I’ve wanted to talk to you about my travel itinerary on a Road Trip in Mexico from the very moment I planned it, but I decided to do so only once I had returned to Italy. I wanted to put the plan to the test and make sure to give you a flawless itinerary from Cancun to the Chiapas in Mexico. The following post and the previous one I wrote the things to know before travelling to Mexico are both to be taken as the basics instructions that will help you in planning your personal itinerary in Mexico.
The route I’ve followed is very similar to any standard itinerary to Yucatan peninsula and Chiapas that a tourist would plan before visiting Mexico. On top of the not-to-be-missed spots, I’ve added a couple of stunning places which are not that famous.
I like to refer to my road trip in Mexico as being completely D.I.Y. It means that I’ve fully planned it on my own trying to mix cultures, traditions, excursions and, last but not least, the sea. I chose to save the stunning maritime landscapes for the last few days so as to come back home with those beautiful paradisiac images still impressed in my mind.
What I’ve managed to create is, undoubtedly, a quite demanding travel itinerary, but I promise you, one which will give you immense satisfaction.
I travelled through Mexico by car, one which I had previously hired from Italy.
Yes, I could have travelled by bus (with the ADO company, for example), but I would have wasted much more time waiting for the connecting buses and moving from one place to another. Also as I explained in the post on 15 tips for traveling to Mexico you have to be careful when you make the move.
My roadtrip to Mexico itinerary will allow you to dive into the Mexican culture. By following all the right steps, you’ll eventually get your own idea of the Mexicans and better understand their amazing country. Amongst the first things you’ll notice there is the big difference between Yucatan and Chiapas. You will also fall in love with the city of San Cristobal de las Casas, you will awe at the Mayan ruins and the sea will win your heart with its marvellous colours.
In this post, I’d like to talk about:
- A two weeks itinerary between Yucatan and Chiapas.
- Possible alternatives to consider putting in your travel itinerary.
- Recommended hotels for this road trip in Mexico.
I think that I wrote another article you can read and it speaks about -> Travelling to Mexico: map, costs and details
Itinerary of the Road trip in Mexico: 16 days and 15 nights
Here you’ll be able to find our itinerary in Mexico. At the end of the itinerary there is the chance of adding a few more activities to do if you’d like to and if you have the possibility of doing so.
1° Day: Arrival in Cancun, visiting the city. Overnight in Valladolid
Unfortunately, we didn’t have the chance to visit Cancun as we wanted to as we had a few problem trying to get back one piece of luggage that had got lost at the airport. The impression I got from Valladolid is that it’s a liveable city with smily and happy people.
Its square is really beautiful: there’s much green around it, just as in all of the Mexican squares we saw. We decided to visit Valladolid because it’s just a few kilometres away from the Cenotes of Dnitzup as well as Chichén Itzá.
- Cancun – Valladolid: 160 km – 1 hour and 40 minutes.
2° Day: Visit to the Cenotes of Dnitzup – visit to Chichén Itzá – overnight in Merida
As I’ve already mentioned above, Valladolid is the ideal city to dive into the archeological sites and Mexican cenotes. As for what regards the Mayan sites and Cenotes, there will be much more to read in my further posts. However, I’d like to stress the beauty of the Dnitzup cenotes which are an absolute must-see. In the late afternoon, you can even move to the city of Merida and start exploring it.
Click on this my post about Cenotes: “Cenotes in Mexico: What are they? Which one to se?” if you want to undesterstand better this phenomenon.
- Valladolid – Cenotes: 7km – 15 minutes;
- Cenotes – Chichén Itzá: 41 km – 40 minutes;
- Chichén Itzá – Merida: 120 km – 1 hour and 30 minutes
3° Day: quick visit to Merida – travel to the archeological site of Uxmal – overnight in Campeche
Merida (you can read the things to do in Merida) didn’t impress us that much. We guess it might have been for the heavy traffic or because of the city centre that didn’t offer anything remarkable. Apart from the main city square, Merida isn’t surely amongst our favourite cities.
Plaza Grande is the most important site of the city with its cathedral and numerous palaces. Surrounded by vegetation and benches, it’s one of the favourite places where Merida’s inhabitants like to spend their free-time.
After a quick visit of the city, I recommend proceeding towards the gorgeous Uxmal, which is my second favourite Mayan site after Palenque. In total, we’ve visited 5 archeological sites and this struck me particularly because it wasn’t crowded at all and I could admire it in all its majesty.
From Uxmal, in just 2 hours by car, you’ll get to the fizzy Campeche.
This city is a perfect place where to spend a few hours in the late afternoon walking around the lively streets. Campeche by night is a beautiful and fascinating city, no doubt!
- Merida – Uxmal: 84km – 1hour and 10 minutes
- Uxmal – Campeche: 166km – 1 hour and 50 minutes
4° Day: Visit to Campeche – Journey to Palenque – 1st night in Palenque
Campeche’s market, its square and the gorgeous malecón are well worth a visit. Shame we couldn’t spend more than one morning to better explore the city. There’s so much to do in Mexico! In addition, our road trip in Mexico was a bit tight especially because of the 4 hours by car ahead of us before the arrival to Palenque.
- Campeche – Palenque: 360km – 4 hours and 30 minutes.
5° Day: Visit to the Ruins of Palenque – 360km – 4hours and 30 minutes
This will be one of the most beautiful and unforgettable days of your Mexico road trip. The ruins of Palenque will conquer you with their allure and you’ll be fascinated by what the Mayas managed to create.
As I’ve already recommended in another post, it’s better to visit these mayan ruins with the help of a tour guide that will help you in further understanding the Mayan culture. The tour lasts about 3 hours and the rest of your time can be used to visit the city of Palenque (I do not actually recommend it to you, though) or to relax in your hotel and prepare yourselves for the full-on day waiting for you on your 6th “día” en Mexico.
6° Day: Journey from Palenque to San Cristobal with a short visit to Agua Azul and Misol Há – 1st night in San Cristobal
Finally! Welcome to the real Chiapas! On the road towards Palenque to San Cristobal de las Casas you’ll find the famous and majestic Agua Azul and Misol Há waterfall.
After having visited Misol Há, travel further towards Agua Azul and stop here to admire this marvellous spot as long as you can.
We stopped at Agua Azul for more than a couple of hours: it’s a magic place that will conquer your eyes and heart, as I will explain in a further post specifically dedicated to it. Swimming here is a must-do, no need to say that, right?!
From Agua Azul travel towards San Cristobal de las Casas, the most important city in Chiapas.
- Palenque – Misol Há: 27km – 45 minutes
- Misol Há – Agua Azul: 45km – 55 minutes
- Agua Azul – San Cristobal de las Casas: 158km – 3hours and 30 minutes
Read also: San Cristobal de las Casas in Mexico: the soul of Chiapas
7° Day: Visit to San Cristobal and excursion to San Juan Chamula and Zinacantan – Night in San Cristobal
The city of San Cristobal de las Casas will enchant you and will be the best place of your rod trip in Mexico. Enjoy Plaza 31 de Marzo and walk around Calle Real de Guardalupe. Once you get to the top of the Cerro San Cristobal, you’ll have a marvellous view of the city from high up above.
The city during the mass on Sunday is incredibly and surprisingly silent.
The second part of the day can be spent enjoying two excursions to the close-by villages of San Juan Chamula and Zinacantan.
Many agencies will offer you well-organised, yet expensive tours. Do not get fooled, everything can be organised by yourselves just by setting up your GPS, starting the car and following what the navigator tells you. Easy peasy, right?!
- San Cristobal – San Juan Chamula: 11km – 25 minutes.
8° Day: Self-tour to Canyon del Sumidero – Night in San Cristobal de las Casas
If you visit them on a sunny day, the things you’ll see in Canyon del Sumidero will leave you speechless.
But don’t despair, even the clouds couldn’t cast a shadow onto this unbelievable natural beauty. If you don’t want to spend money to pay for an agency which organises guided tours, reach Chiapa de Corzo where you’ll find everything you need to cross the Canyon.
- San Cristobal – Chiapa de Corzo: 55km – 1 hour
Read also: The excursiont to Sumidero Canyon
9° Day: Journey to the Bacalar lagoon – Night in Bacalar
All things considered (distance, topes, speed limits) you’re likely to spend the majority of the day sat in your car driving.
However, if you’re the sort of people who see the bright side in everything you’ll learn to appreciate the variety of landscapes during a Mexico road trip has to offer you: from a poor area strictly based on agriculture to a richer one where, paradoxically, people like to idle. The landscapes seen through the window of your car will change drastically: from the mountains and the lagoon to the hills covered in corn plants and the ranch of the plains; and again, from thousand hues of green to thousand hues of blue.
- San Cristobal – Bacalar: 700km – 10 hours and 15 minutes.
10° Day: Relax in the Bacalar lagoon – Night in Bacalar
The Bacalar lagoon must be visited for at least a day long. Unfortunately, we got bad luck with the weather as it was always cloudy and rainy. Still, despite all the grey clouds, the colours of the lagoon shone brightly in front of our eyes, giving us a pleasant and relaxing sensation.
11° Day: Journey to Tulum – visit to Coba – 1st night in Tulum
A long straight road will lead you to Tulum, the city widely known for its beaches and the archeological Mayan ruins overlooking the sea.
We believe the city centre to be a bit sad, though. The city of Tulum has grown around the high way and now there are many hotels and resorts, yet it doesn’t stand out as being a lively city.
Tulum is the perfect city from which to go and visit the ruins of Cobá as well as the ones situated in Tulum itself. On the top of that, this city is a good choice if you wish to relax a bit swimming in the Caribbean Sea.
We got to Cobá in the late morning. Coba is the Mayan archeological site that impressed me less compared to the others I visited. But, if you’re around and you’ve got time, why not exploring it as well?
- Bacalar – Tulum: 211km – 2 hours and 20 minutes
- Tulum – Cobá: 48km – 45 minutes
12° Day: Visit to the ruins of Tulum and Playa Paraiso Beach – 2nd night in Tulum
One of the best suggestions we can give you, is visiting the ruins of Tulum as early as you can so as to avoid the great number of tourist that crowd the place in the later afternoon.
After having visited them, why not sunbathing and enjoying the beautiful Playa Paraiso beach?!
13° Day: Looking for the turtles in Akumal – 3nd night in Tulum
Akumal was surely one of the most fascinating beaches of the entire road trip to Mexico. We only spent half a day there, but we recommend enjoying it for a few more hours. Grab a snorkelling kit, dive into the sea and search for the sea turtles. Good luck in finding one! Here you can read my post -> Akumal in Mexico: snorkeling among turtles
- Tulum – Akumal: 28km – 25 minutes
14° Day: Playa Paraiso once again.
15° Day: Travel to Puerto Morelos – Playa Delfines
We decided to spend our last day not too far from Cancun in order to get closer to the airport. Puerto Morelos beach is not that stunning, to be honest. Therefore, we decided to move to another beach that we hadn’t put in our itinerary: Playa Delfines – what a pleasant surprise!
16° Day: Redelivery of the car
My road trip to Mexico: the map
Towards San Cristobal de las Casas and back.
Road trip in Mexico: possible alternatives
- Cancun (or the surrounding areas) = possibility of an excursion to the Island of Holbox. This will give you the chance of spending an entire day immersed in the nature and, for the bravest ones, even swimming with the sharks and whales. We talked with several people who had this experience and all of them were fully satisfied. The tour isn’t very cheap, but definitely worth the price as many said.
- Isla Mujeres: this is one of the most famous islands in Mexico. We had previously wrote it down in our plans but had to delete it from the itinerary because it would have made it too tight.
- Isla Cozumel: another interesting and large island to visit.
- Yucatan: an area full of cenotes. Unfortunately, we only visited two of them as we didn’t have much time left. Around Tulum there are important cenotes as well, like the Dos Ojos Cenotes which offers the possibility of diving.
- Merida: If you have time available, you could enter the Celestun Biosphere Reserve. The excursion takes you all day, but you will be in close contact with unspoiled nature.
- Tulum: There is another biosphere that unfortunately I did not have time to visit. This is the Sian Ka’an Biosphere.
- San Cristobal: There are so many other excursions. Among these is the beautiful Lagoon of Montebello. It’s a bit distant but the pictures look gorgeous.
- Other Mayan sites worth visiting = Ek Balam in the north of Valladolid (unfortunately, we didn’t have the chance to visit it; Calakmul in the south of Yucatan, just on the border with Belize, and lastly Yaxchilan and Bonamopak on the road that takes to Guatemala from Palenque.
Suggested Hotels for a road trip in Mexico
The hotels listed below here are all places where I’ve stayed which I had booked prior to my departure from Italy. For each one of them, I’ll tell you the costs and I’ll inform you on their pros and cons.
The prices you’ll find here include a double bedroom with en-suite bathroom, but don’t include breakfast.
VALLADOLID – El Zagual Colonial (click here to se the hotel) – 24 euros (1 night) – It’s not so far from the centre of Valladolid, in the perfect spot if you want to be the first in getting to Chichen Itza in the morning. The hotel is really comfy, its owners are really nice and the breakfast a la carte is cheap yet abundant.
Price/quality ratio: 8/10.
MERIDA – Yucatan Vista Inn (click here to se the hotel) – 30 euros (1 night) – It’s not in one of the best areas of Merida. The rooms are old and not very clean. Its strong point is the nice and quirky English owner. Why not taking it as a chance to improve your British accent?!
Price/quality ratio: 7/10.
CAMPECHE – Hotel Catedral (click here to se the hotel) – 28 euros. Perfect position — only a 5 minutes’s walk from the town’s main square. Spacious and clean rooms with air-conditioning. Breakfast is included, but it doesn’t offer a wide variety of food.
Price/quality ratio: 8/10.
PALENQUE – Hotel Villas Kin Ha (click here to se the hotel) – 32 euros – Palenque doesn’t offer much from a touristic point of view. That’s why the majority of the hotels and resorts can be found right on the road leading to the temple ruins. This hotel is therefore in the best spot to visit the historical ruins. The Hotel Villas Kin Ha is immersed in nature and it’s really fancy. The food prices aren’t that expensive and the quality of the plates you’ll be served is really good. Highly recommended.
Price/quality ratio: 8/10.
SAN CRISTOBAL DE LAS CASAS – La Garita Cabanas (click here to se the hotel) – 12 euros – Yes, you did read it correctly — 12 euros for a double bedroom, en-suite bathroom, small kitchen and a nice veranda where to admire the city from the top. The hotel is just a couple of kilometres away from the city centre, but if you have hired a car, it’s in a really good spot which is easily reachable. When I was there, I felt like I was up in the mountain (well, it actually is as we were at 2100 metres above sea level) and I loved waking up with a great panorama in front of my eyes. There are great accommodation options for large groups as well.
Price/quality ratio: 10/10.
BACALAR – Cabanas Hostal & Camping (click here to se the hotel) – 38 euros – This is a hostel situated at the border of the residential area of Bacalar Lagoon. It has shared bathrooms and showers. The hostel is quite quirky: its most particular features are being built on the lagoon and its several hammocks where to relax and admire the stunning Mexican dawn. Breakfast is included in the price: you can choose between a continental breakfast or a Mexican one. I’d recommend this hostel for the beautiful view on the lagoon which it offers. As for what concerns the cabanas, well…, that’s definitely something for the tourists who want to experience something peculiar.
Price/quality ratio: 6/10.
TULUM – Green Tulum (click here to se the hotel) – 35 euros – Aesthetically very pleasing, with a big open-air swimming pool. The name of the hotel suggests that everything about this accommodation is related to nature and to being eco-friendly. That’s why the rooms are surrounded by vegetation. In addition, the entire building is made with wood or bamboo, leaving only the supporting structure in concrete. Breakfast is not included in the price, but the menu offers a wide variety from which to choose. The prices are average: a desayuno continental costs about 80 pesos (around 4 euros). The hotel manager is very friendly and accommodating.
Price/quality ratio: 9/10.
PUERTO MORELOS – Hotel Posada Amor (click here to se the hotel) – 30 euros – The hotel is just a few metres away from the main square and sandy beach of Puerto Morelos. The hotel manager is very kind, lively and cheerful. The hall is very beautiful and it hosts a bar where to have breakfast just as if you were having it at home (the bar serves cappuccinos and croissants which were very difficult to find in Mexico). Room is nothing too special: plain but clean. I’d recommend this hotel for the presence of nearby pubs and bars where to go out in the evening and enjoy a delicious cocktail.
Price/quality ratio: 8/10.