Mexico / Itineraries

Haciendas of the Yucatan Peninsula

Map

This 11 night itinerary takes in most of the highlights of the Yucatan Peninsula, both Mayan & Colonial, using a selection of the region's historic hacienda hotels as your evolving base.

  • Day 1 — Cancun

    Flights from Europe arrive into Cancun from the late afternoon onwards so, having collected your car at the airport, it’s just a short hop to the suggested Marriott Courtyard for an initial overnight stay. Wherever you stay, make sure you ask for a bowl of tacos and salsa – it’ll be the first of many.

    Suggested Accommodation: Marriott Courtyard Cancun
    • — Cancun
      1 / 2
    • — Tacos & salsa
      1 / 2
  • Day 2 — Cancun to Chichen Itza

    Departing the hotel after breakfast, you will soon be on the main east – west toll road that runs from Cancun all the way to Merida.

    The initial stretch of this toll road takes around 2 hours to the Chichen Itza exit from where it is a short drive to the ruins and your accommodation for the next three nights, the Hacienda Chichen Itza.

    The original hacienda dates back to 1523, making it one of the oldest in the Yucatan. However, with the collapse of the sisal trade, and a growing interest in Mayan history, the hacienda was purchased by Edward Thompson, a US Vice Consul, who invited the Carnegie Institute to establish its first Maya Archaeological head-quarters there in 1923.

    Aside from the original main hacienda, and a series of other historic buildings such as the beautiful old chapel, one of the other great attractions of the Hacienda Chichen Itza are its beautiful gardens and Wildlife Sanctuary which spread out over 20 acres.

    As part of its commitment to the endemic flora of the area the property also boasts the wonderful Yaxkin Spa which makes use of medicinal plants grown in the garden as well as reflecting traditional Mayan customs.

    Rather than visit the ruins in the heat of the afternoon, we suggest that you take the time to explore your immediate surroundings and relax by the pool.

    Suggested Accommodation: Hacienda Chichen Itza Meals Included: Breakfast
    • 1 / 3
    • 1 / 3
    • 1 / 3
  • Day 3 — Chichen Itza

    In order to avoid both the heat of the day, and the worst of the bus tours that arrive from the coast, we suggest an early start to your exploration of Chichen Itza.

    The cottages that today provide guest accommodation at Hacienda Chichen Itza were originally built to house archaeologists. So, not only is it possible to walk from the hacienda to the ruins, the hotel even has its own entrance to the site.

    Possibly the most famous archaeological site in Mexico, the UNESCO World Heritage site of Chichen Itza is the most extensively excavated of all the Mayan sites and one could easily spend an entire day exploring its scattered ruins.

    Historically, Chichen Itza was something of a late starter, only reaching its peak well after the great Mayan cities of the south, such as Calakmul, Tikal & Palenque, had been largely abandoned. Although Mayanologists still disagree about exactly who founded the city, the variety of architectural styles point to an ethnic diversity that is hard to find elsewhere.

    At the centre of Chichen Itza is its most recognisable structure, the imposing Temple of Kukulkan, also known as El Castillo. This pyramid has precisely 365 steps – 91 steps on each of the 4 sides plus the top platform – all tied in with the Mayan’s incredible understanding of astronomy and most clearly demonstrated on the spring and autumn equinoxes.

    The afternoon is free for you to relax at the hacienda or, perhaps, take the car out to explore one of the numerous nearby cenotes.

    Suggested Accommodation: Hacienda Chichen Itza Meals Included: Breakfast
    • 1 / 3
    • — Chichen Itza
      1 / 3
    • — Chichen Itza, ball court ring
      1 / 3
  • Day 4 — Chichen Itza (Day trip to Rio Lagartos & Valladolid)

    Located on the Yucatan Peninsula’s north coast, Rio Lagartos is a somnolent little fishing village that doubles as a jumping off point for the Reserva de la Biosfera Ria Lagartos, home to the largest colony of flamingos in Mexico.

    It’s not just flamingos that make Rio Lagartos their home either. The Reserva estuary is home to a huge variety of birdlife (just under 400 species it is said) including Storks, Spoonbills, Snowy Egrets, Hummingbirds, Herons, Ibis and the rare Mexican Sheartails as well as the crocodiles from which the area derives its name.

    Boat trips generally depart from the village in the morning and normally last a couple of hours. Parking your car in Rio Lagartos isn’t a problem and, on returning from your boat trip, there are a selection of simple restaurants serving up fresh seafood.

    After lunch, rather than heading straight back to the hacienda, we suggest you stop off en-route at the charming town of Valladolid which can easily be explored on foot. The town boasts a number of attractive, colonial-era buildings, most of them clustered around the main square, Parque Francisco Canton. If you like quirky museums, the privately-owned Casa de los Venadas houses an impressive collection of over 3000 pieces of Mexican folk art and is well worth a visit.

    Suggested Accommodation: Hacienda Chichen Itza Meals Included: Breakfast
    • — Rio Lagartos
      1 / 3
    • — Valladolid
      1 / 3
    • — Valladolid
      1 / 3
  • Day 5 — Chichen Itza to Izamal

    Departing Chichen Itza in the morning, you’ll continue your journey west towards another of the Yucatan Peninsula’s charming colonial towns, Izamal.

    Although commonly referred to as a colonial town, the history of Izamal pre-dates the arrival of the Spanish by many hundred years; it is thought that Izamal was founded in the Late Formative Period (750-200 BC) and was then continuously inhabited until the Spanish conquest in the 16th century.

    Even today, Izamal is sometimes referred to as the City of Hills, the ‘hills’ in question being the remains of ancient Mayan pyramids. Five of these ‘hills’ are still clearly visible town including the largest, what would have been the pyramid of Kinich Kak Mo, which you can climb for free.

    What most people first notice about Izamal however, is the colour of its buildings; the town is also known as the Yellow City as almost every building in the town centre is painted the same, delightful, warm yellow. There is no great historical significance to this, it was simply done to commemorate the Pope’s visit to the town in 1993.

    Aside from the old Mayan pyramids, the main attraction in Izamal is the Franciscan convent of San Antonio de Padua which, in keeping with the general practise of the Spanish, was built on top of the original Mayan Acropolis. The atrium to this Convent is only surpassed in size by that of St Peter’s in Vatican City.

    Izamal can easily be explore on foot and, after a relaxing stroll and a spot of lunch, it is then a short drive to your accommodation for the night, Hacienda Ticum, an early 19th century hacienda located in 10 acres of gardens.

    Suggested Accommodation: Hacienda Ticum Meals Included: Breakfast
    • — Izamal
      1 / 3
    • — Izamal
      1 / 3
    • — Izamal
      1 / 3
  • Day 6 — Izamal to Campeche via Uxmal

    Departing Hacienda Ticum and continuing west, you will skirt around the city of Merida before heading south towards Campeche.

    Midway to Campeche, and for the first time on your holiday, the road climbs slightly as you reach the Puuc hills, home to a number of Mayan sites including the UNESCO World Heritage site of Uxmal.

    Founded around 700 AD, Uxmal (pronounced Oosh mahl) reached the height of its power towards the end of the 9th century but, by 1200, the city lay largely abandoned, perhaps as a result of the rise of Chichen Itza to the east.

    Uxmal’s primary importance comes from the fact that, for most experts, it represents the high-point in Mayan architecture and art. Perhaps no single building better represents this than the magnificent Pyramid of the Magician which, unlike almost every other Mayan pyramid, has a much softer, more cylindrical design.

    Other important buildings within the site include the Quadrangle of the Nuns, the Governor’s Palace, the House of the Tortoises and the Ball Court. As with most Mayan sites, much of Uxmal still remains covered by dense vegetation, including the extensive Southern Complex.

    As with Chichen Itza, Uxmal can easily be explored on one’s own although it is normally possible to arrange a guide locally. After lunch at Uxmal, continue south until you reach your accommodation for the next three nights, the delightful Hacienda Uayamon.

    Suggested Accommodation: Hacienda Uayamon Meals Included: Breakfast
    • — Uxmal
      1 / 3
    • — Uxmal
      1 / 3
    • — Uxmal
      1 / 3
  • Day 7 — Hacienda Uayamon

    Built in 1700, Hacienda Uayamon is a wonderfully imagined project, with parts of the property left in a state of brooding dereliction while others have been carefully converted into the component parts of a luxury hotel.

    The old workers cottages in the grounds have been converted into rooms, the old hospital is now one of the suites and, most spectacularly, part of the original working buildings have been turned into a swimming pool, complete with original pillars.

    The hotel is set within extensive, natural gardens which include a giant Ceiba tree. As part of its eco credentials, the Hacienda Uayamon also grows much of its own fruit and vegetables on-site, using waste water in the process.

    Facing out over these gardens is the main part of the old hacienda, with a series of steps leading up to the restaurant. Yucatan specialities are to the fore and, if don’t fancy eating indoors or amongst your fellow guests, the hotel will happily set up a table in the gardens.

    If you can bear to tear yourself away from the hacienda, there are impressive Mayan ruins a short drive away at Edzna.

    Suggested Accommodation: Hacienda Uayamon Meals Included: Breakfast
    • 1 / 3
    • 1 / 3
    • — Edzna
      1 / 3
  • Day 8 — Hacienda Uayamon (Day trip to Campeche)

    Capital of the state of the same name, the UNESCO World Heritage city of Campeche is located on the Gulf Coast of Mexico, approximately 30 minutes’ drive from the Hacienda Uayamon.

    As with elsewhere in the region, Campeche was founded by the Spanish at the site of an existing Mayan settlement, Can Pech, from which the new city took its name in 1540. Having overcome the local Mayans, the Spanish then found themselves fending off repeated attacks from British & Dutch pirates and buccaneers, including Sir Francis Drake.

    In order to defend the city, the Spanish inhabitants built a vast city wall and fortifications, parts of which survive to this day. Within these walls, the Spanish built a traditional colonial town with a central square, cathedral and numerous, grand civic buildings. With much of this inner city largely untouched over the years, in 1999 the city was granted UNESCO World Heritage status.

    Although Campeche lacks any outstanding monuments or museums, it’s a great place to stroll about on one’s own, taking in the many pastel-coloured buildings that dominate the old town.

    Suggested Accommodation: Hacienda Uayamon Meals Included: Breakfast
    • — Campeche
      1 / 3
    • — Campeche
      1 / 3
    • — Campeche
      1 / 3
  • Day 9 — Campeche to Merida via Hacienda Sotuta de Peon

    Departing from Campeche in the morning, you now begin your journey back, heading north to Merida.

    En-route, we recommend that you stop and visit the Hacienda Sotuta de Peon, a restoration project-cum-museum that gives visitors a glimpse into how henequen (known as Green Gold in its heyday) was grown and processed and what life on a working hacienda would have been like.

    As part of the tour, visitors will also briefly experience transportation on wooden platforms, known as ‘trucks’ which are pulled along rails by mules.

    There is a restaurant at the hacienda where you can have lunch before continuing your journey north to the small village of Santa Cruz, located just south of Merida.

    Originally a Franciscan monastery, then a sisal plantation, the Hacienda Santa Cruz lay abandoned for a number of years before being purchased by a French couple and converted into a small hotel in 2007. Beautifully restored throughout, the property combines the charm of the original structure with imaginative furnishings and décor that span a number of different eras.

    Suggested Accommodation: Hacienda Santa Cruz Meals Included: Breakfast
    • — Hacienda Sotuta De Peon
  • Day 10 — Hacienda Santa Cruz (Day trip to Merida)

    The capital of Yucatan State, and the cultural heart of the broader Yucatan Peninsula, Merida is a charming, easy-going city as well as a great base for exploring numerous, varied, nearby attractions.

    Merida’s colonial history dates back to its founding by Francisco de Montejo y León in 1542, although, as with elsewhere in the region, the city was actually built on top of the ancient Maya city of T’ho whose stones were recycled as building material for the new city.

    The centre of Merida is typically defined as being the Zocalo, or central square, around which are a number of venerable, colonial buildings as well as San Ildefonso Cathedral, one of the oldest in Mexico. In addition to the vast, central square, there are a number of nearby, shady, much smaller squares which are great places to sit and watch the world go by.

    Also close to the main square, and one of the city’s main draws, is the impressive Paseo Montejo, a grand, triumphalist, tree-lined boulevard, occupied on either side by opulent mansions that draw their inspiration from the Belle Epoque.

    Merida is also home to a variety of colonial museums and contemporary galleries although none are more impressive than the relatively new Gran Museo del Mundo Maya in the north of the city.

    Rather than drive yourself, it’s much easier to get the hotel to arrange a taxi transfer for the 30-minute ride into the centre of Merida. The city can easily be explored on foot and getting a taxi back to Santa Cruz is no problem.

    Suggested Accommodation: Hacienda Santa Cruz Meals Included: Breakfast
    • — Merida
      1 / 3
    • — Merida
      1 / 3
    • — Merida, Paseo Montejo
      1 / 3
  • Day 11 — Hacienda Santa Cruz (Convent Route / Celestun)

    A popular self-drive route south of Merida is the Convent Route (Ruta de los Conventos) which takes in a number of colonial-era churches, convents and chapels that were built, almost always at sites that were already sacred to the local Maya, with the express intention of converting the indigenous population to Christianity.

    There is no set route to follow so it very much depends on how many different locations you wish to visit. Some of the key sites to visit include Acanceh, Tecoh, Telchaquillo, Tekit, Chumayel, Teabo and Mani. Depending on how long you plan to be out and about for, the hotel Na Luum in Tecoh is one of the best options for lunch.

    As an And / Or consideration, if you enjoyed Rio Lagartos and would like to take in more of the Yucatan’s natural attributes, the Celestun Special Biosphere Reserve is a 146,000 acre park located on the Gulf coast, east of Merida, and is a combination of coastal scrub, estuary and mangrove that provides a home for a variety of wildlife.

    Suggested Accommodation: Hacienda Santa Cruz Meals Included: Breakfast
    • Church at Mani on the Convent Route in Yucatan
      — Convent Route, Mani
      1 / 2
    • — Celestun, near Merida
      1 / 2
  • Day 12 — Hacienda Santa Cruz to Cancun & Home

    One should allow a good 4 hours for the drive back to Cancun airport so your schedule today will depend on your flight times.

    If it’s an evening flight, there are plenty more things to see and do near Santa Cruz (the hotel can offer suitable advice) or you can simply kick back and relax.

    Meals Included: Breakfast

Please Note

This itinerary is no more than a sample idea which can be tailor made to your exact requirements. Please note that some car hire insurance costs can only be paid locally.

Although based on Fly Drive, the same or similar itinerary can also be arranged with a Car & Driver (although it will be more expensive).

The 'From price' is for travel in September and is based on two adults sharing the same room throughout. Supplements apply for sole occupancy / transport.

The quoted price does not include international flights which we are happy to arrange as part of an ATOL protected package.

Beach Extensions

Beach Extensions

For clients wishing to extend (or even start) their holiday with time at one of the Yucatan Peninsula’s numerous beach resorts there are numerous options. The vast majority of beach hotels are located along the east coast, within easy reach of Cancun airport. Please call or email for advice.

Suggested Accommodation

1 / 5
View All

More Itineraries in Mexico

When to visit Mexico

  • January

    0°C
  • February

    0°C
  • March

    0°C
  • April

    0°C
  • May

    0°C
  • June

    0°C
  • July

    0°C
  • August

    0°C
  • September

    0°C
  • October

    0°C
  • November

    0°C
  • December

    0°C
Financial Protection

You’re in safe hands

When making your travel arrangements, we understand just how important peace-of-mind is. Beyond The Ordinary hold both ATOL & ABTOT bonds so whether you book your flights through us, or independently, any money you pay us is 100% protected. More detailed information on Financial Protection can be found by clicking here.

Make your next holiday Beyond The Ordinary

Whichever of our featured countries you wish to visit, we've been there several times. So, if you're after something beyond the ordinary to Cuba, Guatemala or the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, we'd love to hear from you.

Plan my Extraordinary