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Mexico – 7 Nights/8 Days
Day 1: Cancun – Valladolid
Valladolid is a hidden gem in Yucatan. Cenotes, colorful walls, and it’s a perfect base for day trips from Valladolid. Check out the best things to do in Valladolid, Mexico!
A very charming town in Yucatan, Valladolid is quite the destination to visit: there are so many things to do in Valladolid and all around the area.
It’s a place where art and architecture are at the forefront, with its beautiful pastel buildings and old historic churches, and the cuisine is simply delicious.
The streets are colorful and buzzing with life and to top it all off, Valladolid has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1998. It definitely is a place that’s worth taking to time to explore all of its nooks and crannies, and that’s no small task, also because there are so many places around Valladolid that are worth visiting.
One of the most fascinating aspects of Valladolid is its architecture. Simply walking around its streets and exploring the buildings, their façades, windows, and walls, is stunning.
Calle 41A is a beautiful walk filled with endless colorful buildings. Unlike the main square, walking this route is fairly quiet, and you can stop and take photos without anyone else being in them.
There are a ton of restaurants, boutique shops, and hotels on this strip, so don’t hesitate to stop and check them out every now and again.
Relax in Plaza Central
Valladolid’s main square, Plaza Central is where you’ll find food carts, music, dancing, and tons of goods for sale. The cultural center of a cultural city, you won’t be able to miss Plaza Central.
My only tip is to not just walk through the square and move on to other things. Yes, the plaza can get busy, but it’s totally worth plopping yourself on a bench and hanging out for a while.
Discover the Cenotes in and around Valladolid
Natural phenomena that you can witness with your own eyes are the cenotes near Valladolid. They are sinkholes that have formed throughout the ages, and the area around Valladolid, as well as the rest of Yucatan, is full of these beautiful cenotes perfect for a swim.
Cenote Zaci is one of them, and it’s located very near the center of the city. This cenote is part of a cave, as well as filled with water, so you can take a relaxing swim, or explore around depending on what you prefer.
If you feel more adventurous, you can rent a bike and go to Cenote Samula, which is a cenote located around 7 kilometers away from Valladolid, and this one is completely underground, so you’ll definitely spend some time exploring it.
Explore the Convent de San Bernardino
The church and ex-convent of San Bernardino in Valladolid are one of the oldest Colonial structures in the Yucatan state.
The building was completed in 1560 during the Spanish conquest and was created for the functions of a fortress and church. It stands as a poignant historical reminder of the Christianization and colonization of the Yucatan. Still standing, the convent is a must-see building that vaguely reminds me of the Alhambra in Spain (like, if you squint).
Day 2: Valladolid – Chichen itza
Chichen Itza -Merida (160 km/ 2hrs 30mts)
The entire area around Valladolid is filled with Mayan ruins and one of the most famous ones is Chichen Itza, one of the 7 Wonders of the World.
It’s one of the most preserved ruins in the region, and you wouldn’t want to miss the opportunity to check out the once-mighty fortress of the Mayan people. Make sure to devote an entire day to exploring the ruins, as there are many, many things to see.
Chichen Itza Temples
Chichen Itza, has many temples apart from the main structure – The Temple of Kukulkan (El Castillo), the Jaguar Temple, the Great Ball Court, the Temple of Warriors, and the Skull Wall.
The Temple of Kukulcan consists of 365 steps (91 steps per side) – a step for every day of the year. On the equinoxes in spring and autumn, the sun shines down these steps and creates a snake-like shadow that leads to snakehead carvings at the base of the temple.
Later proceed to Merida – The capital of Yucatan, Merida is a beautiful city that has a fantastic blend of old and new. It’s absolutely filled with chunks of colonial history and culture, especially since it’s been the cultural capital of the region for many centuries.
Day 3: Merida
Lovingly nicknamed ‘the White City’ after its iconic whitewashed buildings, Merida is the perfect base for your Mexican adventure. Among its many tourist attractions are archaeological sites and ancient residences. Other things to do in Merida include visiting nature reserves and an abundance of museums and art galleries, all at your fingertips.
Dzibilchaltun is an important Mayan site in Merida, Mexico. In fact, it’s the longest-serving Mayan city dating back to 1500 BC. As it was home to some 40,000 inhabitants in its prime, it was also one of the largest cities in Mesoamerica. There’s plenty of history to be uncovered here; so far, archaeologists have only discovered a fraction of it.
There are believed to be over 8,400 structures in this old city, so take your time exploring the ruins. Once you’ve worked up a sweat, take a refreshing swim in Cenote Xlacah, where over 30,000 artifacts were found submerged. You can also wander through the open chapel and stroll through the on-site museum, the Museo del Pueblo Maya.
Dzibilchaltun is especially worthy of a visit during the twice-yearly equinox. In March and September each year, direct sunlight illuminates the main door of the Templo de las Siete Muñecas (Temple of the Seven Dolls), which is best seen at sunrise.
Flanked by gorgeous, pastel-colored buildings and the historic city cathedral, the Plaza Grande is one of the most attractive plazas in Merida. Shaded by enormous laurel trees, its benches are a great place for locals and tourists alike to relax during the day.
While it’s undeniably a great spot to sit down in an otherwise concrete jungle, the plaza is often a hive of activity – which is all part of its charm, of course. Witness the daily Mexican flag raising and lowering ceremony, explore the bustling craft market on Sundays, and enjoy the animated live music performances held here just about every night of the week.
Plaza Grande is naturally the focal point of the city and a popular hangout spot in the center of Merida. Formerly known as the Plaza de Armas, it was constructed on the site of the ancient Mayan city of Tho.
The Paseo de Montejo is a famous tree-lined boulevard in Merida, Mexico. Named after the city’s founder, Francisco de Montejo, and designed to replicate a Parisian avenue, it’s home to some of the most iconic buildings, landmarks, and monuments in the city.
Dating as far back as Mérida’s golden age, this 19th-century thoroughfare is lined with shops, market stalls, and colonial mansions that once housed Mexican nobles. Attractions include Las Casas Gemelas, the Casa Peon de Regil, La Quinta Montes Molina residence, and the Anthropology and History Museum located within the Palacio Canton.
Other highlights along the Paseo de Montejo include taking a leisurely stroll for ice cream at Sorbeteria Colon, dining at one of the restaurants near Calle 41, and visiting the Monumento a la Patria, dedicated to Mexico’s rich cultural history.
While the best way to soak up the sights of this beautiful boulevard is on foot, you can also hop aboard a traditional horse and cart ride.
Day 4: Merida – Mexico City
Mexico City – The vibrant national capital of Mexico is not only the political center but also the cultural hub of the country, whose name dates back to the old Aztecs who called themselves “Mexica”. The city holds sights dating back to the beginnings of the high civilization of the 14th century and is home to one of the oldest Universities on the continent, the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, established in 1553.
Located 2,240 m (7350 ft) above sea level and framed by high mountains and volcanoes such as the Ajusco, the Popocatepetl, and the Ixtaccihuatl, the city is a place for adventure seekers, city breakers, and party people alike.
Day 5: Merida – Mexico City
Teotihuacan Pyramids – Visit the impressive Teotihuacan Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon. The archaeological site belongs to the UNESCO cultural heritage list and is located about 45 km from the city center. With its 65 m height, the Pyramid of the Sun is the third biggest in the world and dates back to the year 100 A.D. A mystical atmosphere envelops the place and you can get a whole new perspective climbing the stairs to the top.
It’s best to come early to avoid crowds and the scorching sun. On days when access to the pyramid complex is closed, you can see them from a hot air balloon.
Palace of Fine Arts – The Palace of Fine Arts is an art deco and art nouveau building that holds varying exhibitions, a stunning concert hall, and dazzling white marble columns. Among its four floors, you can experience old and contemporary paintings and sculptures by renowned Mexican artists. You can choose to visit only the building or also the museum inside it. Temporary exhibitions on the upper floor feature aspiring local and international talents.
One of the biggest attractions of Bellas Artes is a grand fresco by Diego Rivera – the social-realist Man at the Crossroads, which was originally designed for the Rockefeller Center in New York.
Day 6: Mexico City
This monumental structure can’t be missed – it is located right in the center of Mexico City. Step in to admire the murals and religious statues or climb the bell tower to enjoy a stunning view. It’s always worth a visit.
The cathedral, inspired by Gothic churches of Spain, was built in sections from 1573 to 1813 around the original church that was constructed soon after the Spanish conquest of Tenochtitlan, eventually replacing it completely.
Monument to the Revolution – The Monument to the Revolution is a major landmark that commemorates the Mexican Revolution. Go up to the observatory on the massive glass lift and get a stunning view over the city, or come here at night for the colorfully lit fountains. In the museum nearby you can learn more about Mexican history.
Day 7: Mexico City
On your own for personal activities with your own family or as per the head of the family!
Day 8: Mexico City – Departure
Transfer to Airport for your return journey.