Mexico / Itineraries

The Yucatan In A Hurry

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For those short on time, this brief 5 night itinerary still manages to include many of the highlights of the Yucatan Peninsula combining both ancient Mayan sites and charming, colonial towns as well as a working hacienda.

  • Day 1 — Cancun

    Flights from Europe reach Cancun from the late afternoon onwards so, on arrival, you will be transferred the short distance to the nearby hotel of your choice 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
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    • — Tacos & salsa
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  • Day 2 — Cancun to Merida

    This morning, your driver / guide will collect you from your hotel and head inland along the toll road that links Cancun with Merida.

    The capital of Yucatan State, 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.

    Having arrived in the city and checked in at your hotel, your guide will lead you on a walking tour of this charming city before returning to your accommodation in the late afternoon.

    Suggested Accommodation: Hotel Casa Del Balam Meals Included: Breakfast
    • — Merida
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    • — Merida
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    • — Merida, Paseo Montejo
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  • Day 3 — Merida (Day trip to Uxmal & hacienda)

    An earlyish start is recommended as your driver / guide collects you from your hotel for the drive south to 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. Lunch can be taken at one of Uxmal’s nearby hotels or at your next visit, on the way back to Merida.

    The Hacienda Sotuta de Peon is a restoration project-cum-museum that gives visitors a glimpse into how henequen 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.

    You will then return to your hotel in Merida.

    Suggested Accommodation: Hotel Casa Del Balam Meals Included: Breakfast
    • — Uxmal
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    • — Uxmal
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    • — Hacienda Sotuta De Peon
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  • Day 4 — Merida to Valladolid via Izamal

    After checking out of your hotel in Merida, you’ll begin the journey back east, beginning with a stop in 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.

    After a walking tour of Izamal, you’ll continue your journey eastwards until you reach Valladolid.

    Having checked in to your hotel and enjoyed a bite to eat, your guide will take you on another walking tour of this charming town which 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: Hotel Posada San Juan Meals Included: Breakfast
    • — Izamal
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    • — Izamal
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    • — Valladolid
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  • Day 5 — Valladolid (Day trip to Chichen Itza)

    We suggest you get up as early as possible, both to avoid the heat of the day and potential crowds later on, for the 30-minute drive to Chichen Itza.

    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 several days 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.

    After lunch at a local restaurant, and before returning to Valladolid, your driver / guide will take you to a nearby cenote where you can enjoy a refreshing swim.

    Taken from the Mayan word, dzonot, meaning a well, cenotes are natural sinkholes, the result of collapsed limestone bedrock exposing the subterranean groundwater. They are found both inland and by the coast and can be either freshwater or saltwater. You will find cenotes across the Yucatan Peninsula with many of the most impressive being located near Chichen Itza and Valladolid.

    Suggested Accommodation: Hotel Posada San Juan Meals Included: Breakfast
    • — Chichen Itza, Kukulkan
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    • — Chichen Itza, Temple of Warriors
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    • — Chichen Itza
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    • — Valladolid, cenote Suytun
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  • Day 6 — Valladolid & Home

    Depending on your flight schedule, you will return along the toll road back to the east coast where your driver / guide will drop you at Cancun airport in good time for your flight home.

    Meals Included: Breakfast
    • — Valladolid

Please Note

This itinerary is no more than a sample idea which can be tailor made to your exact requirements.

Although based on having a Car & Driver, it can just as easily be arranged on a Fly Drive basis.

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

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