22 Jan Magical Mexico – Mexico – 12 Nights
This route connects all the major Maya sites in Mexico. You could cover it quickly in 2 weeks or more slowly in a month; you could also break it up into two trips (If you choose the 2-week route, you run the slight risk of overdosing on ruins by seeing too many in a short period of time). The best mode of travel is a rental car: The highways are not terribly busy and are, for the most part, in good shape.
Day 1: Arrive in Cancún
Transfer to your hotel.
Enjoy the remainder of the day with a swim in the Caribbean or a relaxing afternoon along the pool side.
Day 2: Ek Balam & Chichén Itzá
Get on the modern toll highway that heads toward Mérida and take the exit for Valladolid. Head north, away from the town, to visit the ruins of Ek Balam. Highlights include a sacred doorway richly decorated with vivid figures of gods and men. Then backtrack to Valladolid for lunch before driving the short distance to Chichén Itzá on the old federal highway. Just outside of town, stop to see the cenotes of Dzitnup and Sammulá. Farther on is the cave of Balankanché.
When you get to Chichén, check into your hotel, and then go to the ruins later in the evening for the sound-and-light show.
Day 3: Continuing to Uxmal
Spend more time at the ruins of Chichén Itzá in the morning, then continue west on the toll highway toward Mérida, and turn off at Ticopó. Head south toward the town of Acanceh and Hwy. 18. Stop to see the small but interesting ruins in the middle of town, then proceed down Hwy. 18 to the ruins of Mayapán. Afterward, continue through Ticul to Santa Elena and Uxmal. Experience the sound-and-light show.
Day 4: Edzná
Visit Uxmal in the morning, then drive back toward Santa Elena and take Hwy. 261 south to Hopelchén and on to the impressive ruins of Edzná. Nearby is a fancy hacienda-turned-hotel called Uayamón, or drive into the town of Campeche and stay at more modest digs.
Days 5 & 6: Palenque, Bonampak & Yaxchilán
Stay on Hwy. 261 to Escárcega, then head west on Hwy. 186 toward Villahermosa, then south on Hwy. 199 to the town of Palenque, with its magnificent ruins. The next day, go to the ruins of Bonampak and Yaxchilán using one of the local tour operators.
Days 7 & 8: San Cristóbal de las Casas
Keep south on Hwy. 199 toward San Cristóbal. On the way, take a swimming break at Misol Ha, and visit the ruins of Toniná outside of the town of Ocosingo. From San Cristóbal, go with one of the local guides to see the present-day Maya communities of Chamula and Zinacantán. Spend some time enjoying the town.
Day 9: En Route to Calakmul
Retrace your steps to Escárcega and continue east on Hwy. 186. If there’s time, visit the fascinating sculptures of Balamkú. Spend the night at one of the hotels in the vicinity of the turnoff for Calakmul, one of the prime city-states of the classic age of the Maya, and not often visited.
Day 10: Calakmul & Becán
Get to Calakmul early. Keep your eyes open for wildlife as you drive along a narrow jungle road. All the area surrounding the city is a wildlife preserve. For most of the city’s history, Calakmul was the main rival to the city of Tikal, which is present-day Guatemala. It eventually defeated Tikal and subjugated it for a hundred years. Calakmul’s Structure 2 is the highest Maya pyramid in Mexico. Afterward, continue east on Hwy. 186 to see the ruins of Becán, a large ceremonial center with tall temples. Also in the vicinity are Xpujil and Chicanná. Spend the night on the shores of Lake Bacalar, where you can cool off in its blue waters.
Days 11 & 12: Tulum
Drive north on Hwy. 307 to Tulum and settle into one of the small beach hotels there. In the morning, walk through the ruins and enjoy the lovely view of the coast.
Day 13: Back to Cancún
Drive back to Cancún. Depending on your schedule, you can enjoy some more beach time or simply head to the airport (25 min. south of Cancún) and depart.