(Last updated on: 28/01/2022)
When my husband and I decided that we were going to embark on a Mexico road trip, I was SUPER excited!
We had found an amazing deal on flights with Skyscanner flying via Miami, which was another place that we had never visited before, so we snapped them up straight away! We hadn’t however, given much thought to exactly WHERE in Mexico we wanted to travel…
So I grabbed my Lonely Planet guide, read up on the interesting and fun facts about Mexico and a nice glass of red wine and spent my Saturday evening researching the top sites of Mexico. I was quickly overwhelmed, however; we only had two weeks and we couldn’t possibly squeeze everything in in such a short time!
That weekend I read through most of my Lonely Planet Guide and every Trip Advisor thread that I could find on the best things to do in Mexico. I put together a comprehensive itinerary, booked some internal flights and found a good deal on car hire. I also found a nice Airbnb in each destination for us to stay in (new to Airbnb? Click here for up to £30 discount on your first booking). We were all set.
Mexico here we come!
Mexico road trip: Our itinerary
Planning a Mexico road trip can be a daunting task, trust me- I know! So I have outlined our adventures below, detailing what I would recommend and why and what I would avoid if I were to do another Mexico road trip.
Our first stop was Mexico City because, well, no Mexico road trip is complete without a stop in Mexico City!
Having said that, Mexico City wasn’t technically part of the road trip. We flew into the city, spent three days exploring and then we took a domestic flight to Merida, which was where we collected our hire car.
Nonetheless, Mexico City is well worth the visit and has some of the best tourist attractions in Mexico! We did lots of exploring while there and tried some of the most tasty and authentic Mexican meals. Here are some of our highlights.
Zocalo is the historic centre of Mexico City, also known as the main square. There was loads to do here and it filled a day and a half of our time!
There are historic and government buildings as well as lots of shops, bars and restaurants. You can read a full description of what’s on offer in the area in this Conde Nast article.
This magnificent palace was unique due to the murals that depict life in Mexico from the arrival of Quetzalcóatl (the Aztec plumed serpent god) to the post-revolutionary period, before the arrival of the Spanish.
The Palacio Nacional is home to the offices of the president of Mexico and the Federal Treasury.
As with many cathedrals the world over, this was one of the iconic structures of Mexico City.
Visiting Teothihuacan was a highlight of our trip to Mexico for me!
Teothihuacan, situated 30 miles outside of Mexico City, is an ancient city. We took a bus to get here, which was pretty simple, even with our very basic Spanish!
Teotihuacan is a UNESCO heritage site housing more than 2,000 single-story buildings, various pyramids, plazas, temples and palaces of nobles and priests from Mesoamerica. Particular highlights were the pyramid of the moon, the pyramid of the sun and the Avenue of the Dead. You could walk freely around the site or take a tour. You were allowed to climb some of the pyramids. Whilst some might question the sustainability of allowing thousands of tourists to climb the pyramids each day, it was lots of fun!
Teotihuacan is an amazing place with so much history, I wouldn’t do it justice by even attempting to give you any background on the area! I’ve included a National Geographic documentary below that covers all bases- well worth a watch if you’re interested!
After a wonderful few days we took an internal flight to Merida. Here we collected our hire car and located our Airbnb. We had booked a place that was in a good location to allow us to drive around to some of the nearby attractions. Whilst there wasn’t much to do in the immediate vicinity, it was a great accommodation with our own private pool and BBQ area, and the hosts had even stocked the fridge for us with beers! This was when I really started to love Airbnb…
Here are the places that we explored while staying in Merida.
Uxmal is a place that isn’t spoken about a lot, but is should be!
This impressive temple complex is nowhere near as popular as its neighbour; Chichen Itza. That’s why I loved this place so much, there were times when I was completely alone- no crowds of tourists!
It was also a pretty spectacular example of Mayan architecture.
Whilst visiting all of the Mayan temples I read the book Maya History: A Captivating Guide to the Maya Civilization, Culture, Mythology, and the Maya Peoples’ Impact on Mesoamerican History. This was really interesting and taught me a lot about the history of the attractions that I was visiting- definitely worth a read while travelling the area!
Probably the most famous tourist attraction in Mexico, Chichen Itza is definitely worth a visit.
Another example of a Mayan temple complex, Chichen Itza is only a couple of hours drive away from Cancun; making it very popular with the herds of package tourists that visit each year. You will see bus loads of people arriving throughout the day. My recommendation is to visit early or late to avoid the crowds. There are some great Chichen Itza tours that you can take too.
A cenote is a deep water-filled sink hole resulting from the collapse of limestone rock. I’d never heard of a cenote before our Mexico road trip and I was interested to see some.
Signs for centotes are everywhere along the roads in this part of Mexico, so we decided to randomly select a couple to stop at. I’ve outlined the best ones in my article on the best cenotes in Yucatan.
Some cenotes are open to sunlight and have even been turned into swimming pools! Others are hidden below ground and you have to go into a cave to access them. They are often connected to underground waterways and you can take a diving tour through the caves.
Being slightly claustrophobic and petrified of spiders (because you know there will be BIG spiders in caves!), I decided that the diving wasn’t for me. I did take a quick swim though… note the word ‘quick’- because it was FREEZING!
Nonetheless, visiting some of the cenotes was a great experience and I would highly recommend it to anybody embarking on a Mexico road trip!
Tulum is famous for its picture-perfect landscapes. With historic temples situated on cliff edges and beautiful sandy beaches, Tulum has the perfect blend of culture and relaxation.
We drove for a whole day to an area close to the Guatemala boarder so that we could visit Calakmul.
Calakmul is a Mayan temple complex hidden in the depths of the jungle. Unlike Chichen Itza (which by comparison is actually far less impressive), Calakmul receives very few visitors due to its remote location. If you do include Calakmul on your Mexico road trip, however, you won’t be disappointed!
There is something very special about having an entire ancient temple complex in the middle of the jungle all to yourself! They say that there are many more temples just like these that are hidden in the jungle and haven’t been found yet.
You are free to climb the temples as much as you please and the only other life you will probably see is the monkeys swinging through the trees, the jungle insects and the tropical birds.
When you reach the top of some of the bigger temples you can look out above the forest canopy and see other temples tops. It was simply amazing and photos most definitely do not do it justice!
The final stop on our Mexico road trip was Cancun.
Cancun is the most popular area of Mexico and is particularly known for its all-inclusive holidays and the best overwater bungalows in Mexico. It is one of the best places to party in Mexico too! Companies such as Voyage Privé offer sun holidays here, where everything from the flight to the hotel is organised for you.
We didn’t do the traditional package experience whilst in Cancun though, instead opting for an Airbnb. We spent our days relaxing on the beautiful beach of Isla Blanca and shopping in the tourist area.
It was a nice, relaxing end to our Mexico road trip.
Mexico road trip
Mexico is a wonderful country to travel around, although there are some concerns about safety. Make sure that you travel safely by purchasing Travel safe, not sorry- explore Mexico.
As you can see, there is so much to see and do in Mexico that a 2 week road trip can’t possibly allow you to cover it all… but you can give it a good go!
Are you thinking of doing a Mexico road trip? I would absolutely recommend it! If you have any questions on what we did during our travels through Mexico, don’t hesitate to leave a comment!