Are you wondering if it’s a good idea to drive a car in México? You might wake up at night with nightmares of rocky roads, deadly traffic or having a car accident in a foreign country.
“Driving in México scares me, so I’ll just stay at the beach.”
Everyone heard or read these stories: People who got robbed in small towns out of their rental cars or got a flat tyre in the middle of nowhere and waited for hours in the soaring sun without any water – until eventually the roadside assistance would come and help them out of their misery.
Basically – all of this can happen and nobody can guarantee you otherwise. But: Yucatán is probably way easier and safer to drive than you would ever imagine! So, we recommend to take a road trip.
Your rental car will probably be better than this car – no worries 😉
When planning your trip to Cancún or Playa del Carmen, Tulum or any other of the wonderful beach destinations in México – do think about scheduling a few days for a road trip through Yucatán. There’s a lot to discover!
Travel preparations for your Road trip through Yucatán
It’s easy as 1-2-3! Make sure to rent a car online before your trip – we always use a price comparison portal to check a few of the local rental stations with just one search. However you proceed with your booking, definitely opt for a comprehensive all-risks insurance. This is a pre-requisite for driving in México!
If you haven’t booked your insurance online, they will charge you a hefty sum at the rental station! When we were at the desk of our rental company in Cancún at the airport a lady had to call her credit card company to make them send an insurance confirmation letter (in Spanish!) to the rental company, because she hadn’t booked it with the rental car.
This was our rental car (Economy category, but enough for two people).
?? Pro tip:
When you pick up the car, definitely check all sides and make photos of it (not just of the previously damaged spots, but of all sides of the car and especially the rims and the exterior mirrors). Just so you can proof that you didn’t cause any of these damages upon return! Our car was pretty scratched and had a couple of dents in the roof and the bumpers.
All of this is actually quite standard routine for us when we pick up rental cars, so there’s no real specifics here. Of course the car won’t be the newest model, but they are quite cheap to rent! We didn’t even pay 150 dollars for 8 days including a full insurance package.
After a few days at the beach, we started our road trip Yucatán
Road trip through Yucatán
Let the road trip through Yucatán begin! After spending a couple of days in Tulum at the beach, we decided upon a route for our road trip through Yucatán:
- DAY 1: Tulum – Coba – Valladolid – Mérida
- DAY 2: Mérida – Izamal – Tixkokob – Mérida
- DAY 3: Mérida – Las Coloradas & the Pink Lagoon – Mérida
- DAY 4: Mérida – Muna – Uxmal – Kankirixche – Yaxcopoil – Mérida
As you can see we used Mérida as our homebase. The location of the city is perfect for discovering a lot of the peninsula and the bonus is that it has some nice hotels and sights by itself (read more in our blogpost about 72 hours in Mérida).
Mérida is a convenient (and beautiful) base for traveling through the state of Yucatán
Road trip tour stops: Coba & Valladolid
On our way from Tulum to Mérida we knew that we wanted to stop in Coba and Valladolid.
Coba is famous for it’s Mayan ruins – about the only ones, where you can climb up one of the pyramids until you reach the top and overlook the jungle. We skipped this adventure! Not because we didn’t want to see the ruins, but we knew we were going to see Uxmal – which is way more impressive and has less visitors.
Instead we opted for a visit at the Coquí Coquí Residence in Coba. It’s a private hide-away with it’s own little perfumery and restaurant. If you want to make Coba your homebase for a road trip I can definitely recommend this place – it’s as tranquil and secluded, but still luxurious, as it gets. You even have your own private pool there and a chef that cooks for you.
While the residence is beautiful, the rest of Coba doesn’t have a lot to offer (apart from the ruins).
After another short drive through the wild (but never scary) jungle roads of Yucatán we arrived in Valladolid. This colorful city is definitely worth a stop. We felt safe enough to leave all our bags in our car – make sure to park alongside a very lively street.
Visit the market and meander through the streets of Valladolid. The colourful facades make for great photo motifs.
Road trip tour stop: Izamal & Tixkokob
After we arrived in Mérida we checked into our first hotel (Diplomat Hotel) and discovered the city. On the second day we started our road trips from there.
The capital of the Yucatán state is located right in it’s center, so you can easily reach all the relevant places by car. One of the first things on our list was a visit of the yellow city called Izamal.
Our verdict: It’s not our favourite place in Yucatán. While the city is really quite photogenic with all it’s yellow facades, it feels quite touristy when compared to other cities in the region. The convent is an iconic building that sits atop of ancient Mayan ruins. This fact alone speaks volumes about the disregard for the local history and culture by the Spanish settlers.
On our way back to Mérida we made a short stop in Tixkokob. Due to it’s lack of Mayan ruins (and other classic sights), this city is mostly left roadside by visitors. Well, that’s just right up our alley! 🙂 While the name of the city means “place of poisonous snakes” in Mayan, we didn’t feel like it was such a bad place.
At dawn thousands of birds meet up at the main square along with all the locals gathering for dance lessons, grabbing Tacos at one of the food stalls or just chatting in the streets.
Tixkokob lets you get a sense of the local life in Yucatán and is definitely worth a stop!
Road trip tour stop: Las Coloradas & The Pink Lagoon
The pink lagoon is probably one of Yucatán’s most iconic photo motifs. It is located in Las Coloradas, a rather unglamourous salt mining town at the shores of the Gulf of Mexico. But it has two magic arguments: Pink water and Flamingos.
The color of the pink lagoon is all natural and comes from it’s inhabitants: red plankton and shrimps. You can even spot the color on satellite pictures of Las Coloradas:
?? Pro tip:
Plan at least half a day here. You will want to see the pink water around noon, as the color is most intensely visible during the mid day hours. Then stay until sunset to drive around the area to discover flamingos feeding.
?? Read more about the Pink Lagoon at Las Coloradas in our blogpost with a lot (!) of flamingo shots and many tips 😉
Road trip tour stop: Uxmal, Kankirixche, Yaxcopoil
Our last route brought us to the South of Mérida. This is the holy trinity of Yucatán experiences all packed into one (still relaxed) day:
- An exploration of Mayan ruins in Uxmal
- A swim in a Cenote in Kankirixche
- A peak into history at a Sisal hacienda in Yaxcopoil
These are about the main three things you have to do when you visit México. So if you can only do one day of road trip during your visit of Yucatán this is the one to do!
Mayan Ruins of Uxmal
The beauty of Uxmal is threefold: It is way less visited then the famous big sister Chichen Itza, the ruins are from different periods and all very distinct in their architecture and they are extremely well preserved while still very accessible.
While you can’t climb the main pyramid, there’s a temple set atop of a hill that you can climb to overlook the whole city, which shows the grandeur and wisdom of the Mayan people in one glimpse.
A part of the Uxmal city as seen from atop one of the temples
Swim in the Cenote at Kankirixche
Yucatán is like a Swiss cheese – the ground has more holes than anyone could count. There’s supposedly hundreds or even thousands of caves and underground rivers and water holes!
No wonder that the locals have their very own Cenote in each little village. This is where the Mayans used to get their fresh water from and nowadays they are welcomed places to cool off during hot days. At Kankirixche the Cenote is located a 20 minutes drive away from the next village in the middle of the jungle:
You’ll have to take a sandy and extremely rocky path through the jungle to get there, but it’s well worth the trip. The Cenote is accessible via a wooden staircase and during the noon hours the sun comes in from the hole in the top. The water is fresh and cool and you can see countless meters through it’s turquoise crystal clear structure. You’ll spot fishes and stalactites and stalagmites and of course the occasional bat will fly over your head.
Visit the hacienda at Yaxcopoil
This hacienda feels like their owners had to leave it on a short notice. They left all of their personal belongings there, so you get a real sense of what life on a Sisal farm must have felt like.
The entrance gate is already impressive.
Yucatán used to be quite rich during the days of the flourishing Sisal trade. And this is still visible in the Haciendas.
Behind the main building with all the living rooms you can discover the workshops and warehouses. All the old machines are still there, as if they had just stopped running yesterday.
This is one of the warehouses – looks more like a palace when you ask us!
Stop in a local town like Muna
There’s nothing better then to stop in a city, that’s not on the map for tourists. Just to discover some local life, stroll through the streets and buy fresh fruits from one of the farm stands. We did just that in Muna and loved it! Here are some impressions from a “normal” village in Yucatán:
This marks the end of our road trip through Yucatán!
If you want to find out what you can do during a stay in Tulum, make sure to check the following blogpost: