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Honeymoon in Mexico: Lost cities and beaches of the Mayan Riviera

12 days from £3245pp

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Honeymoon in Mexico: Lost cities and beaches of the Mayan Riviera:
Trip Dossier

Looking for a tropical honeymoon with plenty of beach time to relax and the minimum of time spent travelling, but with plenty of contrasts and variety?  Mexico is a huge country and it takes a big commitment to get the measure of it on one holiday, so we have picked out the area – the Yucatán peninsula in the south - we think would be the most appealing to honeymooners.  It is here that vestiges of the Mayan civilisation loom out of the undergrowth at every turn. Sites replete with temples and pyramids festooned with sacred carvings were, once abandoned, swallowed up by a rapacious jungle but are now gradually being revealed. The best known sites, Chichén Itzá, Uxmal and Tulum are easily accessible and have been spruced up for visitors. This holiday takes you to all of them at a relaxed pace, giving you plenty of time to wander around and soak up the atmosphere, possibly at dawn or sunset. 

The Riviera Maya spans the peninsula’s soft-sand Caribbean coast. At both of your beach-hotel bases, tranquil Tulum village and Playa del Carmen (a pleasant holiday resort) there is plenty of free time to laze on the beach, play water-sports or choose more wide-ranging optional adventures. One of the best is included: the coastal mangrove-draped marshes at Sian Ka’an, which host a biosphere reserve heaving with wildlife.

Short itinerary

Holiday itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in Cancun. Transfer to your hotel in Tulum.

Day 2-3

At leisure.

Day 4

Transfer to Chichén Itzá. Guided tour of Mexico’s most extensive Mayan archaeological site.

Day 5

Morning at leisure. Transfer to Mérida.

Day 6

Swimming and snorkelling expedition to the cenotes – steep-sided freshwater sinkholes.

Day 7

At leisure. Evening son et lumière show at Uxmal ruins.

Day 8

Transfer to Playa del Carmen on the Riviera Maya.

Day 9

At leisure in Playa del Carmen.

Day 10

Hiking expedition in the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve.

Day 11

At leisure in Playa del Carmen.

Day 12

Transfer to Cancún airport.

Detailed itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in Cancun. Transfer to your hotel in Tulum.

Transfer to Tulum at the southern end of the Caribbean Riviera Maya. While many people are familiar with Cancún and its fleshpots, it doesn’t make for the most romantic or private of holidays, with its hectic atmosphere. We therefore send you to the small town of Tulum, a low-key beach alternative to the major resorts. Small thatched palapa-style hotels and guesthouses flank the main road that cuts through town and continue along the peninsula as far as Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve.

The nearby beaches are simply superb with sugary white sand and enticing turquoise waters. To cap it all, the Mayan ruins of Tulum are spectacularly perched on a cliff behind the delightful main beach.


Tulum Ruins

Day 2-3

At leisure.

At leisure at Tulum, which means “City of the Dawn”. There’s plenty of time to explore the 12th century Maya-Toltec ruins which cling to the cliff-top 15m above the Caribbean Sea. The site is particularly attractive as the buildings are constructed from white stone. It isn’t the most imperial of the sites and the buildings are quite modest but the location makes up for all that. It is particularly striking before sunset, as the colours which frame the ruins, and the sea beyond, deepen.

The village itself now receives quite a number of visitors but has maintained a rustic atmosphere, while some of the back-packer thatched hostels are now thatched boutique hotels.

If you are keen to visit more Mayan sites, just 47km inland from Tulum is Cobá, an abandoned Maya city stifled by jungle. There are pyramids to climb but the area has not been fully excavated.  There is a small, friendly village close by which welcomes only a few visitors.

Day 4

Transfer to Chichén Itzá. Guided tour of Mexico’s most extensive Mayan archaeological site.

Travel by road north to Chichén Itzá, the grandest of all the Mayan sites, dominated by the huge, symmetrical, stepped El Castillo pyramid. The origins of the site are mysterious, and appear to have Toltec as well as Mayan influences. It has the largest and best-preserved ball court in the Americas: the venue for an ancient ritual game that was played throughout the continent, but which is still not fully understood.

Archaeologists have not been able to determine whether the losers or winners were decapitated, but judging from the gory carvings along the base of the court’s walls, someone certainly came to an unpleasant end. There is also a huge sacred cenote well.

Accommodation is a short walk from the site (you have the honeymoon suite) and in the evening there is the option to return for the Sound and Light Show.

Chichen Itza

Day 5

Morning at leisure. Transfer to Mérida.

Continue by road inland east to Mérida, capital of the state of Yucatán. The city was founded by the Maya and named Tiho. In 1542 it was conquered by the Spanish conquistadores who dismantled the Mayan pyramids and used the stones as foundations for the cathedral. Mérida then became an immensely wealthy city, described as the ‘Paris of the New World’.

Its money came mainly from the production of sisal, cactus fibres that are used to make rope, and it was culturally and geographically isolated from the rest of the country until transport infrastructure reached it in the 1950s.

Today, Mérida retains a lovely colonial centre, with a mix of opulent and crumbly buildings but it is a modern, bustling, thriving city, with lots of local character, some excellent places to eat and good shops and markets. The inhabitants, descendants of the Maya and the colonists, love a good fiesta, and you may well find one going on, with live music and market stalls, while you are there.

Mestizo dancers in Merida.

Day 6

Swimming and snorkelling expedition to the cenotes – steep-sided freshwater sinkholes.

Enjoy a full day swimming-and-snorkelling expedition to the cenotes near the village of Abala, some 50km from the city. Cenotes are steep-sided freshwater sinkholes fed by underground rivers, deep enough for you to take a dip into their sparkling clear turquoise and emerald waters. They are dotted all over the Yucatán, surrounded by forest, dappled by sunlight or in mystical underground caves.

You'll be invited to snorkel so that you can observe a wondrous underwater sculptural display of stalactites and stalagmites. The cenotes were sacred to the Maya as entrances to the Underworld and, on a more practical level, were the only source of fresh water for the people. 

Cenote swimming

Day 7

At leisure. Evening son et lumière show at Uxmal ruins.
An afternoon guided excursion of the sites followed by the son et lumière show at the Mayan temple complex at Uxmal, 80km from Mérida. The site is dominated by the majestic Pyramid of the Magician, alongside which is an elegant ‘nunnery’ quadrangle with Puuc-style complex stonework pieced together like a jigsaw puzzle. The site with the most mystic ambience, it is the ideal place for a sound and light show. 
Mayan site of Uxmal

Day 8

Transfer to Playa del Carmen on the Riviera Maya.

Drive back to the coast and down to Playa del Carmen on the soi-disant Mayan Riviera. Despite becoming an increasingly popular holiday resort, Playa del Carmen, or 'Playa', still retains much of its ramshackle beach town atmosphere. Crystal-clear turquoise waters make for good swimming, snorkelling and diving.

Laid out in a grid system, this friendly city has plenty of good restaurants and bars to choose from, with most tourist and nightlife activity (live mariachi music, happy hour) taking place on the pedestrianised street parallel to the beach.

Head further back into town and you’ll discover authentic restaurants and local bars. There used to be a local planning law that no new building could exceed the height of the tallest tree, so the town has spread out horizontally along the coast.

Your intimate boutique hotel is a good 15-minute taxi-ride along the coast from the action, so it is close enough for you to go into town for lively entertainment or a meal, but far enough away to guarantee a good night’s sleep. 

Playa del Carmen

Day 9

At leisure in Playa del Carmen.
At leisure on the beach. There are many excursions and water-sports on offer which you can book in Playa, or you could rent a car for a day if you are feeling more adventurous. 

Day 10

Hiking expedition in the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve.

Visit the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve, a natural protected area two hours south of Playa del Carmen. It is a small ecotourism and education centre, an example of sustainable development in sensitive tropical ecosystems.

Hike through the jungle and discover the historical site of Muyil, an impressive Mayan temple.  Cross the lagoon by boat while your certified guide will explain more about the reserve's ecosystem and wildlife. You even have the opportunity to swim and float on the freshwater stream through the channels.



Floating through Sian Ka'an biosphere.

Day 11

At leisure in Playa del Carmen.

Day 12

Transfer to Cancún airport.

Essential information


4 road transfers (longest 3hrs).


We always choose romantic styles of accommodation and standards according to location or suitability for honeymooners. In this case most of the accommodation is in small boutique style properties of the highest standard. They all have excellent and convenient locations and excellent service and amenities.


Breakfast daily; lunch day 6.


We carefully select our local partners, some of whom we have worked with for over 25 years. Their English-speaking guides understand the expectations of our clients very well, and are consistently singled out for praise by clients on their return.

Included Excursions

• Guided tour of Chichén Itzá ruins (one of the new Seven Wonders of the World).
• Swimming and snorkelling expedition to the cenotes – steep-sided freshwater sinkholes.
• Evening visit to Mayan Uxmal’s son et lumière show.
• Hiking expedition in the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve.

Summary of nights

12 days, 11 nights: Tulum 3; Chichén Itzá 1; Mérida 3; Mayan Riviera (Playa del Carmen) 4.

Included in the journey price

• Services of our team of experts in our London office.
• Services of Journey Latin America local representatives and guides.
• All land transport.
• Accommodation as specified.
• Meals as specified.
• Excursions as specified, including entrance fees.

Not included in the journey price

• Tips and gratuities.
• Flights to and from the UK.
• Meals other than specified.
• Airport taxes, when not included in the ticket.
• Optional excursions.

Optional excursions

There are a number of half-day, full-day or longer excursions or activities you may wish to consider in order to customise your holiday to cater for your interests. Please contact us to discuss these further or to add them to your itinerary before you depart. A selection of these:
• Cobá ruins from Tulum.
• Zip-line activities, Riviera Maya at Playa del Carmen.
• Kite surfing, snorkelling, diving etc., Riviera Maya at Playa del Carmen.


The unit of currency in Mexico is the Mexican Peso.

Daily Spend

It is very difficult to give a guideline for essential expenses but a budget of around US$45 per day should cover the cost of meals not included in the holiday itinerary, drinks and the odd souvenir. Eat at the best restaurants and you will pay considerably more.

How to take it

Cash machines are available in all major cities and towns, and so taking a debit or credit card with a PIN number is the most convenient way of withdrawing money while on your trip, and in most shops and restaurants you can also pay by card. However, since cards can get lost, damaged, withheld or blocked, you should not rely exclusively on a card to access funds. We recommend that additionally you take a reasonable quantity of US dollars cash (no more than is covered by your insurance), which you can exchange into local currency, and possibly some travellers’ cheques, though these are gradually falling out of use (American Express are the most widely accepted). Dollar bills should be in good condition, soiled or torn bills may be refused. You can take sterling, but the exchange rate is not always competitive or even available, restricting the number of places where you can change money.


Tips are expected and local guides often rely on their tip as a significant proportion of their income. 

Most service industry workers will expect a tip of some kind and so it is useful to have spare change for hotel porters, taxi drivers and the like. It is common to leave 10 - 12% in restaurants.

Tipping guidelines can be found in our Briefing Dossier.


Travel insurance is essential. Make sure your insurance covers you for the full amount if you have to cancel.

Details of our recommended policy can be found on our Travel Insurance page.

Airport taxes

If you have purchased your flights through Journey Latin America, the international departure tax is usually included in the ticket.

Journey Grade

There are no long days of travel on this trip. If you have a disability which you feel we should be aware of, please contact us. 

In the months of June to August the weather is extremely hot and humid, you might want bear this in mind. From July to November there are chances of tropical storms or hurricanes affecting the region.


The wet/rainy season lasts through June to August, which usually means a couple of hours of rain in the afternoon. 

The Yucatán peninsula is hot (around 30°C) and humid all year round. October - April is the driest period. The hurricane season runs from July to November.

Clothing and special equipment

For day-to-day wear you should take loose-fitting, breathable clothes. Comfortable shoes are important and sandals are useful. A sun hat, sun block and sunglasses are necessary, and you should take a light fleece for cool nights and a breathable/waterproof outer layer, as well as swimwear, a towel, insect repellant and a torch. If you plan to go to good restaurants or out for evening entertainment, you might bring something a bit smarter as well (although formal attire will not be required).

Bring beachwear for the resorts, so you can relax and swim in the sea, cenotes or at the hotel pool. 

Please get in touch with the office before departure if you have any doubts. Good equipment is very important and hard to come by in South America.


Preventative vaccinations are recommended against the following:  tetanus; hepatitis A. You should consult your GP for specific requirements, including advice on yellow fever and malaria tablets.

You can also find helpful information on the Masta Travel Health website. 


Holders of a full British passport do not require a visa, although passports must be valid for at least 6 months after the trip begins. Anyone with a different nationality should enquire with us or check with the relevant consulate.

APIS and ESTA - important flight information:

ESTA - if flying to, or via, the USA, you will need to fill in your application to ESTA online.
This costs $14 per person, and must be done by you personally.
Passports must also be machine-readable (MRP). Avoid locking suitcases if transiting the USA, as their customs authorities retain the right to break into them.

APIS - Many countries now oblige airlines to provide additional information about passengers prior to the flight departure. This Advance Passenger Information (APIS) must be supplied to us promptly in order to issue tickets and avoid fare increases. We will provide the airlines with the relevant details if we are booking your international flights. If the information is not provided you may be denied boarding.

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