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aisakow1 Jan 26th, 2018 01:31 PM

One Month Itinerary from Mexico City to Cozumel - Your Input, Please!
Hi guys,

My job has brought me to Leon, Mexicom and I’ve decided to take advantage of the fact that I am here already to do a month-long trip to explore the country. I would really appreciate some input on my itinerary. I’m starting in Mexico City, winding my way down the Yucatan to finish in Cozumel, where I plan to do my Scuba certification and spend a week diving.
The first two and a half weeks are pretty jam-packed, since I’m trying to get as many sites in while still leaving enough time to dive around Cozumel.

I’ll do the TL;DR first, since my itinerary is pretty detailed, though if you have a bit more patience, I’d be very happy if you could give me your thoughts.

2 Nights in Mexico City
2 Nights in Oaxaca
Overnight Bus to San Cristobal
3 Nights in San Cristobal
4 Nights in Palenque (including night in Laconja)
1 Night in Campeche
3 Nights in Merida
1 Night in Tulum
1 Night in Playa del Carmen
8 Nights in Cozumel

I’m planning on taking regular buses between cities (with the exception of a tourbus from San Cristobal to Palenque, since that seems like the best way to pass through the Agua Azul and Misol-Ha waterfalls), and sleeping at hostels to save money. Any suggestions for alternative cost-effective lodging or travel would be appreciated.

OK, now to the detailed itinerary… thanks in advance for your patience!

2/7 - Evening arrival to Mexico City (Airplane from Leon)
2/8 - Day trip to Tehotihuacan ruins
2/9 - Bus to Oaxaca (6-7 hours)
2/10 - Day in Oxaca
2/11 - Day in Oxaca, Overnight bus to San Cristobal (11-12 hours)
2/12 - Arrival to San Cristobal, afternoon Horseback tour of San Juan Chamula (and Zinacuntan if time permits)
2/13 - Day trip to El Chiflon waterfall and Lago Montenegro
2/14 - Day trip to Cañon Sumidero
2/15 - Visit Agua Azul and Misol-Ha waterfalls, finishing in Palenque (not the ruins)
2/16- Two-day tour through Bonampak and Yaxchilan ruins, with overnight in Laconja Village
2/17 - Continue two-day tour, return to Palenque, sleep in El Panchan
2/18 - Visit Palenque ruins, sleep in El Panchan
2/19 - Early bus to Campeche (5.5 hours)
2/20 - Visit Edza ruins, bus to Merida (2.5 hours)
2/21 - Day trip to Mayapan
2/22 - Day trip through Ruta Puuc
2/23 - Early bus to Tulum (4 hours), visit Tulum ruins
2/24 - Visit Coba ruins, bus to Playa del Carmen (1 Hour) for the night
2/25 - Early ferry to Cozumel, begin Scuba certification!
2/26-3/4 - Scuba certification and dives, and other island activities :-D
3/5 - Flight from Cancun to Mexico City, and from there… fly back home!

I know I’m not spending nearly as much time in Mexico City and Oaxaca as I should, but my main appeals this trip are nature and ruins (and of course Scuba), so some cuts had to be made.
I’m also wondering if I might get a bit "Ruined out" towards the end, since I’m visiting 7 ruins, plus Ruta Puuc, in 9 days. The truth is I find Mayan culture to be fascinating, and (at least in theory) have no problem spending a day in these ruins. I have books and would love to spend some quality time reading and journaling in some cool spots.

I’ve opted to skip Chichen Itza since it reeks of tourists and overpopulation, plus you can’t climb most of the buildings (and what’s the fun in that?). What do you guys think? I could go see Chichen Itza instead of the Mayapan, Tulum or Coba ruins, or maybe catch it for a few hours on my way from Merida to Tulum, but I’m not sure if it’s worth it (especially since I’m already seeing so many other ruins). I would also love to hit up some Cenotes, but not entirely sure where is the best place (maybe during my time in Cozumel, between dives?)

The night in Playa del Carmen is on a Saturday, so I thought it might be nice to have a little contact with civilization (and maybe a nice party) before heading to Cozumel… but I could also spend that night in Tulum as well.

Phew! If you stuck with me until now… thanks so much! Any input would be greatly appreciated, as well as any suggestions for dive companies or sites. I think I want to do my Open Water certification with the Cozumel Dive school (relatively well-priced, and good reviews), though any other suggestions would be great!

Thanks so much!

baldone Jan 26th, 2018 03:44 PM

Since you're going to be living in Mexico (you don't say how long) I think I'd consider skipping Mexico City, (you could always make it a long weekend from Leon in the future, since you're only allotting a a day and a half anyway) at least for this trip, and go straight to Oaxaca and add more days there. And maybe cut back a day in Palenque. Sumidero, to me, was kind of a let down. Too much garbage.
Also, check some of Mexico's discount carriers such as Volaris, Aeromar and Interjet. At times their special fares compete well with bus fares.

aisakow1 Jan 26th, 2018 03:51 PM

Originally Posted by baldone (Post 16660944)
Since you're going to be living in Mexico (you don't say how long) I think I'd consider skipping Mexico City, (you could always make it a long weekend from Leon in the future, since you're only allotting a a day and a half anyway) at least for this trip, and go straight to Oaxaca and add more days there. And maybe cut back a day in Palenque. Sumidero, to me, was kind of a let down. Too much garbage.
Also, check some of Mexico's discount carriers such as Volaris, Aeromar and Interjet. At times their special fares compete well with bus fares.

Ah, I think my post may have been unclear... I'm just in león for the month (and travelling after) so this is my only opportunity in the foreseeable future to travel Mexico. I already have the flight to Mexico City through my company, which is why I was using it as a starting point. But perhaps you're right about skipping D.F. and going straight to Oaxaca. I will admit I was excited about visiting Tehotuiacan. Do you think it's worth it to skip it to add another day in Oaxaca? I was already thinking of cutting a day from Palenque to add to Oaxaca as well, so that might give me some nice extra time in the area.

baldone Jan 26th, 2018 07:10 PM

Tough call, to eliminate Teotihuacan, especially if you enjoy ruins, and will only be here a relatively short time. Many consider it one of, if not the most, important site in Mexico. As such, it will be busy, especially on the weekends, but not with tour group crowds like Chichen Itza. I enjoy ruins, to an extent, but I live here and can go any time. In fact, we just visited Teotihuacan 2 weeks ago (on a Monday, and it was not very busy) for the first time after 7 years. If you can fit it in, then you should go. Great way to kick off your trip. Personally, I think Oaxaca is the premier destination in all of colonial Mexico, so I'm biased in that regard (just returned from 10 days), but if you can fit in an extra day at the expense of somewhere else, that'd be the place to do it.

kja Jan 26th, 2018 07:44 PM

Should be a great trip!

I love that you are giving San Cristobal de las Casas 3 nights, but from your detailed itinerary, it isn’t clear to me whether you have sufficient time for the town itself. Do give that some thought! Same with Campeche and Merida. Your plan could work; I’m just flagging this issue for your consideration, as it depends entirely on the things you want to see and experience in the towns themselves.

I’m glad that I took a tour that covered both San Juan Chamula and Zinacuntan – they are different! I’m sure a horseback tour would be fascinating -- if you don’t need to worry about saddle sores ;) -- but you might want to consider going by vehicle if that’s what it takes to see both towns.

I can’t say that I regret seeing the Canon Sumidero – after all, I had wanted to see it. I can say that I was not enthralled and think I would have planned my time differently if I knew what I knew after visiting.

DO consider making time for the museum at Palenque – it’s small, but exquisite! If it helps you plan, I wouldn’t have been able to see the site AND the museum on the same day … I found a full day (from opening to closing) just barely sufficient for the site. YMMV.

I am VERY glad that I allocated 2 nights for the Ruta Puuc. One day may work for you, and a one-day tour might be your best option unless you rent a car just for that leg of your trip.

IMO, part of Merida’s charm lies in its weekend festivities, but if I’m reading correctly, you won’t be there over a weekend. I trust you’ve taken that into account?

I didn’t get “ruined out” on my trip, with at least as many in a short time, but then I find it fascinating to try to see the differences between various ruins, and I find it easiest to do when seeing multiple ruins in a short time.

As for Chichen Itza, I think it’s a very personal choice. I didn’t see Mayapan or Coba, and so can’t compare. I thought the Tulum ruins rather crude in comparison to those of Chichen Itza, but part of that is, I think, because of differences in date and style, and crude or not, there are some unique features to the ruins in Tulum that I’m glad I saw. Not to mention that the setting is truly stunning. But there are also some unique and stunning aspects to Chichen Itza! Although I’m sure I would have enjoyed Coba, I skipped it in part because, like you, I was looking for what to cut, and people convinced me that it would be somewhat similar to Palenque; I can’t say whether there’s any truth to that.

One other factor in favor of Chichen Itza: Valladolid. I loved that little city! And two of the Yucatan’s most beautiful cenotes – the Cenotes Dzitnup – are just outside, a short collectivo ride away. Something else to consider… Of course, you could visit there even if you don’t go to Chichen Itza….

I trust you are traveling with just a backpack, or have figured out what you will do with your belongings on your stop-en-route visits?

Hope this response helps!

aisakow1 Jan 27th, 2018 10:54 PM

Thanks baldone and kja :-)

From what you said I think I won't skip Tehotuiacan, it sounds like it will be worth it for me. I will however skip Sumidero, and I can use that day to explore San Cristóbal itself (you're absolutely right, I haven't really allocated much time to see the cities themselves). I'm much more interested in seeing ruins than cities, but it's possible I will feel different when I am there...

I looked into it and it seems like there are horseback tours that hit both Juan Chamula and Zinacuntan (plus honestly I love horseback riding!), so hopefully I will be able to do that.

I don't think I can devote more than one day to Palenque (though of course I may change my mind once I'm there) but I will definitely check out the museum, thanks for the tip. I will say it's definitely hard to budget time for many places because there are so many different opinions... I've read about people saying two or three hours is plenty (or even people saying Palenque is boring), or people like you saying I need two days. I guess I will only see when I get there!

I'm going by bus everywhere, so sadly I'll probably be stuck doing a day trip through Ruta Puuc, but perhaps if I find a decent inexpensive tour I will do otherwise.

I wanted to stay in Merida over the weekend but the timing just didn't quite work out (since I really want to make sure I have enough time to dive). After what you've said I'm considering skipping Tulum altogether and going straight to Playa Del Carmen or Cozumel from Merida, in which case I could allocate those extra two days to Oaxaca, which would give me a Saturday in Mérida... What do you think?

And thanks for the suggestionabout Valladolid and the cenotes! Maybe I should rearrange my trip to pass through there.

I am indeed travelling with a backpack :-)

kja Jan 27th, 2018 11:32 PM

As long as you know your priorities, you should be fine with one day for the ruins and museum at Palenque. The museum is small, so if you can fit it in, an hour or so should suffice, but it's hours aren't fully aligned with the site hours (or at least they weren't when I was there, which made it tricky. (And just to clarify -- it didn't think Palenque took 2 days; I thought it took just over one day.)

If you are aiming for a day tour of Uxmal and the Ruta Puuc -- and I can see why you would -- then my advice would be to consider the options carefully to make sure the tour you choose maximizes your chance to see what you want to see. FWIW, if going with a tour, a day probably makes sense -- part of the delight I experienced in some of the smaller sites was being there alone, which of course would not be the case if you are there with a tour. ;) I think most tours (rightfully) allocate the majority of time to Uxmal; a stop at Codz Poop is definitely worthwhile; the rest of the sites along the Ruta Puuc are well worth seeing, but not of the same caliber, IMO, particularly if trooping through quickly and with a group.

After I posted yesterday, I realized that I should, perhaps, comment on Edzna: I'm glad I saw it, but it was easily the least satisfying of the more-than-a-dozen Mayan ruins I saw on my trip. In contrast, the two small museums of Mayan artifacts in Campeche held some exquisite treasures, and the town itself was, IMO, quite interesting.

And I also failed to note that I think you are skipping Ek' Balam? Magnificent! It's frieze is among the most unusual and amazing remnants of Mayan architecture I was privileged to see.

Merida is fun on a weekend -- if you enjoy markets, traditional dances, street performances, etc. Perhaps I'm mistaken, but I'm not getting the sense that those are high priorities for you, and if they aren't, then I'm not sure that re-arranging your itinerary to make time for a Saturday in Merida makes sense. (But do consider making time -- 1.5 or better 2 hours -- for the excellent collection of Mayan artifacts at the museum in Merida.) Given what you've said of your priorities, finding time for a day in Valladolid (with Ek' Balam and the Cenotes Dzitnup) probably makes much more sense than re-adjusting your schedule to fit in a day of Merida's festivities -- but of course, I could be misreading your interests.

I'm sure you've noticed that I've mentioned several archeological museums -- those in Merida, Palenque, and Campeche -- even though I don't think you've mentioned them. If you are interested in the Mayan world, I would encourage you to make at least a little time for them. I've had the privilege of seeing several great collections of pre-Columbian artifacts elsewhere, and was still gobsmacked by what I saw in these museums, as the hold some very rare artifacts that gave me a whole different perspective on what the ruins I'd seen must have been like. JMO.

aisakow1 Jan 28th, 2018 09:43 PM

I had kind of overlooked the museums in my original planning, so thank you for reminding me! I'll be sure to check out the museums in Mérida Palenque and Campeche (especially since I think I may skip Edzna)...

And you're right about Valladolid! I should totally find a day for Ek Balan and the Dzitnup Cenote, it seems more worthwhile than seeing Merida on a weekend.

What do you think about skipping Tulum altogether? Is there something in the Tulum or Coba ruins (or the town itself) that I'd really miss out on? I mean... Obviously I'm missing out no matter what I do - but I hope you understand what I mean

kja Jan 29th, 2018 06:36 PM

I don't think you'll regret making a bit of time for those museums, and most are small enough to be seen in just an hour or less. The exception is the one in Merida, which might take 2 or even 3 hours, depending on your preferences.

As noted above, I can see both pros and cons to visiting Tulum. It is stunningly beautiful and the ruins are fascinating -- if in part because of the contrast to the elegance of some of the other sites you'll visit. It sounds like you like water -- I'm sure you realize that you can swim at Tulum?

By the way, the Cenotes Dzitnup are actually two different cenotes, just a few minutes walk from each other -- the Cenotes X'kekén and Samula.

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