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Luxury Mexico: Self-drive Yucatan haciendas and Caribbean coast

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The Yucatán peninsula  reveals a multi-layered history which you can explore by self-drive car hire while based at luxury countryside retreats and first class beach accommodation. Your car is pre-booked, your luxury accommodation reservations made in advance and maps provided. 

The peninsula is a low, flat pan of marsh-fringed land covered with low forest and jungle. The region was enriched during the Spanish colonial era during a boom in the production of sisal, and vast estates (haciendas) supported grand residences. These fell into disrepair after the boom but have been revived as first class hotel properties retaining the style and character of their origins.  

Based there, you’ll discover vestiges of the once supreme Maya civilisation. Sites replete with temples and pyramids festooned with sacred carvings were, once abandoned, swallowed up by a rapacious jungle but are now gradually being revealed. The best known sites, Chichén Itzá and Uxmal are easily accessible; smaller, less well-known sites are always close to minor roads and with your own car you can explore at will. 

You’ll also visit graceful Spanish colonial towns with their friendly Maya inhabitants. At your beach hotel base on the soft-sand Caribbean coast, the luxury Belmond Maroma resort, there is time to laze on the beach, practice water-sports or visit other sites and villages.

Holiday itinerary

Day 1

Transfer to your hotel in Cancún. Collect hire car.

Day 2

Drive to Mérida, continue to your countryside hacienda retreat.

Day 3

At leisure in the Mérida area.

Day 4

Drive to colonial Campeche via Puuc Mayan ruins including Uxmal.

Day 5

At leisure to explore the Campeche region.

Day 6

Drive to Mayan Chichén Itzá via colonial Izamal.

Day 7

Drive to the Mayan Riviera. Hand over hire car at first class beach retreat.

Day 8

At leisure on the Caribbean coast’s Mayan Riviera.

Day 9

At leisure on the Mayan Riviera.

Day 10

At leisure on the Mayan Riviera.

Day 11

Transfer to Cancún airport for international flight home.

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What our experts say

This self-drive holiday is a very economical way to enjoy the Caribbean coast in your own time, whilst staying in some of the most luxurious haciendas around. If you want style and character, coupled with luxury amenities and service, this is the holiday for you. With your own car you’ll be able to visit some of the lesser-known highlights of Mexico. Visit underwater sculptures, swim in cenotes or drive the Puuc Route with a picnic in tow and a good guide book; discover Mexico in style.

Sophie Barber

Sophie Barber

Travel Consultants

Places visited on this holiday

Luxury Mexico: Self-drive Yucatan haciendas and Caribbean coast

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Caribbean coast: Riviera Maya and Holbox
Tulum

On Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, the Caribbean Mayan Riviera refers to the stretch of uninterrupted pale golden sands running south from the purpose-built resort of Cancún to Tulum, home to the celebrated cliff-top Mayan ruins. The coastline is followed by a close-to-shore barrier reef rich in undersea marine life; offshore are leisure-destination islands such as Isla Mujeres and Cozumel. Small resorts and former fishing villages cater for visitors, notably the family-friendly Playa del Carmen. There is plenty to see and do on the Riviera Maya, including outdoor activities, marine parks and diving opportunities. Within easy reach are several ruined Mayan cities buried away inland in rainforest, including the grand pyramids of Cobá.

Isla Holbox is only about 75km from Cancún, but worlds away from the glitz of that burgeoning resort. If even super-chic Tulum is a bit too trendy for your liking you can head for Isla Holbox, a low flat new-agey island separated from the Mexican mainland on the tip of the Yucatan peninsula by a shallow azure lagoon which attracts migrating flamingos. With virtually no vehicles permitted on the island, the streets in the lazy village are made of sand, and you get around in golf buggies. There’s a virtually uninterrupted stretch of powder white beach on which to sunbathe, but there is scope for other activities: whale-shark viewing is some of the best in the world (Jun-Sep) and the island is popular for kite-surfing.  Because it has not been readily accessible, the island’s tourist infrastructure is in its infancy but new establishments are creating possibilities for yoga retreats and spas. The island is a good choice for everyone from romantic couples to families.  

When to go

It’s hot and fairly humid all year round, with a risk of tropical storms and hurricanes Sep-Nov.

Language

Spanish

Getting local currency

Mexican peso. Notes can be withdrawn from the ATMs in Cancún, Playa using a UK credit or debit card. You may have ask your bank to authorise withdrawals before you leave the UK, and amounts are limited to about £100. There are also banks and money exchanges (casas de cambio) here, and money exchanges in Tulum. Holbox has just one ATM, best not to rely on that.

Time difference

GMT -6 hours.  

Combines with

A visit to almost anywhere else in Mexico: the domestic flight network is comprehensive and roads are good.  Mexico City is less than 2hrs’ flying time away. Havana, Cuba, is also just 2hrs away from Cancún by air.

Getting there

There are direct flights from London to Cancún (10.5 hours) and routes via hubs in Europe and the USA. Holbox is a 2-2.5hr drive from Cancún to Chiquila followed by a 20 minute ferry ride. It's just 1-1.5hrs by the new toll motorway 305 from Playa del Carmen to Chiquila (1.5-2hrs from Tulum). 

Key events

Riviera Maya Jazz Festival: Mamitas beach, Playa del Carmen, late Nov annually.

Back to list of places visited
Yucatan Peninsula
El Castillo, Chichen Itza

The states of Campeche, Yucatán and Quintana Roo form the huge wedge of low-lying, forest-covered territory of Mexico’s south-east. It is here that vestiges of the Mayan civilisation loom out of the undergrowth at every turn. Sites replete with temples and pyramids festooned with sacred carvings were, once abandoned, swallowed up by a rapacious jungle but are now gradually being revealed. The best known sites, Chichén Itzá, Uxmal, Tulum are easily accessible and have been spruced up for visitors. There are lesser-known sites rising from an untouched natural setting including Edzná, a huge ceremonial centre featuring the 30m high Temple of the Five Storeys, and Calakmul, the biggest archaeological area in Mesoamerica with 7,000 buildings in the central zone. 

There are some pretty Spanish colonial towns too, the arched colonnades of Izamal and Mérida, a  bustling  place where colonial churches and mansions cram the grid of streets;  plazas host markets and impromptu musical and  theatrical performances. 

The Riviera Maya spans the peninsula’s soft-sand Caribbean coast with its resort hotels and fishing villages, while the coastal mangrove-draped marshes at Sian Ka’an host a biosphere reserve heaving with wildlife.


When to go

It’s hot and fairly humid all year round, with a risk of tropical storms and hurricanes Aug-Nov.

Language

Spanish

Currency

Mexican peso. Notes can be withdrawn from the ATMs in major towns throughout the peninsula using a UK credit or debit card. You may have to authorise with your bank before you leave homefirst, and withdrawals are limited to about £100. There are also banks and money exchanges (casas de cambio) here.

Time difference

GMT -6 hrs.

Combines with

A visit to almost anywhere else in Mexico: the domestic flight network is comprehensive and roads are good.  Mexico City is less than 2 hrs’ flying time away. Havana, Cuba, is also just 2 hrs away from Cancún

Key events

Carnival, many places on the peninsula, Feb-Mar annually, preceding Ash Wednesday and Lent. In Cozumel and Cancún the holiday has a festive atmosphere, with processions, street parties and parades.
International Gay festival, Cancún, May. A 5-day celebration with eating, drinking, mariachi music and beach parties.
Festival de las Aves de Yucatán, Mérida, Nov, annually. Bird-watching sessions, workshops, and exhibits. 
Riviera Maya Jazz Festival: Mamitas beach, Playa del Carmen, late Nov annually.

Getting there

There are direct flights from London to Cancún (10.5 hrs) and routes to Cancún and Mérida via hubs in Europe and the USA.

Speak to an expert Travel Consultant or send us your enquiry today.

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We would be delighted to create a truly personalised trip which perfectly matches your wishes and requirements.

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Luxury Mexico: Self-drive Yucatan haciendas and Caribbean coast

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