For an epic Mexican vacation, the Yucatán Peninsula is by far the most rewarded place to visit when it is about exploring some pristine green sanctuaries bestowed with rich flora and fauna, then there are the majestic Mayan Ruins, and of course, the breathtaking cenotes that the peninsula is known for. But besides these amazing geological features, the Yucatán Peninsula is also endowed with traditional places loaded with crafts and arts. If this sounds too much to retain, then read on to plan a week's vacation on this beautiful Mexican peninsula.
Yucatán Road Trip Itinerary: Day 1 And 2
When it comes to the Yucatán Peninsula, the city of Cancun usually comes first to one’s mind. From its long list of beach resorts (think Zone Hotelera) to its electrifying nights, this Mexican city has been a favorite among sun-worshippers in summer, though as a rule of thumb, one should always be prepared before visiting it. Start the Yucatán road trip from Cancun by renting a car, which is the most practical solution to move around the peninsula. If serenity, unspoiled beaches, and blissful sanctuary are the things that tempt one, then consider heading to Isla Holbox, or Holbox island which is located in Chiquila in the extreme northeast of the Yucatán Peninsula.
From Chiquila, take a ferry to Holbox island. There are the Holbox Xpress (the red boats) and the Hermanos (blue boats). The boats operate daily and can take up to 20 minutes to reach the island. Since it is not allowed to bring a car on Holbox island, it is advisable to park in any of the paid parking areas in the town. These parking lots are usually secured and can cost around $5 per day.
Holbox Island is part of the sprawling 154,052 acres of the Yum Balam Nature Reserve, a place where one can encounter several wildlife-think flamingos, pelicans, and the famed whale shark. Between May to September, this unspoiled nature reserve shelters one of the biggest concentrations of whale sharks. This shark species is known to be by far the largest living non-mammalian vertebrate (the largest reaching 61 feet) and can live up to 80 to 130 years. Visitors will likely find numerous shark tours, but it generally costs around $125, with a boat reaching a maximum of 10 people as per the regulation.
Besides swimming with the whale sharks, there are many eco activities to take part such as kayaking in the Holbox mangrove reserve to enjoy a tranquil setting among the birds. Stop at the Isla Pasion and Isla Pajaros for an amazing bird-watching activity. After this eco-tour, head to Punta Coco Beach by nightfall to marvel at the bioluminescent plankton that shines on the water’s surface.
- Ferry: 6:00 am - 9:30 pm 9daily)
- Cost: $7
- Duration: 20 minutes
- Parking Lot: $5
- Shark Tour: $125
- Other Activities: Snorkeling, kite surfing, birdwatching, and kayaking
Yucatán Road Trip Itinerary: Days 3 And 4
On the third day of the trip, return to Chiquila town, and get in the car to discover one of the much praised Magical Town of Mexico (Pueblo Mágico), Valladolid, which is a 2.5-hour drive from Chiquila. The magical town is awarded to communities that have been able to maintain their authentic charms, such as their original architecture, culture, and tradition. To immerse in the authentic side of the Yucatán Peninsula, Valladolid is the best bet. Visitors can check in one of the boltholes available here.
Stroll the streets and see the 16th-century Convent of San Bernardino of Siena, which is the second-largest Franciscan construction in the peninsula (after the Convent of Izamal). Another must-see attraction is the Casa de Los Venados, where one will be able to immerse in the local art collection. This art and culture corner has an eclectic range of folk art and furnishings.
Reserve the next day to explore the breathtaking cenotes that are nestled around Valladolid. There are about 12 cenotes, but cenote Ik-Kil is one of the best. Known for its hanging vines, beautiful caves, and natural sinkhole, Ik-Kil serves as a popular attraction deem to visit for those looking to rejuvenate. Just close to the cenote, there are the ancient remnants of the Chichen Itza ruins. The UNESCO site was constructed in the post-classic Mayan period. One interesting fact about this site is that the monuments were astronomically aligned by the ancient civilizations.
- Casa de los Venados: 10:00 a.m - 4:00 p.m
- Other Popular Attractions: Cenote Ik- Kil and Chichen Itza Ruins
Yucatán Itinerary: Days 5 And 6
On the fifth day get ready to explore another ‘Magic Town’ known for its awe-inspiring lagoon, Bacalar is a small southeastern town in Mexico. It is just 30 minutes drive away from Belize. The key highlight of this charming town is its lagoon which is locally dubbed ‘Lagoon of Seven Colors’ due to its many shades of blue and turquoise color. It’s definitely a place to explore historical sites like Fuerte de San Felipe, which is an 18th-century fort, and the colonial San Joaquín Parish Church, which is decked out by a vaulted ceiling.
Book a boat tour to explore the unblemished area of some spectacular cenotes which is found within the lake. The most visited one is Cenote Azul, also known as Blue Cenote. The cenote is about 275-feet-deep.
For the next day, relax in one of the Bacalar balnearios (beach clubs). Los Rapidos is one of the most recommended places to unwind in a quiet setting. It is tucked away in the southern end of the lake Los Rapidos. Some conveniences include water hammocks, bathrooms, swings, restaurants, and kayak rentals.
- Recommended Attractions: Cenore Azul, Fuerte de San Felipe, and Los Rapidos
Yucatán Itinerary: Day 7
After exploring the different regions of the peninsula, take a 4.5-car drive to head back to Cancun. Just before leaving, consider touring Muyil and Chacchoben ruins. But those who wish to rather spend a lazy day can head to the Playa Norte Isla Mujeres, which overlooks the beautiful coastal side of Cancun. There are many ferries available, and it takes about 25 minutes to reach.