Mexico is a country that has a lot to offer. Both for those who want to enjoy paradise and exotic climate while relaxing on the beach, as well as for those who love active recreation among charming scenery – between mountain peaks, in valleys, or among tropical forests, for example, in cenotes. It is also a country that will appeal to lovers of history and architecture – the beautiful, colorful colonial buildings of Mexican cities and the ruins of Maya and Aztec buildings will make an unforgettable impression on everyone. In my opinion, it is one of those destinations that can amaze everyone and where everyone will find something for themselves. More of a problem than what to see is how to see it all in one trip. Have no doubts – you can’t get to know Mexico on a short trip, but you can try to arrange the trip in such a way that you can feel the country’s diversity and want more.
Based on my experience of traveling around Mexico, I have created an exemplary two-week travel plan for you, which can be an inspiration and help when planning your own trip. One thing is for sure – whatever you choose and wherever you go in Mexico, you will fall in love with this country as much as I did!
Day 1 – Mexico City – the center
This trip plan assumes starting the journey from the capital – Mexico City. Its heart is the market square – Zocalo with the largest cathedral in Latin America – Catedral Metropolitana that dates back to the 16th century, Palacio Nacional with a massive mural by Diego Rivera and Templo Mayor – the remains of the Aztec pyramid. There are also many interesting baroque churches in the city center, and there are beautiful tenement houses and palaces. It is worth taking a walk along the streets of the old town, peeking into charming alleys. An important building in Mexico City’s city center is the Palacio de Bellas Artes. Be sure also to visit Casa Azul – the house where Mexico’s national heroine, Frida Kahlo, was born and died, and take a look around Coyoacan, one of the capital’s oldest districts.
Day 2 – Mexico City – Virgen de Guadalupe and museums
The second day of exploring Mexico City is a must-visit to the most important Catholic shrine in all of Latin America and one of the most important in the whole world – Guadalupe. The miraculous painting of Our Lady of Guadalupe – Virgen de Guadalupe (or rather its reproduction) is found in many homes of Latin Americans. Today, the former village of Guadalupe forms part of Mexico City. There are many interesting religious buildings in the area of the sanctuary. In Mexico City, it is also worth visiting the Museo de Arte Moderno, where one of Frida Kahlo’s most famous paintings is located – the Forest of Dos Fridas. The Museo Nacional de Antropologia offers many fascinating items from the cultures of the Maya, Aztecs, and other pre-Columbian civilizations.
Day 3 – visit to Teotihuacán and Mexico City nightlife
In the early morning, start your trip to Teotihuacán. This well-preserved archaeological site is located on the Central Plateau, about 40 km from the capital. The most important places include Alley of the Dead and the Pyramids of the Sun and Moon. The name of this place comes from the Nahuatl language and means “the place where people become gods”. In Teotihuacán, the day will very quickly. Return to Mexico City in the evening. At night, you can attend a mariachi concert or visit the bars around Plaza Garibaldi. A fascinating cultural experience can also be participating in the Lucha libre wrestling gala in Arena Mexico, which is the quintessence of contemporary Mexican culture.
Day 4 – expedition to the Chapas jungle
Today you are leaving the capital agglomeration because it’s time for a trip to the Chapas jungle. The best solution to get there is to fly from Mexico City airport to Villahermosa (flights are way faster than traveling by bus or car, and the price may be comparable). You may consider spending this day exploring the city and then head to Palenque. In the afternoon, head to a local cafe or bar in the tree-lined streets of the city center. In the evening, go to El Panchán – you can feel the unique atmosphere of this part of Mexico here, taste the local food and listen to live music.
Day 5 – exploration of overgrown with jungle ruins of Palenque
Start your fifth day in Mexico as early as possible and head to the ruins of Palenque – the earlier you go, the more you will be able to see. This Mayan city reached its glory in the 9th century, but later the inhabitants left it for the Yucatan. What is left are the perfectly preserved ruins of temples, palaces, and beautiful reliefs. The next stage of the tour is the waterfalls that lurk in the valleys and hills of Chiapas state. The most beautiful of them is Agua Azul, a group of turquoise waterfalls, the color of which is due to mineral deposits in the water – but it is a very touristic and crowded place. Much quieter is – a single waterfall descending into a natural jungle pool where you can swim.
Day 6 – another day in the jungle – a boat trip to the ruins of Yaxchilán
The ruins of Yaxchilán are deep in the jungle and can only be reached by boat. They are not as well preserved as the Palenque, but it’s not so easily accessible location, and fewer visitors make it a great place to experience an unforgettable adventure. It’s best to start your river trip early in the morning from Palenque to the pier in Frontera Corozal. At the pier, you can rent a boat which will take you upstream to the ruins. The same operator operates all boats, and the price includes return trip only and does not include admission tickets. On a 40-minute boat trip up the Usumacinta River, you can see crocodiles with a bit of luck, and when you get there, you will undoubtedly hear monkeys screaming to lead you to the tree-covered ruins. Take a detour through the Cascada de las Golondrinas waterfalls as your return journey to Palenque. The water here is cold and drops off with great force, so it’s a refreshing place to swim.
Day 7 – trip to the Yucatan Peninsula and exploration of the Valladolid’s colonial architecture
The seventh day in Mexico is a trip to the Yucatan. Ideally, you can go back to Villahermosa and from there take a flight to Cancún. Start your first day in the Yucatan by exploring Valladolid – a peaceful yet charming Spanish colonial city. The most important place is the market with the beautiful cathedral of San Servicio and the convent with the church of San Bernardino de Siena. Colorful tenement houses and houses surrounding the market square leave an unforgettable impression. Another city attraction is the night market, where you can buy traditional local products that can be used as souvenirs from Mexico. The best way to get to Valladolid from Cancún is by renting a car.
Day 8 – visit to Chichén Itzá and the cenotes
Another day of visiting Mexico is a visit to Chichén Itzá, the best-preserved ancient ruins in the Yucatan – a must-see when visiting Mexico. As usual, start early in the morning, because it’s a really crowded tourist attraction. Many elements of this archaeological park have been preserved in excellent condition. The oldest buildings date back to the 9th century, while others have been meticulously restored. The most characteristic is the El Castillo pyramid, designed as the Mayan calendar. During the equinox, the sun casts a shadow on the north face of the pyramid, and you get the impression that you are seeing a snake winding up the stairs. The archaeological site is full of intricate sculptures and reliefs depicting, among others, jaguars, skulls, and eagles. After visiting Chichén Itzá, it’s time to visit the Ik Kil cenote located nearby. Cenote is a natural cave formed due to the collapse of the limestone rock and the exposure of the groundwater beneath it. Il Kil is one of the most beautiful cenotes in the entire Yucatan. It is covered with vines and tree roots. The water here is crystal clear and perfect for swimming or diving. Coming back, you can visit other cenotes, including X’Kekén – an underground cave with a swimming pool at the bottom and Hacienda San Lorenzo Oxman – tree roots give it a tropical character.
Days 9–11 – visit to Cobá and Tulum, sunbathing, sightseeing, relaxing
The most interesting ruins in the Yucatan are those located in Cobá – an archaeological site of high historical and cultural value. Nowadays, only a part of the ruins has been discovered and made available for visitors, most of them are covered by the jungle. There are three groups of ruins hidden in the dense jungle: Grupo Cobá, Grupo Macanxoc, Conjunto Pinturas and Grupo Nuhoch Mul. A visit there will make you feel like in the Indiana Jones movies. The main attractions include the Nohoch Mul pyramids; the highest is 42 meters.
Read more about Cobá here: Cobá – the tallest Mayan pyramid you can climb and absurd psychology of the crowd
If you come to the tropical climate of the Yucatan, you certainly want to relax on the beach as well. Tulum is a tiny town on the coast of the Caribbean Sea. The 12-meter-high cliffs between which there are hidden sandy beaches and Mayan ruins: the watchtower, the El Castillo lighthouse, the Templo de Los Frescos with Olmec frescoes, and the Templo del Dios Descendente are very impressive. Tulum is a town that boasts the reputation of the best place for chill out in boho climates – that is, the style of surfers and hippies. There are many hotels, hostels and other places in this area where you can stay for two or three nights and focus only on sunbathing, sun and water sports. There are also some exciting cenotes in the area that are worth visiting.
More about Tulum you can find here: My perfect tropical gateway in Tulum
Days 12–14 – visit to Playa del Carmen, on the island of Cozumel and in Cancún
You can and should spend the last days of your stay in Mexico enjoying the charms of the coast. It’s worth changing the atmosphere a bit and moving from Tulum to Playa del Carmen. There are many accommodation facilities here, and everyone will find something for themselves. One of the most beautiful beaches in the area is Playa Mamita. Near Playa del Carmen, there is the island of Cozumel – a place willingly visited by divers. I highly recommend you go there for just one day and go diving. Ferries depart from Playa del Carmen to San Miguel, the capital of the island of Cozumel. If you like extreme sports, be sure to try a parachute jump while in Playa del Carmen – the views are unbelievable.
You can spend the last day visiting one of the most famous seaside resorts in Mexico – Cancún. It will definitely be loud and full of parties, but why not end the journey in Mexico like this?
Check out what else you can do in Yucatan itself: 15 cool things to do in the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico