I have used agi tours for years. They will customize a tour for you based on your interests. www.agitours.com
The best way depends on if you want to save money or time. Last year in Merida I rented a car one evening, but picked it up early the next morning. It was $50/day total. Around 8am I drove straight to Uxmal and then went the Ruta Puuc to the ruins of Kabah, Sayil, Labna, and Xlapak. Then I drove to Campeche and arrived at nightfall. It is possible to return to Merida in the same manner.
It was an intense day and my feet were sore but it was worth it!
I think this would also be possible to do for Chichen Itza/Yaxuna/Ek Balam in a day as well.
Buses are also an option for those on a tight budget and traveling alone. However this is less time efficient and allows less freedom.
Thanks for your reply. I think we can afford to rent a car. I assume that you stayed in Campeche for the night? Therefore paid for the car for 2 days? Thanks!
I think a better question would be, "What can I do in Merida for three weeks?" That's a pretty long time in my opinion.
With regard to the ruins, absolutely rent a car. I suggest getting one for a week or so to explore the hinterlands. Uxmal and Chichen Itza are all excellent day trips from Merida. But if you are not tied to overnighting in Merida, you might consider doing at least one overnight.
For example, the best time to see Chichen is when it opens in the morning or late in the afternoon, meaning the times when the tour buses are not there. I prefer the early morning, but some of the monuments (Temple of Warriors, Caracol, Casacolorada) photograph best in the afternoon. If you have the time, I would drive to Chichen first thing in the morning, arriving when it opens at 8. Hire a guide ($50-60 US, I'm told) and take a 90-minute tour. Then explore on our own. Around 10 or so the tour buses start to trickle in and the vendors start getting obnoxious, so leave. Drive to Ek Balam, about an hour away. On the way there or back stop in Valladolid for a meal. There are several cenotes in the area, so you should visit at least one. Around 3 p.m. head back to Chichen and see it in the afternoon light. You can then make it back to Merida before nightfall.
For Uxmal, leave in the early morning and get there when it opens at 8. Again, hire a guide. Afterwards, tour other ruins on the Ruta Puuc: Sayil, Kabah, Labna. You might want to bring a lunch with you. You'll be back in Merida by dark again.
Have a great trip!
You have already been given a good number of useful points.
You can comfortably do CI & Uxmal in a day. However, there are good reasons to stay overnight in Valladolid - to see CI very early the next morning, or see the light show in the evening, to take in Ek Balam and to enjoy Valladolid itself.
Equally, if you drive to Uxmal you could go on after to Campeche, which is a charming colonial city.
When I take guests/family to Chichen, I like to arrive in the afternoon, stop at cenote Ik-Kil (3.5 kms east of Chichen, take a refreshing swim (arrive about 3 pm - the tour buses should be long gone, then backtrack 2.5 km and check into Hacienda Chichen, take another swim if it's hot, relax, go to the light & show show (7 or 8 PM depending on the season), have dinner at the hotel, then get up early the next day to be at the gates at 8 AM. This way you avoid the heat and the tour buses. Do get a guide. Then head back to the hotel, take another swim and head on to whatever you've planned be it Merida, Valladolid, Izamal, etc.
William Lawson, who regularly posts in these parts, reported that the light show at Uxmal is suspended. Something about a lightning strike and waiting for a replacement part.
I imagine Chichen's light show is still running, but I have no personal knowledge of this.
Have a great trip.
I'm unaware of the status of the light show at Uxmal. I would not make a decision to stay over night based on the light show anyhow. While it was ok, it was by no means a "must see."
We greatly enjoyed the relaxed pace of seeing Uxmal one day and the other Ruta Puuc sites the next day. But, I am a ruin junkie. Others may not share that. IMHO, while the major sites are awe-inspiring, there is something about the solitude of the other sites that make them appealing in a different way.
By all means, hire a local guide. You ride in the comfort of a care and get there (particularly to Chichen Itza) before the buses unload hoards of travelers. We had two guides when we were in Merida.
Our guide to Chichen was Antonio Bustillos Castillo, and his phone numebr is 9992741741. He was very knowledgable about Mayan culture.
Our guide (on a tour) to Uxmal was David Echeverria Garcia, who can be reached at email@example.com.
I would be happy to answer any questions you may have, but you might do better to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, since I don't get on Trip Advisor all that often.