Maya ruins surrounded by turquoise water, incredible Tacos with avocado & limes and for us the most beautiful languages in the world: ¡Hola México!
Prior to our trip we didn’t realize how huge the country actually is. Through this, you underestimate distances and reaching the next step on your trip, easily means 10 hours bus journey. Even though we had six weeks to discover Mexico it is also possible to see the most beautiful places within two to three weeks. To make your life a bit easier the following post will describe different travel routes through Mexico, so that you can enjoy a relaxed time in this beautiful country. For how long you travel for? What is time-wise realistic and what do I better skip? These and many more questions will be answered in this Travel Route Mexico article. ¡Vamos!
Travel Route Mexico – Getting there
Flights to Mexico are not dirt cheap, especially not when you aim to see a lot from the country and you book a multi-city trip, meaning a flight that does not leave at the same airport as where you arrived. For most countries, arriving in Mexico’s tourist hotspot Cancun is cheaper. Thus our recommendation would be to check flights to the Yucatan peninsula. While you are saving money, at least when flying in from Europe, that means that you need to go certain ways twice, as a typical round trip does not work due to the shape of the country. From Germany, you can get a return flight to Cancun for around $450. From the States, it will be significantly cheaper and from the UK similar to leaving Germany.
Once arrived in Mexico flights get cheaper, don’t worry! We wrote an article that gives you more information on transport in Mexico.
Travel Route Mexico – Countless possibilities
So many possibilities to plan your trip but so little time? Traveling through Mexico in a smart way isn’t as easy as the country is just huge. This was for example significantly easier while backpacking in Sri Lanka as the country is just a fracture of Mexico. So what do you need to do to plan wisely?
Tip #1 – First think about what’s supposed to be the focus of your travels. Relaxing in the sun or are you eager to see as much as you can? If you just want to relax we would recommend our suggestion focussing on Quintana Roo or Yucatan if you are in the mood for a little more action and you want to see more from the country you can also travel through Chiapas, as our routes suggest.
Tip #2 – For long distances take the night buses from ADO. Here you kill two birds with one stone. First, you do not lose time as you can sleep while traveling onwards and you save money for accommodation for this night. Mentioning here: We slept extremely well on our trip from Oaxaca to San Cristobal de las Casas.
So, enough preparation. Here you go: Two travel routes with different distances. Do you have two or three weeks?
Travel Route Mexico #1 – Two weeks Quintana Roo & Chiapas
Arrived in Cancun we would suggest not to waste any time here. Cancun is – from our point of view – over-crowded without anything special to see. Our advice here to start and end your trip here, without wasting time here.
Cancún > Tulum
After arriving in Cancún your goal is: Get to paradise! For doing so you jump on a two-hour bus journey operated by the company ADO. ADO offers bus tickets throughout Mexico at an affordable price. Here you can choose between standard and premium busses depending on the length of the journey and comfort. Important to note here: ADO buses are extremely comfortable and by far better than any travel bus we know from Germany. Depending on when you arrive in Cancun, we would suggest to stay one night in Cancun and have a shower and a good portion of sleep – as mentioned, depending on how tired you are. After that, you hop on the bus in the direction of Tulum.
On the second day, you already arrived in paradise. Tulum gets increasingly more touristy but no surprise: In Tulum you have incredible Tacos directly on the beach with a great vibe. Now: Settle down, relax and feel the powdery sand between your toes and jump into the turquoise, lukewarm, Caribbean water.
Tulum spreads holiday flair that makes you want to spend the third day here as well. So just do! While you can drive around with the bicycle, visit cenotes or just enjoy the easy and relaxed vibe before you leave for the more exhausting part of the journey. We stayed in an AirBnB and met great people and had a great time, friends stayed in Secret Gardens* and loved it as well.
Tulum > Cancún > Tuxtla > San Cristobal de las Casas
On day five you would drive back to Cancun to take the plane to Tuxtla, in the state of Chiapas. As the way takes more than 16 hours by bus it makes sense to fly. Especially if the flight tickets are round about $50. The low-budget airline Volaris flies you in 1.5 hours across the country to the state of Chiapas. After arriving in Tuxtla, you jump on the next bus to the beautiful city San Cristobal de las Casas, which takes one hour. San Cristobal is a city in mid of mountains, colorful and picturesque. For us, the most beautiful city of Mexico with colorful cobblestone streets and a lot of charm. Here you can spend days six and seven. In one of the days, we would recommend taking part in the “Free San Cristobal Walking Tour”. Part of the trip around the city is getting to know the famous Real de Guadelupe and other beautiful places and hidden gems of the city. In San Cristobal, you can also visit ancient tribes and explore their way of life. This can be done by car, with bikes or even while hiking through the mountains. We needed to leave earlier but you should consider :)
San Cristobal de las Casas > Palenque
Day eight and nine are the two most exhausting days of the tour: The drive to Palenque and the onwards journey back to Cancun. The best way here would be to choose a bus in the early morning, which brings you in a 8-9 hour trip to Palenque and the most fascinating stop of the tour. Arriving in Palenque at night, you will have the next day to get beguiled by the Maya state that flourished in the 9th century in mid of the jungle. The ruins are known as a UNESCO world heritage since 1987 and since then tourists get deeply impressed by them. Due to its location and the prevailing mood, a very mystical feeling and definitely a must do: Palenque!
Palenque > Cancún
Impressed by the Maya architectures you will hop on the bus back to Cancun. As the ADO buses are almost as comfortable as a dorm bed, we would recommend taking a night bus. This is a 12 hours bus journey but most likely you will be sleeping many kilometers and now you are reaching the end of the trip and the relaxing days at the same time. Quintana Roo calling.
Cancún > Isla Holbox / Bacalar
On day ten you will have arrived in Cancun in the early morning. Now you need to make the decision whether you want to go to the small island Isla Holbox in the north of the peninsula or in the relaxed village of Bacalar in the south. We personally have spent four days on Isla Holbox and liked it a lot but have also heard a lot of positive things about Bacalar.
If you decide for Isla Holbox, take the bus from Cancun to Chiquila, then change to the ferry, which brings you to the island in about 30 minutes.
When you decide for Bacalar you need to go on a five-hour bus ride in the direction of Belize. However, in both stops, you can spend three days before the trip comes – with a Caribbean flair – to an end.
Travel Route Mexico #1: In a nutshell
|Day 1||Cancún, Quintana Roo.|
|Day 2-4||Tulum incl. day trip to a cenote, Quintana Roo.|
|Day 5||Flight to Tuxtla, Chiapas. Onward journey to San Cristobal de las Casas|
|Day 6-7||San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas.|
|Day 8||Onward journey to Palenque, Chiapas.|
|Day 9||Palenque, Chiapas. Night bus to Cancún, Quintana Roo.|
|Day 10||Cancún, Quintana Roo. Onward journey to Isla Holbox or Bacalar, Quintana Roo.|
|Day 11-13||Isla Holbox / Bacalar, Quintana Roo.|
|Day 14||Return to Cancún, Quintana Roo. Flight back home.|
Travel Route Mexico #2 – Three weeks Yucatán, Quintana Roo, Oaxaca & Chiapas
Our recommendation for a three week trip through Mexico builds on the two-week trip. To get the most out of the three weeks we added some stops and planned more time per stop for a more relaxed travel.
Cancún > Tulum
After you arrived in Cancun the first stop would be – as in the two-week trip – Tulum. Caribbean beach and a couple of very relaxed hours expect you on the second and third day.
Tip: Don’t skip “Taqueria La Eufemia”! Just wow!
Tulum > Valladolid (Chichen Itza)
Now you jump on a bus to Valladolid where you will roughly spend two days. Half a day to settle and explore the nice colonial city, the second day to visit the UNESCO World Heritage Chichen Itza. On an area of 6.5-square-km, you will find impressive Maya ruins and is after the Pyramids of Teotihuacán the second most visited site of Mexico. When you got inspired for a half-day, you can take the bus to Cancun in the late afternoon.
Valladolid > Cancún > Tuxtla > Pacific Coast Oaxaca / Oaxaca City
Here you would spend a night (to the seventh day) and then take a plane the next morning to Tuxtla. After 1.5 hours flight with the Mexican low-budget airline Volaris, you will arrive here. Now you need to decide! Either going to the pacific coast in the state of Oaxaca, which is well known for surfing. Or you never stood on a board and you prefer the calm Caribbean water? Then you might head from Tuxtla to the city of Oaxaca.
If you got infected by the surf virus and or you want to try surfing, Mexico’s pacific coast will be the perfect fit for you. Here you will find world-class spots such as Barra de la Cruz, Puerto Angel, several spots around Mazunte and our favorite Puerto Escondido. Each of them nearly ten hours bus ride from Tuxtla but more than worth visiting!
If you are not into surfing, Mexico’s Pacific coast might not be as attractive for you as it has been for us. Non-surfers can have a great time here as well but you might prefer to spend your valuable time in the colonial city Oaxaca. From Tuxtla you can reach Oaxaca by night bus.
Depending on your interest you can spend either three days at the pacific coast in Oaxaca state or in the city of Oaxaca itself. Three days is definitely the minimum!
Tip: Oaxaca is famous for its Mezcal. Book a tour and explore how it is made.
Pacific Coast Oaxaca / Oaxaca City > San Cristobal de las Casas
On day 11 our travel route suggests going to San Cristobal de las Casas. A charming city surrounded by mountains and for us one of the highlights. It’s hip, has very pretty areas and highly interesting history. You will definitely not get bored in two days.
San Cristobal de las Casas > Palenque > Cancún
Day 13 you would hop on one of those comfy busses again with the destination of the mystical Mayan ruins of Palenque (approximately 9-hour drive). The next morning you will arrive well-rested in the archaeological site. Afterward, we would recommend jumping on the last night bus with the direction of Cancun. The trip from Palenque is roughly 12 hours but the place is magical!
Cancún > Isla Holbox / Bacalar
Now that you traveled a lot from A to B we would suggest enjoying the last days in the sun at the beach, with Tacos and other delicious treats. At this point in your trip you can decide! Either to the little, car-less island in the north, Isla Holbox or Bacalar, close to Belize. Of course, you could also do both but that’s entirely up to you. Relax and enjoy!
At the 21st day and unfortunately already the last day you need to take a bus back to Cancun. Depending on the time of our flight it might makes sense to arrive already a night before. This is officially your last bus trip through Mexico and now you need to head towards your country of origin. ¡Hasta pronto México!
Travel Route Mexico #2: In a nutshell
|Day 1||Cancún, Quintana Roo.|
|Day 2-4||Tulum incl. day trip to a cenote, Quintana Roo.|
|Day 5-6||Valladolid incl. day trip to Chichen Itza, Quintana Roo.|
|Day 7||Flight to Tuxtla, Chiapas. Onward journey to the Pacific coast of Oaxaca or to Oaxaca City|
|Day 8-10||Pacific coast of Oaxaca / Oaxaca City|
|Day 11-12||San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas.|
|Day 13||Onward journey to Palenque, Chiapas.|
|Day 14||Palenque, Chiapas. Night bus to Cancún, Quintana Roo.|
|Day 15||Cancún, Quintana Roo. Onward journey to Isla Holbox or Bacalar, Quintana Roo.|
|Day 16-20||Isla Holbox / Bacalar, Quintana Roo.|
|Day 21||Return to Cancún, Quintana Roo. Flight back home.|
Especially as Mexico is such a big country there’s so much to see. Many destinations that are worth visiting and often the best and most of all cheapest way is by bus. What we had to recall quite often while traveling for six weeks through Mexico. It is better to skip a stop and potentially miss out on something than to stress yourself. For example, we have been so impressed by Puerto Escondido that we spent more than a week. The tradeoff was to skip Palenque, which hurts at the same time but at some point, you need to decide. We’ve never regretted it and would do the same again. So before leaving to Mexico think about stops you definitely want to see and determine whether the stops and kilometers are realistic and most of all not stressful to reach. The goal of traveling is being happy, have time to explore and be on the road – always at your own pace.
So, if you are about to step on Mexican soil soon, take a few minutes and have a look at our in-depth article on “Backpacking in Mexico”. Here you will find many more information on the beautiful country on the American continent.
We hope that we were able to shed some light in the dark and you enjoyed reading. Now, get excited about your trip! You have questions or you would like us to add a stop? Just leave a comment!
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Still looking for Wanderlust?
➳ You are searching for some more tips and info how to prepare for your backpacking trip?
➳ You are traveling to Mexico and still not sure what is worth to know? Have a look at our article Backpacking in Mexico!
➳ Eager to find the best transport in Mexico?
➳ You want to go surfing in Mexico? Then head over to Puerto Escondido!
➳ Mexico’s capital calling or are you about to leave to the pyramids of Mexico City?
➳ Last but not least some relaxation on Isla Holbox? Definitely worth a visit!
➳ Not THAT far – Nicaragua! Our article Backpacking in Nicaragua!