The Great Mayan capitals

days
7

nights
6

countries
1

From

$1,396 USD

itinerary

itinerary

Day 1

  • Departure to the archaeological site of Ek Balam.
  • Visit to a cenote and a short tour in the colonial city of Valladolid.
  • Visit to the archaeological site of Chichen Itza, one of the great capitals of the Mayan World.
  • Stay in the historic city of Merida.

Day 2

  • Tour of the city of Merida.
  • Visit to the archaeological site of Uxmal.
  • Stay in Campeche.

Day 3

  • Tour of Campeche historic downtown.
  • Visit to Palenque.
  • Stay in Palenque.

Day 4

  • Visit to the archaeological zone of Palenque
  • Overnight in Palenque.

Day 5

  • Visit to Becan archaeological site.
  • Stay in Chicanna Ecovillage.

Day 6

  • Visit to Calakmul archaeological site.
  • Stay in Chetumal.

Day 7

  • Tour of Bacalar magic town.
  • Return to Cancun.
  • End of our journey.

Day 1(monday): CANCUN - EK BALAM - CENOTE - CHICHEN ITZA – MERIDA

Transfer from your hotel in Cancún to the “City of the Black Jaguar,” the archaeological site of Ek Balam, whose name means, “star jaguar”. It features impressive constructions nestled in the lush jungle, and most of them belong to the Late Classic Period (550-830 AD). In addition, it contains a series of mural paintings that reveal the technological and artistic development, as well as the material and cultural wealth, of the ancient Maya city. Ek Balam was the capital of the kingdom of Tah, which dominated the entire eastern part of the Peninsula of Yucatán between 600 and 850 AD. The combination of architectural styles of Ek Balam is unique in the Maya civilization, and its 45 structures are protected by two concentric walls. A magnificent arch gives access to a sacbé (sacred white path) that leads to the ceremonial center where members of high society resided. Here, you can find the Palacio Oval (Oval Palace), the Juego de Pelota (Ball Court), the Gemelas (Twin temples), and the Palacio de las Monjas (Nun’s Palace.) The grand Acropolis towers over the Plaza Norte (North Plaza), which contains the impressive tomb of ruler Ukit Kan Lek Tok’, where an offering with more than 7,000 objects was found. Its façade is beautifully decorated with magnificent masks, friezes and stone statues. Its 31 meters (100 feet) in height, 160 meters (525 feet) in length and a width of almost 70 meters (230 feet) make it the largest structure in the Peninsula of Yucatán. After a long walk, we will cool off in the crystalline waters of a cenote (natural sinkhole). These natural wonders were considered sacred places of life and death, and represented a vital source for the development of the Maya civilization.

We will then enjoy a tour of the colonial city of Valladolid. It was founded on May 28, 1543 on the remains of the ancient Maya settlement of Zací. It is the second most important city in the state of Yucatán, and has borne witness to two very significant chapters in the history of Mexico: the beginning of the Guerra de Castas (Caste War) in 1847, and the first spark of the Mexican Revolution in 1910. During the tour, you will be able to perceive the cultural fusion between the Maya and Spanish traditions in the Yucatán, and to enjoy the charming colonial style found in Valladolid’s Plaza Central (Main Square), the iglesia de San Servasio (St. Servatius Church), the Barrio del Sisal (Sisal Neighborhood) and the old Franciscan convento de San Bernardino de Siena (St. Bernardine of Siena Convent.)

Next, we will go to one of the main archaeological sites of the Peninsula of Yucatán, Chichén Itzá, the religious capital of the Itzá people. Its name means “at the mouth of the well of the Itzá”, and its greatest peak occurred during the Early Postclassic Period (950-1200 AD). In 1988, it was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Two distinct styles of architecture can be found within its constructions: Puuc (600-800 AD) and Maya-Toltec (800-1100 AD). The tour begins at the Castillo, or Templo de Kukulcán (Castle, or Temple of Kukulcán), world-famous for the light and shadow effect that occurs on its main staircase during the spring and autumn equinoxes, as well as during the winter and summer solstices. This is the most impressive and representative building in the site, and it was recognized as one of the New Seven Wonders of the Modern World on July 7, 2007. Later, we will go to the Cenote Sagrado (Sacred Sinkhole) and other main constructions, such as the Juego de Pelota (Ball Game), the Observatorio (Observatory), also known as the Caracol (Conch), the Templo de las Mil Columnas (Group of the Thousand Columns), and the Templo de los Guerreros (Temple of the Warriors), among others.

Transfer to Mérida and check-in at the hotel.

Day 2 (Tuesday): MERIDA - UXMAL - CAMPECHE

Tour of the capital of the state of Yucatán. Founded on January 6, 1542, Mérida was built on the ancient Maya city of Ichcaanziho, also known as T’Hó. As a testament to its different historical eras, among its most magnificent and elegant constructions you can find the Casa de Montejo (Montejo House), the Catedral de San Ildefonso (St. Ildefonso Cathedral)–the first one built in the continental Americas—and the Palacio de Gobierno (Presidential Palace), all located around the famous Plaza Grande (Large, or main, Square), as well as the impressive Teatro Peón Contreras (Peón Contreras Theater.) During the panoramic tour of Paseo de Montejo (Montejo Boulevard))—one of the most important avenues in Mexico—we will be able to see the Casas Gemelas (Twin Houses), the Palacio Cantón (Cantón Palace) and the Monumento a la Patria (Monument to the Homeland.) Mérida was named the American Capital of Culture in 2000 and later in 2017.

Then, we will visit the spectacular archaeological zone of Uxmal, whose name means “built three times”. This beautiful Maya city, which belongs to the Classic Period (250-950 AD), was the capital of the ancient kingdom of Xiu. It controlled the northern Maya communities, and became the political and economic capital of the Puuc region. Among its constructions, featuring the architectural style also known as Puuc, are the Cuadrángulo de las Monjas (Nun´s Quadrangle), the Juego de Pelota (Ball Court), the Palomar (House of the Pigeons), the Casa de la Vieja (Old Woman´s House), and the Casa de las Tortugas (House of Turtles.) Its most outstanding building, for its unique elliptical structure and its 35 meters (115 feet) in height, is the Pirámide del Adivino (Pyramid of the Magician or Soothsayer.) The Casa del Gobernador (Governor’s Palace), however, is considered one of the most beautiful buildings in all of Mesoamerica. Its façade was exquisitely decorated with highly detailed mosaic sculptures, with thousands of perfectly polished small stones that form complex designs, including masks of the rain god Chaac, serpents and astrological symbols. Uxmal was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO on December 7, 1996. It is one of the main archaeological sites of the Maya civilization, along with Chichén Itzá and Tikal, in Guatemala. Later, we will make a stop at a handicrafts workshop to hang out with master crafters.

Transfer to the state of Campeche. Check-in at the hotel in San Francisco de Campeche, and free time.

Day 3 ((WEDNESDAY):): CAMPECHE - PALENQUE

Tour of the Centro Histórico (Historic Downtown District) of Campeche. The capital of the state was founded by the Spanish conquerors in 1540, and served as a base for the colonization of the rest of the peninsula. Due to its successful monopoly and marketing of dyewood, it became the target of attacks and looting by the most famous pirates of the 17th century. To protect the population, they built a fort around the city, and thanks to the preservation of its picturesque casco antiguo (old town), Campeche was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1999. We will visit pastel-colored colonial mansions, museums, the Fuerte de San Miguel (Fort of St. Michael), the Fuerte de San José (Fort of St. Joseph), the Catedral (Cathedral), the Plaza Independencia (Independence Square), the Baluarte de San Carlos (St. Charles’ Bastion) the Puerta de Tierra (Land Gate), the Iglesia de San Román (Church of St. Roman) and the traditional neighborhoods.

We will then drive along the coast until we reach the junction in Sabancuy, where we will head towards Palenque.

Check-in at the hotel in Santo Domingo de Palenque, and free time.

DAY 4 (THURSDAY): PALENQUE

Transportation to the archaeological site of Palenque. Located in the heart of the high jungle of Chiapas, it was the capital of the ancient kingdom of B’aakal. It developed one of the most powerful dynasties in the Maya civilization, and ruled over the mountains and plains that surrounded it. Initially known as Lakam Há, “place of the great waters,” it later changed to Otulún, which means “fortified houses”. In 1567, after its first visit by a European, Fray Pedro Lorenzo de la Nada, the site was renamed Palenque, which means “fortification” in the Catalan language. It reached its heyday during the Late Classic Period (550-830 AD). The city was the seat of the powerful dynasty to which King Pakal belonged, and it rivaled other great capitals such as Calakmul, Tikal, Copan and Toniná. Within its main structures, we can distinguish its unique architectural style called Palencano; these include the Palacio (Palace), which contains the Observatorio (Observatory); the Acueducto (Aqueduct); the Templo de las Inscripciones (Temple of the Inscriptions), the tomb of the great Lord Pakal; the Juego de Pelota (Ball Court); and the temples of De la Cruz (of the Cross), De la Cruz Foliada (of the Foliated Cross), Del Sol (of the Sun), Del Jaguar (of the Jaguar) and Del Conde (of the Count.) The national park and archaeological zone of Palenque were declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO in 1987.

We will continue our tour until we reach one of the most beautiful natural sanctuaries in the area: the Cascada de Misol Há (waterfall). Nestled in the high jungle of Chiapas Mountain range, it cascades from a height of approximately 30 meters (98 feet), and forms a pool with crystal-clear waters where we can cool off. This beautiful site offers a harmonious combination of water and nature, and served as the backdrop for the famous “Predator” movie.

Back to the hotel in Santo Domingo de Palenque.

Day 5 (Friday): PALENQUE - BECAN

Checkout from the hotel to head out to Becán. During the ride, we will a stop at a lookout over the Usumacinta River to admire its beautiful landscape. We will then go on toward the archaeological site of Becán. This ancient city is quite unusual, since its main buildings are surrounded by a moat, which is why its name means “path or hollow space left by running water”, or “serpent’s path”. The site acted as the political capital of the area from the Late Classic to the Early Post-Classic Periods (550-1200 AD). Its Río Bec-style buildings feature magnificent decorations on its façades, large chessboard-shaped panels, and tall, slender towers on the sides of its main temples.

Transfer to a hotel in the middle of the jungle to check-in.

Day 6 (SATURDAY): CALAKMUL - CHETUMAL

Tour of the archaeological zone of Calakmul, one of the most important capitals of the Maya civilization. Due to its great importance and the difficulty to reach it, we have reserved an entire day to enjoy it at leisure. For approximately two hours, we will go deep into the jungle, through paths that seem to blend into the background, where we will see birds, reptiles, monkeys, and other wildlife in their natural habitat. The archaeological zone was declared a cultural World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2002; and in 2014 it became a mixed World Heritage Site, when the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve was included. Calakmul, whose name means “two adjacent mounds” was the most important settlement of the Classic Period (250-950 AD) and the capital of the ancient kingdom of Kan. Alongside Tikal and Palenque, they dominated the political organization of the highlands. The ancient city stretches over 30 square kilometers (11.6 square miles), and more than 6,000 structures have been found within it. They are divided into five architectural groups, each with its own pyramids, palaces, temples and ball courts, including the largest one in the Maya civilization. More than 400 stelae have been found on site, and have provided significant political and religious information that sheds light on the magnitude of this great city. In its heyday, Calakmul’s area of ​​influence encompassed 13,000 square kilometers (5,019 square miles), and its proximity to Tikal caused them to get involved in grisly battles for the control of the territory. We will then go to a quiet place to have a snack, and later head out to a small Maya community where the locals will offer us a taste of their typical dishes, and will teach us a little about their daily life and traditions.

Transfer to Chetumal, capital of the state of Quintana Roo, to check-in at the hotel.

Day 7 (Sunday): CHETUMAL - BACALAR - CANCUN

Transportation to Bacalar, whose name comes from the Maya word Bakhalal that means “near or surrounded by reeds.” This charming town is renowned for housing a striking natural treasure: the “lagoon of seven colors” which, due to its different depths and the effect of the sunrays on its crystalline waters, offer a spectacular range of shades of blue. In addition, it is a sanctuary for colonies of prehistoric microorganisms, called stromatolites, which represent the oldest evidence of life known on Planet Earth. The tour includes a visit to the Fuerte de San Felipe (Fort of St. Phillip), with its Guerra de Castas (Caste War) museum; and the Cenote Azul (Blue Sinkhole), where we can cool off in its crystalline waters.

If we have enough time, we will visit the archaeological zone of Tulum. Its current name is translated as “wall”, since it is protected by a wall on its landward side, and by the second largest reef in the world on its seaward side. Tulum is the only Maya city that was built on a cliff, and due to its strategic location, it was a vital hub for both the sea and land trade routes of the Maya civilization, so it became one of its main cities during the 13th and 14th centuries. Its buildings feature a style known as the East Coast, and most belong to the Late Post-Classic Period (1200-1539 AD). Among its most important constructions, you can find the Castillo (Castle), which was used as a lighthouse, the Templo del Dios Descendente (Temple of the Descending God) and the Templo de los Frescos (Temple of the Frescoes.) The archaeological site is located within an area that was declared a nature reserve in 2016, the only one along the Cancún-Tulum corridor.

Return to Cancún, where we will drop you off at your place of lodging.

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