Iconic Mayan sites, an idyllic Caribbean coast and a laid-back tropical ambience – this small group tour around the Yucatan Peninsula has it all. This is a week packed with sightseeing, taking you through three Central American countries and from the largest Mayan archaeological site of Tikal to smaller sites that are found off the beaten track.

• Playa del Carmen: 1 night
• Chetumal: 1 night
• Tikal National Park: 2 nights
• Palenque: 1 night
• Campeche: 1 night
• Mérida: 1 night

8nights Escorted Small Group Tour
8nights Escorted Small Group Tour

Day 1: UK to Playa del Carmen Depart from the UK on your flight to Mexico. Your discovery of Central America’s Mayan past begins with a night on the Riviera Maya coast. Stay: Fiesta Inn Playa del Carmen (or similar). 

Day 2: Playa del Carmen to Chetumal This morning, visit the first of the Mayan archaeological sites – the stunning ruins of a former port city at Tulum. The combination of dramatic coastal landscapes, well-preserved ruins and the turquoise waters of the Caribbean make this one of the most picturesque and popular attractions in Mexico. During a tour, you’ll see the three most famous structures – the Temple of the Frescoes, the Temple of the Descending God and El Castillo – as well as smaller ruins of interest. Be sure to keep your camera at hand as the views here are absolutely spectacular. Continue along to the city of Chetumal which sits close to the border between Mexico and Belize, stopping for lunch on the way. Here you will visit the Museum of Mayan Culture, a small but immersive museum that showcases relics, replicas of pre-Colombian buildings and Mayan art work; it’s a great starting point on your Mayan adventure. This evening there will be a welcome dinner at a local restaurant. Approx. journey time: 4 hours, 195 miles. Stay: Fiesta Inn Chetumal (or similar). B, L, D.

Day 3: Chetumal to Tikal National Park From Chetumal, cross the border into Belize and travel through this small nation’s interior towards the border with Guatemala, stopping for lunch and visiting the Mayan site of Xunan Tunich on the way. The journey to this former ceremonial spot is a bit of an adventure as you take a hand-cranked ferry across the Mopan River. This is a truly charming way to begin a visit of one of the smaller Mayan sites you’ll see during the tour. As well as taking in the main ruins, you’ll also be able to take in views over the jungle landscapes of Belize and neighbouring Guatemala from its elevated position. Following the border crossing into Guatemala, continue on to your hotel where dinner will be served. Today is a long travelling day, however, it’s more than worth it to reach the hidden-away archaeological site of Xuan Tunich. There’ll also be plenty of stops when you can stretch your legs. Approx. journey time: 9 hours, 218 miles. Stay: Camino Real Tikal (or similar). B, L, D.

Day 4: Tikal National Park Today is undoubtedly the highlight of the tour as the entire day is spent at the UNESCO-listed Tikal. Set deep within the jungle of the Tikal National Park, this is an expansive site with approximately 3000 buildings, including temples and palaces, which are set out over six square miles. A knowledgeable guide will tell you how it developed from a small village into one of the most important pre-Columbian cities that was home to an estimated 90,000 Mayan Indians in the 8th and 9th Centuries. You will stop for lunch during your time here. Stay: Camino Real Tikal (or similar). B, L, D.

Day 5: Tikal National Park to Palenque It’s another long day of travelling but there’s another off-the-beaten track site on the schedule today. After your departure from your Tikal hotel, travel west towards the riverside archaeological site of Yaxchilan. Reaching the ruins is part of today’s adventure as you’ll take a 30-minute narrow-boat ride along the Usumacinta River which marks the border between Guatemala and Mexico. Once the border crossing procedures are completed, you’ll be able to explore this beautiful site, which has a real isolated quality; you won’t find many other people who have seen these ruins. Yaxchilan means ‘green rocks’ and these moss-covered structures appear to have been swallowed up by the jungle. With a guide, you’ll explore the complex of plazas and temples which feature beautifully-preserved stone lintels, relief carvings and hieroglyphs. After leaving by boat, continue by road to the town of Palenque. Approx. journey time: 7 hours, 190 miles. Stay: Villa Mercedes (or similar). B, L.

Day 6: Palenque to Campeche A visit to the pre-Hispanic city of Palenque is the focus today. Another set of ruins seemingly engulfed by the Central American jungle, Palenque dates back to the 3rd Century BC. The city reached its height in the late 8th Century before being completely abandoned to the encroaching jungle. Although not as expansive as the site at Tikal, these are some of the most beautiful and elegant ruins that you’ll see on your journey. During the guided tour, there will be a visit to the astronomic observatory; it is believed this building was once used for stargazing and making astronomic predictions. This afternoon, continue on to the west coast of the Yucatan Peninsula and the fortified port of Campeche. The city is a colonial gem and it’s home to narrow cobbled streets lined with vibrantly-painted houses. Parts of the historic city wall still stand, as do a number of bastions and two colonial forts which overlook the city and the Gulf of Mexico coastline. The evening here is free to explore independently and perhaps find a charming restaurant for dinner (payable locally). Approx. journey time: 7 hours, 223 miles. Stay: Ocean View Hotel (or similar). B.

Day 7: Campeche to Mérida This morning, travel to Mérida, visiting the pre-Hispanic Town of Uxmal en route. Here you’ll see a different style of architecture – the late-Mayan, ‘Puuc’ style buildings with their smooth, almost rounded walls. Stop for lunch in Uxmal (payable locally) before continuing the journey to the city of Mérida. This evening, enjoy some free time in the region’s cultural capital, exploring the enchanting historic colonial centre and spending some time soaking up the atmosphere in the city’s main square. Approx. journey time: 4 hours, 140 miles. Stay: Casa del Balam Hotel (or similar). B.

Day 8: Mérida The tour comes to a conclusion at the most famous and popular Mayan site of them all – Chichen Itza. Believed by many to be the most important of the region’s pre-Hispanic cities, this is a fitting end to your exploration of the relics of the Mayan civilisation. Arrive here first thing in the morning before the crowds arrive, and spend your time discovering the ruins of this breathtaking sight as the sun rises. You’ll then travel to Cancun where you will catch your flight to the UK, arriving the following day. Alternatively, you can extend your holiday with a beach stay at the hotel of your choice. B.

Stay longer

Mayan Riviera beach 4 nights

Featuring some of the best beaches in Mexico, the Mayan Riviera is the perfect spot for a post tour break.

Stay longer

Mayan Riviera beach 4 nights

Featuring some of the best beaches in Mexico, the Mayan Riviera is the perfect spot for a post tour break.


Is this for you?

This is a comprehensive itinerary for those looking to see more of the Yucatan Peninsula than just its coast, although it’s easy to add a beach stay following the tour.

Good to know

• For guests over 16
• Average group size of 12 guests
• A maximum of 16 guests
• Journey times do not take into account stops or local traffic conditions
• We recommend travelling with no more than one suitcase and one day bag
• A good level of fitness is required.

What to expect

• Long travelling times and many early starts and late arrivals
• Border crossings can be lengthy and waiting times can vary so patience is required
• A departure tax of approx. US$65 per person is payable locally in cash upon re-entering Mexico from Guatemala. This will be collected by your guide at the start of the tour
• Lots of walking and climbing over up and over ruins so comfortable walking shoes and breathable clothing is a must
• Not suitable for anyone with walking difficulties
• A variety of types of transport from coaches to boats.

Accommodation on tour

Due to the nature of the region, the hotels picked for this tour are the best available but tend to be simple in style and can have limited facilities. Some are located in a secluded spots away from towns or villages, however, they are best placed for visiting the fascinating Mayan ruins. In Guatamala, your hotel has a beautiful lakeside position and is only a short drive from the breathtaking Tikal National Park.

Single travellers

Sole-use room from £2770


Tour dates

2020 Feb 08, Mar 21; May 16; Oct 24; Nov 21

Included in price

• Quality accommodation
• Insightful local tour leaders
• Hand-picked itineraries
• Flexible arrival times
• Small groups
• Porterage and guide tips
• Meals where most convenient (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)
• All specified flights.

Upgrade your tour

Private tour Upgrade to a private tour with a local tour leader on the same itinerary, departing on the date of your choice from £4167 per person.

Kuoni highlights

To fit in the wealth of archaeological sites and get off the well-trodden path, there are long days of travelling. You’ll have the experience of exploring some incredible pre-Columbian sites, such as Tikal National Park and Chichen Itza, at times of day that they’re least visited. This fast-moving tour is just seven nights long so it’s easy to add a little beach time on at the end and slow the pace down a little.

Kuoni highlights