Mexico: Cancun to Merida Road Trip Part 1 -Qintana Roo and Yucatan-

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Cancun To Merida, you seriously can’t go wrong with this Road Trip!

Mexico is undoubtedly one of my very favorite countries in the world. It just has it all! From rich and diverse culture, to marvelous cuisine, long and meaningful history and nice inhabitants.

Each time some one asks me where to go for vacation, Mexico is the country that first comes to my mind. It balances perfectly cultural sightseeings with “dulce farniente” time at paradise beaches.

Through this article I am going to give you an over view of the sights and things to do in the States of Qintana Roo and Yucatan. I will share with you my road trip stories and my own experiences traveling in Mexico. Hopefully, it will help you organise your own road trip in the Caribbean Coast of Mexico or simply give you the desire to visit the country of Tacos and Tequila.

Where is it?

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First things first, let’s spot these two states on a map.

The states of Quintana Roo and Yucatan are the closest you could get to Belize. Both of them are in the Yucatan peninsula and give access to the stunning Caribbean Coast. They are my favorite part of Mexico because of their breathtaking nature, their endless amounts of ruins and their paradise beaches.

Why the Yucatan and Qintana Roo States?

The real question should be “Why Not?”

This part of Mexico would satisfy every type of traveler. First of all, it is heaven for foodies and fine cuisine lovers. Forget about the Tex Mex cuisine and discover the real taste of Mexican delicacies. Besides the amazing food, the Yucatan is home to intriguing and impressive Mayan ruins. Not to mention that Chichén Itzà, one of the 7 wonders of the world and the most famous Mayan ruin is in the Yucatan State. Finally, The Yucatan and Quintana Roo states have one of the most stunning beaches of the world. You can find endless amounts of Cenotes and underground pools all along your way. It is so fun to drive through this region. I felt totally safe during my two trips there. The roads are in excellent conditions and GPS always worked very well.

Still questioning your self why you should go?

From Where to Start?

Luis and I flew to Cancun and decided to start our road trip from there. There are several other international airports where you can land. Choose your most convenient option and adapt this itinerary to your own desires and needs. Your starting point does not make a big difference.

Cancun

The first thing we did in Cancun was renting a car. I was neutral about staying in Cancun. I have visited it on a previous trip with my mother and I liked it a lot. It is a super touristy city indeed but it still has its own charm. We finally came to the conclusion that we will visit it at the end of our road trip.

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Valladolid

From Cancun we drove directly to the small colonial city of Valladolid. We absolutely loved it. It has a very relaxed and slow pace of life. People are so nice and always smiling. And the best about Valladolid is that it is not a main destination for tourists. Therefore it is still very authentic and unspoiled. We spent the rest of the day in Valladolid and it was fairly enough to visit the entire city.

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Chitchen Itzá

After spending a night in Valladolid, we woke up very early in the morning and drove to Chitchen Itzá. I was extremely excited to go back and see once again this massive wonder of the world. I felt as impressed as I did the first time I saw it. It was magical! We spent all morning wandering around and discovering the beauty of this Mayan ruin. Do not omit to stand in front of the Pyramid of Kukulcan and clap. Yes, no joke, just clap! The echo of your clap will sound like the cry of a Quezal (bird of Central America). Just one more fascinating thing about the Mayan architecture and civilisation.

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Cenote Ik-Kil

When it comes to Cenotes or underground pools, the Yucatan State is simply unbeatable. There are hundreds of them and it has always been hard to decide which ones I would like to go to. During my first trip to Mexico I was lucky to visit the Ik-Kil Cenote and I absolutely loved it. It was by far one of the most beautiful ones I have seen. Therefore I did not want Luis to miss this beautiful Gem of Yucatan. After an unforgettable morning at Chitchen Itzá Ruins we drove to the Ik-Kil Cenote. It was super relaxing to deep into the water and observe the beauty of the underground pool.  This was for sure one of the highlights of our road trip.

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Izamal

Izamal is an old colonial city where we had a quick stop for a meal. This yellow town has beautiful colonial architecture. It is definitely worth a quick stop of an hour or two. The colorful buildings are gorgeous and you can visit a cute little convent.

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Merida

After a late lunch at Izamal we drove for an hour more to Merida. It was definitely one the best part of our road trip. This city breathes art and culture. It is full of life and the main square pulls on events, street food strolls and art exhibitions almost every night. It is a fantastic experience to live and we were lucky to share it with a local. Indeed, a wonderful Mexican girl, Lulu that quickly became our friend, hosted us while we were in Merida. She made our stay absolutely delightful and made us immerse into her culture and way of life. We had a great time hanging out with her, eating great local food, and discovering Merida’s nightlife like a local.

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Uxmal

After spending some days in Merida, we headed to Uxmal. It was about an hour drive before reaching the ruins. I personally really liked Uxmal. The pyramid is massive and truly impressive and it is one more site that proves how skilled were Mayan People about astronomy.

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Bacalar

After a nice time in the Yucatan State it was time to head to Qintana Roo. We drove from Uxmal to Bacalar for a little swim and a quick stop to check the lagoon. The lake (laguna Bacalar) has been recommended by so many of our Mexican friends so we decided to give it shot. And we have no regrets! The lake of seven colors is gorgeous. The water is crystal blue and so nice to swim in. Bacalar is not so touristy which made it even more attractive to us. Nevertheless, there are plenty of options to choose from when it comes to housing and hostels. We spent most of our time there at a restaurant called “La Playita”. It is right by the lake and their menu is nice with affordable prices.bacalar-cancun-to-merida-roadtrip

Tulum

After lunch at Bacalar, we drove for about 2hours to Tulum. I don’t even have enough words to describe Tulum. It is my very favorite place in the world. Mayan Ruins overlooking the Caribbean Sea, can anyone do better? I found something magical about Tulum and I just can’t over it. After visiting the Ruins we spent some time at the beach before taking a boat to do snorkeling. I would definitely recommend doing the same. Going back by boat to the ruins is an amazing experience, and the best viewpoint to see Tulum is from the Sea.

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Coba Ruins

We stayed some nights in Tulum and took day trips to some of the sites we really wanted to see. The Coba ruins are located less than an hour away from Tulum and are a must do. We loved our little jungle adventure and the hike all the way up. The view was breathtaking and so rewarding. I would recommend adding Coba to your list. You will love it! I promise you!

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Cenote Dos Ojos

After the tiring hike to the Coba Ruins we drove for about an hour to the “Cenote Dos Ojos”. We spent the rest of the day there chilling and swimming. We did some snorkeling too and enjoyed our time in this beautiful underground pool. Then, we drove back to Tulum where we spent another night.

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Playa del Carmen

If you are a palm-lined beaches and a slow pace of life fan Playa del Carmen is made for you. After spending some days in Tulum we headed to Playa del Carmen to take it slow and enjoy the beach. This coastal city is super cute and full of little shoppings and bars. Make sure not to miss the nightlife in “Quinta Avenida” (5th avenue) and take a day trip to Cozumel! You will love it!

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Cancun  

After Playa del Carmen, we were back to our starting point, Cancun. We took some time to visit the city and enjoy its nightlife. We chilled at the beach all day and stuffed ourselves with tasty food and delicious cocktails during the night. Cancun is something one should experience at least once in a lifetime. It is super touristy indeed but still worth a stop. Make sure you visit Playa Blanca (some miles away from Cancun) and to take a day trip to Isla Mujeres.

We had an amazing experience at this little island where we got lost totally off paths and had to hitchhike to go back to the port. Although we almost missed our boat back to Cancun! But it was definitely worth the little stress! We discovered some hidden parts of Isla Mujeres and met some very nice and welcoming locals.

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To visualise better my road trip in the Qintana Roo and Yucatan States check out this pined map below. It has all the sights and cities you should visit and gives you an itinerary that you can adapt to your own preferences and pace.

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Click on the picture to access to the Map

Here was an overall view of one of my road trips in Mexico. Hope it will be helpful to those of you who are planning to travel to this beautiful country soon.

The Yucatan and Quintana Roo will captivate you with their stunning nature, their impressive ruins and welcoming inhabitants.

And you, have you ever visited Mexico? What was your favorite part? What are some Mexican cities on your bucket list? Leave me a comment sharing your own experience with me.

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4 Comments

  • Hello Aida,
    je te remercie pour ton post ! il est très bien fait très bien détaillé.
    je suis ectuellement entrain de préparer mon voyage au Mexique et en lisant ton article je découvre que j’ai fais le bon choix de première destination 😀
    par contre, peux-tu me donner plus de détail sur le côté budget ? j’ai compris que le fait de louer une voiture reste le meilleur deal pour faire la tournée ! mais à quel prix/la journée et les frais de gasoil/ jour aussi.
    d’un autre côté, as-tu privilégié les maisons d’hote ou hotel ? et à quel prix moyen par nuité ?
    le coté budget étant aussi important j’espère pouvoir le gérer en amont 😀 !
    merci bcp pour ton aide

    • Bonjour Charifa,

      Les prix de location dépendent vraiment de la période à laquelle tu visite, du type de vehicule, d’assurance que tu compte prendre, du nombre de jour… etc. je te conseille de faire une simulation ou une demande de prix sur internet dans les sites de locations de voiture pour avoir une idée.
      J’ai pour la plus part du temps logé en maison d’hôte et les prix dépendent de ta capacité financière. Il y en a pour vraiment tous les budgets!!!!!
      Bon voyage!

  • This sounds exactly like the trip I am planning! I would love to go this February. How many days did you spend or do you think is enough to enjoy all this? Did you rent a car? I’d love to know the details! Thank you so much for sharing these photos and tips xx

    • Hello Jasmine,

      I would say that you need at least 7 full days to enjoy to the fullest the region I have done.
      More would be even better.
      I did rent a car from the airport in Cancun and returned it back when I finished my trip.
      If you need any details let me know.
      Thanks for commenting.
      Enjoy your trip!

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