3 weeks in Yucatan: The Ultimate 20-21 Days Itinerary + My Best Tips


3-Week Yucatan Itinerary: Best Things to do + Where to Stay

Are you planning to visit the Yucatan Peninsula in 3 weeks?

That sounds awesome!

The Yucatan Peninsula is a vast region of Mexico that encompasses three states: Quintana Roo, Campeche, and Yucatan.

If you want to make the most of your trip, I have a great 3-week itinerary for you that covers the best attractions of the Yucatan Peninsula, such as stunning beaches, crystal-clear cenotes, charming colonial cities, and ancient ruins.

This 20, 21 or 22 day route starts from Cancun and takes you along the famous Riviera Maya, from Playa del Carmen to Tulum.

Then you’ll head to the beautiful Bacalar Lagoon before venturing into the jungle to visit Calakmul. From there, you’ll cross to the other side of the peninsula and explore Campeche, a colorful port city with a rich history.

Next, you’ll visit Merida, the cultural capital of the region, and Chichen Itza, one of the new seven wonders of the world. You’ll also stop by Valladolid, a quaint colonial town with a lot of charm.

Finally, you’ll end your trip with some relaxing days in Holbox, a paradise island where you can enjoy the laid-back vibe.

For each destination, I’ll give you some practical tips, some hotel suggestions, and some information on how to get around by car or public transport.

So, are you ready to discover what to do in Yucatan in 3 weeks? Where to stay?

1) Cancun(1 day)

Cancun is the perfect place to start a 3-week trip to Yucatan, as it has daily international flights from Europe and North America.

If you want to make the most of your time, it’s best to rent a car when you arrive.

For your 3 week Yucatan road trip, I suggest using the comparison tool of Booking.com Cars: it’s the easiest way to find the best deal!

Click on the button below to compare prices:

If you don’t plan to rent a car in Cancun, book your airport transfer here to get to your hotel:

After you’ve checked in at the hotel, it’s time to enjoy the sun!

Depending on how much time you have, you can:

  • Relax on the famous beaches of Tortugas, Los Delfines, Playa Langosta, Playa Linda, Playa Caracol, Playa Marlin
  • Snorkel at the MUSA, the largest underwater museum in the world – Book the snorkeling tour here!
  • Visit the Museo Maya and the archaeological site El Rey
  • Climb the Scenic Tower for a 360° view of Cancun’s Hotel Zone
  • Party at the famous Coco Bongo Club or at Xochimilco Cancun

Check out my guide: The 30 Best Things To Do In Cancun!

Spend the night in Cancun.

Where to stay in Cancun?

  • Mayan Monkey Cancun: hostel with a festive atmosphere in Cancun’s hotel zone, very close to the beach and bars. Terrace, outdoor pool, bar with happy hour, air conditioning, ping-pong, good wifi. Private rooms and dorms, from only 24$usd!
  • Bed and Breakfast Pecari: if you are looking for more comfort, I recommend without hesitation this establishment. It is a beautiful Bed and Breakfast located in a quiet street near the city center and the ADO bus station, with a relaxation area by the pool, spacious rooms, and a good breakfast, starting at 50$usd per night!
  • Beachscape Kin Ha Villas & Suites: rooms, suites, and villas for 2 to 12 people with direct access to the beach. Outdoor pool, children’s pool, gym, restaurant, beach bar. Breakfast included, starting at 218$usd per night.
  • The Royal Sands Resort & Spa: spacious rooms and suites with ocean views, in the heart of Cancun’s hotel zone. Large outdoor pool, gym, spa, fine restaurants, sports bar and many activities. All inclusive, starting at 485 $usd per night

My tip
For more options, you can visit my article about the best hotels and resorts in Cancun and find your perfect hotel. Here is the link: Where to stay in Cancun?  

Cancun beach

2) Puerto Morelos and Playa del Carmen (1 day)

Start your day by visiting Puerto Morelos.

This is a great place to stop between Cancun and Playa del Carmen, as it has not been affected by the massive tourism development of the Riviera Maya.

You can check out the Javier Rojo Gomez square, the Hunab Ku handicraft market, and the Puerto Morelos lighthouse, which is the icon of the town.

Relax on the beaches of Puerto Morelos, where you can enjoy the clear and calm waters that are perfect for snorkeling.

You can also see the Mayan Reef, the second largest coral reef in the world, which is only 437 ft from the shore.

Puerto Morelos is also famous for being the entrance to the Ruta de los Cenotes, a 22 mile road full of natural pools that are aboveground or underground.

There are many options to choose from, but I personally recommend the Siete Bocas and Verde Lucero cenotes.

My advice
If you are traveling with your family or if you love adrenaline, you might want to check out Selvatica Park, which is located on the Cenotes Route.

It is a fun and exciting adventure park in the middle of nature (cenote, zip line circuit, quad, etc.) and it has been awarded as the best adventure park in Latin America!

Book your tickets to Selvatica here:

In the afternoon, continue on your way to Playa del Carmen.

You can’t miss Quinta Avenida when you visit Playa del Carmen. It is the heart of the city, where you can find restaurants, bars, shops, entertainment, street art and the Parque de los Fundadores.

Playa del Carmen also has many beautiful beaches with beach clubs, such as Playa Mamitas, Playacar, Punta Esmeralda.

If you are looking for some adventure and thrill, Playa del Carmen is close to two amazing parks that you should check out:

My tip
The best way to enjoy the parks is to stay at the Hotel Xcaret❤️.

Besides meals, you will have full and free access to all the parks (Xcaret, Xplor, Xplor Fuego, Xenses, Xoximilco, Xel-Ha and Xenotes)

Spend the night in Playa del Carmen.

Check out my guides:

How to get from Cancun to Puerto Morelos:

  • By car: 35 minutes on the Tulum-Cancun/Mexico 307 highway
  • By public transportation: “Playa Express” bus to Playa del Carmen and get off in Puerto Morelos (40 pesos). To get to the beach, take a cab or a colectivo.

How to get from Puerto Morelos to Playa del Carmen:

  • By car: 30 minutes on the Cancun-Tulum/Chetumal-Cancun/Mexico 307 highway
  • By public transportation: take a colectivo to Playa del Carmen (40 pesos)

Where to stay in Playa del Carmen?

  • Che Playa Hostel & Bar Adults Only: great hostel to meet other travelers and party, with a rooftop terrace that has a bar and a small pool, with several offered activities. Clean, with good wifi and a great welcome. From only 13 $usd for the dormitory or 37 $usd for a private room!
  • Hotel Lunata: a charming hotel with hacienda style decoration, which is hidden on Quinta Avenida, very close to the beach. Quiet, with a garden, rooms with balcony, and has very friendly service. From only 82 $usd per night!
  • Porto Playa Condo Beach Club: here you will find a spacious apartment ideal for a family, with fully equipped kitchen, living room and terrace. The hotel has a large swimming pool, a gym and a restaurant, starting at 172 $usd per night!
  • The Reef Playacar Resort & Spa: located on the beautiful beach of Playacar, just a few minutes from Fifth Avenue. Ideal for a romantic stay, with a beautiful tropical garden, two pools, a gym and a spa. 200 $usd with the “all inclusive” formula.
  • Hotel Xcaret Mexico All Parks All Fun Inclusive: it is definitely the best hotel in Playa del Carmen! Ideal for couples and families with children as this luxury hotel offers an exceptional package including meals and access to its parks (Xcaret, Xplor, Xplor Fuego, Xenses, Xoximilco, Xel-Ha and Xenote). Starting at 860 $usd per night, all inclusive.

My tip
Check out my comprehensive guide to find the perfect hotel or resort for your stay. Here’s the link: Where to Stay in Playa del Carmen? 

what to do puerto morelos
Puerto Morelos

3) Cozumel (2-3 days)

For the next part of your 3-week Yucatan road trip, you will need to take the ferry to Cozumel, the largest island in the Mexican Caribbean.

It is an island full of beaches and natural parks, and is known as one of the best diving spots in the world.

In two or three days in Cozumel, you will have time to see its most beautiful attractions:

  • Punta Sur: a 1,000-hectare nature reserve with white sand beaches and lakes, home to a wide variety of amphibians. There is also the archaeological site of El Caracol and the Celarain lighthouse. –Book the tour to Punta Sur here!
  • El Cielo: one of the most beautiful dive sites in Cozumel with many starfish. In order to protect the area, it is mandatory to go with a guided tour that also takes you to the Palancar reef – Book the snorkeling tour to El Cielo
  • Enjoy the most beautiful beaches of Cozumel: the private island of La Pasión, Playa Palancar, Playa San Francisco, Playa Encantada and -my favorite- Chen Río.
  • San Gervasio: it was an important Mayan pilgrimage site dedicated to the fertility goddess Ixchel and today it is Cozumel’s main archeological site.
  • Chankanaab: is a coveted park and beach club for family members of all ages offering a variety of day activities (beach, snorkeling, zip line, botanical garden, kayaking, etc.) Get your tickets to Chankanaab here!
  • The Cozumel Pearl Farm: a project that only receives 8 visitors a day to showcase their sustainable oyster farming Pinctada Radiata and allow you to enjoy a hidden beach between the Caribbean and the Bahia Ciega Lagoon. Reservations should be made on their website.
  • Playa Mia Grand Beach Park: a water park and beach club perfect for families in Cozumel, with swimming pool, children’s area, water slides and much more
  • Experience an unforgettable underwater adventure on the Atlantis submarine, which will take you to the Chankanaab Reef at 30 meters deep to see colorful fish, turtles and corals

For all of the best things to do in Cozumel, here is My Guide To The 15 Best Things To Do in Cozumel!

Where to stay in Cozumel?

Staying in Cozumel is a very good idea if you want to enjoy the island in a privileged way since most visitors come only for the day.

  • Hacienda Boutique Mi Casa tu Casa B&B: one hacienda-style house with authentic and colorful Mexican charm, outdoor pool and jacuzzi. Very good traditional breakfast and an excellent welcome from the hosts, from only 82 usd per night!
  • Villas El Encanto Cozumel: for more comfort, I suggest this hotel that offers air-conditioned apartments and bungalows with kitchenette and terrace. Nice garden, swimming pool, hammocks and lounge chairs. It offers excellent value for money, at only 115 usd per night.
  • Allegro Cozumel All-Inclusive: is an all-inclusive hotel in Cozumel ideal for families. Located on San Francisco beach with many activities available (beach volleyball, yoga, snorkeling, kayaking, etc), a playground and a kids club, 3 swimming pools, one of them with slides. From 205 usd per night all-inclusive.
  • Meliá Cozumel All Inclusive: to enjoy the tranquility, this is an all-inclusive hotel with a beautiful private beach, spacious rooms, full spa, two pools, one of them only for adults with bar. I recommend the room with ocean view, from 280 usd per night all inclusive!
El Cielo, Cozumel

4) Tulum (4 days)

Continue your 21-day Yucatan road trip by taking the ferry back to Playa del Carmen and then driving to Tulum: the boho chic destination of Mexico.

Tulum has a unique vibe, with its long white sandy beaches, tropical atmosphere, and upscale hotels.

You will need at least 4 days to enjoy everything that Tulum and its surroundings have to offer.

Day 1 – Visit the city of Tulum, starting with the Archaeological Site of Tulum.

It is one of the most iconic places in the Yucatan Peninsula with its dreamy location facing the Caribbean Sea.

Then, you can stroll along the Beach Strip that runs along the beach in the hotel zone with nice shops and restaurants.

And enjoy the beach! Tulum is lined by miles of fine sandy beaches, with shallow and very calm waters.

At night, you will find cool bars in Tulum to have a drink and listen to music such as the Batey – Mojito & Guarapo Bar or the Papaya Playa Project which is on the beach.

Spend the night in Tulum

How to get from Playa del Carmen to Tulum:

  • By car: 55 minutes on Mexico Highway 307
  • By colectivo: colectivos to Tulum leave from the corner of Calle 1 Sur and Avenida 45 Norte – see the location on the map here!
  • By bus: 1 hour by ADO bus, several departures a day. Prices vary a lot depending on the chosen time of departure.
The archaeological site of Tulum facing the sea

Day 2 Cenotes and Coba

Begin your day by exploring one or more cenotes.

These are natural pools of freshwater, some of them aboveground and some of them underground, that are scattered all over the Yucatan peninsula.

They were sacred to the ancient Maya, who believed they were the entrance to Xibalba, the underworld.

Today, you can swim, snorkel, and dive in them, and enjoy one of the best experiences in Yucatan!

My advice
To decide which cenote you want to visit, you can check out my list of The 15 Best Cenotes in Tulum.

Since you are planning to go to Cobá later, I recommend you choose one of the cenotes that are located on Highway 109: Cenote Calavera, Gran Cenote or, closer to Cobá, Cenote Zacil-Ha or Carwash.

Next, head to the archaeological site of Cobá, a great Maya city hidden in the jungle that was as important as its rival Chichén Itzá.

When I got there, I rented a bicycle  at the entrance and I recommend it because it is the best way to get around.

There are several interesting structures, such as the second tallest pyramid on the peninsula (after Calakmul), called Nohoch Mul.

After the visit, go back to Tulum and enjoy Caleta Tankah. It is a small beach club that very few foreign tourists know about, with a private beach, a beachfront restaurant, and a small cenote.

Spend the night in Tulum.

caleta tankah tulum
Tankah cove, a place without sargassum in Tulum. Photo from their Facebook page.

Day 3 – Visit Akumal, the best place to swim with turtles in Mexico!

You can see three species of turtles in its crystal clear waters. To protect them, you need to hire a guide if you want to swim in their habitat.

You can find an agency on the beach or book a tour with hotel pick up. The tour includes snorkeling with the turtles in Akumal Bay, swimming in a cenote, and visiting a cave. Book it here:

If you don’t want a guide, you can swim near the beach, but it’s not a protected area and you might not see any turtles.

You can also explore Akumal Bay all the way to the Yal-Ku Lagoon through the Half Moon Bay.

Stay overnight in Tulum.

How to get to Akumal from Tulum:

  • By car: Drive 25 minutes on Highway 307 towards Cancun.
  • By public transportation: Take a colectivo towards Playa del Carmen on the main street of Tulum and tell the driver to drop you off in Akumal
akumal méxico

Day 4 If you have 10 days to visit Yucatan, you can’t miss the Sian Ka’an Natural Reserve.

Sian Ka’an is a protected area that has the double status of Biosphere Reserve and UNESCO World Heritage Site.

But it’s so big that you can’t see it all in one day. You’ll have to choose one of its two access points that offer different experiences:

1. Muyil

This entrance lets you explore the Sian Ka’an jungle, with its swamps, freshwater lakes, and the Mayan ruins of Muyil.

If you want to visit Muyil from Tulum, you can do it in half a day and get there by public transportation. Just take the ADO bus to Chunyaxche (20 min).

This is a good option if you are traveling without a car on this 3 week Yucatan itinerary!

For more comfort, you can also book a tour to Muyil with hotel pick up in Tulum. It includes the guided tour of the ruins, boat ride through the lagoons, free time to swim in the mangroves, and lunch:

2. Punta Allen

If you want to visit Punta Allen from Tulum, you will need a full day and a 4×4 car to get there. It is a small fishing village where you can enjoy its protected beach, saltwater lakes, and maybe see dolphins.

Punta Allen is farther from Tulum than Muyil, but it is worth it because it offers a much more complete experience.

The road is rough and there is no public transportation to get there in one day, so most people go with a day tour.

You can book the tour to Punta Allen here with hotel pick up in Tulum. It includes a 3 hour boat ride to see dolphins and turtles, snorkeling in the second largest coral reef in the world, and lunch:

Spend the night in Tulum.

Sian Ka’an Reserve in the Yucatan Peninsula

Where to stay in Tulum?

  • Mayan Monkey Tulum: an excellent value for money. Nice modern hostel with a good atmosphere, a pool, bar and garden. Including fast wifi, kitchen access, yoga classes, coworking spaces, and bike and motorcycle rentals. Dorms and private rooms starting at only 24 $usd per night.
  • Casa Almendro: if you are looking for a little more comfort, you will like this small cheap hotel in the center of Tulum. It’s a green oasis with a rooftop terrace with chairs and hammocks. There are king size beds and breakfast is included, from only 50 $usd per night!
  • Diamante K: is a high-end hotel but at a very fair price, which is exceptional in Tulum, especially for a hotel with direct access to the beach in the hotel zone! Bohemian chic atmosphere, including a restaurant, hammocks and beds on the private beach, and a massage service. Bungalows are 207 $usd per night.
  • Habitas Tulum: this small eco-friendly hotel with a chic design is ideal for a romantic stay in Tulum. It is a true oasis of peace, hidden among the palm trees, with a magnificent swimming pool and a private beach. There are also yoga classes on the terrace at sunset. From 371 $usd per night!
  • Kanan Tulum- Adults Only: this is the ultimate option for a luxury stay in Tulum. It is an ecological hotel for adults only, located on a beautiful private beach with hammocks and beds. With a fantastic rooftop terrace with a bar; the hotel also has an excellent restaurant, great rooms and a very friendly welcome. From 566 $usd per night!

5) Bacalar (2 days)

Continue your 21-day route through Yucatan to Bacalar, near the border with Belize.

This is a great place to relax before the second part of the trip, which has a busy (but interesting!) program with visits to archaeological sites and colonial towns.

Bacalar’s main attraction is its large 7-color lagoon, where you can kayak, snorkel, paddle, sail, or even catamaran.

In two days in Bacalar you can:

  • Discover Cenote Azul, Cenote Cocalitos, Cenote Esmeralda, and Cenote Negro, known for its underwater abyss of 110 meters deep.
  • Stay in one of Bacalar’s resorts to have access to the lagoon.
  • Explore the Pirates Channel, which was the scene of battles between pirates and corsairs. You can take a catamaran ride or do a stand up paddle tour at sunrise.
  • Rent a bike to go to Fort San Felipe.
  • Ride down the Bacalar Rapids, which are located between Laguna Bacalar and Xul-Ha.
  • Visit the surroundings: the village of Xul-Ha, Sujuy-Ha, and the zip lines of the Kan Kin Park.

You can also read: My Definitive Guide To Bacalar!

How to get to Bacalar from Tulum:

  • By car: Drive 2.5 hours on route 307 southbound.
  • By bus: Take an ADO bus for 2.5 hours and pay 292 pesos

Where to to sleep in Bacalar?

  • The Yak Lake House – Adults Only: the best hostel in Bacalar located in front of the lagoon. Festive atmosphere, very clean, various activities offered, bar with good cocktails, from only 14 usd in dormitory!
  • Agam Hotel: well located hotel, close to the lagoon and very good value for money. Spacious and well equipped rooms, nice swimming pool with bar, garden with sun beds. from only 62 usd per night!
  • Royal Palm Bacalar Cabañas & Lagoon Club: for more comfort, I recommend this nice hotel in Bacalar with a private dock within walking distance. Free rental of kayaks and stand up paddle to explore the lagoon. Swimming pool, spacious air-conditioned room with balcony and hammocks,from only 155 usd per night!

  • Villa Marilu B&B: if you are on a budget, I recommend this hotel for a romantic stay in Bacalar. It is a very quiet hotel, with kayaks and a bar with excellent cocktails. Very good breakfast included, room with king size bed and lagoon view, from 180 usd per night!
  • Casa Bakal: if you are looking for a luxury hotel in Bacalar, I suggest this charming little hotel with a large private area in front of the lagoon, swimming pool, a good restaurant, lounge chairs, free kayaking and paddle boarding, morning yoga classes and massages. Breakfast on the terrace facing the lake included, from 215 usd per night.
cenote bacalar
cenote bacalar

6) Calakmul and Campeche (2 days)

This time we leave Bacalar and head to Campeche, which is on the other coast of the Yucatan Peninsula.

Day 1- You will have to drive through the jungle and it will be a great opportunity to see Calakmul: my favorite archaeological site in Mexico!

You should leave early in the morning, because it is a long drive.

Calakmul is an amazing Mayan city located in a jungle that is the second largest lung in America and the largest tropical reserve in Mexico.

It was one of the most powerful Mayan cities and now it is a Biosphere Reserve and UNESCO World Heritage Site.

You can explore its temples, squares, and palaces with a guide or by yourself, walking along one of the 3 trails: short (2h), medium (3h), or long (4-5h). You won’t get lost because they are well marked.

Among all its buildings, the most imposing are Structure II (55 ft) and Structure I (44 ft), which offer an incredible view of the jungle from the top.

After the visit, follow the route to the city of Campeche to spend the night.

How to get to Calakmul from Bacalar:

  • By car: 3h40 min (235.2 km) on the Villahermosa – Chetumal/Mexico Highway 186 and Campeche Conhuas-Calakmul Archaeological Zone. It takes another hour from the entrance of the reserve to the Calakmul archeological zone.

How to get to Campeche from Calakmul:

  • By car: 4h30 take Highway 186 Chetumal-Villahermosa to Escárcega (make sure to fill up your gas tank there) and then take Highway 180D to Campeche

My advice
 If you want to travel from Bacalar to Calakmul, and then to Campeche by public transport, you should know that it is possible but a bit complicated, as the schedules are very limited.

  • Bacalar-Calakmul: take an ADO bus to Xpujil (departure 00:55 am arrival 3:40 am, 178 pesos). Stay overnight in Xpujil, and the next day take a taxi or shared transportation to Calakmul (one way 7 am return 3 pm).
  • Xpujil-Campeche: departure 7:25 pm and arrival 3:35 am, 494 pesos

If I were traveling in Yucatan for 3 weeks by public transport, I would probably skip Calakmul and go straight to Campeche.

Ancient Maya City of Calakmul

Day 2Welcome to San Francisco de Campeche!

The capital of the state of Campeche is a beautiful and colorful colonial city with a small walled historic center.

It is very charming and I’m surprised that it is not very popular among tourists compared to other Yucatan destinations.

You can see most of the old town in one day in Campeche.

You can start at the Baluarte San Francisco, which leads to the city walls, and continue to the Baluarte San Carlos, which has the city museum.

Visit the beautiful museum of Maya architecture and the main square, where you will find the cathedral, the El Palacio cultural center, and Casa no6.

You might be tired from the previous day, but if you’re up for it and have time, you can also visit the Edzná archaeological site only 1 hour from Campeche.

In the evening, you can stroll along Calle 59, where there are several restaurants, bars, and cafes.

Spend the night in Campeche.

Where to stay in Campeche?

  • Melisa Hostal: very well located hostel in a beautiful typical house in the center of Campeche, friendly staff, with a small pool, access to a kitchen, and very clean and comfortable mattresses. Bed in shared room, from only 20 $usd per night
  • Casa Serena Beautiful Colonial Loft: a spacious apartment in the center of Campeche that offers excellent value for money. With air conditioning, a living room, kitchen, terrace, good wifi with breakfast included. Sleeps 2 to 4 people, starting at 125 $usd per night
  • Boutique Hotel Casa Don Gustavo: an elegant 18th century manor house completely restored on a pedestrian street in downtown Campeche. A beautiful blend of modernity and colonial decor, with comfortable air-conditioned rooms. Wifi, outdoor pool, jacuzzi and a very tasty à la carte breakfast await guests. Starting at 65 $usd!
campeche yucatán
campeche yucatan

7) Merida (3 days)

We leave the state of Campeche to go to Merida, the capital of the state of Yucatan.

Day 1 – City tour of Merida

Merida is not only a beautiful colonial city, but also the safest city in Mexico.

In the morning, visit the Plaza Grande, the main square of the city, where you will find the cathedral, the Macay Museum, and the Casa de Montejo.

For a taste of typical Yucatán cuisine, I suggest you go to the Lucas de Gálvez market, and in the afternoon, discover the Gran Museo del Mundo Maya.

Stroll along Paseo de Montejo, an avenue with beautiful buildings inspired by the Champs Elysees in Paris.

In the evening, I recommend you go to Parque Santa Lucia, a charming little park with music and restaurants with terraces.

Spend the night in Merida.

How to get from Campeche to Merida:

  • By car: 2h14 taking the Carretera Costera del Golfo E/180 towards Merida
  • By bus: 2h30, several departures a day, tickets from 235 pesos
Le Palacio Canton sur le Paseo de Montejo à Mérida

Day 2 The archaeological sites of Uxmal and Kabah

Today we start with Uxmal, one of the best places to visit in the Yucatan Peninsula.

It’s a World Heritage Site by Unesco and the most emblematic site of Puuc architecture, a style known for its richly decorated buildings in carved stone.

And for a good reason: it was a very rich and powerful city that benefited a lot from its alliance with Chichén Itzá!

You can’t climb the Pyramid of the Magician (122 ft), which is the main structure of Uxmal, but you can go to the Great Pyramid which has a beautiful view of the surroundings.

You will also see: the Palace of the Governors, the Quadrangle of the Nuns, the Quadrangle of the Birds, and the House of the Turtles.

My tip
Just across from the entrance to Uxmal is the Choco-Story Chocolate Museum, which is a cacao museum with a large tropical garden.

The visit includes a Maya ceremony in honor of the God Chaac and a traditional chocolate tasting.

It’s a fun activity, with or without kids!

You can also visit Kabah, another Puuc-style Maya site just 20 minutes from Uxmal.

It is much smaller, hardly touristy, but the details of its main structure, the “Codz Poop” or “Palace of the Masks” are impressive.

How to get to Uxmal and Kabah from Merida:

  • By car: Uxmal is 1h15 on Federal Highway 261 in the direction of Santa Elena. Parking costs 80 pesos. Kabah is 20 minutes from Uxmal, on the same road.
  • By bus: 2h to Uxmal, 84 pesos, 1 departure at 9h05 from the TAME terminal. On the way back, wait on the road to take the bus back (15h).
  • With a tour: this is the best option if you don’t have a car, as it includes pick up at your hotel, guided visit to Uxmal (with free time) and Kabah

Book the tour to Uxmal and Kabah here:

The Pyramid of the Magician, Uxmal

Day 3 – The pink flamingos at Celestun

This 21-day road trip in Yucatan continues to Celestun, the best place to see flamingos in Mexico!

To visit the Ría Celestún Biosphere Reserve, you need to go to the fishing village of Celestun and take a boat from there.

This is a large protected area that is home to a rich biodiversity that includes 300 species of birds.

You have two options to take the boat: west of the bridge or from the beach. Both offer similar tours, which last between 1h30 and 2h30.

Another great option is to book a tour to Celestún with hotel pick-up in Mérida, which includes the boat ride through the reserve to see the flamingos and mangroves, free time for swimming, and lunch on the beach. Book it here: 

But Celestun is not only a paradise for flamingos. You can also enjoy a quiet and clean beach, eat good fresh seafood and go to Jaltún Ecotourism Park to hike, kayak and visit its botanical garden.

How to get to Celestún from Mérida:

  • By car: 1h15 on Highway 281
  • By public transport: 2h30 from Terminal Noreste, bus 70 pesos – departures every hour from 6 am, or colectivo 40 pesos.

Return to Mérida for the night.

A colony of pink flamingos in the Celestún reserve.

Where to stay in Merida?

  • Nomadas: the best hostel in Merida with a very nice atmosphere, located in the center of Merida. It has a swimming pool surrounded by hammocks and plants, possibility of classes (yoga, cooking classes, etc.). Starting at only 18$usd per night!
  • El Gran Hotel: ideally located in the very center of Merida, right next to the cathedral. It is a very charming hotel, where time seems to have stopped with its colonial look and beautiful woodwork. There’s a restaurant, the rooms are spacious and the wifi works well. Good value for money, starting at only 59$usd per night!
  • Hotel Hacienda Merida VIP: this small, luxurious hotel is the ideal place to spend a few romantic days in Merida. Located in the historic center, it is an elegant hacienda-style building, illuminated by candlelight at nightfall. Here you will find a charming swimming pool, comfortable rooms, a restaurant, and a bar. Starting at 165 $usd per night
  • Hotel Boutique Mérida Santiago: this is a small, comfortable hotel with a colorful hacienda look, modern and with a traditional Mexican touch. There’s a swimming pool with sun loungers and umbrellas. With excellent homemade breakfasts and spacious rooms, it is the ideal hotel if you are looking for comfort without falling into luxury. Starting at 197 $usd per night

8) Valladolid (2-3 days)

Day 1Izamal and Valladolid

In the morning, continue your Yucatan roadtrip to the photogenic yellow city of Izamal.

You can visit the convent of San Antonio de Padua, Parque Itzamná, Parque 5 de Mayo, and climb the pyramids of Itzamatul and Kinich Kakmó, all for free.

If you want to eat in Izamal, I recommend the municipal market or the Kinich restaurant, which is famous throughout Yucatán for its authentic cuisine.

Then return to Valladolid, one of the most charming cities in all of Mexico.

With its proximity to Chichen Itza and a multitude of beautiful cenotes, it’s a must-see on a 3-week Yucatan road trip!

Here are some of the best things to do in Valladolid:

  • Cenote Zací, located in the center of Valladolid.
  • Stroll around the main square, with the Francisco Cantón park, the church of San Servacio, and the murals of the Municipal Palace.
  • The San Roque Museum (free).
  • Walk along the Calzada de los Frailes to the Convent of San Bernardino.

And at night, at 9 pm, there is a video mapping show on the facade of the convent that tells the history of Valladolid.

You can also read: What to Do and See in The City of Valladolid

Spend the night in Valladolid

How to get to Izamal from Merida:

  • By car: 50 minutes on Highway 180E towards Valladolid, then at Hoctún take Highway 11
  • By bus: 1 hour trip, departures every hour from the terminal on Calle 67
  • By colectivo: departure from Calle 65

How to get to Valladolid from Izamal:

calzada de los frailes valladolid
Calzada de los Frailes, Valladolid

Day 2- Chichén Itzá

Prepare yourself for an unforgettable experience on this touristic route through Yucatan: Chichén Itzá!

This ancient city was founded by the Itza people and invaded by the Toltec in the 10th century. At its peak, it was the most important city in the Yucatan peninsula and a center of culture, religion, and power.

Today, it is a Unesco World Heritage Site, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, and the symbol of the Mayan civilization.

You will be amazed by the beauty and mystery of this place as you explore it for 2 to 3 hours. Some of the highlights you can see are:

  • The temple of Kukulcan, also called El Castillo, the main pyramid of Chichen Itza.
  • The observatory of El Caracol, which was used to study 29 astronomical events (equinoxes, eclipses, etc.)
  • The great Mayan ball court (an important ritual game).
  • The temple of the warriors and its columns.
  • The Tzompantli, which was an altar where the Maya impaled the heads of enemy warriors.

I recommend you to check out this guide: Everything You Need to Know About Chichén Itzá!

My advice
 Chichén Itzá is a must-see in Mexico, but it is also very popular among tourists. That means you might have to deal with long lines and crowds if you want to enter this amazing site.

To avoid wasting time and enjoy your visit more, I suggest you to buy your tickets for Chichén Itzá with skip-the-line access here:

After visiting Chichen Itza under the sun, go cool off in a cenote.

For example, you can go to the cenote Ik Kil, which is the closest cenote to Chichen Itza (4 km). It is one of the Most Beautiful Cenotes of Yucatán but also the most touristic.

There are also other cenotes near Chichén Itzá, much less known: Tsukan cenote, Yokdzonot cenote, Lol-Ha cenote, Xcajum cenote.

If you prefer to be closer to Valladolid, you can go to the two cenotes of Dzitnup or the Oxman cenote of Hacienda San Lorenzo where you can also enjoy a swimming pool.

Spend the night in Valladolid.

How to get to Chichen Itza from Valladolid:

  • By car: 40 minutes on the Gulf Coast Highway/Valladolid – Merida/Mexico 180
  • By bus: 45 minutes by ADO bus, departures 10:50 and 11:15 am, return 4:30 pm
The famous site of Chichen Itza in the state of Yucatan

Day 3 – Las Coloradas and Ek Balam

In the morning, head to the famous pink lakes of Yucatan called Las Coloradas.

They are actually saltwater wells from which they extract 500,000 tons of salt per year!

Their unique color makes them a perfect spot for taking pictures, however swimming or even touching the water is forbidden.

You can also swim in the Blue Lagoon, enjoy the beach, and take a boat ride to the Ría Lagartos Biosphere Reserve, home to 395 species of birds, including colonies of flamingos (from January to September).

Return to Valladolid to explore Ek Balam, a hidden Mayan site in the jungle that once dominated a vast region of the Yucatan peninsula.

It is famous for its impressive pyramid, the Acropolis, where the tomb of King Ukit Kan Lek Tok (9th century) was discovered. Inside the tomb, more than 7,000 objects were found as offerings, including jade, pottery, shells, and bones.

You will have the chance to climb to the top of the Acropolis and enjoy a stunning view of the jungle and the surrounding ruins. You will also see other remarkable buildings, such as the Mayan Arch, the Twin Pyramids, the Mayan ball court, the Oval Palace, and the Platform of the Stelae.

Near Ek Balam, you will find the Cenote X’Canché, a beautiful natural pool surrounded by roots and plants, where can swim in the clear water, relax in a hammock, rappel down to the cenote, or go zip-lining over it.

There are several other cenotes near Ek Balam such as Santa Rita, Agua Dulce, Palomitas, Hubiku, Xcanahaltún, perfect to spend several hours there!

In the afternoon, return to Valladolid. If you still have time, you can visit:

  • La Casa de los Venados: a private museum dedicated to Mexican folk art with a collection of 3000 objects.
  • The Museum of Ethnic Clothing: located next to the San Roque museum, it’s dedicated to traditional Mexican clothing.
  • Xkopek: a natural park run by a family of beekeepers whose mission is to protect the different species of bees of Yucatan, including the Melipona, which was sacred to the ancient Maya.

Spend the night in Valladolid.

How to get to Las Coloradas and Ek Balam from Valladolid:

Getting to Las Coloradas from Valladolid can be a bit challenging if you don’t have a car. The trip is long and the public transportation options are limited. Therefore, it is advisable to leave early and plan ahead.

  • By car: 1h36 on Highway 295 Rio Lagartos – Tizimín/Mexico to Las Coloradas. Then return by the same road in the direction of Ek Balam (1h20)
  • By public transportation: you will need to take a colectivo or bus to Tizimín first (1h). From Tizimín, you can take a Autobus del Noreste to Las Coloradas (1h40- 2 departures per day 10h30 am and 1h30 pm). To get to Ek Balam from Las Coloradas, you will have to go back to Tizimín first, but there are no buses to Ek Balam from there. You will either have to go back to Valladolid or take a cab from Tizimín to Ek Balam.
Las Coloradas in the Ria Lagartos Reserve. Photo Esaú Alberto Canto Novelo

Where to stay in Valladolid?

  • Candelaria Hostel: The best budget option in Valladolid! A colorful hostel that is very well located in the centre, with a garden, access to the kitchen, and a bike rental. Good breakfast options are also included, from 17 $usd for a bed in a shared dorm or 38 $usd for a private room.
  • Real Haciendas: A small, charming, yet very quiet hotel with a swimming pool, clean rooms with comfortable king size bed, and a very good welcome. Starting from 57 $usd per night.
  • IMIX Hotel: A typical colonial house in the centre of Valladolid on the beautiful Calzada de los Frailes, nicely decorated with spacious rooms. Breakfast included, starting from 127 $usd per night.
  • Le Muuch Hotel: A hotel located 5 minutes away from the main park Francisco Canton Rosado. Excellent service, with indoor and outdoor swimming pools with hammocks, rooms with garden view, air conditioning, and a bar and restaurant. A la carte breakfast included, starting from 140 $usd per night.
  • Hotel Zentik Project: This is definitely one of my favorite hotels in Mexico and the best hotel in Valladolid! Beautiful Mayan-style cabanas with murals done by local and international artists. There’s a restaurant and bar, an outdoor pool with hammocks, and a saltwater pool in an underground cave. Very good breakfast included, starting from 380 $usd per night.

9) Holbox (2-3 days)

The final destination of this 21-day Yucatan itinerary is a tranquil paradise: Holbox Island!

This is a place where you can enjoy the white sand and shallow water, away from the hustle and bustle of Cancun and the Riviera Maya.

To get there, you need to go to Chiquilá, park your car, and take the ferry to Holbox.

The island has no paved roads and you can explore it by foot, bike, or golf cart.

What to do in Holbox:

  • Stroll around town looking for the best street art.
  • Sit at one of the beach bars: I recommend Mandarina Restaurant and Beach Club for its margarita and guacamole.
  • Explore Punta Mosquito, a protected natural area accessible only by foot or boat that hides one of the most beautiful beaches in Mexico.
  • Take the boat tour (3 hours) to Isla Pájaros, Isla de la Pasión, and Ojo de Agua Yalahau.
  • Admire the sunset at Punta Cocos. You can also see the bioluminescence effect at night (click here to book!).
  • Try the famous lobster pizza, the specialty of the island.
  • You can also go kayaking, kite surfing, fishing, diving, and even swim with whale sharks between June and September.

Read also: My Complete Guide To Holbox!

How to get to Chiquiláde from Valladolid:

  • By car: 2 hours, take Kantunil-Cancun/Mexico 180D, then QROO 5
  • By bus: first you have to take the ADO bus to Tizimín (1h, departures 7.50am, 8.30am, 10.30am, 12pm) then take a Noreste bus to Chiquilá (3h as it’s not a direct bus, departures 10.05am, 12.30pm)

How to get to Holbox from Chiquilá:

  • You can reach Holbox Island by ferry in 25 minutes. The ferries run every 30 minutes from 5am to 9:30pm. There are two companies that offer the same price and service.
  • Cars are not allowed on the ferry to Holbox Island. You have to park your car in one of the secure parking lots near the dock (50-60 pesos per day).

Where to stay in Holbox?

  • Kin Camping: This is the best place to sleep cheap in Holbox! They are tents (camping) with double beds, hot water, a good atmosphere, hammocks, and a bar. They also propose several fun activities, from only 28 $usd  per night!
  • Casa Chujuk: A hotel offering excellent value for money, which is becoming increasingly difficult to find in Holbox! Very clean and bright rooms, with comfortable mattresses, a small pool to cool off, and good wifi, from 50 $usd per night!
  • Ensueño Holbox & Beach Club: Suites and flats with kitchenette for up to 5 people. Roof terrace, two swimming pools, a beach club with good food and music! Breakfast is included, from 130 $usd per night!
  • Beachfront Hotel La Palapa – Adults only: A nice hotel very well located near the centre, with a beachfront, and a quiet beach that has excellent cocktails at the bar. Spacious rooms and very good service. Excellent breakfast included, from 250 $usd per night!
  • Villas Flamingos: Located on a private beach on Isla Holbox, this 4-star hotel offers cozy and colorful bungalows with private terrace and hammock. From 387 $usd per night, breakfast included. Strong points: the stunning sea view, the relaxing atmosphere, the friendly staff, the delicious food. This is my suggestion for a peaceful and charming stay in Holbox!
punta mosquito holbox
Punta Mosquito, Holbox

10) Back to Cancun

It’s time to bid farewell to Holbox, the peaceful paradise. You have to take the ferry back to Chiquila and drive to Cancun to finish your 21-day adventure in the Yucatan Peninsula. 

If you have some spare time before your flight, you can explore Cancun a bit more. You can check out the hotel zone, go to Plaza Malecon Americas for some shopping, or see Playa Delfines.

How to get to Cancun from Chiquila:

  • By car 2h by Autopista Kantunilkín-Chiquilá/QROO5, and Kantunil-Cancún/México 180D to Cancún
  • By bus: 3h30-4h, with Mayab buses 84 pesos, departures 7h45 and 13h45, or departure by ADO bus 12h40 244 pesos
Cancun from the plane

So what are you waiting for to go on a trip to Yucatan?

Tourist map: 20, 21 or 22 days circuit in Yucatan

How to get to Yucatan by plane

Cancun airport receives many international flights from Europe and North America. The cities of Merida and Campeche also have domestic airports.

To find a cheap flight ticket to Cancun or a domestic flight, you can use our flight comparator, in collaboration with Skyscanner: it’s the guarantee to pay the best price!

Renting a car for a trip to Yucatan

Renting a car is for sure the best way to explore the Yucatan Peninsula in 21 days and make the most of your stay!

To rent a car, personally, I always use Booking.com Cars, for a few reasons:

  • You can easily compare the rental cars prices between all the agencies: for sure the easiest way to find the best rate!
  • Cancellation is often offered free of charge: no need to worry if you change your mind
  • Booking Cars offers full insurance coverage at a lower price than the rental companies, so it’s an instant saving with no effort

Simply click on the green button to find your rental car at the best price:

Some tips for driving in Yucatan:

  • You should avoid driving at night in the Yucatan Peninsula (and all over Mexico)
  • You should choose a car with good suspension, as the roads are not always in good shape
  • There are many toll roads in Mexico: to calculate the cost of toll booths and an estimate of fuel, you can check the government web site Traza tu Ruta.
  • I strongly recommend buying the TAG which is a prepaid electronic toll system: you don’t have to carry a lot of cashor stop at the toll booths. It costs 150 pesos to activate it, then you have to add at least 200 pesos (see the points of sale here). You can also recharge through the app (Android Iphone). Only once, in the state of Campeche, my TAG didn’t work and I had to pay cash, but otherwise, I never had any issues!
Las casetas de cobro (toll booths) in the Yucatán Peninsula

Yucatan in public transportation

The most easily accessible attractions are the main cities (Valladolid, Campeche, Merida) and almost all of the Riviera Maya (from Cancun to Tulum).

But some are located in areas of difficult access such as Calakmul.

So, if you plan to do this 3-week trip to Yucatan by bus, it will be very important to confirm schedules and travel times once you are there.

Here are some tips:

  • There are several local bus companies, but ADO is the most reliable. It’s best to buy your tickets on their website as they are usually cheaper than at the terminal.
  • An alternative to the bus is the colectivo (white 8-10 passenger van, the newer ones have air conditioning). They travel all over the Yucatan and there are many in the Riviera Maya.
  • In Playa del Carmen, colectivos leave from the corner of Calle 1 Sur and Avenida 45 norte (click here to see on map) and in Cancun, in front of the ADO terminal.
  • The colectivos are very convenient for a day trip but not so much if you have your luggage because there is little space.
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3 weeks in Yucatan
3 weeks in Yucatan

I have created this blog to give you all my best tips to plan your next trip to Mexico, regardless of your budget. I share detailed itineraries, advice about places to visit as well as recommendations for transportation, hotels and restaurants. I hope I will also help you to discover amazing off the beaten path destinations in Mexico!

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