Central America, Mexico

Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico: 10 Day Mexico Itinerary by Public Transport

September 9, 2022

If you’re looking to explore the Yucatan Peninsula by public transport, this comprehensive 10-day Mexico itinerary will give you a good introduction to this part of the country.  Read on for more details!

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. All this means is that if you make a purchase through one of the links I have provided, I will earn a small commission as a result but the cost to you will remain exactly the same.

At the beginning of the year, I had no plans whatsoever to go to Mexico.  In fact, just over two weeks before my friend Jayne and I flew out to Cancun, we were about to hit ‘buy’ on some return flights to Costa Rica.  But, unfortunately, the prices of said flights rose by over £100 as soon as we’d made the decision on which dates to book.  With just 14 days until our scheduled departure date, they were unlikely to come down again.  So, we needed a plan B.

Mexico was that plan B.  Direct return flights to Cancun with Tui started at only £349, no visas or covid tests were required to enter the country and the UK had recently changed their entry requirements to just one day two lateral flow test upon our return.  Unfortunately, neither of us had enough  annual leave remaining for a 14-night trip, but 10-nights was a completely doable option.

Now, I don’t drive (I passed my test at 17 years of age, but have never owned a car), and Jayne isn’t a confident enough driver to pilot a car  from the wrong side of the vehicle and on the opposite side of the road to the one us Brits are used to, so we had to formulate a 10-day Mexico itinerary by public transport.

There’s so much to see and do on the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico that this became an incredibly difficult challenge. What’s more, despite the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico being only a small part of the country when you look at it on a map, it actually covers 181,000 square kilometres (70,000 square miles) and encompasses the Mexican states of Yucatan, Campeche, and Quintana Roo.

Photos shared via: cenotefinder.com and travelyucatan.com

One important fact that we had to take into account when planning our 10-day Mexico itinerary was the date of Jayne’s birthday.  Not content that she was spending her birthday in MEXICO (just joking, Jayne!), she wanted to ensure that she was relaxing on the shores of Lake Bacalar as she completed another rotation around the sun.

This did affect the order in which we visited places and how long we spent at certain destinations.  But, having played around with the itinerary again since returning from our trip, in preparation for writing this post, I cannot actually find a better way of organising our stops, due to the schedules of the buses we took.  So, the itinerary I’m sharing here is the exact one we followed, and the one I recommend that you do, if you want to visit the same places within a similar timescale.

The Mexico itinerary we chose really helped us to appreciate the diversity of the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico.  We wandered the streets of old colonial cities, climbed impressive Mayan temples,  swam in vast lakes and beautiful blue cenotes, explored mangrove swamps, ate fresh fish on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico, photographed flamingos and iguanas, and spotted howler monkeys in the tall trees of the jungle canopy.

If you fancy a 10-day trip in which you can experience all of this then read on!

Our 10-Day Mexico Itinerary 

Our flight was due to arrive into Cancun at 15:55 so, whilst we were keen to get out of Cancun as quickly as possible (we’re not fans of busy, touristy resorts), we needed our first stop to be somewhere that was quickly and easily accessible by public transport.  In case of flight delays, we didn’t want to risk being stuck in Cancun for the first night due to missing the only bus to our scheduled destination.

Likewise, although our flight wasn’t until 17:55 on our day of departure, we needed to be at the airport at 14:55.  So, we didn’t want to be a million miles from Cancun on the morning of the day we were due to fly home.  But if you’re into a slightly more fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants travel style then you  may be able squeeze a tiny bit more into this Mexico itinerary than we did.

Day 1 | Arrive into Cancun, transfer to Valladolid

Due to an epic missed bus fail at Cancun bus station (not our fault, but a better grasp of the Spanish language may have prevented it from happening), we didn’t arrive into Valladolid until gone 10 p.m.  So, the only thing on our agenda on our first day in Mexico was to grab a nice cold beer or two from the hotel bar.

Day 2 | Explore Valladolid

Lots of people bypass Valladolid (pronounced Vy-aah-doh-leed) in favour of Merida, but we visited both, and I much preferred Valladolid.  It may not be as well located for exploring the surrounding area (there are more attractions located closer to Merida) but as a city itself, Valladolid is a lot smaller and more manageable, and just feels that much more authentic.  Its old colonial buildings are not as grand or as well preserved as Merida’s and their colourful paintwork is cracked and faded, but, for me, this only added to their appeal.


Valladolid also reminded me of the Peruvian cities, Ayacucho and Arequipa.  I have very fond memories of my time spent in both of those places, and for that reason I developed an immediate affinity for Valladolid.

Decorative windows and boutique shops, Valladolid

You won’t need any more than a day here, out of your 10-day Mexico itinerary, to explore the city’s ‘sights,’ but you could easily spend a lot longer simply wandering the streets with a camera in hand.

Don’t miss:

  • Visiting the 16th century Convento de San Bernardino.
  • Taking an aimless wander along Calzada de los Frailes (the street which runs from the city centre down towards the Convento de San Bernardino).
  • Cooling down with a refreshing swim at Cenote Zaci.
  • Getting a taste of local life (and picking up some cheap snacks) at Mercado Municipal.
  • Enjoying lunch at Le’ Kaat.
  • Stopping for a coffee and watching the world go by at Los Portales.
  • Chilling out in Candelaria Park.

Le' Kaat, Valladolid

Day 3 | Ek Balam and Cenote X’Canché, evening bus to Merida

It was a tough call choosing whether to visit Chichen Itza or Ek Balam on our second day in Valladolid.

If you plan to visit the most famous Mayan ruins on the Yucatan Peninsula then Valladolid is the closest base from which to do so.  However, it’s still almost an hour on the bus to Piste, from where you need to jump in a taxi to make the remainder of the journey to the ruins themselves.  And, the admission fee is 533 pesos (£20), which is significantly higher than pretty much any of the other Mayan ruins on the Yucatan Peninsula.  What’s more, we weren’t sure we could cope with the sheer number of tourists that we would have undoubtedly found there.

After our disappointment of finding Cenote Zaci temporarily closed the day before, we were also keen to visit a cenote while in Valladolid, and if we’d have chosen to go to Chichen Itza, we would not have had the time to also check out one of the area’s cenotes.

So, we finally settled on Ek Balam — largely because Cenote X’Canché is walking distance from the ruins, meaning that we could easily tick both of these attractions off our list in one day.

The quickest and cheapest way to get to the ruins is by colectivo (more on how these work in the transport section at the end of this post).  They leave from the location marked below and a one-way trip will cost 70 pesos per person (if the car is full).

The ruined city of Ek Balam — meaning ‘black jaguar’ — dates from 700-300 B.C.  It reached its heyday somewhere between 900-1100 A.D before being abandoned suddenly, following the arrival of the Spaniards.  Like Angkor Wat in Cambodia, the site was reclaimed by vegetation and lay hidden for many years.  There is no mention of it in the history books again until the 1880s, when French traveller and archaeologist,  Deserie Charnayas, visited the site.

However, it wasn’t until the 1980s, a whole century later, that anthropologists Bill Ringle and George Bey III undertook further explorations, and the INAH (Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia) has been conducting excavation and restoration work ever since.  Ek Balam only opened its doors to the public as recently as the late 1990s.

The Mayan ruins of Ek Balam, Mexico

Flora and fauna at Ek Balam, Mexico

Whilst the site itself encompasses an area of 16 square kilometres, the walled core is much smaller and can easily be visited in a morning or afternoon.

Even though we arrived later than planned (due to having to wait for more passengers to fill our colectivo), and therefore well after the official site opening time, we still found the number of other tourists at Ek Balam completely manageable and not at all overwhelming – which is exactly what we’d hoped for.

The ruined city of Ek Balam, Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico

The Mayan ruins of Ek Balam, Mexico

Ek Balam, Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico

And what’s more, Cenote X’Canché was even quieter.  If you’re not a confident swimmer, you’ll be pleased to know that there are proper access steps here (i.e. you don’t have to jump/dive in), and plenty of points at which you can get in and out of the water safely.

Cenote X’Canché, Ek Balam, Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico

We were definitely pleased we’d chosen to add both the Ek Balam Mayan ruins and Cenote X’Canché to our 10-day Mexico itinerary.

Day 4 | Explore Merida

Unfortunately, I don’t feel like we made the best use of our time in Merida.  We hadn’t realised just how big the city is and, as a result, wrongly assumed that we could simply have an ‘aimless wander’ around, ticking off a few sights as we went.  Don’t make the same mistake as we did; ensure that you plan your itinerary in advance.

Merida, Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico

Here are a few tips for getting the most out of your visit:

  • Taking a stroll along Paseo de Montejo is listed as a highlight in almost all the articles and blog posts I found about the city online.  We didn’t rate it enough to consider it the same.  It’s a busy main road and one of the major arteries running through the city,  and as a result, taking a stroll along here is neither peaceful nor relaxing.  Yes, there are some pretty impressive colonial mansions to be found, as well as some of Merida’s most iconic museums (the Monumento a la Patria is pretty impressive too!), but Paseo de Montejo is a long old street (3.2 kilometres, to be presice), and walking the whole length of it will take a large chunk out of your day.  If you only have one day in Merida, personally I’d skip it in favour of exploring the historic centre.
  • Take full advantage of the fact that ubers are widely available and affordable.  They make sightseeing in a big city like Merida so much easier because of some of the distances involved between attractions.
  • If you’re on a budget, you may be interested to know that you can head to Plaza Grande and take a peek inside any of the buildings lining this attractive public square, completely free of charge!  Buildings of note are: the Palacio de Gobierno, Museum of Contemporary Art, Casa de Montejo, Catedral de San Ildefonso, and Palacio Municipal.
  • We didn’t do this, but wish we had, because free walking tours are a great way to get orientated with a new city and learn a few things about it that you may not necessarily find in guidebooks.  The free walking tour in Merida is run by the Merida Tourism Office and leaves at 9:30 a.m. Monday-Saturday from the first floor of Palacio Municipal – the pink building in Plaza Grande.
  • If you’re a coffee fiend (as Jayne and I both are!), you’ll want to head to Manifesto for a brew.  Widely recommended on the internet and also by the owner of our hostel, Manifesto is the place to go for a no-nonsense, top quality cuppa.  They have two locations: one on Calle 59 and another on Calle 18 (in the northern part of the city).

Monumento a la Patria, Merida

Day 5 | Day trip to Celestún

This didn’t feature on our original 10-day Mexico itinerary but, following a recommendation from the really helpful owner at our hostel in Merida, we promptly slotted it in.  And I’m so glad we did, because it ended up being one of my highlights of the trip.

You’ll need to allow a whole day for this activity, as it’s a two to three-hour bus journey one-way from Merida’s Noreste bus terminal (so, at least a 4-hour round trip), and the boat trip around the reserve is also approximately two hours long.

Boat trip through the mangroves, Celestun

Celestún is a sleepy little fishing village on the north west coast of the Yucatan Peninsula that’s a great place to kick back and relax for a few days, if you have the time.  But, the real draw here is the Reserva de la Biosfera Ría Celestún — a wildlife sanctuary that is unique in terms of its diversity of natural environments, each of which comprises of various interdependent ecosystems.  You’ll find mangroves, coastal dunes, marshes, lagoons and low rainforests, and between them they’re home to almost 1,150 species of mammals, birds and vegetation.

Like many travellers, we came here primarily to see the flamingos. The Reserve is home to as many as 35,000 American flamingos (the largest and most brilliantly coloured of the six species in the world) during mating season, between November and February each year.

Celestun Biosphere Reserve, Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico

Salt deposits, Celestun Biosphere Reserve, Yucutan Peninsula

I was also lucky enough to see flamingos in the wild on a tour around Bolivia’s salt flats, but I think I managed to get a little bit closer to them on this trip.

What’s more, we happened to be in the right place at the right time to witness a large group of them take flight.

Flamingos taking flight, Celestun

We finished the day by enjoying some fresh fish on the seafront at La Palapa.

We lucked out by sharing a boat with a couple of Canadian girls, one of whom lived on Baja California and spoke fluent Spanish.  Fortunately, that meant that we didn’t have to wait for an English guide, as she could translate everything for us.  She was also able to ask our guide for a recommendation on somewhere to grab a late lunch in town.

The beach at Celestun, Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico

The Canadian girls splashed out on an entire fish (and a huge one at that!) to share between themselves and Jayne and I enjoyed some fresh octopus and guacamole.  Because everything comes served with guacamole in Mexico.

Day 6 | Morning in Izamal, afternoon bus to Bacalar

I’ve always had a penchant for the quirky and unusual, and a whole town painted the same vibrant sunshiny shade of yellow?  Well, that sounded right up my street.  Fortunately, Jayne was on the same page as me, and that is the sole reason we headed out to the Yucatan town of Izamal as part of our 10-day Mexico itinerary.

And I’m so glad we did!

Streets of Izamal, Mexico

The small town of Izamal has a population of just 15,000 and is one of 132 pueblos mágicos (‘magical towns’) scattered throughout Mexico.  The Programa Pueblos Mágicos is an initiative led by Mexico’s Secretary of Tourism that was designed to promote towns with great architectural, historical or cultural significance.

Not only have Izamal’s architecture and archaeological sites earned it a place on the UNESCO list of tentative sites, but the town also showcases a fascinating blend of pre-Columbian (Mayan), Spanish Colonial and modern-day Mexican culture.  You can learn about Izamal’s cultural significance at its cultural centre, located just steps away from the main square.

Centre of Culture and Arts, Izamal

There is no definitive evidence online to suggest why the buildings in Izamal’s town centre were all painted yellow, but there are several theories:

  • To honour of Pope John Paul II.  Izamal was painted yellow just before he visited the town in 1993.
  • To honour the Mayan Sun God, Kinich Kak Moo (meaning ‘fire macaw with the sun face’)
  • Yellow is a politically neutral colour.  In 1993, yellow was a colour used by neither of the ruling parties in Mexico’s government, therefore painting the buildings this colour was not inadvertently showing support for either party.
  • Yellow keeps the mosquitoes away — apparently.  I think I’m going to have to introduce more yellow items of clothing into my wardrobe, as the annoying little buggers seem to love having a chomp on me!

My theory is that it was probably a combination of all four reasons above.  But, either way, it’s a unique feature that’s definitely helped to put Izamal on the tourist map.  If you’re interested in visiting any more ‘colourful’ towns across the globe, you may want to check out Chefchaouen in Morocco, where the whole of its old medina is painted blue.

Convento de San Antonio de Padua, Izamal

Entrance to the Convento de San Antonio de Padua, Izamal

Convento de San Antonio de Padua, Izamal

Whilst you’re in Izamal, make sure you stop by the following attractions:

  • Convento de San Antonio de Padua — reportedly one of the first monasteries in the Western Hemisphere
  • Centro Cultural y Artesanal (centre of culture and arts).
  • Kinch-Kakmó — a 34-metre-high partially restored Mayan pyramid.

Izamal is 72 kilometres (45 miles) east of Merida, and the easiest way to get there and back is by colectivo.  They leave from the location below.  The fact that the colectivo was a minibus this time around and that we didn’t have to wait very long at all for it to become full is an indication that this is a much more popular route than the one out to Ek Balam.  A lot of people on the bus were locals though, and it certainly didn’t feel like Izamal was overrun with tourists.

There are regular ADO buses from Merida to Bacalar (the journey time is five hours), so just head over when you get back from Izamal.  At the time of writing, afternoon buses run at 13:00/15:00/18:00 hours.

Day 7 and 8 | Relax on the shores of Lake Bacalar, bus to Xpujul on the evening of day 8 

There’s not much on today’s itinerary, so you’ll have the opportunity to rest and recuperate after a busy schedule since your arrival into Mexico.  The good news is that Lake Bacalar is the perfect place to do enjoy doing nothing other than lazing around in the sunshine, admiring the views.  However, if you’re booked into Casa Bakal, you’ll also be able to hire kayaks and paddleboards completely free of charge.

Kayaking on Lake Bacalar, Mexico

Jayne and I are not normally very good at doing nothing (we like to be on the move, exploring; that is our definition of ‘relaxing’!), but we absolutely loved the two days we spent at Casa Bakal, on the shores of Lake Bacalar.

We contemplated staying ‘in town,’ but in the end we decided that, seeing as though the main reason we’d chosen to visit Bacalar was to spend time on and around the lake, we’d be better off at a hotel slightly out of town, in order to take advantage of the lakeside location.  The fact that our hotel had an on-site restaurant and bar cinched the deal for us.

Grounds of Casa Bakal, Lake Bacalar

Lake Bacalar is a 42-kilometre-long, 2-kilometre-wide (at its widest point) freshwater lake that’s renowned for its striking blue colour.  You can apparently see seven different shades of blue in the lake’s waters, ranging from bright turquoise to deep cobalt, earning this beautiful body of water its name — the ‘lake of seven colours.’

The water in Bacalar Lake is strikingly clear (some believe that’s owing to its bed of white limestone), making it a perfect spot for snorkelling and swimming.   You’ll also find a few cenotes located inside the lake, the most striking of which is Cenote la Bruja (‘Witch’s Cenote’), which is sometimes referred to as Cenote Negro (‘Black Cenote’).  This particular cenote is a whopping 76 metres deep!

Casa Bakal, Lake Bacalar, Yucatan Penninsula, Mexico

We splashed out on a private boat trip around the lake for Jayne’s birthday, organised for us by the staff at Casa Bakal.  Unfortunately, we’d badly burnt our backs when out kayaking that morning, so we had to keep ourselves covered up (much to the amusement of our guides), but that didn’t stop us going for a swim or two — in our t-shirts!

Jayne living her best life on her birthday boat trip, Lake Bacalar

Good to know: ensure that you wear reef-safe sunscreen when swimming in the lake, as the chemicals found in a lot of other sunscreens can damage the ecosystems found inside the lake.

Casa Bakal is also a fantastic place from which to witness the sun rising and setting over the lake.  Unfortunately, there was too much cloud around for a decent sunrise on our first morning, but we got lucky on our second and final day.

Sunrise, Lake Bacalar

We were actually pretty sad to be leaving this stunning place, but at the same time, we were itching to get moving again (we’re definitely not ‘beach holiday’ kinda girls!).   The staff at Casa Bakal booked us a taxi up to the bus stop in the centre of town, where we waited for our onward transport to Xpujil — the next stop on our Mexico itinerary.

If you catch the same bus as we did at 5 p.m., you’ll arrive into Xpujil at 8:30 p.m. (note that you’ll have to change in Chetumal; the bus leaves Chetumal at 6:45 p.m.).  If you’re staying in town, you can probably walk it, but we were staying six kilometres out, at a wonderful little place in the middle of the jungle.  so, we jumped in a taxi.  You’ll benefit from a better quality of accommodation by staying out of town, and Casa Ka’an was slightly closer to Calakmul, too.

Day 9 | Explore Calakmul, night bus to Tulum via Chetumal

It was this blog post that inspired me to add the ruins of Calakmul to our 10-day Mexico itinerary.

Although it’s very difficult to truly get off the beaten path when you have a limited amount of time available to you (unfortunately, always the way when you work a full-time job with a finite annual leave entitlement), Calakmul presented the very real possibility of doing so.   Not only is it tricky getting to Xpujil (the jumping off point for Calakmul) from pretty much anywhere in the Yucatan, but once you’re there, it’s still another couple of hours’ driving from the entrance to the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve to the jumping off point for the ruins.  So, it’s not somewhere your average tourist in Mexico is going to make it to.

Calakmul Archaeological Site

Reminded me a bit of Ta Prohm temple at Angkor Wat – I love the way the tree roots are creeping down the walls of this ruined building.

The Calakmul Biosphere Reserve occupies 7,231 km² and includes about 12% of the subperennial jungles of Mexico. It was established as a protected area in 1989 and has been on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list since 2002.  You can find 86 species of mammals here (18 of which are recorded as rare, threatened or under protection) and over 360 species of birds.

Flora and Fauna in Calakmul Biosphere Reserve

You could easily spend days exploring the Reserve, but the main reason people come here is to visit the archaeological site of Calakmul.  The ancient city is believed to have been home to around 50,000 people in its heydey.

It was rediscovered by a biologist named Cyruss Lundell, who flew over the area in 1931.  Calakmul is Mayan for ‘two adjacent mounds’ — likely because the two main pyramids looked like mountains in an otherwise flat expanse of jungle.

Me posing (almost!) at the top of Calakmul's tallest structure, Yuctan Penninsula, Mexico

It’s a bit of a minefield figuring out exactly how best to get to, and explore, Cakakmul.  Obviously, the easiest option is by car, but as we didn’t have one of those, these are your other options:

  • Book a guided tour.  The owners of the guest house we stayed at also, conveniently, run a tour agency called ‘Ka’an Expeditions.’  Their full-day tour of Calakmul currently costs $91.50, which was a little on the expensive side for us budget travellers, and also didn’t include a visit to the bat cave (which we desperately wanted to incorporate).  Incidentally, they do offer a visit to the bat cave as an add-on activity.  However, they also state that the first people to book the tour get to choose that add-on activity, so I guess we got pipped to the post.  Jayne also found a local company called Abel Tours on Trip Advisor, who were offering a similar itinerary to Ka’an Expeditions (but with the bat cave included), for a slightly cheaper price.
  • Book a place in a colectivo.  These don’t work in quite the same way as colectivos anywhere else, because they are purely set up to cater for tourists visiting Calakmul.  So, rather than you having to make it to the location of the colectivo, they will come and get you from your guest house at an arranged time.  You pay them a set fee (which includes admission to the Reserve and to the archaeological park), they drop you at the entrance to the park and then collect you from the same point at an pre-arranged time a few hours later.  The colectivo then goes on to the bat cave, with a stop at a local café in between.  This is the cheapest option and the one which allows you the most amount of freedom.  The owner of our guest house, Casa Ka’an arranged this option for us, because we wanted to see the ruins as independently as possible, whilst still being able to stop off at the bat cave.

It’s important to note that, unlike colectivos elsewhere, there is only one to and from the Calakmul ruins each day.  So, you are still running to someone else’s schedule to a certain extent and your time at the ruins is therefore, somewhat limited.

The only way to arrange your visit completely independently is to book a private taxi, which — considering the distances involved — is a pretty expensive option.

Calakmul Archaeological Site

As much as I loved our little intrepid adventure into Mexico’s jungle (we even got to see (and hear!) Howler Monkeys up close!), I did feel that our visit was somewhat rushed.  Even if you set off as early as 6:30/7 in the morning, you don’t get a full day to explore the ruins due to the amount of time it takes to reach them from Xpujil and the fixed time the colectivo leaves the park.  We reckoned we had four hours at most, and we were constantly clock-watching!

Weird jungle plants and standing stones, Calakmul Biosphere Reserve

Don’t let this discourage you, though; it’s still somewhere that’s definitely worth adding to your Mexico itinerary — especially if you want to escape (most of!) the other tourists in the Yucatan.  In fact, I wasn’t really aware of the number of other people who do actually make it out this far until we arrived at the Cueva de los Mercielagos.  The bat cave.

This place was INCREDIBLE!

There was a lot of standing around at the start while we waited for the other tour groups to go through, but once we’d made the 15-minute hike to the mouth of the cave, I could not believe what I was witnessing.  If I was to describe it as ‘awe-inspiring,’ I would not be hyperbolising.

Every evening at dusk, two to three million bats emerge from the depths of a dry cenote, swirling up into the air like a huge tornado.

There’s so many of them and they fly so quickly and erratically that they’re impossible to photograph.  But, a slow-mo video works pretty well.

Bat Cave, Calakmul

You’ll arrive back at your accommodation around early evening, so you’ll have plenty of time to grab dinner.  If you’re staying at Casa Ka’an, I can recommend the quesadilla with cheese and mushrooms.

We decided at the last minute to catch an overnight bus to Tulum, rather than wasting a large chunk of the following day getting there, so we’d actually paid for two night’s accommodation at Casa Ka’an.  This meant that we could chill out and grab a shower before jumping into a taxi to Xpujil’s bus station.  If you can afford to, you may want to do the same. Otherwise, it’s worth asking the staff at Casa Ka’an if you can store your luggage before you leave in the morning and if there’s anywhere to change/shower when you return that evening.  They were really helpful and accommodating with all of our requests, so you never know!

The night bus leaves Xpujil’s bus station at 12:25 a.m.  It’s not an ADO bus (the ADO buses only leave during the day), so it wasn’t as comfortable as the ones we’d been used to.  It was also freezing, so make sure you have plenty of layers with you in your hand luggage on board.  There are also no toilets on board, but the bus did make a couple of stops, to my recollection.  You’ll arrive into Tulum at around 6 a.m. on day 10 of your Mexico itinerary.

Day 10 | Explore Tulum

I’ve got to admit, I didn’t love Tulum.  After spending almost the entirety of our trip pretty successfully escaping hordes of other tourists, we felt like we were being suffocated by them in Tulum.  It was unpleasant and overwhelming.  Tulum is also significantly more expensive than the other destinations we’d visited as part of our 10-day Mexico itinerary.  We found it impossible to find anywhere to eat that wasn’t aimed at accommodating foreign tourists, and most places had a price tag to match their target audience’s Western salaries.

Weirdly, though, the lady on the reception desk at our hostel hardly spoke a word of English.

Backstreets of Tulum centre

The primary reason we made a stop in Tulum was to break up the long journey to the airport, and to be somewhere close to the airport on the night before our flight.  And, it’s not an unpleasant place.  In fact, it does have quite a chilled vibe; it just seems to have lost a lot of its authenticity.

If you like street art, there are some pretty impressive pieces to be found around the city’s backstreets.

Street art, Tulum

While we were there, we figured we may as well incorporate a visit to the famous Tulum Archaeological Zone into our Mexico itinerary.  However, due to not being able to get into our hostel until after 8 a.m. and struggling to find anywhere open for breakfast much before 9 a.m., we didn’t arrive at the site until 10:30 a.m., when there was already a long line of tourists queuing to get in.  We subsequently wandered around rather more quickly than we would’ve done had it been quieter.

Don’t be fooled by the lack of people in these photos below, we just timed them well and cropped where necessary!

Tulum Archaeological Zone

Day 11 | Morning in Tulum, afternoon bus to Cancun in order to fly home

There are regular buses between Tulum and Cancun airport and the journey time is just under two hours.  As we had to be at the airport three hours before our flight home, we had just enough time for a nice leisurely breakfast/brunch before heading to Tulum’s bus station.  Passing all of Quintana Roo’s huge resorts along the way made us feel very glad that we’d decided to avoid them.  Incidentally, we met other Brits on the flight home who were surprised and slightly shocked that we’d ventured beyond these resorts, due to their belief that it wasn’t safe to do so!

It absolutely is!  Whilst we may have struggled with the language barrier on a few occasions —most notably at Merida’s bus station, when we wanted to change the tickets we’d purchased to Bacalar —we didn’t at any point feel unsafe or threatened.  And, whilst speaking and understanding a little Spanish will definitely enhance your experience of travelling independently in Mexico (I speak enough to get by; it’s understanding the local’s responses that I find difficult), it’s not absolutely necessary that you do so.   Just be prepared for the odd challenge or two along the way!  After all, that’s what real travel is all about 😉

And that’s a wrap on my 10-day Mexico itinerary!  But, read on for further details on our trip costs, ground transportation and where we stayed.

10-Day Mexico Itinerary | Flights

We booked our return flights from Birmingham to Cancun with Tui for £349 each, approximately two weeks before our departure date.  Previously, I’ve had to head down to London to catch long-haul flights, because they’re normally a lot more expensive from my local airport – if they leave from there at all.  So, I was pleasantly surprised to find the prices so low from Birmingham.  Although, with travel opening up once again (hopefully on a more permanent basis this time around), I do wonder how long they’ll stay this low.

I always use Skyscanner to research and compare flight prices.  But, sometimes you can score cashback through sites like Quidco and Top Cashback, if you actually book direct with the airline.

10-Day Mexico Itinerary | Ground Transportation

We booked all of our bus journeys via Busbud.  The website has a massive inventory of buses (3,900+ bus companies connecting 21,000+ cities across 80+ countries with 2,300,000+ bus routes, according to their website), and it allows you to book tickets directly through them, without having to leave the site.  Jayne downloaded the app and was able to view all her tickets easily on here, all in one place.

As well as using buses to get around in Mexico, we also used colectivos and ubers.

You’ll find colectivos all over Central and South America.  They’re essentially shared taxis and can be cheaper and faster than local buses.  Unlike buses, they don’t stick to a timetable; they just leave when they’re full.  They can take the form of minibuses or standard 5-seater cars, depending on the popularity of the destination.  It can often be a bit tricky to find out where they leave from (there are different colectivo ranks for different destinations), but if you speak a bit of Spanish, the locals are normally happy to point you in the right direction.

Ubers, on the other hand, were useful in Merida due to the sheer size of the city and the time it would otherwise have taken us to get from place to place.  When you have a limited amount of time at your disposal and a lot of ground to cover, it just makes sense to use them when they’re so affordable.  We even threw caution to the wind and booked an uber one evening to La Bottega (a journey that would have taken us 50 minutes on foot), because we fancied tapas and wine for dinner on our last night in the city.

10-Day Mexico Itinerary | Accommodation Costs

Apart from our stay on Bacalar Lake, we booked all our accommodation through booking.com.  We always try to find options as budget-friendly as possible (a clean, safe and secure option is more important than staying somewhere that would look good on the ‘gram), but we also take location into account, as well as customer reviews and whether the nightly rate includes breakfast.

Here’s where we stayed and what we paid.  Bear in mind that we did book these fairly last minute, so better deals may be available for your 10-day Mexico itinerary if you book further in advance. All rooms are private rooms with bathroom unless otherwise stated.

  • Valladolid | Casa San Juan – Spotlessly clean, spacious rooms, on-site bar and restaurant and a fantastic breakfast included.  Staff don’t speak much English though, so it’s a great opportunity to practice your Spanish.  We paid £80.12 for two nights (so, £20.03 per person, per night). Includes breakfast.
  • Merida | Guaya Hostel – Family-run, nice chilled, laid-back vibe, incredibly helpful host and a lovely inclusive breakfast. Plus it’s just minutes from the bus station.  Private rooms and dorms available.  We paid £77.30 for three nights (so, £12.88 per person, per night).
  • Bacalar Lake | Casa Bakal – we did splash out a bit on this place as it was Jayne’s birthday, but it was worth every penny, and the location, right on the shores of Bacalar Lake, was stunning!  The inclusive breakfast was amazing too! We paid £112 for two nights in a small double room with shared bathroom (so, £28 per person, per night).  Includes breakfast.
  • Xpujil | Casa Ka’an – properly in the middle of the jungle, but with a strong, reliable wifi connection and an Alexa in the room too!  The ‘room’ was actually a little apartment, with a huge bedroom and living area and attached bathroom.  Staff were lovely and incredibly helpful and there’s a restaurant on-site.  We paid £111 for two nights (so,  £27.75 per person, per night).  Includes breakfast.
  • Tulum | Casa Almendro – Really tranquil location, but just minutes from shops, bars and restaurants.  Rooms are spacious and spotlessly clean and there’s a lovely roof terrace to chill out on.  Limited English spoken by staff.  We paid £43 for the room for one night, which was at the upper end of our budget, considering that no breakfast was included.  However, everything in Tulum was more expensive than everywhere else we travelled to in Mexico.

Overall accommodation costs for 10 nights, per person = £212.25 / $279.70 (conversion to dollars correct March 2022).

If you enjoyed this 10-day Mexico itinerary for the Yucatan Peninsula, why not pin it to one of your Pinterest boards?

How to Spend 10 Days Exploring Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula Gallop Around The Globe

A 10-Day Itinerary for Visiting the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico | Gallop Around The Globe

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  • Reply Bring us that horizon March 3, 2023 at 5:39 PM

    Wow, it looks like you managed to fit so much into your time there. We were there back in January this year & loved it!
    I’ve just been having a browse on your site & you have a some great posts!!

    • Reply Kiara Gallop March 8, 2023 at 3:56 PM

      Ahh, thank you! I’m so pleased you’re enjoying my posts 🙂 Yep – on reflection, we probably tried to fit too much in to our Mexico itinerary, lol 😉 But, I wouldn’t have it any other way!

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