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Where to go in the Yucatan Peninsula?

Wellington, New...
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Where to go in the Yucatan Peninsula?

Hi,

I am currently planning a round the world trip and one of my destinations will be Mexico. I obviously want to visit the Yucatan Peninsula while I'm there, but I'd like a better idea of where to actually go and how long to stay in each place.

I don't really have any time constraints but I would like just enough time to properly see the sites and get a good feel for the area. I am interested in spending some time on the beautiful Caribbean beaches, as well as visiting the Mayan structures and just exploring the area, particularly the Mayan Riviera.

I would be using public transport (buses and trains) where available, but I could rent a cheap car for a little while to get between places where public transport may not be an option. For the duration of the entire trip, I would actually like to fly as little as possible.

Anyway, I have drafted a list of where I may go on the Yucatan Peninsula. Please tell me if:

a. I've missed any places

b. There wouldn't be much point visiting a certain place on the list

c. The time I've allocated to a place is suitable or if it needs adjusting (probably the case for most of the list, really). Please note that the durations listed do not include travel time.

The list is:

Cancun-3 days

Playa del Carmen-3 days

Cozumel-2 days

Tulum-1 day

Valladolid-1 day

Chichen-Itza-1 day

Merida-2 days

Campeche-2 days

On top of this, I'll also list the other places in Mexico I plan to visit and I would appreciate feedback on that, too. However, the Yucatan Peninsula is my main concern for this post.

Veracruz-2 days

Acapulco-2 days

Mexico City-3 days

Guanajuato-2 days

Zacatecas-2 days

Guadalajara-2 days

Puerto Vallarta-3 days

Cabo San Lucas (via boat)-3 days

Thanks in advance.

Wellington, New...
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1. Re: Where to go in the Yucatan Peninsula?

I've made a few adjustments to the Yucatan itinerary. I've changed Cancun and Playa del Carmen to 5 days each, Cozumel to 3 days (with the 1 day in Tulum, I presume this would be enough time for just the Mayan Riviera, if not too much?) and Valladolid to 2 days. I'd do Chichen as a day trip from Valladolid, and I've also added Ek Balam as another day trip (while visiting the cenotes in the area during these two day trips). Additionally, I was thinking of taking a day to get from Valladolid to Merida and quickly seeing any other interesting Mayan structures on the way. Finally, I've added a day at Uxmal between Merida and Campeche.

Here's the revised schedule:

Cancun-5 days

Playa del Carmen-5 days

Cozumel-3 days

Tulum-1 day

Valladolid-2 days

Chichen-Itza-1 day

Ek Balam-1 day

Merida-2 days

Uxmal-1 day

Campeche-2 days

Is that any better?

Cozumel, Mexico
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2. Re: Where to go in the Yucatan Peninsula?

Interesting. But I really can´t see why a world traveler would have any interest in so much time in Cancun and Playa del Carmen. In my opinion, you really are shorting the most interesting destination, Merida.

Edmonton, Canada
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3. Re: Where to go in the Yucatan Peninsula?

What Robert said.

I'm glad to see you reduced the number of beach resorts (though I do like PV; it has an enjoyable Mexican flavor which Cancun & PDC are said to lack).

Maybe drop Campeche entirely (sorry Campeche fans!), and double your time in Merida instead.

Any chance you can move heaven and earth to visit Tikal in Guatemala? It's not easy to get to, and it really deserves a multi-day visit, but you could steal a day from "Chicken Pizza" and still be that much better off.

Wellington, New...
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4. Re: Where to go in the Yucatan Peninsula?

Thanks for the replies. I have still kept the second half of Mexico, including the beach resorts. This world tour will actually last a couple of years (I have been saving and am still saving heavily), although it's currently in the early planning stages. I would like to focus on seeing a handful of whole countries around the globe in their entirety since I have so much time rather than do a highlight reel of the world, hence the thoroughness of my schedule.

Since I haven't actually set finite time constraints yet, I could always add a bit more time to Merida without necessarily sacrificing anything, and I could look into squeezing in Tikal as well. How much time should I spend in Merida then, and is Campeche still worth visiting or should I just head straight to Veracruz afterwards? Also, how long should I spend in Tikal if I visit, and is the rest of my schedule fine? Do I not have too much time on the beach resorts by any chance? I wouldn't want to be TOO rushed with enough time to soak in the culture and atmosphere, and I would be more interested in the sights but I would still need some solid relaxation time on the beach--I will be coming from South America. However, note that I am also visiting a few Caribbean islands.

The bottom line is, how many days would I actually need in places like Cancun and Playa del Carmen to both explore the area and have adequate relaxation time?

Edmonton, Canada
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5. Re: Where to go in the Yucatan Peninsula?

A couple of years! Now that's the way to do it. And if you're looking to focus on a few countries in depth, I think Mexico is an excellent choice to be one of them.

How much time in Merida? That's hard to say, but I've been there twice totalling three weeks or so. It's one of the finest Mexican cities for hanging out, strolling, relaxing (I can do that better in a zocalo than on a beach), touring, people-watching, and more. My guidebook (Moon Yucatan) calls it a "cultural supernova".

Also wonderful in similar ways are Oaxaca, San Cristobal de las Casas, Guanajuato, and San Miguel de Allende, plus (from what I've heard) Puebla and Zacatecas. But Veracruz and Guadalajara don't sound like they have as much going for them, at least according to TA posters whose opinions I respect.

One or two nights in Tikal would be ideal. You'd want to stay inside the park for best sunrise/sunset experiences. That's when the jungle gets noisy.

But on a trip that long, do you want to plan it in this much detail? I can certainly understand building up a to-do list, but you have a rare opportunity to be flexible. If you find a place you really like, for example, you can stay an extra week. If you hear about someplace cool, you can tweak your plans and go there on a whim. When I travelled RTW for six months, we generally planned tomorrow, today. We rarely booked ahead, and changed our plans often. That kind of flexibility was wonderful.

Edited: 03 June 2014, 05:18
BC
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6. Re: Where to go in the Yucatan Peninsula?

I quite enjoyed Campeche, it is a beautiful city with a very interesting fort and museum, lovely location on the ocean. Two days would be enough for you there. Valladolid is also a lovely little place, plus the cenotes are great.

Honestly, I can't imagine spending that much time in Cancun and Playa del Carmen. PDC is about the only place in Mexico that I have been that I actually disliked. In Cancun I quite liked walking around the town, areas where there are no tourists, because they are all at the beach.

Tikal is nice, but Palenque is better. I presume that after the Yucatan you are going to Chiapas? My favourite part of Mexico. Mexico City needs more than three days, Guadalajara is also interesting, at least three days there, I stayed longer.

I liked Morelia and other places in Michoacan. Taxco (in Guerrero, not so far south of Mexico City) is also very nice. For a beach location, try Zihuatanejo, you will like it much more than the Yucatan beaches.

Cozumel, Mexico
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7. Re: Where to go in the Yucatan Peninsula?

" I would still need some solid relaxation time on the beach"

I think that is always good but if it is relaxation you want, Cancun and Playa del Carmen aren't the places. Still some good places in the area but little by little the state of Quintana Roo is being commercialized. Isla Holbox is one relaxing beach place for NOW. But currently a developer is trying to ram through plans to destroy that also.

Back to promoting Merida. One annual survey rated it as having the third best quality of life in Mexico. And is always considered one of Mexico's safest city.

And agree with VP, " we generally planned tomorrow, today" , I have done the same all over the world--and often didn´t even plan a day ahead.

Wellington, New...
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8. Re: Where to go in the Yucatan Peninsula?

Thanks for all the feedback so far. I realise of course that I will have a unique sort of flexibility by doing a round the world trip, and I will take advantage of this. However, I seem to be the kind of person who has to have every last detail planned out, hence the perhaps overly-extensive planning :p

Of course, this will serve as more of a general guideline, but I still want to have a plan of some sort done so I can fix a final budget, have a rough idea of the direction I will be taking and the duration.

Anyway, I will research the places mentioned and then return with an update. However, would it be fine to plan 3 days in Merida then, or is it still not enough? Also, should I remove Veracruz altogether then, if it's really not that special since it is somewhat out of the way?

Lastly, roughly how much time should I plan for Cancun and Playa if 5 days each is too much? Remember that I will be visiting the Caribbean too so I wouldn't actually be spending whole days on the Yucatan beaches, but I still want to see the sights and do activites around those two areas and to at least try the Mexican beaches, maybe for a couple hours per day between exploring. Besides those two, are 3 days in Cozumel and 1 day in Tulum fine? All in all, I just want enough time to properly soak in the Riviera itself and the beauty it has to offer.

Southern California
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9. Re: Where to go in the Yucatan Peninsula?

Personally I'd drop Cancun (lots of high rises and American chains) and spend more time in Tulum. You can always party in PDC if you are into that.

Edmonton, Canada
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10. Re: Where to go in the Yucatan Peninsula?

Isn't the Caribbean an expensive way to get some beach time? If you're on a budget, you could blow it quickly there. Unless you've found some secret hideaway...

Not to say Cancun and PDC are cheap. They have tourist-level pricing, and if you've been backpacking around the interior of the country, staying in hostels etc, you may find the tourist zone a shock to the wallet. For cheap beach time (I'm no expert here), I think you need to go south of Tulum. There are some little unknown places...