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Planning a 10-day trip to the Yucatan and Maya Riveria? Keep reading for a sample 10-day Mexico itinerary!
The Yucatan Peninsula and Maya Riveria are one of the most popular tourist destinations in Mexico! With its beautiful blue ocean beaches, rich culture, and fascinating history, there is so much to do for people with a range of interests! Whether you’re a history buff, adventure seeker, or beach bum, the Yucatan Peninsula and Maya Riveria is perfect for you!
Filling up 10 days in the Yucatan Peninsula and Maya Riveria is quite easy because there are so many interesting and beautiful places to visit! In this 10-day itinerary, you’ll explore some of the top destinations in the Yucatan Peninsula and Maya Riveria; from the best things to do in Tulum to the best things to do in Merida!
The first trip I ever took outside of the United States was to the Yucatán and Maya Riveria region of Mexico. As someone who took Spanish classes for almost 12 years, I was so excited to experience the language and culture that I learned so much about.
The best part about the trip was that everything we did was within a few hour’s drive of one another, making travel very easy! Keep reading to learn more about our 10 day Mexico itinerary!
This trip was in conjunction with them my high school AP Spanish class. The company Explorica planned and took care of everything on the trip. If you want to learn more about how you can travel as a high/school and college student, read our review of tour agencies here!
10-day Itinerary to Yucatán and Maya Riveria, Mexico
One Day in Cancun
Day 1: Arrive and Explore Cancun
For the first day of your 10 days in Meixco, plan it as a travel day! Flying into Cancun is the easiest because it’s the largest airport in the region. I flew into Cancun, Mexico from Pittsburgh. This first day is a day to settle in, check into your hotel, and enjoy the beaches of Cancun!
Cancun is known for its nightlife, shopping, tourism, and beaches. If you’re feeling up for it after a day of traveling, visit El Centro for some shopping and to enjoy the city.
During your visit, if you’re not interested in renting a car, you can easily book private airport transfers to Cancun.
Four Days in Merida
Day 2 Exploring Merida
On our second day after checking out of our hotel, we made our way to Merida, a cultural center and the largest city in the Yucatan. Merida ended up being my favorite spot because I felt like I was experiencing authentic Mexico with just a taste of tourism.
Merida is known for its Mayan and colonial heritage, as it was built on the site of the Mayan city T’hó. The streets are lined with colorful buildings and beautiful architecture. If there’s one word to describe Merida it could be charming! Merida is very safe, so safe it’s considered one of the safest cities in Mexico. And it’s affordable and the people are so friendly to tourists!
Merida is very walkable so take advantage of seeing the sights via walking. If you want a walking tour guide for the city, visit this post by Roaming Around the World.
Where to Stay in Merida: Hotel Del Peregrino
The first day is mostly for arrival, checking into the hotel, and exploring. We stayed at the Hotel Del Peregrino and LOVED it! It was located very close to downtown, which was perfect so we could walk everywhere. The inside decor was beautiful featuring high ceilings and restored mosaic tiles. Rooms had a private bathroom, cable TV, Wifi, and a safe. Every morning we were provided breakfast by the owners and it was amazing!
On our first day in Merida, make sure to visit the Catedral de Mérida – San Ildefonso and stroll down the Paseo de Montejo, the major avenue of Mérida, México. Also, take some time to visit Plaza Grande, the major park in the city.
Getting to Merida from Cancun: Merida is a 3.5-hour drive from Cancun if you’re renting a car. If you’re relying on public transit for this trip, the ADO bus line goes from Cancun to Merida. It is usually less than $50.
Day 3: Day Trip to Celestún Biosphere Reserve and Uxmal
On our second day in Merida, we went on a day trip to the Celestún Biosphere Reserve for a flamingo viewing boat tour. The Celestún Biosphere Reserve is a vast wetland system that serves as a wintering zone for migratory birds. Here, you can see a range of bird species, but the main attraction is the flamingos!
During our visit to the Celestún Biosphere Reserve, we went on a viewing tour that included viewing the flamingos, exploring the mangrove forests, swimming, and lunch. It was amazing to see so many flamingos in their natural habitat. It was literally a sea of pink!
Book a Tour to Celestun here! You can see the details of our tour to Celestun here.
Uxmal Mayan Archeological Site
After visiting Celestún Biosphere Reserve, we traveled to Uxmal. Uxmal is one of the most important archeological sites of Mayan ruins because of how well it’s preserved! The city was inhabited from 875 to 900 CE and is thought to the capital city of the Puuc region.
For a visit to Uxmal, it’s helpful to get a guided tour because there is so much history to learn about! The site is much smaller than the famous Chichen Itza, but it’s just as fascinating (and less busy!).
During your visit, take note of some of the amazing architectural acoustics. If you stand in front of the Temple of the Magician, the echo makes a sound that resembles a bird. So you have to try it!
All of the ruins at Uxmal were breathtaking! You can see palaces, ball courts where the Pok de Pok game was played (pictured below), and monuments. We even got to climb one of the structures. It wasn’t too scary going up it, but going down was nerve-racking because the steps were so steep. You can easily spend a whole day examining all of the small design features and architecture that remain at Uxmal.
In the evening, Uxmal offers a light and sound show that narrates the history of Uxmal. It was absolutely amazing and should not be missed! During the show, the lights shine on the ruins making a beautiful spectacle!
Day 4: Progreso Beach
On the fourth day of our 10 days in Mexico, we took a day trip to Progreso Beach from Merida, a beach on the Gulf of Mexico. Progreso Beach features plenty of restaurants, shopping, and the longest pier in Mexico! So if you’re looking for a beach fix during your stay in Merida, visit Progreso! This day on our trip was planned to be a relaxing day. If you’re not interested in the beach and want to spend more time in Merida, feel free to do so!
Day 5: Izamal and Chichen Izta
On day five, continue your Mexico adventure by departing Merida for Chichen Itza! Today was the busiest day of our trip because we visited three awesome destinations along the way.
First, we visited the small city of Izamal, which is known for its religious heritage and recognizable yellow buildings. It was only a short 1-hour drive from Merida!Mexico – What You Need to Know Before You Go
Why is Izamal so yellow and popular desitnation? Since Izamal was founded on ancient Mayan grounds, it’s fitting that the modern city is yellow in honor of the Mayan sun god Kinichkakmo who was worshiped here. And you can still hear locals speak the Mayan language.
In 1993 Pope John Paul visited the city and hosted a mass at the convent of San Antonio de Padua. Here, he crowned the statue of the Virgin of Izamal, the patron saint of the Yucatán. This convent was founded in 1533 by Spaniards, which resulted in the destruction of the Mayan Ppapp-Hol-Chac pyramid.
After visiting Izamal, we made our way to Chichen Itza. If you’re going to the Yucatan, you might as well visit one of the wonders of the world! Although it is full of tourists, it’s definitely worth seeing! Don’t forget your sunscreen or hat, there is no shade and it can get very hot. For a visit to Chichen Izta, you can either hire a guide or do a walking tour on your own. Using a guide to especially helpful, we did guided tours on both our trips to Chichen Itza! Learn more about how to spend a day at Chichen Itza here!
Chichen Itza was established close to two cenotes, giving rise to the name meaning “At the edge of the well of the Itzaes.” The ruins are a great symbol of the Mayan and Toltec people who reigned in this region for centuries.
Cenotes are huge attraction in the Yucatan because they’re such unique natural structures and theres this sense of magic about them! Cenotes are essentially large sinkholes filled with groundwater. In Mayan culture, Cenotes were considered sacred, as they were the portal to the underworld.
After your trip to Chichen Itza, if you want to experience a cenote up close (and go for a swim in one), take a trip to the nearby Ik Kil archeological park. Here, there is a large cenote that you can swim in. Cenotes are large sinkholes filled with water. Ik-Kil was considered sacred by the Mayans in honor of the rain god Chaac. After our cenote adventure, we drove to Valladolid to spend the night.
Where to Stay in Valladolid: La Aurora
One Night Valladolid
Day 6: Day Trip to Tulum and Akumal
On day 6 of our 10-day Mexico itinerary, we traveled to Tulum where we got to tour the Mayan ruins. Tulum was the Mayan port city for trade, so here you’ll see magnificent Mayan ruins along the coast!
Tulum is the Mayan word for fence or wall, which is appropriate for this site because walls around the city protecting it from invasion. El Castillo, the Temple of the Frescoes, and the Temple of the Descending God are the major three buildings at Tulum. The Temple of Frescoes was used as an observatory for tracking the movements of the sun. It’s honestly crazy to think about how innovative and intelligent the Mayans were considering there was very little technology.
Like we mentioned before, a guided tour is the way to go when visiting Tulum! In addition to the ruins, Tulum offers plenty of other things to do including snorkeling, cenotes, and other tours! Here are some of the tours available around Tulum!
- Tulum Early Bird Experience: Ruins, Cenote, Lagoon, & Lunch
- Tulum, Cobá and Cenote Day Trip with Transfer Options
- Tulum, Coba, & Cenote: Full-Day Tour
- From Tulum: Four-Cenote Adventure
- Tulum Express Half-Day Tour
- Tulum and Coba: Full-Day Maya Village Tour
- Snorkeling & Underground Cenotes Half-Day Tour from Tulum
- Coba & Tulum Mayan Ruins Discovery Combo Tour
To learn more about spending a few days in Tulum, visit this post by Year of the Monkey!
After we left Tulum, we went to lunch at the beach resort Akumal. The beach was beautiful! Akumal is known for its oceanic wildlife, lagoons, cenotes, and natural aquariums! The Aktun Chen Parque Natural is full of cenotes, caves, and an underground river!
After visiting Akumal, we drove to the hotel at Playa Del Carmen and checked in. Where to Stay in Playa del Carmen: Koox Caribbean Paradise. Playa del Carmen was our last stop in hour 10-day Yucatan and Maya Riveria itinerary!
3 Days in Playa del Carmen
Day 7: Arrive in Playa del Carmen
During the last four days of our trip, we spent time in Playa del Carmen. Playa del Carmen is known for its row of resorts and restaurants, which is perfect for those looking to relax and spent time at the beach. In our four days in Playa del Carmen, we enjoyed the beach, took a day trip to Xcaret, and did most of our shopping. Cozumel is another great day trip from Playa del Carmen! There are tons of fun things to do in Cozumel if you love water activities and island life!
Day 8: Day Trip to Xcaret
Xcaret Park is an eco-archeological park that highlights the culture of the Yucatan with fun activities. Visiting Xcaret as a day tour from Cancun is a lot of fun! The park was huge so there was so much to do! It was actually very overwhelming at first, but once we walked around for a bit we figured out what we wanted to do.
Visit Xcaret Park and live the Mexican traditions, colors and flavors of this amazing culture. Your entrance includes shows, white sand beaches, underground rivers and much more! Save 15% booking online.
I personally went on the underground river tour, which was amazing! We visited an aquarium, butterflies garden, traditional cemetery, cultural reenactments, and sea turtle exhibits. We went to lunch at the cafeteria where we picked up the Xcaret passport activity book. This made the day super fun, I actually wish I should have gotten it earlier. It takes you around the park to collected stands. We got 19 stamps of the 24! It was fun trying to find them around the park.
In the evening, we went to a show that described Yucatan history and culture. The clothing, singing, dancing, and reenactment of the Pok de Pok game were amazing! Viewing the show was very worth it!
Day 9: Enjoy The Beaches of Playa del Carmen
For the rest of the time in Playa del Carmen, we spend our days shopping and enjoying the beach. The beaches are beautiful with lots of resorts where you can rent chairs and enjoy meals. If you’re staying in Playa del Carmen, book a hotel that’s close enough to the beaches that you can walk!
Day 10: Return Home
On our tenth day, we departed Playa de Carmen for Cancun so we could fly back home. So for your 10th day, plan it as a travel day!
We LOVED visiting the Yucatan Peninsula and Maya Riveria. This region of Mexico is perfect for anyone looking to explore the ancient and historic cultures of Mexico while having easy access to the world’s modern luxuries.
Planning Your Trip to Yucatan and Maya Riveria
Who’s Ready to Spend 10 Days in Mexico?
Hopefully, this 10-day Yucatan and Riveria May, Mexico itinerary will provide you with inspiration for your next trip! Where have you traveled to in Mexico? Let us know in the comments!