Yucatan Travel: An Epic Itinerary

It’s no surprise that people dream of Yucatan travel. It borders the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico and has some of the best beaches in the world. Additionally, you’ll discover impressive Mayan ruins, charming towns, breathtaking cenotes, and UNESCO World Heritage sites. 

When considering where to go in Mexico, the Yucatan Peninsula has to be one of the most popular wanderlust destinations. 

Where is the Yucatan Peninsula located? 

It’s in the easternmost part of Mexico. This prime section of the country actually spans three states: Quintana Roo, Campeche, and Yucatan, and is one of the most visited regions of the country. 

Best places to go in the Yucatan Penninsula

The Yucatan is packed full of unique places to see and epic things to do. So, the hardest part of your trip will be deciding how to spend your days.

You will most likely start your trip in Cancún or Mérida, two very different cities with international airports.

Cancún

Starting your Yucatan travel plans in Cancún is perfect. It’s a common entry point for many international travelers and is one of the most visited cities in Mexico. 

Once there, you are pretty much guaranteed year-round warm weather, great nightlife, and fantastic activities to keep you entertained. 

The Cancún Underwater Museum and Laguna Nichupte are two fantastic places that are underrated and under-visited, making them excellent additions to your Cancún bucket list.

If you’re curious about nearby island life, there are some amazing day trips from Cancún. 

The 45-minute Cancún to Cozumel ferry runs daily. Hop on to enjoy the Punta Sur Eco Beach and the San Gervasio archeological site.

If you are looking for something a little bit more relaxed, head to one of the best beaches in the Yucatan on Isla Mujeres. 

This island is Instafamous for its colorful homes, and it is one of 135 pueblos magicos (magic towns) dotted throughout the country. Isla Mujeres received its pueblo magico status due to its tropical beauty and unique ties to Ixchel, the Mayan goddess of the moon. 

To get from Cancún to Isla Mujeres, you simply need to take a 30-minute ferry ride, and you’ll be able to relax in paradise.

Or if ruins are more your style, it’s easy to get from Cancún to Tulum. There you can relax on the warm, white-sand beaches, splash around in the tropical turquoise waters and visit the ruins. You definitely won’t regret it!

Tulum

Tulum cenote

Fancy spending a few days in the Bali of Mexico? Then Tulum is the town for you!

Boho chic Tulum has it all! There are so many things to do in Tulum you’ll never be bored. Mayan ruins, beautiful beaches, and some of the best cenotes in the region. It can’t be missed in your Yucatan travel plans.

A cenote is a natural waterhole located in the jungle, and Tulum is surrounded by them. Some of the most famous ones to visit are Gran Cenote, Cenote Calavera, Dos Ojos, and Zacil-ha.

The Tulum Mayan ruins is a stunning archeological site set on a cliff by the sea. This site is a great way to learn about Mayan culture and is a mere $4 to enter, about a third of the cost of the famous Chichén Itzá Mayan ruins!

If you’d rather spend your day in the water, head to the beach or to one of the cenotes.

Looking for a day trip? Head to Bacalar for an incredible day trip from Tulum. Then, take a boat tour to experience every shade of blue imaginable in the Lagoon of Seven Colors. 

Playa del Carmen

Playa del Carmen 5th ave

If great beaches and nightlife are what you’re after, look no further than Playa del Carmen. With all of the charm of a former sleepy fishing village but the comforts of modern-day amenities, Playa truly has it all.

You can easily get from Cancún or Tulum to Playa del Carmen

Once there, enjoy your time in the Riviera Maya by taking a dip in Cenote Azul or shopping along Quinta Avenida, Playa del Carmen’s 5th Avenue. 

This cute little town is also an excellent base for day trips to Cozumel or Chichén Itzá.

Mérida

Merida flower seller

Another great town is Mérida, Yucatan’s capital city. It is absolutely stunning and has been rated one of the safest cities in Mexico. Yet, for some reason, Mérida has stayed under the radar and isn’t too touristy… yet. 

There are a lot of things to do in Mérida.

First, enjoy the abundance of cultural and historical landmarks and museums in the city. There are plenty to choose from!

You can also take a day trip to some of the Mayan ruins nearby. Uxmal, Dzibilchaltún, and Chichén Itzá are all easily a few hours’ drive from Mérida. 

Don’t forget to chow down on authentic Yucatan food. The dishes you have to try are conchinita pibil, queso relleno, sopa de lima, and panuchos.

While you’re in Mérida, check out the shopping at the local artisan shops and mercados. There are so many cool things to buy and great local artists to support. 

Finally, head to Chicxulub Crater. This infamous Yucatan peninsula crater is believed to be responsible for the extinction of the dinosaurs. Scientists also think this crater created many of the Yucatan cenotes around Mérida. You can learn all about it at the Science Museum at the Chicxulub Crater.

Traveling from Cancún to Mérida is only four hours by bus. If you started your Yucatan travel in Cancun, it is certainly worth making a stop for a few days.

Best day trips from Merida

Uxmal 

Visiting the Uxmal ruins is one of the best day trips you can take from Mérida. This UNESCO Heritage site is a part of the Puuc Route, a 36-mile (38 km) drive encompassing five Mayan sites.
Pro Tip—rent a car so you can stop by as many as possible!

Izamal

The charming Yellow City is a great off-the-beaten-path destination near Mérida. This pueblo magico is packed full of beautiful, historic houses, all of which are painted the same shade of yellow. This picturesque town is perfect for photoshoots and is an authentic town of the Yucatan.

Best time for Yucatan Travel

Chichen Itza ruins to explore in your Yucatan travel plans

If planning a trip to the Yucatan peninsula is your number one priority, you’ll want to consider when to go. 

The Yucatan peninsula weather is warm year-round, but November through March offers the best temperatures with little humidity. December is the busiest month. If you don’t want to share your vacation with tons of other tourists, plan your Yucatan travel in January or February when it is a little quieter.

Shoulder season is March and April, but the rains begin towards the beginning of April, so that is a consideration if you plan to spend all of your time on the beach.

Avoid hurricane season, which runs June through October.

In the end, though, you can’t really go wrong with spending time on the Yucatan peninsula. No matter how you choose to vacation, you’ll have a great time!

FAQs about Yucatan Travel

Is it safe to drive in the Yucatan?

A road trip is definitely the way to go if you’re planning on traveling around the region. The Yucatan Peninsula is considered pretty safe, and driving there is no different. However, you should definitely familiarize yourself with Mexico’s driving laws and be sure to ask your rental car agent for any tips or advice. 

What currency is best to use in the Yucatan? I have heard they accept pesos and US Dollars.

While many places take USD (especially in the more touristy areas of Cancún and Playa del Carmen), Mexican pesos are better because they will give you a better exchange rate. If you didn’t bring any pesos with you, there will be plenty of ATMs around the Yucatan Peninsula and their exchange rates will be reasonable. 

Do we need to rent a car while we are staying in Cancun?

Nope. There are plenty of taxis and colectivos (full-size transport vans) to get you around town. And of course, you can walk a lot of places, as well. 

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