Mexico, our 6-day road trip in the Yucatán region

Having two statutory holidays for Christmas, we decided to escape from the Toronto’s winter and to go on a 6-day road trip in the Yucatán!

I really fell in love with Mexico and was delighted by the kindness of the Mexicans. Obviously, 6 days was too short to see everything, but it was enough to discover the Mexican culture, to live the experience of Christmas in Mexico and to discover the major points of interest of Yucatán.

Let’s discovering Mexico together !

The map of our 6-day road trip in the Yucatán:

Departure - Cancun

Departure- Cancun

Day 2 : Valladolid

Day 2 : Valladolid

Day 3 : Chichén Itzá

Day 3 : Chichén Itzá

Day 3: Izamal

Day 3: Izamal

Day 4 : Mérida

Day 4 : Mérida

Days 5 et 6 : Tulum

Jour 5 et 6 : Tulum

Day 6 : Playa del Carmen

Day 6 : Playa del Carmen

Our detailed 6-days road trip in the Yucatán

DAYS 1 and 2 : Valladolid et Ek’Balam 

CANCUN

Prior to our trip, Cancun had been described to us as a « Little America in Mexico » with resorts and American Dollars. Even though it sounds like the perfect spot for relaxing vacation, it’s not really our type of travel.
Therefore, we decided not to pass by Cancun. We rent our car directly from the airport and hit the road toward Valladolid.

After about 150 km, we arrived in Valladolid for 1-night and 1-day. We took the highway 180-D that cost us 18,5 CAN $ (276 Pesos /13,2 €). The driving and the landscape are monotonous and don’t make you saving a lot of time. Therefore, we decided use the secondary roads for the rest of our trip and that allowed us to discover small villages.

Valladolid, Mexico

Our accommodation at Valladolid was a big crush! We were greeted by Noël and its extraordinary kindness. He gave us really good advices to discover the city.

My advice: At Valladolid leave the car at the parking and go discover the city on foot! In about ten minutes from our hotel we reached the Plaza e Parque Francisco Canton which is the central square of the city. Around it can be found the Cathedral of San Servasio, other churches, and cafes and shops.

The next morning, we visited the Casa de los Venados, a house owned by an American couple passionate about art. I recommend you do it. It will give you a first taste of the Mexican Gothic art.  In 2000 they bought a ruined colonial house and made it now as a real place of exhibition. Every day at 10:00 am it’s possible to visit their home for only a few hours (there is only one visit per day). John, the owner came to greet us at the entrance and explained his project and his community engagement. Indeed, all the profits from the entrance fee and the donations are for to local charities.

Casa de los venados, Valladolid.

Casa de los venados, Valladolid.

WHERE TO SLEEP AT VALLADOLID?

Our best accommodation of the trip: B&B Valladolid Hotel Quinta Marciala at 41$ CAD by night/ 30€

Les + : The extreme kindness of the hosts. The colonial decoration and the patio with its swimming pool. The breakfast is included and shared with other travelers.

WHERE TO EAT AT VALLADOLID?

Our best restaurant of Valladolid: Restaurant Conato Calle 40 226, San Juan

Les + : The incredible decoration (even more magical by night), the atmosphere, and the fact that they have live music.

CENOTE ZACI

After the visit of the Casa de los venado, we went to refresh in the Cenote Zaci which is located at less than 10 minutes walking from the city center. This Cenote near to Valladolid is the perfect place for escaping from the heat! I had read that it could be crowded by tourists, but that wasn’t the case when we went. We spent some time there only enjoying its unique decor and atmosphere.

The entrance price is about 2 CAN $ per person (30 pesos / 1€).

Cenote Zaci, Valladolid.

Cenote Zaci, Valladolid.

CENOTE SAMULA

We made a stop at the Cenote Samula located 3 miles away from Valladolid.

The site gives you access actually to two Cenotes: X Keken and Samula. Since we didn’t have enough time, we only did the cenote Samula. The atmosphere was def different from the other Cenotes we did in Mexico. The experience was like entering in a wet and dark cave with stalactites. I personally prefer opened or semi-opened cenotes than the closed cenotes, but the cenote Samula has its own character that worth the visit!

The entrance fee cost us $5,5 CAD per person (80 pesos / 3.5 €)

Cenote Samula Valladolid.

EK’BALAM

Ek ‘Balam is a Mayan archaeological site located 18 miles up to the north of Valladolid. The site is less famous than the Chichén Itzá, so you won’t see as much tourists. The pyramids are in the middle of the jungle and you can even climb the steps of the Acropolis (the highest pyramid of the site of about 101 feet) while it’s forbidden at Chichén Itzá.

With a little bit of effort, you will then get rewarded by the wonderful views on jungle and on the other ruins.

My biggest regret though, was not having taken a guide. There are just a few explanations on the site and I am sure I missed a lot of interesting stories.

The entrance fee of Ek’Balam is  cost us $11,5 CAD per person (170 pesos / 7,5€)

Ek’ Balam, Mexico

DAY 4 : Mérida 

Mérida is the capital of the Yucatán. We went there for Christmas and it greatly influenced our opinion of the city. Indeed, the Mexicans being very religious, the Christmas eve was very calm in the city. The next day, December 25, time had stopped in the city. Almost all stores were closed, so we decided to quickly hit the road for a Cenote but we would love to come back one day to discover the normal life of the city!

DAY 3 : Chichén Itzá and Izamal 

If you’re preparing your next trip to Yucatán, then I don’t need to introduce you Chichén Itzá, right? Classified as a UNESCO heritage since 1988, this archaeological site is in an ancient Mayan city. Chichen Itza has since been elected as one of the seven new wonders of the world. Unsurprisingly, this is one of the most visited historical sites in the Yucatán region. If you want to visit it, let me give you an advice: wake up early! Many tourists’ buses come every day filled with tourists from Cancun. The trick is to arrive before them! The site opens at 8am and I advise you to arrive at least at 7:30 am, but don’t be surprised to see already a line.

About us, even if Chichén Itzá was located only at 40 minutes from Valladolid, we saved ourselves a little of stress (and a little bit of sleep) by sleeping immediately next to the archaeological site.

Take a guide to visit Chichén Itzá?

I usually prefer visiting independently, but for once, we decided to take a guide to visit Chichén Itzá, and we don’t regret!  To visit an archaeological site without explanations is the risk of missing out on many stories! We learned it the hard way the day before at Ek’ Balam where we decided to visit without a guide and ended up understanding only half of it.

So directly at the entrance, we decided to join a group for a semi-private guided tour at about $33 CAD (22 €) for 2 hours of visit.

Our guide, a Maya descendant, was able to explain the mysteries of this place in a playful and captivating way. Of course, the visit of Chichén Itzá without a guide remains interesting, but if you have the budget, don’t hesitate to pay for additional explanations!

The entrance to Chichen Itza cost us $11 CAD per person (167 pesos / 7,5 €)

Chichén Itzá, Mexico

CENOTE IK KIL

This Cenote is located not far from Chichén Itzá. Frankly a treasure!  It’s a very pretty open sky cenote with large lianas. But the cons …… crowded! Since we were only one day at Chichén Itzá, our first choice was to go early on the archeological site. So, when we went to the Cenote later in the morning, it was already too late. Which cruelly ruins the experience. If you spend 2 days there, then I recommend you visit the Cenote the next day and to come early. Trust me, your experience will be much better! 🙂

The entrance cost us $5 CAD per person (70 pesos / 3 €)

Cenote Ik Kil, Chichén Itzá, Mexico

IZAMAL, THE YELLOW COUP DE COEUR
Located on the secondary road of Chichén Itzà, this pretty little colonial town is at 56 miles from Valladolid and at 43 miles from Merida. Its beauty comes from all these houses which are painted in yellow-ocher. That what gave Izamal the nickname of « ciudad amarilla » – « Yellow City ». It was impossible for me not to stop there, and I don’t regret it. After driving a good hour from Chichén Itzà, we arrived in this yellow world where the time seems to have stopped. The stifling heat gave a special atmosphere to the city: only few people in the streets, and almost no tourists. One of Izamal’s main attractions is the San Antonio de Padua Convent, which is well worth a visit.

For me, we come to Izamal for the pleasure of « a colorful break ». It’s a perfect location for a few hours break. Slow down the race, settle down to have a coffee on the Itzamna square, watch the carriages pass, walk in the colorful alleys and go have a lunch at the beautiful Kinich El Sabor!

Izamal, Mexico

WHERE TO SLEEP AT CHICHÉN ITZÁ ?

If, like us, you are looking for the convenience of being close to the temple, then you can sleep for about $56 CAD (37 €) at the hotel Dolores Alba Chichen at Km 122 Carretera.

Les pros:  The immediate proximity to the Cenote Ik Kil and to Chichén Itzà, and the swimming pool.

Les cons: A lack of charm and the immediate proximity to the road

WHERE TO EAT AT IZAMAL ?

Favorite restaurant: Kinich El Sabor Calle 27 No.A large renovated house that can accommodate up to 150 people and which showcases Yucatec cuisine

Les pros: The lovely setting, its interior garden, incredible decoration, the cooks that prepare the Tortilla cakes on site.

DAYS 5 and 6  : Tulum and Akumal

TULUM – BEACH

We wanted to finish our trip with nice beaches. In Tulum there are 3 places: the archaeological site, the city and the beach. Tulum beach is amazing with its turquoise waters and white sand beaches. The decor is certainly idyllic, but there are more tourists than locals and the American dollar is accepted almost everywhere, so we felt a little lack of authenticity.

However, it’s true that Tulum Beach has its own bohemian style than Playa del Carmen doesn’t have. So, for a beach and relaxation destination, I would better recommend Tulum than Playa del Carmen or Cancun.

Tulum Beach, Mexico

TULUM – LES RUINES MAYA

The ruins are located at the top of the cliffs, and the archaeological site overlooks the turquoise sea. It is a large park with temples, altars, and tombs. Knowing that Tulum is very touristy, it’s not surprising that the ruins can become fast crowded, even very early in the morning. A tip that repeats itself but come early to enjoy the beauty of this place. There is even a guided tour to see the sunrise at 6am.

L’entrée coûte 3,5€ (70 pesos / 4,7 CAN$)

TULUM – CITY

Tulum City doesn’t have a real charm, but you can go out in several bars and restaurants.

CENOTE AZUL

The Cenote Azul is located half an hour from Tulum and is on the way to Playa del Carmen, so there is no excuse for not stopping there! This cenote is totally open. We were almost the only ones when we went there. Its crystal-clear water and its vegetation made us feel as we were in haven! Unfortunately, it wasn’t a sunny day for us, but if you’re luckier than us, I’m sure the colors will be even more beautiful!

The entrance cost us $7 CAD per person (100 pesos / 5€ ).

Cenote Azul, Mexique

CENOTES DOS OJOS

Not far from the Cenote Azul, I recommend you go to the Cenotes Dos Ojos. As its name suggests, there are two cenotes on the site for about $12 CAD (200 pesos / 8€) entry. It is even possible to dive under the cave with oxygen bottles and guide. I only did snorkeling, but I def recommend you check out this Cenote!

Cenote Dos Ojos, Mexique

AKUMAL AND THE TURTLES

Still in the direction of Playa Del Carmen there is the bay of Akumal, a place well-known for their turtles. From the parking (which costs about $3 CAD (50 pesos / 2 €) we will offer you excursions, but don’t rush and go directly to the beaches. There you can rent a mask / snorkel and a vest for $20 CAD (300 pesos / 13 €) The vests are mandatory if you want to go outside of the swimming area.

The night before our visit was rainy, so the water was a bit cloudier than usual, but I still succeed to see 3 turtles 🙂!

PLAYA DEL CARMEN

Playa del Carmen, Mexique

Our 6-day road-trip in Yucatán ends with a visit to Playa Del Carmen in order to eat our last lunch before taking our flight. The little we have seen of the city has confirmed the spirit of a « seaside resort » with a lot of tourists. Indeed, Playa del Carmen is the perfect spot for those who want to party, go shopping and sunbathe on the beach. For us, we were happy to make only a short stop there.

WHERE TO SLEEP AT TULUM ?

Hotel Tulum City : Mango Tulum Hôtel Calle 61 No. 578, for about $49 CAD/night for 2 people (32 € / night)

Les pros: A very nice and chatty Italian host, the indoor garden with pool, the cleanliness of the rooms and the ratio price/quality.

Les cons: Far from the beaches, so need to have a vehicle.

This nice little road trip was full of discoveries! I hope it will have made you want to go to Mexico to visit the Yucatan region!  You will meet an adorable and welcoming Mexican people, and a region rich in history.

If you are convinced by this destination and wish now to have an idea of which budget is needed, have a look at my article Budget Mexique : 6 jours dans le Yucatán

Have a nice trip !

Welcome to my travel and budgets blog 🙂

My name is Cyrielle, and I created 6sous-to-Travel to share with you my passion for travel, but also to help you prepare your next vacation by sharing my detailed budgets by destination.

Expatriate in Canada, in Toronto, since 2015, I will give you the budgets in three currencies: The local currency, the Canadian Dollar and the Euro … just that!

Never without my SLR Pentax K-50, I share on social networks my photos of trips, come and don’t be shy to follow!

The most beautiful trip is the one we have not done yet. Loick Peyron

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