Beaches, History & Cities: The Perfect 2 Weeks in Mexico Itinerary (2023)

Last Updated on 31st January 2023 by Sophie Nadeau

With nearly 500 beautiful beaches, tacos with hundreds of different fillings, colourful towns and fascinating cultures, it’s no surprise that travellers have been flocking to Mexico for years – and even less a surprise that it’s constantly growing in popularity as a premier travel destination.Here’s exactly how you can spend 2 weeks in Mexico and an itinerary you’ll want to actually use!

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Aztec and Mayan history (with ruins like Chichen Itza!), white-sand beaches lapped by turquoise waves and vibrant towns brimmed with Mexican taquerias and pulsating music make this North American country a vibrant destination that’s worth visiting again and again.

While Mexico sometimes gets a bad reputation due to its relatively high violent crime rate, this rarely affects tourist areas and foreigners are nearly never targets. Travel here can be perfectly safe and hassle-free!

If you’re wondering how to spend two weeks in Mexico, here’s a full itinerary. I’ve spent years in the country and know it like the back of my hand. This itinerary focuses on the country’s main highlights, and while it is very busy and includes a few overnight buses, you’ll see a few different sides to Mexico on it.

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  • How to get around Mexico
  • A suggested two weeks in Mexico itinerary
    • Day one: Fly into Cancun
    • Isla Mujeres
    • Chichen Itza
    • Cozumel
    • Tulum
    • Bacalar
    • San Cristóbal de las Casas
    • Oaxaca
    • Puerto Escondido (side trip)
    • Mexico City
  • Are you ready for two weeks in Mexico?

How to get around Mexico

While not all of Mexico is connected by ADO buses, the following destinations are (with the exception of the Oaxaca to Puerto Escondido route).

Some of these buses are short hops (like Cancun to Playa del Carmen) whereas others are long overnight stints (like Bacalar to San Cristobal de las Casas).

They’re all easily bookable on the ADO website, which you can translate to English, or in person at the ADO bus station; you may need a bit of Spanish to book these in person.

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A suggested two weeks in Mexico itinerary

Day one: Fly into Cancun

Begin your trip by flying into Cancun, which is home to a large international airport with frequent connections to North and South American destinations and Europe.

I wouldn’t recommend spending much time in Cancun – but if you have a chance, the Isla Mujeres and Chichen Itza day trips are worth doing.

If you’re looking for somewhere to stay in Cancun, the Hostel Quetzal is a fun place for backpackers, with a large communal garden and events happening every night. Villa Sofia Holiday Accommodation is great for people who are looking for somewhere calmer and more private.

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Isla Mujeres

If you only have one day in Cancun, do this trip to Isla Mujeres. The white-sand beaches of the island are synonymous with this part of Mexico, giving you postcard-perfect views and offering the perfect introduction to the Caribbean part of the country.

Boat tours include snorkelling and a stop-off to see the “Pueblo Magico”, which is the colourful “Magic Town” on the island.Other highlights include snorkeling and scuba diving on the surrounding coral reefs, the remains of a Mayan Temple, and a lighthouse.

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Chichen Itza

Chichen Itza is one of the wonders of the world, so you absolutely should visit it if you’re in this part of Mexico! These Mayan pyramids are among some of the best-preserved ancient ruins in the world.

It’s easy to see Chichen Itza on a day trip from Cancun; most tours to the site include stops at the pretty city of Valladolid and a nearby cenote.

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Once you’ve finished exploring Cancun and Isla Mujeres, catch an ADO bus south to Playa del Carmen. These run throughout the day and take around an hour.

I wouldn’t recommend staying too long in Playa del Carmen – it isn’t authentically Mexican at all and you only have limited time in the country – but you absolutely should take a ferry over from the town to the paradisical island of Cozumel.

One of the most popular destinations for scuba diving in Quintana Roo, this peaceful island is also brimming with history and culture.

You can either hire a jeep to drive around the beaches (don’t miss the San Gervacio archaeological site and the Punta Sur Eco Park) or do a jeep tour where you will drive, but have a guide who will show you the best parts of the island and offer a fascinating commentary about its history and culture too.

I’d recommend staying at the Grand Park Royal Cozumel while you’re in Cozumel; it’s an affordable all-inclusive hotel with a private beach, a huge pool and excellent food options. Alternatively, Amigos Hostel is great for backpackers, located in a central area and has a pool.

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Tulum is usually a staple on most people’s Mexico itineraries. However, as someone who knows the country very well, I wouldn’t recommend you spend much time here. It’s extortionately expensive, it’s over-touristy, and it’s one of the few places on this itinerary that can be dangerous for tourists.

That being said, it is worth visiting the Tulum Ruins, which sit right on the edge of cliffs and give way to a beautiful white-sand Caribbean beach. There are also quite a few cenotes, which are large sinkholes located in caves nearby – the most popular ones include the Gran Cenote and Cenote Dos Ojos.

To stay safe (and avoid spending too much money!), I’d only recommend one night in Tulum and would advise not going out too late. Corazon de Tulum is an affordable and secure hotel that’s located close to the bus station.

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The ying to Tulum’s yang, Bacalar is an oasis after the hecticness of other beach destinations in Quintana Roo! It’s an inland village that sits on a lagoon. Life moves quite slowly in Bacalar, but it’s worth stopping for a day, doing a boat tour of the lagoon and enjoying the relaxed pace of life.

Che Bacalar is an excellent hostel right in the centre of town, with a pool and community activities, or you could stay in Mayanah Bacalar, which boasts affordable suites in a chic atmosphere.

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San Cristóbal de las Casas

Sitting in the heart of Chiapas state, which is one of the most culturally-rich areas of Mexico, San Cristóbal de las Casas is a charming, colourful city where you can learn about Indigenous Mexican culture.

Spend some time just strolling around the city, soaking in the atmosphere and seeing its many churches and museums, including the Centro Textiles del Mundo Maya. San Cristobal is famous for coffee, so make sure that you try a few cups while you’re in town!

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The most popular day trip from San Cristobal is the Sumidero Canyon boat tour, which involves taking a boat through the epic Sumidero Canyon, admiring the walls as they increase to nearly one kilometre in height, and stopping at some gorgeous waterfalls.

You can also do a day trip to Cascadas El Chiflon, which is an impressive forest with hiking trails and cascading bright blue waterfalls. This tour is an excellent way to take in some of Chiapas’ beautiful and lesser-explored nature.

If you’re looking for somewhere backpacker-friendly to stay, check out the Historika Hostel which offers free breakfasts and has music sessions. For a hotel option, check out Taller de Juan which has beautifully decorated rooms, a garden and a terrace.

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If you have gorgeous, colourful cities on your bucket list for Mexico, then don’t miss Oaxaca. A small city that’s renowned for its art scene, beautiful cobblestone streets lined with colourful buildings, indigenous heritage and amazing food, this is a bucket-list destination for many.

Oaxaca pulls you in – I visited once for a few weeks and ended up staying there for five months – but you can see a lot of the city and its surroundings in a few days.

Begin by simply walking around the city and taking in its charming atmosphere, popping into Benito Juarez and 20 de Noviembre markets. Hike up to the Guelaguetza stadium to catch a view of the city from above and visit some of the best restaurants, including La Popular and Boulenc bakery.

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To really engage with Oaxacan food, take a cooking class (which includes a market tour) where you’ll learn all about the city’s link with its cuisine.

I also recommend a day trip out of the city to Tule (home to the widest tree in the world), Mitla which has Zapotec ruins and Hierve Al Agua, which are “frozen waterfalls”; they’re rock formations that give the impression of waterfalls frozen and hanging off a cliff. There are also natural swimming pools at the top.

Plus, if you like a tipple, don’t miss trying lots of Mezcal in Oaxaca – it’s where the spirit is from! You could even visit a Mezcaleria just outside of the city.

If you’re a backpacker, Casa Angel is a fun hostel to stay in. There’s a delicious included breakfast every day and a rooftop terrace where they host BBQs, dance classes and Spanish lessons!

Or, if you’re looking for a guesthouse, Escondido Oaxaca is a classy option in the city centre.

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Puerto Escondido (side trip)

If you’d like to see the Pacific coast of Mexico during your trip, you can take a camioneta (a minivan) to the beach town. From Oaxaca, the journey takes around six hours.

Like the Caribbean coast, the Pacific Coast of Mexico is home to large, sweeping beaches with palm trees aplenty; but unlike the Caribbean coast, it’s a prime destination for surfing!

Catching the waves is the main activity in Puerto Escondido, but it’s also a chilled-out place to relax on a beach, ice-cold coconut in hand.

Hotel Rockaway is a lovely boutique hotel resort that’s perfect for a day or two, or if you’re a backpacker you might want to check out Casa Losodeli, which also has a coworking space.

If you decide to go to Puerto Escondido, you’ll save a lot of time by flying from the small airport here to Mexico City. If you don’t go to Puerto Escondido, it’s about six hours on an ADO bus to the capital from Oaxaca.

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Mexico City

No trip to Mexico should skip its vibrant capital. Mexico City is an enormous metropolis – the biggest in North America – and it’s packed full of fun things to do and places where you can eat delicious food. If you know where to look, you can even discover the top hidden gems of Mexico City.

To get your bearings, I’d recommend initially doing a walking tour around the Centro Historico, where you can learn all about Mexico’s indigenous origins, the Spanish invasion, the fight for independence and the Mexican revolution in the 20th century.

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You’ll see some of the most historically important buildings in the country, like the Palacio de las Bellas Artes and the Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral, and even see some ancient Aztec ruins at the Templo Mayor Museum.

The hip neighbourhoods of Condesa and Roma also shouldn’t be missed – they’re well-known for their fun bars (try cocktails at La Clandestina), cool cafes (don’t miss the chilled-out Cafebrería El Péndulo) and vegan restaurants, like the Por Siempre vegan taqueria, which serves up mouthwatering tacos al pastor with a twist – they’re all vegan.

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Plus, it’s worth doing a trip out to Coyacan, where Frida Kahlo’s Casa Azul is located; you can visit the house and learn about the fascinating Mexican artist, including her philosophies and how the country influenced her work. Coyacan is a historically important part of Mexico City; it’s where the Spanish first settled, and you can learn all about it with a walking tour of this neighbourhood.

Another must-do in Mexico City is a boat tour of Xochimilco’s canals. You’ll be transported around the canals on colourful gondolas while listening to mariachi bands and being served margaritas and micheladas (beer with tomato juice).

Plus, do a day trip out to the ruins of Teotihuacan, which are some of the most impressive ancient ruins in Mesoamerica.

Accommodation-wise, Hotel Luca offers comfortable rooms with gorgeous floor-to-ceiling windows and is in a great location in the city centre (close to Roma). Casa Pepe is a popular hostel in the city.If you have even more time to spend in Mexico City at the end of your trip, here’s how to spend a long weekend in Mexico City.

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Are you ready for two weeks in Mexico?

Two weeks in Mexico is nowhere near enough time to see the whole country, but this rough itinerary should give you a good idea about why the country is so popular with travellers of all ages and styles – and why so many people return again and again.

With a good mix of nature and culture (two areas that Mexico thrives in!) – with plenty of taquerias and mezcal thrown in for good measure – this itinerary is the perfect place to start planning your dream trip to Mexico.

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Claire Martin is a travel blogger and freelance writer who specialises in overland adventures. She’s drove around Australia, travelled from Bali to London without flying, lived in Mexico and has spent many months exploring Europe. You can follow her adventures on her blog, Claire’s Footsteps.

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