Hidden Mayan ruins in the middle of the jungle, Caribbean-perfect beaches, colonial cities and refreshing cenotes all over the Yucatan peninsula. Anyone venturing into the deep hinterland in southeast Mexico will be excited. A Yucatan round trip shows visitors the real Mexico far away from mass tourism and the large hotel chains of the Riviera Maya.
What is a must to see on a Yucatan round trip: In this article we show you the highlights of the Yucatan Peninsula – along the road from Cancun inland, towards Campeche, Bacalar and back. Which attractions in the Yucatan Peninsula are worth a visit? What insider tips are there on the route? What shall be considered?
You would like to discover the Yucatan Peninsula with one of our certified tour guides? Learn more about the mysteries of the Maya and get an authentic Mexican experience with our travel experts. You may decide between a detailed Yucatan round trip or a Mini Yucatan Tour. Please contact us for a specific offer.
An introduction to the history of the Maya can be found in our article: The history of the Maya: Between mystery and knowledge – an introduction.
This article is about:
- The Yucatan peninsula
- Ideas for a Yucatan Round Trip
- Flughafen Cancun
- Valladolid (Chichen Itza, Ek Balam und Cenoten)
- Merida (Dzibichaltun, Uxmal, Mayan World Museum, Celestun)
- Xpujil (Campeche, Becan)
- Bacalar (Kohunlich, Dzibanche, Lagune der Sieben Farben, Chacchoben)
- Tulum (Tulum, Sian Kaan, Coba, Muyil)
- Islands of the Riviera Maya
- Yucatan Round Trip
- Yucatan Round Trip as Self Driver – What to know
The Yucatan Peninsula
The Yucatan Peninsula: Village during Yucatan Round Trip
The Yucatán Peninsula consists of the Mexican States: Quintana Roo, Campeche and Yucatan. The entire area is Maya land. Here live the descenders of the ancient Maya. Their language is Maya Yucateco or Mayathan, which is still spoken, especially in rural areas. About 780,000 people on the Yucatan Peninsula still speak the Mayan language. In the south, the Yucatan Peninsula borders Belize and Guatemala, also countries with an interesting Mayan culture.
A Yucatan round trip is particularly made for visitors who want to delve deeper into the Mayan heritage. There are some interesting things to do near the Riviera Maya. However, the area around Playa del Carmen is heavily developed. If you want to get to know the real Mexico, mysterious treasures are waiting outside the hotel area. Discover a Mexico far away from mass tourism on our Yucatan round trip!
Ideas for a Round Trip in Yucatan
Road trip Yucatan: Map
The Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico is so large that it is home to three states. Visitors are not able to see everything in two or three weeks. Therefore, we have created this overview about the most important Yucatan attractions that are interesting from a tourist perspective. These can be combined in a Yucatan round trip of about two-weeks. If you have more time – even better. Would you like to spend less time on a tour in Yucatan? Then our Mini Tour through Yucatan is just the thing for you. Talk to us, we would be happy to provide you with a tailor-made offer.
Did you discover anything else? We look forward to your comments and further suggestions for a Yucatan round trip.
On our suggestions for overnight stays, we wrote a possible number of nights behind the respective destinations. Of course, these are only recommendations.
Arrival at Cancun Airport (1 night nearby)
Hotel recommendation: Really nice hotel close to the airport right on the beach:
City Express Plus Cancun Aeropuerto
The arrival and departure airport for a Yucatan round trip is the second largest airport in Mexico: Cancun. Like most airports, Cancun Airport with the abbreviation CUN is not located directly in the city of Cancun. A bit outside between Puerto Morelos in the south and Cancun in the north it takes about 30 minutes to an hour from Cancun to the airport, depending on the traffic.
We are happy to pick up our guests from the airport and book a hotel (depending on your arrival time). If you want to go on the Yucatan round trip on your own, you will find many car rental companies directly at Cancun Airport. You may book your rental car in advance from home at RentalsCars. We give recommendations for driving in Mexico in our article: Driving in Mexico – What to know if driving by yourself.
Yucatan Round Trip: Colonial City Valladolid (1-2 nights)
Yucatan Rundreise: Kolonialstadt Valladolid
The pretty colonial town of Valladolid is an excellent starting point for excursions to the surrounding area. Well-known attractions such as the Maya city Chichen Itza or Ek Balam as well as wonderful cenotes are very close. The city itself is also interesting, in the historic center of Valladolid are beautiful buildings, a market, the main square Zocalo and the cathedral of Valladolid.
Yucatan Round Trip: Chichen Itza
Don’t miss the most famous Mayan ruin in Mexico, Chichen Itza. Just 40 minutes from Valladolid, you can be one of the first to visit Chichen Itza early in the morning. Enjoy the majestic pyramid of the Mayan god Kukulkan before the the masses from the hotels arrive. Allow a good two to three hours for the archaeological site of Chichen Itza. Then, take a refreshing swim in one of the cenotes nearby. Cenote Ik Kil, for example, is only a short ride away from the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza.
The Mayan Ruins Ek Balam
Yucatan Round Trip: Ek Balam
Visit the impressive Mayan site Ek Balam during your round trip in Yucatan. Less known and fewer visitors, it is at least as impressive as her big sister Chichen Itza. Ek Balam is just half an hour’s drive from Valladolid. The Acropolis with its snake gate is particularly amazing. If you are not afraid of heights, climb to the top and enjoy the view from above.
The Cenote X’Canche is only about a kilometer/mile away from Ek Balam and ensures the well-deserved cooling off. Cycle rickshaws take guests to the cenote at an additional cost.
Yucatan Round Trip: Izamal (1 Night)
Hotel recommendation: In the center of Izamal downtows with a pool and fantastic prices:
Hotel Rinconada del Convento
Round Trip in Yucatan: Izamal
Spend a night in the pretty town of Izamal in the heart of Yucatan. With the “Pueblo Magico” (Magic Village) award, it is one of the highlights of your road trip in Yucatan. Izamal means “place of the iguanas” in the Maya language and the historical meaning goes deep into the time of the ancient Maya.
There are various Mayan ruins in the city. These pyramids can be climbed during a tour with a horse-drawn carriage. Entry to the pyramids is free. The most important Mayan structure is, however, buried under the imposing Franciscan monastery.
In 1993 Pope Johannes Paul II visited Izamal. To welcome him properly, the houses in the town were painted yellow / white, the colors of the Vatican. These colors are still part of the city image.
Yucatan Round Trip: Merida (1-2 nights)
Hotel recommendation: Close to the cathedral of Merida, with a pool in an old colonial building: Hotel Boutique de la Mision De Fray Diego
Yucatan Round Trip: Colonial City Merida in Yucatan
Merida is the capital of the state of Yucatan and a vibrant university city. It is often referred to the gateway to the Maya country, because of the interesting Mayan legacies in the area. Explore the city of Merida like its city center. The Mayan World Museum explains the history of the Maya in this area and shows replicas of important Mayan sites on the Yucatan Peninsula. In the vicinity of Merida there are other historically significant Mayan sites such as Uxmal or Dzibichaltun. The lagoons of Celestun with the flamingos and the hacienda Yaxcopoil can also be visited from Merida.
Celestun: Road Trip in Yucatan
The fishing village of Celestun is quite remote on the north-western coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. Known for the flamingos and the lagoon, every visitor to Celestun actually takes a boat tour to the biospheres reserve of the same name. The boat tour takes about 2 hours. You will visit the flamingo hatcheries and later the mangrove swamps, where you may spot a crocodile.
The Mayan Ruins of Dzibichaltun
Yucatan Round Trip: Dzibichaltun Cenote
The Mayan ruins of Dzibichaltun are only a 30 minute drive from Merida. If you haven’t had enough of Mayan sites, Dzibichaltun is one of the oldest archaeological sites in Yucatan. There is a cenote in the area of the archeological site whose visit is included in the admission price. The water is refreshing and used by many visitors.
Yucatan Rund Trip: Uxmal
Almost 1.5 hours from Merida, Uxmal is one of the most impressive Mayan sites on the Yucatan Peninsula. The magic pyramid rises powerfully over the jungle. The slightly hilly area offers impressive views from the neighboring Mayan buildings. Uxmal can be visited during a trip from Merida. Since it lies between Merida and Campeche, it can also be visited as a stopover on the way to Campeche.
Experience a real Mexican hacienda and visit the Hacienda Yaxcopoil. It dates back to the 17th century and used to have an area of 11,000 hectares. Today only 3% are left. The main business of the Hacienda was Henequen, an important agave plant in Yucatan. Today the Hacienda Yaxcopoil is home to a private museum.
Yucatan Round Trip: Campeche (1-2 nights)
Hotel recommendation: On the promenade of Campeche, just around the corner of the historic city center, with an outdoor pool:
Hotel Gama Campeche Malecon
Yucatan Road Trip: Campeche
In the charming colonial town of Campeche, visitors get an insight into the real Mexican way of life. Few tourists come here, but impressive colonial buildings line the cozy streets. Small bars and restaurants invite you with Salsa music. During a walk on the promenade to the sea, you can let the fresh wind blow your nose.
Campeche is about 2 hours drive from Merida. The Mayan ruins of Uxmal lie on a small detour, but can be easily incorporated into the journey as a break.
Yucatan Round Trip: Xpujil (1 night)
Yucatan round trip: Xpujil
The small town of Xpujil is about 2 hours’ drive from Campeche. The landscape is sparsely populated and there is no really entertaining stop on the route. Xpujil itself doesn’t have much to offer other than a few places to stay, at night it is dead. But Xpujil is perfectly located for a visit to the archaeological sites of Calakmul and Becan.
Calakmul: Yucatan road trip
Calakmul is located in the middle of the Mexican jungle, just about two hours from Xpujil. An amazing Mayan site, far from civilization, just as one imagines remote Mayan ruins. The highest ruin is Escritura II with 45 meters/ 130 feet and can still be climbed. From the top you have a wonderful view from above.
The archaeological site of Calakmul is quite extensive, you have to walk all the way. Depending on the time you would like to spend in Calakmul, there are three different circular routes.
Yucatan Round Trip: Becan
The archaeological site Becan is very close to Xpujil. The main pyramid is with 32 meters / 90 feet smaller than in Calakmul. But visitors can also climb the steps and be rewarded with a wonderful view from above. Becan is not as famous as Campeche. Because it is so close to Xpujil it is definitely worth a visit.
Yucatan Round Trip: Bacalar (1-2 nights)
Yucatan Round Trip: Bacalar
Bacalar is a pretty holiday village in the former pirate fortress Bacalar. The fortress is located directly on the Bacalar Lagoon, which is also called the Lague of the Seven Colors. The name comes from the wonderful shades of color on the lake, which range from turquoise to dark blue. The cottages and accommodations run along the west side of the lagoon. Bacalar visitors take a boat trip on the lagoon or visit the nearby Mayan sites. In an accommodation right on the lake, you can relax wonderfully from the hardships of the previous Yucatan tour.
The lagoon of Bacalar
Yucatan Road Trip: Bacalar Lagoon
Many tour operators offer boat tours on the lagoon of Bacalar. If you have the time, you should definitely go for a long tour. This takes around five hours and you visit to the lovely highlights of the lagoon. Various stops invite for a swim in the fresh water, the water colors are amazing and the temperature just perfect.
The Mayan Ruins Kohunlich
Yucatan Round Trip: Kohunlich
On the way between Xpujil and Bacalar you pass the Mayan site of Kohunlich. You turn to a little road through deepest jungle before you reach these really remote Mayan ruins. The way through the jungle is a good 6 kilometers / 5 miles before arriving at the parking lot at the Kohunlich Ruins. These ruins are worth a visit, the special attraction is the Temple of the Masks, human-faces with divine elements.
The Mayan Ruins Dzibanche
You can also pass the archaeological site Dzibanche on your way from Xpujil to Bacalar. From the main road, it takes about 30 minutes to the hinterland before you reach Dzibanche. The Mayan site dates back to the second century BC and was once ruled by Calakmul. The high temple pyramid, the upper parts which have been largely restored, is impressive.
The Mayan Ruins Chacchoben
Yucatan Rundreise: Chacchoben
The Mayan ruins of Chacchoben are already on the way from Bacalar to Tulum. It’s a relatively small complex compared to the other temples you’ve seen on your Yucatan round trip. The sun and moon pyramids in the rear of the complex are beautiful to look at. The flora and fauna are impressive, the old walls are inhabited by spider monkeys, toads and woodpeckers.
Yucatan Round Trip: Tulum (1-2 nights)
Yucatan Road Trip: Tulum
The pretty tourist town Tulum is divided into two parts. The village of Tulum is about two kilometers from the coast. An international audience has gathered there, there are various restaurants serving European cuisine. Tulum has a flair for young travelers. Many come to visit for a few days and stay longer. Hip boutique hotels line the beach along with significantly higher accommodation prices.
Around Tulum there are numerous cenotes and the archaeological sites of Tulum and Muyil to discover. The Sian Kaan National Park protects the nature south of Tulum.
The Mayan Ruins Tulum
Yucatan Round Trip: Tulum
Due to its location directly on the sea, the Mayan ruins of Tulum are a magical photo opportunity. Back on the coast of the Riviera Maya and thus in mass tourism, you have to expect a high number of visitors. The early morning or late afternoon is therefore a good time to visit the archaeological sites of Tulum (the Tulum ruins close at 4:00 p.m.)
The Mayan Ruins Coba
Yucatan Round Trip: Coba
Coba was once an important Mayan trading city and has some impressive structures worth visiting. You may still climb the 42 meter / 120 feet high pyramid Nohoch Mul. If you are not afraid of heights, enjoy the fantastic view of the neighboring jungle from above. Bicycle taxis can be rented at the entrance to Coba. Since the distances in the archaeological site are considerable, such a transport makes sense and provide a way to support the local population.
The Mayan Ruins Muyil
Yucatan Round Trip: Canal of Sian Kaan and Muyil
Muyil is a smaller Mayan site about half an hour from Tulum. The visit to the archaeological site can also be combined with the Muyil lagoon. There is a river on which you can float with a life jacket. A wonderfully refreshing experience.
The National Park Sian Kaan
Yucatan Round Trip: Sian Kaan
The Sian Kaan National Park represents the typical flora and fauna of this area. The entire coastal region south of Tulum is protected by a national park where you may take a boat tour. Passing white beaches and mangroves, turtles, dolphins, pelicans or crocodiles are not uncommon.
Yucatan Round Trip: The Islands of the Riviera Maya (1-4 nights)
Yucatan Rundreise: Die Inseln der Riviera Maya
At the end of a Yucatan round trip you well deserve a few days of island vacation. An overview of the islands on the Riviera Maya can be found in our article Playa del Carmen: Excursions Riviera Maya. Each of the islands has its own character. While the island of Holbox is more suitable for younger audiences and backpackers, the women’s island (Isla Mujeres) suits to a grown-up audience. Cozumel is suitable for every target group, a trip to Cozumel is an unforgettable experience.
Your private Yucatan Round Trip – travel with your personal guide
A private Yucatan round trip with your personal guide – enjoy many other advantages in addition to flexibility and individuality: Why not taking a private Yucatan round trip, completely tailored to you and your wishes. Our description on this page gives a rough overview of what your Yucatan tour could look like. After consultation with you, we will assemble your very personal offer. In doing so, we take your interests and accommodation requirements into account as much as your desire for flexibility and your time expectations. Talk to us: We look forward to your inquiry!
Yucatan Round Trip as self-driving tour – good to know
If you would like to do Yucatan on your own with a rented car, get here a few tips and ideas in our article: Driving in Mexico
Note: Why are you bothering to drive yourself? Relax, we do it for you. Contact us here for your private Yucatan tour.
On a Ycatan round trip, you can discover the real Mexico
Use the service of an experienced and certified guide
Ideas for your Yucatan round trip from Cancun
What to know if you would like to go by yourself
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