tulum (2 days), 11) playa del carmen (2-3 days), 2) oaxaca (4 days), 3) tuxtla gutierrez (2 days), 6) calakmul (1 day), 7) bacalar (2-3 days), 8) merida (3 days), 9) valladolid (3 days), 10) tulum (4 days), 11) holbox (2-3 days), 12) cancun (1-2 days), mexico city, playa del carmen, san cristobal de las casas, my tips for visiting mexico by rental car, how to choose the right moment for your mexico road trip, you’re traveling in mexico these articles will help you.

The answer depends on how much time you have and what you want to see. You have two main options: start in Mexico City and end in Cancun , or make a loop from Cancun if you only want to explore the Yucatan Peninsula.

You can also do the trip in reverse (Cancun to Mexico City), but personally I think the best way to finish a trip to Mexico is relaxing on the beach 😉

Both Mexico City and Cancun airports have many flights from North America and Europe, so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding airline tickets to Mexico!

To get the best deal on plane tickets, I recommend you use our comparison tool in partnership with Skyscanner: It is the best way to pay the lowest price for your international flight and your domestic flights in Mexico!

The best way to discover Mexico and enjoy your stay is to rent a car !

I always use Booking.com Cars to rent a car , because:

  • You can easily compare the rental cars prices between all the agencies: for sure the easiest way to find the best rate!
  • Cancellation is often offered free of charge: no need to worry if you change your mind
  • Booking Cars offers full insurance coverage at a lower price than the rental companies , so it’s an instant saving with no effort

To find your rental car at the lowest price, just click on the green button :

Road trip to Mexico: 10 days

This is the itinerary I recommend you to see the most in a 10 days road trip in Mexico :

  • Chichen Itza
  • Riviera Maya

To see the complete itinerary with all the details for your 10-day road trip in Mexico , click here: Recommended 10-Day Itinerary in Mexico .

1) Mexico City (2 days )

Mexico City is a wonderful place to visit , with so much to see and do in just two days.

Some of the best things to do in Mexico City in 2 days are:

  • Explore the historic center with the Zocalo, the cathedral, the Templo Mayor, Diego Rivera’s murals in the Palacio Nacional, and the Casa de los Azulejos (House of Tiles)
  • Watch the spectacular show of the Ballet Folklorico de Mexico
  • Browse the San Juan market for exotic foods
  • Visit the famous National Museum of Anthropology and Chapultepec Castle in Chapultepec Park. Buy your tickets here!
  • Discover Frida Kahlo’s Blue House in Coyoacan – Get your tickets here! (prior booking is required)
  • Enjoy a boat ride on the Aztec canals of Xochimilco
  • Wander around the trendy neighborhoods of La Roma and La Condesa
  • Experience the lively atmosphere of Plaza Garibaldi
  • Have fun watching Mexican Lucha Libre (wrestling)

Read also: My Ultimate Guide to Mexico City!

If you have some extra time, you should definitely visit Teotihuacan , one of Mexico’s most impressive archaeological sites.

This tour from Mexico City is a great choice, as it includes the hotel pick up, a morning guided tour (to avoid the crowds), as well as a tasting of mezcal, tequila and pulque, three typical Mexican drinks. You can book it here:

Check out: My Complete Guide to Visit Teotihuacan!

xochimilco

Head to San Cristobal de las Casas in the State of Chiapas from Mexico.

Day 1 – Discover the city and its attractions.

  • You can read my article Top 15 Best Things to Do in San Cristobal de las Casas here!

Day 2 – Visit the stunning El Chiflón waterfalls and the Montebello Lakes National Park, two of the most amazing places in Chiapas .

The journey is quite long, so you may want to join this day tour, which includes hotel pick-up. You can book it here:

You may find these articles interesting:

  • How to Visit El Chiflón?
  • My Complete Guide to the Montebello Lakes!

Day 3 – The Sumidero Canyon : visit its viewpoints and enjoy a boat ride from Chiapa de Corzo’s dock. – Book the Sumidero Canyon tour here !

cascade-el-chiflon

The journey from San Cristobal to Palenque takes about 5 to 5h30 so here is my suggestion for making the most of your day:

  • In the morning: stop by the sites of Toniná, Agua Azul, and Misol Ha on your way.
  • Have a lunch break when you reach the city of Palenque
  • In the afternoon: explore the Archaeological Site of Palenque (3 hours)

Day 1 – Today you have an 8-hour drive ahead of you.

Depending on your arrival time, explore the city of Merida , the capital of the Yucatan State.

  • Check out My Top 20 Things to Do and See in Mérida!

Day 2 – Since this 10-day road trip in Mexico by car does not allow you to see everything, I offer you two options:

Option 1: The site of Uxmal one of the most beautiful Mayan sites in the Yucatan . You can also visit the Chocolate museum and the site of Kabah.

  • Book the tour to Uxmal and Kabah here!
  • To read: my Definitive Guide to Uxmal !

Option 2 : Celestun is the best place to see flamingos in Mexico! You can spend the day there (beach, ecotourism, etc.)

  • Book your pink flamingo tour in Celestun now!
  • Check my Complete Guide to Celestun for all the activities you can do!

flamencos-celestún

Day 1 – In the morning, visit the city of Chichen Itza , one of the New 7 Wonders of the World . – Here’s My Definitive Guide to Chichen Itza + Tips !

To avoid the long lines and crowds , book your tickets to Chichen Itza with skip-the-line access here:

In the afternoon, discover the colonial city of Valladolid

Day 2 – Visit Tulum : the ancient ruins, the stunning beaches like Playa Paraiso and Playa Las Palmas, the amazing cenotes, and more.

Those articles might interest you:

  • The 21 Best Things to See and Do in Tulum!
  • The 15 Most Beautiful Cenotes in Tulum

Day 3 – You will have wonderful day in Akumal , the best place to swim with turtles in Mexico!

The beautiful reptiles are protected and that’s why it is mandatory to be in a small group tour with a guide to see them.

You can book the tour here:

You can also enjoy its beautiful beaches and snorkeling in Akumal Bay, Half Moon Bay and Yal Ku Lagoon .

  • More reading: The Best 17 Things to Do in Akumal !

tulum playa

Road trip in Mexico: 2 weeks

For a 2-week road trip in Mexico , you will the most beautiful places in Yucatan and Chiapas: Cancun, Chichen Itza, Merida, Campeche , Palenque, Bonampak and Yaxchilan, San Cristobal de las Casas, Balamku, Calakmul and Tulum.

  • To discover the detailed itinerary with all my tips (and the list of the best hotels for all budgets!), check out my article: The Best 2-week Itinerary in Mexico.

After picking up your car in Cancun, you can start enjoying your trip: the beaches, the archaeological site El Rey, the Mayan museum.

You can also dive in the MUSA, which is the largest underwater museum in the world, with about 500 sculptures! Book your diving tour here!

If you are looking for some fun nightlife in Cancun , here are some options:

  • City Nightclub (the biggest nightclub in the country!)
  • The famous Coco Bongo Club (get your tickets here)
  • Xoximilco Cancun to enjoy a Mexican party with dancing, mariachis, Mexican food and open bar (beer or tequila). Buy your tickets for Xoximilco here:
  • Check out my complete guide: The 30 Best Things to Do in Cancun!

xoximilco cancún

Day 1 – Start your 15-day road trip through Mexico by visiting Ek Balam , which was an important capital of the Mayan culture.

After the visit, you can cool off at the Xkeken and Samulá cenotes (which are next to each other), or Cenote X-Canché

In the afternoon, discover Chichén Itzá, a UNESCO world heritage site: the temple of Kukulcán, the astronomical observatory, the Mayan ball game, and more.

  • For more information, take a look at my Complete Guide to Chichen Itza.
  • Chichen Itza can get very crowded. To avoid the long lines, get your skip-the-line tickets here:

chichen-itza

Start your day by exploring Merida : the Plaza Grande (where you can find the Macay museum, the cathedral, the Casa de Montejo, and the best part is that they are all free😃!), the colorful colonial houses on 64th street, and the local market.

  • If you want to learn more about the amazing attractions that Mérida has to offer, check out my Definitive Guide to Mérida

In the afternoon, visit Uxmal , a Maya site famous for its stunning Puuc-style architecture, and then Kabah just 20 min away. You can read: My Complete Guide to Uxmal and Kabah

Head to Campeche for a night stay.

Enjoy the beautiful historic center of Campeche : visit the Baluarte San Francisco, Baluarte San Carlos, the Museum of Mayan Architecture, the main square with the cathedral, the cultural center El Palacio and Casa no6.

  • For all the best attractions of Campeche, check out the Top 20 Things to Do in Campeche!

In the afternoon, explore Edzná, one of the most important Mayan sites in the Yucatán , which is still not very crowded by tourists. You can read: My Complete Guide to Visit Edzná !

campeche yucatán

5) Palenque ( 2 days)

Day 1 – Today you will start a new part of your 15-day road trip through Mexico, as you leave the Yucatan Peninsula and head to Chiapas.

You will need to wake up early, as you have a 5-hour drive ahead of you!

Explore the Archaeological Site of Palenque , which was once an important trading center thanks to its strategic location between the coast and the mountains.

Day 2 – Bonampak and Yaxchilán

  • Bonampak is famous for its frescoed murals, the most complete representation of a pre-Hispanic civilization discovered so far!
  • Yaxchilan boasts its sculptures that are masterpieces of Mayan art.

The roads are poorly marked and the signal (for GPS, etc.) in the Lacandon jungle is very weak. Besides, to get to Yaxchilan you have to leave your car and take a boat on the Usumacinta river.

So I suggest you take the guided tour from Palenque , which includes pick-up from your hotel, entrance fees and boat, plus breakfast and lunch.

You can book here:

palenque

Day 1 – Drive from Palenque to San Cristóbal de las Casas (5h)

On the way you can stop by the waterfalls of Misol Ha and Agua Azul , as well as the Mayan site of Toniná.

Day 2 – Tzotzil villages and San Cristóbal de las Casas

Start the day by visiting Zinacantán and San Juan Chamula , two traditional Tzotzil communities.

You can book the tour from San Cristobal (click here!)  which includes demonstration of handicraft techniques and tasting of pox, a liquor from Chiapas.

Go back to San Cristobal de las Casas and explore:

  • Calle Real de Guadalupe with its restaurants and cafes
  • The Church of Guadalupe
  • The Textile Center of the Mayan World with its 500 textile pieces from Chiapas and Guatemala
  • The handicrafts market
  • The zocalo with the cathedral

Check out My Complete Guide to San Cristobal de las Casas !

san-cristóbal-de-las-casas

Day 1 – Continue your 2-week road trip in Mexico to the archaeological site of Balamkú hidden in the dense jungle.

It’s a long drive, it will take you round 9 hours.

So, if you leave very early , you will have time to visit Balamkú , or else you will have to go straight to Xpujil to spend the night.

Day 2 – Today you will visit Calakmul , which is a Biosphere Reserve and a World Heritage Site by UNESCO .

  • Read my Definitive Guide to Calakmul!

I suggest you arrive as soon as the site opens to give yourself enough time to explore Calakmul (because there is so much to see!) and drive to Tulum (4h) the same day.

calakmul

The Tulum region has the most beautiful beaches on this road trip in Mexico for 14-15 days!

Day 1 – Start with the archaeological site of Tulum , then head to a cenote to refresh yourself. Check out My List of the Best Cenotes in Tulum!

Take a stroll along the beaches of Tulum and find your favorite beach: Playa Paraiso , Xpu-Ha , Xcacel , etc., there are plenty of options!

  • To discover all the most beautiful attractions in Tulum , don’t miss my Top 21 Things to Do and See in Tulum !

Day 2 – Explore the Sian Ka’an reserve, a paradise of biodiversity

You will have to choose between two access points:

  • Muyil to discover the swamps, the freshwater lagoons, the ruins of Muyil – Book the Muyil tour here
  • Punta Allen for the beach, the saltwater lakes, to snorkel in the coral reefs and see the dolphins. – Book the tour to Punta Allen here!

tulum wooden sculpture

This is the end of this 2 week stay in Mexico .

Go back to Cancun to return your rental car and catch your flight home.

Roadtrip to Mexico: 3 weeks

For a 3-week road trip in Mexico , I have created this itinerary from Mexico City to the Riviera Maya .

It will let you discover the main attractions of the states of Puebla , Oaxaca , Chiapas, Campeche, Yucatan and Quintana Roo .

  • Check my detailed itinerary with hotels and all my travel tips here: The Ultimate 3-week Itinerary for Mexico!

Begin your 21-day road trip in Mexico with Mexico City, the capital.

Here’s what you can do in 2 or 3 days in Mexico :

  • Visit the Chapultepec Castel and the National Museum of Anthropology , one of the most important museums in the world – Buy your tickets with guided tour here!
  • Spend half a day in the historic center of Mexico City with the cathedral, the main temple, the Government Palace, the Zocalo, the Casa de los Azulejos, the Palace of Fine Arts
  • Watch the Mexico City Folkloric Ballet Show
  • Visit Frida Kahlo’s house in the district of Coyoacan and enjoy a boat ride through the canals of Xochimilco . Book your visit here!
  • See the mariachis at Plaza Garibaldi – Book your night with the mariachis here!
  • Stroll through the neighborhoods of Roma and Condesa with their parks, bars, restaurants, terraces and shops.
  • Take the Mexico City Tourist Bus – Get your tickets here!
  • Explore Teotihuacan, which is Mexico City’s most important must-see! – Book your guided tour of Teotihuacan now!
  • Watch the lucha libre (Mexican Wrestling) – Reserve your seat here ! (mask and tequila included)

If you want to know everything about Mexico City, check out My Ultimate Guide to Mexico City !

mariachis plaza garibaldi méxico

Leave Mexico City and head to the State of Puebla .

Start by visiting Cholula where you will find the largest pyramid in the world , with a volume 4 times bigger than that of the Great Pyramid of Giza !

Next, head to the beautiful city of Puebla , whose historic center is a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Puebla has a lot to offer , for example:

  • The magnificent Puebla Cathedral, the second largest in Mexico
  • The Palafoxiana library , the 1st public library in the Americas
  • The Amparo museum with its nice rooftop terrace
  • El Parian market , where you will find talaveras and other typical handicrafts
  • The colorful facades of the Calle de los Sapos
  • Discover the secret tunnels (17th-19th centuries) that connect the Ovando Bridge and the Historical Passage 5 de Mayo

Check out my article on The 25 Things to Do in Puebla , where I share the best attractions and activities in and around this beautiful city!

calle de los sapos puebla

Continue your 3-week road trip in Mexico to the state of Oaxaca , famous for its cuisine and cultural diversity.

Day 1 – Visit Oaxaca de Juarez , the beautiful capital of the state

  • Discover the church and ex-convent of Santo Domingo de Guzman, which houses the museum of cultures and the famous ethnobotanical garden of Oaxaca .
  • The Mercado 20 de Noviembre , Oaxaca’s most popular market, with its grilled meats aisle nicknamed “ Pasillo de Humo ”.
  • Stroll along the Andador Turistico , the main square, the Metropolitan Cathedral of Oaxaca, and the Government Palace.

I suggest you also read: The 20 Best Things to Do in Oaxaca (city)

Day 2 – See Oaxaca’s wonders: the world’s largest tree by trunk volume, Santa María del Tule ; the artisan village of Teotitlán del Valle ; the Zapotec ruins of Mitla ; and the mineral springs and waterfalls of Hierve el Agua.

You can book this tour from Oaxaca that includes all these attractions, with a visit to a mezcal distillery where you can sample the local spirit , made from the agave plant.

Day 3 – Today you can explore Monte Alban , a site that was inhabited by the Olmecs , Zapotecs , and Mixtecs for over 1500 years.

You can join this great tour to Monte Alban from Oaxaca that also includes:

  • A visit to San Antonio Arrazola to see how the colorful Alebrijes (traditional Mexican folk art) are made.
  • A stop at the former Dominican monastery of Cuilapam de Guerrero .
  • A tour of San Bartolo Coyotepec , famous for its “barro negro” , or black clay pottery.

traje tipico oaxaca

Day 1 – Travel to San Cristobal de las Casas, a charming colonial city in the state of Chiapas.

It’s a long journey of about 9 hours, so you should leave early to have some time to explore the city.

  • For more information: Top 15 Things to Do in San Cristobal de las Casas!

Day 2 – In the morning, head to El Chiflón Waterfalls . You can admire all 5 waterfalls along a scenic trail (1h-1h30 visit).

Continue to the Montebello Lakes , a huge Biosphere Reserve located on the border with Guatemala .

The drive from San Cristobal to El Chiflón and Montebello is long and challenging, so I recommend booking this tour (click here to book!) that includes hotel pick-up, transportation, entrance fees, and the guide.

Day 3 – Since this is your last day in the region, I suggest you choose between two options:

  • Option 1: The Sumidero Canyon , a breathtaking canyon that you can explore with a boat tour on the Grijalva River and then enjoy the views from its scenic overlooks. – Book your Sumidero Canyon tour now!
  • Option 2: the traditional villages of Zinacantán and San Juan Chamula , where you can learn about the culture and customs of the indigenous communities. – Book your visit to the villages now!

textil-tradicional-zinacantan

Today, explore Palenque , one of the most important ancient cities in Mesoamerica!

To get from San Cristobal de las Casas to Palenque , you will need to travel for about 5h30

For some stops on the way, try: the ruins of Toniná, the waterfalls of Agua Azul, and the spectacular Misol Ha.

  • Check out my complete guide: How to Visit Palenque

misol ha

Keep going on your 21-day road trip through Mexico and visit the charming colonial city of Campeche .

In 1 or 2 days in Campeche , you can wander around the city walls , see the museum of Mayan architecture, walk along the waterfront facing the Gulf of Mexico , taste Chocol’Ha chocolates , and much more!

  • Check out: My Complete Guide to Campeche!

Spend 2 days in Mérida on your 21-day Mexico road trip.  You can:

  • See pink flamingos in Celestun’s biosphere reserve on a boat tour (1h30-2h30). Admire these birds and their habitat.- Book your Ceslestun excursion here!
  • Explore Merida , Yucatan’s capital and Mexico’s safest city. Enjoy its colonial architecture, markets, cuisine, and culture. Read My Complete Merida Guide!
  • Visit Uxmal , an ancient Mayan ally of Chichen Itza. Also see the chocolate museum and Kabah, another Mayan city. – Book the Uxma and Kabah tour here!

Visit Chichen Itza , the world’s most famous Mayan site. Marvel at Kukulkan’s pyramid, the Warriors’ Temple, the Observatory, and more – Buy your fast-track tickets to Chichen Itza here!

  • For more details and tips on Chichen Itza, see my Complete Guide to Chichen Itza!

Then, cool off in a cenote. There are many cenotes near Valladolid, and you can choose one with my Guide to the 21 Best Cenotes in Valladolid .

Discover Valladolid , a beautiful colonial town with a rich history and culture. You can visit the Francisco Canton park, the San Servacio church, the San Roque museum, the lovely Calzada de los Frailes, and the San Bernardino Convent.

  • Here is my guide What to See and Do in Valladolid?

calzada de los frailes valladolid

Spend a few days on Holbox island on your 20-21-22 day Mexico road trip .

In 2-3 days , enjoy Punta Mosquito and Punta Cocos’ sandy beaches, a boat tour (to Isla Pájaros, Laguna Yalahau and Isla de la Pasión), and more.

  • Read: How to Visit Holbox?

Day 1 – Leave Holbox and head to Tulum , in the Riviera Maya . Visit the amazing ruins of Tulum , its stunning cenotes, the Beach Strip and its sandy beaches.

Check out my guides:

  • The 21 Best Things to Do in Tulum

Day 2 – Explore the Sian Ka’an reserve , south of Tulum . You can choose between:

  • Muyil (half day) to see the Mayan site of Muyil, the mangroves, the jungle – Book the Muyil tour from Tulum
  • Punta Allen (1 day) which offers a more complete experience . You will be able to see the beach of the Sian Ka’an coast, take a boat trip to see dolphins, etc. Book the tour to Punta Allen

tulum

Day 1 – Start with a visit to the Rio Secreto caves , an incredible guided tour to navigate an underground river with a guide.

It is mandatory to book in advance:

Next, head to Xpu Ha , one of the most beautiful beaches in the Riviera Maya . You can also visit the Cenote Azul , which is very close by.

Day 2 – Cozumel Island

To get to Cozumel, you have to take the ferry from Playa del Carmen – Get your ferry tickets here!

There is a ton of things to do and see in Cozumel , I suggest you make your choice among these options:

  • Discover Punta Sur : with snorkeling and lunch at a beach club – Book the jeep tour to Punta Sur here!
  • Entrance ticket to Chankanaab with access to the park and snorkeling with guide – Book your tickets here
  • Snorkeling tour in 3 reefs, ideal for families – Book the snorkeling tour here
  • Electric bike tour with cenote, snorkeling, beach and tequila tasting – Book the tour here
  • Tour to El Cielo to see starfish , as well as the Palancar reef – Book the tour to El Cielo here
  • Jungle adventure with quad biking, cave exploration, cenote and tequila tasting – Book the adventure tour here
  • Go to Playa Mia Gran Beach Park which offers more than 20 activities.
  • Tour aboard the Atlantis XII submarine so you can explore the Chankanaab reef – Save your spot on the submarine now

To read: My complete guide on The 15 Best Things to Do in Cozumel!

Day 3 – Spend the last day of your roadtrip in Mexico in Playa del Carmen .

You can enjoy the beaches and stroll along Quinta Avenida.

I invite you to read my articles:

  • Playa del Carmen: Top 30 Things to Do and See!
  • How to Visit Playa del Carmen on a Budget
  • 12 Cenotes you can’t miss in Playa del Carmen

Road trip in Mexico: 1 month

One month in Mexico lets you see many attractions at a relaxed pace.

Some must-see places in Mexico with my itinerary are:

  • Mexico and Teotihuacan
  • Oaxaca : Monte Alban and Hierve el Agua
  • Chiapas : Sumidero Canyon, San Cristobal de las Casas, the Tzotzil villages, El Chiflón, Montebello, Palenque
  • Bacalar Lagoon
  • Mérida and the flamingos of Celestún
  • Ek Balam and the pink lakes of Las Coloradas
  • Tulum : the city of Cobá, swimming with turtles in Akumal, Sian Ka’an

And let’s not forget the cenotes and beaches!

  • Find the best One-Month Mexico to Cancun road trip  in my article: 1 Month in Mexico: The Best Itinerary!

Begin your 30-day Mexico road trip in Mexico City.

  • Don’t miss anything in the capital with this Complete Guide to Mexico City !

Some things to do there are:

  • Frida Kahlo’s house and the boat ride in Xochimilco –  you can book your tour here!
  • The mariachis in Plaza Garibaldi
  • The National Museum of Anthropology and the Chapultepec Castle – Buy here your tickets with guided tour !
  • The city of Teotihuacan , Mexico’s must-see site –  Book your early morning guided tour here to avoid the crowds.

My advice A great way to explore the city is the tourist bus that shows you the main attractions.

You can buy tickets for the bus here ,  valid for a day on 4 itineraries:

The Palace of Fine Arts Mexico City

Day 1 – It takes about 5h45 to drive from Mexico City to Oaxaca de Juarez.

If you prefer to make a stop on the road, you can spend a night in Tehuacan and visit the Helia Bravo Hollis Botanical Garden in the Tehuacan-Cuicatlan Biosphere Reserve.

Day 2 – Visit the city of Oaxaca : the convent of Santo Domingo de Guzman, the museum of cultures, the ethnobotanical garden, the 20 de noviembre market, the Calle Macedonio, the handicraft market, etc.

  • Check out: The 20 Best Things to Do in Oaxaca (city)

Day 3 –  Visit Monte Alban , a major archaeological site in Mexico and an Oaxaca road trip highlight.

Stroll through the surrounding villages: Cuilapam de Guerrero to visit its Dominican convent, San Antonio Arrazola or San Martin Tilcajete to discover the alebrijes manufacturing workshops and San Bartolo Coyotepec for the “ barro negro ” pottery.

You can also book the Monte Alban Tour with hotel pick-up in Oaxaca. It includes the villages route:

Day 4 – Visit Santa Maria del Tule , Teotitlan del Valle, the site of Mitla and  Hierve el Agua . –  Book the Hierve el Agua tour now!

monte-albán

Day 1 – Today you will travel from Oaxaca to Chiapas . It will take you about 8 hours to reach the city of Tuxtla Gutierrez.

You can go to the Marimba Park , where people gather to dance (from 6 pm to 8 pm) to the rhythm of the marimba .

Day 2 – Discover the Sumidero Canyon , a must on your 1 month road trip in Mexico .

Drive along the scenic route of the viewpoints , then enjoy the boat ride on the Grijalva River from the pier of Chiapa de Corzo .

Then visit the traditional town of Chiapa de Corzo before returning to Tuxtla Gutierrez .

If you prefer, you can join the Sumidero Canyon Tour (click here to book!) with pick up at your hotel,  the boat, the viewpoints and free time in Chiapa de Corzo.

  • For more information, check out: How to Visit the Sumidero Canyon?

Day 1 – Spend the day visiting San Cristobal de las Casas, the charming cultural capital of Chiapas .

  • Check out the Top 15 Things to Do in San Cristobal de las Casas!

Day 2 – El Chiflón and Montebello Lakes are two magnificent sites you can’t miss on your road trip in Chiapas !

Leave early in the morning because the trip is long .

Start at El Chiflón to see its 5 turquoise waterfalls: El Suspiro, Ala de Ángel, Velo de Novia, Arcoíris and Quinceañera.

Then continue on to Lagunas de Montebello National Park which is home to 59 lakes! I suggest you go to Lake Tzizcao, then Lake Pojoj, Cinco Lagos and Lake Montebello.

  • I recommend this small group guided tour with hotel pick up , visit to El Chiflón and Montebello Lakes :

Day 3 – The Tzotzil villages of Zinacantán and San Juan Chamula

These towns are 20 minutes away from San Cristobal. For a guided tour with more information, you can Book it here!

museo na bolom san cristobal

Today you will visit Palenque , a Chiapas road trip must-see!

You can drive from San Cristobal de las Casas (5h30) or stop at Toniná, Agua Azul waterfalls, or Misol-Ha.

Discover the great Mayan city of Calakmul , declared a Biosphere Reserve and UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Then, head to Xpujil and spend the night there.

  • Don’t miss The Complete Guide to Calakmul!

Next, visit Bacalar, famous for its stunning 7-color Lagoon.

You can take a catamaran tour (click here!) with music and drinks, or a stand up paddle tour at sunrise ( book it here! )

  • Check out The 17 Best Things to Do in Bacalar!

cenote bacalar

Day 1 – Visit Merida , the capital of the Yucatan.

Wander around the Plaza Grande, Casa de Montejo, the cathedral, the Macay museum, Paseo Montejo and Parque Santa Lucia.

For a foodie treat in Mérida, try this gastronomic experience that includes a market visit and a Yucatan cuisine cooking lesson.  Book it here:

Day 2 – Uxmal, Kabah, the Chocolate Museum

Today, visit Uxmal , a Mayan site with the Pyramid of the Magician, the Great Pyramid, the Governor’s Palace, the Mesoamerican ballgame court , and more.

See the Choco-Story chocolate museum near Uxmal’s entrance. Enjoy a tropical garden, a Chaac ceremony, and Mayan chocolate.

Kabah , 20 minutes away, is also worth a a quick visit.

  • Read my Ultimate Guide to Uxmal!

If you prefer, you can book a Uxmal and Kabah tour from Mérida (click here!)

Day 3 – Watch the flamingos at the Celestun Biosphere Reserve

Afterwards, you can enjoy the beach, stroll through the town of Celestún and do ecotourism at Jaltún Park.

  • Read: How to See the Flamingos in Celestun?

For a hassle-free Celestun trip with Merida pick-up, book this tour (click here!) . It includes the boat ride to see the flamingos and lunch on the beach.

Day 1 – Visit Chichen Itza , the most powerful city in the Yucatan Peninsula! Read my article on Chichen Itza

My advice Chichen Itza can get very crowded. To avoid long lines, book your fast-track tickets to Chichen Itza here :

In the afternoon, visit the yellow city of Izamal : Itzamná Park, 5 de Mayo Park, the neighborhoods of San Ildefonso, Los Remedios and El Gallito, and the Convent of San Antonio de Padua.

Don’t miss the pyramids (free admission!) Kinich Kakmó (112 ft) and Iztamatul (72 ft) that offer a beautiful view of the surroundings!

  • Read my complete guide: Visit The Yellow City of Izamal in Mexico!

izamal calles

Day 2 – Visit some cenotes in Valladolid. There are many amazing ones to choose from! See my TOP 21 of the Cenotes of Valladolid

Explore Valladolid’s colonial city: What to See and Do in Valladolid?

Day 3 – Visit Ek Balam , and the biosphere reserve of Rio Lagartos, where you can admire the famous pink lakes of Las Coloradas.

Day 1 – Start the visit of Coba, which was a major Mayan city, and admire Nohoch Mul (137 ft), the second highest pyramid in the Yucatan Peninsula .

Then head back to Tulum . Stroll along the Beach Strip (restaurants, bars, stores) and enjoy the beaches.

  • To learn everything about Tulum , here is My Definitive Guide to Tulum

Day 2 – Visit the Ruins of Tulum , go down to the beach of the ruins and then cool off in a cenote.

  • Choose from my TOP 15 of the Cenotes to Visit in Tulum !

You can also book this Tulum tour (ruins and cenote) with pick up at your hotel. Book it here:

cenote tulum

Day 3 – Spend the day in Akumal, the best place to swim with turtles in Mexico !

Sea turtles are protected: you need a guide and follow rules to not disturb them. ❤️

Take the tour from the beach or this complete tour with hotel pick-up in Tulum . It includes snorkeling with the turtles, a cenote and a grotto.

Book it here:

  • Check out: My Complete Guide to Akumal!

Day 4 –  Don’t miss the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve on your 30-day Mexico road trip.

You have to choose between two entrances:

  • Punta Allen (recommended) to take advantage of the beach, go on a boat ride, snorkeling in the coral reef – Book the day tour to Punta Allen now!
  • Muyil , to discover the interior of the reserve with swamps, lagoons and the ruins of Muyil- Book the half day tour to Muyil now!

Head to the port of Chiquilá to take the ferry (20 min) to reach Holbox .

Enjoy an island paradise with sandy beaches and no mass tourism near Riviera Maya!

  • See all Holbox offers in My Definitive Guide to Holbox!

Enjoy the last stage of your 1-month Mexico road trip ! You can:

  • Visit the beaches of Cancun
  • Enjoy the panoramic view from the top of the Scenic Tower (110m high)
  • Go to Market 28
  • Dive in the waters of the MUSA, the world’s largest underwater museum – You can book the snorkeling tour at MUSA here!
  • Go kitesurfing at Isla Blanca
  • Party in a Mexican fiesta with a typical lunch, mariachis and open bar – You can book your place in Xoximilco Cancun here!

Check out my complete guide: Top 30 Things to Do in Cancun

hotel zone cancun

Where to sleep in Mexico during your road trip?

Click on each itinerary to find the best hotels for each stage.

Here are the best accommodations in Mexico’s Main Destinations :

  • Hostel Mundo Joven Catedral (historic center): one of the best hostels in Mexico City . Clean dorms and rooms, amazing rooftop terrace with bar , great atmosphere and an exceptional view over the cathedral and the Zocalo, starting at 15$usd for a dorm and 32 $usd for a private room!
  • Hotel Villa Condesa (Condesa): if you are looking for a romantic hotel in Mexico City , this is a little oasis in the heart of La Condesa. It is an elegant house with small green terraces and tastefully decorated rooms. Rooms are spacious, breakfast is very good and the service is particularly attentive. Around  160$usd per night!
  • Casa Goliana (Roma Norte): high-end hotel with the best value for money in its category, located in an early 20th century house, typical of the Roma area. Rooftop terrace, comfortable rooms, very attentive staff, and good breakfasts. Around  190$usd per night
  • Four Seasons Hotel Mexico City (Juarez): this 5 star hotel is one of the best hotels in Mexico City , ideal for a business trip or a romantic stay . Located on Paseo de la Reforma between Colonia Juarez and Roma Norte. A large indoor garden, gym, swimming pool, spa, restaurant, and bar, Around 640$usd per night!
  • Mayan Monkey Cancun : hostel with a festive atmosphere in Cancun’s hotel zone , very close to the beach and bars. Terrace, outdoor pool, bar with happy hour , air conditioning, ping-pong, good wifi. Private rooms and dorms, from only 24$usd!
  • Bed and Breakfast Pecari : if you are looking for more comfort, I recommend without hesitation this establishment. It is a beautiful Bed and Breakfast located in a quiet street near the city center and the ADO bus station, with a relaxation area by the pool, spacious rooms, and a good breakfast, starting at 50$usd per night!
  • Beachscape Kin Ha Villas & Suites: rooms, suites, and villas for 2 to 12 people with direct access to the beach . Outdoor pool, children’s pool, gym, restaurant, beach bar. Breakfast included, starting at 218$usd per night.
  • The Royal Sands Resort & Spa : spacious rooms and suites with ocean views, in the heart of Cancun’s hotel zone. Large outdoor pool, gym, spa, fine restaurants, sports bar and many activities. All inclusive, starting at 485 $usd per night

My tip For more options, you can visit my article about the best hotels and resorts in Cancun and find your perfect hotel. Here is the link: Where to Stay in Cancun?

  • Che Playa Hostel & Bar Adults Only : great hostel to meet other travelers and party , with a rooftop terrace that has a bar and a small pool, with several offered activities . Clean, with good wifi and a great welcome. From only 13 $usd for the dormitory or 37 $usd for a private room!
  • Hotel Lunata : a charming hotel with hacienda style decoration, which is hidden on Quinta Avenida, very close to the beach . Quiet, with a garden, rooms with balcony, and has very friendly service. From only 82 $usd per night!
  • Porto Playa Condo Beach Club : here you will find a spacious apartment ideal for a family , with fully equipped kitchen, living room and terrace. The hotel has a large swimming pool , a gym and a restaurant, starting at 172 $usd per night!
  • The Reef Playacar Resort & Spa : located on the beautiful beach of Playacar , just a few minutes from Fifth Avenue . Ideal for a romantic stay , with a beautiful tropical garden, two pools, a gym and a spa. 200 $usd with the “all inclusive” formula.
  • Hotel Xcaret Mexico All Parks All Fun Inclusive: it is definitely the best hotel in Playa del Carmen! Ideal for couples and families with children as this luxury hotel offers an exceptional package including meals and access to its parks (Xcaret, Xplor , Xplor Fuego, Xenses, Xoximilco, Xel-Ha and Xenote). Starting at 860 $usd per night, all inclusive.

My tip Check out my comprehensive guide to find the perfect hotel or resort for your stay . Here’s the link: Where to Stay in Playa del Carmen?  

  • The Coffee Bean Hostel : A very cozy hostel with nice common areas, a restaurant and bar, a garden, terrace with hammocks, pool tables and several breakfast options, starting at 12 $usd in a shared dorm!
  • Parador Margarita : Only 3 blocks from the main square and the bus station, it is a small haven of peace with a garden and very comfortable beds. Wifi and breakfast are included, only 46 $usd per night!
  • Hotel Diego de Mazariegos: A magnificent 18th century mansion with a preserved Mexican colonial style, a charming interior courtyard with a fountain and classic decoration in warm tones. The hotel has two restaurants and a bar. Wifi and breakfast included, from only 73 $usd per night!
  • Casa Lum Hotel Boutique: My favorite hotel in San Cristobal de las Casas ! It is a small and sophisticated hotel decorated between modernity and traditional design. Includes a great restaurant, a terrace with a panoramic view over the city and a garden. A few steps from the main square, it is the ideal place for lovers, from 164 $usd per night!
  • Mayan Monkey Tulum:  An excellent value for money . Nice modern hostel with a good atmosphere, a pool, bar and garden. Including fast wifi, kitchen access, yoga classes, coworking spaces, and bike and motorcycle rentals. Dorms and private rooms starting at only 24 $usd per night.
  • Casa Almendro:  If you are looking for a little more comfort, you will like this small cheap hotel in the center of Tulum . It’s a green oasis with a rooftop terrace with chairs and hammocks. There are king size beds and breakfast is included, from only 50 $usd per night!
  • Diamante K:  Is a high-end hotel but at a very fair price , which is exceptional in Tulum, especially for a hotel with direct access to the beach in the hotel zone! Bohemian chic atmosphere, including a restaurant, hammocks and beds on the private beach, and a massage service. Bungalows are 207 $usd per night.
  • Habitas Tulum: This small eco-friendly hotel with a chic design is ideal for a romantic stay in Tulum . It is a true oasis of peace, hidden among the palm trees, with a magnificent swimming pool and a private beach. There are also yoga classes on the terrace at sunset. From 371 $usd per night!
  • Kanan Tulum- Adults Only: This is the ultimate option for a luxury stay in Tulum . It is an ecological hotel for adults only, located on a beautiful private beach with hammocks and beds. With a fantastic rooftop terrace with a bar; the hotel also has an excellent restaurant, great rooms and a very friendly welcome. From 566 $usd per night!

Doing a road trip in Mexico by car is definitely the best way to explore this country!

Here are some of my latest tips for your road trip in Mexico:

  • Don’t drive at night:  roads are poorly lit and there is a higher risk of accidents. Also, many areas of Mexico are not safe during these hours.
  • Expect checkpoints by police, army, or locals. Don’t panic, they are routine.
  • Sometimes people take over checkpoints to protest.  Give them a coin to pass.
  • Watch out for speed bumps, called “topes”.  They are high and can damage your car.
  • You need a valid driver’s license in Mexico . An international one is not required.
  • Choose toll roads, called “de cuota”. They are better and safer than free roads.
  • Get a TAG (electronic toll plate): the app lets you recharge it ( Android – Iphone) or at a point . It also helps you calculate your road trip budget (tolls + gas)!

Renting a car is for sure the best way to explore the country and make the most of your stay!

To rent a car, personally, I always use Booking.com Cars, for a few reasons:

Simply click on the green button to find your rental car at the best price:

The best time for a Mexico road trip depends on the region.

Generally, November to February is good : less rain, heat, and humidity.

Avoid the rainy season (May to October): more rain, cloudy water, and possible hurricanes (especially in September).

My advice  You can still go to Mexico in the rainy season. Many travelers enjoy it.

Discover all my articles about Mexico : All my articles to help you plan your trip to Mexico are listed there.

  • The 35 Best Things to Do in Mexico
  • Yucatan Peninsula : Top 20 things to Do and See
  • Cancun : the 35 Best Things to Discover
  • Playa del Carmen : Top 30 Things To Do and Must-See Attractions
  • Itinerary : 10 days in Mexico – Mexico City, Chiapas and Yucatan
  • Itinerary : 2 weeks in Mexico   – Best itinerary to discover the Yucatan Peninsula and Chiapas!
  • Itinerary : 3 weeks in Mexico – Mexico City, Puebla, Oaxaca, Chiapas, Campeche, Yucatán and Riviera Maya
  • Itinerary : 1 month in Mexico – My Epic 30-31 Days Itinerary from Mexico City to Cancun
  • Itinerary : 1 week in Yucatan – The Ultimate 6, 7 or 8 days Itinerary
  • Itinerary : 10 days in Yucatan – Best Itinerary for 9, 10 or 11 Days in Yucatan
  • Itinerary : 2 weeks in Yucatan – Epic Itinerary + All my Best Tips!
  • Itinerary : 3 weeks in Yucatan – Best things to do in 20-21 days
  • Itinerary : 1 month in Yucatan – Yucatan Peninsula in 29, 30 or 31 days from Cancun
  • Road trip in Yucatan : The best itineraries for 7, 10, 15, 21 days and 1 month

You’re using Pinterest? Here is the picture to pin!

Mexico Road Trip Itinerary

I have created this blog to give you all my best tips to plan your next trip to Mexico, regardless of your budget. I share detailed itineraries, advice about places to visit as well as recommendations for transportation, hotels and restaurants. I hope I will also help you to discover amazing off the beaten path destinations in Mexico!

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  • All our Guides about Mexico

Two Weeks in Mexico: The BEST Yucatan Road Trip Itinerary

Adventurous Kate contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, I will earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks!

After spending a winter living in Mérida and years of trips traveling through the Yucatán Peninsula, I’ve finally put together the best itinerary for two weeks in Mexico.

Most travelers go to Mexico to lie on the beach for a week, maybe go on an excursion to a ruin or a cenote, and head straight home.

And yes. That can be fun. But you can do SO MUCH better than that!!

Mexico is one of my favorite countries. It’s absolutely brimming with culture and music and fantastic food and the nicest, kindest people. It’s diverse in experiences and it’s so much more than what most people think it is.

You might look at this itinerary and think to yourself, “You know, I’ve been to Playa del Carmen before. I’ve done Chichén Itzá, too. Is it worth it to go back to the same region?”

Yes. It’s worth it. Because the Yucatán is SO much more than just beaches and ruins. Plus, when you do it on your own — on a road trip or even by public transportation — it’s so much more satisfying than staying in a resort and traveling on tours.

Even if you’ve already been to a resort in the Cancún-Playa del Carmen-Tulum area, I encourage you to give road-tripping around the Yucatán Peninsula a chance. This is a fantastic part of Mexico.

You can download this as a printable itinerary here!

This post was most recently updated in January 2023.

Table of Contents

A Mexican street with brightly painted buildings and bright triangular flags hanging on lines between them.

Two Weeks in Mexico

If you’ve got two weeks in Mexico, you could go in lots of different directions. Honestly, I’ve spent months in Mexico and my list of places I still haven’t been (Baja! Guanajuato! El Chepe!) is miles long.

But Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula is great because it’s easy for all kinds of travelers, yet diverse and fulfilling enough for experienced travelers.

You’ll fly into Cancún International Airport, which is well-connected with lots of flights. You’ll drive on good roads. You’ll visit destinations that are accustomed to tourism — but not too overtouristed.

What does this part of Mexico look like? In two weeks in the Yucatán Peninsula, you could see places as varied as these:

A wooden walkway through a swamp.

Unusually, this Mexico itinerary does NOT include Cancún, Playa del Carmen, or Tulum. Almost every Yucatán road trip itinerary includes at least one of these destinations as a stopover. Not this time.

Why don’t I include them? Because there are better places to go.

My goal, today and always, is to ensure that you have the best trip possible. Those three destinations are overcrowded and expensive. You don’t have to go there just because everyone else does — but you’ll still pack in some beach time.

This two week trip to Mexico packs in so much! One of the coolest islands around, a big city with tons of great restaurants, ancient Mayan ruins, underground neon-blue cenotes, soft white sand beaches, and the Lake of Seven Colors.

Cenotes, in particular, are the best part of traveling the Yucatán, in my opinion.

Read More: 50+ Best Cenotes in Mexico

Definitely don’t miss the vibrant city of Mérida , the lake of seven colors in Bacalar , and magical, bohemian Isla Holbox !

If you spend it in the Yucatán Peninsula , you’ll have easy access to beaches, ruins, cenotes, cool cities, and color-changing lakes.

Yes! The Yucatan is an incredibly safe part of Mexico (and Mérida is safer than every city in the US). It’s a safe place to travel solo as a woman.

The best time to visit the Yucatan is between December and March , when the weather is gorgeous and it isn’t too hot or too rainy.

Yucatán Road Trip Map

On the map above, you can see the driving route you would take on this trip. The destinations in blue are where you would overnight; the destinations in orange are day trip options.

Here is the two weeks in Mexico itinerary I recommend:

  • Day 1: Arrive Cancún Airport, drive to Chiquilá, ferry to Holbox
  • Days 2-3: Holbox
  • Day 4: Drive from Holbox to Valladolíd
  • Day 5: Valladolíd and surrounding area
  • Day 6: Drive from Valladolíd to Río Lagartos
  • Day 7: Drive from Río Lagartos to Mérida via Izamal
  • Days 8-10: Mérida and day trips
  • Day 11: Drive from Mérida to Bacalar
  • Days 12-13: Bacalar
  • Day 14: Drive from Bacalar to Cancún Airport

People getting ready to watch the sunset at Zomay bar on Holbox.

Day 1: Arrive Cancún, drive to Holbox

Upon arrival, pick up your rental car and drive to the town of Chiquilá (two hours). This town is where you get the ferry to Isla Holbox . Holbox is a car-free island (except for some local vehicles), so you’ll be leaving your car on the mainland for a few days. You can take a golf cart to your hotel!

Park in one of the many parking lots in Chiquilá — don’t worry, this is a safe place to leave your car! Plenty of tourists do every day. The rates are usually 100 pesos ($5) for 24 hours.

Head to the dock and hop on one of the ferries that run every half hour. The journey costs about 200 pesos ($10) for an adult.

Once you arrive on the island, walk or take a taxi to your accommodation (the taxis are all golf carts here!). Then just relax and stroll around the island, getting to know your new home for a few days. You’ll be spending three nights here.

Where to Stay in Holbox

Holbox is a small island, and I recommend staying within a few blocks of the main center. The western part of the island is home to lots of rentals, but there aren’t as many shops or restaurants.

If you want a luxury accommodation, I recommend Ser Casasandra . This is the best luxury spot on the island (and I stayed here on my first trip ). I love the beachfront area, the pool, the romantic design of the rooms, and the food is outstanding.

If you want mid-range accommodation, I recommend Hotel Para Ti . I stayed here on my second trip and absolutely loved this adults-only hotel. It has a great pool area, the decor is bohemian and fun, they are a perfect quiet location a few blocks from the town, and once again, ADULTS ONLY.

If you want budget accommodation, I recommend Hotelito Villas Holbox . This hostel is right in the center of town, and rooms are small and basic but clean. If you want to stay at a hostel, I recommend Tribu , but know it can get loud at night.

Find deals on Holbox hotels here.

Kate wearing a long denim skirt and bathing suit top, facing outwards while standing in ankle-deep clear blue water in Holbox.

Days 2 and 3: Isla Holbox

Take these two full days to unwind on Isla Holbox. You can spend your time idling on the beach or taking day trips around the island. Either way, be sure to have some great cocktails and catch a few sunsets.

Things to Do in Isla Holbox

Take a boat trip to Cabo Catoche. I loved my trip to Cabo Catoche! This inlet is further away from town, but it’s where you get the clearest, most beautiful water. An absolute must for people who want good photos of Holbox. This Cabo Catoche tour includes snorkeling and/or fishing.

See three islands on a boat trip. This popular three-island boat trip will take you to Bird Island, home to tons of interesting birds; uninhabited Pasion Island, where you can walk on a sandbar; as well as the mainland to swim in Cenote Yalahau.

If you’re visiting from June through September, you can swim with whale sharks ! One of the coolest activities you can do in Mexico! Peak season is in July and August.

Head to Punta Cocos for the sunset. Watch with a cocktail in hand! It’s a very long walk and I recommend taking a taxi, as it will be dark when you start walking back. Taxis wait around to take people back after sunset. Bring mosquito repellant!

Just hang out on the beach. Even if you don’t book a hotel with beachfront access, there are lots of beach clubs and restaurants where you can set up camp for the day.

Read More: Ultimate Guide to Isla Holbox, Mexico

A colonial church in Mexico surrounded by palm trees.

Day 4: Holbox to Valladolíd

Take the ferry back to Chiquilá, pick up your car, and head out on the road. If you’re hungry, I recommend getting breakfast at La Sardina Enamorada on the mainland in Chiquilá.

Today you’ll be driving from Chiquilá to Valladolíd (just over two hours), crossing from Quintana Roo into Yucatán state.

Know that you will be crossing a time zone! As you cross into Yucatán state, time drops one hour earlier.

Valladolíd is one of the prettiest colonial towns in Mexico, and it’s especially nice in late afternoons and evenings, once the tourists day-tripping from all inclusive resorts go home. It feels gentle and welcoming. You’ll fall under its spell in no time.

Things to Do in Valladolíd

Take a dip in Cenote Zaci. Cenotes are all over the Yucatán, but Cenote Zaci is right in the middle of downtown Valladolíd! The water isn’t as clear as others but it’s a beautiful setting with waterfalls. It’s one of the deepest cenotes in the region, too, and hosts free diving competitions.

Note: Cenote Zaci closed for renovations in mid-2022. We hope it reopens soon. Their restaurant.

Enjoy the zócalo. Valladolíd’s main square is a lovely place to sit and people-watch.

Get gelato at Wabi Gelato . Good gelato is very hard to find in Mexico — this is a special place for a treat. Flavors are limited but inventive and change frequently. I loved their rosemary gelato.

Stroll down Calzada de los Frailes. This is arguably the prettiest street in Valladolíd, if not all the Yucatán, decorated with flags and lined with cafes, bakeries, shops, and hotels. I had a great pay de limón (lemon pie) at a cafe called ConKafecito .

Visit the Convent de San Bernardino de Siena. At the end of Calzada de los Frailes is a former convent that you can visit. There is a sound and light show in the evenings. This is also where you’ll find the town’s Valladolíd sign.

Where to Stay in Valladolíd

Valladolíd is a small, cheap city and you can enjoy it on a budget, but spending a bit more money can get you a much nicer hotel. I recommend staying within a few blocks of the zócalo, the main square, to maximize your time here.

If you want luxury accommodation, I recommend Le Muuch Hotel . This may be the most beautiful property in town with chic, colorful rooms and a beautiful outdoor area with hammocks and a pool.

If you want mid-range accommodation, I recommend Casa Tia Micha . This is a mid-range property that feels luxurious, from its classy stone bathtubs to its elegant carved wood furniture, but it’s well priced and central.

If you want budget accommodation, I recommend Hotel Zazil-Maj . Here the rooms are simple but clean and recently renovated, just a few blocks from Cenote Zaci.

Find deals on places to stay in Valladolíd here .

Kate standing in front of the giant mayan pyramid at Chichen Itza.

Day 5: Valladolíd, Chichén Itza, and Cenotes

Today it’s all about seeing the surroundings of Valladolíd! First thing in the morning, head to the Chichén Itzá ruins (45 minutes). They open at 8:00 AM and I recommend being there as early as possible to get a good parking spot and avoid the tourist crowds from the resorts.

The Chichén Itzá ruins are some of the largest and most impressive ruins on the Yucatán Peninsula, as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. El Castillo, also known as the Temple of Kukulkan, is an enormous and impressive pyramid, but I found that some of the most enjoyable sites are those further afield.

Keep in mind that Chichén Itzá allows merchants to sell direct on site, and it can get annoying having men constantly ask you to buy things. They sell devices that make a jaguar noise, so you’ll hear constant jaguar shrieks throughout your visit. Be ready for that!

Note: I do not recommend visiting Chichén Itzá on a Sunday. This is the day Mexicans get free admission. As a result, the site is even more insanely crowded and parking is a nightmare. If Day 5 is scheduled on a Sunday, I recommend going to Chichén Itzá on the afternoon of Day 4 instead.

After the ruins, backtrack a bit to enjoy a cenote. One of my favorite cenotes is in this region: Hacienda San Lorenzo Oxman . I love this cenote because it’s visually spectacular, large, not too touristed, the grounds are lovely, and the food is surprisingly good. It’s solid all around and a great place to visit.

You do drive back toward Valladolíd for this cenote (50 minutes), but trust me, it’s best to visit Chichén Itzá in the morning when it’s less hot and crowded and then cool off in the cenote after.

Another option is Cenote Ik-Kil , which has a similar look and style, but this is much more popular with Chichén Itzá tourists and it gets more crowded.

You might want to head back to Valladolíd and have a relaxed, chilled out afternoon and evening.

But if you want to continue ruins-hopping, consider visiting Ek Balam, which is about a 30-minute drive north of Valladolíd. Ek Balam only gets a fraction of the tourists that Chichén Itza receives!

There are tons more cenotes surrounding Valladolíd, including Cenote Suytun, the Instagram-famous one with the platform. Be sure to check out the “cenotes near Valladolíd” section of my cenote guide .

A bright pink lake changing to blue underneath the sky.

Day 6: Valladolíd to Río Lagartos

Today you’re getting an early start and driving north to Río Lagartos. This is a short journey — just 90 minutes by car — but this is the only day that you have here.

Because of that, I urge you to book a Río Lagartos tour before you leave on your trip. It can be hard to jump on a tour same-day.

If you’ve dreamed of visiting pink lakes, that’s the star attraction of this region. Those pink lakes are called Las Coloradas.

In Río Lagartos there are several tour operators in town who have both private and group tours of the landscapes and the neon pink salt flats. I don’t have a specific tour operator recommendation, but be sure to ask around and see just how much time you spend at the lakes. Some tour operators will whisk you by quickly without much time to enjoy them.

Keep in mind that you may not see as many flamingos as you’d like — peak season is from March to June and climate change has impacted the number of flamingos that make their home here. But the pink lakes? Spectacular.

Important note: Since Las Coloradas became an Instagram hotspot in the last decade, people are no longer allowed to get into the pink lakes or use drones at the lakes. Please respect the rules.

Where to Stay in Río Lagartos

Río Lagartos is a very small town and there isn’t a huge variety of accommodation — at least not yet! All of these properties are located within the center of town.

If you want upscale accommodation, I recommend Hotel Río Lagartos . While not super luxurious, this is one of the best properties in town. It has a nice pool and swim-up bar, as well as views over the water.

If you want mid-range accommodation, I recommend Hotel Tabasco Rio . This stylish property offers great value for money and has hot, powerful showers.

If you want budget accommodation, I recommend Hotel Mercy Inn’s . This hotel is simple but clean and comfortable with beds that are a step above the usuals in budget Mexican hotels.

Find deals on places to stay in Río Lagartos here .

Kate wearing a red dress, standing in front of a yellow monument in Izamal.

Day 7: Río Lagartos to Mérida via Izamal

You’ve got two options today. You can spend the morning on another tour in Río Lagartos, or head off as soon as you get up.

There’s a lot to see between Río Lagartos and Mérida, so I recommend figuring out what you want to do the most. The Ek Balam ruins and Cenote Sac-Aua (1 hour, 15 minutes from Río Lagartos) make a great pairing.

If not? Head straight to Izamal (two hours from Río Lagartos, 1 hour 45 minutes from Ek Balam). This town, one of Mexico’s Pueblos Mágicos , is famous for its color — everything is painted bright canary yellow!

While some people say that it was painted yellow for Pope John Paul II’s visit in 1993, the town was actually yellow for quite some time beforehand. It’s a cute town and great for photos.

If you’re low on time, you can axe Izamal if you want to — it’s easy to visit from Mérida.

Finally, it’s time to drive from Izamal to Mérida (1 hour), where you’ll be staying for the next four nights.

Where to Stay in Mérida

My top recommendation in Mérida is to stay in Centro. Mérida is a huge city of many neighborhoods, and some of these neighborhoods are popular with expats, but I recommend Centro because you’ll be able to walk everywhere (or take a $1 Uber), the best restaurants are located here, and it’s filled with lovely colorful buildings and nice parks.

If you want luxury accommodation, I recommend Casa Lecanda Boutique Hotel . Every inch of this beautifully restored villa hotel is drool-worthy, from the outdoor pool area to the elegant, classy rooms. It’s located right on the best restaurant street in Mérida, literally the best location possible, and is close to everything.

If you want mid-range accommodation, I recommend Viva Mérida Hotel Boutique . When you see this hotel, you’ll think it’s luxury — but it’s actually great value for money. The hotel is colorful and very Yucatecan in style, and it’s a few blocks from Mérida’s zócalo and the center of town.

If you want budget accommodation, I recommend Hotel La Piazzetta . Located on the eastern part of the Centro on Parque de la Mejorada, this hotel is small and simple with comfortable rooms but they bring out cute creative touches wherever they can.

As far as hostels go, Nomadas Ecohostel is a classic.

Find deals on Mérida hotels here .

Bright periwinkle, yellow, and red buildings in Merida.

Days 8, 9, and 10: Mérida

I visited Mérida for the first time in early 2019, and I loved it so much, I came back to live there for two months a year later! Four years since that first trip, it’s still one of my top five favorite places in Mexico (along with Oaxaca , Guanajuato , Mexico City , and Bacalar ).

This city is low-key, welcoming, and cheap. It wasn’t on tourists’ radar for a long time, but it’s becoming more popular over the last five years. It seems like everyone who comes here loves it.

By this point, halfway through your Yucatán road trip, you’ll be looking to relax a bit, and Mérida is the perfect place to do so. Come here to explore the surroundings. I hope you’re ready to eat.

Mérida is a great place to hang out, but more than that, I’m convinced it’s the best base for day trips in all of Mexico. You can go to so many cool places within a short drive of Mérida.

Best Restaurants in Mérida

You can eat extremely well on the cheap in Mérida. Honestly, I’m including a whole restaurants section here because there are so many good ones. I miss the restaurants in Mérida so much!

For breakfast, my #1 recommendation is to get the molletes at SOCO . SOCO is a bakery and everything they make is scrumptious. Molletes are a very simple dish — just bread topped with beans, cheese, and pico de gallo — but SOCO makes them SO much better than anyone else. You can also pick up a loaf of sourdough to take back with you.

For lunch and dinner, my absolute favorite restaurant is Micaela Mar y Leña , which specializes in seafood but also has a lot of good meat dishes. This is a high-end restaurant and if you’re into design, you’ll love the interior. I want my future home to look like Micaela!

My favorite dishes are the smoked oyster dip appetizer (if you’re a New Englander missing chowder, this will scratch your itch), the fabulous grilled shrimp, and the whole octopus, which is a showstopper. The cocktails are sensational.

Another superb restaurant, and the one I visited most frequently while living in Mérida, is Hermana Republica (the location on Avenida Colón, which is central to Mérida). This is a local brewery with excellent beers. My favorite is the Belgian Blonde.

It may just be a casual brewery, but the food is SUPERB — Yucatecan and Mexican specialties that are just phenomenal, from sopa de lima to salbutes de cochinita to tostadas de atún . They also serve the best tortilla chips I’ve ever had.

Those may be my absolute favorites, but I have a few others to recommend. I love Chill-Akil for customizable chilaquiles for breakfast (you can also go to Chilakilez if you like them with crispy pork belly). La Casita del Cheviche is great for ceviche and especially the shrimp aguachile. Merci is where you go for fancy breakfast or lunch.

Mercado 60 is a trendy food hall with a huge variety of food, not just Mexican, and makes for a fun night out. El Catrín can be hit-or-miss, but the atmosphere is fun — go when it’s dark for a mezcal margarita, guacamole, and their light show.

My friend Nathan lived in Mérida for a few years and is the ultimate expert on the best restaurants in Mérida .

And if you love high-end coffee, Manifesto is phenomenal, with the best coffees in town. They roast in-shop. Márago Coffee is also nice and they’ll make coffee in lots of different ways, from Chemex to French Press to Aeropress.

Things to Do in Mérida

Honestly, I spend my time in Mérida hanging out, eating, or doing day trips outside the city. But if you’re looking for things to do within the city, here are a few great options:

Stroll down Paseo Montejo. Many people consider this one of the most beautiful streets in Mexico, lined with mansions, shops, museums, and cafes.

Experience a magical Mayan ancestral ceremony . My sister and I did this when she came to visit! This ceremony is an interesting look into Mayan culture right in Mérida. After receiving the ceremony from a Mayan shaman, you spend time soaking in several herb-scented tubs. It’s unusual, peaceful, and I recommend it.

Go on a design walk. Mérida is becoming one of the big design hubs for Mexico, and you can go on a few different tours to see how people have renovated these homes. The Mérida English Library puts on free walking tours ( see schedule here ).

Check out El Gran Museo del Mundo Maya . This phenomenal museum is one of the most comprehensive guides to Mayan culture, and has lots of interesting displays. It’s on the way out of town.

Visit the cantinas. Two of Mérida’s most fun casual bars are La Negrita and La Fundación Mezcalería , which are owned by the same people and both feature great drinks, live music, and dancing. La Negrita is open until 10 PM, making it an early spot; La Fundación Mezcalería goes until late.

Best Day Trips from Mérida

Where Mérida really shines is its day trips. It’s a huge advantage over other Mexican cities. If you’re eager to explore, take two of those Mérida days and spend them exploring the surrounding region. Here are some of my recommendations:

Celestún. This low-key beach town with powdery white sand just might be the next-next-next Holbox. You can also explore the mangroves. While flamingoes used to dominate the landscape, their population has dwindled in recent years due to climate change. Celestún is a great day trip, and a one-hour drive from Mérida. You can also visit on a tour from Mérida .

Progreso. Want a wilder Mexican beach town? Progreso is a true local experience with blasting music and beers on the beach. Is it pretty? Eh, it’s all right. But is it fun and authentically Mexican getaway? Hell yes.

Progreso is a 40-minute drive from Mérida. If you plan to drink on the beach, consider taking an Uber instead — it should take 40 minutes and cost around $15 each way.

Mayapán ruins and cenotes. The Mayapán ruins are close to Mérida (45 minutes — be sure not to drive to the town of Mayapán, which is a different place and further away) and one of the nice things is that you can actually climb them! Even the giant pyramid.

Mayapán is close to several of the best cenotes in Mexico , including Cenote Noh Mozon and Na Yah Cenote, both near the town of Pixyá. This tour from Mérida includes both Mayapán and the cenotes of Homún.

If you skip Izamal on your drive from Valladolíd to Mérida, some of my friends think that Izamal makes the perfect addition to a Mayapán and cenotes trip.

Uxmal ruins, chocolate museum, and cenotes. The UNESCO World Heritage-listed Uxmal ruins are better than Chichén Itzá, in my opinion, and get a fraction of the visitors. This tour from Mérida includes the ruins, the chocolate museum next door, and a cenote visit.

Homún or Cuzama cenotes. There are SO many cenote options in this part of the Yucatán! The towns of Homún and Cuzama are famous for their high concentration of cenotes, both hacienda cenotes and wild cenotes.

If you want a more developed and organized cenote with a restaurant on site, head somewhere like the Santa Barbara Cenotes . But if you want something more rough and wild, there are plenty of motorbike drivers who will take you to some off the beaten path sites. You can also book them on a tour from Mérida .

Campeche. This town is so pretty. Campeche has a UNESCO World Heritage-listed old town, and it’s prettier and more put together than Mérida’s. At 2 hours and 15 minutes, it’s one of the longer day trips from Mérida, but it can be done. See my full Campeche guide here.

Alternatively, you can spend three nights in Mérida instead of four and spend the fourth night in Campeche.

Friends walking down a dock in Bacalar, Mexico, blue lake on each side.

Day 11: Mérida to Bacalar

Bacalar , a town set on a lagoon in Quintana Roo, is one of my absolute favorite places in all of Mexico. They call Lake Bacalar the Lake of Seven Colors and it genuinely lives up to its name, shimmering in every color from cerulean to aquamarine to ink.

Bacalar is unique and special, and juuuuust starting to get popular. My advice? Go as soon as you can; it may not always be as peaceful as it is now.

Bacalar is just over a four-hour drive from Mérida. If you eat pork, I have the BEST lunch stop for you: it’s a place called Carnes Asadas “Mr. Samy’s” in the town of José Maria Morelos, about halfway between Mérida and Bacalar. Samy and his wonderful family served me and my friends on the way there and back, and the food is SO good.

Most likely you’ll get to Bacalar in the late afternoon. Take it easy after your long drive: get settled in at your hotel and enjoy some drinks and ceviche while overlooking the beautiful lake at sunset.

Where to Stay in Bacalar

If you want luxury accommodation, there are two options depending on the kind of trip you want. I recommend Mia Bacalar Luxury Resort and Spa if you want an isolated luxury spa getaway on the lake. If you want to be central, and able to enjoy the town, Hotel Carolina is one of the nicest properties in Bacalar town with nice rooms and swings right in the lake.

If you want mid-range accommodation, I recommend Casa Chukum . This beautiful, environmentally friendly hotel has colorful rooms and a chlorine-free swimming pool, and the complimentary breakfast includes eggs.

If you want budget accommodation, I recommend The Yak Lake House Hostel . This classic Bacalar spot has both dorms and private rooms, and it’s a great place to meet new people or just relax at its lakefront location.

Find deals on Bacalar hotels here .

A bright turquoise lazy river next to a restaurant, people swimming and kayaking.

Days 12 and 13: Bacalar

You should spend a minimum of two full days in Bacalar, because one should be spent on a boat tour of the lake, and one should be spent at Los Rapidos. Trust me on this one. They’re both wonderful activities and I wouldn’t want to go to Bacalar without enjoying both to the fullest.

Things to Do in Bacalar

A boat tour is the most popular activity to do in Bacalar, and booking this should be your top priority. You can join a boat tour (this one has an open bar) — or hire your own boat if you want a private trip — and explore the lagoon, from the shallow waters of Pirates’ Canal to the dark cenotes within the lake itself. Many boats turn into a party!

Spend a day at Los Rapidos. Los Rapidos is a riverside beach club about a 20-minute drive outside Bacalar. You can sit by the river, lie in Instagrammable hammocks right in the water, and enjoy food and cocktails — but the best part is jumping in the river and letting it whisk you downstream! Insanely fun.

I highly recommend water shoes for Los Rapidos, as the pavement is sharp and painful to walk on, but the river carries you downstream so you can’t get out in where you left your shoes. Water shoes solve that problem. They’re also good for wearing in Lake Bacalar.

Check out the Cenote Azul. This is a good place to stop on the way to Los Rapidos, as it’s on the same road out of town. This giant open cenote is a nice place to stop for a morning swim.

Go stand-up paddle boarding. If you’ve never tried SUP before, a lake is the perfect place to learn. It’s a great core workout that doesn’t feel like a workout, and a gorgeous way to explore the lake. You can book a sunrise paddleboarding tour here.

Hang out on the docks and at the beach clubs. Throughout Bacalar town there are docks where you can just go and sit and enjoy the atmosphere. Many belong to hotels and guesthouses, but several are open to the public, too.

Read More: Guide to Bacalar, Mexico’s Lake of Seven Colors

Huts on Bacalar Lagoon underneath a pink and blue sky.

Day 14: Bacalar to Cancún Airport

Sad times — it’s time to head home. The drive from Bacalar to Cancún Airport takes about four hours.

If you have an early flight departing from Cancún, it might make more sense to drive up from Bacalar the night before and spend the night in a hotel close to the airport like the Courtyard by Marriott Cancún Airport , which is good value for money and just a four-minute drive from departures.

A motorcycle driving down the street in Bacalar, Mexico

Is it safe to drive in Mexico?

A lot of people get intimidated about driving in Mexico — but it’s not as scary as you think, especially here in the Yucatán Peninsula. This is a safe and easy region of the country. I wouldn’t hesitate to drive alone in this part of Mexico!

If you’re driving in Mexico for the first time ever, the Yucatán Peninsula is the perfect place to start. Most major roads are in good condition. Yucatán state has exceptionally low crime; Quintana Roo state’s crime is mostly concentrated in the resort towns you’ll be avoiding. The landscape is flat for the most part and you don’t have to deal with treacherous mountain passes.

In other parts of Mexico, like remote areas of Chiapas, locals frequently shut down roads due to protests or ask passing drivers for money; this is very uncommon in the states of Yucatán, Campeche, and Quintana Roo.

If you’re looking to get good value for money, I recommend comparing car rental rates at RentalCars.com . Keep in mind that the cheapest rates are often for manual transmissions — if you need an automatic car, specify that when you book so there are no surprises.

Obviously, you’ll need a license to drive in Mexico. Mexico recognizes English language licenses, regardless of country. If you don’t have an English or Spanish language license, you may want to bring an international driving permit (which is essentially a translation of your license that you can get in your home country).

Mexicans drive on the right side of the road.

If you’re nervous, you may want to do all your driving during the day. I planned out this Mexico road trip itinerary so that you could do all of your driving during the day if possible. The longest driving days are about four hours. A lot of people feel more comfortable driving during the day, when more people are out and the light is better.

Speed bumps are a continuous annoyance while driving in Mexico. They are everywhere — in the middle of towns, on smaller roads, on busy roads, and sometimes even on the highway. While sometimes they’re painted yellow and have signs, sometimes they appear out of nowhere and are hard to spot. Keep an eye on the road continuously.

There are lots of toll roads ( cuota roads) in Mexico, and they add up. Still, I recommend taking toll roads when you can, as they tend to be in far better condition with fewer potholes and speed bumps. Keep money on you — both bills and change — to pay these tolls. You may have to pay as much as 200 pesos ($10). Trust me, it’s better than the regular roads.

There are checkpoints throughout the Yucatán Peninsula, especially when crossing state lines. Sometimes they will wave you straight through; sometimes they will ask you where you’re going. One time, when driving into the town of Hecelchakán in Campeche, a local cop asked me why we were heading there. “Cochinita,” we replied — we were there for the famous slow-roasted pork. He grinned and waved us in.

Gas stations are easy to find throughout the Yucatán Peninsula. I’m a fairly cautious person and tend to refill when I get down to half a tank; you won’t need to worry about this, as there are plenty of stations. Gas stations in Mexico are full-service — the attendant pumps your gas for you. Be sure to give him a small tip (10-20 pesos is fine).

You should keep in mind that many rural areas of Mexico have no phone signal, and that includes along the highways. Much of the time you need to get to a town before you get phone signal.

Finally — Mexico is not nearly as dangerous as the American media would have you believe. Just like the US, there are very safe areas and not-so-safe areas. Much of the drug violence is concentrated in pockets of the north. The Yucatán Peninsula is a very safe area of Mexico — in fact, Yucatán State and Mérida are frequently cited as the safest state and city in Mexico.

Read More: Solo Female Travel in Mexico: Is it Safe?

A stone cathedral at sunset with a purple and pink streaked sky behind it.

Alternative Yucatan Road Trip Itineraries

Want a slightly different two week Mexico itinerary? No problem! You can customize this Yucatán itinerary to your needs.

Would you rather take public transport than drive? You can do that!

Would you rather change accommodation less often and stay longer in fewer places? Indeed you can.

Do you only have 10 days or a week? We can absolutely work with that.

Do you have more than two weeks to travel? Lucky you. I have suggestions.

A hut and deck leading into the ocean at Holbox

Traveling in the Yucatán by Public Transportation

Don’t want to drive? That’s okay! With a few adjustments, you can do this trip by bus. You won’t have the freedom to come and go as you please, and you’ll have to plan ahead for scheduling your time, but for some people, not having to drive makes it worth it.

The buses in this part of Mexico are very safe and comfortable. I’ve taken them many times as a solo female traveler and I wouldn’t hesitate to take them again.

Here is the two-week Mexico itinerary I recommend, using public transportation:

  • Day 1: Get a shuttle from Cancún Airport to Chiquilá , then get the ferry to Holbox
  • Day 4: Ferry to Chiquilá, bus from Chiquilá to Río Lagartos via Tizimín
  • Day 5: Book a day trip to Las Coloradas from Río Lagartos, then bus to Valladolíd later
  • Day 6: Colectivo from Valladolíd to Chichén Itzá and back
  • Day 7: Bus from Valladolíd to Mérida
  • Days 8-10: Mérida and day trips (include Izamal here)
  • Day 11: Bus from Mérida to Bacalar
  • Day 14: Bus from Bacalar to Cancún Airport

A few notes: You may want to switch up the order of Río Lagartos and Valladolíd. If you’re traveling from Río Lagartos to Mérida, you’ll need to change buses in Tizimín.

You technically can get a bus from Valladolíd to Chichén Itzá to Mérida, but you probably don’t want to drag your luggage around the ruins, so I recommend doing Chichén Itza as a day trip from Valladolíd and catching a bus to Mérida the next day.

While in Mérida, you’ll be better off doing organized day trips that include the transportation.

Here are a few easy and fun day trips from Mérida where you won’t have to drive:

Progreso beach: Head to Progreso by public bus from Mérida (20 pesos, or $1, each way), or take an Uber for about $15 USD each way. The drive is just 40 minutes.

Mayapán ruins and cenotes: The Mayapán ruins are close to several top cenotes. This tour from Mérida includes both Mayapán and some great cenotes nearby.

Homún cenotes: Take a colectivo from Mérida to Homún (1 hour) and upon arrival, hire a motorbike driver to either take you to Santa Barbara Cenotes (resort-like hacienda experience) or hire a driver for the day to take you to several wild cenotes in the area. Alternatively, take a tour to the Santa Barbara Cenotes direct from Mérida.

Another similar option is taking a colectivo to Cuzama, another town close to Homún that has its own collection of cenotes.

Celestún beach and mangroves: I recommend booking a tour for this as the public bus takes 2.5 hours but it’s just an hour’s drive from Mérida. This Celestún tour from Mérida includes time in the biosphere reserve and free time on the white sand beach.

Uxmal ruins, chocolate, and cenotes: This Uxmal tour from Mérida includes a trip to the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Uxmal ruins, a trip to the chocolate museum, and a cenote visit.

Hammocks in the bright blue water at Los Rapidos, Bacalar

A Slower Two Week Mexico Itinerary

Do you prefer not changing hotels often, with longer stays in fewer places? I totally get it. It’s the best way to have a relaxing trip. If that’s the case with you, I recommend basing in three places during your two week trip to Mexico: Holbox, Mérida, and Bacalar.

This can be done either as a Yucatan road trip or with public buses (though keep in mind the bringing your luggage to Chichén Itza issue — you may want to go there and back to get your bags before heading to Mérida).

  • Day 1: Drive from Cancún Airport to Chiquilá, ferry to Holbox
  • Days 2-4: Holbox
  • Day 5: Ferry to Chiquilá, drive to Mérida via Valladolíd and Chichén Itzá
  • Days 6-9: Mérida
  • Day 10: Drive from Mérida to Bacalar
  • Days 11-13: Bacalar

A bright stately street with orange and green buildings with white trim in Campeche, Mexico.

If You Have More than Two Weeks

If you have longer than two weeks for your Yucatan road trip itinerary, you can add extra days to any of the previously mentioned destinations. Holbox, Mérida, and Bacalar in particular would be great places to add extra days. Here are some other things you can do.

Spend a night in Campeche . Or maybe two. Campeche is lovely — its old town is smaller, cleaner, prettier, and better put together than Mérida’s. There’s also a nice malecón , or path along the seafront. I wrote about my time in Campeche here.

Spend a night or two in Mahahual. This beachside town on the Costa Maya is on the verge of getting super-popular — the way Tulum was 15 years ago. The time to visit is now, while it’s still a bit low-key, before the major developers arrive.

If you REALLY want to, spend a night or two in Cancún, Playa Del Carmen, or Tulum. I’m not going to stop you. Just go in with measured expectations. They’re popular resort towns. Like I said, there are far better places to visit in the Yucatán Peninsula, and you’ve been to lots of them. (I’ve heard Isla Mujeres is quite nice, though.)

See the Coba ruins. The Coba ruins are about 45 minutes west of Tulum and like the Mayapán ruins, you can climb them! The Gran Cenote makes a good stop on the way back (there are turtles swimming in it!) but know it’s much pricier than the cenotes near Mérida and Valladolíd.

If you have the budget for a night or two in a resort, you’ll probably want to do it around the Riviera Maya. This part of Mexico is not lacking in resorts! Relaxing by the pool with a cocktail in hand can be a nice way to end your two-week Mexico road trip.

A street with pink, yellow and green homes in Merida, Mexico.

10 Days in Mexico Itinerary

If you only have 10 days in Mexico, I would make a few cuts on the places that excite you the least. If if were up to me, I would cut Río Lagartos out of your itinerary, limit Valladolíd to a short drive-by visit, and remove one of the days in Mérida.

Day 4 is going to be a LONG day. I recommend starting early to make the most of it.

  • Day 4: Drive from Holbox to Mérida via Valladolíd, Chichén Itzá, possibly a cenote
  • Day 5-6: Mérida and day trips
  • Day 7: Drive from Mérida to Bacalar
  • Days 8-9: Bacalar
  • Day 10: Drive from Bacalar to Cancún Airport

Purple and pink sunrise with two sailboats on the water at Holbox

One Week in Mexico Itinerary

If you only have one week in Mexico, I would split your time between two destinations: either Holbox and Mérida or Bacalar and Mérida. I know it’s tempting to add in lots of destinations, but trust me on this one.

In 2019 I spent a week in Mexico split between Holbox and Mérida and it was perfect. (And it definitely whet my appetite for more — a year later I came back to live in Mérida for the winter!)

You may want to consider a one-way car rental from Cancún to Mérida. One-way rentals can often be more expensive, but it saves you hours of driving in this case. Once again, RentalCars.com will give you an idea of the pricing.

But a car isn’t necessary for this weeklong trip. You can easily do this itinerary by public transportation on the ADO buses, as I did in 2019. If you go to Holbox, take one of the many shuttles from Cancún Airport to Chiquilá — it’s faster and easier than the bus.

  • Day 1: Arrive Cancún, drive to Chiquilá and get the ferry to Holbox (or drive to Bacalar)
  • Days 2-3: Holbox (or Bacalar)
  • Day 4: Drive from Chiquilá (or Bacalar) to Mérida
  • Days 5 and 6: Mérida
  • Day 7: Depart Mérida

There is a lot more to see on the drive from Chiquilá to Mérida — Valladolíd, Chichén Itzá, some cool cenotes, Izamal — than the drive from Bacalar to Mérida.

So which place is better, Holbox or Bacalar ? Wow, that’s a tough one! Having spent time in both places recently, I would give the edge to Bacalar. It’s more unique and I think it has a better vibe.

Several street vendors in Campeche, Mexico, serving food under a bright purple sunset.

Mexico Travel Tips

When you arrive in Mexico, you’ll fill out a form on the plane and present it at immigration. You’ll be given part of the form back. This needs to be presented when you leave Mexico — do not lose it! If you do lose it, there are places in the airport where you can pay for a new one.

If you want to get a SIM card for your phone when in Mexico, I recommend Telcel. Remember to bring your passport to the store for ID. If you run out of data, you can top it up at an OXXO drug store, which are all over Mexico.

Quintana Roo and Yucatán states are in different time zones. According to this itinerary, you’ll cross these time zones when you go from Holbox to Valladolíd on Day Four and when you go from Mérida to Bacalar on Day Ten. Keep that in mind.

Keep small change for using the bathroom. Many public restrooms charge you to use them. It’s usually 5 pesos (25 cents).

Keep in mind that an “M” on the bathroom means it’s for women! I have made that mistake before! M is for mujeres, or women. Sometimes bathrooms are labeled Mujeres and Hombres , or Damas and Caballeros .

The water is not safe to drink in Mexico. Your accommodation will often provide you with drinking water, and I recommend a LifeStraw  or SteriPen water purifier and  reusable bottle to cut down on your plastic waste. That said, there’s nothing wrong with brushing your teeth with Mexican water.

If you get sick in Mexico, consider visiting a Farmacia Ahorro. I learned this when living in Mérida — several pharmacy chains, including Farmacia Ahorro, have a doctor working in the pharmacy who can examine you! Ask the pharmacist and they’ll give you a ticket for the doctor. Tip the doctor when you’re done (100 pesos, or $5, is fine).

A bright teal-blue lake-like cenote surrounded by trees in Holbox.

Best Time to Visit Mexico for a Yucatán Road Trip

The absolute best time to visit the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico is during the winter months: from December to March. This is primarily for weather reasons: nice sunny days, it rarely rains and temperatures are at their most pleasant.

This is especially important because Mérida is brutally hot for most of the year. The winter months are when Mérida is at its most pleasant, but even in winter, you’ll occasionally have some days at 95 F (35 C).

Outside of these months, it really heats up in Mérida. Mérida’s hottest month is May, and late April and early June are also brutally hot. It stays hot through November.

The other destinations on this itinerary, like Holbox and Bacalar, aren’t QUITE as hot as Mérida, thanks to their location by the sea, but the heat can still be unpleasant. Plus, so much of this itinerary is dependent on outdoor weather conditions and I know you’d rather not risk being rained out.

Consequently, this winter months are when Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula gets the most tourists, and when places tend to be most expensive. But I encourage you to visit at this time because weather really can make or break your visit.

Plus, visiting Mexico when it’s cold at home is the point! You need a warm weather escape, and Mexico is one of the best possible places you could visit. Your friends are going to be jealous of your photos…

Kate smiling and standing in front of a Mayan ruin.

What to Pack for a Mexico Road Trip

The good thing about Mexico is that you can often buy what you need there. Still, you should pack wisely, just in case.

In terms of clothing, you can wear whatever you want in Mexico — just nothing grotesquely revealing, and keep swimwear to the beach. Light fabrics help you breathe. I tend to wear dresses, skirts, and tank tops with sandals, plus some athletic wear for active days. You might want to bring a sweater and jeans for cool nights or bus rides.

(Like my bag in the photo above? I got it at Poshería , my favorite shop in Mérida, right on Paseo Montejo. Such a great, useful souvenir!)

Here are some items that are smart to pack for a trip to Mexico:

Biodegradable sunscreen . Leave your regular sunscreen at home — it can be harmful to delicate areas like cenotes, Lake Bacalar, and the waters surrounding Holbox. Stick to the biodegradable or reef safe brands.

Earplugs . Mexico is loud . Even in small towns. Even in luxury hotels. Even on a Monday night. Earplugs are essential to get a good night’s sleep in Mexico.

LifeStraw  or SteriPen water purifier and  reusable bottle . This lets you drink water safely in Mexico without creating more waste from bottled water.

Pacsafe Travelsafe . Lock up your valuables to something sturdy in your accommodation. I consider my portable safe  the most important thing I pack .

Mosquito repellant . Mosquitos can be incessant in this part of Mexico, especially at sunset.

Travel towel . Cenotes don’t provide towels — you’ll need to bring your own.

Speakeasy Travel Supply scarf . These scarves have a hidden pocket for your passport or cash, and some come in light fabrics perfect for Mexico. I love these scarves ( I even designed my own! ).

Sports sandals . Sports sandals are ideal for climbing ruins and exploring the outdoors while leaving your feet room to breathe on hot days.

Flip-flops . I wear mine everywhere in Mexico. I can’t wear most flip-flops due to arch issues but I ADORE my  Abeo flip-flops with arch support .

Water shoes . I don’t usually recommend these, but they are extremely useful in Bacalar, especially at Los Rapidos, where you alternate being in the water and walking on painful ground.

GoPro . You are going to want to take photos in the water in this part of Mexico — especially cenotes and at Bacalar.

A bright yellow building with a stained glass image of the Virgin Mary.

Travel Insurance for Mexico

One last note — it’s absolutely vital to have travel insurance before traveling to Mexico.  If you get sick or injured on your trip, if you get robbed, or even if you have to be flown home for more care, travel insurance will protect you from financial ruin.  I use and recommend World Nomads for trips to Mexico.

Travel insurance will help you in your hour of need if you come down with appendicitis in Mérida or trip and break an ankle while climbing the pyramid at Mayapán, and if your flights get canceled due to hurricanes, you can get accommodation and new flights paid for.

As always, be sure to read your policy carefully and make sure it’s a fit for you.  See what World Nomads covers here.

The outline of a church tower silhouetted by a pink and orange sunset.

You are going to LOVE your Mexico road trip.

Mexico is one of my absolute favorite places in the world. I love this country fiercely, and I will always come back to it. The more time I spend in Mexico, the more places I keep adding to visit someday!

So many people go to Mexico and see nothing more than beach resorts, when the country has SO much more to offer, especially in the Yucatán Peninsula. I know your trip will be so much better when you focus on areas outside the resorts.

And please don’t forget that you can put your own spin on whatever you want to do. Maybe you’re not a fan of ruins. That’s fine! You don’t have to go to any! And if you don’t like swimming in deep water, know that you don’t have to swim in any if you don’t want to. (Plus, they all provide lifejackets.)

This is your trip. You go do Mexico the way you want to. I’m just here to help you along the way.

Have the best time in Mexico — then come back and tell me all about it!

Planning a Trip to Mexico:

  • Solo Female Travel in Mexico: Is it Safe?
  • What NOT to Do in Mexico

Places to Visit in the Yucatán and Mexico’s Caribbean Coast:

  • Things to Do in Bacalar, Mexico, The Lake of Seven Colors
  • Guide to Isla Holbox, Mexico’s Most Magical Island
  • 50+ Best Cenotes in Mexico

Places to Visit in Inland Mexico:

  • The Absolute Best Things to Do in Oaxaca, Mexico
  • Best Mexico City Neighborhoods to Stay In
  • 35+ Best Things to Do in Guanajuato, Mexico
  • How to Visit Sumidero Canyon from San Cristobal de las Casas

Places to Visit on Mexico’s Pacific Coast:

  • 24 Fabulous Things to Do in Sayulita, Mexico
  • Guide to Bucerías, Mexico, an alternative to Puerto Vallarta

best road trips mexico

Have you been on a Yucatan road trip? Where do you recommend going? Share away!

best road trips mexico

Road Trips in Mexico: The Best Routes

best road trips mexico

Thinking about taking a few roads trip in Mexico? There’s no better way to fall in love with a place than heading on a road trip and driving the route yourself.

If you’ve never been to Mexico before, you may be wondering if it’s safe to drive in Mexico. We spent six months traveling across all of Mexico from Baja California to the Yucatán Peninsula and had a wonderful time on our trip!

It is much safer to travel in Mexico than most people expect, but there are some things to keep in mind to have a safe and enjoyable time.

When it comes to planning out your perfect Mexico road trip itinerary, we have you covered! In this post, we share some of the best routes for road trips in Mexico.

See also: Tips for Planning the Ultimate Trip to Mexico

Road trips in Mexico: The best routes to explore

Baja california.

The Baja California Peninsula spans 760 miles from Tijuana down to Cabo San Lucas . Living in Southern California , I have traveled to Baja California on multiple occasions, including spending a few weeks driving across the entire peninsula.

Baja California is a popular region to visit in the winter when the weather starts getting colder in the US and Canada .

There is a lot of ground to cover in Baja California so I recommend setting aside two weeks if you plan to drive the entire route. If you’re short on time, focus your trip planning on certain areas like northern Baja or southern Baja.

See also: Where to Stop Along a California Coast Road Trip

Baja California is a great place to road trip in Mexico

Here are some of the top destinations to visit at Baja California:

Valle de guadalupe.

Valle De Guadalupe is often called the ‘Napa’ of Mexico. This region produces 90% of the wine sold in all of Mexico and is best known for upscale, boutique hotels and wine-tasting.

See also: Guadalupe Canyon: A Hot Spring Oasis in Mexico

Ensenada is a popular getaway destination for Southern California locals. This is also a stopover on the 3-day cruise from Long Beach that I’ve taken several times. Top attractions in Ensenada include the oceanfront La Bufadora, off-roading adventures, and local markets where you can get amazing deals on handcrafted goods.

Todos Santos

Todos Santos is a hidden little gem that many people don’t know about. In this small, but welcoming town visitors can enjoy surfing, yoga retreats, galleries, and relaxation at laid-back boutique hotels.

La Paz was one of my favorite stops along our Baja California road trip. Here visitors can spend the day lounging at Playa Balandra which is famous for its blue, clear water.

Cabo San Lucas

While Cabo San Lucas has a reputation for being a ‘Party Town’, there is so much more to this city than nightclubs and bars! Cabo is home to unique natural rock formations such as The Arch of Cabo San Lucas, along with stunning white sand beaches and fun outdoor adventures.

Read the full Baja California itinerary on FunLifeCrisis.com!

Yucatán Peninsula

For a relaxed Mexico road trip, start with Cancún and then head south along the 200-mile shoreline toward Bacalar. The entire Yucatán coast is so gorgeous that you’re bound to have a great time!

Check out the ruins in Tulum , explore underground cenotes, and stay in top-rated hotels along the way.

See also: Where to Stay in Tulum: Budget Beachfront Accommodation and Restaurants in Yucatan, Mexico: Five Culinary Experiences

Stop along the Yucatán Peninsula on your road tip in Mexico

Here are some of the best locations to visit at the Yucatán Peninsula:

Cancún is one of the most popular vacation destinations in Mexico and the starting point for those heading on road trips in the Yucatán and Quintana Roo states. From Cancún, you can also hop on a ferry over to the tropical Isla Mujeres Island which is known for world-class snorkeling and scuba diving.

See also: Cancun Historical Sights and Attractions

Playa Del Carmen

If you’ve got time, I recommend stopping at Playa Del Carmen while driving between Cancún and Tulum. Playa Del Carmen is a relaxed coastal resort town that has a reputation for having world-class beaches and amazing coral reefs full of colorful fish.

When it comes to Tulum, people either love it or hate it. We spent a few days visiting Tulum on our Yucatan road trip and really enjoyed our time here. But this city is a bit commercialized so it’s not as authentic as visiting other places in Mexico.

Tulum is best known for boutique hotels, top-rated restaurants, eclectic shops, beachfront bars, and the historic Tulum Archaeological Zone.

See also: Reasons to Travel To Tulum, Mexico

Bacalar is a bit under the radar for international visitors, but it is truly one of the most gorgeous destinations in Mexico. Bacalar is not easy to reach– it is located near the Belize border, about 2.5 hours south of Tulum. But if you can make it out here, you will be amazed by Bacalar Lagoon which is known for its mesmerizing turquoise hues.

Highway 307

Looking for a Mexico road trip route that’s a bit more off the grid? Highway 307 is one of the most rugged but beautiful routes in Mexico that’s known for stunning waterfalls, blue lakes, historic ruins, and turquoise rivers surrounded by a lush, dense jungle. The further you will drive on this route, the more you will fall in love with the natural scenery here!

Route 307 starts in San Cristobal de las Casas and travels down towards Guatemala in a loop before ending in Palenque. If you’re up for it, you can even cross into Guatemala for a day or two before continuing your road trip through Mexico.

Road trips in Mexico to unknown waterfalls

Here are some of the top destinations to visit at the Highway 307:

Parque nacional lagunas de montebello.

This National Park is one of the most beautiful attractions in Southern Mexico that is situated on the border with Guatemala. Here you can visit 59 lakes that are known for their stunning, deep blue color.

At this location, you can go on hiking trails that overlook colorful lakes or sign up for a boat tour that will take you to remote islands at the center of these lakes. There are several main lakes that you can visit here with varying amenities and accessibility.

One of my favorite stops along route 307 was the Yaxchilán ruins that are hidden deep in the jungle. You can only visit these ancient Mayan ruins by signing up for a guided river tour that will take you to this remote location – book a tour here .

This entire adventure will make you feel like you’re in an Indiana Jones movie! During this tour, you’ll get to see crocodiles, howler monkeys, giant lizards, and various bird species that reside in the jungle.

The Agua Azul waterfall is one of the most gorgeous places that you can visit in Mexico. This attraction consists of a stunning blue river, waterfalls, and swimming areas.

At this location, visitors can also camp overnight, grab food at one of the many food stalls and browse through the souvenir stands. There are multiple breathtaking viewing platforms for enjoying views of this blue river and waterfalls.

Road trips in Mexico

Frequently asked questions about driving in Mexico

We hope this post has inspired you to plan more road trips in Mexico! Mexico is truly one of the most beautiful countries in North America and an incredible place to visit if you enjoy unique outdoor adventures. Whether you’re looking for a beach, jungle or mountain adventure, Mexico has it all!

Before you head out on your trip, here are a few frequently asked questions about safety and driving in Mexico.

Is it safe to travel by road in Mexico?

We spent 6 months traveling in Mexico and for the most part, we felt safe during our trip. We tried to avoid large cities and stuck to beach or jungle destinations that were more laid back and a lot less crowded.

Here are a few tips for driving in Mexico:

  • Don’t drive at night . It is much safer to travel during the day for many reasons. The roads in Mexico are not in the greatest conditions so driving at night puts you at risk of hitting a pothole, topes (speed bumps), or getting stuck in the sand (which happened to us on multiple occasions).
  • Keep a copy of your driver’s license, passport, car insurance, and car registration stored on a cloud in case they get lost or stolen.
  • Pay for toll roads instead of taking the free roads . Yes, it will be so worth it! The toll roads are in much better shape and are faster than the free versions.
  • Local insurance . It is required to have local Mexico insurance if you plan to drive there which you can easily get online.

See also: Reasons to Plan a Vacation to Mexico

Is driving in Mexico difficult?

While driving in Mexico is not as dangerous as you may think, it is still very difficult, especially if you’re covering a lot of ground in a short amount of time.

The hardest part about driving in Mexico is that you need to constantly pay attention to the surroundings because there is always a lot going on. Even if you follow all the driving rules and laws, it does not mean others will. It’s a bit of a ‘wild west’ when it comes to driving so most international visitors feel intimidated to drive there themselves.

While driving in Mexico, others will cut you off, honk, and speed around you. You will need to watch out for motorcycles, bikers, kids running on the street, people crossing without notice, animals, dogs, cats, chickens… you name it. Needless to say, driving in Mexico takes a lot of energy so we always prefer to travel slowly and enjoy the drive while taking in the incredible road trips in Mexico.

Laura Sausina

Hi! We are Laura and Joel, world travelers, coffee lovers, and parents to two adorable fur babies. We left our accounting and engineering jobs to try something different and travel the world full time. We share our favorite travel destinations, the tools that help us travel, and other fun things like social media and photography tips.

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best road trips mexico

9 Best Routes for Road Trips in Mexico

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Quick Jumplinks to Navigate

Mexico has a lot to offer and in many ways, it’s a perfect country to visit during a long road trip. That way you can make plenty of stops and experience the diverse culture and landscapes that are often overlooked when tourists visit the country.

In order to do so, you’ll need an international driver’s license and a national permit needed to make it valid. You’ll also need to carry proof of identification, such as a passport and insurance of your vehicle, so that your trip is hassle free.

Here are a few route ideas for your next Mexican road trip:

1. riviera nayarit.

best road trips mexico

This 230-mile-long route is known for its beautiful beaches. It’s usually the trip that most tourists choose for their first destination to visit in Mexico. The beaches can accommodate both those that like surfing and snorkeling and those that just want to relax and enjoy the view. The area is also famous for its nightlife and LGBTQ+ tourism. Puerto Vallarta is often the most visited beach and a great place to relax for a day or two after you’ve been driving for a while. Also, Sayulita Beach is better suited to surfers since it’s known to have great waves.

2. A Trip from Mexico City to Oaxaca

best road trips mexico

This trip is about 500 miles long but you can spend a week on it if you take all the right stops. It’s what’s considered to be a trip through history since Mexico City plays a big role in the country’s history. Along the way, you’ll also be able to take plenty of stops and explore the ancient ruins of the region. The most important of these stops is probably the Xochimilco. Keep in mind that it will probably be crowded with tourists and that may be a bit off-putting to some. Amparo Museum should also be on your list since it’s the largest and most important museum in the country. Suggested Read: Places to Visit in Mexico

3. The Loop Across the Yucatan

best road trips mexico

The loop covering the Yucatan peninsula is about as long as the previous trip on our list and it’s worth the time needed to explore it. It’s an area known for its expensive resort made to attract high-end tourists, but it can offer more than that. If you’re going to the region to party – Tulum is the best place to start since it’s known for its many clubs and DJs It also features many different modern cafes and clubs, as well as leisurely resorts.

4. Waterfalls in Chiapas

best road trips mexico

Unlike other trips on our list, this one will take at least two weeks if you want to take many stops along the way, as it’s about 1000 km long. Start from Tuxtla the capital of the region and move on to the El Chiffon waterfalls standing tall at 120 meters. Move on to a colonial town of San Cristobal de las Casas. It’s a city known for its amazing cuisine but it also plays a big role in the history of the region and it’s worth visiting for it. You can also Book: Mexico Tour Packages

 5. From Mexico City to San Miguel de Allende

best road trips mexico

This 400-mile-long trip is mostly centered around food and if that’s your reason for visiting Mexico, you shouldn’t miss it. The region also has a long history spanning over 1300 years and including the Aztecs and Spanish Empires. The trip will be among the more expensive ones, and the food in Mexico is at the very top of its game. The region is well-known for its cheeses and wines, and there are many wineries along the road that cater to tourists.

6. Jalisco a Stop of those Who Love Tequila

best road trips mexico

The north Pacific coastline of the country is known for its beaches and that’s why many tourists take this 400 km long ride. One of the most important stops to take along the way is Jalisco, which is considered to be the tequila capital of the world. It’s also home to one of the most successful soccer teams in Mexico and while you’re there you can get caught up in the atmosphere around it. San Miguel de Allende is nearby and it’s one of the most luxurious and high-end resorts in the area.

7. Oaxaca Road Trip

best road trips mexico

This trip is the longest one on our list, not only in terms of the length of the route (it’s about 1300 km) but also in the amount of time you need to set aside so that you can enjoy every stop along the way. The city of Oaxaca itself is most well known for its amazing food and wine scene. Move on from there and take a stop at Santiago Apoala and Pueblos Mancomunados which are modern resorts focusing on ecotourism and having great success with it.

8. From Oaxaca to Chiapas

best road trips mexico

Oaxaca and Chiapas are the two most popular states in Mexico when it comes to tourists at least. The two states are, however, very different when it comes to their history, culture, and tourist offers. The trip that combines them thus presents all that Mexico has to offer at once. Oaxaca is known for its beaches and tourist resorts, Chiapas on the other hand is there for those who are more adventurous and explore nature firsthand via camping and hiking.

9. Going from North to South of the Country

best road trips mexico

In the end, some decide to take a rather long road trip that spans the whole country and travel across the whole country from North to South. Such a trip can take weeks and it can include all the stops that we mentioned before. It’s also the costliest way to go. If this is the way you plan to visit Mexico, you can divide the trip geographically but also based on how culturally diverse the country is. It’s a place that you can keep coming back to and discover something new every time you do.

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Tulum beach from above as seen on a road trip Yucatan Mexico itinerary

The Ultimate 10 Day Yucatan Road Trip Itinerary

For several years, Mexico has consistently ranked among our favorite countries in the world to explore–and after our most recent return visit to take a Yucatan road trip, we are more confident than ever that it will never be unseated. 

Between the overwhelming number of interesting sights, absolutely sublime food, and incredibly welcoming culture, we can never get enough of Mexico.

With this 10 day Yucatan itinerary, we hope we can help you fall in love with it too!

Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula is one of those just-right destinations that is easy enough to travel in that newer travelers will feel comfortable exploring, and fascinating enough that veteran travelers will never be bored.

Between the Mayan cities and mystical cenotes, the colorful towns and delicious food, the lagoon of Bacalar and the stunning beaches the region is known for, a Yucatan road trip truly has something for everyone.

Jeremy Storm climbing a pyramid at the Becan Ruins in Mexico, wearing a black t shirt and pulling on a rope for support

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Table of Contents

How We Structured This Yucatan Road Trip Itinerary

Why choose the yucatan for a mexico road trip, getting around during your road trip in the yucatan, will this 10 day yucatan itinerary work without a car, other destinations to add to your yucatan road trip itinerary, useful driving tips for this mexico road trip itinerary, faq about taking a road trip in the yucatan peninsula, yucatan road trip itinerary map, the best time to road trip the yucatan peninsula, what to pack for your yucatan road trip.

We structured this Yucatan road trip itinerary to center around some of our favorite things to do in the Yucatan: explore Mayan ruins, swim in cenotes, and enjoy beautiful beaches.

We are covering the Yucatan peninsula here, not just the state of Yucatan, and much of this Yucatan travel itinerary does take place in Quintana Roo.

Cenote X'canche as seen from the interior of the small cave. Also known as the ek balam cenote. A waterfall is in the left side of the photo and the water is turquoise

It’s a fairly fast-paced itinerary in the sense that it packs a lot in and involves climbing many pyramids, but to drive this route straight through without traffic would actually only take around 12 hours.

You’ll drive a bit more than that, counting day trips and such, but the bottom line is that it’s a very doable distance in 10 days!

We’ve included some of Mexico’s biggest tourist highlights here, including Chichen Itza, while also throwing in up-and-coming spots like Bacalar, and organized them in a loop beginning and ending in Cancun (aka, the biggest airport hub in the region by far).

This guide to spending 10 days in the Yucatan is quite long, so feel free to use the table of contents above this section to navigate to the most important parts for you if you wish!

Kate Storm in a red dress standing on Playa Norte in Isla Mujeres. The remains of a dock are to her left.

When looking for the perfect road trip in Mexico or even all of Latin America, the Yucatan peninsula immediately shoots up to the top of the list.

The peninsula is known as one of the safest regions for tourists in all of Mexico (and for the record, we have always felt incredibly safe not only there but everywhere we’ve been in Mexico), the driving is very lowkey, and the sights, from the ruins of Mayan cities to beaches to colorful towns to the peninsula’s world-famous cenotes, are sublime.

With a flawless combination of safety, ease of travel, and unforgettable sights, it’s hard to imagine a more perfect Mexico road trip than one through the Yucatan.

jeremy storm swimming in cancun mexico

The best company to rent a car for your road trip in Mexico from will likely vary dramatically depending on exactly when you’re traveling.

Sometimes large international carriers offer the best prices, sometimes local outfits. Sometimes one company has an excellent base price, but terrible rental requirements.

The best way to find your rental car is to search through  Discover Cars , which will sift through dozens of companies to find the best combination of low prices and reasonable rental terms for your Yucatan road trip.

Check prices and shop rental cars for your Yucatan road trip today!

Jeremy Storm standing in front of a red car parked in front of a church as part of a road trip Yucatan itinerary

Parts of it, yes, but it would be more of a hassle to reach some spots.

Mexico’s ADO bus network is impressive, incredibly comfortable (some of the most comfortable buses we’ve ridden on anywhere, quite frankly), and can easily get you around the peninsula, including all the way down to Bacalar.

For smaller day trips like visiting Ek Balam and the cenotes around Valladolid , though, you’d need to either negotiate a taxi (not terribly difficult, but a hassle, especially if you’re not comfortable negotiating in Spanish), jump in a collectivo, or book a tour.

There’s no doubt that driving will make this particular 10 day Yucatan itinerary much easier and more flexible, but if you can’t or would prefer not to drive, you can still have an incredibly rewarding trip to the peninsula using this Yucatan travel guide.

Dock at Bacalar Lagoon leading into the water, as seen on a road trip Yucatan travel itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Cancun and head to Valladolid.

Assuming you arrive in Cancun early enough in the day to reach Valladolid before sunset, we highly recommend grabbing your rental car at the airport and then immediately hitting the road!

If your flight arrives in the late afternoon or evening, though, you’ll want to spend your first night in Cancun itself and then get an early start by driving to Valladolid the next morning.

Valladolid is a little under 2 hours from Cancun by car.

Valladolid Cathedral with a motorbike passing by in front of it. Valladolid is an excellent base during this first part of this Mexico road trip itinerary

Day 2: Explore Valladolid and check out nearby cenotes.

The colorful, small city of Valladolid is a laid-back and delightful place to explor.

The Zocalo, cathedral, and the Convent of San Bernardino de Siena are all worth a look, as are the many delicious restaurants and the colorful street of Calzada de los Frailes.

The main reason that Valladolid is a favorite for people exploring the Yucatan, though, is not for the charming city that is itself one of Mexico’s Pueblos Magicos (Magic Towns), but for what lies outside of it.

Valladolid is located at the perfect epicenter of many of the area’s best day trips, including several cenotes and Mayan ruins.

Colorful street in Valladolid Mexico as seen on a Yucatan road trip

For the first several days of this Mexico road trip, we recommend basing yourselves here–the next few days of this Yucatan itinerary are designed as day trips from Valladolid.

For today, start your stay in Valladolid by exploring the town and potentially by checking out a few of the nearby cenotes.

Instagram-famous Cenote Suytun is less than 15 minutes from town by car, as is the complex housing both Cenote Samula and Cenote Xkeken.

Too tired to drive anymore but still want to check out a cenote today?

No worries–Cenote Zaci is certainly not the most impressive of these cenotes, but it does win points for being right in the center of town!

Kate Storm standing in the center of Cenote Suytun near Valladolid, an amazing addition to a 10 day Yucatan itinerary

Where to Stay in Valladolid

Valladolid has a fantastic selection of places to stay, ranging from budget hostels to beautiful boutique hotels. 

Here are some of the best, including the hotel we adored on our most recent visit!

Hostel Candelaria — Featuring a perfect location in the center of Valladolid, colorful decor, hundreds of near-perfect reviews and plenty of dorm and private room lodging options, Hostel Candelaria is a go-to choice for budget travelers to Valladolid.

Check rates & book your stay at Hostel Candelaria!

Casa Aluxes Hotel — We absolutely adored our stay at this boutique hotel. The breakfast is fantastic, the service perfect, the inner courtyard and pools beautiful, and their location excellent. When we return to Valladolid yet again, we’ll definitely consider staying again.

Check rates & book your stay at Casa Aluxes Hotel!

Interior courtyard of Casa Aluxes Hotel in Valladolid Mexico

Le Muuch Hotel — This luxury hotel in Valladolid offers spacious family rooms, excellent service, and a fantastic breakfast, all housed in a convenient location within walking distance of Valladolid’s major sights.

The grounds include two beautiful pools, and the hotel’s hundreds of excellent reviews make it a sure bet when visiting Valladolid.

Check rates & book your stay at Le Muuch Hotel!

colorful flags on iglesia de san servacio, one of the most fun things to do in valladolid mexico

Day 3: Visit Chichen Itza and Cenote Ik Kil.

For your first day trip from Valladolid, head to none other than Mexico’s most famous Mayan ruin and one of the 7 New Wonders of the World: Chichen Itza.

We highly recommend showing up very, very early, and entering the park as soon as it opens at 8:00 AM if you want to avoid the worst of the crowds.

Most of the big tour buses bringing visitors in by the hundreds from Cancun, Tulum, and Playa del Carmen won’t show up until an hour or two after that, giving you a bit of time to explore the ruins in relative peace.

After you finish up at Chichen Itza itself, be sure to take a dip in nearby Cenote Ik Kil!

Photo of the main pyramid of Chichen Itza on Mexico Yucatan Peninsula

Day 4: Visit Ek Balam and Cenote X’canche.

I’ll be honest: I intentionally scheduled Chichen Itza as the first Mayan city on this Yucatan itinerary, not only because I know just about everyone wants to visit, but because the other Mayan cities you will visit after it–in my biased opinion–blow it out of the water.

Ek Balam is located about half an hour from Valladolid, and in contrast with bustling Chichen Itza the previous day, will likely feel downright deserted.

With far fewer crowds and plenty of structures that you can climb, visiting Ek Balam is an absolute delight and one of our personal favorite stops on this Yucatan road trip.

Located in the same complex of sorts–you won’t need to move your car again–is Cenote X’canche, which is arguably our favorite cenote that we’ve seen on the peninsula as well!

Featuring brilliantly beautiful water, a slightly wild feel, and a waterfall, Cenote X’canche is one of those places where it is easy to understand why the Mayan religion purports that cenotes are the entrances to the underworld.

Kate Storm standing on top of the el torre pyramid in ek balam with jungle visible behind her

Day 5: Make your way to Tulum.

On day 5 of your Mexico road trip, it’s time to say goodbye to Valladolid and head for the beach!

Tulum is about an hour and a half away from Valladolid, giving you plenty of time to make your way back to the coast and then visit the famous Tulum ruins and beach.

While the ruins are certainly more crowded than Ek Balam from yesterday, their setting just cannot be beat–the views of the Mayan city overlooking the phenomenal beach are just magnificent.

Tulum ruins overlooking a bright beach, as seen as part of a 10 day Yucatan itinerary

Be sure to bring your swimsuit along: your ticket to visit the Tulum ruins also includes access to the beach, and you’ll definitely want to spend a few hours there!

When it comes time to find somewhere to stay for the night, you absolutely can stay in Tulum itself, but be prepared for some serious sticker shock: Tulum is not only expensive as compared to other cities in Mexico, it’s just expensive, period.

If you’d like to save a little cash, consider staying outside of Tulum instead–there are plenty of options, from luxury accommodation to hostels to boutique hotels, a 20-30 minute drive down the road.

One of the major benefits of being on a Yucatan road trip rather than a traditional itinerary is that you can take advantage of flexibility like that!

kate storm walking toward tulum mexico ruins

Optional Yucatan Road Trip Stop: Coba.

Still dreaming of more Mayan ruins?

With three archaeological sites in three days included on this Yucatan itinerary, you quite possibly will not, but it’s worth pointing out that as you drive from Valladolid to Tulum, you’ll pass right by the Coba ruins, which also make for a delightful place to explore.

Less popular (read: crowded) than Chichen Itza, but more crowded than Ek Balam, Coba boasts some stunning structures in a forested setting, and you can climb the main pyramid for beautiful views over the jungle.

Jeremy Storm standing in front of a structure at the Coba ruins as seen on a backpacking Yucatan road trip

Day 6: Road trip Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula to Bacalar.

On day 6, it’s time to head to the most up-and-coming destination on this 10 day Yucatan itinerary, a place we’ve heard described as “what Tulum was 30 years ago”: Bacalar.

The drive from Tulum to Bacalar takes less than 3 hours, so depending on time you could spend the morning in Tulum before heading down, or stop at Sian Ka’an Biosphere to see another magnificent part of the Yucatan peninsula.

Alternatively, you could wake up early and head right to Bacalar to maximize your time at this otherworldly lagoon–more on it below.

Overwater deck overlooking Bacalar lagoon, one of the best places to visit Yucatan road trip

Day 7: Enjoy Mexico’s Lagoon of Seven Colors.

Look out over the beauty of the Bacalar Lagoon, and you may just be convinced that you’ve been transported to the Maldives or to an obscure Pacific atoll.

You’ll almost certainly have a hard time comprehending that the brilliant blue you see doesn’t come from a sea or ocean of any kind, but from a freshwater lagoon.

Bacalar, both the town and the lagoon it is named after, is a sleepy, beautiful place where it’s easy to kick back, relax, and enjoy some truly unique nature.

view of cocolitos bacalar yucatan travel mexico

While you’re there, consider taking a boat tour to discover the best swimming spots and viewpoints on the lagoon, checking out the rapids (basically a natural lazy river), and hopping down to one of the beach clubs for a swim and some food served up with incredible views.

Back in town, be sure to visit Fort San Felipe, which was built by the Spanish in the 18th century to defend against the real-life pirates of the Caribbean that attacked the town.

For dinner, we can heartily recommend La Playita–one of the best-known spots in town with one of the best restaurant views imaginable–and also La Pina, which isn’t located right on the lake but has an impressive garden atmosphere all the same.

Kate Storm sitting on a swing in the water in Bacalar Mexico wearing a pink bikini--plenty of bathing suits definitely belong on your beach vacation packing list

Where to Stay in Bacalar

We recommend spending two nights visiting Bacalar as part of this Yucatan road trip–here are some great options for where to stay.

Blue Hotel — With comfortable rooms, affordable prices, and excellent service, Blue Hotel is a fantastic choice for travelers visiting Bacalar on a budget.

While the hotel is located a bit further from the center of town than most, in Bacalar, that’s not a problem when you’re on a Yucatan road trip–you’ll probably drive to most attractions anyway.

Check rates & book your stay at Blue Hotel!

Bacalar Lagoon visible through the leaves of a tree growing on the shore of the lake

Hotel Tuparenda — We loved this boutique hotel in Bacalar–so much, in fact, that when we doubled back to Bacalar on our Mexico road trip, we returned for a second stay here!

The location is excellent (a short walk from La Playita), rooms comfortable, and service wonderful.

The rooftop, where the included breakfast is served and there is a small pool, has a lovely view of the lagoon in the distance!

Check rates & book your stay at Hotel Tuparenda!

Maya Bacalar Boutique Hotel — Want to stay directly on the lake, with a restaurant and spa located on-site and no reason to leave?

If so, check yourself in for relaxation and pampering at the popular and well-reviewed Maya Bacalar Boutique Hotel for a taste of luxury… at far more affordable prices than a similar accommodation would go for in Tulum or Playa del Carmen.

Check rates & book your stay at Maya Bacalar Boutique Hotel!

Dock in Bacalar Mexico as seen leading back to La Playita restaurant on a road trip Yucatan itinerary

Day 8: Head to Playa del Carmen, stopping at Akumal on the way.

At this point during your Yucatan road trip itinerary, things become a bit choose-your-own-adventure by virtue of the fact that there is so much to do between Bacalar and your eventual destination of Cancun, where you’ll say goodbye to Mexico in a couple of days.

Our suggestion is to head to Playa del Carmen (we loved our time at Isabella Boutique Hotel if you’re looking for an adorable but not insanely expensive place to stay), which is about a 3.5-hour drive from Bacalar and will put you both much closer to Cancun and in the heart of plenty of things to do in the Yucatan.

Along the way, consider stopping off at Akumal to cross a major highlight off of your Yucatan bucket list: swimming with sea turtles.

Playa del Carmen colorful sign with palm trees visible in the background

Day 9: Cross one more thing off your Mexico bucket list. 

With one more day of your Yucatan road trip left and an excellent central base in or near Playa del Carmen, the Riviera Maya is your oyster.

Here are a few of our suggestions for what to do on the last day of your road trip in the Yucatan…

Go for a swim in a cenote (or two).

Playa del Carmen is surrounded by absolutely stunning cenotes, including Cristalino, Jardin del Eden, and Cenote Azul.

Jeremy Storm jumping into Cenote Azul Playa del Carmen

Have a beach day at Xpu-Ha.

While the beaches in Playa del Carmen proper are not among the best on the Riviera Maya, Xpu-Ha, which is located just a short drive outside of town, is absolutely amazing and a fantastic place to kick back and relax.

Go snorkeling or scuba diving.

The stunning island of Cozumel is located very close to Playa del Carmen, and is especially well-known for its incredible scuba diving and snorkeling! Whether you book a day trip from Playa del Carmen or hop one of the many ferries over to Cozumel yourself, you’ll be able to find excellent snorkeling opportunities.

Prefer to go underground?

Snorkeling in an enclosed cenote is an unforgettable experience.

Kate Storm and Jeremy Storm in an enclosed cenote in Riveria Maya Mexico, wearing orange life jackets

Day 10: Return to Cancun and say goodbye (for now) to Mexico.

As your Yucatan road trip comes to a close, it’s time to return to Cancun.

Before saying goodbye to Yucatan travel, though, consider hitting the beach one last time if you have time before heading to the airport!

Cancun has some of the best beaches in Mexico, and some are absolutely free to visit, including the positively magnificent Playa Delfines.

Jeremy Storm on Playa Delfines in Cancun on a sunny day during a road trip Yucatan

A mere 10 days in the Yucatan could never hope to cover all the incredible peninsula has to offer.

If you have a longer Yucatan itinerary to work with, here are a few other places to consider adding onto your Yucatan road trip!

I specifically didn’t include popular Isla Mujeres or Isla Holbox in this Yucatan travel blog post, as they’re decidedly not road trip destinations, but we adore them both and they’re definitely worth considering adding to your itinerary for the Yucatan as well!

In fact, we started our most recent trip to the Yucatan peninsula with a few days on Isla Mujeres before picking up our rental car, and couldn’t recommend the experience more.

Catamaran full of tour goers offshore near Isla Mujeres Mexico

The pink lakes of Las Coloradas, Mexico have become increasingly #instagramfamous in the last few years, and they are still one of the most unique places to visit in the Yucatan!

They are actually private reservoirs belonging to a salt company, not natural lakes at all, but they are incredibly interesting to look at.

Visiting has become more regimented over the years, and these days you’ll be charged a small fee to enter and be required to keep a guide with you, and you definitely can’t swim in the lakes.

If you’d like to see them for yourself, they’re a doable day trip from Valladolid (a little under 2 hours of easy driving each way).

Pink Lakes of Las Coloradas, Mexico

The colorful, beautiful ex-pat haven of Merida is incredibly popular with visitors planning long stays in the Yucatan, but it’s quite far out of the way for this Yucatan itinerary that focuses more on the southern and central parts of the peninsula.

If you have longer than 10 days in the Yucatan, though, definitely consider stopping by to explore some of the best things to do in Merida .

It’s a beautiful, colorful city with lots of amazing food to offer, and is also the capital of the state of Yucatan.

main square of merida mexico at sunset, yucatan travel guide

Buried deep in the jungle in the state of Campeche, Calakmul is one of the most difficult Mayan ruins to get to, but it’s also one of the most rewarding.

Climb atop the pyramids there, and you will see nothing but ruins surrounded by lots and lots of jungle.

If you look closely on a clear day, you may even spot the tip of La Danta, a pyramid in modern-day Guatemala that once stood in the lost city of El Mirador and is–by some measures–the tallest pyramid in the world.

Kate Storm standing on top of one of the Calakmul ruins in Mexico, as seen on a Mexico road trip Yucatan itinerary

The city of Izamal is located vaguely between Valladolid and Merida, and is known primarily for its brilliant color–much of the town is painted bright yellow!

Be sure to check out the Convent of San Antonio of Padua, the beautiful (yellow) architecture downtown, and the markets while there.

street lined with yellow buildings izamal mexico

Our current favorite archaeological site in Mexico is located only an hour and a half north of Bacalar, making it easy to add on to your Mexico road trip!

Becan is uncrowded, inexpensive, incredibly well-preserved, and a true hidden gem on the Yucatan peninsula. 

If you’re looking for a memorable side trip while traveling the Yucatan, we can’t recommend a visit to Becan enough!

Jeremy Storm standing in front of a large Mayan structure in Becan Mexico, looking away from the camera

Plan to drive only during the day.

With lots of speed bumps (more on that below) and very few street lights, the Yucatan peninsula is not an ideal place to drive at night. 

Luckily, this Yucatan road trip itinerary should make it fairly easy to drive during the day only–most days include only a couple of hours of driving.

sailboats near a beach in isla mujeres mexico as seen when visiting yucatan peninsula

Keep an eye on the time (zone).

This itinerary covers destinations in both the state of Quintana Roo and the state of Yucatan.

Despite being right next door to each other and frequently covered on the same trip, these Mexican states are in different time zones!

Quintana Roo uses Eastern Standard Time, and Yucatan uses Central Standard Time.

Typically, someone will pump your gas for you.

Most frequently, when you pull up to the gas pump in Mexico, someone will pump your gas for you as well as clean your windshield. You’ll want to provide a small tip for the service.

If you don’t see someone servicing the pumps, though, you can also pump your own gas in some places, so keep an eye on what others are doing!

… but be sure to check the pump to avoid scams.

There’s a known gas station scam in the Yucatan in which you’ll be charged extra because the gas pump isn’t set to $0.00 before the attendant starts pumping your gas.

This has never happened to us, but we’ve heard of fellow travelers experiencing it!

Luckily, the way to avoid it is very simple: if you’re not pumping your own gas, be sure to look at the pump and confirm it’s set to zero before the attendant starts to pump.

Dozens of pineapples stacked along a wall in La Pina Restaurant Bacalar Mexico

Keep an eye out for topes.

Topes (in English, speed bumps) are the major way that speed limits are enforced in the Yucatan peninsula, especially in towns and other population centers.

Go over them too fast, and you’ll throw out the suspension of your rental car–proceed carefully and when in doubt, go slow.

Don’t leave anything visible in the car when you park.

This is truly good advice for most of the world, but it especially goes here: visible luggage and belongings left in a parked car can attract thieves.

Leave nothing visible.

Parking lot at Coba ruins

Check for onsite parking when booking hotels.

It will make your life much simpler if there’s parking onsite at each place you stay in Mexico, and hotels with parking are very easy to find.

We’d consider it a road trip mistake to accidentally show up somewhere without parking!

Pick up a Mexican SIM card before you get started.

Having cell phone data with you will make your Mexico road trip through the Yucatan far, far simpler, and buying data is incredibly affordable.

To save time and hassle, consider picking up a SIM card for your phone before you even leave the airport.

Kate Storm in a red dress at Cocalitos Bacalar during a road trip Yucatan travel itinerary

Do you need to speak Spanish for this Yucatan road trip?

No, but it will make your trip much, much easier.

While you definitely don’t need to know how to speak Spanish well for this Yucatan itinerary, we recommend learning at least some basic phrases before you go.

How’s the driving?

Incredibly easy!

Truly, we found driving in the Yucatan to be far, far easier than driving in most places we’ve been in Europe. 

For most of this Yucatan road trip itinerary, you’ll be driving on flat, well-signed, uncongested highways.

After the initial few hours of getting used to driving in Mexico, we found our road trip to be extremely relaxing.

Like in virtually all places around the world, driving is a bit more complex and congested in and around large cities, but not overly difficult for confident drivers.

Kate and Jeremy Storm standing on the edge of a Mayan pyramid in Becan Mexico, facing each other

Is this road trip in Mexico safe?

Safety is a very complicated subject, of course (I discussed a bit more about safety in Mexico here ), but generally speaking, yes. 

While cartel violence is certainly a problem in Mexico, it very, very rarely touches tourists and even more rarely touches tourists who avoid going near illegal activities (don’t stumble out of a bar drunk at 3am and try to pick up a prostitute on the way home, basically).

We have spent months in Mexico, spread across many different states, and have always felt supremely safe–just as safe as we feel in an average town in the USA.

Our fellow American travelers do tend to stick to the Riviera Maya (basically the corridor between Cancun and Tulum), but every place on this Yucatan road trip itinerary has a fairly developed tourism structure, with plenty of hotels, restaurants, and tourism services.

Jeremy Storm on the rocky beach of Isla Mujeres east coast

Very generally speaking, the people traveling this route are made up of a combination of European and Canadian vacationers (including lots of young families!), as well as Mexican tourists exploring their own country and a fair number of long term travelers/people backpacking the Yucatan.

In other words, while these places are a bit off the beaten path for an average US citizen taking a week off of work to head down to Mexico, they’re not remotely intimidating places to travel once you get the hang of the route, and they feel very safe.

Take This Map With You! Click each highlight to pull up the name of the destination. To save this map to “Your Places” on Google Maps, click the star to the right of the title. You’ll then be able to find it under the Maps tab of your Google Maps account! To open the map in a new window, click the button on the top right of the map.

The high season for traveling the Yucatan Peninsula runs roughly from mid-December to April, with the biggest crowds (and highest prices) typically found around Christmas, New Yea’s, Spring Break, and Easter.

This is most prominent on the Riviera Maya, though–we’ve traveled the Yucatan peninsula extensively during high season on multiple trips, and have had no issues with crowds or extreme prices outside of Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum.

Hurricane season runs from June to November, and while the odds are long that your trip would be caught up in a hurricane, you can expect more rain and cloudy weather during your Mexico road trip during those months.

Lower prices and fewer crowds might very well be a solid trade-off, though, depending on your travel style.

Kate Storm in a small pool near Cenote Azul Playa del Carmen

Travel Insurance — We don’t ever suggest traveling without travel insurance–anything can happen, and a fast-paced Yucatan road trip is definitely better a case of safe than sorry.

We use and recommend Safety Wing for trips to Mexico.

Cell Phone Holder — This is especially important if you don’t have a reliable co-pilot: the last thing you want to do is be fumbling with the GPS on your phone during your road trip in the Yucatan.

Pack a cell phone holder to attach to the car and you’ll be able to drive much more safely!

Additional Car Insurance — Whether you purchase a policy that covers car rental (only some do, so double-check!), purchase a policy through the rental car company, or something else, be sure you have coverage: it’s worth the peace of mind.

Jeremy Storm climbing Coba ruins pyramind on a road trip Yucatan itinerary

Comfortable Day Bag  — We currently use  Pacsafe’s sleek anti-theft backpack  and love it, but if you don’t want to shell out the cash for this trip, that’s totally understandable.

Just aim for something comfortable to wear, not flashy, and medium-sized–we used a  Northface Jester backpack  for years and loved it as well.

Jeremy Storm wearing Pacsafe antitheft backpack on Isla Mujeres Mexico when living out of a backpack

I use them on all boats and the occasional bus, and if things get really bad, take some Non-Drowsy Dramamine as well.

4 photos of yucatan peninsula: cenote x'canche, becan pyramid, bacalar, isla mujeres. black and pink text on a white backgorund reads "the ultimate itinerary yucatan peninsula"

About Kate Storm

Image of the author, Kate Storm

In May 2016, I left my suburban life in the USA and became a full-time traveler. Since then, I have visited 50+ countries on 5 continents and lived in Portugal, developing a special love of traveling in Europe (especially Italy) along the way. Today, along with my husband Jeremy and dog Ranger, I’m working toward my eventual goal of splitting my life between Europe and the USA.

28 thoughts on “The Ultimate 10 Day Yucatan Road Trip Itinerary”

This is basically my dream Mexico trip!!! My boyfriend and I had talked about going this year but obviously we’ll see. Either way saving this post for inspiration. We’ll definitely make sure to see that cenote at Ek Balam, wow.

Ahh I’m so happy to hear that Jessica! We truly love this part of the world so much, I just want to shout from the rooftops about it. SERIOUSLY hoping your trip can happen this year, for so many reasons.

Currently planning ours for next month!! Thank you so much

As a fan of this area for over 35 years, enjoyed reading your writings here. As far as shouting from the rooftops, I often feel maybe I have done that too much. Holbox and Bacalar are two places I have known for many years and often recommended. But now due to mass development they are both becoming almost unrecognizable to me and that is a sad thing.

Great post, Kate. We’re stuck up here in Ohio at the moment and would love to be on the beach in Mexico instead.

Thanks, Mark! Completely agree–we’d much rather be back on a beach in Mexico right now too.

This article was extremely helpful. Thank you for suggested itinerary and descriptions.

So happy to hear that, Beth! Hope you have a great trip to the Yucatan!

Do you think a road trip around the Yucatan would be at all feasible with a 1 year old? I think we’d have to make some modifications but overall do you feel like it would be safe and not an insane amount of driving?

Hi Michelle!

Yes, it’s absolutely doable with modifications (depending on the one-year-old in question, of course). We’ve always seen quite a few families out and about when in the Yucatan. Hotels and restaurants tend to be extremely welcoming to kids.

If you want to cut quite a bit of driving, you can trim off Bacalar to stay more central. Most of the driving distances in this itinerary are fairly short, coming in at 3 hours or less of driving a day.

I finally booked plane tickets to Mexico thanks to your blog! Thanks for all the inspiration. I’ll be following most of your itinerary!

Thank you so much, Allie, that makes my day! Hope you have an amazing trip!

Hi, thanks so much for your 10 day itinerary post. I’m trying to figure out which of the islands -mujeres or cozumel- to include given ill cut out chichen itza and coba probably, and bacalar as i want to minize driving time. Im travelling with a two year old so ruins may not be the best idea. Would really appreciate your thoughts.

Both islands are beautiful, but Cozumel is better known for diving and Mujeres for its beaches. You guys could have a great time in either, but if I had to choose, I’d say that Mujeres is probably a bit more toddler-friendly.

We (couple with 16 year old son) went to Cancun for the first time in March 2021 and really loved it! Planning a trip back in the spring of ’22. We split our time between Cancun, Isla Mujeres, and Puerto Morelos, including day trips to Coba, Tulum, and Akumal. Just wanted to add an update, though…unfortunately at the time we went there was no climbing at the ruins which had previously allowed it. We heard different reports of whether that was temporary due to COVID-19, or if that was permanent. Also, do watch out for gas station scams! (Search it on the internet…) I had read of some before we went and was prepared, but I was still pretty surprised when the very first place we stopped for gas the attendant used one of the scams to try to rip us off! We called him on it and he tried to talk his way out of it at first, but when we insisted on speaking to his boss he changed his tune and gave back the extra money. We totally would have been fooled if we hadn’t read about it first.

Hi Katie! Thanks so much for the additional information, sounds like you love the area as much as we do. So far I’ve only heard that climbing at Coba is limited due to COVID, but we’ll definitely keep an eye on whether it becomes permanent. Coba is beautiful but if you’re looking for even more ruins next time, Becan, Calakmul, and Ek Balam are all among our favorites.

Hi! What do you think of going on this trip in May?

You will be very, very hot! That wouldn’t be a deal-breaker for us, personally, especially since you’ll probably also benefit from a shoulder season dip in prices, but be prepared for soaring temperatures, especially inland.

The rainy season generally starts in June, so your odds of having sunny weather are solid (especially if you visit toward the beginning of the month), but be prepared to spend lots of time cooling off in the water.

Hello 🙂 thanks for a great post. we are planning the first night in Cancun as we arrive late. the next day we will drive to Valladolid early and have 1 night there. then we will travel to Tulum, and here my boyfriend and I are discussing, whether we should stay in Tulum and take day trips to Bacalar and Akumal or whether we should take overnight stays in Bacalar and playa del Carmen as you recommend. my boyfriend feels stressful changing hotel all the time and driving so much. did you find it stressful? and would you have done something different now if you could? we arrive March 2 and travel home March 11, 2022 – can we snorkel with sea turtles at this time? or is it only possible in the sea turtle season? thanks in advance. Sincerely, Christina

It all depends on your tastes, but I’d be more likely to stay somewhere other than Tulum and day trip to it rather than from it! The prices, crowds, and traffic are all much higher in Tulum than in the surrounding areas.

Basing yourself in fewer places and taking day trips is definitely much easier than changing hotels every night! That being said, driving in the Yucatan is pretty simple once you’re outside the larger cities.

The sea turtles are in Akumal year-round, you shouldn’t have any problem seeing them in March. 🙂

Hope you guys have a great trip!

Thank you for the great ideas and suggestions . We are planning on visiting Cancun in April 24, 2022. We are looking for transportation from Cancun Airport to Valladolid. We don’t want to rent a car, any suggestions? Thank you in advance

Sincerely, Estela

If you don’t want to drive, the easiest way is definitely to take the ADO bus! You’ll need to take one bus from the airport to the downtown terminal or Playa del Carmen, and then catch a bus to Valladolid.

The ADO buses are very comfortable and popular with travelers (but bring a jacket because they tend to blast the a/c).

Alternatively, you can hire a taxi or private transfer, but it will be very expensive!

Hi Kate – Thank you for all the great tips! We are trying to figure out how to rent a car after our trip to Isla Mujeres. Essentially we are flying into Cancun, going to Isla Mujeres and then renting a car to drive around the Riviera Maya. We’ll return the car. I tried the car rental place but I can’t figure out how to rent near the Isla Mujeres ferry. Any tips? Thank you!

Hi Mary! It’s just a quick cab ride from the ferry to the airport, where you can easily rent a car. Taking a taxi to the rental car agency will likely be the simplest way to get there.

Thanks a mill for this itinerary! We are planning 2-3 weeks for my big milestone birthday so having the different add-ons to extend the trip is so great 🙂

Just nervous about driving, as we drive on left side here in Ireland but I’m sure I’ll figure it out!

You definitely will! We’ve gone the opposite way (spent about a month in total driving in Ireland) and it wasn’t nearly as bad switching between the sides as we feared. 🙂

Hello, thanks for this great post! My husband and I were in this area 20 years ago but a lot has changed! We are considering traveling here with our kids (ages 16 & 12) in late June – early July. They are pretty experienced travelers and have been to different areas in MX a few times before. I’m just worried that the level of heat, rain & mosquitos might make the trip unpleasant. We were in Greece last summer and found that as long as we arranged our day to be in water, AC or driving for the middle part of the day we were fine, but that was dry heat. Any advice? Thanks much!

Hi Rebecca,

With the caveat that I spent my upbringing in very hot and humid climates (Texas, Florida, Oklahoma), I would say that generally speaking, the humidity will probably be more intense than in Greece but the general format of your trip will still be doable.

The heat will be more of an issue at the inland locations for sure, I’d definitely plan on some slow afternoons at cenotes and/or resting, and try to reach any ruins you visit first thing in the morning.

There will definitely be weather moments that can be described as unpleasant, but that personally wouldn’t be enough to keep me away from Mexico. 🙂

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Your Complete Guide To an Epic Baja Peninsula Road Trip

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Let me take you on an adventure filled with shrimp tacos, long winding roads, and cobblestoned town squares. It’s a Baja Peninsula road trip. Arguably, the most scenic (& easy) road trip in Mexico.

It’s safe, it’s beachy, it’s teeming with cacti straight from the imagination of Dr. Suess. The nearly 1,000 mile-long peninsula offers pristine tropical beaches, wine country that rivals the nearby California Napa Valley, and life-saving lush palm-fringed oasis. You’ll savor desert sunsets sitting near a pack of coyotes surrounded by Saguaro cacti as the landscape is bathed in pastel pink. But for most out-of-country road trippers, it’s those undeveloped white sand beaches that draw you in.

couple sitting on a pebble beach with bright blue water and a paddleboard

I can’t rave about the beaches enough. I’ve enjoyed vanlife along the West Coast Highway 101 , Florida, and spent months playing on the shores of Sri Lanka , Indonesia , & Thailand’s beaches. And honestly, the Baja beaches are incredible. Rivaling the sands of SEAsia. You’ve likely heard of the turquoise water and limestone arches of Cabo San Lucas (the trashy resort town on the southern tip of the peninsula), but Baja has far better stretches of sand. We’ll dive into those a little later.

Planning an international road trip can be overwhelming. You’ve got border crossings, a fresh set of traffic laws, language barriers, and an unfamiliar food scene. Even something as simple as getting gas can be infinitely more complicated. But don’t you fret. We spent a month on the Baja Peninsula gathering all the info you need to grab your keys and hit the road on an epic Baja Peninsula road trip.

Getting Ready for a Baja Peninsula Road Trip

Let’s talk trip planning. The things you need to know before you go. But first…

Is Baja Mexico Safe?

You won’t have any cartel run-ins or shake-downs. I slept most nights with all my doors wide open on the beach without any hassle. I wouldn’t dare try that in the United States.

Nowhere in the world is without risk. But it’s very likely the most dangerous activity you’ll encounter is driving.

The Baja Peninsula is divided into two separate states. Baja Norte, also known as Baja California, & Baja California Sur. Both are heavily touristed. & the prices often reflect that. I wouldn’t go as far as to call the region “westernized” but it’s different from the rest of Mexico. Newer, beachier, and with a more laid-back vibe. Surrounded by fellow road trippers, safety won’t be a concern on a Baja peninsula road trip.

Best Time to Visit Baja

Spoiler: It’s not Summer.

Baja summers are sweltering. The air is sticky and humid with daytime temps reaching 110 degrees (F) and nighttime lows barely creeping down to 90 degrees (F) in some regions.

We did our big Baja Peninsula road trip in June. It was mind-meltingly hot. We were also traveling in our 1994 campervan that unfortunately does not have A/C. I’m gonna have to add that one to my embarrassingly long list of travel fails .

When choosing the time of year for your Baja road trip there are three things you should consider.

Ask any Canadian snowbird ( there are loads in Baja ) winter is the most pleasant time of year. Daytime temps sit at just above 70 degrees (F). But truthfully, with so many beaches for a quick dip, Spring and Fall are equally as pleasant.

Hurricanes do occasionally make landfall in Baja during the months of May-September but it’s fairly uncommon. If you want to avoid all chances of rain & storm steer clear of August-Sept.

If you have the misfortune of visiting Baja in the summer months (we did it), try to stick to the West Coast as often as possible. The winds from the Pacific create cooler nighttime temps, making van-dwelling much easier.

The Baja Peninsula is world-renowned for its migratory marine wildlife. Specifically, Humpback Whales, Sea Turtles, Mobula Rays, and Whale Sharks. But migratory animals, like the name says, migrate. They aren’t swimming in Baja’s waters year-round. So if swimming with Whale Sharks tops your bucketlist be sure to plan accordingly. Otherwise, you can enjoy dolphins, colorful reef fish, stingrays, and sea lions year-round.

Whale Sharks: Oct-April

Southern towns like Cabo, La Paz, & Bahia de Los Angeles offer tours to swim with these gentle giants.

Humpback Whales: Dec-April

These specific Humpbacks are some of the friendliest in the world often coming right up to the boats.

Mobula Rays: March-Nov

Traveling in a mass of flapping wings these rays shoot out of the water creating quite a spectacle.

Sea Turtles: Late Nov- Early May

Sea turtles are present in Baja year round but if you time your visit during this window you can help release baby turtles into the sea in the small town of Todos Santos.

There are loads of marine tours offered on the Baja Peninsula. Many are ethical and operate with great care for the wildlife. Be sure to research any tour operator before booking. I can’t recommend a specific one since we did not visit during wildlife season.

Because Nov-Jan are the most pleasant months, they are also the most crowded. Some beaches that are typically free begin charging small fees to set up camp or reach capacity early in the day.

Curved tropical bay with cars parked on the sand. Car camping in Baja Peninsula

If you’re looking for a more isolated paradise I would time your Baja Peninsula road trip during the shoulder season of Sept-Nov or Feb-May.

Mexican Auto Insurance

Just like in the United States, drivers in Mexico are legally required to obtain auto insurance. I’ll save you some time googling; your US insurance won’t work south of the border. If your Mexico road trip doesn’t leave the Baja Peninsula (my itineraries do not) then you do not need to obtain a Mexican Tourist Visa or a TIP (temporary vehicle import permit) . If you do fancy the idea of taking the ferry from La Paz to mainland Mexico however, you’ll need both.

Packing Essentials

I consider myself an expert-level light packer from years of long-term international travel. But when we moved into our van to visit every single US national park and eat our way across America , our needs and available space changed dramatically. Throw in an international road trip filled with both tropical beaches and barren deserts and packing gets a wee bit more difficult.

So, we created a comprehensive packing list for van road trips. Don’t worry if you’re not van-dwelling this list is handy for car campers & traditional road trippers as well. Read the full list here .

These are some items specifically tailored to a Baja Peninsula road trip that you should add to your packing list. I linked specific products we personally use and highly recommend.

  • High-quality spare tire & car jack. You should have this for any road trip.
  • Tow rope or tow chain. To pull your car out of sandy situations. Cars get stuck in Baja often. It’s basically a right of passage.
  • Shovel. For digging yourself out of sandy situations.
  • Inflatable SUP or Kayak. The best part of Baja.
  • Battery Operated Fan . For those steamy nights when the van or car just won’t cool off.
  • Snorkel Gear. So many tropical fish & sea turtles. Also you’ll save on your whale shark tours.
  • Pepto-Bismol & Toilet Paper. Even if you don’t get full-blown food poisonging it’s likely you’ll have a little tummy trouble. Pepto to settle the stomach and TP because many bathrooms have none. & if they do have TP they usually charge 20 pesos.
  • Beach Gear. Towels, chairs, the whole 9 yards. You’ll be spending lots of time in the sand.
  • Books/Podcasts /Off-the-grid entertainment. Very rarely will you have service in Baja. Be prepared to entertain yourself on those long drives and relaxing days at the beach.

Woman with a paddleboard in the bright blue water with purpled hued mountains in the background.

4-Wheel Drive. Is it necessary? That entirely depends on how far off-the-beaten-path you want to venture. My biggest regret about our time in Baja was all the seaside towns, waterfalls, and scenic detours we had to skip because we couldn’t risk getting stuck in the sand. Not to mention the beach camping. I highly recommend a vehicle with 4WD.

Handy Spanish Phrases

Most Baja locals don’t speak English.

& you shouldn’t expect them to. Instead, learn a few key phrases that might come in handy and work with that. You don’t need to know full sentences to communicate effectively.

Full (Gas Stations)

You’re Welcome

I need help

I don’t understand

Check (restaurant)

Necesito Ayuda

No entiendo

Cuanta/Cuanto

Pronunciation

Yayno or Jayno

Low See ento

Nessisito Eye udo

No en tea en doe

Com Pray Ba

Obviously, that’s not going to get you very far but it will help with basic everyday interactions.

Everything You Need to Know About Driving in the Baja Peninsula of Mexico

Each country has its own nuances of the road. Drivers in the US are uncharacteristically impatient and heavy on the horn but if you road trip through Laos (or many other parts of Asia), you’ll find that drivers use the horn as a signal rather than a sign of aggression. Similar to Mexico.

Here’s what you need to prepare for when learning to drive in Mexico.

Couple of legs laying in a campervan bed looking out the window at a beautiful beach scenery.

Crossing the Border

Let’s start by getting into the country. You have two points of entry for the Baja Peninsula. Tijuana, the busiest US border crossing, or Mexicali.

It doesn’t particularly matter which you choose, but if you plan on traversing the entire peninsula it’s likely you’ll enter through one and exit through the other. In that case, you should 100% enter through Tijuana. Crossing from the U.S. to Mexico in Tijuana is a breeze. In fact, you should be extra certain you have your passports on hand (for departure) because it’s likely they won’t even stop you to check on the way in.

Our van was ‘searched’ for under a few minutes and we drove on through to TJ. Having said that, be sure to ensure there aren’t any drugs or other contraband in the van. Vans can turn into bottomless storage pits after being on the road, you would hate to have that one joint cause a world of hassle for yourself or be turned around before your road trip even began.

Leaving through the Tijuana border is another story entirely. 20 crowded lanes of bumper to bumper traffic with vendors weaving through their captive audience of cars selling churros, window washes, and blankets. Even at 3 AM, the border crossing takes several hours. & if you’re unfortunate enough (like us) to get stuck in the “Sentri” lanes which are only for global entry pass holders, you’ll end up chatting with a border agent while he explains that everyone gets 3 strikes (or lane mishaps) before they are charged a $5,000 fine .

Rules of the Road

It’s not just Mexican driving culture that’s different. The laws are too. Here’s what you need to keep in mind before driving on the Baja Peninsula.

The infamous left turn signal.

In America, our left turn signal is used to let people know we are making a left-hand turn or changing lanes. In Mexico however, your left-hand blinker signifies that you are allowing someone to pass you and you are confirming the coast is clear for them to do so.

This means if you are making a left-hand turn on a two-lane road, slow all the way down, flip on your blinker and ALWAYS check to make sure someone isn’t going to blindside you trying to pass as you turn. These crashes are common and deadly. Likewise, when, ( because you will ) you get stuck behind a semi-truck going 15 MPH on winding narrow roads, he will use his signal to let you know when it’s safe to pass him.

Most roadways are single lane which makes passing difficult. Since vans don’t tend to be the fastest things on the road, especially in Baja, it’s best to just hug the shoulder and use your left turn signal to indicate people may pass you.

Drinking & Driving

Drinking and driving is illegal in Mexico, but often rarely enforced. The same goes for open containers, which means you’ll sometimes see locals drinking while they drive. Just be vigilant on the roadways and know that weekends will have the most intoxicated drivers.

You can be pulled over in Baja for a wide variety of reasons. Not wearing a seatbelt, speeding ( can you convert KM/H to MPH?), or simply because of your American license plate. In any situation, bribery is often an option.

How do you bribe a police officer you ask?

Very discreetly offer $20-$40. Keep it in your vehicle and discreetly show them the cash. Often they don’t want their partners back in the car to know they are pocketing the money. If that doesn’t work you’ll have to go to the local police station to pay your infraction.

Military Check Points

Let me start by saying…this is a place you cannot bribe.

But it sounds a lot more ominous and sketchy than it actually is. There are 6 total on the road down to Cabo. Some you roll through without stopping and give a wave, a couple of them have you exit and then search your vehicle. They are usually very nice, asking where you come from, where you’re going, and if it’s for vacation and send you on your way.

They are looking for “drugas” (drugs) so don’t be surprised if they poke around the inside of your van.

Phrases to know: De donde vienes ? – Where are you coming from? Adonde vais ? – Where are you going? Military officers very rarely speak English and they will definitely ask you these 2 questions at each checkpoint.

Common Road Hazards

My two biggest driving tips for the Baja Peninsula are don’t drive at night & don’t drive tired. If that means you have to break up the long desert stretches into two days, do it.

Roads in Baja can be very touch-and-go and most stretches have day-ruining potholes, unmarked topes (speed bumps), wildlife crossing, including cows and horses. I found driving in the early morning ensured you aren’t driving through peak heat, which can get intense away from the west coast, and will put you at your destination well before dark. Let’s take a look at common road hazards in Baja and how to avoid them.

Pot Holes & General Disrepair

If you stick to the 2 main highways zig-zagging across Baja, road conditions are good enough. There are errant pot-holes and some general crumbling, but it’s paved the entire way so what more could you ask for.

If you venture off those roads, however, you’ll find washboards covered in a few inches of loose sand and treacherous packed dirt roads with incredibly steep grades. This is where 4WD comes in handy. Just be alert and prepared during drive days.

Erratic Drivers

We already touched on the potential for drunk drivers, but drivers in Baja are a little erratic even sober. Speeding is very common and they take corners at unrecommended speeds. Worst of all, they often pass around blind corners or hills. Just something to keep in mind.

Vacas (Cows)

Why did the cow, wild horse, and goat cross the road?

I don’t actually have a punchline but just keep in mind that they do. Even highways. There are no rules in the desert.

wild horses in the desert

Unmarked Speed Bumps

Topes. Speed bumps. Unpainted and ready to completely destroy your vehicle. These speed bumps are not always marked or have signs near them as any warning. They are usually signaling that you’re coming up on a town, a sharp turn, or a military checkpoint. If you see a sign that says anything about Velocidad (speed), or a town coming up it’s best to slow down. These can sometimes be extremely hard on your suspension (& everything else as you go hurtling over them) so take them as slowly as you possibly can.

Let’s be honest, the real allure of driving through Baja is the chance to sleep literally on a beach and waking up to the waves crashing and the sun peaking over the water. The reality is often as good as the fantasy, but there is a limit to where you can drive your car before it sinks into pockets of deep and loose sand.

When in doubt, read reviews before you reach your intended beach campsite on iOverlander . If you don’t have service, walk the road a bit and see if the sand feels too loose. A sign of that is the lack of tread or tire tracks on roads. You can also flag down a car coming the other way and see if it’s safe to travel. Also, while I’m throwing out recommendations avoid getting too close to the water. Typically, vans do their best to get as close to the water as possible for the morning coffee views, but that’s also where sand is thickest and most treacherous. I’ve seen many stuck cars getting pulled out by very unamused tow trucks.

If you do get stuck: Have a shovel to dig out your tires. If you don’t have “sand tracks” (specifically for this purpose) you can use your driver and passenger seat floor mats for traction. & then let the air out of your tires. Use this as a last resort or if you know there’s somewhere you can fill them back up. As you press on the gas, twist your steering wheel back and forth to try and shimmy your way out. Ask other beachgoers to help push at the same time. Many are more than willing to help because it’s likely happened to them a time or two. Often you don’t even need to ask. Some of the more developed beaches even have tow services specifically for such scenarios.

Now that I’ve covered all the hazards is a good moment to remind you that a Baja peninsula road trip is no more terrifying or difficult than driving in the United States. I promise. It just takes a little getting used to.

Gassing Up in the Baja Peninsula

It’s almost as easy as gassing up back home.

First things first, gas stations in Mexico aren’t self-service. Like Oregon , they have gas station attendants who handle all the pumping.

Here’s how to handle a typical gas fill-up.

Always be sure to verify that the pump is set to zero. “ La bomba esta puesta a cero” . Then they will usually ask if you want premium or Magna. Magna is regular gas. Regular is usually a green pump which sent me into a panic our first fill up thinking I accidentally told him diesel. It is also customary to leave a 20-30 peso tip to attendants who wipe your windows clean while they pump your gas, so always have some coins handy.

Another scam to watch out for is double charging or worse with your credit card. As soon as you can, be sure to check your account statement and make sure you were only charged once. The best way to avoid getting ripped off is to be friendly, smile, and give a “Buenos Dias”, act like it’s not your first rodeo.

Note: some gas stations are CASH ONLY. So always have a stash of cash in case the only gas station for the next 150km doesn’t take credit cards.

Fill up when you can

There are huge stretches of roadway void of any sign of life, or gas for that matter. A good common rule is when you dip just below half a tank, start to assess your gas options. Specifically, the stretch of road between El Rosario de Arriba, Catavina, and Bahia de Los Angeles is a gas desert.

The Green Angels & Roadside Repairs

You just walloped a cow, popped a tire, or slowly petered out of gas. Now what?

van driving on a road in desert with sun setting behind it

Fortunately, Mexico has a free roadside assistance service called the Green Angels. They patrol the major highways during daytime hours looking for stranded foreigners (& locals). If you happen to have cell service their 24-hour phone number is 01-800-987-8224.

Although the service is technically free it is customary to throw those lifesavers a little tip.

Alternatively, if you need van repairs while in Baja you’re in luck. Mechanic shops and tire repair stores are literally on every corner. It’s common for them to overcharge foreigners…. but what are you gonna do about it?

Tips for Vanlife in Baja

Let’s just pause for a moment & discuss Baja Mexico Vanlife. If you’re planning a road trip with hotels/have no interest in the day-to-day van-dwelling you can just skip this section.

Best Wild Camping in Baja

For the most part, van camping is free in the Baja Peninsula. You can pretty much wild camp anywhere without the risk of being hassled. But finding scenic wild camping is the goal here. Here are 3 tips on finding scenic Baja wild camping to keep in mind.

  • IOverlander is great for finding places to sleep. Some of the more developed beaches will charge you to stay for the day or overnight and accept cash (usually 100-200 pesos). They are always very nice and will take trash from you, offer to fill your water, etc.

2. Arrive early. To ensure a good spot on any beach it is wise to get there early. Especially during peak season in the winter, if you don’t get a spot early, they sometimes close the beach to any newcomers.

3. Keep in mind the tides. Try and see where the high tide mark is, and stay above that. As always don’t arrive at dark to avoid getting stuck in sand or unknowingly parking too close to the water.

Read this blog post that details the art of Stealth Camping to become a professional van camper in the US and Mexico.

van parked on the rocky beach with a man under a thatched roof in the shade.

These were my personal favorite wild camp locations in Baja Mexico.

  • Playa La Gringa (Bahia de los Angeles)
  • San Ignacio town square
  • Faro de Mulege (Mulege)
  • Playa Santispac
  • Playa El Coyote
  • Playa El Tecolote
  • Playa Balandra
  • San Pedrito Beach (Todos Santos)
  • La Playita (San Jose del Cabo)

Map of Best Wild Camping in Baja Peninsula

Water Fill Ups & Showers in the Desert

The Baja Peninsula as a whole is one of the driest regions of Mexico. The cities scattered across the peninsula suffer a nearly year-round drought. Water is a scarce resource. But aside from gallon jugs scored at the OXXO convenience stores you’ll also find tons of water refill sites ready to fill any container with freshly filtered water. Just look for blue painted buildings called Water World or anything with “Purificador” in the name.

water filtration plant. Bright blue building.

As for showers, if you didn’t grab a shower bag for wild showers you can always pay for one at hostels, large gas stations, or some popular beaches. I resorted to ocean rinses on most days since you’ll be spending so much time covered in saltwater anyways.

The Perfect Baja Road Trip Itinerary

Now you’re ready to hit the road. Click the link below to head to my blog post detailing the perfect Baja Peninsula road trip itinerary.

Invest in a Comprehensive Van Build Guide

Building a van is overwhelming. It often involves countless hours scouring Youtube, blog posts, and facebook groups looking for semi-helpful information. It’s a huge project and when we first purchased our van we didn’t even know where to begin. What van layout should we choose? How do I build everything from scratch (from window covers to shelving)? Should I choose sheep wool insulation or polyiso boards? & these are just the easy questions. Katie & Ben from Two Wandering Soles provide the answers. They created these super neat van build breakdowns to help guide us through the process.

& if you’re a first-time builder I highly recommend their complete van conversion academy.

best road trips mexico

Investing in Van Conversion Academy Includes…

  • Clear blueprints for all the most complicated van systems (I’m talking about you electrical) complete with online shopping lists where you can purchase the  exact  parts you need. 
  • Tons of layout options to choose from. They even provide exact blueprints and measurements that you can copy for multiple van designs!
  • Access to an exclusive Facebook group of fellow builders where you can ask all the questions your heart desires. 
  • A COMPLETE step-by-step walk-through on how to build your van from fan installation to sub-flooring to sound dampening to water and propane. They’ve thought of everything including what the most common pitfalls are with each step and how to avoid them. 
  • Lifelong access to ALL this content. & loads more I won’t cover here.

If you invest in ONE thing before you begin your vanbuild, make it this master course. Katie and Ben helped us build our dream van and whether or not you spring for a Sprinter (we didn’t) or something more budget-friendly they will make sure you get the results you want before hitting the road.

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Further Reading...

best road trips mexico

The Best 3-Week Baja Mexico Itinerary: Discover the Peninsula

best road trips mexico

3 Towns Worth Road-Tripping in the Baja Peninsula of Mexico

best road trips mexico

Why you Need to Visit the Popotla Fish Market

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This guide is exactly what I was looking for! Thanks for the detailed info, makes me feel prepared for potentially crossing the border!

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This was fantastic. If you come back to baja go to the Escapar van meetup: https://escaparalabaja.com/

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Geena Truman | Travel Blogger

Mexican Routes

Free Mexico Travel Guide and Travel Information

The best routes for a road trip in Mexico

by admin · Published March 26, 2019 · Updated September 19, 2023

Are you thinking about taking a road trip for your next vacation? Mexico might be the perfect destination. With its laid-back beaches, vibrant cities, incredible food, and rich culture, there’s no better time to hit the road than now!

Choosing your vehicle for a road trip

The first decision to make is whether you’ll travel by car or motorhome. Cars are generally easier to maneuver, especially on steep or curvy roads. But motorhomes offer more comfort and convenience.

Road-tripping by car means planning your route carefully to reach reserved accommodations each night. You’ll need to factor in stops for food and bathroom breaks.

Renting a motorhome allows you to unpack just once. Everything you need is on board, from meals and sleeping quarters to showers and a bathroom. While motorhome fuel costs more, it saves money on hotels and restaurants.

Travel in a group or solo travel?

If you opt for a motorhome, decide whether to join a caravan or go your own way.

Both have advantages and disadvantages. Caravans follow a set itinerary, providing guided routes, campground reservations, and tours. They offer camaraderie and safety but can be more expensive.

For more adventure and spontaneity, create your own loose itinerary.

Navigating Mexican highways

In Mexico, there are two types of highways: toll roads and free roads. Toll roads are well-maintained but expensive and don’t accept credit cards. Free roads can be time-consuming and have speed bumps.

Planning your stops and where to stay at night?

When it’s time to rest for the night, use your phone or the Internet to find suitable accommodations. Choose between rustic campgrounds with no hook-ups and luxury RV parks based on your preferences.

Planning ahead of your travel route and making reservations will ensure a smooth trip.

Recommended routes

So what destinations and scenic spots should your epic Mexican road trip include? Here are three possible travel routes to explore the country, depending on your interests and available vacation time and budget:

Baja Coast:  Explore stunning beaches, whale watching, and surfing along the Baja California coast. Visit Tijuana, Guerrero Negro for gray whales, Todos Santos for art, and Cabo for its coastline and nightlife.

Central Mexico: Start in Mexico City and savor the art, food, and architecture of the Mexican capital. Explore Oaxaca City, Escondido, Huatulco, and end your journey in Palenque with its ruins and waterfalls.

Mexico is a great destination that offers a wealth of beaches, history, and culture, making it a place you’ll want to return to. Choose your route and start planning your road trip today with friends and/or family!

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As you plan your road trip in Mexico, this article offers insights, local knowledge, and practical tips to help you prepare for a safe and enjoyable journey

Driving on the open road

When you’re planning a road trip, Mexico offers an extensive network of highways that traverse spectacular scenery as they connect you by land to Mexico’s beautiful beaches, its picturesque colonial cities, its impressive archaeology parks, as well as areas of outstanding natural beauty.

As you make plans for your road trip in Mexico, this article provides you with a checklist of insights, local knowledge and practical tips to help you properly plan and enjoy your journey across Mexico.

Insights about driving in Mexico

Our guides to Driving in Mexico and Auto Insurance for your journeys provide you with a raft of local knowledge and tips to help you get acquainted with the driving scene here including driving techniques, toll roads, breakdowns, military checkpoints, as well as dealing with accidents and insurance claims.

Bringing your car to Mexico

You need to organize some paperwork when you plan to drive your US or Canadian-plated car to Mexico:

  • How to bring a foreign-plated car to Mexico
  • Acquiring a Temporary Import Permit for your foreign-plated car

Auto insurance for your road trip in Mexico

Your US or Canadian auto insurance policy won’t cover you for third party liability in Mexico.  You need to purchase a special policy to ensure your journey is properly covered and that you, your car and belongings are protected in case of an accident or other mishap:

  • Learn about auto insurance for road trips across Mexico
  • Get an online quote for Mexico auto insurance with MexPro

Helpful articles

For additional insights about driving in Mexico, connect to these additional articles and resources here in Mexperience

  • Guide to Mexican Street Speak
  • Military checkpoints in Mexico
  • Dealing with car accidents in Mexico
  • Toll road or freeway?

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Cancun Mexico Road Trip: Our 2 Week Yucatan Peninsula Road Trip for First Timers

By: Author MC Miller

Posted on Last updated: July 8, 2023

Categories Adventure Travel , Mexico , North America , Road Trips , Travel Blog Post , Travel Guides

Planning an epic Mexico  road trip? Here’s our detailed breakdown of the perfect  two-week itinerary in Mexico.   

While a Mexico Road trip may not be the first thing that springs to mind when you think of a holiday to Mexico, after several trips to Mexico, we believe a road trip in Mexico is the very best way to see all the amazing things the country has to offer.

Our good friends are from Mexico (we met them on an exchange in our university days in Norway!) so we often venture back to Mexico to visit them. This time we opted out of the Collectivos and Group Tours in favour of renting a car in Cancun to explore the incredible Yucatan peninsula.

If you are visiting Mexico for the first time, here is what we would recommend seeing in a 2 week Mexico road trip itinerary of the Yucatan peninsula for first-time visitors.

Road Trip Mexico Itinerary – Plan a Trip to Mexico

2-week-mexican-road-trip

How to Get to Mexico?

There are numerous great airports to fly into Mexico. The best airport to fly into for a Yucatan peninsula road trip are either MEX (Mexico City) or CUN (Cancun).

If you are coming from the United States, flights into Mexico can be very affordable due to the abundance of low cost carriers frequenting these airports including Interjet, Volaris, SouthWest and Spirit.

You can fly from Miami to Cancun for as little as $100 (2-hour flight). For discounted flights, we use Skyscanner to search for the cheapest flights available.

The best way to access Mexico from elsewhere in the world including Europe may be to first fly into Miami and get a connecting flight to Mexico. Recently, we took a flight with Norwegian Airlines for $220 one way including baggage from Europe to Fort Lauderdale. 

We would not recommend driving from the US to Mexico. While it is *usually* safe border towns have the worst reputation in Mexico for crime. For that reason, we advise to fly from the US to Mexico and rent a car on arrival.

how-to-get-to-mexico

How to Get Around Mexico 

Recently, we hired a car in Cancun and it was by far our favourite way to get around Mexico.  We have also done road trips with our Mexican friends (Mexico City – Cuernavaca) & (Leon – Guanajuato, San Miguel) and it was definitely the better choice to get around.

The good news is car hire is very affordable in Mexico . Provided you are not traveling directly in the holidays you should be able to get an affordable car hire from any major airport in Mexico.

For example, our last car rental in Mexico cost us $75 for a week including full insurance, which is just over $10 a day.

Driving in Mexico is super easy, especially in the Yucatan peninsula where we would recommend a road trip for first timers in Mexico. If you would like a little extra help, you can see our exact directions from Cancun Airport to Tulum .

There are also no problems to drive with a foreign driving license in Mexico. However, if it is in a language other than English or Spanish, it is always best to have it translated.

Gas is a little more expensive than most places in the US, 20 pesos or $1 USD per litre (around US$4 per gallon (3.78L) however, considering car hire is about a third of the price of most places in the US, a little extra on petrol doesn’t make much difference in the budget.

Tip: If you have a choice between a toll road or a toll free road in Mexico, for safety reasons it is always best to select the toll road.

renting-a-car-in-mexico

By Day Trips

If you prefer not to drive, Mexico is a great place for tours. There is a tour to just about every major tourist spot in Mexico so you won’t have trouble getting around Mexico by doing day trips.

There are loads of tours with pricing and reviews at  GetYourGuide . We personally love this site as they have free cancellations and mobile vouchers – our plans are always changing so it is nice to know you can change your travel plans on the go.

There are tours from Cancun for as little as $45.

When to Do a Mexico Road Trip?

Mexico is a warm and sunny destination year round so it is always a good time for a road trip!

While it can become light jacket weather in North Mexico including Mexico City during winter (Dec-Feb), in Yucatan (where we suggest you do your first road trip in Mexico) it is ‘summer’ year round. Yippee!

The coldest Cancun gets is around 68°F (20°C) in January. Temperatures can rise to up to 95°F (35°C) in July in Cancun.

As a tropical destination, the heat can be unbearable in summer in Mexico. For this reason, our favourite time to visit Mexico is in winter between November to February. 

If you want to avoid peak prices, avoid Christmas and New Years. It is low season until December and after New Years when people head back to work after Christmas break. 

when-to-do-a-trip-to-mexico

How Much Time for a Mexico Road Trip to the Yucatan Peninsula?

You could spend a lifetime in the Yucatan Peninsula and still not see every amazing beach, Mayan ruin and cenote the region has to offer.

If you want to cover the best of this area of Mexico well, without needing to check every single attraction off the list, we would recommend at least two weeks. If you have less time, you can focus on less towns. A possible combination might be (Cancun + Playa del Carmen) OR (Tulum + Valladolid.)

If you want to stretch out your trip and make it a little more relaxing, you can schedule more time in Cancun or Playa del Carmen.

Recommended Two Weeks in Mexico itinerary summary:

  • 2 Days in Cancun – to explore epic beaches and the famous Cancun beach strip
  • 1 Day in Isla Mujeres – to swim with Whale Sharks, see turtles and drive around on golf carts.
  • 2 Days in Playa Del Carmen – to explore more pristine beaches in a more traditional environment
  • 2 Days in Cozumel  – to visit one of the best islands in Mexico
  • 5 Days in Tulum – to swim in amazing cenotes and see epic Mayan ruins
  • 2 Days in Valladolid  – to explore a quintessential Mexican small city and hunt for hidden cenotes.

How Much Does a 2-Week Mexico Road Trip Cost?

Many people choose Mexico as a travel destination as it is an incredibly affordable place to vacation.

As tourism increases, we have noticed that the prices in Mexico have increased over the years however, it is still an incredibly affordable place to vacation in comparison to the US or Europe.

While using collectivo (shared van, local transport) is probably the most affordable way to travel Mexico (costing around 30 pesos a ride), it can be unreliable and leave you waiting in the hot sun for hours.

Other than collectivos, hiring a car is the next most affordable way to complete a Mexican road trip from Cancun. Expect to pay around around US$150 for a 2-week car rental and another $200 for gas. 

The hotel strip in Cancun is notoriously an expensive place to stay where (seriously amazing) all inclusive accommodation in Cancun can set you back US$200 + for a 4 star hotel with everything including drinks included.

If you want to keep costs down, you can stay with the locals in downtown Cancun (totally safe) but it will take you 25 minutes per day in the car each day to access the beach. 

See more: Adults only all inclusive resorts in Cancun.

Outside of the hotel strip in Cancun and other all inclusive hotels scattered across the Yucatan peninsula, accommodation in Mexico is more affordable than most places in the United States and Europe.

Outside of peak times, you can get a comfortable 3-star budget hotel  for as little as US$40-60 per night and around $60-80 per night for a 4-star hotel. During school holidays, Spring Break and annual breaks like Christmas, prices in the area increase as much as double.

Food and drink in Mexico is as cheap or as expensive as you want to make it. You can dine locally for as little as $10 for two people or there are fancy Western style resorts which will cost you as much if not more than dining in the United States.

cost-of-Mexican-vacation

Our 2-Week Cancun Mexico Road Trip Itinerary

Itinerary day 1-2: cancun.

Cancun is the airport that you will likely be flying in and picking up your car hire so it makes sense to spend a few days relaxing in and around some of the most beautiful beaches in the world.

things-to-do-in-cancun

The Hotel Zone or Zona Hotelera in Cancun (where majourity of people stay on the 15-mile strip of sand in beachfront properties) has a reputation for hosting first time American travelers to Mexico, who are nervous to venture out and explore uncharted territory (these people certainly aren’t thinking to hire a car for example)

The Hotel Zone IS a very Americanised experience, it is much like being in America really, there is little to no cultural value here, and while it is probably not our favourite place in Mexico we would recommend spending a few nights for 2 reasons: 1. the beaches are possibly our favourite on the coast (BIG call) 2. an all inclusive resort is a pretty cool experience – like being on a cruise ship, but on land…

cancun-mexico

If you like nightlife and partying you will also LOVE Cancun as you can find interesting bars and restaurants lining Kulkukan Boulevard, the only road on the  Hotel Zone beach strip. One of the most famous shows/nightclubs to visit in Cancun is Coco Bongos which includes a Vegas style show followed by a night club (ending at 3.30am)

If you feel like adding a little culture into itinerary OR you want to save money, we would suggest either visiting or staying in Downtown Cancun . Prices in Downtown Cancun are about a third of the cost of the Hotel Zone.

Our favourite place to visit in Downtown Cancun is Parque Las Palapas , a local park which often hosts local performances and is lined with very affordable street food. If you want to pick up a cool Mexican souvenir, the best and most affordable place to do so is downtown at Mercado 28 (get ready to barter).

best road trips mexico

Tacos we bought in downtown Cancun. We paid 25 pesos for 5

If you want to do some interesting and unique snorkeling in Cancun during your few days staying there, we would recommend going on a snorkeling or diving tour (starting at $47 for a snorkeling tour) with the Underwater Museum of Art.

The cool thing about this tour is that it is dedicated entirely to conservation. The museum has a total of 500 sculptures which were pioneered for the creation of artificial reefs to prevent mass tourism damaging the eco-system at the Manchones reef. The statutes are a new technique for coral to grow on and a way to save the oceans for generations to come which is pretty cool.

If you are are an adventure junkie, Cancun has some of the best adventure parks in the world including Xplor Adventure Park which for $120 per person includes all inclusive zip lineing through the jungle,  ATV rides, underground caving and rafting.

An activity that totally peaks my interest in Cancun is the Lucha Libre (traditional Mexican fighting in masks) which are held in downtown Cancun every Tuesday, Friday and Sunday. For 250 pesos ($12) you can get front row tickets including a beer!

It is possible to visit Cenotes and the famous Chichen Itza Maya Ruins from Cancun but we would recommend doing these things from Tulum and Valladolid.

Chichen-Itza-Maya-Ruins

If you want to check out some ruins close to Cancun we would recommend the El Meco ruins  which are located only a 20 minute car ride from Cancun.

In 1-2 days, you would not be able to do all the activities in Cancun. If you love everything we listed here, you may want to extend your time in Cancun out a bit.

Where to stay in Cancun?

There is accommodation in Cancun to meet a variety of budgets.

For budget conscious travelers, it is best to stay in the downtown Cancun area and make trips to the Hotel Zone and any other place you might like to visit in Cancun.

Parking can be a little tricky in the Hotel Zone. If you want to stay in Downtown Cancun, there are a few good free parking spots including Playa Ballenas which is free to park in the hotel zone. 

where-to-stay-cancun

Here are our top picks for where to stay in Cancun:

Downtown Budget Conscious Traveler: Hotel Suites Gaby

We have personally stayed at Hotel Suites Gaby while in Cancun. It is clean and comfortable accommodation with free parking in downtown Cancun. You can easily walk to Parque Las Palapas from the hotel. Oh, and wifi works which is always nice. Wifi in hotels can be unrealiable in Mexico so when the signal is strong it is a big thumbs up from me!

  • Book Hotel Suites Gaby for your dates

Best Budget All Inclusive Hotel Cancun: Melody Maker Cancún

Pros: Modern decor, pools appealing to adults not just for kids, nice white sand beaches on the Cancun hotel zone strip, rooms look super fresh and tidy, some rooms have a nice outdoor spa on the balcony, indoor dining areas a sophisticated – looks high-end with leather seats, breakfast room has nice high ceilings and extends right onto the sand, nice day beds with umbrellas, Beautiful symmetry,

Cons: not much entertainment at night if you don’t want to watch a movie. Reportedly limited options on food

  • Book The Melody Maker for your dates in Cancun

Best Budget All Inclusive Hotel Cancun:  Villa Del Palmar

Another good choice for a budget, all inclusive in Cancun is the Villa Del Palmar hotel.

Pros: hammock on the balcony, clean – not modern but not old decor, good room size at 50m2, free wifi, nice infinity pool with daybeds overlooking the beach. Good variety of restaurants: 6 including Buffet & à la carte: International, Japanese, Mediterranean, Mexican, Steakhouse cuisine.

Cons: Located near Isla Mujeres but a little far from Cancun. The beach doesn’t seem as nice as the hotel zone beaches. People report lots of seaweed.

  • Book The Villa Del Palmar for your dates in Cancun

Best Luxury All Inclusive Hotel Cancun: Hyatt Viva Cancun

If you are coming to Cancun on a honeymoon or a special occasion we would recommend a stay at the Hyatt Viva Cancun, one of the best rated all inclusive hotels on the Hotel Zone of Cancun.

Pros: The hotel is located on one of the most beautiful strips of Cancun where you can enjoy white sand beaches and clear-blue waters. There is also a lot to do at the hotel from theater shows to water sports to tequila tastings and even a microbrewery. 

Cons: The price is high but for the luxury you receive we think it is quite good value.

  • Book The Hyatt Viva Cancun for your dates in Cancun

Itinerary Days 2-3: Isla Mujeres 

Only a 15 minute ferry ride from Cancun is the beautiful island of Isla Mujeres. The ferry leaves  every half hour from 5:00 am until 9:30 pm. See here for the ferry website with more information.

Isla-mujeres-mexico

One of the biggest draw cards to visiting Isla Mujeres is the ability to swim with whale sharks . You can also swim with them at the nearby Island of Isla Holbox, which is an alternative spot to Isla Mujeres to swim with whale sharks.

If you want to have a chance to swim with whale sharks you will need to visit between May – September. If you want to swim with whale sharks between this time, it is best to book a tour in advance. Here is a eco-friendly small group tour to swim with whale sharks. It is best to pick a small group tour to protect the whale sharks.

Isla-mujeres-mexico-whale-sharks

If your visit to Isla Mujeres doesn’t fall within whale shark time of year (BOO!) there are still tonnes of fun things to do on the island – the water and sand on the island is stunning so it would be worthwhile to make a visit to the island for the stunning surroundings alone.

One of the most popular beaches on the island is Playa Norte  which is a stunning strip of beach lined with resorts and cool beach bars. It is also a great place to watch the sunset. If you are choose to stay on the island for a few nights, Playa Sol is a great alternative sunset spot on Isle Mujeres.  It is also known as being less commercialised as Playa Norte so as a general rule it is a cheaper place to go for food and drink.

One of the quirky things to do on Isla Mujeres is to hire a golf buggy and travel around the island on that as it’s not recommend to bring your car over to the island. This is probably the most fun way to get around the island but it isn’t particularly cheap. Golf Buggys can cost up to 1500 pesos or $80.

If you hire a buggy drive your buggy to the beautiful beach and cliffside of Punta Sur. Punta Sur is worth the trip for the spectacular views it provides. There used to be Mayan ruins here but sadly, there have mostly been destroyed now by hurricanes.

If you are not in season for whale sharks but you love animals like us, we would highly recommend a visit to  Tortugranja , a turtle sanctuary for endangered sea turtles. It is very affordable for entry, only $3 per person. You can also buy some food to feed the turtles.

If you love turtles, between May – July you can see loggerhead turtles laying eggs on some protected beaches in the island. A good spot is Casa Sirena Hotel where if you are lucky you can spot the turtles at night. Book in advance as this hotel is popular and often books out.

On the island there are a few water parks where you pay a fee to use their facilities for the day. One of the most popular is the Garrafon Natural Reef Park which includes luxury beach loungers,  kayaking an infinity pool, ziplining and a pristine place for snorkeling. It costs $70 per person to enter the park.

If you are coming from Cancun and don’t want to stay on the island, an alternative is to get a tour which includes entry & ferry transfers. We would recommend this tour which isn’t a whole lot more expensive.

If you would like a more budget experience, next to the reef park is a cheaper alternative for budget travelers at Garrafon de Castilla . For 100 pesos per person ($5 USD) it is a great no frills snorkel spot with beach chairs and a restaurant where you can purchase reasonably priced food and drink.

You can also access the MUSA , underwater musuem from Isla Mujeres so if you didn’t get a chance to do so from Cancun, this is your chance. It is necessary to book a tour to visit MUSA as the underwater art is a while off shore so it is necessary to have a boat.

Where to stay in Isla Mujeres?

There are great options for both budget and luxury travelers in Isla Mujeres.

Here are our top picks for where to stay in Isla Mujeres, depending on your budget :

Budget Conscious Traveler: Posada Paso Del Sol 

Posada Paso Del Sol is the perfect place for budget travelers on Isla Mujeres. The rooms are clean, beautifully decorated and each feature their own ensuite bathroom.

  • Book Posada Paso Del Sol for your dates in Isla Mujeres.

Mid Range Comfort Traveler: Hotel Kinich

Hotel Kinich is the perfect place for mid range travelers on Isla Mujeres. The 4 star accommodation is located in a great spot on the Island and each modern room has air-conditioned rooms with free WiFi.

  • Book Hotel Kinich during your dates on Isla Mujeres

Luxury Traveler: Izla Beach Front Hotel 

This luxury beachfront hotel is our pick for a luxury stay on Isla Mujeres as it consistency gets great ratings for its clean, modern and comfortable lodging at an affordable price. The hotel includes 2 pools including a rooftop pool and a restaurant on premises.

  • Book The Izla Beach Front Hotel for Your Dates in Isla Mujeres

Itinerary Days 3-5: Playa del Carmen

We have visited Playa del Carmen quite a few times as it a less expensive and more authentic Cancun. Of course there are still the commercialized parts of Playa Del Carmen (it also has a CoCo Bongos for example) but as a whole it is more authentic Mexican experience than Cancun.

playa-del-carmen-mexico

1-2 nights here is plenty as there is not a whole lot of fun things to do here that you cannot do in our preferred town on the Yucatan peninsula, Tulum.

The beach trip at Playa del Carmen is filled with fancy hotels and beach clubs that often have a cover charge or minimum spend to buy something there.

If you would like to spend a day on the beach, Lidos Beach Club is one of the better and more affordable options. It has only a $200 peso ($10 USD) minimum   spend and the seats and loungers are very comfortable.

If you prefer a more local beach, you can head to the free and local preferred beach of Punta Esmeralda , a 15 minute drive from downtown Playa.

We would also recommend a few hours wondering around Playa Del Carmen’s 5th Avenue , La Quinta as there is a lot of interesting restaurants and shops to explore.

Playa Del Carmen has some great and very affordable Mexican cuisine so make sure you eat lots while in Playa del Carmen. Our favourite is El Fargon , which sell authentic and delicious tacos for 15 pesos each.

In Playa del Carmen you will come across a lot of street vendors, especially around Parque Fundadores . Don’t miss the opportunity to try some Elote (grilled Corn with mayonnaise) – Mike loves it, Im not so much of a fan and a Marquesita , essentially a nutella and cheese crape. You can also buy tacos and tortas from street vendors at better prices than the surrounding restarants.

If you want to splurge a new and interesting dining experience one night, Alux Restaurant offers cool cave dining in Playa del Carmen. A main meal in a cave will set you back 500 pesos + ($26 USD). For budget travelers they have a 150 peso special which includes one drink and a cave tour.

If you are one for a bit of adventure, you can do a cave swim at Rio Secreto  while in Playa. You will need a guide for this. You can book your tour here .

On your journey between Playa del Carmen and Tulum we would recommend stopping a t Xpu-ha Beach for a bit of  secluded paradise without the hoards of tourists. It is well worth the 100 pesos entry ($5 USD). If you would like a sun lounger or food and drink, it costs extra.

There is a cenote located directly across the beach called Cenote Azul  if you feel like visiting a cenote while at the beach. The cenote costs 120 pesos entry ($6 USD). 

Further along from Xpu-ha Beach , on your way to Tulum or as a day trip from Tulum is  Akumal  where you have the chance to swim with sea turtles. The best time to show up at the   Akumal beach is early morning, when the turtles are more active. As it gets later in the day, crowds show up at the beach and scare the turtles away.

Akumal-turtles

Where to stay in Playa Del Carmen ?

We have stayed in Playa Del Carmen a few times in the past and have found some fabulous places to stay!

Here are our top picks for where to stay in Playa Del Carmen , depending on your budget :

Budget Conscious Traveler: Wabi Hotel

We have personally stayed at Wabi Hotel before and would highly recommend it. It is a clean and comfortable hotel in Playa del Carmen with free parking. We would recommend spending a few extra dollars on the Superior room as it is well worth it.

  • Book The Wabi Hotel for Your Dates in Playa Del Carmen here

Mid Range Comfort Traveler: Wyndham Garden Playa del Carmen

If you want a mid range accommodation in Playa in an international brand name where you really cantgo wrong we would suggest the Wyndham Garden Playa del Carmen. For what you get it is a great rate.

  • Book The Wyndham Garden Playa del Carmen for Your Dates in Playa Del Carmen here

Luxury Traveler: Ocean Riviera Paradise El Beso – All Inclusive Adults Only 

We just booked a stay at the Ocean Riviera Paradise El Beso with our parents who are visiting us in Playa del Carmen. We are very excited. It looks fabulous and it was the best value for money we could find in the luxury all inclusive category in Playa de Carmen.

  • Book The Ocean Riviera Paradise El Beso here

Itinerary Days 5-7: Cozumel

Cozumel is another nice island you can access from Playa Del Carmen. The ferry takes around 30 minutes to reach Cozumel.

There are two options with your car on Cozumel. Firstly, you can bring your rental car on the car ferry, this is a different ferry to the passenger ferry and costs 500 pesos per car.

Having a car is really necessary on Cozumel so you either take your rental car or rent a car on Cozumel – a popular rental car option in Cozumel is to rent a jeep, which is a bit of fun.

mexico-road-trip-cozumel

If you decide to rent a car over in Cozumel, you can take a regular passenger ferry. There are a few companies that make the route. You can check prices and book via their websites –  Barcos Caribe ,  Ultramar  & Mexico Waterjets.

Note: The ferry ride can be a bit bumpy so if you are susceptible to sea sickness you may want to take tablets with you.

The island of Cozumel is known for its incredible snorkeling and diving opportunities so it is highly advisable to take a reef trip while you are on the island. For this you have a few options. The best option is to take a  reasonably priced boat tour from Cozumel boat tours are the best way to experience the amazing reefs of Cozumel which cannot be accessed on shore.

cozumel-boat-tours

If you are on a budget conscious trip, we recommend visiting the Money Bar in Cozumel  for snorkeling. It is free entry, remember to BYO your own  snorkel.  Naturally, they do expect you to buy at least a drink. Note, there is a happy hour between 5-7pm for 2 for 1 drinks!

money-bar-cozumel

Us a few years ago at the Money Bar

Being a stunning island, it will come as no shock to you that some of the best things to do in Cozumel include exploring the incredible beaches. As a general rule, the west side of Cozumel, facing Mexico as calmer waters and more alive coral than the east size of the island which has much stronger currents.

Playa Corona is one of the closer beaches to downtown Cozumel but it is not the prettiest beach ever. For a prettier beach head to Playa Chen Rio, Playa Palancar or Sunset Beach . 

mexico-road-trip-cozumel-beaches

In true Yucatan peninsula form, there are a number of beach clubs and adventure parks on Cozumel. One of the more popular ones being the Chankanaab Adventure Beach Park . For 400 pesos or 23 USD you can enjoy swimming pools, pre-Hispanic Replicas, tropical gardens, a picturesque beach with hammocks and lounge chairs. 

The alternative and equally popular adventure park on the island is  Punta Sur Ecological Park which includes its own lighthouse in the entry cost ($16).

There is also a chance to see crocodiles and a marine seal show. Mind you, why would you merely want to see a crocodile when you can swim with one at The Carwash Cenote in Tulum (not even joking).

For those who love history, there are some small Mayan Ruins in Cozumel known as the Ruins of San Gervasio worth checking out on Cozumel Island. Mayans lived in the Yucatun peninsula until Spanish settlers arrived, and due to disease and other factors, resulted in the ultimate demise of their population.

What is left behind by the Mayans is amazing ruins for us to discover including San Gervasio on Cozumel, the Tulum Ruins , Coba and Chichen Itza to name a few.

The Ruins of San Gervasio are far from the most popular ruins in the area but they are worth checking out if you are in Cozumel. To fully appreciate the history behind the ruins, it is always advisable to get a guide. We would recommend this beach and ruins of San Gervasio tour if you would like to visit.

If you decide to visit the ruins, bring some bug spray with you as the mosquitoes are rife! Whenever we travel to Central or South America we always bring mosquito bracelets with us.

For fishing fanatics, there is great deep sea fishing off the coast of Cozumel. Of course, a tour is required to go deep sea fishing. We would recommend this one if deep sea fishing tickles your fancy.

Where to stay in Cozumel ?

The great thing about Cozumel is it is not a stupidly expensive island. Sure, it has luxury accommodation options but there are also some great places to stay for the budget conscious traveler in Cozumel.

Here are our top picks for where to stay in Cozumel , depending on your budget :

Budget Conscious Traveler: Casa del Mar Cozumel Hotel & Dive Resort

The Casa del Mar is a reasonably priced resort on Cozumel for the budget minded traveler.

The hotel is our pick for a budget hotel in Cozumel as it has an outdoor pool and also offers free access to the Nachi-Cocom Beach Club.

Book the Casa del Mar Cozumel Hotel & Dive Resort here

Mid range comfort traveler: hotel b cozumel-boutique by the sea .

Hotel B Cozumel is our pick for a stunning 4* hotel in Cozumel as it has an amazing infinity pool overlooking the sea. The rooms are clean, comfortable, have air-conditioning, wifi and a private terrace which is always nice.

  • Book the Hotel B Cozumel-Boutique by the Sea here

Luxury Traveler: President InterContinental Cozumel Resort & Spa

This hotel is the perfect for a stunning luxury stay in Cozumel as it has a private beach , 2 outdoor pools, 2 tennis courts and is close to attractions such as Chankanaab National Park.

  • Book The President InterContinental Cozumel Resort & Spa here  

Itinerary Days 7-12: Tulum

Tulum is our favourite place to go on the Yucatan peninsula.

Tulum has really changed over the years. Five years ago, we visited Tulum and it was very much a hippy eco-friendly town, there was no air con in any of the hotels and definitely no Starbucks. Not to say i don’t think eco-friendly is great BUT its darn hotel in Tulum so ya girl needs air-con, just sayin’. 

So, five years ago I only had a day trip to Tulum and on our most recent trip we got to stay in Tulum and it was fabulous. If you need to cut anything from the trip, here a tip, don’t cut Tulum .

GRAN-CENOTE

Okay so why is Tulum so great? Well, in my opinion it has the best cenotes in the Yucatan peninsula. If you are short on time, wait to visit a cenote until you get to Tulum.

The best cenotes to visit in Tulum include: Gran Cenote (around 350 pesos), Cenote Dos Ojos (price changes based on season but can be 600pesos +), Cenote Calaverra (150 pesos), Cenote Carwash (100 pesos BUT you can try to argue to get in for 50 pesos).

cenotes-in-tulum

There is also some great Mayan ruins called the Tulum Ruins directly overlooking the beach in Tulum which are pretty nice. It is very hot walking around the Tulum Ruins so make sure you bring an umbrella.

tulum-ruins-mexico-beach

Most people choose to do the hippy thing and rent a bike in Tulum but I personally think having a car is so much better. While they all sweated it out in the sun, we drove in air conditioning and were able to access many attractions such as Tulum’s Natural Mud Bath Laguna Kaan Lum which isn’t possible on bike.

Laguna-Kaan-Luum-hammocks

If you decide you want to rent a bike for a bit of fun in Tulum, you can get one for around 10 USD a day. Bike rental companies are everywhere and how much you pay depends a lot on how well you can negotiate.

Many people use their bike to access the free beaches in Tulum including Playa Paraiso (you can also get free parking here). Our favourite bar near Playa Paraiso is Casa Maria Mexican Grill  which have a great happy hour 4-7 with half price beers.

We would also recommend taking a trip to Tulum Luxury Hotel Zone which is the opposite direction to Playa Paraiso. Here you can shop till you drop in gorgeous bohemian clothing stores and visit fancy instagrammable cafes and bars including Matcha Mama , I Scream Bar and Raw Love.

If you want an iconic picture on an instagrammable white swing in Tulum, head to Coco Tulum Bar .

Azulik Tulum have amazing instagrammable birds nests will amazing views of the Tulum jungle. Alternatively Casa Malca, the home of notorious drug Cartel leader Pablo Escabar. There is a minimum spend of $50 for people who are not hotel guests.

If you are happy to forgo the instagrammable cafes and restaurants, stop at the hippy bar called, Taqueria La Eufemia . Despite the fact that most places are quite expensive on the Tulum Luxury Hotel Zone this bar has very reasonable prices.

Where to stay in Tulum ?

We found Tulum to be a little more expensive than Playa del Carmen but overall not to bad. In our opinion, it is worthwhile to pay a little more money to stay here.

Here are our top picks for where to stay in Tulum , depending on your budget :

Budget Conscious Traveler: Hotel Arco 

Hotel Arco is a great option for a budget conscious traveller in Tulum. The hotel includes a fitness center, terrace and restaurant as well as an outdoor pool and air conditioned rooms.

Book Hotel Arco during your dates in Tulum here

Mid range comfort traveler: central park tulum.

The Central Park Tulum is our pick for a mid range comfort hotel in Tulum with a beautiful outdoor pool. Something quirky, some rooms even come with an oven for those who like to cook at home.

Book Central Park Tulum for your dates in Tulum here

Luxury traveler:   the beach tulum, book the beach tulum for your dates in tulum here.

We stayed at a new hotel in Tulum (not in the above list) it had pros and cons.

Let’s start with the cons, as it was new, in one room we had problems with wifi and another room we had problems with aircon. They did move us to a room with 0 problems in the end.

On the plus side, for what we paid it was dirt cheap, in a perfect location and brand new with all modern appliances which was great. I do like modern and luxury.

Also, maybe our experience was an anomaly as it has a 9 review score on booking.com. If you would like to check it out and decide for yourself, it is  this hotel.

where-to-stay-in-tulum

Note : There is an option at this point to make a trip to the stunning Lagoon Bacalar. It is a 2.5 hour drive from Tulum. If you choose this option, it is a 3 hour drive to Valladolid. Alternatively, skip Valladolid and just go here.

Itinerary Days 12-13: Valladolid

It is a 1.5 hour drive from Tulum to Valladolid. When we first arrived we thought “ What on earth are we doing here!? ” The outskirts of the town are not very nice but give it time, the very centre of Valladolid is super cute and well worth your trip.

things-to-do-in-valladolid

On your way from Tulum to Valladolid you might like to make a stop at the Coba ruins , Mayan ruins in the middle of the jungle in Mexico. They are also the only Mayan ruins in Mexico where you can climb to the roof. There is an amazing view of the jungle from the top of the Coba ruins.

If you are not cenoted out by the time you visit Valladolid, Valladolid is the town of Cenotes. The best cenotes in Tulum include Xkeken, Samula, Zaci, Oxman, Hibiku, Palomitas, Xcanche, Dzitnup, Suytun.

valladolid-cenotes

Arguably, the most impressive cenote to visit is Suytun , a cenote in cave with stalactites. The only natural light is from a hole in the roof which lets a beam of light in.

mexico-road-trip-valladolid

If you want to visit this cenote, arguably, the most popular cenote in Valladolid, it is absolutely essential to arrive at the opening time of 9am otherwise the magic of the cenote will be lost as you will be sharing the space with a lot of tourist buses.

Stroll around the colonial downtown area of Valladolid and stop to marvel at the beautiful Convent of San Bernadino .

For dinner, eat at our favourite restaurant in Valladolid, La Selva. It serves great food and is very budget friendly. It costs 13 pesos (about 75cents) for pretty much anything on their menu.

what-to-eat-in-valladolid

From Valladolid, drive to the most iconic Mayan ruin in the area, Chichen Itza .

Where to stay in Valladolid ?

For a small town, there are surprisingly a lot of good options for places to stay in Valladolid.

Here are our top picks for where to stay in Valladolid , depending on your budget :

Budget Conscious Traveler: Casa Sisal

We stayed at Casa Sisal and we would highly recommend it. It was cheap and comfortable. The only downside, they did have internet but it was average quality.

Book your stay at Casa Sisal here

Mid range comfort traveler: nh valladolid .

For a comfortable, yet not too pricey stay in Valladolid, we would recommend the NH Valladolid.

The great thing about this hotel is it is just a 10-minute walk from the main square of Valladolid.

We would recommend this hotel for its comfort and the fact it has a lot of facilities son premises including a hot tub, sauna, fitness center and outdoor terrace with sun loungers.

  • Book your stay at NH Valladolid here .

Luxury Traveler: AC Hotel Palacio de Santa Ana 

One of the few 5 star hotels in town, and the only one we could find is the AC Hotel Palacio de Santa Ana 

One thing that stands out to us about this hotel is that it is located in the historic Los Jerónimos Monastery, which dates back to the 18th century, on the banks of the Pisuerga River which is pretty cool. If we are going to splurge on 5* accommodation we always like it to have something pretty special and unique about it.

Book your stay at AC Hotel Palacio de Santa Ana here

where-to-stay-valladolid

If you have more time at this point?

If you have some more time at this point and are wondering what else to explore, you may like to schedule a trip to the Las Coloradas Pink Lake. 

We have never been to this lake because of the mixed reviews it gets. On one hand, you can see some pretty pink flamingos at the lake on the other hand, people claim the pink in the lake is oversaturated and not really that pink at all.

If you go to the pink lake, let us know what you think!

Itinerary Days 13-14: Cancun

From Valladolid, head back to Cancun. There are two options:

  • You can take a toll road which takes 1 hour 50 minutes to Cancun and costs 185 pesos; or
  • You can take the coastal route you came back through Tulum and Playa del Carmen. There is no toll but the journey takes 3 hours, 15 minutes

As you are probably exhausted from your long road trip, we would suggest getting a comfortable airport hotel for your last night in Cancun before flying out. We would recommend Fairfield Suites by Marriott.

Well that’s it folks, an epic Mexico road trip! We hope you have an amazing time in Mexico, we are sure you will. If you have any other great tips we didn’t mention or want any other advice, we are always happy to help so leave a comment below.

Wondering where to go on your trip from Cancun? May we suggest Cuba? There are great cheap flights from Cancun to Cuba and it is a pretty interesting place to go!

Inspired? Pin this Mexican Road Trip to Pinterest!

Mexico-road-trip

MC Miller is a travel blogger and writer who has travelled America extensively and abroad to over 80 countries. He founded Couple Travel The World in 2017. Since then, he has spent over 6 years on the road as a full time travel couple. When he not traveling he likes to spend quality time with his partner Bett, planning our their next date or romantic getaway!

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The Ultimate 7 Day Chiapas Road Trip | Best Off-the-Beaten Path Mexico Road Trip

The best way to experience incredible Chiapas, Mexico is to take an epic road trip. The entire Mexican state still feels untouched, almost a little rugged, maybe intrepid. A Chiapas road trip feels nothing short of some sort of marvelous Indiana Jones Expedition.

Around every corner there are stunning waterfalls, crystal clear lakes, and even a remote cenote to take a dip in. Find Mayan ruins scattered in the jungle, many of the temples are being reclaimed by the lush overgrowth of nature. Get a glimpse into the past while listening to howler monkeys screech in the backdrop and birds singing in the trees. Watch fireflies dancing above the grass that bring in the night sky filled with stars. The land of Chiapas is magical and is still cared for by the Indigenous people who have called this region home since the time before the Mayan Empire.

If looking take an off-the-beaten-path Mexico road trip, look no farther than Chiapas state. Begin in the mountain magical city of San Cristobal de las Casas , because that’s where the allurement of Chiapas begins.

Here’s the ultimate one week Chiapas road trip itinerary that includes highlights of things to see, useful tips and tidbits, and suggestions on where to sleep along the route.

Table of Contents

Chiapas best places to visit & road trip highlights, how to reach chiapas mexico, chiapas travel tips.

  • Day 1 | San Cristobal de las Casas
  • Day 2 | El Chiflon Waterfall & Chucumaltik Cenote
  • Day 3 | Lagunas de Montebello National Park
  • Day 4 | Centro Ecoturístico Las Nubes
  • Day 5 | Las Nubes to Frontera Corozal
  • Day 6 | Explore Yaxchilán Archaeological Site to Palenque

Day 7 | Palenque National Park & Waterfall Route to San Cristobal de las Casas

Back in san cristobal de las casas, final thoughts chiapas road trip | the best off-the-beaten-path mexico road trip.

San Cristobal de las Casas, street, Volkswagon Beetle, things to do in San Cristobal de las Casas, Places to see in Chiapas, colorful houses, sunrise

This is a basic overview of the best Places to visit in Chiapas if you have only one week. If you have more time, which would be ideal, there are so many more itinerary suggestions you could add to this Chiapas Mexico road trip.

This ultimate off-the-beaten-path Chiapas road trip includes stops at the places below:

  • Begin the trip in the magical pueblo of San Cristobal de las Casas (San Cristóbal de las Casas)
  • Wander along the lovely hiking trails of Centro Ecoturistico Cascadas el Chiflón , which includes multiple tiered waterfalls.
  • Visit the Chucumaltik Cenote and camp there to watch the sunrise. Take a dip in the early morning with absolutely no people.
  • Explore the multiple lakes of Lagunas de Montebello National Park . There are hiking trails through the magical forests, to caves, or explore the tranquil beauty by renting a row boat.
  • Enjoy the incredible Las Nubes waterfall and take the scenic path through the jungle to appreciate the natural wonders of this area.
  • Take the drive along the border of Guatemala to Frontera Corozal and awake to the sound of howler monkeys singing in the jungle.
  • Hop on a small boat and enjoy the 40 minute ride on the Usumacinta River to reach the jungle Mayan Ruins of Archaeological Site of Yaxchilán .
  • If you want to experience more ruins, stop at the Bonampak Archaeological Site. Otherwise, swim in the Cascadas Las Golondrinas, another spot to appreciate the many Chiapas waterfalls.
  • Admire the grand Chiapas Mayan Ruins that are the epic Archaeological Site of Palenque .
  • Finally, stop-by the popular, yet contrasting Chiapas waterfalls of Misol-ha and Agua Azules. If you still want to chase more waterfalls, add a stop at Roberto Barrios right after Palenque.

colorful streets of San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas pueblos magico, woman, sunflowers, roses, street, what to see in San Cristobal de las Casas

First off, where is Chiapas Mexico? Chiapas is the southern most state of Mexico, so it can be a long haul trip. However, the “isolation” of the state makes it less visited and more special.

Oaxaca to San Cristobal de las Casas via Bus

Many travelers will depart from Oaxaca to San Cristobal de las Casas. The bus company ADO offers a convenient night bus from Oaxaca to the capital city of Chiapas, Tuxtla Gutiérrez.

Oaxaca to San Cristobal de las Casas Bus Logistics | Bus Company: ADO | Catch the buses in Oaxaca here: 5 de Mayo 1016, Barrio de Jalatlaco | Average Online Ticket Price: $550 pesos ($27.75 USD) | Duration: 12 hours | Current departure times : 21:00, 22:30 | Purchase online tickets here

✔ Travel Tip | The bus company ADO is probably the most popular long distant bus company in all of Mexico. Always purchase tickets online because they run “online ticket promotions” and the tickets are usually half the price of purchasing the tickets in person. ADO buses have bathrooms onboard, individual seat cell phone chargers, and free wi-fi at their terminals.

After a quick layover, the bus continues into San Cristobal de las Casas, or also referenced as, San Cris.

✔ More Oaxaca Travel Resources | 25 Best Places to Visit in Oaxaca State | Unique Oaxaca Itineraries | Visit the Rich East Oaxaca Valley | Discover Beautiful Santiago Apoala Oaxaca | 5 Best Beach Towns in Oaxaca | Lagunas de Chacahua the Best Beach in Oaxaca

Guatamala to Mexico Border Crossing

Another way to reach Chiapas is to cross the border from Guatemala. A popular border crossing is in the tiny village of Tziscao, close to the Lagunas de Montebello.

Chiapas Airport

The main airport in Chiapas is the Tuxtla Gutierrez IntInternational Airport. This airport is an hour and a half from San Cristobal de las Casas and a half hour from Tuxtla Gutiérrez. At this airport find all the major car rental companies like Hertz, Fox, and Ace.

colorful streets of San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas pueblos magico, street art in San Cristobal de las Casas, colorful mural, what to see in San Cristobal de las Casas

Ready to start your Chiapas road trip! To make the most of a road trip through Chiapas, it’s best to arrive at attractions early in the morning right when they open, or a little before. Try to drive during the afternoons, when most tour groups from San Cristobal de las Casas are visiting the attractions. If you are staying overnight at main sites, like Laguna Montebello, visit in the late afternoon when the day trippers are heading back to San Cris. This makes a huge difference to see these special spots without the crowds.

Skip to | Best time to Visit Chiapas | Is Chiapas Safe? | Driving in Chiapas & Fuel | Food, Shops, and Restaurants | Chiapas Rebellion | Immigrant Crisis | Chiapas Police Presence & Check-Points

Chiapas can have a bad reputation of being unsafe since it is one of the poorest states in Mexico. In reality, it has one of the highest concentrations of Indigenous populations and many of these villages have begun to personally patrol their natural resources and cultural riches. More on this here.

Chiapas State is more “misunderstood” than anything. Hopefully these Chiapas travel tips will come in handy to help prepare for a Chiapas road trip and help alleviate any fears of embarking on one of the best road trips in Mexico.

Best Time to Visit Chiapas

Cascada ala de Ángel, El Chiflón Waterfall, Cascada el chiflón, Chiapas waterfalls, trees, river, Chiapas road trip, things to do in Chiapas

There is a distinct rainy and dry season in Chiapas. The rainy season begins in May and ends in October. During this time, the waterfalls may appear not as blue and are more brown and muddy from the rainfall. However, one highlight of this is there are less tourists during these months. Some of the hiking activities can be more of a challenge due to muddy paths or rivers being too high.

Chiapas dry season is from November to April. There is a better chance to see more wildlife during this time. Dry season also means colder nights.

San Cristobal de las Casas is usually a lot cooler due to its altitude of 7,200 feet (2,200 ft). Once you move away from the mountain it becomes hot and humid from the jungle. April and May are the warmest months in Chiapas.

Is Chiapas Safe?

Again, Chiapas state can be quick to call unsafe. In reality, to help ease the fear, take standard precautions, have an awareness of your surroundings, and keep up to date with current political situations. With the Chiapas rebellion happening, it’s best to know how to understand and speak a little more than basic Spanish. This will come in handy for road blocks that can occur and entrance fees into some of the communities and “payoffs” for road fees. There are many police check-points along the route and community blockades.

Because the stretches of road can be long and with multiple police check-points along the way, I recommend traveling with at least one other person. Being out on these desolate roads solo isn’t the best idea.

Driving in Chiapas & Fuel

Volkwagon Van, Combi, Mexico combi, Chiapas road trip, trees, Parque Nacional Lagunas de Montebello, Cinco Lago hike, dirt, trees, forest

Overall, driving in Chiapas feels quite safe. There are long stretches on the road where you may not see a car for hours. In the small villages along the route there are usually vendors selling pineapples, bananas, and of course a variety of different fuel types from plastic water bottles. You may notice that this fuel is cheaper than you’d find at a gas station and that’s because much of the gas is “stolen” from nearby states with petrol industries and resold by the local people.

The gas is fine to refill with, as you won’t find many large gas stations along the route, especially the stretch from Lagunas de Montebello to Frontera Corozal.

The roads are in fairly decent shapes throughout Chiapas state. Be mindful of the many speed bumps or in Spanish “Tope” along the route. There are signs for many of topes, but some are unmarked and come out of nowhere. Watch for large rogue rocks in the road that can fly up and crack the windshield (this happened to us). Car insurance will come in handy.

Food, Shops, and Restaurants

Do shop from the locals that are selling on the side of the road! They have beautiful local produce that you can literally watch being offloaded by the delivery trucks. The products are gorgeous, cheap, and helps support the local communities!

Don’t worry! Along the route there are plenty of tiendas to restock on food supplies and water. There is usually a local restaurant or two along the route, or someone selling quick eats from a food stall. Pack enough food and snacks for a day or two and replenish along the route. Many of the hotels, lodges, and eco-parks in the villages have an attached restaurant.

Chiapas Rebellion

Many of the small communities are taking back the Indigenous lands of their ancestors. This can be seen in many of the signs along the road. It is quite obvious that these small communities do not trust the police or government. Many of the signs blatantly say that police are not welcome into their communities. Forget the state laws in Mexico. These communities “make their own rules,” so it’s best to be respectful of their ways. Usually, it comes in the form of a small fee.

This rebellion has been happening for years, but it is most prevalent in the community that “guards” the Archaeological Site of Bonampak. The community, in a sense, has “highjacked” this site and certain fees and rules are in place to visit. The reason for so much outrage is that sacred items were taken from the site without permission from the community to distribute to museums. This obviously resulted in the community being upset and to not trust the government, hence the strong community “police force.”

As you travel throughout Chiapas, especially near Bonampak, you will notice other communities have “hopped on the bandwagon” are now charging small fees to enter into their lands. (I’ve included all these fees in each section).

The Chiapas rebellion is more directed towards the Mexican government and the police, but tourists, both foreign and national, should respect each communities rules and fees.

Immigrant Crisis

One thing you will notice while driving though Chiapas is the sad reality of the immigration crisis that is happening all throughout Latin America. There are many immigrants coming up through Guatemala and crossing into Chiapas as they make their way north.

The situation is disheartening and families are simply trying to make better lives for themselves. Many men, women, and children are walking along the road flagging down trucks to catch a ride north. We never encountered any problems or felt unsafe from the people migrating, rather out hearts truly went out for them.

Please be mindful and drive carefully

Chiapas Police Presence & Check-Points

One thing you will notice on this Chiapas road trip is the high police presence and check-points. Along the route there should be signs verifying that a check-point is coming up. Many times they will ask you to pull over and inspect the car and your personal belongings. Make sure you always ask and verify their official badge if they inspect your car.

The police told us they were mostly looking for drugs like Marijuana. Oftentimes, they will just confiscate the items without much worry, or maybe a small fee. It’s best to keep an eye on your high valuable belongings as the police search your vehicle. They will open your wallet, purse, and dig through your luggage.

✔ Travel Tip | Many of these communities in Chiapas do not sell alcohol, as it goes against their community law. We had no problem traveling with alcohol, but it was also in a cabinet that was not opened. If you roll your own cigarettes, they are likely to confiscated. (I carried two pre-rolled floral cigarettes and the police questioned if they were marijuana, which makes me wonder who are these police anyways). Also, I had a sage stick that was sniffed and probed. (The joys of traveling like a hippie).

With all these check-points, I am also curious if they are checking and blocking immigrants that are moving north. However, I never personally witnessed them stop and search any trucks.

Now that you have a better understanding for the complexity of Chiapas, enjoy and fall in love with the beauty, the people, and the wonders of the rugged Chiapas State.

Day 1 Chiapas Road Trip | San Cristobal de las Casas

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Chiapas Road Trip Logistics Day 1 | Explore San Cristobal de las Casas and pick up a rental car

The best place to start this Chiapas road trip is from the adorable city of San Cristobal de las Casas, or sometimes shortened to “San Cris.” While most people enjoy exploring the city, many of the major car rental companies are either at the Tuxtla Gutierrez International Airport or in the city of Tuxtla. From San Cristobal de las Casas to Tuxtla plan on an hour and a half drive.

Jump to | What to Do in San Cristobal de las Casas | What to See in San Cris | Where to Eat in San Cris | Where to Stay in San Cristobal de las Casas

Nationally Recognized Rental Companies in Tuxtla:

If looking on renting a car in San Cristobal de las Casas, Optima Car Rental has the best reviews.

Reminder | the best way to reach San Cristobal de las Casas is the overnight ADO bus from Oaxaca , but you can exit in Tuxtla to pick up a rental car

What to Do in San Cristobal de las Casas

Honestly, San Cristobal de las Casas is an up and coming hip city and deserves at least three days to explore properly. It almost has a Cusco, Peru vibe , deep ties to Indigenous roots, high up in the mountain, hip neighborhoods, and to top it off bustling artisanal markets.

What to See in San Cristobal de las Casas

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Here’s some of the best things to do in San Cristobal de las Casas:

  • Sip on coffee from the Chiapas coffee region in a trendy cafe
  • Take the Free Walking Tour (Psst…one of the best I’ve ever taken)
  • Market of Sweets & Amber
  • The Market surrounding The Church of Santo Domingo de Guzmán
  • Night Market in Plaza de la Paz
  • Stroll along Calle Real de Guadalupe
  • Enjoy a moment of solitude in one of the many inviting plazas
  • Appreciate the twisting and turning uphill streets in charming Barrio del Cerrillo
  • Climb the stairs up to the San Cristobalito Church and take a tranquil walk through the surrounding communal gardens
  • Sample Pox (pronounced poshe) an ancient liquor that dates back to the Mayna times made of sugarcane, corn, and wheat. Look for it used in modern day cleansing rituals.
  • Keep your eyes peeled for colorful street art
  • Relax in the Casa Corazón de Jade and savor a tea from fresh herbs from the garden
  • Watch the sunset from a rooftop bar like Ginger Bar .

There are so many incredible things to do in San Crisobal de las Casas, but this is just a brief overview.

While there are so many things to see in San Cris, there are just as many diverse day trips to take from the city and can all be explored via public transportation. More on those here .

➯ Detailed Mexico Travel Guide | 25+ Amazing Things to Do in San Cristóbal de las Casas

Where to Eat in San Cristobal de las Casas

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San Cristobal de las Casas has a fairly diverse foodie scene for being up in the mountains. However, in Centro and around many of the main attractions of the city, are hip cafes and restaurants catering to the tourists, especially the “gringos.” Finding a middle ground to eat can be a challenge, but I highly recommend the below San Cristobal de las Casas restaurants.

El Caldero de La Abuela

El Caldero de La Abuela is one of the best places to grab a “caldero,” or hearty soup in the city. These soups are so comforting, especially on a rainy day in San Cris. This small “hole in the wall” restaurant caters to both tourists and locals alike.

Find them here: Av Diego Dugelay 4C | Facebook Page

Food Stalls Outside Mercado de Dulces y Artesanías Ámbar

Outside the Sweet and Amber Market in the center of town is one of the best places to grab a traditional plate of food in Chiapas. On both sides of the market are two separate outdoor eating places with many food stall options. Find mostly locals enjoying breakfast and lunch in the outdoor seating areas. At night, multiple hamburger and hot dog carts open up on the street right before the market. After 23:00, a quesadilla stand opens in the plaza.

Find these varied food options outside the market

Roots Bakery

Want that fresh loaf a bread? Craving a sweet pastry? What about a slice of pizza to go? Roots Bakery has all these options and more! This is an amazing small bakery that is close to many cheese and specialty shops. A perfect area to grab everything to enjoy a picnic.

Find them here: Av Diego Dugelay | Facebook Page

Satori Pizzeria

Located in the artisanal space of Casa la Venta, Satori Pizzeria offers delicious pizzas out of the wood-burning stove. Each handmade pizza is made with love and topped in fresh ingredients. The outdoor patio space is shared between a few of the other stands, but it’s a great place to relax for the afternoon. Beer and wine available.

Find them here: Chiapa de Corzo 19 | Facebook Page

Sarajevo Café Jardin

One of the best spots for brunch in San Cristobal de las Casas is the hip and trendy Sarajevo Café Jardin. On the weekends there is always live music. The food menu has a fun and modern twist on classic Mexican dishes. The coffee is excellent and the ambiance even better. There is both indoor and outdoor seating.

Find them here: Flavio A. Paniagua 32 | Facebook Page

What About the Best Coffee in San Cristobal de las Casas?

Chiapas coffee region is famous for producing some of the best coffee in Mexico. So, San Cris has no shortage of amazing little coffeeshops to sip on a rich cup of joe, or specialty coffeeshops to purchase fresh beans to take on the go. These specialty tiendas also provide the convenient option to ground the beans on the spot for an instant cup of coffee.

For beans, try Carajillo Café . They work directly with local coffee farmers close to San Cris. They also offer samplings and can grind beans on the spot.

It’s hard to go wrong on coffee in San Cristobal de las Casas, but Libre Café has an excellent coffee selection. A cooperative group of women artists have a small shop, Espabilocafe , and serve up delicious coffee from the Moka pot. Finally, Frontera Artisan Food and Coffee is an excellent option to snag an outdoor patio seat and enjoy a specialty coffee and a hearty plate of food.

Where to Stay in San Cristobal de las Casas

San Cristobal de las Casas has many different hostels and hotels to choose from for any type of budget. In general, hotels in San Cristobal de las Casas are more affordable compared to more popular destinations in Mexico.

Best Hotels in San Cristobal de las Casas

A few of the more popular hotels in San Cristobal de las Casas are found close to Centro or in the Barrio del Cerrillo. If looking for a hip and funky space, try Sereno Art Hotel . There’s a hearty breakfast option in the morning for an additional fee. Just down the street, Hotel Posada Primavera has more rustic rooms with two lovely garden patios. Rooms on the second and third floors have city views.

➜ More hotel options in San Cristobal de las Casa

Hostel Options San Cristobal de las Casas

There are so many hostels in San Cristobal de las Casas, but my favorite is Hostal Casa Gaia . This is a family run house and the owners are so friendly and keep the place absolutely spotless. There’s a nice outdoor space, access to a kitchen, and simple private and shared rooms. On the other side of town, La Abuelita Hostal & Terraza is a great hostel option in San Cristobal de las Casas. The hostel is clean, has a large kitchen, excellent common spaces, and has shared and private rooms. Try to score the private room with the giant terrace.

➜ More hostel options in San Cristobal de las Casas

Day 2 Chiapas Road Trip Itinerary | Chiflon Waterfall & Chucumaltik Cenote

Chiapas Road Trip Logistics Day 2 | San Cristobal de las Casas – Chucumaltik Cenote | Distance: 140 kilometers (87 miles) | Drive Time: 3.5 + hours, depending on traffic

Leave Chiapas early and head towards the direction of Comitán. There are many road signs up along the route that are easy to follow. This first section of the road trip is beautiful and feels as if you are driving more through a European mountain town rather than Mexico.

Try to stay on the main roads as some of the side roads can be a little bumpy. Once you reach the city of Comitán turn off and head through the village of Tzimol. Follow the signs to Cascadas el Chiflón.

Skip to | Chucumaltik Cenote | Uninajab Baths | Sleeping Options for Day 2

Cascadas el Chiflón | Chiflon Waterfall

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The Chiflon Waterfall is an ecotourism center that offers stunning views of the Cascadas el Chiflón and other smaller waterfalls. Enter the park and walk along a well cared for path that passes by picnic areas, tiendas, and small restaurants. There’s also an opportunity to ride the zip-line that runs parallel along the tiered falls.

Take the climb to the top observatory deck and rejoice in the misty cool-down. Make sure to follow alternative paths to appreciate the smaller falls, like Cascada ala de Ángel.

Cascades el Chiflón Logistics | Admission Ticket: $50 pesos ($2.50 USD) | Hours: 8:00 – 17:30 | Find it here: Google Map Location | Cabanas and camping options available onsite

Chucumaltik Cenote

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Believe it or not there are cenotes in Chiapas! Chucumaltik Cenote is located between Cascadas el Chiflón and the village of Uninajab, which is known for their natural public pools. This untouched cenote is rustic. It may not be the most beautiful cenote in Mexico, but it one of the most primitive and least visited.

Chucumaltik Cenote has two entrances, one through a private finca that winds along a bumpy dirt path, and a main entrance where most people enter. Be mindful, each entrance has two very different vibes.

The main entrance is marked with a billboard and is where most of the taxis and tour buses follow. The standard admission fee is $25 pesos. On this side of the cenote, there is a simple bathroom, platform, and some picnic tables. There is also a small dock to enter and exit the water. There are usually a few people here enjoying this little known cenote and it shuts down at 17:00.

The Private Finca entrance is farther down the road and you must honk outside of a locked gate. Upon entrance, you’ll be asked to pay 100 pesos per person and follow a rough and bumpy road to a makeshift parking lot. The fica route is definitely the more rustic and adventurous option to visit the Chucumaltik Cenote.

There is usually no one on this side, so you can ask for permission to camp and usually be granted access. Be mindful, there are no facilities, but a few garbage cans. Walk along a trail for 5 minutes to come above the cenote. Walk down to the main platform where there is a ladder to access the crystal blue waters.

Chucumaltik Cenote Logistics | Entrance Fee: Two entrances – Private Finca $100 pesos per person ($5 USD) / Main Entrance $25 pesos ($1.25) | Hours: 8:00 – 17:00 | Find it here: Chucumaltik Cenote | Camping by permission from Finca Entrance

Uninajab Baths

Uninajab is just down the road from Chucumaltik Cenote. Basically, if you reach this town, you’ve passed both entrances for the cenote. The village is basically a small ecopark with 11 natural pools the nearby scenic Lake Koila. If you don’t feel like camping at the Cenote, spend the afternoon relaxing around these baths that follow along a river and have small cleansing waterfalls.

Centro Ecoturístico Uninaja Logistics | Entrance Fee: $25 pesos ($1.25 USD) | Find it here: Uninajab | Facebook Page

Sleeping Options for Day 2

For the first night of this Chiapas road trip, it’s best to sleep at one of the above locations. At Chiflon Waterfall, there is the option to camp or rent a cabana. For a more rustic experience, camp at the Chucumaltik Cenote. Rustic camping is accessible from the private finca side. Otherwise, head down to the small village of Uninajab to sleep in one of the simple family run guesthouses. There are also a few lodging options along the road.

Day 3 Chiapas Road Trip Itinerary | Lagunas de Montebello National Park

Chiapas Road Trip Logistics Day 3 | Chucumaltik Cenote – Tziscao | Distance: 80 km (50 miles) | Drive Time: +/- 2 hours

Start day 3 of this Chiapas road trip by trying to leave from the overnight destination. There’s no way to avoid it and you will need to drive back to the outskirts of Comitán. Follow the roadsigns and main road into the control area of Lagunas de Montebello National Park. This area is becoming popular, so there are plenty of signs.

To make the most of your time in Lagunas de Montebello, it’s best to explore in the afternoon on Day 3 and early in the morning on Day 4. Upon arrival, stop to visit the first section of lakes: Laguna Encantada, Laguna Esmeralda, and Laguna Ensueño. Next, enjoy the popular Laguna de Montebello. Plan on sleeping Tziscao, which shares the border with Guatemala.

In the morning, go back and explore Laguna Pojoj and take the rewarding Cinco Lagos trek.

Skip to | Popular Lakes in Lagunas de Montebello National Park | Sleeping in Lagunas de Montebello National Park

Things to Do in Montebello

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There are over 50 lakes in the National Park, so there are no shortage of things to do in Montebello. It’s impossible to explore and appreciate all the beauty, so here’s a it’s hard to explore them all.

There is a main control entrance before entering the lakes. Here, you must pay the fee to receive a ticket. Make sure to keep your ticket with you while in the park. The main ticket is checked frequently. There are also additional fees for some of the more popular lakes, and it will be verified before purchase.

Lagunas de Montebello National Park | Main Entrance Fee: $50 pesos ($2.50 USD) | Some lakes have additional fees | Official toll booth: here | After 18:00 the National Park is not regulated. Camping is at your own risk and not recommended | Facilities: Cabanas to rent, garbage cans, small food shops, picnic tables, roadside restaurants

There are a wide range of different hiking paths that are found in Lagunas de Montebello National Park. Some simple trails take less than 5 minutes, while the Cinco Lago trek takes are 3 hours round trip. Besides hiking, there are opportunities to rent row boats on Laguna Encantada, Laguna de Montebello, and Laguna Pojoj. Make sure to stop along the road to appreciate one of the many viewpoints while twisting through the scenic National Park.

Popular Lakes in Lagunas de Montebello National Park

Here are some of the most popular lakes in Lagunas de Montebello National Park, the entrance fees, and some tips for exploring them.

North Lakes

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With the main entrance fee it’s possible to visit a few of the north lakes. There is a main parking lot that sits above Laguna Encantada. From here, it’s possible to hike the small trail down to Laguna Ensueño. There is also a small parking lot to hike down to Laguna Bosque Azul. Right before this the bridge there is also a hiking trail to explore a few caves.

🚗 Driving Safety Precaution | The sale of alcoholic beverages is regulated by this community. However, in the next village, many locals purchase liquor. Please take caution if continuing towards the village of Ojo de Agua, as many of them drink heavily on the side of the road. Sadly, in the later part of the afternoon, many villagers have passed out and are a roadside safety hazard.

Laguna de Montebello

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The most popular lake in the entire national park is Laguna de Montebello. There is a small hiking trail that encircles a large portion of the lake. Otherwise, it’s possible to rent a row boat and explore. Along the lake are multiple vistas to stop for a photo opportunity. The lake’s vivid blue colors pop when the sun is shinning brightly. Swimming is allowed.

Laguna de Montebello Logistics | Additional Entrance Fee: $25 pesos ($1.25 USD) | Facilities: parking, garbage cans, food options, hiking trail, swimming, row boat rental

Laguna Pojoj & the Cinco Lagos Hike

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Laguna Pojoj is another beautiful lake and is the best option for those travelers looking to tackle a longer hiking trail within Lagunas de Montebello National Park. There are row boat rentals for the main lake, but the real treasure lies within the Cinco Lagos Hike (5 lakes hike).

Laguna Pojoj Logistics | Additional Entrance Fee: $25 pesos ($1.25 USD) | Facilities: parking, garbage cans, hiking trail, row boat rental | Download a free Cinco Lagos Hiking Map

The Cinco Lagos hike takes around 3 hours round trip and offers some incredible viewpoints along the way, of you guessed it… five lakes. The trail is well marked and weaves through the forest and passes by colossal viewpoints with names like King Kong.

The trail ends at the base of one of the lakes. From here take a dip in the lake or take another uphill trail to another incredible viewpoint.

To avoid the crowds, enjoy the Cinco Lagos hike in the early morning.

🚗 Parking Tip | Park near the tollbooth to have direct access to the Cinco Lagos hike. There is a worker regulating the entrance, so parking here is safer.

Where to Sleep in Lagunas de Montebello National Park

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The best base to explore and sleep in Lagunas de Montebello National Park is the tiny hamlet of Tziscao. This is actually a small village on the border with lots of cabana and camping options. Most of these options are right on the shores of Lago Tziscao. This beautiful lake has small hiking trails with viewpoints and offers an opportunity to swim.

Cabañas Miravalle Tziscao has camping options available for $80 pesos ($4 USD) per person. This includes access to the Wi-Fi, hot showers, and clean bathrooms. Camping facilities are right on the lake and have the ability to use picnic benches and fire-pits. Firewood can be ordered from the front desk and delivered to your site.

There’s also a wide range of simple cabañas located directly on the lake front.

➜ Book a cabaña in Lago Tziscao here

Day 4 Chiapas Road Trip Itinerary | Centro Ecoturístico Las Nubes Chiapas

Chiapas Road Trip Logistic Day 4 | Tziscao Village – Los Nubes | Distance: 67 kilometers (42 miles) | Drive Time: + / – 2 hours

After the morning hike of Cinco Lagos in Lagunas de Montebello National Park, head on the road to Las Nubes. Plan on arriving in Las Nubes in the late afternoon, which is perfect since most of the day trippers will be on the road back to San Cris.

The road to Las Nubes is still a little rugged, as in it is a narrow dirt path made of loose gravel. There are plenty of road markers that track the kilometers, the last section of road seems to drag on. Maybe it’s the anticipation of what’s to come.

Skip to | Sleeping at Las Nubes Chiapas

Things to Do at Las Nubes Chiapas

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Las Nubes is a spectacular Ecotourism park, and the community has done a fabulous job at maintaining the grounds and the nearby hiking trails. The Ecopark has cabañas available to rent and a beautiful garden where you can camp. There are also options to add on interactive hiking tours, rafting, and guided nighttime tours. However, travlers who prefer to explore at their own pace can easy follow along a well-marked Jungle trail.

While we only had one day to explore the park, Las Nubes is so primitive and special that if you have time, slow down and spend two days here. The village outside the park is lovely and is nice to walk through, too.

Centro Ecoturístico Las Nubes Logistics | Standard Entrance Fee: $30 pesos ($1.50 USD) | Camping: $100 pesos ( $5 ) per person and includes access to all facilities | Facilities: cabañas, camping, garbage drop, hiking trail, guided tours, restaurant onsite, Wi-Fi available for additional fee in half hour increments | Official Website & Prices

Here’s all the awesome things to do at Las Nubes Ecopark.

Las Nubes Waterfall

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The main highlight of Las Nubes is the rushing waterfall. There are a few paths that you can walk to different vantage points. There are some spots to lay down a blanket and enjoy the surroundings or maybe a book and some meditation. Walk to the bridge for one of the best views; however, it’s forbidden to cross the bridge into the small community.

The Cascada Las Nubes is stunning and the jungle like surroundings only enhance its beauty.

Hike the Jungle Trail at Las Nubes

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The Centro Ecoturístico Las Nubes has done an excellent maintaining a loop trail through the jungle. Highlights include following the river and walking down to view “The Tunnel.” If the river is too high, there’s a great observation deck. Continue on the trail to gaze out at the Mirador. This is one of the most picturesque views in the entire Las Nubes park. The trail then moves downhill. You’ll need to crawl under a small hole in the stone facing to see the “the Rock Bed.” Continue into the Zen Labyrinth. The path has signage en-route with informative plaques on the fauna. Finally, the trail loops out right next to the Eco-park entrance.

The Las Nubes jungle trail is only a couple of miles, but showcases the jungle fauna and landscape in a fun and interactive way.

Sleeping at Las Nubes Chiapas

Centro Ecoturístico Las Nubes is the best option to explore the park and sleep. The restaurant onsite dishes up hearty plates of food at a good price. The food is delicious and with views that overlook the Cascada Las Nubes, Restaurante la Golondrina, serves its purpose. ➜ Book here .

Day 5 Chiapas Road Trip Itinerary | Las Nubes to Frontera Corozal

Czech Republic Road Trip Logistics Day 5 | Las Nubes Chiapas – Frontera Corozal | Distance: 255 kilometers (159 miles) | Drive Time: at LEAST 5 hours in the car

Spend the morning enjoying Las Nubes, because this is going to be one of the longest days in the car of this Chiapas road trip. You’ll need to back track to the main road and then follow the main road which hugs the border of Guatamal the entire trip, and eventually end at the border town of Frontera Corozal.

Although it’s a big drive day, the scenery is absolutely incredible. The road is winding through the jungle, but with barely any cars. If you need gas, you will more than likely need to utilize the little makeshift gas stands along the road. Don’t worry, on this stretch there are plenty.

There are lots of small villages along this Chiapas road trip driving day. This is also a great opportunity to stock up on some cheap and fresh fruit. Look for the large trucks filled with pineapple and bananas. If you wish, purchase right from the truck as they unload.

The final destination is Frontera Corozal. The border town on the Usumacinta River is the access point to one of the most isolated Chiapas Mayan ruins, Yaxchilan (Yaxchilán). Yes, to reach the Yaxchilan Archaeological site, you’ll need to travel by boat early in the morning!

Where to Stay in Frontera Corozal

There are a few cabana options along the river in Frontera Corozal, many of them less than 5 minutes away from the ticket office and boat launch. One lodging option close the private boat launch is Escudo Jaguar, which is run Lacandona Community. Staying here helps give back to the community so the villagers don’t have to rely on agricultural clearing of the rainforest. There’s also a restaurant onsite.

Hotel Nueva Alianza is another option in Frontera Corozal, closer to the public boat launch for the Yaxchilan ruins.

Day 6 Chiapas Road Trip Itinerary | Explore Yaxchilan Ruins (Archaeological Site) to Palenque City

Chiapas Road Trip Logistics Day 6 | Frontera Corozal – Palenque city | Distance: 165 kilometers (103 miles) | Drive Time: 3 hours

Day 6 is filled with adventure! There’s a likely chance you’ll be awoken by the rousing calls of howler monkeys, or as the locals call them Aulladores . They sing early in the morning in the trees close to the river. After a one of a kind wake up call, head straight to explore the incredible Yaxchilan Archaelogical Site. Just to reach the Yaxchilan Mayan ruins is an adventure in itself. If you wish, step into two countries in one day by entering Guatemala.

If you want more Chiapas Mayan ruins, swing by the site of Bonampak Archaeological Park. If it’s hot, take a dip in the Cascada de las Golondrinas, which offers plenty of pools surrounded by the shade of the jungle.

Arrive into the city of Palenque to sleep. In the morning, explore the impressive Palenque Archaeological Zone.

Skip to | Yaxchilan Archaeological Site | Bonampak Archaeological Site | Cascada de las Golondrinas | Where to Stay in Palenque

How to Get to Yaxchilan Ruins from Frontera Corozal

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Frontera Corozal is the entry way to the jungle site of Yaxchilan. As stated, you’ll need to purchase your entrance ticket to Yaxchilan before entering the boat. The main ticket booth is right before the boat launch. After you purchase the ticket, there are two boat launches that take tourists to the Mayan site.

The boats take the 40 minutes ride down the Usumacinta River. To the left is Mexico and the right is Guatemala. The boat waits around 2 – 2.5 hours, which is plenty of time to explore the site. Don’t forget to verify the time with your driver, as the local time may be different than standard time. Try to arrive first thing in the morning. This is best, since the park will most likely be empty until the tour groups start to arrive (around 9:30).

Afterwards, the boat will return to Frontera Corozal.

Frontera Corozal Boat Prices & More Useful Information

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There are two boat launches. The private boats launch from near Escudo Jaguar and there is a small hut just before the property where the tickets can be purchased. The listing price for the entire boat is $1,600 pesos ($80 USD); however, it’s possible to negotiate the price. For two people, we were able to hire a private boat for $1,000 pesos ($50 USD). This is a huge advantage, as the boat can reach the site faster and you can customize the tour.

If you want to save money, but lose time, you can wait for more people arrive to split the cost of the boat. Most people in a collectivo boat will spend around 300 pesos ($15).

Explore the Archaeological Site of Yaxchilan

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Yaxchilan is one of the most off the beaten path Chiapas Mayan ruins in the Lacandona jungle. Try to arrive early to appreciate them in all their splendor. The howler monkeys seem to have taken back this sacred site and they are moving about the trees, screeching wildly. There are a few informative plaques in the beginning that lead you to the main section of the archaeological site. The site is not that large, but with it hover over the river, it’s super impressive.

Again, try to arrive before 9:30 to beat the tour crowds to wander completely alone with the impressive Yaxchilan Mayan ruins. This Sacred site is a highlight on any Chiapas road trip.

Yaxchilan Ruins Logistics | Purchase entrance tickets before loading the boat | Standard Admission Ticket :   $ 70 pesos ($3.50) | Hours: 8:00 -17:00, however it’s possible to find a boat that may leave earlier

Stop in Guatemala

Oftentimes, the boat driver will ask if you wish to stop in the port town of La Técnica. They usually allow 15 minutes to get out, walk the main street, and maybe grab a snack and beer. There isn’t much to see in the town itself, unless you have more time to explore and take an expedition from here. There is no border check in the village for tourists, so you won’t have to bring your passport.

Optional Pit-Stop | Bonampak Archaeological Park

If you want to explore more Chiapas Mayan ruins, take the optional pit-stop to Bonampak Archaeological Site. The small site is not far from Yaxchilan and is on the way to the final destination: Palenque.

Bonampak is most famous for their painted murals. It’s no surprise that Bonampak literally translates to “painted wall” from the Mayan language. The colorful murals are estimated to be dated from around 790 A.D.

Bonampak is a little more difficult to access due to the fact that the locals have kind of “reclaimed and hijacked” the site from the government. Bonampak and Yaxchilan are easy to access from Palenque as a packaged tour.

Fees & Logistics to Access Bonampak Ruins

Upon arrival into the community, you will be asked to pay another community access fee. On top of that, even if you have your own car, you must be escorted by a local driver to reach the site. Spanish will come in handy here, since you will want to have an understanding of what each fee is. Try to make sure you verify and negotiate all the entrance fee before you reach an agreement, so you don’t encounter any unexpected expenses.

Whispers say the reason the community has become so protective over the ruins is due to that fact that some artifacts were taken from the site without the permission or knowledge from the community. This has sparked a rebellion. Tour groups are more free to move than independent travelers.

Be mindful that many of the areas may be closed off to visitors, so verify that you can have access to the murals before deciding.

Bonampak Ruins Logistics | Negotiate with the community before proceeding | Average Round-up of Fees:   $300 pesos ($15 USD) | Hours: 8:00 -17:00, verify at the community checkpoint

Cascada de las Golondrinas

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Another great option to break up Day 6 of the Chiapas road trip is to stop at Cascada de las Golondrinas. You may be stopped outside the community of Nueva Palestina to pay the control of 30 pesos ($1.50); however, the gatekeepers at the waterfall told us we should not have been charged.

This tiered waterfall has lots of little pools to take a dip in. There are a few picnic tables and open spaces to lounge out and relax. Find a nice wooden boardwalk trail that winds past a few different waterfalls.

Cascada de las Golondrinas Logistics | Find it here | Entrance Fee: $25 pesos ($1.25 USD) | Hours: 6:00 – 18:00 | Facilities: cabañas, camping, garbage drop, bathrooms and changing rooms, picnic benches

Where to Stay in Palenque

Palenque is large and there are lots of sleeping options in the city and along the route to the ruins. Personally, I think the best Palenque hotels are on the road to the ruins, since you can walk or hail a collectivo.

A higher end option is Piedra de Agua Palenque , which has private cabanas with outdoor bathtubs and seating areas. There’s also a pool onsite and a few restaurants that deliver in. ➜ Book here.

➜ Find the perfect place to stay in Palenque

Chiapas Road Trip Logistics Day 7 | Palenque city – San Cristobal de las Casas | Distance: 250 kilometers (155 miles) | Drive Time: 6 hours, depending on desired pitstops

Arrive early to Palenque National Park to explore the jungle and the Palenque ruins. After that, continue into San Cristobal de las Casas and stop at least one of the following waterfalls: Cascades of Roberto Barrios, Misol-ha, or the popular Agua Azul.

If you stop at two or more waterfalls along the route, expect a late night arrival into San Cris.

⁉️ Safety Warning | With the Chiapas rebellion, the road stretch from Ocosingo to San Cristobal de las Casas can oftentimes be blocked, or closed. If it is a heighten and dangerous climax, it should ultimately be avoided. The road blocks are controlled by the community and sometimes there is a fee to pass, or a complete closure. Try to avoid the stretch after Ocosingo to San Cris road too late into the night. We had no problems crossing, but it’s smart to check-in with police from Agua Azul to see if they know the current road conditions. For the most up to date information, check in with Noticias Incómodas Chiapas

Skip to | Palenque Archaeological Site | Jungle Walks & Tours | Chiapas Waterfalls | Palenque to San Cristobal de las Casas

How to Get to Palenque Ruins from Palenque City

Palenque ruins, things to see in Palenque, Zona Arqueológica Palenque, Maya ruins, Mayan ruins in Chiapas, grass, trees, pyramid ruins, Chiapas road trip

Those who have a full day to explore the Palenque ruins may decide to take the casual walk into Palenque National Park. There is a nice walking / biking path that leads directly to the first main entrance. (There are two entrance fees).

If on a tight schedule, flag down a local collectivo that runs between the city of Palenque and the Palenque ruins. Flag down the collectivo anywhere along the route. The final stop is the ticket control for the Palenque ruins. A one-way ride on the collectivo costs $20 pesos ($1).

The first entrance gate is for entering the Palenque National Park. Upon paying, receive a wristband that should be worn. This allows access to a few of the free jungle walks onsite. The most notable is right before the main entrance control to the Palenque ruins.

Palenque National Park Logistics | Control Booth | Entrance Fee: $ 90 pesos ($4.50 USD) | Hold onto your wristband

Palenque Archaeological Site

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The Palenque Archaeological Zone is surrounded by the jungle mountains. Oftentimes, in the early morning, the fog rolls in and covers the site in a mystical haze. This place is special and a notable and influential sites of the Maya Empire. The site has lots of different political sections and temples. Believe it or not, archaeologists think that only 5% of the city has been uncovered, the rest hidden and reclaimed by the wild jungle.

Some of the highlights include the Temple of the Inscriptions, which housed maybe some of the most important writings ever found in a site. It is said these writings contained events up to 1 million years into the past and predictions into the future as far into the year of 4722.

The Palace or “El Palacio” sits in the center. Don’t miss the area of temples which includes the Temple of the Sun or the hillside Temple of the Foliated Cross. Don’t miss the Temple of the Count close to the exit.

The Palenque ruins are amazing and are a highlight on this Chiapas road trip. Make sure to allot enough time to really feel the sacred energy of this place.

Palenque Archaeological Site Logistics | 2nd Ticket Purchase (control) here | Entrance Fee: $ 80 pesos ($4) | Hours: 8:30 – 17:00, last admission at 16:00 | Museum included in the ticket price, opens later at 10:00 | Official Website

Jungle Walks & Tours

Sendero Motiepá, Palenque National Park, jungle walk, things to do in Palenque, rocks, small waterfalls, trees, moss, plants, Chiapas road trip

The highlight of Palenque National Park are the magical Palenque ruins, but there are also opportunities to spend more time in the jungle and appreciate the fauna and landscape. Near the main entrance of the Palenque ruins is the route of Sendero Motiepá. This short trail has informative signs that explain the natural habitat and some time to avoid the crowds and spend time in nature. Listen for the howler monkeys, see if you can spot all the humming birds, and stare in wonder at some trees that are ancient and wise.

There are also opportunities to pay for a guide in a few different sections to have an in-depth jungle tour or walk. Verify the prices and times and confirm the license of the guide before agreeing to a tour.

Chiapas Waterfalls Routes | Palenque to San Cristobal de las Casas

Cascada Misol-ha, Misol-ha Waterfall, Chiapas Waterfalls, trees, plants, cliff, pool, jungle fauna, Chiapas road trip, things to see in Chiapas State

From Palenque to San Cristobal de las Casas are three popular waterfalls that can be visited. Make sure to allot time for each spot and consider that almost all the communities have entrance fees.

Cascades of Roberto Barrios

This is one of the least visited Chiapas waterfalls, as it’s a little out of the way. While most Palenque tours will stop at Misol-ha and Cascadas de Agua Azul, Roberto Barrios is just enough out of the way that it’s skipped. It’s possible to swim in the different tiered pools.

Cascades de Roberto Barrios Logistics | National Park fee: $20 pesos ($1) | Entrance Fee: $30 pesos ($1.50) | Hours: 8:00 – 17:00

Misol-ha Waterfall

Cascada Misol-ha, Misol-ha Waterfall, Chiapas Waterfalls, behind the waterfall, trees, plants, Chiapas road trip, things to see in Chiapas State

Next, is the Misol-ha Waterfall. This Chiapas waterfall is a treat and you can actually walk on a small path behind it. The hiking path is lovely and is well maintained and surrounded by beautiful flowers. There is a small swimming area, but take caution, the current can be pretty strong.

Cascada Misol-ha Logistics | Community Control Fee : $10 pesos (50¢ ) | Entrance Fee: $20 pesos ($1) | Swim at your own risk

Cascadas de Agua Azul

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The most popular Chiapas waterfall is Cascadas de Agua Azul. There is a concrete path that follows along the river and past a few viewpoints. The site has kind of become a victim to its own beauty. In what was once a probably super tranquil place is lined with trinket shops, restaurants, and vendors selling anything you can image. In all honestly, this was one of my least favorite stops on the week long Chiapas road trip.

Cascadas de Agua Azul Logistics | Community Control Fee : $50 pesos ($2.50) | Agua Azul Entrance Fee: $40 pesos ($2)

The Road from Palenque to San Cristobal de las Casas

Remember, the section of road from Ocosingo to San Cristobal de las Casas is one of the hotspots for the Chiapas rebellion. Try to check-in at your hotel in Palenque, at the waterfalls along the route, and with police to see if there is a road block or closure. Finally, try to avoid driving this section of road at night.

Noticias Incómodas Chiapas is a useful Facebook Group to check-in on for those driving in Chiapas.

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If you stop at all the waterfalls along the route, expect to arrive late into San Cristobal de las Casas. San Cristobal de las Casas is a pueblo magico, or magic village, so make sure to give it the time that is truly deserves. There are so many things to do in San Cristobal de las Casas that I think it requires at least 3 full days.

➯ Detailed Travel Guide | All the Incredible Things to Do in San Cristobal de las Casas

Besides the village itself check out some of the below day trips from San Cristobal de las Casas, all which can be accessed via a tour or public transportation.

Day Trips from San Cristobal de las Casas

The three most popular day trips from San Cristobal de las Casas are Sumiero Canyon, San Juan de Chaluma, and Zinacantán.

☛ Travel Deeper | 8 Special Day Trips from San Cristobal de las Casas

Sumidero Canyon | Cañón del Sumidero

Sumidero Canyon National Park, Sumidero Canyon, day trips from San Cristobal de las Casas, river, trees, huge cliffs, boat ride through Sumidero Canyon, clouds, sky, Chiapas highlights

Sumidero Canyon National Park is the most popular day trip from San Cristobal de las Casas and usually includes a stop in the village of Chiapa de Corzo. The canyon has two ways to visit, either by car at the viewpoints, or via a scenic boat tour.

While the Sumidero Canyon can be accessed via public transportation, it is cheaper and easier to reach via a tour. Sumidero Canyon tours can include both the viewpoints and canyon boat tour, or simply the boat tour. This is a full day trip from San Cristobal de las Casas.

Sumidero Canyon Logistics | Standard Tour Fare : $350 pesos ($17.50 USD) | Boat Fare Without a Tour: $ 270 pesos ($13.50)

San Juan de Chaluma

San Juan Chamula Church, Indigenous Villages in Mexico, Chiapas Region, Things to do in San Cristobal de las Casas, plaza, people, sky, clouds, rainbow

The small village of San Juan de Chaluma is famous for two things, it’s famous church where chicken sacrifices take place , and it’s authentic local Sunday Market. Somehow, the village of San Juan de Chaluma has maintained their ancient rituals that have been passed down for thousands of years and are fused with Christianity.

On Sunday, the whole village turns into a bustling market place, where local don traditional clothing. Many of the nearby villagers meet in the plaza to discuss business, and the method they use is anything but modern. There’s also an interesting cemetery on the outskirts of town.

Public Transportation Logistics | San Cristobal de las Casas to San Juan Chaluma | Catch the Collectivos here: Calle Honduras 8, Barrio de Mexicanos | Cost: $18 pesos (90¢) | Duration: 30 minutes

Zinacantán village, day trips from San Cristobal de las Casas, church alter, flowers, animal statues, places to see in Chiapas, Church alter

Zinacantán is another village close to San Cristobal de las Casas that are known for their weaving abilities. The clothing here is very different, and all of the locals, including the men, wear bright pink and purple textiles. It’s possible to wander in the homes of the artisans and watch them weaving. Their beautiful items are usually for sale right there in the homes.

The church here is also worth a quick pit-stop. The alters here are deocrated wth flowers and intricate animal carvings on the alters. On Sunday mornings before 9, there is an impressive flower market.

Public Transportation Logistics | San Cristobal de las Casas to Zinacantán | Catch the Collectivos here: Calle Honduras 8A, 14 de Septiembre | Cost: $22 pesos ($1) | Duration: 30 minutes

In short, this is the ultimate guide to experiencing a road trip through the rugged landscapes of Chiapas State. From the cascading waterfalls like El Chiflon, to the Mayan ruins of Yaxchilan that have been reclaimed by the jungle, this is one of the best off-the-beaten-path road trips in Mexico. It is also one of the most rewarding. Start this epic adventure from the magical village of San Cristobal de las Casas. Be prepared to see a side of Mexico you never knew existed.

Chiapas is filled with ancient ruins, waterfalls, diverse landscapes, and people who embrace a culturally rich life. The beauty of Chiapas State will leave you wishing you had more time to explore, but thankful for the time you had.

Be cafe, be prepared, but be ready to lose your heart in Chiapas.

Have you been to Chiapas? Did rent a car and experience a Chiapas road trip? Is there something from this Chiapas road trip itinerary that I’m missing that you absolutely loved? Let me know in the comments below!!

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Disclaimer: There’s a chance this post contains affiliate links, and I receive a small (but grateful) portion of the sale. There’s no extra cost to you, and I only promote things that I use and love.

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Hey, my name is Megs! I'm an adventure-seeking, wanna-be storyteller, with a wandering soul who is smitten with the diversity of this beautiful world. You can find me hiking in the mountains, eating delicious food, and seeking out the most authentic travel experiences possible. Experiences and memories are my most prized possessions. I love to slow travel and have been nomadic for over 12 years.

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20 comments.

What an incredible road trip. I am jealous. Your article was very informative.

Thanks so much Terri for reading!

Wow. Great comprehensive guide! I’ve never heard of this place, but would LOVE to visit. I will pin for when I do!

Thanks Alex!! Enjoy!

National Parks, waterfalls…this looks amazing! I’ve been to Mexico a few times, but always to touristy areas. I would love to get out of the tourist zones and see some of these beautiful attractions!

Hey Megan! I hope you do make it to Chiapas! It’s such an under appreciated state in Mexico. 💚

Wow, what an incredible road trip adventure you’ve had! What a treat to see some of these incredible hidden gems of Mexico – thank you for putting them on my radar!

Your welcome! It’s crazy how diverse and beautiful Mexico truly is! 🇲🇽

Jungle walk in Mexico must have felt so exotic.

Yes, although short, there was lots to see!

WOW!! I have been looking for an itinerary just like this! I’m looking to travel with my husband and two teenagers this March. We love history, ruins, nature and Chiapas just seems perfect for this. My biggest concern was could we rent a car and make a loop to see many of the sites in about a week…you answered that perfectly! We plan to make our first stop in Mexico City then fly into Tuxtla. Would you recommend picking up a rental car at the Tuxtla airport or taking a bus/taxi to San Chris then getting a car there? We plan to head to some sites in the Yucutan as well as do some scuba diving after exploring Chiapas. So I thought we would make a loop in Chiapas then fly into Cancun from Tuxtla. Does that sound like a good plan? I can’t wait to explore your other posts

Hey Carrie! Thanks so much for reaching out and I’m so happy you will be exploring Chiapas. I absolutely loved it and this itinerary just skims the surface on all the incredible things to see and do along the route! Just always make sure to check in at each stop along the way and verify if there are any road blocks from the community and be mindful at police checks.

As for the car, it depends on when you want to visit San Cristobal de las Casas. Personally, you don’t need a car in the city, however, there are parking garages, ect… but it is another hassle and an unnecessary fee. If you are flying into the airport I suggest picking up the car and hitting the road, since many of the “major rental companies” are in Tuxtla near the airport. There are a few smaller rental company options in San Cristobal, but I didn’t utilize them since I traveled with someone who had a car. When you finish the loop, return the car and come back to explore San Cris and enjoy the city! I fell in love with this “pueblo magico” and spent over 1 month here, there is a certain charm to it.

Hope this helps and enjoy your time in Chiapas. It always ends up being a highlight on any trip to Mexico!

wow, thank you for sharing this and putting it all together. I’m going next week and this is so helpful!

Enjoy Chiapas! Seriously one of my favorite states in Mexico 💙

Megs, you’ve outdone yourself! I’m taking a trip to Chiapas soon and I may follow your plan exactly! Thanks again for all the great info!

Thank you so much Chad! If you have a bit of time there are a few things I would have done differently….

I would have stayed an extra night at Las Nubes because it was probably one of my favorite stops on the entire trip!

If you want to “get off the beaten path” head down to the coffee region and stay a night or two at one of the Fincas. You can hike the nearby Tacana volcano that actually goes into Guatemala! It was on the top of my bucket-list and requires camping gear. You can come down through Guatemala, but I’m not sure of the logistics to get back. I’m also unaware of the current road closures and conditions in this area at the moment.

We didn’t stop at Toniná ruins near Ocosingo and I really wish we would have. The road block was open so we had a small window to get back to San Cris so we took it.

Enjoy your trip! I can’t wait to get back to Chiapas!

I love your pictures, descriptions, and travel itinerary! We will be going at the end of this month for a week and a half- I’m wondering how to pack for the trip. Did you notice any laundry services along the way or what would you recommend? Thank you for your insight!

Thank you so much and I’m so sorry for the delay! I really love Chiapas and hope that you got to take the trip.

For laundry, we carried a clothes line and just hand washed items. I was traveling in the combi van, so we stayed at sites where we could just hang clothes. I also pack light, so I never carry too much bigger than a 30 L pack.

In Palenque city and San Cristobal there was plenty of cheap laundry options. Some hotels and hostels also offered laundry services.

I hope you got to enjoy Chiapas and this untouched region of Mexico. xx

thanks for this comprehensive guide. We are heading to Mexico in November and are now kind of deciding between Chiapas and Yucatan… We would actually love to do a road trip on our own (my partner and me) in Chiapas but we do not speak Spanish at all. Do you think we could still manage or would you recommend not doing it? If the latter – is there a possibility to do the things you mentioned in a week with guided tours?

Also did you experience Malaria while in Chiapas? What’s your recommendation?

Appreciate your help, thanks kind regards Claudia

Hey Claudia-

Sorry for the delayed response!

I traveled this road trip with a native speaker from Mexico and felt a little more ease with him. There are lots of check points, but I think with basic Spanish it could be alright. Be mindful that police and law enforcement are not allowed to enter many of the communities. Many of these communities charge a fee to pass or visit. In Bonampak we were not even allowed to drive in, which is why we opted to pass on a visit (more due to time than anything).

Chiapas is a very special place and is quite untouched. However, there are many guided tours. If you plan on seeing some of the same places I mention without a car then I recommend staying a few nights in San Cristobal de las Casas and then moving to Palenque. Palenque has many tours that move east including Archaeological Site of Yaxchilán and Bonampak. Tours can also be tailored to fit your needs if you go with a certified private guide.

I think the toughest road block is between San Cris and Palenque. The public buses and tour companies actually take a different road to avoid it, which is longer.

I didn’t have any health problem in Mexico. No malaria, food poisoning, ect.

I never felt unsafe in Chiapas and I find it to be a truly underrated place. There are even coffee fincas, mountains to climb, and of course beaches to the south. I ran out of time but hope to go back in the near future to see more of this incredible state in Mexico.

Hope this helps!

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The 10 best graduation trips to take in 2024

Chamidae  Ford

Feb 19, 2024 • 7 min read

Three friends jumping with happiness next to their car with palm trees in the background

Grab your friends and get ready for the trip of a lifetime © Frazao Studio Latino / Getty Images

There's nothing like graduating to make you want a celebratory vacation.

Both a massive accomplishment and a bittersweet end of an era, completing your studies can also be a reality check as you begin the next phase of your life.

So, where should you go once you graduate? These 10 incredible destinations allow you to put off real life for a little bit longer.

A man flips into the deep blue water of a cenote in Mexico.

Affordable and with a wealth of diverse things to do, Mexico is the perfect post-graduation escape. The country has a happy place for everyone. Head to Tulum for a beachy, out-till-dawn vacation that is bursting will beach clubs, upscale cocktails and cerulean cenotes. Look to Puerto Vallarta for a classic, lay-by-the-pool escape. In Mexico City , you can try local delicacies and get lost in a museum for the afternoon. Stop by the stunning Museo Universitario del Chopo , which boasts an extensive contemporary art collection.  Oaxaca offers a mix of Indigenous and colonial influences, with day trips out to explore the natural world and local villages. Head to Santiago Apoala for a look at a remote Mixtec village in the heart of a towering mountain range. If the last four years in the library require some sunshine and a warm place to recover, there is no better place than Mexico to finish that beach read. 

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2. Road trip across the US

Nothing bonds a group together like a long car journey, making a road trip across the US with your mates the perfect post-graduation send-off. It's hard to grasp the magnitude of the United States until you drive through it. Pick between visiting iconic national parks like Yellowstone ,   Yosemite  and the Grand Canyon , or cruising along the West Coast from the Redwoods to Joshua Tree  with a stop in some of the Golden State's famed cities, like San Francisco and Los Angeles . Uncovering the mysteries of the West has long been an American tradition, not to mention watching the landscapes change and evolve in a matter of days is a mesmerizing experience.

To keep this adventure affordable, try camping in the national parks rather than staying in hotels. It will require some advanced planning, maybe even some reservations. Visit nps.gov for more information.

Few places have the same vacation appeal as Greece . With its hot, sunny climate and stellar museums, especially the Acropolis Museum , the fantastic restaurants and endless island hopping opportunities, it's hard to have a dull moment. Pro-tip: Don't skip Athens . The birthplace of Western civilization and a paradise for thinkers, artists and scientists, come see the starting place for man's greatest ideas. 

When it comes to Greece's islands, Mykonos is where the nightlife takes center stage, while Santorini provides a more romantic and relaxing atmosphere. Beware, a steep price tag comes with Greece's most popular island spots. Alternatively, if you crave a slightly less touristy experience, the Ionian Islands in early autumn make a great escape. Slow down, eat your way through fresh local delicacies and see what makes the Mediterranean way of life so revered. 

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4. Costa Rica

If college wasn't enough of a thrill, head to Costa Rica . Considered one of the happiest places on earth and packed with adventure opportunities, you can white water raft, zipline, traverse sky-high bridges, and surf the most stellar waves to your heart's content. 

If you've spent the last four years in the heart of a city and are in dire need of some nature, warm weather, and delicious food , this after-graduation trip is for you. Start your day with a hearty serving of gallo pinto , take refuge from the heat with a street mango smothered in lime juice, salt and chili powder and wrap up the day with chifrijo,  a local dish of fried pork and beans with all the toppings. Not to mention, eating your body weight in ceviche is considered a right of passage. Pura Vida is right!

Young asian couple sightseeing in a local market in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

5. Vietnam 

Affordable, beautiful and warm, a graduation trip to Vietnam gets you out of your comfort zone. Get lost in a sea of mopeds in Hanoi and slurp pho on stools along the sidewalk. Head up to Halong Bay , where you can tour its limestone islands on a junk boat. Enjoy an urban metropolis like Ho Chi Minh City , wander the Binh Tay Market  or visit Vietnam's only Taoist temple,  Khanh Van Nam Vien Pagoda , before cruising along the Mekong Delta and getting to know the locals at the Cai Rang Floating Market .

6. New Orleans, Louisiana

For a graduation trip that melds celebration with culture, look no further than New Orleans . The loud streets of this city burst with energy: live bands, dancing, cocktails and more. As New Orleans continues to be impacted by climate change, try to reduce your impact during your visit by using trains, bikes and public transport to explore the city.  Eat beignets (deep-fried pâte à choux pastries) in the French Quarter , listen to jazz in a dimly lit bar, and if you time it right, join in with the commotion of Mardi Gras . Beyond the nightlife, the Big Easy is famous for its flavorful cuisine and unique rich history. Make sure to take the time to appreciate both. Don't miss having a steaming bowl of gumbo or biting into a massive Po'boy. Follow it up with a visit to the  Ogden Museum of Southern Art , which explores the city's complex influences and longtime connection to the natural world.  

A couple walks down the streets of Brooklyn laughing happily.

7. New York City

A graduation trip can also be an opportunity to test out potential places you may want to live. For many, that means New York City . Visit before you commit to living here: it's busy, loud, (sometimes) stinky and eye-openingly wonderful. But it's not for everyone. For this test run, spend your time checking out galleries and parks while eating at some amazing restaurants. It will be a pricey trip, no matter how hard you try to budget. Still, it's a great chance to meet new people and try every cuisine you can imagine. Make sure to catch the train to Brooklyn for an afternoon in the Botanical Gardens .

8. South Africa

Not ready to stop learning? Head to South Africa . With a tumultuous and storied history, a trip to this stunning country can be life-changing. Apartheid isn't that far in the rearview mirror, and its lasting effects are visible across much of the nation. Dedicate time to visiting some of the historical sites in Johannesburg, such as the Apartheid Museum and Constitution Hill , a former prison turned Constitutional Court. Then, hit the beach to surf some famous waves at Addington Beach along the iconic Golden Mile or catch glimpses of South Africa's diverse wildlife in the expansive Kruger National Park . Keep your eyes peeled for big cats, elephants, rhinos and more. Find time to catch at least one sunset from the top of Table Mountain . Its unmatched views are accessible by cable car in Cape Town.

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With stunning fjords, shooting geysers, natural hot springs and the northern lights – Iceland offers an otherworldly reset from your studies. A nature-first vacation, try and dedicate some time beyond the beautiful capital Reykjavik . You'll need a large budget to chase waterfalls, sip pints and toast your graduation in Iceland, but you'll look at the world entirely anew. 

10. Florence, Italy

Florence offers a decadence and youthfulness that is easier to access than in Rome or Naples , and its Renaissance beauty will fill your aching heart if you don't want to leave university or college. Marvel at Botticelli's masterpiece, the Birth of Venus, in the Uffizi and wander the expansive Boboli Gardens . Luxuriate with two-hour dinners on one of their many piazzas, climb to the top of the fabled Duomo to take in the rolling hills in the distance. There is so much to love about Florence, but like most major cities in Italy, it can be expensive, but it's the price you pay to heal your heartache.

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8 Road Trips Through Iconic U.S. National Parks

Why the united states is the best country for road trips..

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Curving road of Blue Ridge Parkway through fall foliage

A 25-45 mph speed limit and winding roads insist that the Blue Ridge Parkway is best taken slow.

Photo by Anthony Heflin/Shutterstock

It wasn’t until I high-tailed it out of my home in North Carolina and lived out of my well-loved Honda CR-V for a few months in 2021 that I came to appreciate the sheer diversity and beauty of U.S. national parks . After spending the peak work-from-home era glued to my computer screen, seeing screensaver-worthy sights like the Grand Tetons in real life brought actual tears to my eyes.

I’m by no means a unique case: The awe-inspiring destinations of the national parks system drew more than 325 million visits last year, with so much anticipated demand that several parks are enforcing a reservation system to keep up with summer crowds. For those joining the ranks of travelers eager to visit one of the country’s 63 national parks, taking a scenic drive can showcase the deserts, mountains, beaches, and other U.S. landscapes at their most beautiful.

So put on a podcast , buckle up, and get ready for some adventures on these eight national park road trips.

1. The Blue Ridge Parkway

  • National parks visited: Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Shenandoah National Park
  • Start: Great Smoky Mountains, North Carolina
  • End: Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
  • Approximate distance: 469 miles
  • Recommended time: 5 days

This is one of the best road trips for the fall, when sourwood, oak, and other deciduous trees in the Southeast turn into an array of warm colors. Starting from North Carolina’s entrance to the approximately 800-square-mile Great Smoky Mountains National Park , the drive winds north to Virginia. Explore the Great Smoky Mountains with a hike up to Clingmans Dome to take in vistas from the park’s highest point, revealing hilly peaks formed by 300 million years of erosion and weathering. Shenandoah National Park bookends the northern portion of this road trip, offering plenty of overlooks along its 105-mile Skyline Drive . It also has its share of worthwhile hikes that will give legs a well-deserved stretch. The most famous one is Old Rag Mountain , a 3,284-foot peak that’s a six- or seven-hour workout for those up for the challenge.

The route that connects these two parks is the carefully constructed roadway known as the Blue Ridge Parkway . Named after the blue color of the atmosphere surrounding the Appalachian Mountains, the parkway snakes across 469 miles to connect Great Smoky Mountains with Shenandoah and connects travelers to more than 369 miles of hiking trails .

Where to stay

  • Book now: Glamping Collective

The Blue Ridge Parkway passes by some of Appalachia’s major towns and cities—including Asheville, North Carolina —providing insight into both the people and natural sights of the region. Drive about half an hour west of Asheville to the small town of Clyde and stay at the Glamping Collective , a property offering glass cabins and incredible mountain views. Amenities here include hot tubs, fire tables, and access to five miles of private hiking trails.

An empty highway, with double yellow lines in the middle, leading toward Grand Tetons

In the words of Afar writer Anna Fiorentino, Wyoming “offers an endless natural playground for paddling, fishing, hiking, spotting wild mustangs, studying ancient fossils, and soaking in hot springs.”

Courtesy of Jesse Collins/Unsplash

2. Wyoming’s Best Hits

  • National parks visited: Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone National Park
  • Start: Cheyenne, Wyoming
  • End: Cody, Wyoming
  • Approximate distance: 800 miles
  • Recommended time: 10 days

Road-trippers headed to Wyoming: Don’t feel the need to make a beeline for Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks in the northwestern corner of the state. While those parks are famous for a reason, there are plenty more that merit a slow journey across the state.

A 10-day drive will unlock the variety on offer, from ancient fossils to Old Faithful. Start in the city of Cheyenne for some history about cowboys and railroads, then wind through Medicine Bow National Forest for rock climbing or a hike among the reddish igneous rock formations of Vedauwoo. Stop to soak in the mineral hot springs of Saratoga, then settle into the town of Jackson as a base for hiking the waterfalls and lakes in Grand Teton before finishing up at Yellowstone ‘s geysers. Finally, take a hike in Shoshone National Forest before indulging in a slow-cooked supper at Cody, Wyoming’s Cody Cattle Company.

Itinerary: National Parks, Hot Springs, and the Great American Frontier: The Ultimate Wyoming Road Trip

  • Book now: The Cloudveil, Autograph Collection

Wyoming’s Jackson is a popular stop for those visiting Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks. It’s worth spending some time to explore the square dancing venues, art galleries, and other places the town has to offer , especially with its myriad accommodation options ranging from renovated motor lodges to wellness-focused stays. The 100-room Cloudveil, Autograph Collection offers the comfort of a boutique hotel (private fireplaces, custom wood furnishings, and plush sitting areas) with easy access to downtown and the surrounding mountains and parks.

3. Beyond California’s Coast

  • National parks visited: Yosemite National Park, Kings Canyon National Park, Sequoia National Park
  • Start: Yosemite National Park
  • End: Sequoia National Park
  • Approximate distance: 130 miles
  • Recommended time: 3 days

California is home to endless road trip itineraries . This particular one opts for dense forests and the eastern Sierras in the state’s interior. Starting in Yosemite National Park , travelers can ogle famed splendors like the vertical rock formation El Capitan and Horsetail Fall. (For a short time during winter, the waterfall gives the illusion of being on fire.) Afterward, a drive along CA-41 and CA-180 brings road-trippers to Kings Canyon and Sequoia national parks , which are home to some of the largest and oldest trees in the world . Bask under trees more than 250 feet high and maybe try forest bathing (no, it’s not showering among the trees), or hike the paved Congress Trail and see the General Sherman Tree —the largest tree on Earth by volume.

Given this relatively low-mileage itinerary, there’s room for flexibility on either side of the trip. Head upstate and a vast network of forests and national parks await (including Tahoe National Forest and Lassen Volcanic National Park ), while the south is home to the dry lands of Joshua Tree National Park and Death Valley National Park. And if you’re eager for some ocean, consider one of the Golden State’s other legendary drives, its Pacific Coast Highway .

Timing is everything in a road trip, and it’s especially important in a large state with differing climates. Snowfall in the Sierra Nevada region closes some roads in the wintertime (such as Tioga and Glacier Point roads in Yosemite), while scorching temperatures in Death Valley (like, more than 120°F ) make the summer excursion a sweaty challenge. Come to Sequoia National Park in the fall, and witness evergreens contrasting with the reds and yellows of a fall foliage display .

  • Book now: The Ahwahnee Hotel

The Ahwahnee Hotel , in Yosemite National Park, opened in 1927 and has a long history of hosting celebrity guests, including Queen Elizabeth II, John F. Kennedy, and I Love Lucy actress Lucille Ball. The property features 99 hotel rooms, parlors, and suites in addition to 24 cottages on its grounds, with Half Dome, Glacier Point, and other park sights in view.

Empty highway through red rock hills  in Capitol Reef National Park

Capitol Reef National Park is one of five national parks in Utah.

Courtesy of Lisha Riabinina/Unsplash

4. Utah’s Mighty Five

  • National parks visited: Bryce Canyon National Park, Zion National Park, Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Capitol Reef National Park
  • Start: Arches National Park
  • End: Zion National Park
  • Distance: 370 miles
  • Recommended time: 7 days

Bryce Canyon , Zion , Arches , Canyonlands , and Capitol Reef form Utah’s “Mighty Five” network of national parks. Their linear placement across the state spans some 370 miles, making for a relatively easy and immensely rewarding road trip through canyon country . Starting among the orange spires, vaults, and canyons of Arches National Park and passing through with the Colorado River–carved buttes of Canyonlands , this journey feels like a visit to Mars. The otherworldly scenery continues with the Navajo Sandstone domes of Capitol Reef and the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon, where multi-colored rock layers (known as the “Grand Staircase”) stretch through to Zion .

Summer is often a popular time for visiting this area, but a winter road trip has surprising perks worth considering: Zion gets 70 percent of its visitors between April and September, but only 2–3 percent in each winter month of December, January, and February. The lack of crowds isn’t the only plus. Colder weather brings seasonal opportunities—like cross-country skiing in Bryce Canyon.

Book now: Lodge at Bryce Canyon

The Lodge at Bryce Canyon first opened in 1925, designed by Gilbert Stanley Underwood (the architect who also designed the Old Faithful Lodge at Yellowstone and the Ahwahnee at Yosemite). One of the biggest draws for the 114-room property (which includes lodge suites, motel rooms, and cabins) is its location: It is the sole accommodation inside the park. Amenities in the area include restaurants, a general store, and a laundry facility, and many natural excursions are accessible by foot—it’s only a five-minute walk to the start of the 5.5-mile Rim Trail .

5. West Virginia’s Wonders

  • National park visited: New River Gorge National Park
  • Start: Blackwater Falls State Park
  • End: New River Gorge National Park
  • Distance: 200 miles

In 2020, the United States designated a national park in West Virginia: New River Gorge . Despite the name, the river is not new: It’s estimated to be between 260 million and 325 million years old , making it one of the oldest rivers in North America. While locals have long known about all the state has to offer, a three-day adventure is enough to prime visitors on West Virginia’s major points of interest. Start the trip in Blackwater Falls State Park , where hikers can climb steps to a 57-foot cascade. Then drive around 30 miles south to get to Seneca Rocks , a formation that rises 900 feet above the New River.

Can’t get enough excitement from the hairpin turns it takes to get to New River Gorge National Park ? Then don’t miss the opportunity to do some whitewater rafting on the New River, which offers class II–IV rapids depending on the stretch. It’s a great place to try out the activity as a beginner, but experienced rafters should keep their calendar open for when “Gauley Season” comes around (the six weeks or so following Labor Day).

Don’t sweat it if high-intensity waters aren’t in your plans. Hiking is always available as a tried-and-true way to get the lay of the land. If you have time for one hike in the national park, Afar’s own Jessie Beck recommends the 2.2-mile Endless Wall Trail: “It’s especially magical at sunrise, when fog and mist drift in and out the canyon.”

Itinerary: Travel to the Newest U.S. National Park and Other West Virginia Wonders on This Road Trip of a Lifetime

  • Book now: Adventures on the Gorge

Travelers can get their excursions and nightly stay handled in one place with Adventures on the Gorge , which offers trips including whitewater rafting and ziplining as well as accommodations. A stay at its Lansing location, about a mile from New River Gorge National Park, immerses visitors in the rustic beauty of nature: Think wooden cabins with fantastic stargazing opportunities. (Some cabins have the elevated touch of a private porch and hot tub.)

Aerial shot of an island with fort walls surrounding it

Seven islands make up the Dry Tortugas, a national park 70 miles across the water from Key West.

Photo courtesy of Key West Seaplane Adventures

6. Florida Keys

  • National parks visited: Everglades National Park, Biscayne National Park, Dry Tortugas National Park
  • Start: Everglades National Park
  • End: Dry Tortugas National Park
  • Distance: 150 miles

While many Florida road trips start and end with its gorgeous beaches, drive to its southern border for some of the most memorable marine ecosystems and underrated national parks in the nation.

Florida’s Everglades are the starting point for the trip and introduce travelers to the “river of grass” Marjory Stoneman Douglas fought to conserve. (Her book The Everglades: River of Grass was published in 1947, the same year the Everglades became a national park.) From the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center in Everglades National Park, it’s about a 20-mile drive east to get to Homestead Bayfront, where travelers can take a boat out to Biscayne National Park. The park is 95 percent water and its land spots are only accessible by boat, so the most convenient option is to explore via guided tour .

After coming back to the mainland, hop on Florida’s Highway 1 for another 135 miles—stopping for the occasional seafood dish, of course—before ending at Key West . The car stops here because Dry Tortugas National Park is 70 miles west and can only be reached via boat or plane . Spend the day in a national park that’s 99 percent water and explore the 30 species of coral found in its reefs , and hop on that 1 percent of land to explore the historical Fort Jefferson .

  • Book now: Ocean Key Resort & Spa

While there are plenty of stays along the stretch of the Florida Keys, Key West is a practical base for those taking a day trip to Dry Tortugas. The 100-room Ocean Key Resort & Spa is one stay to consider for sunset views and Caribbean cuisine . With a calendar full of live music and nightly events, the resort provides much-needed ways to relax after a day of travel.

Empty two-lane highway leading to  mountains in Big Bend National Park

Big Bend National Park covers more than 800,000 acres, making it larger than Joshua Tree National Park and Yosemite National Park.

Courtesy of freddie marriage/Unsplash

7. New Mexico to Texas

  • National parks visited: White Sands National Park, Carlsbad Caverns National Park, Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Big Bend National Park
  • Start: White Sands National Park
  • End: Big Bend National Park, Texas
  • Distance: 450 miles

It’s difficult to encompass every national park in the Southwest on one road trip—this particular route focuses on those in New Mexico and Texas. This journey starts in White Sands National Park , where visitors can take the eight-mile Dunes Drive into the world’s largest gypsum dune field. (Gypsum is a mineral found in drywall and toothpaste.) Drive about 185 miles to get to New Mexico’s other national park on the itinerary, Carlsbad Caverns , which contrasts the hot desert experience by plunging visitors into the depths of more than 119 limestone caves .

It’s only about 35 miles to Texas’s Guadalupe Mountains National Park from the caves, where hiking to the highest natural point in the state, Guadalupe Peak, provides panoramic views of the surrounding desert and mountains. Fuel up, because it’s about 235 miles to get to the next park, Big Bend, located near the border of Mexico. But while the trip may be long, it’s worth the effort: Big Bend is a stargazer’s dream, as it’s the least light-polluted national park in the lower 48.

There’s a lot to cover in this trip—after loading up on barbecue and snacks from beloved Texan gas station chain Buc-ee’s , maybe consider another road trip in the Lone Star State.

  • Book now: Gage Hotel

If you don’t want to spend the night at one of Big Bend National Park’s campgrounds , drive around 40 minutes north to get to the park gateway town of Marathon , which Afar contributor Nick DeRenzo describes as a “funky town [that] oozes Old West charm and feels a bit like Marfa before the art-school kids arrived.” Base yourself in the Gage Hotel , a 1927-founded property that embraces the Western theme, complete with leather furniture and cow skulls adorning the walls.

View of forest in Olympic National Park

Hurricane Ridge Road is a great drive for views of Olympic National Park.

Courtesy of Georg Eiermann/Unsplash

8. Olympic Peninsula Loop

  • National park visited: Olympic National Park
  • Start and end: Olympia, Washington
  • Distance: 335 miles

Explore the Pacific Northwest in all its glory on this Olympic Peninsula road trip in Washington State, which mostly traces U.S. 101 before following U.S. 12 and 8 at the southern portion to loop back to the state capital of Olympia. Some of the notable stops on this route include Sequim, which draws visitors in the summer for its lavender fields, and Forks , a small town made famous by the Twilight series, that serves as a good base for checking out the Pacific coastline.

Deeper in the peninsula is the nearly 1-million-acre Olympic National Park, which packs in mountains characteristic of the Pacific Northwest in addition to its own unique geographical features. Hikes abound here, like the three-mile round-trip Hurricane Hill trail that offers 360-degree views of the park. But perhaps the most popular destination in the park is the Hoh Rain Forest—one of four rainforests in the state—a mossy, temperate ecosystem home to Sitka spruce, black bears, river otters, and the endangered northern spotted owl.

  • Book now: Kalaloch Lodge at Olympic National Park

Kalaloch Lodge at Olympic National Park , 35 miles southwest of Forks, is an ideal overnight base for exploring the Pacific Coast. The waters by the property are part of the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary , a more than 3,000-square-mile area home to at least 300 species of fish and 29 species of marine mammals , including orca and humpback whales. From the wood-paneled lodge and cabins, guests can take in uninterrupted sights and sounds of the ocean waves that are especially magnificent come sunset.

This article was originally published in 2023. It was updated June 10, 2024, with the latest information.

Kayaking in Alaska

best road trips mexico

9 Best Road Trips From Denver, Colorado

R eady for an unforgettable journey through stunning landscapes? If so, you’re ready to embark on discovering some of the best road trips from Denver.

Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, a history buff , or simply seeking a memorable getaway, Denver has some incredible road trips that promise to leave you awestruck.

As one of the top outdoor hubs in the western United States, Denver serves as the perfect base camp for unforgettable road trips through the majestic Rocky Mountains and beyond.

From national parks and monuments to charming mountain towns and winding scenic byways, some of the best road trips from Denver lead to diverse landscapes and adventures.

Here is an expert-crafted list of the best road trips from Denver, Colorado:

  • Rocky Mountain National Park
  • Santa Fe, New Mexico
  • Great Sand Dunes National Park
  • Colorado Springs
  • Yellowstone National Park
  • Monument Valley, Utah
  • Zion National Park
  • Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills

Let’s find out why these drives are perfect for your next escapade.

The Best Road Trips From Denver, Colorado

Rocky mountain national park: a natural wonder.

This road trip takes you from Denver to Estes Park, where you’ll discover awe-inspiring beauty at every turn. The journey itself is a visual delight, but the real magic begins when you step into the park.

Hiking enthusiasts can conquer the trails leading to Dream Lake or Emerald Lake and be rewarded with mirror-like waters reflecting the surrounding peaks. Also, the drive along Trail Ridge Road offers vistas that will leave you breathless.

If you’re keen on wildlife, don’t miss a wildlife safari. EK, bighorn sheep, and other animals call this park home. To delve deeper into the park’s geology and history, you can make a stop at the Alpine Visitor Centre.

A trip to Rocky Mountain National Park typically lasts two to three days.

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Santa Fe, New Mexico:  A Taste of Southwest Charm

As you head south from Denver to Santa Fe, you’ll be immersed in the rich culture and history of the Southwest.

The road to Santa Fe is a journey through time. The ancient cultures of the Southwest come to life as you explore the city’s historic center. The Santa Fe Plaza, the heart of the city, offers a glimpse into its Spanish colonial past.

Art lovers will be in heaven on Canyon Road, where over 200 galleries and boutiques showcase the talents of local artists. The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, dedicated to one of New Mexico’s most famous artists, provides insight into the region’s artistic heritage.

A road trip to Santa Fe typically lasts two to three days.

Moab, Utah: Adventure In The Red Rocks

Located in the red rock wonderland of Utah, Moab offers thrilling outdoor activities and breathtaking vistas that will leave you in awe.

The drive from Denver to Moab is a transition from the lush landscapes of Colorado to the rugged terrain of Utah. Upon your arrival, the striking arches of Arches National Park will welcome you.

For a challenging but rewarding experience, you can hike to Delicate Arch, one of the world’s most iconic natural landmarks. And if you’re interested in the prehistoric past, the Moab Giants Dinosaur Park will transport you back in time.

Moab typically demands three to four days of your time.

Great Sand Dunes National Park: A Sandy Paradise 

Just when you thought you’d seen it all, Great Sand Dunes National Park offers a unique experience.

These surreal sand dunes rise against the backdrop of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, creating a mesmerizing contrast that you won’t find anywhere else.

The drive to Great Sand Dunes National Park takes you through a diverse landscape, from rolling hills to the first glimpse of those towering dunes.

Once there, you’ll have the opportunity to climb the tallest sand dunes in North America.

There are plenty of opportunities for offroading if you’ve got the right vehicle. Make sure your tires are set to the right pressure for sand driving before hitting the trails.

To understand the park’s geology and ecology, you can consider joining a ranger-led tour. And on a hot day, a refreshing dip in Medano Creek is pure bliss.

Great Sand Dunes National Park can be explored in one to two days.

Colorado Springs: Where Mountains Meet Military 

Colorado Springs is where natural beauty meets military prestige. You can explore majestic mountains, delve into history, and get up close with wildlife, all in one captivating destination.

A drive up Pikes Peak, one of Colorado’s “Fourteeners” (mountains over 14,000 feet tall), offers a breathtaking panorama. 

For animal lovers, the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is home to over 750 animals from around the globe. And if you’re not afraid of the dark, explore the Cave of the Winds Mountains Park’s underground caves.

A visit to Colorado Springs typically takes one to two days.

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Yellowstone National Park: America’s First National Park

Yellowstone National Park is a wonderland of geothermal features, wildlife, and rugged landscapes. 

The drive to Yellowstone is an adventure in itself, passing through Wyoming and Montana. As you enter the park, you’ll soon encounter Old Faithful, the most famous geyser in the world.

The Grand Prismatic Spring, the largest hot spring in the United States, is a colorful marvel you won’t soon forget. Hiking to Yellowstone Canyon rewards you with views of the Lower Yellowstone Falls and the Upper Yellowstone Falls.

Yellowstone is a wildlife lover’s paradise where bison, elk, wolves, and other animals roam freely. And for a night of luxury in the heart of the park, the Yellowstone Lake Hotel offers a perfect retreat.

This road trip typically lasts four to five days.

Monument Valley, Utah: A Desert Dreamscape

Monument Valley is a cinematic dreamscape known for its iconic sandstone formations featured in many Western films.

The drive from Denver to Monument Valley is a transition from the greenery of Colorado to the arid beauty of Utah. Upon entering the valley, towering sandstone buttes and mesas will welcome you, crafting a surreal landscape.

A scenic drive through the valley is a must, allowing you to witness these natural wonders up close. Guided tours offer insights into the history and culture of the Navajo people. 

Sunrise and sunset in Monument Valley are magical moments, with the sandstone formations bathed in golden light.

A trip to Monument Valley typically lasts two to three days.

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Zion National Park: A Canyon Wonderland

Zion National Park is a hiker’s paradise, with dramatic canyons and breathtaking vistas. The journey from Denver to Zion is a transition from cityscapes to natural wonders.

The adventurous can tackle the famous Angel’s Landing hike for an adrenaline rush or simply soak in the stunning scenery.

The Zion Human History Museum provides insight into the park’s history and the people who have called it home. You can join guided tours if you are eager to learn about the park’s geology and ecology.

A trip to Zion National Park typically lasts two to three days.

Mount Rushmore In The Black Hills: Faces In Stone

Mount Rushmore awaits you in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The drive from Denver to Mount Rushmore is a journey through the heart of America’s Midwest.

The iconic faces of four U.S. presidents emerging from the granite mountainside are a symbol of the nation’s history and democracy.

The Crazy Horse Memorial pays homage to the Lakota warrior Crazy Horse. Witnessing this massive carving in the making is a testament to human ambition.

A wildlife safari through Custer State Park allows you to see wild bison and their natural habitat. Serene beauty will embrace you as you traverse the scenic Black Hills.

A trip to Mount Rushmore typically takes two to three days.

Denver is a great place to start your adventure, and there’s something for everyone to enjoy along the way.

If you’re looking for a short and easy road trip, consider visiting Rocky Mountain National Park or Colorado Springs . Both destinations are within a two-hour drive of Denver and offer a variety of activities to enjoy.

For the more adventurous traveler, Moab, Utah, and Yellowstone National Park offer stunning scenery, outdoor activities, and unique cultural experiences that will leave you in awe.

In the end, it’s not just about the destinations; it’s about the experiences, the landscapes, and the stories you’ll gather along the way.

Don’t miss the chance to explore the beauty of the American West on these unforgettable journeys.

This is a post by Guest Contributor Louis

Author’s Bio: Louis is an outdoors enthusiast who doesn’t miss an opportunity to get out and go camping, hiking, or road tripping. When he isn’t out travelling, he’s planning his next adventure.

The post 9 Best Road Trips From Denver, Colorado appeared first on Dreams in Heels - Travel and Lifestyle Blog by a Latina Abroad .

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Underrated, But Worth Visiting: New Mexico's Most Overlooked National Park

Carlsbad Caverns National Park might not be at the top of your list of national parks to explore but here's why it's worth seeing.

  • Carlsbad Caverns National Park, a hidden gem, can be explored in 48 hours due to its compact nature.
  • The main draw of Carlsbad Caverns is the caves, not hiking trails or camping, attracting 500,000 visitors annually.
  • Visitors can choose ranger-led or self-guided tours of the caves, with affordable entrance fees and options for families.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park often gets overlooked because it isn’t a “traditional” national park, but it’s worth a stop for anyone traveling through New Mexico and worth a place on every national park lover’s bucket list. One great thing about Carlsbad Caverns National Park is that it's easy to see the entire park in a very short amount of time. Anyone with 48 hours to spend at Carlsbad Caverns NP can see just about everything there is to see.

Carlsbad Caverns doesn’t offer overnight lodging or campgrounds and while there are desert hiking trails, they’re not really the draw and not why people opt to visit. Primitive camping is allowed in the park’s backcountry, but many of the activities people associate with national parks won’t be found here. The reason for visiting and the main thing to explore is the actual caverns. Here’s how to explore this often underrated national park.

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What to know before visiting carlsbad caverns, carlsbad caverns has more than 100 caves.

High ancient sea ledges, deep rocky canyons, flowering cactus, and desert wildlife treasures above the ground in the Chihuahuan Desert. Hidden beneath the surface are more than 119 caves formed when sulfuric acid dissolved limestone, leaving behind caverns of all sizes.

Inside the caverns it stays at a constant 56 degrees Fahrenheit, so a light jacket might be a good idea. Summer is the most popular time to visit, as that’s when many road-tripping families are traveling.

Carlsbad Caverns receives about 500,000 visitors every year. For reference, America's most-visited national park, the Grand Canyon , receives five million visitors per year.

Timed entry reservations are recommended but not required.

  • The entrance fee is $15 per person for individuals 16 and up.

Kids 15 and under are free, which makes this park a solid budget-friendly option for families.

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How to explore carlsbad caverns, take a ranger-led or self-guided tour.

Visitors to Carlsbad Caverns National Park have options. Sign up for a ranger-led tour of either the King’s Palace or the Lower Cave or explore the caves independently. Guided tours have an extra fee associated with them on top of the park entrance fee.

Self-guided tours include the Big Room Trail and the Natural Entrance Trail. Neither trail has an extra fee and guests can begin exploring at their leisure. The Big Room Trail is 1.2 miles and relatively flat. It takes about 1.5 hours to explore.

Short on time or don’t want to walk a lot? Big Room has a shortcut that reduces the walking distance to about .6 miles (1 km). The hiking time is reduced to about 45 minutes.

The Natural Entrance Trail is 1.25 miles long and takes about an hour to complete. Portions of the trail are steep.

Anyone wanting a ranger-led tour should book in advance and read the tour descriptions carefully to make sure they're prepared for the underground hike.

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Logistics and challenges of visiting carlsbad caverns national park, the park is located in a remote area and not near anything else.

Carlsbad Caverns isn’t really near any major city or town, so visitors will have to do some extra planning to visit, since it isn't a "We'll catch that one the way to destination XYZ" kind of place. When my family and I visited the park, we were on a driving trip exploring the Southwest. We left Roswell — that's right, the town that's famous for aliens — in the morning. We got a kick out of this hidden extraterrestrial hot spot , but then it took us about two hours to reach the caverns, where we spent the afternoon exploring the park.

There are a few hotel options in the small town of Carlsbad, New Mexico, but there are limited things to do and places to stay , so we opted to drive on to Lubbock, Texas, about a four-hour drive. It was in the general direction we were traveling, so that worked out for us. Other larger cities to start from include El Paso and Albuquerque, but there's still substantial driving involved.

Carlsbad Caverns is one possible pit stop on a national park road trip !

The park isn’t on the way to anything else. A visit requires some commitment and the willingness to go a bit out of the way. It worked out for us to make the detour while we were in the general area, but the remote location probably dissuades a lot of visitors.

The bottom line is that the natural wonders of Carlsbad Caverns make this New Mexico park deserving of a spot on anyone’s National Park bucket list. It might not have the majesty of the Grand Canyon or the wildlife of Yellowstone, but the spectacular rock formations are worth the extra effort to see and to collect that National Parks Passport stamp.

Have you been to Carlsbad Caverns NP before? Tell us about it in the comments!

  • BEST OF THE WORLD

20 of the coolest travel adventures for 2024

From a horseback safari in Kenya to river rafting in West Virginia, here’s our ranked list of the top travel experiences right now.

This page is a portal.   No, really, it is: Our annual Best of the World feature is a gateway to the streets of Paris , the snowy Caucasus Mountains of Georgia , the ancient rock art of Algeria . To help us engage with places more deeply and meaningfully, we drew on National Geographic’s global community of experts to create the following ranked list of 20 great adventures for 2024. Read on and you’ll discover that this page is also a celebration—of travel’s power to transform us and our connections with one another.

#1: Go on horseback safari in Kenya

Guide Hamprey Mweterwa, and riders Llewellyn, Eloise and Tatiana Rose Dyer, watch a herd of zebra from atop their horses in Borana Conservancy, Kenya

A safari in Africa usually conjures an image of mud-spattered 4x4 vehicles bouncing through the bush. But there’s another way to travel: on horseback .  

Although horse safaris originated in Kenya in the 1970s, they’re a perfect fit for today’s growing number of travelers looking for more engaging, sustainable wildlife encounters. At the 32,000-acre Borana Conservancy , two stables house thoroughbreds and ex-polo ponies for riders of all skill levels. Visitors can book half-day, full-day, or overnight rides. July through September is the prime time to go.

Since wildlife perceive equines as just another animal, exploring the landscape atop a horse makes for an intimate experience. “To journey on horseback is to break down the walls—meant to protect but also to separate—between oneself and the natural world,” says Nichole Sobecki , a photographer and equestrian who’s ridden in Borana. “Your horse is a translator, responding to the low growl of the lion, the soft scent of a herd of elephants.” A horse’s ears are an advance warning system, she says, helping knowledgeable guides navigate routes.

#2: Run an Olympic marathon in Paris

Silhouettes of runners pass in front of the Eiffel Tower during the 45th edition of the Paris Marathon

For the first time, members of the public will be able to run their own marathon during the 2024 Summer Olympics , in Paris, France , just one initiative aimed at creating a more inclusive Games.  

Slated to be held the evening of August 10, between the men’s and women’s official races, the Marathon for All will allow 20,024 qualifying lottery winners on the 26.2-mile route that links Paris and Versailles , a loop beginning at the Hôtel de Ville (City Hall) and passing through nine arrondissements before finishing at Les Invalides on the banks of the Seine. Before or after the big event, learn the route to follow in their tracks.  

#3: Ski tour UNESCO sites in Georgia

Long a means of transportation, exploration, and hunting, skiing is still a way of life in the mountainous republic of Georgia. Now visitors can enjoy some of the nation’s best backcountry skiing in the Caucasus with the help of outfitters such as Svaneti Ski and Georgia Ski Touring . In Svaneti, excursions may lead skiers through panoramic Gvibari Pass or to medieval Ushguli villages, among the highest continuously inhabited in Europe. The best times to experience this are December to April.

#4: Bear watch in Katmai National Park

Brown bears (Ursus arctos) graze on sedge grass in Hallo Bay in Alaska's Katmai National Park

Alaska ’s Katmai National Park is home to one of the highest concentrations of brown bears in the world. Far from the crowded viewing platforms of the Brooks Camp Visitor Center, a guided trip along the Katmai coast with outfitters like AK Adventures reveals a different side of the park.

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Here, the bears feast on a diversity of foods: sedges, grasses, razor clams, salmon. “For me, seeing a single brown bear in the wild is meaningful because it is a sign that the landscape is healthy enough to support it,” says Alaska photographer Acacia Johnson , a frequent National Geographic contributor.

#5: Hear legendary live music in Kyoto

A singer on stage rocks out with a guitar

Guidebooks speak of Kyoto as frozen in time, with hushed temples and meditative gardens. But after hours, Japan ’s former imperial capital reveals a live music scene that can be loud and irreverent. At venues like Jittoku and Field , rock, swing, and even Irish music echo into the night. Whatever you’re into, from jazz to punk, there’s a community to share your jam. “This is what happens in Japan when the mask comes off,” says Kyoto guide Van Milton.

#6: Cruise an epic river in Colombia

A view down onto the Magdalena River

About 80 percent of Colombia ’s population lives in the river basin of the Magdalena, which flows for nearly a thousand miles from the Andes to the Caribbean. AmaWaterways’ new cruises on the river—said to be the first by a major cruise operator—take seven-night trips from Cartagena via Mompós to Barranquilla. Stops at colonial towns, performances of vallenato   and cumbia music, and visits to a stilt-house village highlight the region’s culture along this mighty waterway.

#7:   Road trip Route 66 in New Mexico

A ballon festival in Albuquerque at dusk

For nearly a century, Route 66 has beckoned to travelers. A trip along the Mother Road through New Mexico hits timeless landmarks , such as quirky motels and curio shops in and around Tucumcari and symbolic etchings in Petroglyph National Monument . In Gallup—mentioned as one of the places to “get your kicks” in Nat King Cole’s 1946 hit song “Route 66”—you can take in performances featuring Zuni, Lakota, and Diné (Navajo) dancers.  

Some 18 miles of the highway traverse Albuquerque , the longest urban interlude of the route in the United States. And it’s getting a half-million-dollar glow-up with the ongoing restoration of vintage neon signs along Central Avenue.  

While cruising down the brightened strip, stop at the new West Central Route 66 Visitor Center , with its museum and outdoor amphitheater. The center will host events like lowrider car shows, drive-in movies, and artisan markets.

#8: Explore ancient art in Algeria

A guide, wearing the traditional robes and shesh headscarf of the nomadic Tuareg tribe, stands on an outcrop at Adrit.

Algeria is home to Africa’s largest national park, which holds one of the world’s greatest concentrations of ancient rock art. Tassili n’Ajjer National Park is a geologic wonderland of sandstone towers, arches, and sculpted outcrops. But these rock forests are only half the story.  

Neolithic herders and hunter-gatherers carved 15,000 petroglyphs here, including images of elephants, giraffes, and rhinos. These animals are more commonly associated with sub-Saharan Africa—a hint that this arid wilderness was once a grassland crisscrossed by waterways. Five- to seven-day guided tours with Fancy Yellow take in the most spectacular works of Tassili’s art, like the “Crying Cows,” engraved at the base of a stone pinnacle 7,000 years ago.  

Travelers with more time might want to combine a trip to Tassili with a visit to the Algerian Sahara’s other great geologic marvel: the extraordinary mountain range of Ahaggar National Park .

#9: Dive with sharks in Western Australia

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Stretching almost 700 miles along the Indian Ocean north of Perth, Western Australia’ s Coral Coast is studded with natural wonders. But Ningaloo Reef is the star. Here, you can dive with giants: Some 300 to 500 whale sharks ,   one of the largest congregations on Earth, gather along the reef each year between March and July. Ethical outfitters ensure divers give the sharks space and avoid feeding them or using flash photography.  

Even more megafauna abound from July to October, when about 40,000 humpback whales migrate along the Coral Coast. You can also commune with more than 10,000 dugongs in Shark Bay or swim with manta rays at Coral Bay.  

#10: Hike a volcano in Panama

A sustainability leader, Panama recently launched its “1,000 Kilometers of Trails” project , which seeks to bring outdoor recreation and green tourism to rural communities and protected areas.

First out of the gate is the Ruta de la Caldera , a system of five trails around the extinct Valle de Antón volcano . The treks take in waterfall-speckled landscapes, according to photographer Rose Marie Cromwell , who hiked sections of the Ruta de la Caldera over five days.

“There were some spectacular views on top of the volcanic crater—interesting land formations covered in so much green,” she says.

#11: Catch the eclipse at Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls, a boat of tourists, and a rainbow as seen from Niagara Falls, Ontario

Directly in the path of totality, Niagara Falls will offer views of a total solar eclipse, which won’t occur again in the contiguous U.S. until 2044. For about three and a half minutes, beginning at approximately 3:18 p.m. on April 8, the sky will darken over the thunderous cataract as the moon crosses between Earth and the sun.  

On the U.S. side of the falls , Terrapin Point, Prospect Point, and the Observation Tower will be prime viewing areas (if clouds stay away). From the Canadian side, an excellent vantage point is Table Rock. A side bonus: The sunny-day rainbow that hovers above the falls will become pink.  

#12: Trek a glacier in Chile

In Chilean Patagonia‘s Laguna San Rafael National Park , visitors can trek to glaciers, taking in a panorama of pale blue ice massifs and glacial waterways. Some 17,300 glaciers still cover the whole of Patagonia’s ice fields, but rising temperatures are rapidly melting them. Climate scientists say sustainable tourism , such as hikes with Chilean outfitters like Turismo Valle Leones , supports local communities and inspires travelers to learn more about how to protect glaciers.

#13: Step back in time on Menorca

the archeological site of Naveta des Taudons lit up by a sky of stars

Spain ’s Balearic Islands are best known for the jet-set beach destinations of Ibiza and Mallorca . But quiet, less developed Menorca has a unique mother lode: The archipelago’s greatest repository of ancient architecture.

In an area of just 270 square miles, Menorca has a total of 1,574 inventoried archaeological sites , ranging from the foundation blocks of small dwellings to well-preserved village centers that existed long before the Roman Empire. Most striking are the navetas,   megalithic tombs dating back to 1600 B.C.; talayots, watchtowers built from mortarless blocks of limestone; and   taulas,   shrines exclusive to Menorca that evoke Stonehenge pillars. These remnants of the Talayotic Menorcan culture, the first civilization to inhabit the island, have now been inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List .  

The open-air monuments are easy to visit; the island’s Me-1 road passes by some of the best-preserved sites, including the settlements of Talatí de Dalt, Naveta des Tudons, and Taula de Torretrencada.

Reenter the 21st century at the new Hauser & Wirth gallery in the picturesque town of Mahón. Housed in repurposed 18th-century hospital buildings, the cultural venue presents contemporary art exhibits and has an outdoor sculpture trail with works by Louise Bourgeois and Joan Miró.

#14: Ride classic rails in Scotland

A view from inside the Royal Scotsman as it drives through the Highlands

Exploring Scotland ’s wild, scenic Highlands doesn’t have to mean roughing it. The Royal Scotsman train glides among the moody lochs and dramatic peaks in style. New suites debuting in May 2024 sport interiors that reflect the compelling landscapes through dark woods, wool tweeds , and richly patterned bespoke tartans crafted by Scottish brand Araminta Campbell . After a day spent hiking to waterfalls or playing rounds of golf (a sport inextricably tied to the nation), guests can wind down with a massage at the onboard spa.

Departing Edinburgh ’s Waverley Station, the two- to seven-night rail journeys cross the heart of the Highlands, from Perthshire to Inverness to the rugged west coast. During stops guests can tour castles, stargaze in Cairngorms National Park , sample whisky at revered distilleries, and even take a dip in a loch.

#15: Find authentic flavor in Thailand  

An overhead view of a plate of Northeastern style Thai cuisine

The Isaan region in northeastern Thailand is known for its distinctive cuisine that reflects influences from bordering Laos and Cambodia. “Isaan is a hidden gem of Thailand,” says Weerawat “Num” Triyasenawat, the chef at Samuay & Sons , a Michelin Guide -recommended restaurant in the Isaan city of Udon Thani.

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One key ingredient of the region’s delicious food is pla ra, a fermented-fish seasoning that boosts umami flavor. Local dishes include laab   (minced meat salad), traditionally served during celebrations.

#16: Wander tea trails in Sri Lanka

View over the tea plantations near Kotagala on stage 7 of the Pekoe Trail

Sri Lanka is virtually synonymous with tea. The island nation is one of the world’s top producers of tea leaves. British colonists introduced the first bushes about 200 years ago. Now visitors can trace the footsteps of historic planters on the new, nearly 200-mile Pekoe Trail , the country’s first long-distance walking route.  

Starting just outside Kandy, the trail follows the 19th-century tracks upon which workers and horse-drawn carts transported freshly plucked leaves. Hikers pass through hill towns and tea estates and can stop to take a cooking class or savor a cup of aromatic Ceylon tea.

#17: Gallery hop in São Paulo

Aerial view of the São Paulo Museum of Art (MAP) illuminated at night

São Paulo, Brazil ’s largest city, is an art lover’s paradise, home to numerous galleries, exhibitions, and street murals. The crowning jewel is the Museu de Arte de São Paulo (MASP), which is expanding to showcase more of its 11,000-plus artworks, from pre-Renaissance paintings to contemporary sculptures. Departing from the usual model of exhibiting works on walls, MASP hangs some pieces against clear panels, allowing visitors to view the art from all angles.

#18: Raft the rapids in West Virginia  

An overhead view of people rafting the Gauley River in Gauley River National Recreation Area

Despite its name, West Virginia ’s New River is actually one of the oldest on Earth, perhaps as old as 360 million years. The river falls 750 feet in only 50 miles between sandstone cliffs. It eventually merges with the Gauley River.   Outfitters such as ACE Adventure Resort can arrange whitewater rafting trips here on Class III to V rapids through the longest and deepest river gorge in the Appalachians.  

#19: Go antiquing in Hudson Valley

Shoppers congregate inside the Basilica Hudson

The bucolic Hudson Valley is booming, thanks to an influx of New York City residents during the pandemic. But it’s long been a mecca for creatives: Its landscapes inspired America’s first artistic fraternity, the Hudson River School. Antique collectors will be drawn to the hundreds of stores, boutiques, craft shops, and flea markets that sell everything from colonial furniture and rare books to mid-century modern decor. For vintage finds, head to the Antique Warehouse in Hudson, Sister Salvage in Catskill, and Opera House Co. in Athens.

“There’s a common denominator here—the charming historic villages,” says Sarah Gray Miller, owner of Coxsackie antique store UnQuiet . From Stuyvesant to Saugerties, these towns “share a strong commitment to preservation.”

#20: Sleep on the water in British Columbia

The exterior of the Tofino Wilderness Resort reflected in the lake

The newly reopened Tofino Wilderness Resort , owned by the Ahousaht First Nation, is an idyllic base from which to explore the western coast of British Columbia ’s Vancouver Island. In the heart of Clayoquot Sound, the luxury floating lodge was renovated with lumber cut from timber which fell on-site. Through guided whale-watching trips or visits to the Freedom Cove artists’ sanctuary, the Ahousaht share with guests their philosophy, hishuk ish tsawalk (“everything is one”), celebrating the interconnectedness of people and nature in a land they’ve occupied for thousands of years.

Editor's note

Related topics.

  • HORSEBACK RIDING
  • PETROGLYPHS
  • WILDLIFE WATCHING
  • WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY
  • CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING
  • SNOWMOBILING

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