Yucatan Itinerary

Jul 28th, 2019, 08:32 AM
  #1  
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Yucatan Itinerary

Hi everyone,

This is my first post here but I've been reading the forums for a while.

Me and my husband are heading to Mexico for about 16 days in March 2020 and I am trying to plan our itinerary. We fly in to Cancun and out of Mexico City, so at the moment my intention is to focus on the Yucatan Peninsula.

We have never been to Mexico before bar a couple of cruise stops at Cozumel.

Our priorities are seeing some Mayan ruins, wildlife, snorkeling, and food. Having some some research I'm really keen on Calakmul and Lake Bacalar (we love to kayak), and we think Cozumel for snorkeling is the best bet (especially as it seems to escape the sargassum).

I don't want us to be ruined-out so I'm having a hard time narrowing the choices down...Uxmal, Coba, Tulum, Chichen Itza, and Ek Balam are all on the list with Calakmul, but I'm aware that this is too much for one trip!

At the moment I've got a basic idea of something like Valladolid-Merida-?-Calakmul-Bacalar-?-Cozumel (the ? being where I think we would need to add an overnight stop to break the journey). I anticipate renting a car but probably wouldn't drive it in to Calakmul, we'd be looking at a tour there I think.

Can anyone please help me try to fit something like this in to about 12 days? Any advice or suggestions would be very much appreciated!

Thank you.
Toucan_toucan is offline  
Jul 28th, 2019, 08:17 PM
  #2  
kja
 
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I found sufficient differences betwen Calakmul, Uxmal, Tulum, Chichen Itza, and Ek' Balam to NOT get "ruined out" -- in fact, I found it absolutely fascinating to see the differences! (I didn't visit Coba.) But I agree that it would be difficult to visit all of them in 12 days. (The difference between 12 and 16 days is because of your other commitments?)

I loved Valladolid and enjoyed Merida. I didn't visit Bacalar or Cozumel.

I used buses for all of my transportation EXCEPT the Ruta Puuc (Uxmal +). Maybe things have changed, but when I went, one really needed a car for the Ruta Puuc -- and if you go to Uxmal, I would strongly recommend that you consider including some other parts of the Ruta Puuc. The Codz Poop is awesome, and the smaller sites are (or at least were) far less touristed -- I loved being the only person roaming some of those amazing places!

FWIW, I thought the ruins at Tulum least interesting -- it's really the setting that struck me there. Chichen Itza is, IMO, spectacular, but more "groomed" than a number of the other sites you are considering, and even when I went (2008), it was overrun with tourists. OTOH, Valladolid is charming, Ek' Balam's frieze is extraordinary and unusual, and Chichen Itza is right there (but takes the better part of a day).

Sorry I can't be more help! The good news is that I don't think you have a bad choice, just some very difficult ones.

Last edited by kja; Jul 28th, 2019 at 08:20 PM.
kja is offline  
Jul 28th, 2019, 11:25 PM
  #3  
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Thank you!

Yes, I should clarify on our travel arrangements so far. We fly to MEX on 1st March, spend a night at the airport and then fly to Cancun first thing on the 2nd. We then fly home from MEX on the 17th so I've allowed a couple of days for time in Mexico City. I reckon we can definitely do 12 nights in the Yucatan, I could squeeze in another if needed though.

I'm glad to hear that there's sufficient difference in the ruins to make multiple sites worthwhile.

I am going to write some combinations of places down and see if I can get something to work!
Toucan_toucan is offline  
Jul 28th, 2019, 11:44 PM
  #4  
kja
 
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One thing you might keep in mind: Obviously, you will need to be in Mexico City the night before your flight (if you've already booked), but that city is probably easier to reach on a future trip than most places in the Yucatan, so if you have to short-change something (and you might!), short-changing Mexico City might most make sense.

If you haven't already booked, consider into Cancun and out of Merida or vv.
kja is offline  
Jul 29th, 2019, 02:29 PM
  #5  
 
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I do think you've got too much for 12 days. Since you are flying into Cancun, Cozumel will be very close, so I would keep that on the itinerary. Then I would choose either:

1. Valladolid, Chichen Itza, Ek Balam), Merida, Uxmal, and the Ruta Puuc
~or~
2. Tulum, Coba, Lake Bacalar, and Calakmul

So essentially head inland across the peninsula or south down the coast. You could do a big loop, but I wouldn't be comfortable with the pacing of trying to see everything on the list.
november_moon is offline  
Jul 29th, 2019, 11:31 PM
  #6  
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Thank you. I have tried to pare things down and have come up with this. Thoughts would be appreciated! At the moment I'm just putting in overnight stops, I know we will have to cut down on some of the sites.

1st March: fly to MEX, o/n MEX
2nd March: MEX-CUN, collect car, to Valladolid
3rd March: Merida
4th March: Merida
5th March: Merida
6th March
7th March: Xpujil
8th March: Xpujil
9th March: Bacalar
10th March
11th March: Cozumel
12th March: Cozumel
13th March: Cozumel
14th March: fly to Mexico City
15th March: Mexico City
16th March: Mexico City
17th March: Fly home

The ? are where I think we need an overnight stop but don't know where yet. How does that look as a starting point?
Toucan_toucan is offline  
Jul 30th, 2019, 07:13 AM
  #7  
 
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Don't know how much thought yet you've given to Mexico City. Most visitors stay in one of two areas, either the centro histórico or the Art Deco-ness of Roma/Condesa. The former is good if you want to enjoy the classic sights of colonial Mexico City, the latter better if you just want to enjoy sidewalk cafe's and great restaurants and evening strolls. Although it's easy enough to experience both from either area.
baldone is offline  
Jul 30th, 2019, 10:16 AM
  #8  
 
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Logistics

Originally Posted by Toucan_toucan View Post
Thank you. I have tried to pare things down and have come up with this. Thoughts would be appreciated! At the moment I'm just putting in overnight stops, I know we will have to cut down on some of the sites.

1st March: fly to MEX, o/n MEX
2nd March: MEX-CUN, collect car, to Valladolid
3rd March: Merida
4th March: Merida
5th March: Merida
6th March
7th March: Xpujil
8th March: Xpujil
9th March: Bacalar
10th March
11th March: Cozumel
12th March: Cozumel
13th March: Cozumel
14th March: fly to Mexico City
15th March: Mexico City
16th March: Mexico City
17th March: Fly home

The ? are where I think we need an overnight stop but don't know where yet. How does that look as a starting point?
If you don’t mind me saying, your stay in the Yucatán is a short one for what you have planed. Lots of things to consider, like car rental, gas stops hotels etc... Please take time to understand car rentals in the area, for example, there are no vehicles at the airport. Whatever co. you choose, they will need to drive you over to Cancun to the office and go through all the motions of renting, which means purchasing all the insurance necessary including tire insurance which most people decline, but in your case it is a must. The highways are in excellent condition wether it be for Valladolid or Merida. You will need a map for Merida or you will get lost. Also , you are not allowed to take a rental car over to Cozumel.
Tour stay in Merida will be fantastic for the food, theatre, monasteries and churches etc.
A lot can be said about the areas you have chosen as I have been to all of them except Bacalar but please remember that things take a little more time in Mexico...
Rohelio is offline  
Jul 30th, 2019, 10:57 AM
  #9  
 
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Your itinerary is faster pace than I would be comfortable with, but it does work. Here are some thoughts on your itinerary:

2nd March: MEX-CUN, collect car, to Valladolid - As Rohelio mentioned, renting a car can take some time, so plan for that. The drive to Valladolid is only a couple hours, so if you get a decent start, you should have all or most of the afternoon there. This would be a good opportunity to visit Ek Balam, maybe a cenote, and see Valladolid itself.

3rd March: Merida - I would plan to visit Chichen Itza as soon as it opens to minimize crowds and the heat. When we went, it opened at 8:30 and we were there until about 11. After Chichen Itza, I would go to one of the local cenotes for a refreshing swim, get some lunch, and then head to Merida. It's a couple hours to Merida, so with this plan, you'd arrive just about check in time at your hotel and then have the rest of the afternoon and evening free.

6th March - This is the day you are leaving Merida, and since you are headed south, it makes sense to visit Uxmal that day. When we were in that area, we also toured hacienda Sotuta de Peon (https://www.haciendaviva.com/en/hacienda-sotuta-de-peon), which was really interesting. If you can fit it in, it is very much worth a stop. We stayed at the Pickled Onion in Santa Elena, which is pretty convenient to Uxmal. The Ruta Puuc sites (Kabah, Sayil, etc) are also very close and can be toured the same day as Uxmal - I think touring Uxmal, the Ruta Puuc sites, AND Sotuta de Peon in the same day would be too much though.

7th March: Xpujil - If you want to see some of the Ruta Puuc sites and haven't yet, you can stop on the way to Xpujil. Kabah is right on your route. Sayil and Labna are a shortish detour.

10th March - Since Coba and Tulum are on your wishlist, you can see both of these this day. If you are starting to get "ruined out" or want a little down time and need to trim the locations to see - choose Coba ruins over Tulum ruins - it is a much more interesting site IMO. You might want to spend that night at a hotel on the beach in Tulum though.
november_moon is offline  
Jul 30th, 2019, 11:35 AM
  #10  
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Thanks everyone - I will try to address the points raised.

First, we're on a really early flight from Mexico City to Cancun (I think we land at around 0930 or so), so I hope that will give us enough time to do the car formalities and something in the afternoon. I have rented cars in the Caribbean and am familiar with the mountains of paperwork (even if you think you have told them everything already!) but I'll make sure our expectations are for the process to take a while!

I wasn't intending to take the car to Cozumel - my plan would be to return it before we got on the ferry (EasyWay will give me a quote for picking up in Cancun and returning to Playa del Carmen). I did consider doing things in the opposite direction but we thought the beach at the end worked better, now I wonder if it might be easier to go straight to Cozumel then collect the car and do the rest of the loop.

I am aware that Calakmul and Cozumel are causing the problems but unfortunately these are the two musts, and the place that probably works best to tie them together, Tulum, is towards the bottom of the list!

I will keep thinking!

Oh, and we haven't thought about our time in Mexico City at all really - I figured that'd be easy in comparison, but having some areas to look for hotels is helpful, thank you.
Toucan_toucan is offline  
Jul 30th, 2019, 03:01 PM
  #11  
 
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For a modest clean little hotel in Roma Norte, we stayed at the Hotel Condesa. Situated in front of a small park dotted by lots of restaurants. Lots to do and see...Fridas house, Castle in Chapultepec, Teotheuacan pyramids, hop on- hop off bus tour, main plaza, Cathedral etc...
Rohelio is offline  
Jul 30th, 2019, 06:01 PM
  #12  
kja
 
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OK -- I'm confused. It seems to me that you've switched from a trip designed to let you experience a number of the Yucatan's Mayan ruins to a trip that lets you see a few of them, to the extent that they fit in with a plan to visit other things. And if that is the case, that's perfectly reasonable! It just took me by surprise.

I thought Valladolid charming and well worth visiting as a base for both Chichen Itza and Ek' Balam, not to mention a few cenotes, and it is possible to fit all that in with a single night, but it is a challenge -- as I know, having managed to do it! For me, it meant reaching Chichen Itza mid-morning, reaching Valladolid only after Chichen Itza closed, getting up early the next morning, and leaving the area late the next afternoon. As that statement suggests, I wanted MUCH more time than november_moon for Chichen Itza -- closer to 5 or 6 hours, IIRC (no offense meant, november_moon -- just a difference in opinion). Again, it's not impossible, but I'm a solo traveler, which gives me a lot of options that you, traveling with others, won't have. Think it through before committing.

Perhaps I wasn't clear, but I think a visit to the Ruta Puuc best with an overnight along the route. I stayed at the Flycatcher Inn; others recommend the Pickled Onion. My information on both is out-of-date, so be sure to do some research.

If Calakmul is a priority, give it a FULL day. Seriously.
kja is offline  
Jul 31st, 2019, 08:47 AM
  #13  
 
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" I wanted MUCH more time than november_moon for Chichen Itza -- closer to 5 or 6 hours, IIRC (no offense meant, november_moon -- just a difference in opinion). "

I wanted more time at Chichen Itza as well, but by 11 am it was blazing hot and so full of vendors that you couldn't look at anything without people hassling you to buy stuff, so we headed out. I much preferred other sites where the vendors were in a certain area at or adjacent to the site.
november_moon is offline  
Jul 31st, 2019, 10:03 AM
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Originally Posted by november_moon View Post
" I wanted MUCH more time than november_moon for Chichen Itza -- closer to 5 or 6 hours, IIRC (no offense meant, november_moon -- just a difference in opinion). "

I wanted more time at Chichen Itza as well, but by 11 am it was blazing hot and so full of vendors that you couldn't look at anything without people hassling you to buy stuff, so we headed out. I much preferred other sites where the vendors were in a certain area at or adjacent to the site.
I was really surprised by the number of vendors. I wasn't expecting that at all. It didn't bother me though. The heat was what did us in. We also left after a couple of hours, dripping wet. So freaking hot. But I felt that 2 hours was sufficient for me anyway.
tom42 is offline  
Jul 31st, 2019, 01:56 PM
  #15  
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Thanks everyone, apologies for the delay in replying, apparently you can only post a certain amount in 24 hours!

I probably won't answer everything but I'll try to respond as much as I can.

We do want to see as much as we can and I hoped the itinerary I posted allowed for that. However I also realise it is very ambitious so was trying to work out if I could get similar results via a different method.

I'm just travelling with my husband and fortunately we generally agree on things - he might not be quite so keen on wildlife as I am but neither of us care for being indoors on a nice day and shopping would be absolutely at the bottom of both of our lists!

I really do appreciate all the responses, I wasn't expecting anything like the information I've had - thank you all!

​​
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Jul 31st, 2019, 04:39 PM
  #16  
kja
 
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Oh dear, I had forgotten the vendors! When I went, they were confined to an avenue leading into the site, but even so, they were pushy.

Good protection from the sun, heat, and insects is a must in the Yucatan, at least IMO.
kja is offline  
Aug 1st, 2019, 08:59 AM
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When we visited Chichen Itza, the vendors were set up all over the place - on the main path leading to the site, but also around the ruins themselves. The path out to the sacred cenote had wall-to-wall vendors on each side, everybody shouting and trying to get people to stop and look at their stuff - felt like walking a gauntlet. I just wanted to flee - seriously. I am very glad that we listened to advice and went to Chichen Itza when it opened so we had time before the vendors were set up to actually see the site.
november_moon is offline  
Aug 1st, 2019, 09:13 AM
  #18  
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Ugh... I have tried to reply so many times but for some reason I can't. Thank you for all the feedback... If this post works I will try a longer reply!
Toucan_toucan is offline  
Aug 1st, 2019, 10:15 AM
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Originally Posted by november_moon View Post
When we visited Chichen Itza, the vendors were set up all over the place - on the main path leading to the site, but also around the ruins themselves. The path out to the sacred cenote had wall-to-wall vendors on each side, everybody shouting and trying to get people to stop and look at their stuff - felt like walking a gauntlet. I just wanted to flee - seriously. I am very glad that we listened to advice and went to Chichen Itza when it opened so we had time before the vendors were set up to actually see the site.
When we visited, the vendors were on the sides of the main path leading up to the site. I didn't notice any around the ruins themselves. When did you go? Maybe they changed the rules since then. I went a few years ago.
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