Mexico is one of those countries I just can’t get enough of. The delicious food, fascinating culture, friendly people, and awe-inspiring natural wonders combine to make a captivating blend of everything you could possibly ask for in a destination. After spending a couple of months in the Yucatan Peninsula, I’ve put together what I think is the best 2 week Yucatan itinerary to get a great taste of what the region has to offer. Although 2 weeks in the Yucatan Peninsula isn’t quite enough to see everything, it is a great excuse to come back again soon!
Where is the Yucatan Peninsula?
For this Mexico itinerary, I’ve chosen to just focus on the Yucatan Peninsula. The regions of Yucatan and Quintana Roo make up the peninsula in south-eastern Mexico, bordering Belize to the south. The peninsula juts out into the Caribbean Sea, dividing the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. The enviable position makes the Yucatan Peninsula one of the most popular destinations for visitors wanting to enjoy the fantastic beaches in Mexico. However, there is far more to do here than just lie on the beach!
For ease, I’ll refer to Quintana Roo and Yucatan states just as Yucatan, but one thing to remember is that state of Quintana Roo (which includes Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Tulum) is in a different time zone to the state of Yucatan and the rest of Mexico. During daylight savings time from April to October, the two zones have the same time, but from October to April, Quintana Roo is an hour ahead.
How to Get to Mexico
Unless you plan on driving to Mexico on an epic road trip or travelling overland through several countries, chances are you will arrive in Mexico by plane. I combined my trip to Mexico with a visit to Belize, Guatemala and Honduras which can easily be added on to your visit to Mexico.
For this Yucatan itinerary, I have assumed that you will arrive in Cancun so have planned the 2 weeks in the Yucatan to suit that. However, you can easily chop and change if you are coming from somewhere else. For example, if you fly into Mexico City, you could consider spending some time there before hopping on a flight to Cancun, or if you have longer to spend in Mexico then a road trip all the way from Mexico City to the Yucatan Peninsula is a great way to explore the country.
How to Get Around the Yucatan Peninsula Mexico
Although many people choose to hire a car to explore the region, it is quite easy to do with public transport and the occasional taxi or collectivo bus. If you do decide to take a road trip in Mexico, you will be able to cover more ground so you could spend longer in each place or add a couple of extra destinations to your 2-week itinerary.
Hiring a Car for a Yucatan Road Trip
A Yucatan road trip is a great idea if you are comfortable driving in Mexico. I didn’t hire a car myself, but this Yucatan itinerary is perfect for a road trip, allowing you some extra time in each destination, or giving you the chance to fit more in as you won’t have to spend time waiting for buses.
You can easily hire a car from Cancun airport to drive anywhere in the Yucatan, and as Cancun airport is south of the city, it takes less than 2 hours to drive from the airport to Tulum which is the first stop on this itinerary. If you arrive in Cancun early in the morning, you could spend some time in Cancun or Isla Mujeres, drive to Playa del Carmen for a few hours, or just head straight to Tulum or Bacalar.
If you have never driven in Mexico before I would suggest doing some research before you go to make sure you know the rules of the road and how to deal with the police checkpoints. This article, for example, has lots of information you might need for your Yucatan road trip. Don’t forget to buy the correct insurance for you and your vehicle.
Public Transport in the Yucatan
As I travelled around the Yucatan with public transport, this itinerary is designed with buses in mind. ADO is the most common bus company in the Yucatan and has comfortable buses with air-con. Unlike the cheaper 2nd class buses, ADO buses don’t stop outside designated bus stops in the cities, so they tend to be quicker. You can check times and timetables online here (in Spanish), but you can’t buy tickets online unless you have a Mexican credit card. You will need to go to the bus station to get your ticket. If you have a set itinerary you could book several bus journeys in one go, or book them one at a time, it’s up to you.
Cheaper 2nd class buses such as Mayab are useful for shorter trips, for example from Valladolid to Pisté, but they rarely have aircon and tend to stop frequently so they take ages. However, they are considerably cheaper than ADO! Head to the bus station to check times and book tickets, or flag one down as they drive past and pay the driver.
Collectivo buses are minivans which zip around the towns and in between various destinations, such as Playa del Carmen and Tulum (stopping off at Akumal), and Valladolid and Chichen Itza. They don’t seem to have set timetables, and usually leave once they are full, so it is just a case of heading to the collectivo stop and waiting! On highways, you can flag them down easily and they will stop for you as long as they have space.
Where to Visit with 2 Weeks in Yucatan
With only 2 weeks in the Yucatan Peninsula and so much to see and do, you need to make some choices about what to include in your itinerary and what to avoid. If you plan to visit Mexico for Spring Break, and all you want to do is hang out at an all-inclusive hotel, go to the beach and get drunk, then Cancun is definitely for you. However, if you are looking for a little more normality, Playa del Carmen is slightly less crazy than Cancun but still Tourist Central. I only spent one night in Playa del Carmen, which was enough for me, so for this itinerary, I’d recommend skipping Cancun and Playa del Carmen and heading further south to Tulum as soon as you arrive in Mexico. For this 2 week Yucatan itinerary I’ve chosen my favourite destinations and allocated plenty of time to enjoy each place, but of course, you can easily pick and choose your own favourites and change the itinerary to best suit your needs.
2 Week Yucatan Itinerary Quick Reference Guide
|3||Tulum / Akumal||Tulum|
|4||Coba Day Trip||Tulum|
|5||Drive to Bacalar||Bacalar|
|7||Drive to Valladolid||Valladolid|
|8||Ek Balam / Pink Lakes||Valladolid|
|9||Valladolid / cenotes / Drive to Piste||Piste|
|11||Ik Kil Cenote then to drive to Merida||Merida|
|12||Merida & Museums||Merida|
|13||Celestun / Uxmal||Merida|
|14||Progreso / Drive to Cancun||Cancun|
The Best Yucatan 2 Week Itinerary
Yucatan Itinerary Days 1-3: Tulum
No Yucatan itinerary is complete without a visit to this lovely town. However, Tulum is no longer a cute fishermen’s village and is rapidly expanding. It isn’t at the same tourism level as Cancun or Playa del Carmen yet, but you are bound to see some changes here in the next couple of years.
Things to do in Tulum
I’d suggest spending at least 3 days in Tulum – one day for diving or snorkelling in the cenotes, one day to visit Tulum ruins and chilling on the beach, and one day for Sian Kaan biosphere reserve or snorkelling with turtles in Akumal. There are lots of things to do in Tulum, and I could have spent all of the 2 weeks there no problem!
READ MORE: Tulum Solo Travel Guide
Depending on what time you arrive in Tulum, I’d suggest spending your first day exploring some of the cenotes, as they can be visited in the afternoon. On my first visit to Tulum, I hired some snorkel gear, took a collectivo bus to Grand Cenote and swam there which was lovely. If you dive, then you can arrange diving tours to visit several of the cenotes in one trip, which I did on my second visit here as I had learned how to scuba dive in the meantime. Tulum has some incredible cenotes (natural water holes), with caverns, caves and even crocodiles and Mayan artefacts to be found there.
Tulum Ruins aren’t quite as iconic as Chichen Itza, but their location on a clifftop overlooking the turquoise water is spectacular. The ruins get extremely busy, so come here first thing in the morning to avoid the worst of the crowds and the unforgiving sun. You can also go to the beach right below the ruins, so bring your swimsuit and a towel with you to make the most of it! Most hotels and hostels will have bikes available to hire, these are a great way to get to the ruins, then you can take a ride further along the coast to visit more beaches.
On your third day in Tulum, I’d recommend doing something nature-related. I regret not going to Sian Ka’an Nature Reserve as I’ve heard it is a lovely place; although I did enjoy my morning snorkelling with turtles at Akumal. Akumal is easy to reach from Tulum, you just need to take a collectivo mini-bus towards Playa del Carmen, hop off on the main road at Akumal and walk down to the beach. You can take a guided snorkelling tour for the best chance to see turtles, although we just snorkelled right off the beach and saw a couple of turtles just hanging out and munching on seagrass. Don’t get too close to the animals and be careful not to disturb them. Reef-safe sunscreen is also important; try to protect this fragile eco-system as much as possible.
Where to Stay in Tulum
Tulum is split into two distinct areas or zones. The cheapest places to eat and stay are in the town centre, which is divided by the main road which runs from Cancun to Belize. Along the beachfront, the Zona Hotelera hotel zone has sprung up, where you’ll find more expensive restaurants and hotels.
As a solo traveller in Tulum, I preferred to stay in a hostel where I could meet people to socialise with. I stayed at Amorcito Hostel which had a nice little pool on the roof and was very clean, with dorms and private rooms to choose from. Check all options hostels in Tulum on Hostelworld.
The best value hostels and hotels in Tulum are in the ‘town’ centre, but on the beach, you will find plenty of amazing hotels and cabanas with beachfront views if you fancy a splurge, although you might end up spending +$300 USD a night for the privilege. Suenos Tulum is one of the best-rated hotels in Tulum, and guests love the beach access and delicious food. Away from the beachfront, Teetotum Hotel also gets excellent reviews for the location on the edge of Tulum town yet for a much lower price. Check prices & availability for all hotels in Tulum on Hotelscombined.
There are also plenty of options for Airbnb in Tulum. You can find some great deals on apartments and rooms in Tulum, like this gorgeous apartment with a roof-top pool. If you have never used Airbnb before, use this link to sign up & get up to $40 credit to use on your first trip! Read more about the Airbnb first time discount code or click below for your Airbnb coupon.
Yucatan Itinerary Day 4: Coba
You could just visit Coba on a day trip from Tulum or stop off your way from Tulum to Valladolid if you have your own transport. However you decide to visit, I definitely recommend that you do!
Things to do in Coba
The main attraction in Coba is the Mayan ruins. Coba ruins are completely different from those at Chichen Itza and Tulum. It feels more like you are discovering it for the first time, stumbling across temples and pyramids hidden in the dense jungle. Hire a bike to cycle through the trees, discovering ruined temples across the site. Unlike Chichen Itza you can still climb the magnificent pyramid to admire the views. You won’t regret visiting this beautiful place, which is relatively off the beaten track in the Yucatan. There are also several cenotes nearby too, we hired a bike from one of the rental shops in Coba to visit the cenotes in the afternoon after a morning exploring the ruins.
We took a Mayab bus to Coba from Tulum, but I don’t think the timetables work for a day trip by bus so we stayed the night in Coba and headed to Valladolid the next day. There may be collectivos or different bus schedules now (they don’t seem to be published online anywhere!) so ask your hotel in Tulum for recommendations and advice for how to get to Coba. If you don’t have a hire car, the easiest option might be to take a tour.
Where to Stay in Coba
Coba is a bit of a one-horse town, to be honest. We stayed at the Hotel Sac-Be which was basic but cheap! If you have a slightly bigger budget, somewhere like the Kaab Coba gets better reviews for a decent price. Check all options for hotels in Coba here.
Yucatan Itinerary Days 5 & 6: Bacalar
Bacalar is quite a bit further south than the rest of the places I mention on this itinerary, so it is up to you if you want to make the trip down. Bacalar is about 2-3 hours south of Tulum, and about 5 hours south of Cancun. We didn’t include it on our original 2 week Yucatan itinerary, but when I visited Bacalar later, I realised we had missed a trick and I would recommend coming here for at least one night. If you arrive in Cancun early enough or have your own car, you could come straight to Bacalar before going to Tulum. I included Tulum first as a stop off on the way to Bacalar, just do whatever works out best for you.
Things to do in Bacalar
Bacalar Lake is known as the lagoon of 7 colours, as the blue water is absolutely incredible. A must-do here is taking a boat tour to visit different parts of the lake, and if you can cope with an early start, a sunrise kayak or SUP tour is well worth the effort!
The lake is great for swimming and relaxing, finding a swing in the water and watching the sunset is one of my best memories of Mexico! The town itself has some great restaurants and bars, some of which have direct access to the lake, so don’t go anywhere in Bacalar without your swimsuit!
Bacalar is a perfect place to stop off if you are continuing your trip in Belize, as it is close to the Belizean border. In that case, you can do this Yucatan itinerary in reverse so you end your trip in Bacalar and can easily head on to Belize. If you are staying in Mexico, then take a couple of days out of your itinerary for travel down to the lake, spending at least 1 or 2 nights there and the journey back up to Tulum. If you get a morning bus from Bacalar to Tulum, you can catch another bus to Valladolid in the afternoon, just make sure you leave enough time for delays – in my experience buses in Mexico always take longer than you expect!
Where to Stay in Bacalar
The Yak Lake House is the best hostel in Bacalar, and is where I stayed. It is right on the waterfront, a short walk from the centre of Bacalar, and has beautiful views of the lake from the rooms upstairs, free breakfast in the morning, and various events and tours available.
Hotel Rancho Encantado is one of the highest rated hotels in Bacalar, thanks to the large rooms, wonderful staff and tasty breakfast. The hotel has a private beach, an outdoor pool and a Jacuzzi, as well as a spa offering facial treatments, a beauty centre and body treatments.
You can also find some lovely Airbnbs in Bacalar, like this hut right on the water with its own private terrace. If you have never used Airbnb before, use this link to sign up & get up to $40 credit to use on your first trip! Read more about the Airbnb first time discount code or click below for your Airbnb coupon.
Yucatan Itinerary Days 7, 8 & 9: Valladolid
Valladolid is a pleasant city and is a great stop-off before going to Chichen Itza. It is full of colourful buildings and feels a lot more authentic than the owns on the coast of the Peninsula.
Things to do in Valladolid
There isn’t a great deal to do in the city itself, but it is lovely to walk around and admire the colonial architecture and pretty streets. There are also lots of cenotes and Mayan ruins to explore close by.
Most of day 7 will be taken up with the journey from Bacalar to Valladolid, so when you arrive in the afternoon/evening you can stroll around the city and explore.
The following day you can visit the ruins at Ek Balam which are an easy day trip. You could also combine with a trip to the pink lakes at Rio Lagartos if you have your own car, or club together with other travellers and hire a taxi. However, I wouldn’t recommend visiting the Pink Lakes by public transport if you only have a short time in Mexico as it takes the whole day to get there and back.
The cenotes around Valladolid are a lovely way to cool off and relax before heading to Pisté and the madness of Chichen Itza.
Where to Stay in Valladolid
I stayed at Hostel La Candelaria in the centre of Valladolid, which was a lovely, rustic place to stay with a large garden area and outdoor kitchen. They have private rooms and dorms to choose from and breakfast is included which is cooked fresh by lovely Mexican ladies. You can check all the hostels in Valladolid here.
There is no shortage of hotels in Valladolid, for example Casa Hamaca guesthouse which gets excellent reviews for the lovely staff and delicious breakfast. It has a pool, spa and outdoor terrace and is great value, and just a short walk from the centre of Valladolid. You can take a look at all hotels in Valladolid here.
There are also plenty of options for Airbnb in Valladolid, like this apartment with huge bedroom and mini-pool. If you have never used Airbnb before, use this link to sign up & get up to $40 credit to use on your first trip! Read more about the Airbnb first time discount code or click below for your Airbnb coupon.
Yucatan Itinerary Days 10 & 11: Pisté, Chichen Itza and Ik Kil Cenote
Chichen Itza doesn’t need an introduction! One of the seven New Wonders of the World, Chichen Itza is THE attraction in the Yucatan Peninsula, so it does get very busy. To make the most of your time at this UNESCO site, I suggest spending the night as close as you can to Chichen Itza, either in one of the hotels at the park or in the nearby town of Pisté. This way you can be at Chichen Itza when it opens and enjoy an hour or so of relative peace and quiet before the big tour groups arrive.
I recommend arriving in Pisté in the evening, then going to Chichen Itza early the next morning. If you arrive at opening time, not only will it be quiet but also cooler too. Chichen Itza is a large archaeological site, so make sure you explore it all. If you want to get the best photos of the famous El Castillo Pyramid without people in, go there as soon as you arrive. Then, take your time and visit all of the other areas.
We spent most of the day at Chichen Itza until we were exhausted and sick of the souvenir sellers and headed back to our hotel to chill in the pool. If you want to see the evening light show, you could do that the evening before so you won’t be as tired as doing it after a full day at Chichen Itza.
Ik Kil cenote is a beautiful swimming hole that is often included on a day tour to Chichen Itza as it is close to the ruins. It is stunning, but in the afternoon it fills up with tour groups, so we decided to spend an extra night here and go the following day. Get up and go to Ik Kil Cenote first thing and you might get the place to yourselves as we did!
Where to Stay in Pisté
I stayed at the lovely Casa de las Lunas which has bright, clean rooms and a swimming pool where we gladly spent the rest of our afternoon. If you prefer to stay actually at Chichen Itza, there is the Mayaland Hotel onsite, with a private entrance to Chichen Itza. There are other hotels close by, but that is the only one where you have private access to Chichen Itza. Staying in a hotel in Pisté like Casa de Lunas gives you more choice of evening restaurants and activities, and may be easier to find taxis in the morning. >>>Check all hotels in Pisté on HotelsCombined
As for Airbnbs in Pisté, this hotel next to Chichen Itza also advertises on Airbnb and is one of the closest hotels to the entrance. Most of the other Airbnbs listed are also hotels or guesthouses, but this entire home is great value if you are travelling in a group or this bedroom in a family home seems like a more authentic place to stay. Check all of the options on Airbnb here.
If you have never used Airbnb before, use this link to sign up & get up to $40 credit to use on your first trip! Read more about the Airbnb first time discount code or click below for your Airbnb coupon.
Yucatan Itinerary Days 12, 13 & 14: Merida
Merida is a beautiful colonial city which provides another welcome dose of authenticity after the tourist madness of Chichen Itza.
Things to do in Merida
Here, Mayan culture is everywhere, and the city celebrates its heritage with regular shows and demonstrations in the main square. If you want to see how the Mayans played their ball game at the courts of Chichen Itza, don’t miss it here! There are lots of great restaurants and bars in Merida, and it is a great place to take a cooking class and enjoy some delicious traditional Mayan cuisine.
If you’d like to learn more about the Maya, the Ruins of Dzibilchaltun are just outside the city, or you could take a day trip to the ruins at Uxmal which are incredible. The impressive Mayan World Museum of Merida has over 1100 Mayan artefacts on display and is useful to give some context before visiting nearby ruins.
The downside is that Merida can get very hot and humid so if you’re not used to the heat you might struggle here. However, a trip to the nearby beach town of Progreso will cool you down! Alternatively, you could also take a day trip to Celestun, to see the flamingos and head to the beach here too.
On your last day, you can take a bus or drive back to Cancun for your flight, safe in the knowledge that you have explored some incredible places in your two weeks in the Yucatan Peninsula and got a real taste of what Mexico has to offer.
Where to Stay in Merida
I stayed at Nomadas Ecohostel, which is the most popular hostel in Merida. It has a pool, private and dorm rooms to choose from and arranges events like salsa dancing and cooking classes. The pool was wonderful to cool down on a hot afternoon! You can also check out the other hostels in Merida on Hostelworld here.
As for hotels in Merida, you can’t get much better value than Hotel La Piazzetta Merida, a clean and comfortable hotel close to the centre. If you have a bigger budget, the 5* Casa Lecanda Boutique Hotel has an outdoor pool and a bar, as well as luxurious rooms and friendly staff and is a short walk from the city centre. Check all hotels in Merida on hotelscombined.com
There are also some fabulous options for Airbnb in Merida, like this gorgeous house with its own pool. If you have never used Airbnb before, use this link to sign up & get up to $40 credit to use on your first trip! Read more about the Airbnb first time discount code or click below for your Airbnb coupon.
Additions or Changes to Your 2 Week Yucatan Itinerary
Cozumel for Diving
Cozumel is one of the top diving destinations in the Yucatan Peninsula, but if you’re not into diving then perhaps your time could be spent elsewhere. When I went to Mexico I hadn’t learned to dive yet so after spending a day here I’d had enough. The waves were too rough to snorkel, and although hiring a car or a golf cart to explore the rest of the island is a great way to get to know the island better.
Depending on what time your flight arrives in Cancun, you may need to spend the night in Playa del Carmen before taking the ferry to Cozumel. Ferries from Playa del Carmen to Cozumel run regularly throughout the day, in general every hour, but they do finish at 10 or 11pm and start in the morning at 8am. Check here for up to date schedules for the Ultramar Ferry to Cozumel.
The Yucatan’s striking yellow city, Izamal, is a short detour from the road between Pisté and Valladolid. If you have your own car and are taking a Yucatan trip you could probably visit here on a stop-off between the two towns. With public transport, you might have to spend the night here, which is no bad thing!
Just off the northern coast of the Yucatan, this paradise island has no cars (if you have one, leave it in Chiquila and take the passenger ferry), and is a lovely place to relax and enjoy the pristine beaches. From June to September, Holbox is one of the best places to see whale sharks off the coast, and you can arrange snorkelling tours to see them. If you do that, make sure you choose a reputable operator who maintains a good distance from the animals.
Cancun and Playa del Carmen
There are some gems in Cancun and Playa, although the all-inclusive hotels and beaches aren’t my cup of tea, the MUSA underwater museum is a rare opportunity to snorkel or dive around a living museum, where sea life is taking over man-made statues placed under the water. Isla Mujeres is a short ferry ride from Cancun, and is a pleasant place to chill out for the day, but if you’ve made it to Bacalar or Holbox it somehow isn’t that impressive compared to those slices of paradise!
I hope you enjoy planning your trip to the Yucatan Peninsula and make the most of your time there with my 2 week Yucatan itinerary. If you use this itinerary please let me know how you got on, or if you think I’ve missed something! I’d love to hear what you think, please leave your comments below.
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