8 Days from Playa del Carmen to Tulum
Adventure across the Yucatan Peninsula from the tropical beaches to the dense jungles. Lose yourself among ancient Maya ruins of Chichen Itza and Calakmul, and head to the bustling street markets before finding yourself in clear waters and turquoise lagoons of the coast. Learn about the Maya culture in colonial Merida, experience a local homestay near Calakmul, and then take the plunge in Bacalar: a laidback lake town famous for its ever-changing shades of blue water. Thousands of years of history mixed with a modern, laidback lifestyle means Mexico, and the Yucatan in particular, should be high on everyone’s bucket list.
Why you'll love this trip
- Discover the lost Maya city of Chichen Itza, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Your tour of the ancient ruins includes a special visit and traditional lunch to the nearby Piste community.
- Sip margaritas and try local specialties in Merida: Yucatan’s charming colonial capital. There’s so much culture to this city, and always a place to practise your salsa!
- Explore the hidden treasures of Calakmul, a Maya site which has stayed largely hidden by the second-largest expanse of tropical forests in the Americas.
- Dip your toe in the fresh waters surrounding Tulum – a laidback beachside community close to deep blue cenotes and expansive lagoons.
Is this trip right for you?
- Some included activities, such as guided tours of archaeological sites, can be quite strenuous. Be sure to bring suitably sturdy footwear.
- The tropical climate of Central America means conditions can be hot and humid. Always carry plenty of water with you and stay hydrated, especially on walking tours. There will of course be plenty of chances to swim!
- It's a good idea to learn as many Spanish words as you can. Locals are very friendly, but can be shy, so you'll need to make an effort to break the ice. It's a great way to show respect and involve yourself in their culture.
- The homestay in Calakmul is a wonderful opportunity to witness every day rural life and includes a home-cooked dinner. Facilities are simple and multi-share but comfortable, with mattresses and bedding provided. Some travellers are nervous about the homestay experience before they arrive, but we find most end up naming this as a highlight of their time in Mexico and a rewarding, authentic experience.
Meals: 7 breakfasts, 3 lunches, 1 dinner
Transport: Private vehicle, Public bus, Taxi
Accommodation: Hotel (6 nights), Homestay (1 night)
~ Leader-led Informal Spanish Lesson
~ Chichen Itza - Archaeological site (Entrance fee, Guide & Transport)
~ Piste - Traditional Maya Family Lunch
~ Merida - Leader-led Orientation Walk
~ Calakmul - Homestay Experience
~ Calakmul - Artisan Workshop including Jewellery Making with Maya Seeds
~ Calakmul - Informal Maya Language Lesson
~ Calakmul Biosphere Reserve - Archaeological site (entrance fee and transport included, no guide)
~ Bacalar - Leader-led orientation walk
~ Tulum - Leader-led orientation walk
Day 1: Playa del CarmenAccommodation: Hotel (1 night)
Hola! Welcome to Playa del Carmen, on the sandy shores of the Yucatan Peninsula. Meet your leader and fellow travellers at an important welcome meeting at 6pm, then tuck into some Mexican morsels for dinner. If you do arrive early, good for you, as there’s so much to do! Playa del Carmen is popular resort town famed for its coral reef and sparkling warm waters, so feel free to kick back with a book, take a stroll along the white sands, go on a day trip to the island of Cozumel or head for a dip in the Caribbean.
Day 2: Chichen Itza / MeridaAccommodation: Hotel (1 night) | Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch
Included Activities: Leader-led Informal Spanish Lesson; Chichen Itza - Archaeological site (Entrance fee, Guide & Transport); Piste - Traditional Maya Family Lunch; Merida - Leader-led Orientation Walk
Depart the coast early by private vehicle towards Merida, learning some Spanish from your leader on the way. You’ll be stopping at the famous Chichen Itza, one of the new Seven Wonders of the World, for a guided tour. This Mayan site is dominated by the Temple of Kukulkan, or El Castillo, a Mesoamerican step-pyramid. AExperience a special lunch in the local Piste community, a short drive from the archaeological site. You’ll have time to experience the culture and interact with the locals while being served some traditional Yucatecan cuisine. Continue on to Merida, where your leader will take you on an orientation walk to get your bearings. Founded in 1542, Merida is the capital of the Yucatan region and has retained so much of its old-world charm. Wander the streets and take in the colonial buildings, learn about the town’s Maya heritage and don’t forget to visit Mercado 60: a buzzing food market with international and local cuisine, margaritas and live music.
Day 3: MeridaAccommodation: Hotel (1 night) | Meals Included: Breakfast
Take today to explore the many sights of Merida. Your leader will have some recommendations and there are a number of optional activities available. Perhaps visit one of the several museums in town, including the Regional Museum of Yucatan, located in the stunning Palacio Canton. Chill out in the shady Plaza Grande, surrounded by the 16th-century cathedral, City Hall, the State Government Palace and Casa Mantejo, or stroll through the outdoor markets selling hammocks, Maya replicas and mouth-watering local food including the Yucatan specialty: cochinita pibil. There’s also the option of visiting the Celestun Bird Sanctuary where, depending on the season, you can catch the flamingos painting pink streaks across the landscape. Merida is a people-pleaser when it comes to nightlife and has something for all tastes, whether you’re after a low-key bar, cultural show or some live music and dancing. However, be warned there is an early start tomorrow.
Day 4: Calakmul HomestayAccommodation: Homestay (Shared facilities) (1 night) | Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Included Activities: Calakmul - Homestay Experience; Calakmul - Artisan Workshop including Jewellery Making with Maya Seeds; Calakmul - Informal Maya Language Lesson
Leave the city of Merida behind at around 7 am for a complete contrast in Calakmul, in the southern end of Yucatan. Today, we suggest you pack some snacks as you’ll transfer 7 hours by private vehicle to your homestay. You’ll enjoy a late lunch on arrival. In the afternoon, get hands-on and spend some time with local artisans creating your own jewellery with an included workshop. As you’re staying at a homestay, you’ll have the opportunity to interact with a local family, so an included Maya language lesson will definitely come in handy. Enjoy an included dinner with your group and have a relaxing night, ready to explore the deep jungle and ancient ruins of Calakmul tomorrow.
Day 5: Calakmul Ruins / BacalarAccommodation: Hotel (1 night) | Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch
Included Activities: Calakmul Biosphere Reserve - Archaeological site (entrance fee and transport included, no guide); Bacalar - Leader-led orientation walk
This morning, visit the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve and explore an incredible hidden treasure. You’ll be getting up quite early (8 am departure), for an hour and 20-minute drive to the archaeological site. This World Heritage site is part of the largest area of tropical forest after the Amazon and played an important role in the region’s history for over 1200 years. Building at this location began in the 6th century BC and by AD250, most of the city was standing. The ancient city covers around 70 square kilometres and contains more than 7000 structures, but because the jungle is so thick, only a very small portion of the site has been excavated. You’ll have time to explore this lost city for yourself in the morning, and at around midday you’ll enjoy a packed lunch made by the homestay community, before taking a 3-hour drive to Bacalar. Once arrived, take a short leader-led orientation walk to get your bearings of this small town, and then have a free afternoon and evening to relax.
Day 6: BacalarAccommodation: Hotel (1 night) | Meals Included: Breakfast
With a jam-packed day yesterday, take some time to chill out in relaxed riverside Balacar. You’ll have a free day to do as you please, perhaps a relax by the banks of the lake, a swim, or just diving straight into a book. Bacalar is known for its Lake of Seven Colours – thanks to the various stunning shades of blue it adopts throughout the day. There’s also the option to visit Cenote Azul today: a beautiful fresh water rockpool, perfect for swimming. The sparkling blue water and stalactites and stalagmites in the cave are a sight to behold.
Day 7: TulumMeals Included: Breakfast
Included Activities: Tulum - Leader-led orientation walk
Enjoy a free morning relaxing around Balacar’s lake before taking a taxi to the bus station to board a public bus to Tulum. Keep working on that Spanish with the locals, then once arrived in Tulum, take an orientation walk with your leader to know your way around. There may be time to fit in a visit to another cenote or Tulum’s Maya ruins, or otherwise, find a bar or restaurant and say ‘salud’ to Mexico.
Day 8: TulumTour Ends | Meals Included: Breakfast
After breakfast, there are no activities planned for the day, but that’s no reason to stop exploring! Tulum is famous for its crystal water, snorkelling, ancient ruins and general magnificence, so no-one can blame you for wanting to stick around for a few more days. If you would like to spend some more time in Tulum, we’ll be happy to book additional accommodation (subject to availability).