3 Weeks Route through Yucatán for Backpackers // Mexico
There are a lot of reasons why traveling the Yucatán Peninsula: Caribbean beaches, romantic islands, a tropical environment, magical freshwater cenotes, historical places and welcoming towns. The weather is pleasant, the locals friendly and the food is really good (I got my daily dose of Guacamole and loved it). This blog is about our 3 weeks’ route through Yucatán: We used public transportation, traveled budget-friendly and only with hand luggage. We changed our original plan a bit, so if you want to see the following places, you can also do it within 2 weeks without rushing. All prices mentioned in this article are meant for each person.
Short overview of the places we visited:
Starting & End point: Cancún – 1 night
Isla Holbox – 4 nights
Valladolid (Chichen Itza, Rio Lagartos) – 3 nights
Bacalar („Lake of seven Colors“) – 3 nights
Tulum – 5 nights
Playa del Carmen – 2 nights
Isla Holbox – 5 nights
The northern part of Peninsula Yucatán is in Mexico, the southern part in Guatemala and Belize. It is located in the southeast of Mexico, separating the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. The Peninsula consists of the Mexican states Yucatán, Campeche and Quintana Roo. Yucatán is home to 2,1 million people and many of them are descendants of the Mayas.
How to get around
Bus: The bus service is very well organized, buses run regularly and leave always on time. The main bus company is called ADO, which is also the most convenient one. The main bus terminals are usually run by ADO, but they are also selling tickets for other bus companies like Oriente. If you download the ADO app (only available in Spanish), you can see the bus schedules, reserve tickets and (if you have a Mexican credit card) buy tickets online. We couldn’t buy the tickets online, so we bought the tickets the day before we left at the bus terminal or we reserved tickets online and picked them up 2 hours before the buses were leaving.
Colectivos: Colectivos are shared minivans. Usually they are located close to bus terminals or at big meeting points, like supermarkets. You just need to know in which direction your destination is, hop on the Van and tell the driver where to drop you off. They are a very cheap alternative to taxis.
Rent a car: A lot of tourists are renting cars to get around. From what we saw and heard it’s quite easy with a car and you are more flexible. But it’s more expensive than public transport.
Start and end point: Cancún
The biggest airport for international flights in Yucatán is in Cancún (CUN). We flew directly from Europe to Cancún and arrived in the evening. As we didn’t hear anything positive about this touristic place, we decided to not spend any time there. We slept the first night in Cancún Down Town close to the ADO bus terminal and left the next day in the morning to Isla Holbox.
Transport: Bus from Cancún Airport to Cancún Down Town: 83 Mxn (4€), 40 mins Where to stay: Hostal Granada 6, a double room is 500 Mxn (24 €)
As we wanted to start our trip relaxed, we decided to stay the first 4 nights of your trip at the island Holbox. We really loved this place, as the beach is just beautiful and it’s the perfect place to calm down and relax. The island is not a secret anymore, so the little center of the island is a bit touristic, but it’s not annoyingly crowded.
Things to do: Island Tour, Bioluminescence Tour, Explore the Island with a bike or Golf cart, if you get there in the right season: whale shark tour, nesting of turtles, see flamingos. How to get there: Bus from Cancún to Chiquila: 2,5 hours, 266 Mnx (12€) & Speed Boat: 30 mins, 150 Mxn (7€). The Bus leaves two times a day, so I recommend to reserve your ticket a day in advance and pick it up 2 hours before the bus leaves. The boats between Chiquila and Holbox leave every 30 minutes. Where to stay: Airbnb Casa Victor: the cheapest double rooms we could find, directly on the beach, very nice and relaxed. Detailed Blog: Complete Guide to Isla Holbox
Valladolid is a small city with pastel-colored colonial buildings and is home to 50.000 people. I really enjoyed the relaxed vibe of this city and there are very nice and cheap restaurants.
Things to do: Explore the town, visit the main square Plaza Principal and the Cathedral de San Gervasio. Valladolid is the perfect starting point for trips to the Mayan ruins Chichen Itza, Uxmal & Ek Balam and cenotes, like the famous Cenote Suyun. We also made a day trip to Rio Lagartos. Note: If you go from Holbox to Valladolid there is a time difference of 1 hour! How to get there: Boat back to Chiquila: 30 mins, 150 Mxn (7€) & Bus from Chiquila to Valladolid: 3 hours, 135 Mxn (6€). Detailed Blog: Valladolid in Mexico: History, Cenotes and a lot of Charm
Bacalar is a small layed-back town and famous for the beautiful „Lake of seven Colors“. The lake got this name thanks to its turquoise blue shades. There is not that much to do in Bacalar, it is more a place to chill out.
Things to do: Boat Trip & cenotes How to get there: Bus from Valladolid to Bacalar: 4,5 hours, 240 Mxn (11€) Detailed Blog: Bacalar (coming soon)
Tulum is a small city located at the Riviera Maya on the Caribbean coast. Tulum has beautiful beaches and that’s not a secret anymore. It is quite touristy, there stylish beach clubs and hotels and if you want to stay directly on the beach it can get very expensive.
Things to do: Mayan ruins on the coast, Cenotes, Diving, ect. Where to stay: Airbnb Tulum Nah How to get there: Bus from Bacalar to Tulum: 2,5 hours, 274 Mxn (13€) Detailed Blog: Tulum (coming soon)
Playa del Carmen
Similar to Cancún, we heard that Playa del Carmen is a very touristic place, where there is nothing special to see, but this time we wanted to see it by ourselves. We only spent one day there and were almost shocked, how touristic this place is. The main beach is not beautiful and the walking street is loaded with shops, restaurants and people. We spent half of the day on Xpu-Ha beach, which was more quiet and nice.
How to get there: Colectivo from Tulum to Playa del Carmen: 30 mins, 70 Mxn (3 €), Colectivos are leaving every few minutes from Aki Supermarket / 7eleven Xpu-Ha Beach: Colectivo in the direction of Tulum: 20 mins, 35 Mxn (1,50€)
Originally, we planned to go for a few days from Bacalar to Belize and then back to Cancún. When we were in Bacalar, we found out that this trip was quite expensive and to catch the flight back home from Cancún would have meant spending our last day in the bus, and maybe staying in Cancun for a day to get to the airport on time. So we skipped Belize and had a few days left before we went back home. For us, Holbox was the most relaxed and convenient place in Yucatán, so we decided to go back and spend the last few days there on the beach.
The Yucatán Peninsula is a really great place to visit, as there are a lot of different things to do and impressive places to visit. This trip was a mix of relaxing on beaches, exploring historical ruins and cities, seeing natural wonders like Cenotes, diving, taking a run on the beach, having drinks in a bar while listening to Latin-American music, seeing touristic places and finding relaxed places just for yourself. It was very easy to get around with public transport, the locals were really friendly and we felt safe all the time on our trip. I hope I could inspire you to visit this beautiful place as well!