Riviera Maya and Costa Maya getaway
- 12 Days
This journey showcases the best of Mexico's Caribbean coast, from the bustling beaches and frenetic nightlife of the Riviera Maya to the soporific charm of seaside villages along the Costa Maya. Some wonderfully scenic Maya ruins and terrific diving and snorkeling add some action to a beach vacation.
Fly into Cancún and head straight for relaxed Isla Mujeres for beaches and snorkeling, taking a side trip to Isla Contoy, a national park with superlative bird-watching and, from June to September, the chance to swim with whale sharks that congregate nearby.
Alternatively, opt for hip Playa del Carmen with its own fine beaches, underwater activities and lively nightlife. 'Playa' is also the jumping-off point for the dive sites of Isla Cozumel. If you have kids, spend a day at the turtle farm on Isla Mujeres, one of the nearby ‘eco-parks’ such as Selvática with its 12 jungle zip-lines, or Crococun in Puerto Morelos, an interactive zoo with crocodiles and monkeys. Next stop: Tulum, with one of Mexico’s most perfect beaches and its most spectacularly located Maya site. Nearby are the pyramids and temples of Cobá, as well as the wildlife-rich Reserva de la Biosfera Sian Ka’an. South of Tulum the Costa Maya is less developed and less touristed than the Riviera Maya. Head to Mahahual, a laid-back village with snorkeling and diving at the coral atoll Banco Chinchorro, or the tiny fishing town of Xcalak, another excellent water-sports base.
After three nights chilling in these towns, backtrack to the northern end of Chetumal Bay before heading south to the laid-back Laguna Bacalar, where you can bask in the sun and bathe in the cenote-clear water that is painted unreal shades of blue, turquoise and green. For a diversion, head into the jungle and find yourself exploring the ruins of Kohunlich and Dzibanché, where you're likely to have the places to yourself.
Finish your trip in the relaxed, low-key city of Chetumal, where you can either travel onwards to Belize or turn around and, if you're worried that you missed out on Cancún's nightlife, spend your last night there and paint the town red.
Beaches, cities and temples of Mexico’s south
- 1 Month
This classic journey leads south from Mexico’s central heartland to its glorious Caribbean beaches, and gives a superb sampling of the ruins, jungle, cities and beaches that make the country so fascinating.
Start by exploring the exciting megalopolis of Mexico City, key to any understanding of the country. Take a side trip to the awesome pyramids at Teotihuacán, capital of ancient Mexico’s biggest empire. Then head east to the lively port city of Veracruz, before crossing the mountains southward to Oaxaca. This cultured colonial city, with Mexico’s finest handicrafts, sits at the heart of a beautiful region with a large indigenous population. Give yourself a day to explore the ancient Zapotec capital, Monte Albán, nearby.
Head to one of the relaxed beach spots on the Oaxaca coast, such as Puerto Escondido, Mazunte or Zipolite, for a few days' sun, surf and sand, before continuing east to San Cristóbal de las Casas, a beautiful highland town surrounded by intriguing indigenous villages. Move on to Palenque, perhaps the most stunning of all ancient Maya cities, with its backdrop of emerald-green jungle, and Yaxchilán, another marvelous Maya city, accessible only by river.
Head northeast to Campeche, an attractive mix of colonial city and bustling modern town, detouring to the remote and ancient Maya city of Calakmul en route. Calakmul will take three days of your time – a day to get there, a day to explore and a day to get back, but it's worth every kilometer, we promise. Move on to colonial Mérida, the Yucatán Peninsula's lively cultural capital and the base for visiting the superb ruins of Uxmal and the Ruta Puuc. Next stop: Chichén Itzá, the most celebrated of all the Yucatán's Maya sites. From here it's on to Tulum on the Caribbean coast, another spectacular Maya site set beside a glorious beach. If it's too busy for you, opt for the quiet, laid-back vibe of Laguna Bacalar, or if you want to go diving, head to the coast and stay in Mahahual or remote Xcalak. Finally, make your way northward along the Riviera Maya to the resort town of Playa del Carmen, with a side trip to Isla Cozumel for excellent snorkeling and diving. End at Mexico’s most popular and unabashed coastal resort, Cancún.
Baja from tip to toe
- 18 days
The world's second-longest peninsula seems tailor-made for road tripping, with 1200km of road snaking through picturesque villages, along dramatic coastline and past otherworldly rock canyons. Baja's charms are further enhanced by its appealing colonial towns, world-class diving and some of the best fish tacos you'll ever taste.
Enjoy a full-on day of Mexican life-on-the-streets in Tijuana before heading south via the Valle de Guadalupe winery route, stopping for a day or two to tour the vineyards and taste the terrific tipples. Then make a stop in Ensenada for great fish tacos and a stroll through the shopping streets before heading south via the Carretera Transpeninsular’s spectacular desert scenery. If it’s migration season (December to April), book a whale-watching tour at Guerrero Negro. Alternatively, continue south and detour to Sierra de San Francisco to view ancient petroglyphs in the local caves.
Further south, pass through San Ignacio to have a look at the most beautiful colonial church in Baja, and stop in Mulegé for a tranquil paddle in the cerulean Sea of Cortez. The highway then hugs the coast en route to Loreto, where you can spend a day or two discovering the artisan shops, great restaurants, historic architecture and 17th-century mission. Heading south again, the road passes several stunning beaches before ducking inland. Detour to Puerto San Carlos for a glimpse of sea-dwelling leviathans during whale-watching season, then make for the unspoiled charms of La Paz. Spend a day kayaking and snorkeling off the island of Espíritu Santo, or go swimming with whale sharks (October to March).
Next, stop at Todos Santos, a gorgeous little town with galleries, sea-turtle nesting grounds and beautiful historical buildings, before you hit wild Cabo San Lucas. Indulge in banana-boating, parasailing and other beach activities before hitting the bars, and don't forget to take a boat to Land's End for a glimpse of the magical stone arch. If you need a respite, head for San José del Cabo, Cabo's tamer twin, with its appealing colonial church, art galleries and a clutch of good restaurants. Or, go underwater for a closer glimpse of the reef at Cabo Pulmo – the only living reef in the Sea of Cortez, teeming with schooling big-eyed jacks, whale sharks and more.
The Heartland Triangle
- 9 days
If you're short on time, but particularly keen on exploring Mexico's colonial and urban heritage, you can do a quick loop tour that takes in the capital, three beautiful colonial towns and Mexico's second city.
Spend a day sightseeing in Mexico City, perhaps taking in its two most famous museums, the Museo Nacional de Antropología and the Museo Frida Kahlo, before heading northwards to the beautiful colonial town of San Miguel de Allende, to enjoy a day wandering its enchanting cobbled streets, admiring its striking colonial architecture and enjoying its vibrant dining scene.
The following day, head further north to San Luis Potosí, a colonial town that silver built, one of Mexico's oldest Spanish settlements and the hotbed of the Mexican Revolution. The city's monasteries, cathedral, museums and beautiful plazas will keep you busy until you head southwest to lively Guadalajara.
Mexico's second city is a beguiling melange of historic architecture, hip nightclubs, fusion restaurants and mariachi music; don't miss its remarkable cathedral or the Unesco-ordained Instituto Cultural de Cabañas. Two days will allow you to see the highlights before stopping for a day in elegant, centuries-old Morelia.
Back in Mexico City, spend your last day in Teotihuacán.