Have you thought about taking a road trip through the Yucatan Peninsula? Go for it! It is, surely, one of the best trips you can take in a lifetime!
We tell you how much it costs, if it is safe to travel to Mexico on your own, suggested itineraries, how to get around, where to stay … everything you need so that your trip to Mexico on your own is perfect.
Lots of history, paradisiacal beaches, jungle, colonial cities, essential archaeological sites, delicious food … all this awaits you on your road trip through the Yucatan Peninsula! Are you coming to magical Mexico?
For us, it has been one of the best trips. Despite years of waiting for it, it ended up exceeding our expectations. We only stayed for 10 days because then we were dying to get to know CDMX… and because we know we are going to return! We believe that in 10 days the most important of the peninsula can be known without running, although, of course, the more days you have, the better!
The Yucatán Peninsula comprises the states of Quintana Roo, Campeche, and Yucatán in Mexico, plus part of Belize and Guatemala. In this road trip through the Yucatan Peninsula, we are going to focus on the most touristy part of Mexicans, especially Quintana Roo and Yucatán. Let’s see what you think!
Is it safe to travel to the Yucatan Peninsula?
Safety is the main concern of travelers when making a road trip through the Yucatan Peninsula.
To tell the truth, we were quite confident: it is one of the most touristic places in Mexico , so it should be quite “controlled”, and the areas of the country with a bad reputation are thousands of kilometers away. Even so, many people called us crazy when they found out that we were going to travel for free.
That said, we can say loudly that we NEVER saw anything weird or felt unsafe . And that we do not take as many precautions as we did in, for example, South Africa.
We always drove alone, on more and less touristy roads, trying to avoid the nights and the centers of the big cities, more because of traffic than anything else. In the cities, we wandered wherever we wanted , we went to eat in places “of Mexicans” instead of tourists, we went out almost every night … and, really, super good. It is true that we try, in all the countries we go to, not to attract attention , but even with a “good” camera around our neck and a backpack, without a lock, on our back, we have noticed that they tried to steal everything from us. contrary.
Of shootings, gang fights and others we do not even talk, it seems to us a very serious issue. It goes without saying that we did not witness any violent scenes , not even the typical drunken nightclub brawl. In fact, we believe that it is one of the few destinations where no one has come to offer us marijuana or pills. Down with stereotypes!
That said, this is our personal experience. We have listened and read from other travelers who have had scares … And that, unfortunately, is something that, no matter how many precautions are taken, can always happen when traveling …
Meeting with the police
Who was going to tell us that the most tense moment of the road trip through the Yucatan Peninsula was going to be with the police?
When we returned to Mérida from Uxmal , and for no apparent reason, there was a police car on the road and it stopped us. We didn’t really understand why, but they started to put us on ties! I admit that I always get nervous with the police, wherever they are, but the Mexican woman has such a bad reputation that the word “bite” reverberated in our heads … Above all, each of them had a submachine gun around their necks, which did not help. calm down …
One of the policemen spent a long time giving conversation to the driver (thank goodness it was Andrea!). The other, meanwhile, we imagine he was spinning the car. The first was asking nonsense, like where did we come from, if we were liking Mexico, how old we were and where we were from. I must say that Andrea handled the situation quite well, and that was not her language. I become me and it gives me something!
He told us we could go now and of course we ran off without asking any questions.
Later at the hotel they told us that it was common for there to be police on that road, and that they are usually routine checks . You are still lucky and it is not your turn!
When is the best time for a road trip through the Yucatan Peninsula?
In this area, the high season runs from Christmas to Easter . It is the dry season, with sun and a calm sea. The bad? Prices go up and… get ready for the hordes of North American tourists! especially during the famous “Spring break”.
Although the rest of the year was considered low season, Mexicans and Europeans are getting a taste for the area, and another high season is being created during the three summer months .
The rainy season is, above all, from May to October . That means there can be tropical storms, and even hurricanes (which are not around with little ones in this area), and a much more sticky and oppressive heat. That said, if you are lucky and the weather respects you a bit, when traveling in the rainy season you will find fewer people and better prices.
The Yucatan Peninsula has a typical tropical climate. In general, the average temperature is around 30 degrees .
Do you need a visa to travel to Mexico?
If you are a citizen of a European or North American country, or of the majority of Ibero-Americans (Brazil included), for this road trip through the Yucatan Peninsula, you do not need to obtain a visa or do any special procedure. Bad news if you are from Ecuador, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua … As we do not know how the procedure is, better consult with the Mexican embassy in your country.
You can be in Mexico as a tourist for up to 180 days (approximately 6 months).
On the plane, you will have to fill out the typical migration card with your personal data and travel information. Once at customs, you just have to show it along with your passport (with a minimum validity of 6 months) and voila!
The only thing you have to know is that you cannot put food that is not “industrial”, that is to say: bags of potatoes and packets of cookies are fine. We had a sandwich and a piece of fruit and we had to throw it away. They don’t search you, but there are officers with dogs in the baggage hall, so if they come to you, don’t panic!
How to get around the Yucatan Peninsula?
We fly direct from Madrid to Cancun airport with the low cost Wamos . It was not the best trip we have taken by plane… but, for what we paid, we cannot complain. The food was typical airplane food, and there was no entertainment on board.
As we were going to Mexico City later, we decided to do it from the Mérida airport , so as not to have to return from there to Cancun (3-odd hours away) … Wrong! Returning the car in another state cost us a beast (but a real beast!), So we had to do things a little differently to save time and money … Our road trip through the Yucatan Peninsula was divided, let’s say into two stages : We rented the car in Playa del Carmen for a week, we returned from Pisté to Playa to return it and then we went to Campeche in a “night” bus (not uncomfortable, the following) so as not to waste time… From Campeche to Mérida we went with a bus ADO (2.5 hours of travel) and, in Mérida, we rented another to go to Uxmal and returned it at the same airport.
If you are flying to and from Cancun, it is best to rent there and return the car at the same place . If we went back, we would fly to CDMX from Cancun, which also has very good prices.
Driving in the Yucatan Peninsula
In this area of Mexico, the roads are quite good and, except in the city centers, the traffic is not exaggerated. Driving during your road trip through the Yucatan Peninsula is going to be easier than you thought, you’ll see!
You just have to be a little careful with speed bumps at the entrance and exit of towns. Some of them are pretty beasts and you end up jumping in the car! We would also recommend that you avoid driving at night . There is not much lighting on the roads and it can be dangerous.
Regarding parking , you will find it in all archaeological sites (remember to arrive promptly!) At quite acceptable prices (50 pesos in Cobá, for example), and in practically all accommodations for free.
Rent a car in the Yucatan Peninsula
We rent, as always, with Rentalcars . The first of the cars was with Álamo (in the middle of Fifth Avenue in Playa del Carmen) and the second with Avis (at the Mérida airport). Both processes were quick and easy, and the people who attended us were super friendly. 100% recommended.
The prices, as you can see below, couldn’t be better.
Compare prices HERE and book your rental car with the best search engine
Getting around the Yucatan Peninsula by bus
At the beginning, when we planned the trip, we thought about doing everything by bus.
The ADO buses move between major cities and towns, and there vans that even lead to archaeological sites . In the end we did not decide because there is very little flexibility in schedules … also, having the days numbered, by car you have more flexibility and waste less time.
In addition to going from the Cancun airport to Playa del Carmen, we took an ADO to go from Playa (where we had to return to leave the car) to Campeche. As the distance is so great, we decided to save time by making the journey at night … mistake! It’s super uncomfortable and it’s extremely cold. It is an experience that we would not repeat.
If you are going to do a road trip through Yucatan, surely the Cancun airport is your place of arrival. This airport is modern and functional. It is the fifth busiest in Latin America and the second in Mexico.
Did you know that you can get from Cancun airport to Playa del Carmen easily by bus ? We tell you all the options, with approximate duration and prices, and we recommend the best one, in this post:
How to get to Playa del Carmen from Cancun airport
Itinerary: Road trip through the Yucatan Peninsula
The Yucatan Peninsula is a place so full of history, nature and interesting places, that we are sure that designing your route is going to be somewhat complicated… for us it was a real pot-bellied meal for weeks!
It depends on how many days you have, your budget and, obviously, your personal tastes . We leave you the road trip through the Yucatan Peninsula that we did and which one we would do now, knowing what we know, if we had two weeks.
Our Road trip through the Yucatan Peninsula in 10 days
No, 10 days are not enough to make a good road trip through the Yucatan Peninsula … but you will be able to know the most important things in the area and be dying to return! You will find the most detailed itinerary in this post .
- 1: Flight and arrival in Playa del Carmen
- 2: Playa del Carmen
- 3: Tulum, Playa Paraíso and Gran Cenote
- 4: Cobá, cenotes Tamcach-Ha and Choo-Ha
- 5: Bacalar
- 6: Valladolid
- 7: Las Coloradas and Río Lagartos, cenotes XKekén
- 8: Chichén Itzá, cenote Ik-Kil and Ek Balam
- 9: Campeche
- 10: Uxmal, Oxkintok
- 11: Mérida and flight to CDMX
Itinerary for a road trip through the Yucatan Peninsula in 2 weeks
After having lived a trip, many times little things of the planning that was carried out would be changed … In our case, although we are super happy with ours, we would make some modifications. Since two weeks is the standard length of vacation for many people, why not create a road trip itinerary through the Yucatan Peninsula in two weeks? Let’s see what you think!
Day 1: Arrival and Cancun / Playa del Carmen
You will surely arrive tired at the Cancun airport after a long flight. Between that, getting to your accommodation and getting settled a bit, your day is going to go away. Take the opportunity to go out to dinner along the main promenade of the city that you have chosen, and start getting into the atmosphere.
Day 2 and / or 3: Excursion to an island
Depending on how tired you are after the flight, you can spend the day in Cancun or Playa, and go the next day to an island, or move directly to one of the islands. The most practical is to go to Isla Mujeres from Cancun and Cozumel from Playa. Be careful, the accommodations on the islands tend to be more expensive … but we are sure it is worth it! If you like diving or snorkeling, take advantage.
Day 4: Tulum, Playa Paraíso, Gran Cenote
The archaeological zone of Tulum is beautiful! Being on the edge of the Caribbean Sea gives it many points … but it is also the one that is the most crowded. It is the one that best fits the excursions of the resorts and it becomes impossible.
Get up early, get up early and get up early! Get in the door before they open and you will have a little and quiet hour until the buses start to arrive.
Then, we recommend you go to eat on a terrace at Playa Paraíso and spend a little time relaxing there. Take advantage and end the day at the Gran Cenote, before going to Tulum town for dinner and a walk around the center. We really liked the atmosphere.
Day 5: Cobá
Another archaeological zone where you will have to get up early! We entered among the first and, being less known and a little more withdrawn, we saw it with few people and we enjoyed it a lot. We recommend that you rent a bike and climb to the top of the pyramid, you will see what a great landscape!
Later, to relax in the Tamcach-Ha and Choo-Ha cenotes. They are nearby and they are amazing! There is also a zip line right in front of Cobá, in case you prefer stronger emotions.
Day 6: Bacalar
Bacalar was one of the great surprises of the trip for us. The lagoon is amazing! Do not miss it at different times, to see how the color changes. Take the opportunity to kayak, stroll through the town and visit the Cenote Azul, one of the largest.
Days 7 and 8: Calakmul and surroundings
From Bacalar you can extend the trip and go down to Calakmul. It is about 4 hours and some travel. This archaeological zone is in the middle of the jungle, so it has to be spectacular! The bad thing is that it is a little removed … you have another 5 hours, more stops, until Campeche … That’s why we dedicate two hours to it. Hitting the car beating to sign and goodbye is not worth it either, is it?
If you have time, an hour before arriving in Campeche is the archaeological zone of Edzná, which has to be super interesting.
Day 9: Campeche
The city of Campeche is one of the most beautiful places we saw on this road trip through the Yucatan Peninsula! It is colorful, colonial in style and with lots of nice cafes and shops. Look out for the handicraft market of the old temple of San José! Don’t miss either the fortress and the boardwalk, with views of the Caribbean.
Day 10: Mérida
Just a couple of hours from Campeche, is the city of Mérida, one of the most culturally important in Mexico.
Explore the Plaza Grande and the surrounding buildings, and walk along Paseo de Montejo, stopping at the Regional Museum of Anthropology and History of Yucatán. It is super interesting! At the end of this walk, you have the altar to the homeland, an original and tremendously symbolic monument.
In Mérida you can’t stop trying the cochinita pibil, what a delight!
Day 11: Uxmal
Okay, choosing an archaeological site on this road trip through the Yucatan Peninsula is complicated… but Uxmal is high on the podium! Just an hour from Mérida, you can’t miss it. In addition, it is one of the least known, in fact, we saw it practically alone. You are going to hallucinate with the size of that pyramid!
After eating (please don’t do it at the resort restaurant), you can visit some other ruin. Nearby there are several of the Puuc style. We decided on Oxkintok and we loved it!
Do not delay in getting on the way to Pisté, which is just over 2 hours away. There, to sleep and dream of the next day …
Day 12: Chichén Itzá and the Ik Kil cenote
As for the rest of the archaeological sites, we got up really early to go to Chichén Itzá. We got there before they opened it, and there was already a line! We recommend you go by taxi from Pisté, it is cheap and you get rid of the parking queue.
Do not put a time and enjoy to the fullest the wonder that is Chichén. Then, to take off the heat in the Ik Kil cenote. It is one of the most beautiful … but also one of the most popular. If you prefer something quieter, and just as cool, you have X’Kekén, on the outskirts of Valladolid.
Tonight, it is better to sleep in Valladolid, and take the opportunity to go out to dinner in the Francisco Catón park area, there is a very good atmosphere!
Day 13: Valladolid and Ek Balam
Today you can spend the whole day in Valladolid more calmly, enjoying its streets and small shops, or come to spend the morning at the archaeological site of Ek Balam. It is only half an hour from the city and it is not well known yet, but it is spectacular! Nearby there is a cenote, in case you want to soak up.
Valladolid is a nice colonial city, and the center is not very big. As a curiosity, there we saw the only urban cenote of this road trip through the Yucatan Peninsula: the Zaci cenote. Don’t miss the San Bernardino de Siena convent and the Calzada de los Frailes; If you like photography, you will go crazy!
Day 14: Las Coloradas and Río Lagartos
One of the most fashionable areas in Yucatan is Las Coloradas and Río Lagartos. It is important that you know that if you want to see Las Coloradas well, you will have to go to the small town of Las Coloradas by car. From the boat, on the route through Río Lagartos, they don’t look good and you can’t even make out pink. That said, the walk along the river is worth it anyway! You will be able to crocodiles very close, birds and an incredible landscape. Also take the opportunity to give yourself Mayan clay and, when finished, enjoy a walk through the town.
Keep in mind that, no matter how many bikini photos you see on Instagram, bathing in Las Coloradas is totally prohibited and can be dangerous.
Now it’s time to get ready to finish the trip … From Valladolid to Cancun airport you have just over two hours, but go ahead. Staying in Cancun the day before, if your flight is early, may be a good idea.
Day 15: Back home
And after a dreamy road trip through the Yucatan Peninsula, it’s time to go home… We hope you enjoyed it!