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Value Mexico: Mayan Yucatan and coast

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This holiday of just over a week takes you to the relatively flat, tropical Yucatán Peninsula in the sunny south east coast of the country. Inland, among the jungles, scrub and farmland, sitting alongside charming Spanish colonial towns and villages, is Chichén Itzá, the greatest archaeological achievement of the Mayan Empire.

You’ll explore the ruins on a guided tour. You’ll also discover Mérida, the Yucatán’s colonial capital infused with Mayan culture, and visit historic haciendas (country estates) before heading to the beach for a couple of days relaxing or indulging in water sports or the lively nightlife at family-friendly Playa del Carmen, where there’s a huge range of excursions on offer from visits to other Mayan sites to scuba-diving.

Holiday itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in Cancún, Mexico, transfer to hotel at the resort.

Day 2

Transfer to Chichén Itzá, ruined Mayan city.

Day 3

Re-visit Chichén Itzá, move on to Mérida.

Day 4

Day trip to visit historic Yucatán haciendas and swim in cenotes.

Day 5

Guided tour of Mérida.

Day 6

Transfer to Playa del Carmen on the Mayan Riviera.

Day 7

At leisure on the Caribbean coast.

Day 8

Transfer to Cancún airport for your international flight.

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What our experts say

With direct flights from London to Cancún and Mexico City, accessibility to this diverse country is not a problem, and with this extremely good value holiday, affordability shouldn’t be either. This trip has been designed to cover the main highlights of the Yucatán, in just over a week. You’ll discover the tropical Yucatán Peninsula and visit one of the top Mayan sites, Chichén Itza, absorb the colonial charm of Mérida and finish up on the lively beach resort of Playa del Carmen for a spot of scuba diving – this whistle-stop tour of Mexico will give you a taste of its charm and believe me, you’ll be back for more.

Mary Anne

Mary Anne Nelson

Travel Consultants

Places visited on this holiday

Value Mexico: Mayan Yucatan and 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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Our specialists have been expertly crafting award-winning tailor-made holidays to Latin America for over 37 years.
We would be delighted to create a truly personalised trip which perfectly matches your wishes and requirements.

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