Exploring the Yucatan
The Yucatan Peninsula separates the Gulf of Mexico from the Caribbean Sea, and is home to jungles, Mayan ruins, golden coastlines and a plethora of relaxing retreats. Here, we've put together a supremely relaxing luxury holiday - with a few Original Travel twists along the way.
Itinerary at a Glance:
- Visit Chichen Itza at dawn
- Swim in cenote sinkholes
- Take a private air tour to see the full extent of Mayan ruins
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When To Travel
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Day 1: International Flight
Your flight will leave London mid-morning and arrive at Cancun international airport late afternoon.
Once you have cleared customs and collected your bags, one of our team on the ground will meet you for a two-hour private transfer to your hotel near Chichen Itza. As acclimatising your stomach to local time is the best way to beat jet lag, we recommend dinner and an early night before an early morning tomorrow.
Day 2: Chichen Itza
Today you'll be starting your holiday with a bang, and making excellent use of your jetlag with a sunrise visit to Chichen Itza.
Your expert guide will meet you at your hotel and take you around the ancient Mayan city before it opens to the public, allowing you to explore and soak up the atmosphere in the majestic site alone. As you traverse the site, visiting the Temple of the Warriors, the ball court and the sacred cenote (sinkhole), you will learn all about Maya cosmology, religion and the dualism of life and death from your expert guide. Visiting the 'Castillo' or Pyramid of Kukulkan, you will discover the ingenious architecture that results in a figure of a snake descending and ascending its steps during the equinox, making it one of the Seven New Wonders of the World.
At the end of your visit, you will be privately transferred to your next hotel, just outside the colonial city of Merida. The journey will take approximately two hours.
Day 3: Merida
This morning you'll have a much more leisurely start. After a relaxing morning you will be met at your hotel by your expert guide for a private transfer into the centre of Merida where you will have lunch at a local restaurant before spending the afternoon on a tour of the city.
The tour will take in the historical centre of the city, where your expert guide will tell you about Merida's history and contemporary importance, as you explore the Zocalo, the cathedral and the Monument of the Homeland, before heading down El Paseo de Montejo, with its grand, colonial buildings.
Day 4: Uxmal
This morning you will be met at your hotel by your expert guide for the hour-long transfer to the ancient Mayan site of Uxmal.
You'll be among the first people to enter the famed Maya ball courts and temples of Uxmal where your expert guide will tell you about the achievements and mysterious demise of the Mayan people. Spread over 150 acres, you will explore the ancient water systems (unique because they use man-made cisterns to collect rainwater) and the Magician's Pyramid, whose rounded sides with a great height and steepness making it unique among Mayan structures. However, it is rivalled by the size and complex stonework of the Governor's Palace for the title of the masterpiece of Uxmal.
After your tour you will be privately transferred back to your hotel to spend the rest of the afternoon at leisure.
Day 5: Cenote Swimming
It is a truth universally acknowledged in the Original Travel office that swimming in a Mexican cenote sinkhole should be floating at the top of every bucket list.
With that in mind, after checking out of your hotel this morning you will be met at your hotel by your expert guide for a visit to three of the most beautiful cenotes in the area. After a quick private transfer, you will switch to a horse and cart and make your way deep into the jungle. Your guide will take you to three different cenotes, each of which offers something unique. Make sure to have your swimming togs at the ready, because as well as learning about the ancient Mayan beliefs about cenotes, and their slightly gory history, you will also be able to take a dip in their clear waters.
After you swim you will be privately transferred to the Riviera Maya, and your next hotel.
Day 6: Sian Ka’an
This morning, your expert guide will meet you at your hotel and take you to the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve.
Sian Ka'an in Mayan means 'origin of the sky.' The reserve is made up of a large water system, marshes, mangroves and tropical forest. When you arrive at the reserve you will start your exploration on foot, taking a short hike through the jungle to the Muyil Maya temple, before walking along a wooden pathway by the water's edge. The second part of the visit takes place on the water. Along with your expert guide, you will explore the reserve in a small boat, discovering a cenote that lies underneath the surface. You will also get the chance to swim in the clear waterways or float along the 'lazy river', so don't forget your swimming costume!
Day 7: Tulum
It's a very early start this morning, as your expert guide will meet you at your hotel before dawn for your privately guided sunrise tour of Tulum.
After a half an hour private transfer to the site, your expert guide will lead you in your exploration of Tulum's most interesting sites, telling you about the history and cosmology of the site. Make sure to bring your swimming togs, because post tour you will also have a chance to swim in the Caribbean waters and look up at Tulum's iconic 'Castillo' from below.
Post swim, you will be privately transferred back to your hotel to spend the rest of the day at leisure.
Day 8: Cobá
This morning, your expert guide will meet you at your hotel for a private transfer to Coba, an ancient Mayan site.
The site is so large that you will be asked to choose between exploring on bikes or in a rickshaw, before your guide takes you around the site. Despite the grandeur of the buildings they left behind, very little is known about the civilisation that built Coba, and your guide will explain the competing theories which attempt to explain the temples, ball courts, pyramids and palaces you come across.
After your visit, you will be privately transferred to a local restaurant for lunch before returning to your hotel to spend the rest of the afternoon at leisure.
Day 9: Kohunlich and Bacalar Lagoon Air Expedition
As today is your last full day in Mexico, and we believe in bookending holidays with spectacular trips, we have arranged a full day private air expedition to Kohunlich and Bacalar Lagoon, also known as the lagoon of the seven colours.
After an hour's private transfer to Cancun Private Airport, you will take a one-and-a-half-hour flight to Kohunlich, which will give you a unique view of the coastline, verdant topography and cenotes and lagoons of the Yucatan Peninsula. You will have a lightning fast transfer to the archaeological site at Kohunlich, where you will have a private tour. After the tour, you will have a one-hour private transfer to the Bacalar Lagoon, where you will have a picnic, before meeting your expert kayaking guides for a three-hour tour around the lagoon.
After your tour, and we imagine with very tired arms, you will be transferred back to Kohunlich Airport for your flight back to Cancun, before being privately transferred back to your hotel.
Day 10: International Flight
Today is sadly your last day in Mexico, so before your evening flight home we recommend spending the day relaxing at your hotel; perhaps a yoga class, spa treatment, some time by the pool or just lay back in the white sands and turquoise seas.
After a late check out and last long leisurely lunch you will be privately transferred to Cancun Airport for your flight home. The direct overnight flight leaves in the evening and takes roughly nine hours.
Day 11: Arrive Home
Your flight lands back in London mid-morning.
Ollie is our expert for this itinerary and, as a seasoned traveller, has the inside track on the most memorable adventures.