Our 2 weeks in Mexico itinerary explores underrated Mexico City, ancient ruins lurking in deep jungle, hidden waterfalls, cenotes and some of the best beaches in the world.


Mexico is a proud mix of Mesoamerican heritage and Spanish colonialism. Aztec and Maya ruins poking through towering trees and twisting vines recall an ancient empire. Monstrous catholic cathedrals peering over picture-perfect towns demonstrate the influence of European conquerors. The fusion of old and new, of American and European can be found in tasty food, creative cocktails and modern art.

Mexico’s palm-fringed white sand beaches are some of the best in the world. Azure blue seas contain reefs with a plethora of colourful fish, moray eels and sharks. It’s an exciting and varied destination to experience some truly great moments.

But it’s also vast and 2 weeks in Mexico can only scratch the surface. Therefore, this itinerary covers the highlights of the southern and eastern half of the country, avoiding the few no-go spots in Mexico.


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2 WEEKS IN MEXICO ITINERARY OVERVIEW

3 DAYS / Exploring Mexico City & the Pyramids at Teotihuacán

3 DAYS / Waterfalls and ancient ruins of Palenque and Yaxchilán

2 DAYS / Chichén Itzá & swimming in the cenotes of colonial Valladolid

3 DAYS / Cobá and the palm-fringed white sand beaches of Tulum

3 DAYS / Chilling in Playa del Carmen & snorkelling in Cozumel


WHY GO TO MEXICO?

Exploring jungle shrouded ancient ruins

Wild swimming in waterfalls and cenotes

Glorious white sand beaches and azure blue seas

Grasshoppers washed down with mezcal or tequila

World class snorkelling and diving

Uncovering the history of the Aztecs and Mayans

2 weeks in Mexico itinerary: Jungle shrouded ancient ruins, wild swimming & stunning beaches

DAY 1-3 / MEXICO CITY & TEOTIHUACÁN

Our 2 weeks in Mexico itinerary begins in Mexico City. A vastly underrated city, it has world-class museums, fascinating modern art, intriguing communist connections and a wild array of superb colonial buildings. You can find all the details for this part of the trip, in our 3 days in Mexico City article here.

OUR MEXICO CITY ITINERARY

DAY 4 / HEADING INTO THE JUNGLE OF CHIAPAS

Getting a short internal flight in Mexico is cheap and often a lot easier and quicker than the trials and tribulations of driving. So head To Mexico City airport and hop on a flight to Villahermosa. There are a number of operators and prices can be as low as US$50 per person.

FLIGHT > Mexico City to Villahermosa. Check prices here / CAR > Hire a car from Villahermosa Airport for 3 days, returning to the same location. Check prices here.

Pick up a hire car at Villahermosa airport and make the two-hour drive south to your hotel in Palenque. In the afternoon take some rest and check out the chilled cafes and bars among the tree-lined streets of the town centre. In the evening head to El Panchán for the backpacking vibe, cheap food, wide-ranging cocktails and lively music.


STAY
TRAVEL
HIGHLIGHT
Hotel La Aldea del Halach Huinic, Palenque
1 hour 30-minute flight from Mexico City to Villahermosa, 2-hour drive to Palenque
Chilling by the pool in Palenque

STAY

Hotel La Aldea del Halach Huinic, Palenque

TRAVEL

1 hour 30-minute flight from Mexico City to Villahermosa, 2-hour drive to Palenque.

HIGHLIGHT

Chilling by the pool in Palenque

DAY 5 / EXPLORING THE JUNGLE SHROUDED RUINS OF PALENQUE

On day 5 of your 2 weeks in Mexico itinerary wake up early and head to Palenque Ruins. This Maya city was at its peak in the 9th century, but during the great Maya collapse the locals deserted it for Yucatán. What is left now are a beautiful array of ruined temples, palaces and carved bas-reliefs.

Arrive at opening time when tourist numbers and temperatures are both low. At this time in the morning, the light filtering through the jungle canopy caters for some beautiful photography.  It takes 2 to 3 hours to look around.

Next, explore some of the waterfalls that lurk in the valleys and hills of the state of Chiapas. Drive west to Agua Azul, a gently flowing series of waterfalls turned turquoise by the mineral deposits in the water. Near the parking area, there are a collection of restaurants and cafes to grab lunch. It’s all a bit touristy but walk upstream a few hundred meters and the day-trippers dither away. Find the perfect spot and hop in for a swim.

On the return drive to Palenque, stop at Misol Há, a much quieter and more serene destination to take a swim.  A single waterfall descends into a natural pool surrounded by jungle. Swimming is easy and large boulders make a great sundeck. If you’re lucky someone may sell you a beer.


STAY
TRAVEL
HIGHLIGHT
Hotel La Aldea del Halach Huinic, Palenque
1 hour 20 minute round trip to Misol Ha waterfalls (+ 1 hour 30 minutes for Aqua Azul)
The ancient ruins of Palenque glowing in the early morning light

STAY

Hotel La Aldea del Halach Huinic, Palenque

TRAVEL

1 hour 20 minute round trip to Misol Ha waterfalls (+ 1 hour 30 minutes for Aqua Azul)

HIGHLIGHT

The ancient ruins of Palenque glowing in the early morning light

DAY 6 / MOTORING UP RIVERS TO THE RUINS OF YAXCHILÁN

The ruins of Yaxchilán are set deep in the jungle and can only be reached by boat. They’re not as complete as Palenque, but their remote location and fewer visitors make it an excellent destination.

Leave Palenque early and drive to the pier at Frontera Corozal. At the pier hire a boat to take you upstream to the ruins. All boats use the same operator and a set price, which includes the return journey but not the entrance tickets. The rate is per boat, so consider sharing with other visitors to reduce the cost.

The 40-minute boat ride takes you up Usumacinta river, a large brown sludge water with crocodiles lying on the bank. Get off the boat, purchase your entrance tickets and listen to the cry of howler monkeys as they lead you to the ruins. Slowly the overgrown rock temples and palaces loom through the trees. Stroll the ruins paying particular attention to the finely carved stelae.

After a couple of hours find your boat to take your journey back downstream. Grab lunch from the cheerful ladies next to the ticket office.

On your return drive to Palenque, take a 30-minute detour to Cascada de las Golondrinas. The water is cold and the force of the waterfalls strong, so it’s an invigorating place for a swim. The setting is beautiful and there’s a small café to grab a few drinks.


STAY
TRAVEL
HIGHLIGHT
Hotel La Aldea del Halach Huinic, Palenque
4 hour round trip to Frontera Corozal (+ 30 for Las Golondrinas Waterfall)
Spying the ancient ruins of Yaxchilán poking above the trees from the river

STAY

Hotel La Aldea del Halach Huinic, Palenque

TRAVEL

4 hour round trip to Frontera Corozal (+ 30 minutes for Las Golondrinas Waterfall)

HIGHLIGHT

Spying the ancient ruins of Yaxchilán poking above the trees from the river

DAY 7 / LAIDBACK COLONIAL VALLADOLID

It’s a long 7-hour drive up to the beaches of Yucatan, so it is more relaxing and cheaper to return the car to Villahermosa and take another internal flight to Cancún.

FLIGHT > Villahermosa to Cancun. Check prices here.

At the time of writing (Jan 2019) there is only one flight every other day, so make sure your dates match up. It usually leaves late in the morning and costs around US$40 for the 1 hour and 20-minute flight.

CAR >  Hire a car from Cancún airport for 3 days returning to Tulum. Check prices here.

Valladolid is a quiet yet extremely attractive Spanish colonial town. Spend the afternoon strolling its atmospheric centre which is set around a central square with a looming cathedral.

Have dinner at Conato 1910. Tucked in the back lanes of Valladolid, it has tasty food in an attractive courtyard with live music playing most nights.


STAY
DRIVING
HIGHLIGHT
La Aurora Hotel Colonial, Valladolid
2-hour drive from Palenque to Villahermosa, 1-hour 40-minute drive to Valladolid
Dinner in a cute courtyard in colonial Valladolid

STAY

La Aurora Hotel Colonial, Valladolid

DRIVING

2-hour drive from Palenque to Villahermosa, 1 hour 40-minute drive to Valladolid

HIGHLIGHT

Dinner in a cute courtyard in colonial Valladolid

DAY 8 / IMPERIOUS CHICHÉN ITZÁ & STUNNING CENOTES

This morning drive to Chichén Itzá, the best preserved ancient ruins in the area. Arrive at opening time to avoid the worst of the crowds and get the best of the light. To be really prepared, read some additional tips on getting to Chichén Itzá. The site is a large expanse of ruins, some left untouched from when they were first constructed in the 9th century while others have been meticulously restored.

The most striking sight is the pyramid El Castillo, designed as a Maya calendar. During the equinoxes, the sun casts a shadow on the north face of the pyramid giving the impression of a serpent wriggling down the staircase. Look out for the jaguars, skulls and eagles intricately carved on the platforms nearby.

After exploring the site, drive the short distance to Ik Kil cenote. A cenote is a natural sinkhole formed when the limestone bedrock collapses and exposes the groundwater underneath. Il Kil is one of the most beautiful with vines and tree roots reaching down along step vertical walls. The water is crystal clear and perfect for swimming or snorkelling. The large crowds have chipped away at some of its charm, but it’s worth a stop.

Return to Valladolid for a late lunch, then collect two more cenotes in the afternoon. Cenote X’Kekén (sometimes called Dzitnup) is an underground cave with a refreshing swimming pool at the bottom. It’s completely enclosed except for one small opening at the top.

Saving the best for last Hacienda San Lorenzo Oxman cenote is almost as beautiful as Ik Kil but without the crowds. Swing ropes allow for a dramatic entrance into the clear water and the tree roots and clinging vines give it that lush tropical feel. The hacienda has a pool and bar next door, the ideal spot for a late afternoon beer.


STAY
DRIVING
HIGHLIGHT
La Aurora Hotel Colonial, Valladolid
1 hour 30 minute round trip from Valladolid to Chichén Itzá and Ik Kil cenote
Swinging into the beautiful cenote of Hacienda San Lorenzo Oxman

STAY

La Aurora Hotel Colonial, Valladolid

DRIVING

1 hour 30 minute round trip from Valladolid to Chichén Itzá and Ik Kil cenote

HIGHLIGHT

Swinging into the beautiful cenote of Hacienda San Lorenzo Oxman

DAY 9 – 11 / LAZING UNDER PALMS ON THE WHITE SAND BEACHES OF TULUM

This morning head south to Cobá. Three groups of ruins lurk within the dense jungle, which are best seen on bicycles available to hire from the entrance. It’s a pure Indiana Jones-like experience. The highlight is the pyramids of Nohoch Mul, with the highest reaching 42m. The climb up is a heart-pumping scramble but you are rewarded with magnificent views over the jungle.

Hop back in the car and head to Tulum.

CAR > Drop the hire car off at Tulum.

Tulum, in our opinion, has Mexico’s best beach on the Caribbean. Swaying palm trees lean over white sand beaches with azure seas lapping the shore. The town itself is set back about 3km from the beach front. The dusty highway that divides the town makes it feel like a truck stop, but at night it transforms into a vibrant local centre with great food, live music and a cool, hippy vibe.

The challenge is deciding where to stay. The town has much cheaper accommodation and a wide range of bars, restaurants and shops, but requires a taxi or cycle to the beach. The hotels on the front are mostly top-end resorts with great access to the beaches but nothing to do at night. We went for Elements Boutique Hotel in town. It’s a modern, trendy place which provides bikes free of charge. This allowed us to cycle to the beach each day and be back in town for the evening where there’s much more going on.

El Paraiso Hotel has a beach club open to the public (for a fee). With golden sand, crystal clear water, idyllic palm trees, good-looking people and great food options, it’s arguably one of the best chilled beach clubs anywhere.

Tulum is not just known for its beaches. Old Maya ruins sit picturesquely perched on the clifftop overlooking the sea. Spend one morning strolling around the ruins. Keep an eye out for the image of a man on a horse, the earliest indication that the Spanish had arrived in Mesoamerica.


STAY
DRIVING
HIGHLIGHT
Elements Tulum Boutique Hotel, Tulum
1-hour 40-minute drive from Valladolid to Tulum via Cobá ruins
Lazing on palm-fringed white sand beaches with cocktail in hand

STAY

Elements Tulum Boutique Hotel, Tulum

DRIVING

1-hour 40-minute drive from Valladolid to Tulum via Cobá ruins

HIGHLIGHT

Lazing on palm-fringed white sand beaches with cocktail in hand

DAY 12 – 14 / PLAYA DEL CARMEN AND COZUMEL

On day 12 of your 2 weeks in Mexico itinerary, take a taxi or bus from Tulum to Playa del Carmen. Dump your bags at the hotel and head to Mamita’s beach; the spot for a great stretch of sand in front of a fun and lively beach bar. The food is good, the cocktails colourful and the people watching excellent. In the evening, stroll the streets as the party mood picks up. Almirante Pech was our pick of cool places to grab a drink and dinner.

Next morning, get up early and catch the ferry over to San Miguel (the capital of the island of Cozumel) for world-class snorkelling or diving. Grab breakfast at Corazón Contento, before checking in at Deep Blue Cozumel. This company offers a great service, with comfortable fast boats and friendly guides. Make sure you email them in advance to book. All the equipment you need is provided but with so many days on the beach you might want to get your own.

Take lunch at laid back El Palomar, perched on the front just north of the pier. Sit on the stools at the counter overlooking the ocean as you sample the excellent fresh fish with a glass of wine. After lunch amble the streets of San Miguel making sure you visit the Mercado and Plaza. Finally grab a cocktail at one of the many bars before hopping back on the ferry to Playa del Carmen. If you are lucky a live band, busking for their living, will entertain you on the ferry ride back.

Wake up the next day and get a taxi to Cancun International Airport to wrap up your 2 weeks in Mexico itinerary.


STAY
DRIVING
HIGHLIGHT
Soho Playa Hotel, Playa del Carmen
1-hour taxi from Tulum to Playa del Carmen, 45-minute taxi to Cancún Airport
Snorkelling above sharks, puffer fish and moray eels in quaint Cozumel

STAY

Soho Playa Hotel, Playa del Carmen

DRIVING

1-hour taxi from Tulum to Playa del Carmen & 45-minute taxi to Cancún Airport

HIGHLIGHT

Snorkelling above sharks, puffer fish and moray eels in quaint Cozumel

ALL THE INFORMATION YOU NEED TO HELP PLAN YOUR OWN 2 WEEKS IN MEXICO ITINERARY

As this list of interesting facts about Mexico demonstrates, its a quirky destination. To get the most out of it a little pre-planning, research, and understanding what you are looking for will help make your trip far more successful. Here’s some further information we think you might need to plan your own 2 weeks in Mexico itinerary.

GETTING AROUND MEXICO

For getting around Mexico City please see our Mexico City article. For the rest the time in Mexico itinerary we used a mix of hire car and taxis (or buses).

Driving in Mexico can be challenging. It’s not recommended in the north where drug cartels can be a threat, and it’s very tricky around San Cristóbal de las Casas in Chiapas where the quality of road is very poor. But, driving in Yucatan is easy and the road from Palenque to Yaxchilán is good and fast.

The only drive on this itinerary that may be awkward is the one to the waterfalls at Misol Há and Agua Azul. The roads often get washed away in floods, resulting in lots of roadworks and sizeable potholes. We also recommend you leave valuables in the hotel.

It’s not possible to drive in most parts of Mexico at night for the sheer number of potholes you’d need to avoid.  Read our experiences and advice about driving in Mexico before you go.

BEST TIME TO GO TO MEXICO

Mexico is a huge country and the best time to go varies from region to region. For this itinerary, December to April is best with little rain and nice temperatures. Mexico City is high on the plateau and temperatures will range from 5 degrees at night to 22 in the day. Yucatan is a lower altitude and, warmed by the sea, will range from 15 at night to 30 in the day. Perfect for early morning sight-seeing and afternoon sun baking.

Try to avoid Christmas, New Year and the Easter holidays when prices rise and sites are busier in this very Catholic country.

COSTS OF OUR 2 WEEKS IN MEXICO ITINERARY

The total cost of our 2 weeks in Mexico itinerary, for two people excluding international flights, was Mex$70,000. With Dec 2018 exchange rates of Mex$24.5 to the British Pound; Mex$19 to the US dollar; and Mex 22 to the Euro, this equates to:

4 day Cappadocia Itinerary
US $3,650
4 day Cappadocia Itinerary
GBP £2,850
4 day Cappadocia Itinerary
EUR €3,200

WHAT  WOULD WE DO DIFFERENTLY?

We spent 1 month in Mexico, heading from Mexico City down to the Pacific coast before going east to the Caribbean. This 2 weeks in Mexico itinerary is the pick of our adventures. We would love to have included the cultural capital of Oaxaca and the indigenous peoples of San Cristobal de las Casas, but those areas are more challenging to visit and much less safe.

If the internal flights and driving around Palenque seems too much hard work, skip those few days, fly direct from Mexico City to Cancun and spent more time in Yucatan.

BOOKING AND TIPS FOR YOUR 2-WEEK MEXICO ITINERARY

FLIGHTS IN MEXICO

While 2 internal flights might seem a bit excessive on a 2-week trip, in our experience, this is the best way to make the most of your time in Mexico. It reduces hours of difficult driving and will allow you to see the best the country has to offer.

For this itinerary land at Aeropuerto International Benito Juárez, a short 15-minute taxi ride into the centre of Mexico City. On day 4, fly from Mexico City to Villahermosa, then on day 7, fly from Villahermosa to Cancún. Depart from Cancún a major international airport with flights to many destinations.

ACCOMMODATION IN MEXICO

The hotels we selected for this 2 weeks in Mexico itinerary were all mid-range, with clean comfortable accommodation. You won’t be staying in the types of places that will make your friends green with envy, but you also won’t be chasing away rats.

Select the hotels from under each day above, otherwise, you can search for your own accommodation and check prices here. It’s a good idea book in advance, especially in peak season.

ACCOMMODATION / BOOK YOUR STAY HERE

CAR HIRE IN MEXICO

Car hire in Mexico is not as cheap as at first it appears. When you book online you will see rates as low as US $5 a day, but most car companies require you to pay personal liability insurance (irrelevant of whether you have it as part of another travel insurance policy). This can cost US $20 a day pushing up the price considerably.

We highly recommend booking through a well-known car hire company. We used Avis who were one of the few that clearly explained everything you need to pay. As default, they usually provide unlimited mileage and limited theft protection, third-party liability and collision damage waiver up to an ‘excess’ of between US $1,000 to US $2,000. It does not however usually cover personal accident liability (read the small print).

Upon arrival, the car company will charge you the extra personal accident liability coverage, unless it was included online. It will also hold the ‘excess’ amount on your credit card (not debit card), so make sure you have enough to cover this.

In the end, expect to pay about US $30 to $40 a day for an ‘excess’ of US $1,000 – $2,000 and another US $10 a day to lower that excess to a few hundred US dollars. There will also be a charge for dropping off in a different location which is roughly US $1 for each kilometre between the pick-up destination and the drop-off destination.

Two cars are required for this itinerary. Again, while this may seem like a hassle, internal flights will significantly cut down the driving which in the end, will save you time. Hire a car at Villahermosa for 3 days (day 4-7 of this itinerary), and another one from Cancún Airport dropping off at Tulum 2 days later (days 7-9 of this itinerary). Although departing from Cancún, a car is not required in Tulum or Playa del Carmen.

GUIDEBOOKS & READING

We used the Lonely Planet guidebook for Mexico which contains helpful information about opening times, attractions and is generally good for restaurant recommendations.

Another great source for restaurants is Foursquare. Certainly much more reliable than Trip Advisor in searching out good food. Download the app before leaving.

WHERE NEXT?

This 2 week itinerary contains the highlights of our rewarding yet challenging 1 month Mexico road trip. You can read about the challenges in our driving in Mexico post and about the rewards in our top experiences post.

You can also peruse all our other Mexico articles, including an insight into the Aztec and Mayan ruins that pepper the country.

If you have questions please leave them in the comments section below – we always reply. But before you go any further why not follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and sign up to our monthly newsletter.

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All the tips, information and inspiration you need for an amazing 2 weeks in Mexico. #mexico

All the tips, information and inspiration you need for an amazing 2 weeks in Mexico. #mexico

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