A Guide to Mexico’s Pyramids of Wonders

As a fan of archeology and cultural attractions, I find it kind of sad that most people who visit Mexico will only get to see the pristine beaches of the Caribbean and, if they’re not too hangover, the Mayan ruins of Tulum and Chichen-Itza.

Yes, most visitors will only have one week or two and, taking a look at the size of Mexico, they can feel intimidated to fully explore it. But hey, did you know that it is possible to explore and visit the most important archeological sites of Mexico in under two weeks?

I did this journey two weeks ago as a made my way from Mexico City to Cancun by bus and trust me, you’ll totally fall in love with those archeological ruins.

My best suggestion is for you to book your flight arriving to Mexico City and leaving from Cancun (or vice versa) in order to get the most of your time. This unique itinerary will take you to Mexico’s top archeological sites as well as some of its most amazing museums, towns and cities.

Are you ready?

Day 0 & 1: Mexico City

Depending on your time of arrival, you can start exploring Mexico City (check out my Best Day Trips from Mexico City here) right away. All the main points of interest are easily reachable my Metro (subway) which costs you 5 pesos (.40 USD), never take a taxi unless you’re rich or want to experience firsthand the Mexico City’s traffic. Trust me, a boy in a tricycle can outrun any car during rush hour!

You might want to take a full day to explore the two most important archeological museums found within the city: Museo Nacional de Antropología (National Anthropology Museum) and Museo del Templo Mayor.

At both museums you will find the few vestiges that remain of the Aztec culture and civilizations, the Templo Mayor itself was a recent discovery of the 70’s when electricity workers digged and were shocked to find these amazing ruins!

The highlights of the Aztecs’ include the massive monolith known as the Aztec Calendar as well as the statues of the many goddess, specially the one of Coatlicue, the mother of Gods, her daughter Coyolxauhqui, deity of the Moon and Xochipilli, God of Flowers.

Epic sunrise of wonders at the Teotihuacan Pyramids
Epic Sunrise of Wonders at the Teotihuacan Pyramids

Day 2 & 3: Teotihuacan & Tula

From Mexico City there are basically three ways of reaching the Teotihuacan ruins (and no, contrary to popular belief, these are definitely NOT Aztec ruins): Tour bus, private car and public transportation.

The tour bus will take you to the Guadalupe Basilica and to the ruins, although you will only have a couple of hours to explore the place (which are definitely not enough), it will cost 400 pesos per person with lunch included.

A private car is a good option depending on the number of people in your party and whether the car is a rental or not, hiring a driver for the day will set you back 1000 pesos or more.

My best suggestion is for you to take the Metro to the “Terminal del Norte” and take a local bus to get to the ruins. The cost is about 50 pesos per person and it takes about 40 to 70 minutes depending on traffic, buses depart to the ruins every 30 minutes.

Once you reach the ruins of Teotihuacan, you can climb all the Pyramids of this site (something that cannot be said of the Mayan Pyramids!).

From the same “Terminal del Norte” you can also take a day trip to Tula the next day to see the impressive Atlantes of the Toltec Civilization or if you wanna do something different, go to Xochimilco to see the ancient Aztec canals.

Day 4 & 5: Cholula & Puebla

From Mexico City, Puebla is only two hours away from either the “Terminal del Norte” or “Terminal del Oriente”. Cost is about 200 pesos. This city, dubbed as the City of Angels is known for its impressive number of churches and the amazing decorations one can find inside of them.

A few minutes away from the main city you will find the town of Cholula, home to the biggest monument known to humankind: The Cholula Pyramid. I strongly suggest you to visit on a Sunday in order to enjoy live performances of Aztec dancers and the Voladores de Papantla.

Your next day could be spent exploring Puebla’s amazing churches and the two forts located north of the city, this is where the battle of Cinco de Mayo took place and each year there’s a festival inside the fort itself.

And yes, DO try the Mole Poblano (spicy chocolate), you’ll get addicted to it before you know it.

Drone View of Cholula in Puebla
Drone View of Cholula in Puebla

Day 6 & 7: Oaxaca & Monte Alban

From Puebla you can take a bus to Oaxaca, the price is about 300 pesos and it takes 4 hours or so.

Oaxaca City is one of my favorite ones since it has the perfect mixture of colonial and indigenous feeling. On your first day I suggest you to visit the ruins of Monte Alban, the greatest masterpiece of the Zapotecan Culture.

You’ll totally feel relaxed by the lack of mass tourism, the only tour group you’ll encounter will be of Mexican kids on a school trip.

Take some time to explore the city (check out the Best Things to do in Oaxaca here) and remember to pay a visit to the Museum of Santo Domingo to see some of the jewels found at Monte Alban.

During your second day you could take a trip to the amazing ruins of Mitla and the petrified waterfalls of Hierve El Agua, just remember to come back before it’s dark because you have a lengthy ride ahead of you.

Day 8 & 9: Palenque

From Oaxaca City, Palenque is 14 hours away by bus (departure time 17:00) and it costs about 700 pesos. It might be a good idea to get some provisions for the long journey and to take advantage of the many 10 minutes stops it makes for you to go to the toilet.

Once you arrive to Palenque you’ll probably be crushed so you better check-in at your hotel and get some rest before exploring the amazing Mayan Ruins of Palenque.

What I did was to visit the ruins and the museum in the late afternoon and then come back the next day in the early morning to further explore them, leaving some time to visit the waterfalls at Mishol-Ha and Agua Azul.

Once your second day is over, I definitely suggest you to take some sleeping pills because you still have another long journey to take.

Alternatively, you can go from Oaxaca to San Cristobal de las Casas and take your time to explore the Sumidero Canyon for some nice Eco Tourism to break the long journey between Oaxaca and Palenque.

The Mayan Pyramids of Palenque
The Mayan Pyramids of Palenque

Day 10: Tulum

From Palenque to Tulum, you’re gonna be spending around 12 hours inside of a bus, luckily, the route Palenque-Tulum offers a first class luxury service that it’s only 200 pesos more expensive than the regular one (700 pesos).

Tulum gives you a glimpse into the past of those who resided in the area, and their methods of worship. The ruins at Tulum are fairly small since you can fully visit them in less than one hour, what I suggest you to do is to bring your swimming suit and take a dip in the Caribbean waters found underneath the ruins themselves.

Afterward, you can a taxi to any of the three Cenotes found within the area and take a dip at the cold water inside of it. They’re definitely some of the best things to do and see at the Riviera Maya.

Trust me, after the intense heat, you’ll be begging for it. Once you’re done, get some rest at your hostel/hotel at Tulum and get ready for the last ruin of this trip.

Day 11: Chichén-Itzá

Considered by many, myself included, as the most beautiful Pyramid of the World, the “Castillo” or Kukulcan Temple found at Chichén-Itzá will surely blow your mind. Sadly, people can no longer climb it but don’t worry, it still looks as beautiful from underneath.

If you can, please visit during the Spring Equinox in order to see the serpent’s shadow move and descend from the top to the bottom of the Pyramid. Amazing special effect, right?

From Tulum, you can easily make a day trip to Chichén-Itzá on your own using public transportation (2 hours, 100 pesos).

If you have the extra time you can stay at the nearby town of Valladolid and stay overnight or just come back to Tulum after your day trip to Chichén-Itzá and take the shared vans to Playa del Carmen (1 hour, 40 pesos) and from there, another one to Cancun (1 hour, 30 pesos).

The Man of Wonders at his second home aka Chichen Itza
The Man of Wonders at his second home aka Chichen Itza

Day 12: Cancun

Finally, after almost 36 hours total of being inside of a bus, you’ll be arriving at Cancun. Contrary to popular perception, there are actually a few Mayan sites found within the city itself, although they are quite lacking on the wow factor.

Still, you could visit the small but very well-built Mayan Museum found in the “Zona Hotelera”. So yes, drink that Margarita next to the pristine blue ocean, you just survived the Ultimate Mexican Roadtrip and yes, you definitely earned it!

If you’re looking for some non-Pyramid fun, I definitely recommend you to visit Holbox Island and the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve. They’re certainly some of Mexico’s best highlights of wonders!

Have you ever taken a crazy itinerary such as this one? Would you like to? What’s your favorite Mexican archeological site? Share your thoughts and let me know what you think!

Last but not least, don’t forget to use our Booking.com Affiliate Link of Wonders for making hotel reservations.

Same price for you and a small pocket money commission for this website of yours.

Sweet deal, uh?

The Ultimate Mexico's Pyramids Travel Guide
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44 Responses

  1. Travelxolic

    Great article and handy information. Did not had the chance to visit all the places you are describing but for sure if i ever have the chance to go back I will not miss any!

    • Raphael Alexander Zoren

      You’ll love every single one of them! If you have the extra time, I would recommend at least four more days to further explore Yucatan (Uxmal, Kabah, Ek Balam and Merida)

  2. suyashchopra

    We visited Mexico in March first week and had 10 days in our hand. We were more interested to see the history and culture of Mexico than just visit Cancun. We landed in Mexico city, spent 3-4 days there. Did day trips to Teotihuacan and Puebla and Cholula. Then stayed in Guanajuato for 2 days. Its one of the beautiful colonial towns and very similar to Toledo, Spain which I visited 2 years back. Then we flew to Cancun where we based ourselves for rest of the trip. From there, we took days trips to Tulum, Chicken Itza, Valladolid, Merida ( which is the cultural capital of Mexico with its fascinating buildings, lively art and music performances and of course most famous Sunday Market when most of the city folks assemble in the Centro and dance to the tunes of Mariachi). We could also visit the small fishing town of Celestun, to see thousands of Pink Flamingoes in their natural habitat. Trust me, Mexico is more than just Cancun and Caribbean, as rightly mentioned by Raphael.

    • Raphael Alexander Zoren

      “Chicken Itza”? Haha I remember one friend from the USA calling it “The Pyramid of Chicken Pizza”, I was in Celestun a few years ago in the middle of summer so I only saw a couple of Flamingos, will definitely take advantage of spring in order to see them all in their splendor!

      • suyashchopra

        Hahaha…now when I see the typo, I realize it…not sure how many stories would have been built around goofup around its name….:)

  3. suyashchopra

    Our fav archeological sites were Teotihuacan – climb up to the pyramids, Cholula pyramids and the walk in the tunnel beneath the pyramids and morning at Tulum ruins. Chichen Itza was definitely amazing and grand. In next days, I will be writing about our beautiful experiences of Mexico and the warmth of local Mexicans there. Touristy places of Mexico are safe, contrary to the popular perception that only Cancun is a safe place for foreigners. Take a dip in the colors of Mexico and you will never forget it.

    • Raphael Alexander Zoren

      I agree! Mexico is extremely safe in the tourist areas since the police/army is always on the lookout for any suspicious activity. It takes a while to get used to military trucks parading in Acapulco’s main street but it sure is reassuring.

  4. Margherita

    Thanks for all the great info! I have never been to Mexico, but your article is miles better than a travel guide! entertaining and informative!

  5. jennifer

    I love that you got to see so much in two weeks. I always thought a trip like that would take a month. Great information!

    • Raphael Alexander Zoren

      Mexico is a very huge country in terms of size but with the help of night-buses, distances can be shortened dramatically. I once traveled from Acapulco (South) to Monterrey (North) for 22 hours in a bus!

  6. Gabor Kovacs

    Nice itinerary, probably I would need more days for all this, as with so many archaeological sites in a few days, I would need some days of break between the different sites. If not, I might arrive in Chichen Itzá, and I would already be saturated, and I would just say, “Ok let’s see the last one”:) which is not what the place deserves. Anyway it’s a great itinerary to use it as it is, or use a part of it for future travelers around Mexico.

  7. katefrankiebrennan

    Wow! That is one packed itinerary! Such great sites that I didn’t know about and beautiful photos. Reading this article makes me want to be there now. I’m not sure how much I’ll fit in to my trip, I go from Playa Del Carmen to Cancun and have a few days there. Palenque and Tulum look fantastic. I can’t wait to learn about the Mayan civilisation :)

  8. inge102

    I love this itinerary and hope to get a chance to use it one day! And the pics are lovely.

  9. inpursuitofadventureblog

    Great information! I absolutely love archeaology and even though I majored in Classical Archeaology I love Mayan and Aztec as well. We will definitely have to place these sites on our places to visit in Mexico!

  10. aeparker81

    I have just tweeted this so that I can store it in my memory for when I finally get to visit! I couldn’t go anywhere and not go and see the history and the local area, and there are some fab suggestions here – thankyou!

  11. Y. Prior

    This post is one that I need to save and come back to later! I really enjoyed the great tips and photos – also the first photo – with you posing across front he statue is quite an artsy (symmetrically fun) shot!


  12. Samantha @mytanfeet

    This is great! Will definitely be using this when we visit. I’m so disappointed we didn’t see any historical or archeological sites when we were there! That just means we have to go back :)

  13. clay weir

    great article and very useful tips for getting to see all these ruins…the pictures make me want to arrange a trip soon