Help with 17 days Mexico itinerary!

Old Sep 21st, 2022, 11:45 AM
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Help with 17 days Mexico itinerary!

Folks, I really need your help in planning our Mexico trip at the end of January 2023. We are two couples of friends and it's our first time in Central or Latin America. We will arrive in Mexico city and 17 days later will depart from Cancun. We were thinking of spending the first 5 days in Mexico city, and the last 3 days in some beach town near Cancun. We tend to be more budget travelers. We prefer explore culture, traditions, get to know real people of the country, rather than expat or touristy luxury places. We would like to see small colonial towns, traditional craft making (ceramics, textiles, etc), traditional villages, bazars, some ruins (that shouldn't be missed), music events, art museums. We don't want any long bus trips (more than 4 hours), would rather prefer local airlines. We understand that it's a vast country that is impossible to see in 17 days, but hope for something that feels adventurous but is also fairly accessible, while also introducing you to the incredible diversity of the country. Your ideas/suggestions on the following would be highly appreciated:
1. We plan to spend first 5 days in Mexico city. Is it enough to see all the major museums and places and may be some day trips? Are there any day trips that shouldn't be missed?
2. We will depart from Cancun. We would like to spend the last three days relaxing in some beach town. We don't like luxury resort places with big hotels and water parks, but would rather go to a small beach town with small boutique guesthouses and places to stroll and see something else since we are not into spending the whole day sunbathing on the beach. Good snorkeling would be a definite plus. Any suggestions on the places?
3. In between Mexico city and Cancun what are the places that shouldn't be missed? We would prefer the authentic small towns with the mixture of traditional life, crafts, ruins, music. Preferably if we can travel between the places by local buses or local airlines (if the ride is more than 4-5 hours). Reading through the forum threads I've seen Puebla, Oaxaca, San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Cuernavaca, Merida, Campeche. I understand that we won't be able to cover all of them, but which are the must see and don't require too much time travelling. And how many days/nights should be spent in each.
4. Which of the ruins are the most significant, well preserved, well-accessible and not-to-be-missable?
5. We are a creative bunch (with two artists, ceramist and musician among us) and love to explore traditional crafts and arts. What are the places to see the art of talavera (pottery) and traditional textile making in Mexico with the possibility of taking the master-class?

We are really grateful for your ideas and suggestions!
Safe travels, fun experiences and best wishes,

gyandevi is offline  
Old Sep 22nd, 2022, 06:11 AM
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Regarding ending your trip in Cancun - given your preferences, Cancun proper is definitely not for you. You might want to do some research on Puerto Morelos, which is only about 20 minutes away from Cancun but I think it would be closer to what you are looking for.
tom42 is offline  
Old Sep 22nd, 2022, 06:15 AM
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Given your criteria and direction of your potential itinerary, I'd say you can for sure eliminate Guanajuato & San Miguel de Allende. Wrong direction and San Miguel is too boutiquey and has plenty of expats. And some of your criteria is mutually exclusive. In that art museums, music events and such tend to be in the more touristy areas. BTW, I live just outside of San Miguel. Oaxaca is good for textiles and ceramics, but it is plenty touristy with its share of snowbird expats too. Although I love the city. And Monte Alban is close to town. But it's not a small colonial town, nor are there really any nearby. And the craft villages in the area are quite frankly kinda dumpy. Cuernavaca is probably missable too. It's just not a terribly attractive colonial city compared to some others. IMO.
My suggestion would be keep your CDMX 5 days (maybe 6 or 7 or 8 if you include a day trip). For sure the ruins of Teotihuacan & the Templo Mayor. In addition to whatever museums trip your trigger. Day trips could include either Taxco (colonial silver mining town) or Mineral Del Monte (another colonial mining town). Monte has 2 other nearby small colonial towns, Mineral Del Chico & Huasca De Ocampo.
Then, I'd suggest at least a couple of nights in Puebla for your Talavera fix. I don't know about a master class; that sounds like more than you could expect to fit in. Nearby Cholula has, according to some, the largest pyramid by volume in the world. Although it's partially covered by dirt.
Then bus to Xalapa, Veracruz. Xalapa has the best archeological museum in the country outside of CDMX. It's smaller than the one in CDMX, which would save some time over seeing the latter, which for some, takes 2 full days. Xalapa also has the Pinacoteca Diego Rivera, an art gallery/museum featuring his works. Very near by taxi are 2 small, charming colonial towns, Coatepec & Xico. Well preserved and not touristy at all. In the center of Veracruz's coffee country. There is a nice waterfall near Xico.
Then on to Heroica Veracruz (Veracruz City). Veracruz has a culture entirely distinct from the rest of the country. There's often live music in the Zócalo where locals enjoy dancing. You'll often see Son Jarocho dance exhibits in the Zócalo as well. A very good aquarium. The fort of San Juan Ulúa is interesting and has lots of history. Scenes from the movie Romancing The Stone were filmed there as well as elsewhere in Veracruz. Pretty much everything that made Mexico what it is today came through the area. So much history. Nearby (an hour?) is the well preserved, albeit minor, archeological site of Zempoala. The 2 classic cafes, La Parroquia & Gran Cafe Del Portal are must eat places for experiencing the local vibe. For budget travelers, Veracruz state is hard to beat. And you'll likely see few, if any, foreign tourists. How's your Spanish?
Then, fly to either Merida or Cancun. Either Volaris or Aeromexico. Volaris is budget, but doesn't depart every day. I've not been to Merida, so I won't comment on the city. Other than to say that the Yucatan has lots of ruins. But I have been to Isla Holbox & Isla Mujeres, near Cancun, both of which might do for your 3 beach days. Isla Mujeres has some snorkeling, either at the reef on the south end of the island, or with a day trip to Isla Contoy (bird island), an uninhabited nature preserve. Some of the beach areas along the Riviera Maya, including at times Holbox, have had problems with sargassum. So far, not the case with Isla Mujeres. Anyway, that's what I'd suggest given your criteria of wanting adventurous, tradition, culture, knowing the people, not touristy etc.
If you want the more conventional tourist trail, then CDMX, Puebla, Oaxaca & Cancun probably better fits your bill.
baldone is offline  
Old Sep 22nd, 2022, 06:45 AM
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While baldone is correct that Oaxaca is quite touristy and overrun by expats, the craft villages do offer various workshops on weaving. I attended a demonstration at one which was quite interesting. I see from a quick google search that there are many more in depth programs, though some run several days. Aside from the classes Teotitlan del Valle is rather nondescript, so staying in Oaxaca would be preferred, tourists or no. Day trips to Monte Alban and Mitla recommended.

Near Merida the ruins of Uxmal and the Puuc cities are not to be missed. They are much less visited than say Chichen Itza but are worth the detour. You may have the Puuc sites all to yourselves.

On your visit to Teotihuacan do not miss the citadel with its stunning temple of Quetzalcoatl. Try also to get to the section known as Tepantitla to see the murals.

In Mexico City the Templo Mayor and its museum will make for an interesting first afternoon stop.

Baldone makes me want to go to Veracruz! Can't help with beach towns. I did stay in Playa del Carmen years ago but did not like the atmosphere. However, we did take a very good snorkeling trip while there.
Fra_Diavolo is offline  
Old Sep 22nd, 2022, 10:56 AM
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In the Riviera Maya, there are only a few beaches with good snorkeling from the beach and that can be easily reached. First would be Akumal, the ADO bus does not stop there so you would have to take a second class Mayab bus (no toilets and no online schedules) or a taxi from someplace like Playa del Carmen or Tulum, or you can take a taxi.
There is also Puerto Morelos with good snorkeling from the reef close to shore. A 2 stop boat ride lasting a couple of hours runs about $25pp plus tip. There is some snorkeling from the beach in front of Ojo de Agua hotel between the buoys, it can be tricky elsewhere due to lots of boat traffic. ADO (except the one from the airport) stops on the Highway and you take a taxi into town.
Lastly is Cozumel (less plagued by seasonal sargassum) but the snorkeling tends to be "drift snorkeling" since the currents are stronger. You get to Cozumel via ferry from Playa del Carmen and get around via taxis or rental cars.
I've been to Isla Mujeres at least 7 times and most snorkeling there is not that good although you can go out on a small boat to snorkel a few spots, or snorkel near Mia Reef hotel and Garrafon de Castillo.
jamie99 is offline  
Old Sep 22nd, 2022, 03:24 PM
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You can take a Talavera class in Puebla, or outside town at

From Puebla you should visit Santa María de Tonantzintla.. As well the colors that the churches are painted in Puebla are inspiring. I did not find Puebla too hectic for a large city and if "feels" far less "gringo-fied" than Oaxaca.

Checking in from Puebla

I did enjoy visiting Uxmal and that is relatively easy to reach from Merida.Probably most effective to look into taking a private tour (or renting a car!) and visiting a few of the other Ruta Puuc ruins. Also am not sure how much of the site is actually open at present. The inexpensive Hotel Uxmal Resort Maya was a short taxi ride from the ruins (one could also walk). There was a nice pool and one of the better breakfast buffets. It would be worth staying at least a night there (to see the evening sound and light show). Also not far from Merida is the fishing village of Celestun, nice beaches, and in January the flamingos would be present at the Celestun Biosphere Reserve. Is it too late to switch out from a Cancun departure to Merida instead?.

If you stick with Cancun, one of the snorkeling spots is Cozumel.

Last edited by mlgb; Sep 22nd, 2022 at 03:50 PM.
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Old Sep 25th, 2022, 04:41 PM
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Puebla for the city itself and Cholula, Oaxaca for the crafts from its surrounding villages and Monte Alban and Mitla
Michael is offline  
Old Sep 25th, 2022, 07:53 PM
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A big second vote for Puebla. I only had 2 nights but would have loved a 3rd. I loved touring the Uriarte talavera factory and all of the beautiful churches. The Capilla del Rosario was stunning. And all of the wrought iron balconied buildings in the Centro reminded me a bit of Madrid. One of my favorite Mexican cities I have visited thus far.
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Old Oct 2nd, 2022, 12:47 AM
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Thank you so much!
gyandevi is offline  
Old Oct 2nd, 2022, 05:36 AM
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Thank you so much! You are a wealth of information and ideas. I'll look into places and if I have some questions, I'll get back to you, if it's ok.
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Old Oct 2nd, 2022, 05:38 AM
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Invaluable! Exactly what we need!
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