Are you ready to spend an amazing 2 weeks in Mexico and discover all the highlights while backpacking Yucatan and Chiapas?
This Mexico itinerary takes you through the best places to visit in this area of Mexico.
Our first ever backpacking trip together started in Cancun and we traveled back to Mexico several times now. We felt right at home from the minute we set foot on its soil. I can remember vividly how fast we changed our long pair of jeans for a short in the toilets of the airport.
- On the first part of this trip you explore the famous Riviera Maya. You can expect a lot of sunshine, white sandy beaches and palm trees. 🙂
- Afterwards, this Yucatan itinerary continues inland. Here you explore Mayan ruins and some very pretty cities under the blazing sun.
- Last but not least, the Chiapas area shows you another part of Mexico. Visiting the ruins of Palenque in the jungle is a must-do! This trip ends in San Cristobal de las Casas, one of my favourite cities in the world! I’m pretty sure you are going to like it too!
Get ready to soak up some sun!
2 Weeks in Mexico itinerary map
Getting around in Mexico
Just a little info on how to get from A to B before we dive into this Mexico itinerary. Getting around in Mexico is easy and you can choose between different options. For more detailed information check our guide on transportation in Mexico.
For this trip I used the reliable ADO bus service to give you an estimated transfer time between the destinations.
Maybe you like to make a road trip out of it? Check out this platform to find the best deal to rent your own car.
Cancun day 1 & 2
Everybody has heard of Cancun before. It is one of the favourite cities to go to for celebrating spring break. But don’t worry if you’re not a student or a wild party animal, Cancun has enough to offer to be an awesome vacation destination!
For me the best thing about Cancun is its white sandy beaches. There is no better place to get over your jet lag.
Things to do in Cancun
- Visit Cancun’s Hotel zone – A tourist area with pretty beaches and famous places like the Hard Rock café, Hooters, Coco Bongo and many more.
- Eat the best street food in Parque de las Palapas or try the delicious snacks at Quesadillas Tierra del Sol at the corner of the square! One of our favourites!
- Go souvenir shopping at the Mercado 28 – Shop owners here tend to use a rather in-your-face selling technique but if you are a good haggler you might do a good deal here.
- Take a ferry to Isla Mujeres – Explore this small island in front of the coast on a day trip. Stroll around, do some snorkelling and try the seafood.
- Spend a night out at Coco Bongo – Enjoy the show and dance the night away at the popular Coco Bongo club
- Be adventurous in Xcaret water park – Swim in the underground rivers of the Caribbean and discover all the wonders of this Cancun theme park.
- More things to do in Cancun
Where to stay in Cancun?
Cancun is filled with luxury resorts, hotels and hostels. Prices or often steep for decent accommodation. Take a look at this list of the best hostels in Cancun if you want to stay there without breaking the bank!
The bus from Cancun to Playa del Carmen takes around 1.10 h
Playa del Carmen day 3
A short bus ride away from Cancun you find your next Caribbean destination on the Riviera Maya: Playa del Carmen. It can get crowded with tourists but don’t let that scare you. Our first impression wasn’t that great but we ended up living here for 3 months.
Most tourist hang out on 5th Avenue where colourful restaurants, cafés and shops are lined up next to each other. And of course is the beach the place to go to when in Playa! I can recommend to visit one of the cenotes near Playa del Carmen for a refreshing swim in a sublime setting.
Things to do in Playa del Carmen
- Stroll around 5th Avenue – The tourist shopping and dining street of Playa del Carmen called La Quinta in Spanish.
- Spend a wild night out in one of the clubs on 12th Street
- Take the ferry to Cozumel Island – See day 4 of this trip
- Visit one of the cenotes – We went to Jardin del Eden and had a great time swimming in its refreshing water. Ideal if you like to get away from the hoards of tourists on the beach.
- Try the delicious and inexpensive food at El Fogon! This was one of our frequently visited restaurants while we stayed in Playa. You can find it on Avenida Constituyentes right across the Mega Store.
- Have a fun day at Wet and Wild – A fun aquatic park next to the ocean with a lot of slides.
Where to stay in Playa del Carmen
The Ferry from Playa del Carmen to Cozumel takes around 1 h
Cozumel day 4
On day four you go on a day trip to the tropical island Cozumel. An enjoyable ferry ride takes you to the docks of this little gem. The best thing you can do here is rent a car and explore the island on a self-drive tour.
Things to do in Cozumel
- Go on a self-drive tour around the island
- You can go snorkeling at the Money Bar
- Spend a few hours discovering Punta sur Eco Beach park – Check out the birds and crocodiles from the wooden watch tower and the observation deck. Don’t forget to climb the lighthouse tower where you get an amazing 360° view of the area. If you travel between June and October you can visit the sea turtle protection and sea baby turtles hatch.
- Drink a cocktail in Cozumel town – Take a stroll around the main square and admire the wall art on the surrounding streets.
- Witness a breathtaking sunset on the west side of the island – Close to the money bar
- Cozumel is famous for its Scuba diving. Get some lessons and dive in!
Check out our guide to have the perfect day out in Cozumel.
Where to stay in Cozumel
Instead of staying 2 nights in Playa del Carmen you can also opt to spend 1 night in Playa del Carmen and 1 night in Cozumel. You have to return to Playa anyway to catch your next bus to Tulum.
The bus from Playa del Carmen to Tulum takes around 1 h
Tulum day 5 & 6
The last day on the Caribbean side of Mexico is spend in Tulum. This little town has become a backpackers favourite over time. The town itself is very tiny, it’s actually more one street and a couple of side streets but it is pleasant and the vibe is laid-back.
Treat yourself with a stay in a cabana on the beach. You will not be disappointed. Tulum has some of the most gorgeous beaches. Waking up with the sounds of the waves rolling in is just magical.
There is an extra day counted in to do one of the many excursions in the Tulum area.
Things to do in Tulum
- Relax at one of the prettiest beaches of Mexico: Playa Paraiso
- Visit Natural Reserve Sian Ka’an – An excellent day trip to do in Tulum! You will need a car to get into the park or join a tour. The beaches or breathtaking and as good as deserted. In the biosphere you can spot crocodiles, turtles, dolphins and hundreds of bird species.
- Explore the Zona Archeologica – Take a look at these Mayan ruins which you can find on the beach. You can even admire the Tulum ruins while swimming in the turquoise waters of the Ocean.
- Go scuba diving in a cenote – Join a tour to freshen up or learn your diving techniques before discovering the underwater world in a cenote
- Have a tequila/salsa night out in town – Get your groove on and try your best salsa moves in one of the bars downtown.
- Visit the archeological site of Coba – These Mayan ruins are located in the jungle. You can climb the Nohoch Muul pyramid and enjoy the stunning views of the surrounding area.
Where to stay in Tulum
In Tulum you have 2 main choices: you can stay in town or on the beach. A stay in town is cheaper, a stay on the beach is amazing if you choose the right place to sleep.
Check out our guide on best places to sleep in Tulum to help you determine what the best accommodation option is for you.
The bus from Tulum to Valladolid takes around 1.35 h
Valladolid and Chichen Itza day 7 & 8
Your first week of this 2 weeks in Mexico consisted of a lot of beach bumming in the Caribbean. Time to head inland.
Valladolid is a pleasant city with cobbled streets, colonial buildings, cenotes and much more! Take one full day here to walk around the city and the second day to do a day trip to Chichen Itza.
Things to do in Valladolid
- Swim in Cenote Zaki – This is a cenote in the middle of town. So no need to arrange for transportation, just walk up there, pay the entrance and take a dip in the cool water. Or opt to go swimming in one of the many cenotes around town like cenote Samula
- Wander around the cobbles streets – Explore the beautiful city center with its cute little square and the convent of San Bernardino de Siena. You can also opt to do a free city walking tour and discover the best of Valladolid with a local guide. Don’t forget to tip the guide for his/her effort. 😉
- Take a day trip to Chichen Itza – Valladolid is the gateway to these popular Mayan ruins and it is a very popular day trip to do. Expect your visit to be crowded. It is difficult to avoid the big pack of tourists but it is less crowded in the early morning.
Where to stay in Valladolid
We stayed at a very nice hostel called La Candelaria. Our room in this colonial house was very nice and clean. La Candelaria hostel is located in the center and has a cozy outdoor terrace. Breakfast is included in the price. All you need for a great stay in Valladolid.
The bus from Valladolid to Merida takes around 2.20 h
Merida day 9, 10
The last stop of the Yucatan itinerary is Merida. A vibrant city with boiling hot temperatures and delicious food.
I recommend staying at a hostel or hotel that has a swimming pool. It is best to do your exploring in the morning or evening because the afternoon can get extremely hot.
Best things to do in Merida
- Stroll around town and discover Merida’s beautiful buildings like the Palacio de Gobierno and the Cathedral de San Ildefonso which is beautifully illuminated at night.
- Enjoy Yucatan specialty dish “Cochinita Pibil” a delicious pork meat dish in an orange based sauce.
- Go salsa dancing in one of the many bars.
- On a day trip from Merida you can visit the yellow city Izamal. Visit the ancient San Antonio de Padua convent and the pyramids of El Conejo and Kinich Kakmo.
- If your accommodation doesn’t feature a swimming pool you can go swimming at Progresso. This beach town is a short 30 minute drive from the city.
Where to stay in Merida
We stayed at Nomadas hostel and I am pretty sure this is the best hostel in town. It is sublime! They offer some amazing recently built private rooms with private bathroom. The swimming pool is great and breakfast is included. As a plus, they organise weekly salsa lessons, cooking classes, mariachi evenings and more!
The bus from Merida to Palenque takes about 8.30 h
Palenque day 11 & 12
After a pretty long bus ride you arrive in the Chiapas region. Traveling in Chiapas is a lot cheaper than traveling around the Riviera Maya. So these last 4 days are much better for your budget. Chiapas isn’t only cheaper but it has a totally different vibe too. It is a gorgeous part of Mexico and you will soon see why.
Things to do in Palenque
- The most popular thing to do here is to visit the world famous Palenque ruins. Deep in the dense jungle you can find these significant Mayan ruins. Read our guide on exploring Palenque ruins.
- Go on a Misol-Ha and Agua Azul tour. This is an absolute must-do activity! The Misol-Ha waterfall is fun because you can walk behind it and take some nice silhouette photos at the same time. The mist of the water has you soaking wet before you know it. The turquoise pools of Agua Azul are beautiful. You can walk all the way up the different platforms and if conditions are well, you can swim in them too.
- If you decide to only spend 1 day at Palenque then opt for the combined tour of the ruins and Misol-Ha and Agua Azul. You will see all of them in this fun day tour, no fear of missing out.
- If you decide to have an extra day here and want to do something totally different than check out this jungle rafting tour. A 2,5 hour rafting tour is combined with a 2 hour jungle walk, the visit of an abandoned site, interaction with a Maya tribe that lives in the jungle and the visit of a waterfall.
Where to stay in Palenque
We stayed at the Kin Balam Cabanas near El Panchan. The location is ideal if you want to be very close to Palenque National Park and ruins. There is a swimming pool but the water was very warm due to the blistering sun. Still it is nice to take a dip here and talk to the other travelers. The cabanas are nice and the atmosphere was good. We went for dinner at Don Mucho’s where you can enjoy live music and good and tasty meals. Bring enough money as there are no ATM’s in El Panchan.
The bus from Palenque to San Cristobal de las Casas takes around 8.30 h
WATCH OUT! Take the regular bus to San Cristobal. Don’t take a tour that travel agencies organise. That tour is supposed to take you to Misol-Ha, Agua Azul and drop you of at San Cristobal. This is a scam! Most of the time that “shorter” route they offer is blocked. After your visit to Agua Azul you get the choice to either return to Palenque or continue on your own to San Cristobal. Read all about what we experienced as the travel scam road block.
San Cristobal de las Casas day 13 & 14
The last stop on this 2 weeks in Mexico itinerary is San Cristobal de las Casas. It is one of our favourite cities in the world. Sure, it might rain cats and dogs at times and the region is sensitive to earthquakes, but the whole vibe of this city makes everything worth while.
Things to do in San Cristobal de las Casas
- Join a free walking tour and get to know the numerous little gems this city has to offer. It is a perfect way to get to know the city, learn a bit of its background and discover popular places to eat. Just tip the guide at the end for the effort.
- Visit the artisanal market in town. Hundreds of stalls are placed next to each other packed with colourful textiles, jewelry, backpacks, items made of leather and all kind of trinkets. You can buy many cheap and beautiful souvenirs here. I actually bought a handmade big bag so I could transport all the goodies we bought here.
- Visit the house of chocolate and make your own chocolate – It was a fun short activity but I must admit our end product didn’t taste that good, the chocolate was 85% pure chocolate. It could use some more sugar and milk for sure.
- Explore the indigenous towns of San Juan Chamula and Zinacantan.
- If you missed your chance in Palenque to do a tour of Misol Ha and Agua Azul, you can do it from San Cristobal.
- Take a tour to Sumidero Canyon. Be prepared to witness the amount of trash floating in the river. Nevertheless the canyon is amazing and you probably spot some wildlife like crocodiles, monkeys and birds. You can combine a visit to the canyon and the exploration of Chiapa de Corzo, a Spanish colonial city, in a cool full day excursion.
- Discover the Montebello Lakes and the Chiflon waterfall on a day tour from San Cristobal.
Where to stay in San Cristobal de las Casas?
We stayed in the best hostel in town: Posada del Abuelito. The setting is very cozy and the rooms are super cute and comfortable. A super big plus about this hostel its the amazing staff! They offer you the best service you can have with a big smile on their face.
Recently they opened a second hostel in town: La Abuelita Hostal and Terraza. Next time we visit San Cristobal we are going to check that one out for sure!
Either way, you can’t go wrong with staying at Posada del Abuelito, voted the best hostel in Mexico 2013, 2018 and 2019!
Round up 2 weeks in Mexico itinerary
This was our Mexico itinerary for the Yucatan and Chiapas area. Mexico is a large country and this trip just shows you a tiny part of it. But by following this route for backpacking Yucatan and Chiapas, you experience a bunch of favourite destinations and get a good taste of Mexican culture and its Mayan heritage.
Visits to Caribbean beach towns alternate with jungle tours and exploring Mayan ruins. Pack your bag and enjoy your holiday!