Looking for a tried and tested Yucatan 2 week itinerary to help plan your trip? This two-week itinerary is for backpacking Yucatan Peninsula, covering both the states of Yucatan and Quintana Roo. 

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After four months of living in Mexico, the Yucatan was the highlight of my time there. I made this trip on a budget and followed a typical Yucatan backpacker route while staying in hostels. However, whatever your budget, I suggest saving money to cover entrance fees to key attractions such as cenotes and temples. These are once-in-a-lifetime destinations and you don’t want to miss out!

Also, I did this itinerary as a solo female traveller in Yucatan and felt safe throughout my time in Mexico! 

Quick Overview: Tips for Backpacking Yucatan

SafetyWing Nomad Insurance

I used SafetyWing Nomad Insurance for my trip to Mexico and found the experience of signing up super clear and easy. I’ve used them for almost eighteen months now and have always had good interactions with the team there.

I wasn’t sure what activity add-ons I would need for my trip, so I used the live online chat to ask a few questions. Someone answered me straight away so it was super efficient and they gave me some friendly advice, and ultimately it turned out I only needed the cheapest option (yay). 

SafetyWing is particularly good if you’re travelling for a long time (i.e.; for multiple months) as you book for one month at a time and it automatically renews unless you change or cancel. Again, super easy to organise and perfect if you’re not 100% sure what your plans are. 

Sign up and find out more about SafetyWing insurance here.

Sustainable packing must-haves: 

  • A water-to-go filter water bottle: You can’t drink tap water in Mexico, so this is a must. Using this bottle, you are safe to drink water through the tap as it filters all the nasty stuff, with the bonus of being eco-friendly too. 
  • Comfy shoes: Whether you’re walking around temple complexes, jungles, or simply on the way to the beach, comfy shoes are a must in Mexico. I swear by my sustainable Allbirds sneakers while switching to my Khatmandu walking sandals in the hot weather. (I find sandals way more comfy than flip-flops.)
  • Travel towel: I’m obsessed with this massive beach and bath towel from sustainable women-owned company Wuka – I seriously feel like I levelled up from my old rubbish microfibre one from Amazon… Plus, it comes with a pocket, so I felt like I could comfortably hide my keys and other bits and bobs on the downside of the towel while I headed for a swim! 
  • Long-sleeved clothes for the hot sun: Don’t let sunburn ruin your trip! I love the long, sustainable dresses from Arnhem – it’s an Aussie company so you know they get how to dress for the hot weather.
  • Sunscreen, sunglasses, and a cap: All necessities for Mexico! 

Getting around Yucatan on a budget

Anyone who’s backpacked Yucatan will tell you that the ADO buses are safe, comfortable, and easy to use… and they are correct!

All major tourist destinations (and quite a few hidden gems) have an ADO bus station. 

While you can book tickets at the station, I highly recommend booking in advance on the official ADO website. Why? Because the one time I didn’t, there was a forty-minute queue at the bus station… I got on my bus with TEN SECONDS to spare, no joke!

Backpacking Yucatan 2 Week Itinerary

Day 1: Arrivals

For your first day in the Yucatan Peninsula, you have time to relax and travel to your first destination.

You’ve probably flown into Cancun, where you can easily catch an AdoBus and go to your next destination. 

However, if you arrive late or are tired after a long flight, there are plenty of hotels or hostels where you can spend a night in Cancun. This way, you can wake up feeling fresh and travel to the next destination in the morning. 

Read more: If you’re flying in and out of Mexico City, check out this 4-day Mexico City itinerary, carefully curated based on the three months I spent living in Mexico City.

Day 2-3: Merida

Known for its beautiful streets dotted with colourfully painted old houses, Merida is the capital of Yucatan and is home to a ton of cultural and historic sights, making it the perfect choice to begin your Yucatan itinerary. 

In Merida, I stayed at Hostal Boutique Casa Garza, the prettiest and best-equipped hostel I’ve ever stayed in. Based in an old colonial building with a mix of cute seemingly original features and contemporary updates, such as vibrant interior murals.

The hostel has both private rooms and dorms. I stayed in a six-bed female dorm with an attached bathroom. And, at thirty-three, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself on the younger side of guests – I met people in their twenties to their sixties here, all with stories to share from around the world. 

Day 2: Explore Merida town

The best way to get your bearings in Merida is to take a free walking tour. The local guides will also give you a load of insights into the city and Yucatan, so it’s the perfect way to get to know the region’s fascinating history. 

On your free Merida walking tour, you can expect to see:

  • The Zocalo – aka the main square!
  • Casa de Montejo – most of the facades have been constructed, but the one on Casa de Montejo is the original and thus one of the oldest in Merida, dating back to 1540. (By tour guide recommends not paying to go inside, as there are better museums elsewhere in Merida
  • Merida Cathedral – one of the oldest cathedrals on the planet
  • The lime-green government building – head inside for free to see the 27 murals.
  • And more, depending on which tour you take!

In the afternoon, head to one of the city’s top museums. If you’ve taken the walking tour in the morning, you can ask your tour guide for recommendations based on your interests.

  • Music Museum (Palacio de la Musica) – As a music lover, I loved this stunning museum. The architecture is designed to be open to interpretation; I saw a piano, and my tour guide saw a guitar!
  • Great Museum of the Mayan World (Gran Museo del Mundo Maya) – a fab way to get to grips with Mayan culture and history, this interactive museum includes a sound and lights show with projections. 
  • Merida History and Anthropology Museum – the top recommendation of my local tour guide, who loves the huge collection of Mayan and Spanish cultural pieces stored here. 

Note that many museums are closed on Monday, so check opening times in advance.

In the evening, there are free performances held beside the main square most nights of the week. On Mondays, it’s a vaqueria performance. La Vaqueria is a group of dances to the rhythm of Jarana – the traditional folk dance of Yucatan which melds Spanish and Mayan traditions. 

For dinner, my hostel friend recommended we head to the Museo Gastronomy – a restaurant serving up traditional Yucatan cuisine. The evening had vegan versions of Yucatan dishes, so it’s a fab choice for vegan travellers like me. 

Day 3: See the Uxmal ruins

From Merida ADO bus station, I took the SUR bus to Uxmal, an incredible archeological site with Mayan ruins dating back to c. 700 AD.

Amazingly, Uxmal once had around 25000 inhabitants, and the careful layout of the architecture demonstrates they had a knowledge of astronomy. Walking around the site was fascinating (even if I was melting in the 40C heat!) and the complex was much bigger than I expected.

After visiting the Uxmal temple, it’s also popular to visit the Cocoa Story Museum (directly opposite the bus stop). However, I don’t recommend it as they keep animals in what seems like bad standards here.

If you take the bus here, make sure you get the last bus back to Merida at 5pm!

Travel to Valladolid

Take the bus from Merida ADO bus station to Valladolid ADO bus station. 

If you have spare time, you could consider adding Izamal to your itinerary in between. Izamal is a picturesque yellow city but isn’t too large, so you could even take the bus here in the morning, and continue to Valladolid in the late afternoon. 

Day 4-5: Valladolid

Valladolid is considered one of Yucatan’s cutest towns, so it’s no surprise people stay here as an access point to visiting Chichen Itza!

With two days in Valladolid, I recommend spending one day in Valladolid town (you could cut this down to a half day if you need to travel) and a second visiting Chichen Itza and surrounding cenotes. 

Here I stayed in Hostel Oryx. I slept REALLY well and loved meeting the hostel animals, Quesadilla and Chocolate.

Day 4: Explore Valladolid town

Explore Valladolid on your own or a free walking tour. 

While exploring Valladolid, look out for: 

  • Cenote Zaci – The magical cenote in the middle of Valladolid town is just 60 pesos to visit
  • Parque Francisco Canton – the pretty, Spanish-style central square
  • Iglesia de San Servacio -a gorgeous old church on the edge of the square, dating back to the 1500s but restored to the version we see now in 1706
  • San Bernardino Convent – a beautiful 500-year-old building. You’ll find the colourful Valladolid sign directly in front of it, too. In the evenings, the light show at the Convent of San Bernardino starts at 9 pm in Spanish and 9:25 pm in English (days vary depending on the month you visit).
  • Casa de los Venados – This public house opens up for tours at 10 am every day, and displays one of the country’s largest collections of pre-Hispanic Mexican artwork – highly recommended by previous visitors!
  • Mercado Municipal – explore the colourful stalls at the local market. 

Day 5: Experience Chichen Itza and Cenotes (from Valladolid)

Although Chichen Itza is best known for its main pyramid (named El Castillo or Temple of Kukulcan) which you’ve likely seen in photos before, the entire complex is actually pretty large at almost five square miles and with 26 ruins to explore. 

In fact, Chichen Itza was once one of the largest Mayan cities, dating back to 600 AD.  The experience reminded me of seeing Borobudur (the world’s largest Buddhist temple) while backpacking Java! 

Honestly, it’s crazy to think 35000 once lived here. This is partly due to the easy access to water in this area, including this onsite cenote (below).

Tips for visiting Chichen Itza

Getting to Chichen Itza from Valladolid is easy. The cheapest option is to take a bus from Valladolid Bus Station to Chicken Itza. However, I chose to take a shared car with a few other backpackers from my hostel, which was 250 pesos including two cenotes (transport only). 

However, the entrance to Chichen Itza is very steep at 614 pesos, making Chichen Itza one of the most expensive tourist days I’ve ever had!

In the warmer months, I recommend coming early to avoid the hottest time of day. Plus, it will be less crowded as the tourist buses from Cancun won’t have arrived yet. I arrived shortly after it opened (08:00 – 16:00) and despite there already being a queue, it didn’t feel crowded once we’d entered.

There’s not much shade around Chichen Itza, so make sure you cover up well to avoid sunburn. It was 39C during my visit, so I don’t blame this dog for skipping under the rope and taking a nap under the main pyramid!

Cenotes around Valladolid

There are many superb cenotes to visit around Valladolid. Including:

  • Cenote Chukum: This 135-foot sinkhole is 65 feet deep, and feels super atmospheric as you arrive by walking through a dimly lit underground passage before arriving at the cenote opening. Swimming in the brilliantly blue water was a really special experience… though you can zipline or jump in from a 15-foot diving platform if you’re brave enough! The walls are covered in stalactites and stalagmites, too.
  • Cenote Suytun: If you want a snap at Mexico’s most Instagrammed cenote, then this is the place. (Not really my scene so I didn’t make it to this one.) Visitors queue up to take a photo on the central platform, which is incredibly beautiful and reminiscent of Indiana Jones.  
  • Cenote Secreto Mayo: Like Chukum, this cenote was also empty during my visit, which led to a truly peaceful experience… Besides the rickety staircase down! 

Day 6: Travel Day & Chill

Catch your ADO bus from Valladolid to Tulum! However, if you have a couple of days to spare, you could also head to Bacalar.

Optional: Bacalar

Every backpacker seemed to be going to Bacalar during my trip, more so than Valladolid or even Merida! So while it may have been considered a hidden gem a few years ago, it isn’t any more! For this reason, Bacalar activities and hostels are on the more expensive side.

However, Bacalar is a long bus ride from other Yucatan destinations, so if you’re short on time, you might not want to spend precious extra days sitting on the bus. 

However, if you have just over 14 days in Mexico, Bacalar is a fantastic addition to your itinerary.

With two days in Bacalar, you can spend one day exploring the lagoon by boat or kayak, and a second exploring Los Rapidos de Bacalar. 

Day 7-9: Tulum and Riviera Maya

While Tulum and the Riviera Maya are best known for beach days and the gorgeous waves of the Caribbean Sea, there’s tons of stuff to do inland as well. 

Exploring Mayan ruins

Coba Ruins

Dating back to around 100 AD, Coba was an important part of the Mayan civilisation, with around 50,000 inhabitants during its peak during the Classic period (AD 250-900). As you wind around the jungle paths, you’ll see a series of structures, many in pyramid form. The largest is Nahoch Mul standing at 137 feet. Most visitors explore by bike, which you can easily rent at the entrance. 

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Tulum Ruins

Although Tulum Ruins were my least favourite of the ruins I visited, they’re still worth coming to – especially if you’re staying in Tulum town as they’re right around the corner. Not to say the history isn’t fascinating, but they were far more crowded than any other place I visited in Mexico. That said, the fact these ancient ruins are based right on the coastline is pretty special. 

All I did in Tulum Ruins was take photos of iguanas. 

Natural attractions around Tulum

  • Tulum Beach days – If you want to stay near the beach on a budget, a couple of backpackers I met recommended Tulum Selina – you can see the ocean directly from the hostel, and the dorm rooms and facilities are very neat and contemporary. I headed to Xpa Ha Beach, which is considered one of the most beautiful in the world. 
  • Snorkelling in cenotes – Swimming through a cenote-fed cave is one of my favourite memories from Mexico! Here at Nahoch Nah Chichen Cenote, the ceiling was adorned with hundreds of stalactites with cute little bats nestled between them. (Don’t worry, they were friendly!) While it was dark in sections, it was only moderately narrow and never scary. In fact, it was truly relaxing. 
  • Swim with turtles – At nearby Akamul, you can swim with turtles. Just make sure you join an ethical tour that reminds everyone to give the turtles space and never touch them. 
  • Visit a laguna – I spent an afternoon at Punta Laguna, where I spotted howler monkeys in the trees, ziplined over the water, and kayaked back across the laguna. 

Day 10: Travel

Have a final delicious breakfast at one of Tulum’s tasty cafes before heading to an island to finish your trip. 

Day 11-13: Island Life

What better way to finish two weeks on the Yucatan peninsula than by heading to one of the stunning islands? 

I recommend choosing between Mujeres, Cozumel, or Holbox, as they’re all easy to get to and don’t mean adding too much extra travel time. Out of these three, I chose relaxing Holbox, but they all have something fun to offer.

Mujeres – for parties and nightlife 

Known for its thriving social scene and stunning beaches, Mujeres is ideal for backpackers who want to finish off their time in Yucatan having a good time. 

Cozumel – for diving and water activities 

With plenty of awesome spots near the island for snorkelling and diving, head to Cozumel if you want to explore Mexico’s oceans from above and below land.

Holbox – for relaxing beach vibes 

Known for being a peaceful island with not all that much to do (in a good way), Holbox is ideal for those wishing to spend their last days in Yucatan fully unwinding. 

While on Isla Holbox, you can: 

  • Watch the sunset from a beach bar – there is truly nothing like a Holbox sunset, trust me, and thankfully there are a ton of bars along the waterfront, so take a pew and grab a beer as you watch the sun peacefully disappear.
  • Take the ‘three island tour’ – the three-point tour varies depending on the season, but usually heads to Yalahau Springs, Bird Island or Punta Mosquito, and Passion Island.
  • Go kayaking with crocodiles – Kayak through the mangroves at sunrise for a magical experience on the island. Just be warned, you might not be alone! From pink flamingoes to scary crocs, the mangroves are a fantastic habitat for wildlife
  • Spot the gorgeous street art – Holbox has street art around every corner, for real.
  • See if you can find the bioluminescence – remember this natural phenomenon can’t be guaranteed, so don’t spend a fortune on a tour doing this! 
  • Laze on the beach (duh) 

During my stay here, I met the LOVELIEST solo female travellers in my dorm at Hostel Barco Verde! Seriously… it was like one big, cute slumber party, plus everyone was super respectful and went to bed at a decent time haha. 

Day 14: Prepare for travel 

On your final day, you’ll need to head back to Cancun to get ready for your flight home!

BACKPACKING YUCATAN 2 WEEK ITINERARY MEXICO

Written by

Cassie

Hi, I'm Cassie, and I've been solo travelling the globe since May 2018. In this time, I've backpacked around Southeast Asia, Japan and The Balkans, alongside living in New Zealand and Australia. Current location? Mexico