Written by Stephanie Bardou Fana
We set off on a family trip for 8 days to Yucatán, Mexico. Our goal?! Uncover the Mayan civilization and the Mexican culture, and to see the landscapes in road trip mode through Yucatán!
Our opinion on our over a week-long family trip?! I have to say we have mixed feelings. We came back from this family vacation in Mexico with quite a few disappointments.
Here is the itinerary of our travels through the Yucatán, our activities, what we liked of this country… and what we didn’t!
OUR OPINION ON OUR FAMILY TRIP TO MEXICO + TIPS
Before listing our itinerary and what we saw (Mexican towns, cenotes, and Mayan ruins), here is a recap and our thoughts on this 8 days family vacation in Mexico.
This trip is among the ones we liked the least. It was quite expensive even though we thought it would be otherwise since it’s still Mexico.
But the grocery shops are just as expensive as in Quebec City, as are restaurants, if not more! And I haven’t yet mentioned the souvenir shops selling magnets for the fridge for 7 dollars!!!!
When travelling through a country or a region making great distance by ourselves on a road trip like we did, it’s easier to grasp the local population’s reality for we can witness more of their “real life”. We realized that Mexico’s inner lands are cheaper, but it’s difficult to feed ourselves properly as tourists and that there’s a lot of poverty. It’s actually very current. The villages we went through were very poor, and locals were forced to burn or toss in the jungle their garbage and trash since there are no appropriate waste disposal services.
Maya ruins are also extremely or dare I say too crowded. My advice would be to prioritize less known and farther from big cities kind of sites. We loved Uxmal (pronounced UCHMAL in Maya) and Mayapán.
As for driving in Mexico, we travelled 1100 km in 8 days. To actually take the wheel in Mexico is pretty different than in Canada! You get cut off at any moment, people stop anywhere, limits and speed bumps are never obeyed, and there are police roadblocks at the gate of every city and town. Keep that in mind.
However, we loved tasting the local Mexican cuisine: tacos, enchiladas, tortillas, empanadas, guacamole are a must try. We also had a lot of fresh Mexican fruits: grapefruits, clementines, papayas, and fresh fruit juices (pineapple juice, for example – or, you know, its cocktail friend 😉).
As for me, it was my first time on a “cultural” type of vacation. Our usual trips are oriented towards “nature”. You can read my other articles on our family hiking in Utah and Maine, in the United States.
Generally, there aren’t as many street sellers on our other trips or as many people. It was a confirmation that nature-oriented travelling like hiking in forests, out discovering the landscape is better for us.
OUR 8 DAYS ROAD TRIP ITINERARY DISCOVERING THE MAYAN CIVILIZATION IN MEXICO
Day 1: VALLADOLID AND ITS WILDLIFE RESERVE
The trip didn’t start well. Even though we had booked a car and insurances weeks in advance, we were scammed and lost 650 dollars. The insurances we booked on a website were supposedly invalid… We were outraged, but there was nothing to do, so we ended up paying again.
We had to drive for a few hours, which allowed us to cool down a little and to reflect on our bad luck. We were just unlucky this time.
We spent our first night Valladolid where we visited a wildlife reserve zoo in the morning for free. We saw birds, felines, mammals, monkeys, and crocodiles, among other animals (1h).
A nice discovery.
Day 2: IZAMAL, LA RUTA DE ZAMNÁ, THE CONVENTO DE SAN ANTONIO AND THE PYRAMIDS
Day 2: Izamal and the Ruta de Zamná (pyramid road), in Yucatán, that we walked upon to discover the local ruins. The main pyramid can be escalated.
Kinich Kakmò: a beautiful panoramic view of the jungle circling the city! However, we shared the streets with garbages, the only down point.
The Convento de San Antonio is splendid. It was built over an old pyramid and oversees the city. We took the opportunity to buy grapefruits at the market: 5 for 1 dollar 50 cents!!! The city glowing in yellow is beautiful.
Day 3: THE NOH-MOZON CENOTE AND THE MAYAPAN PYRAMID IN YUCATÁN
Day 3: We stop at the Noh-Mozon cenote, a quite remote area (30 minutes on a gravel road going at 20 km/h) where we enter for a total of 160 pesos (4 people). An impressive hole with stairs that gave me vertigo! The water is turquoise and beautiful.
We seized the moment. It was only us there and some divers.
Then we visit Mayapán, a less famous site in the Yucatán (45 pesos for 2 adults and free for kids). A wonderful place, 1-hour touring where we can climb on every ruin, including the pyramid. Awesome!
Day 4: UXMAL, OUR FAVORITE
Day 4: Uxmal, a beautiful place, 3 hours of discoveries on this wide site (413 pesos for 2 adults and free for the kids). Our favourite!! Many of the temples and buildings are still in great shape; it really is a great site!!
Day 5: CHICHÉN ITZÁ THE MOST FAMOUS PYRAMID OF YUCATÁN BUT OUR LEAST FAVORITE
Day 5: Chichén Itzá, the tour we liked the least (50 pesos for parking, 486 pesos for 2 adults and 75 pesos for 2 kids). Every path is loaded with sellers, and it’s impossible to take one step in peace.
So we walk faster with our heads down. It really downgrades the natural beauty of the site. Then there also are the buses that keep coming. The site is protected as World Heritage Site by UNESCO, but there’s nothing much to be expected.
When we pay to visit a site, it’s to be able to admire the ruins, not the sellers’ street stands, which would be better located outside the area. It really is a bummer!
Day 6: VALLADOLID CITY, ZACI CENOTE AND THE CONVENTO SAN BERNARDINO DE SIENA
Day 6: Valladolid, a huge touristic city but one we enjoyed visiting.
The Convento San Bernardino de Siena is the most important and beautiful monastery of Yucatán.
The Calzada de Los Frailes is the most colourful street in the city. The main square is a nice spot to chill and to enjoy the San Servacio cathedral. We walked around the local market where my husband bought half a cooked chicken and fruits. I love to blend in with the locals in that type of public space!
If you feel like going for a swim, you can dip your toes a the Zaci cenote located in the city center –pretty cool!!
Day 7: COBÁ RUINS AND THE CASA TORTUGA CENOTE
Day 7: Uncovering Cobá’s ruins (50 pesos for the parking and 75 pesos for kids over 10 years old). A site in the jungle with about 5 km of paths to follow. Besides the “Nohoch Mul” not many of the other ruins are in such good shape. The tour is doable in 1h45/ 2h.
If walking tires you down, there is a possibility to rent bikes or taxi-bikes that can carry you around. It’s a little expensive, though.
In the afternoon, we enjoyed the “opened” cenote of Casa Tortuga. Take note to save 50 pesos for safety jackets. We loved it!
Day 8: TULUM
Day 8: We visited Tulum (180 pesos for the paring and 75 pesos for kids over 10 years old). The configuration of the site is nicely located along the Caribbean Sea. Unfortunately, the tour is a quick one: just a few buildings in good shape. The site is also rapidly loaded with tourists even if we arrived at 8 a.m.
We enjoyed the public beach, and the kids loved it! I was personally disappointed since I expected a lot from Tulum after my readings.
So this was our trip itinerary of over a week road tripping in the Yucatán, Mexico, discovering the Mayan civilization.
I hope it will guide you through your choices of destination in the Yucatán with your children if Mexico and the discovery of the Mayan civilization is something that sparks your curiosity.
This post was translated from French to English by:
My name is Sophie, a passionate language learner, and a full-time dog mom. Long walks, soothing cups of tea, Japanese learning and the search for beauty are my everyday life. Slowly but surely is how I do things, contemplating the peaceful ways of time and the enchanting notion of living the moment.