La Ruta Maya

This route, which connects the major Maya sites in Mexico, could be done moving frequently over 2 weeks, or more slowly in a month or perhaps broken up into two trips. I've condensed the trip by leaving out Mérida, but you may also want to visit the beautiful Yucatán capital. There's a risk of overdosing on ruins by seeing too many in too short a time, so pick and choose at your own pace. The best mode of travel is by rental car: The highways have little traffic and are, for the most part, in good shape.

Day 1: Arrive in Cancún

After you arrive, head for a swim in the warm waters of the Caribbean, sip a salty margarita at your resort, and dress up for a sunset dinner overlooking the lagoon. Cancún's world-class nightlife beckons if you've got the energy.

Day 2: Ek Balam & Chichén Itzá 

Hop on the modern toll highway that heads toward Mérida and take the exit for Valladolid. Head north, away from town, to visit the ruins of Ek Balam. Then head back to Valladolid for lunch before driving the short distance to Chichén Itzá. Just outside of Valladolid, stop to see the cenotes of Dzitnup and Sammulá. Farther on is the Balankanché Cave. When you get to Chichén, check into your hotel, and then go to the ruins later in the evening for the sound-and-light show.

Day 3: Uxmal 

Immerse yourself further in the ruins of Chichén Itzá in the morning, then continue west on the toll highway toward Mérida, and turn off at Ticopó. Head south toward the town of Acanceh and Hwy. 18. Stop to see the small but intriguing ruins in the middle of town, and then proceed down Hwy. 18 to the ruins of Mayapán. Continue through Ticul to Santa Elena and the ruined city of Uxmal for an unforgettable sound-and-light show under the stars.

Day 4: Edzná

Visit Uxmal in the morning, then drive back toward Santa Elena, and take Hwy. 261 south to Hopelchén and on to the impressive ruins of Edzná. Nearby is Uayamón, a fancy hacienda-turned-hotel. Better still, stay at the sister property in old-town Campeche, Hacienda Puerta Campeche.

Days 5 & 6: Palenque, Bonampak & Yaxchilán

Take Hwy. 261 to Escárcega, head west on Hwy. 186 toward Villahermosa, and then south on Hwy. 199 to Palenque, an ancient town with magnificent pyramids. The next day go to the ruins of Bonampak and Yaxchilán.

Days 7 & 8: San Cristóbal de las Casas 

Keep south on Hwy. 199 toward otherworldly San Cristóbal de las Casas. On the way, take a swim at Misol Ha, and visit the ruins of Toniná outside of Ocosingo. From San Cristóbal, go with one of the local guides to see the Maya communities of San Juan Chamula and Zinacantán.

Days 9 & 10: Calakmul & Becán 

Retrace your steps to Escárcega and continue east on Hwy. 186. If you have time, visit the fascinating sculptures of Balamkú. Settle into one of the hotels in the vicinity of the turnoff for Calakmul, one of the prime city-states of the Classic age of the Maya, and not often visited.

The next day, get to Calakmul early. Keep your eyes open for wildlife as you drive along the narrow jungle road; all the area surrounding the city is a wildlife preserve. Afterward, continue east on Hwy. 186 to see the ruins of Becán, a large ceremonial center with impressive temples. Also in the vicinity are Xpujil and Chicanná. Spend the night on the shores of Lake Bacalar, where you can cool off in its blue waters.

Days 11, 12 & 13: Tulum

Drive north on Hwy. 307 to Tulum and settle into one of the small beach hotels there. In the morning, walk through the ruins and take in the spectacular view of the coast. On your last day, you might work on your tan at the beach, or head straight to the airport (25 min. south of Cancún) and depart.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.