2 weeks in Sweden- Sleeping under the Northern Lights, wooly jumpers, skiing and snow mobile tours; this was our actual plan for February '21... But everything changed because
Sweden was put on Switzerland's quarantine list; only around one month before our departure. Clearly, we didn't want to spend our 2 weeks at
home, so we started to reschedule. We spent hours searching for countries without a quarantine obligation, dealing with incidence rates and comparing current number of
Covid-19 cases. At the end, there were only a handful travel destinations left; all of them located on another continent: Costa
Rica, Panama, Brasil and Mexico. The final decision was made between Mexico and Costa Rica; fortunately! Because some days later, Panama and Brasil were put on Switzerland's quarantine list as
Our definite decision for Mexico was primarily made because the flight offers were more convenient for us than the ones to Costa Rica.
After a short while, we had 2 weeks Mexico booked. Two weeks of summer instead of deepest winter- "With pleasure", did we both think :-). The few weeks left before departure, we spent our time planning the route, searching for a good rental car, comparing hotel offers, looking for must-see's and must-do's and buying everything necessary for the trip. And then finally, the day of departure arrived! Our first Mexico-trip began.
Cancún (1 night)
Holbox (2 nights)
Valladolid (2 nights)
Mérida (2 nights)
Campeche (2 nights)
Xpujil (1 night)
Bacalar (1 night)
Tulum (3 nights)
Screenshot Source: Polarsteps
We flew with Edelweiss Air from Zurich non-stop to Cancún, where we then went to pick up our rental car. We booked it in advance via sunny cars and needed to pick it up at Alamo, close to the airport. Afterwards, we've spent one night in a hotel close to the airport, because our flight arrived very late in the evening (around 11 p.m.) in Cancún. Our actual adventure started the day after.
Our hotel in Cancùn (close to the airport): Fairfield Inn& Suites by Marriott Cancun Airport
We chose the cute, little island Holbox, located in the Gulf of Mexico, as our first stop. Most people go the other way around (so that their final destination is Holbox) but for us, Holbox was the perfect start into two wonderful weeks in Mexico and we wouldn't do any different. To get to Isla Holbox, you need to drive to a little village called Chiquilá and there change to the ferry. Chiquilá is an approx. 2 hrs car ride away from Cancún; the route is very comfortable to drive btw. If you arrive by car, as we did, you need to park your car somewhere in Chiquilá but that's not a problem at all because there are several parking areas (located in the street which is leading to the harbor) and they're not expensive. Payment is due at later date, when you pick your car up.
We bought the tickets for the ferry (one way) once we arrived in Chiquilá and this worked perfectly fine for us. Since we were there during the Covid-19 pandemic, they
checked our temperature before boarding and we needed to disinfect our hands; furthermore, wearing a facial mask was mandatory during the whole ferry
ride (approx. 20 mins). Once we arrived on Holbox, we took a taxi (kind of a golf cart) to our hotel which was located in the
island's West. It isn't that far away from the harbor but too far to easily reach it by foot with heavy suitcases.
The staff welcomed us warmly and brought us to our cute wooden bungalow with sea view!
The colorful, little Isla Holbox is such a happy and chilled place, so it was very easy for us to immediately fall in love with this paradise on Earth!
Our accommodation in Holbox: Blue Holbox
Recommended number of nights: 3-7 nights. We only stayed 2 nights; but 3-4 would have been perfect for us!
After some relaxing days in Holbox, we drove to Valladolid- a place full of opportunities. Among other things, it is the perfect starting point for a
trip to Chichen Itza; but also to visit some of the most beautiful cenotes. Furthermore, Valladolid itself is a gem with its
colorful buildings and the Mexican flair.
The approx. 2hrs and 10mins car ride from Chiquilá to Valladolid is comfortable and easily manageable. From Tulum btw. it's an even shorter drive; only approx. 1 hour and 30 minutes. So if you stay in Tulum, I definitely recommend you to visit Valladolid and stay there for at least one night.
Overall, we experienced the city as quiet and comfortable, even though it's a quite big city and in the evenings, you can regularly hear police sirens. When we arrived in our accommodation, we asked the staff if it is dangerous to go outside in the evening and they assured us that it is safe. So we went to the restaurant by foot on both evenings and it was absolutely no problem; we felt completely safe all the time.
Our accommodation in Valladolid: Colonte Hotel Origen
Recommended number of nights: 3-4 nights (we stayed 2 nights but 3 would have been perfect for us!)
Mérida, the vital capital of the federal state Yucatàn, was our next destination. On the way from Valladolid to Mérida, we made a detour to Ek Balam and then to Riò Lagartos, where we enjoyed a beautiful sunset on the boat. After that, we drove to Mérida in the dark, which wasn't a problem but it is a bit more exhausting than driving during the day.
The detour to Ek Balam was totally worth and we would definitely do it again. It takes approx. 30 mins to drive from Valladolid to the
Mayan ruins and then 2 more hours from there to Mérida.
To Riò Lagartos on the other hand, we wouldn't drive again. In our opinion, the way is just too long (Ek Balam to Riò Lagartos: 2hrs 15mins). The river is beautiful but still not worth the long drive. I need to mention that the water in the salt lakes (Las Coloradas) wasn't pink when we were there. Furthermore, we didn't stay there over night which means that we needed to drive again 2hrs and 40mins to Mérida. In total, it was just way too much driving for us! Once we finally arrived in the capital, all the restaurants were already closed because of the Covid-19 curfew (11 p.m.); luckily, we found a burger take away right around the corner of our accommodation.
Mérida is a big and busy city, but yet very aesthetic. In the evenings, we made sure that we chose restaurants close to our accommodation so that we don't need to walk long distances by foot. The short walks were no problem at all and we felt safe all the time.
Driving a car in Mérida is quite challenging btw. but it worked fine overall (google maps is a must-have though!!).
Our accommodation in Mérida: Viva Merida Hotel Boutique
Recommended number of nights: 2- 3 nights (we only had 2 nights and it was a bit short to be honest)
Campeche, the colorful capital of the federal state of the same name, actually bears the beautiful name 'San Francisco de Campeche'. Since 1999, it is part of UNESCO world heritage.
It takes approx. 2hrs and 15mins to get from Mérida to Campeche by car and the route is easily manageable.
Generally, it can be said that if you're not on one of the highways, always look out for potholes and especially "topes" (ground beams)! Very often, they're hardly visible (especially at night) and the markers are unreliable; respectively, partially missing or 'unreadable'. But every time you drive through a village, no matte how small it is, there certainly are topes. Always be prepared to quickly slow down (to approx. 10-20 kph).
Campeche is a place to enjoy, slow down and relax but without beautiful beaches, even though it is situated close to the Gulf of Mexico. When we spoke with locals, they advised us against visiting Playa Bonita, because in their opinion it "isn't a beach". So if you look for a place with beautiful beaches nearby, Campeche isn't the right place for you. In that case, I'd recommend you to stay on Holbox island for a longer time; or also Tulum. For all the others, Campeche is a must-see, because the historic center is enchanting with its very photogenic, colorful alleys and the colonial, Mexican flair.
Our accommodation itself, was located in one of those colorful and cheerful alleys, which made our stay perfect! We enjoyed our days in Campeche to the fullest and we both think that it definitely shouldn't be left out when going on a Yucatan road trip!
Our accommodation in Campeche: Hotel Boutique Casa Don Gustavo
Recommended number of nights: 3-4 (we stayed only 2 but would have wanted to stay longer)
Xpujil was more like a stopover on the way to Bacalar which is a 5hrs and 20mins car ride away from Campeche. It is an approx. 3hrs and
50mins drive from Campeche to Xpujil, which is already long enough. During the whole drive, you frequently pass small villages, which means that the way is
full of topes! Apart from that, it is a calm and easily manageable route. After sunset, there are clearly less cars but more
trucks on the way.
During our drive, we decided to do a short stopover to marvel at the incredibly beautiful sky full of stars! It is a very good route for such a stopover because there are little to no light sources. As a matter of fact, we've seen several small shooting stars and one big and breathtaking one!
Once we've arrived at our accommodation near Xpujil, we needed to go to bed without dinner because everything was already closed (due to Covid-19 curfew, I guess).
On the next day, we drove the same way back for 30mins, as we did the way before. It was my fault, because we actually planned to visit the
Mayan ruins in Calakmul and I thought, they're located very close to Xpujil. But the ruins are a 2hrs and 30mins drive away from Xpujil, located in the middle of a huge jungle!
My tip: if you travel from Campeche to Bacalar like we did, then go visit Calakmul directly during your journey to Xpujil. If you travel from Bacalar to Campeche
with a stopover in Xpujil, it works perfectly fine to visit the Mayan pyramids on the next day during your journey to Campeche. But keep in mind that the way to
the ruins leads you approx. 2hrs through deep jungle (1 way!), away from any civilization (take enough water along!). So if you decide to visit Calakmul and afterwards want to
journey on, then allow extra time and start early in the morning in the direction of Calakmul; especially if you'd like to avoid driving at
Unfortunately, we started our trip to the Mayan ruins way too late which means we arrived in Bacalar very late (again)!
Fun fact: Before our road trip, we said that we will not drive after sunset; lol! -Fail! ^^ But luckily, it was absolutely no problem to drive at night-time; so don't worry if you need to drive late sometimes.
Our accommodation near Xpujil: Chicanna Ecovillage Resort
Recommended number of nights: 1 night
Bacalar, the lagoon paradise in the South of the Yucatàn peninsula... We've read a lot about it before our trip and we've seen so many enchanting photos. That's why for us, it
was absolutely clear that we need to visit Bacalar! The car ride from Calakmul to Bacalar (Highway 186) felt like never ending (well; it really was a quite long
route ^^). In the beginning, you pass several small villages (attention: topes!) but this changes after a little while. Even though we drove at night (again!
^^), we haven't had any difficulties.
Unfortunately, we were a bit unlucky in Bacalar because we only had one night there; from a Tuesday to a Wednesday... On the day of our arrival, we went directly to sleep. The day after, our plan was to explore the unique lagoon before continuing our trip to Tulum. But while we searched for a boat or kayak renting, we found out that the lagoon has one day of rest each week; which is on Wednesdays. What does this mean exactly? - No boats, jet skis and kayaks should be in the lagoon! I, of course, totally understand this, because the conservation of its biodiversity and the protection of its wildlife is essential!
Nevertheless, we were disappointed, because we had the most beautiful lagoon directly in front of us, without being able to fully enjoy it.
So this is what we've learnt: Always check the "opening hours" before!!
We decided to directly drive to Tulum to enjoy the rest of the day there.
Our accommodation in Bacalar: Casa Shiva Bacalar by MIJ
Recommended number of nights: 2-3 nights
Tulum- the Mexican Ibiza. After more than 10 days tranquility, away from crowded tourist destinations (more or less), Tulum shocked us a little bit. I don't want
to say that the city in general is turbulent. It clearly has a peaceful, very special, I would even say an almost magical atmosphere. We simply imagined
Tulum differently. Especially the street along the beach was uncomfortable, because there were way too many cars and (delivery) trucks so that you a) have almost
no chance to move and b) only inhale emissions. During the day, people (mostly tourists) relax in beach bars and coffee shops, go shopping in the
expensive boutiques (the street is full of them) or lay on the beach. In the evenings, the street transforms into a fancy nightlife district.
Even though Tulum isn't really our world, I need to say one thing about Tulum: It has style! A fancy, very peculiar style. The restaurants and clubs compete against each
other with structures from another world! Tulum makes it all possible- From doorways shaped like a rabbit head, to restaurants designed like huge tree houses; bird's
nests included, in which you could have dinner with sea view. You need to see this street with your own eyes, because it is too difficult to fully describe it. Anyways,
it wasn't our world, as I said before.
But Tulum also has other, more peaceful places. And it is a great starting point for day trips plus a good location for beach vacation too. Furthermore, it isn't a bad choice to spend the last night(s) before the departure. It is easy to get from Tulum to the airport (approx. 1 hour and 30mins by car).
If you think about visiting Mexico during the covid pandemic and you need a negative covid test (PCR): In Tulum, it is easy to get tested but it is quite expensive! We needed a negative result for our flight back to Switzerland and a doctor was organized by our hotel; he came directly into the hotel to get us tested. 24 hours later, we received the negative results via WhatsApp.
Our accommodation in Tulum: Zenses Wellness and Yoga Resort- Adults Only
Recommended number of nights: 1-3 nights (we stayed 3 nights)
Holbox is a must see and a very suitable location for some relaxing days away from the hustle and
Valladolid is the perfect starting point for trips such as Chichen Itza and many cenotes. Furthermore, it is a very worth seeing, colorful city.
Mérida, the beautiful and brisk Mexican city should definitely be on your list when going on a road trip through Yucatan.
The Unesco world heritage city Campeche is one of our favorites and is in our opinion another must see!
Xpujil is a good place for a stopover on the way from or to Campeche/ Bacalar. However, we wouldn't do the same route again.
Bacalar is a little paradise, when being there on the right time ;-).
Tulum is a perfect place for party lovers, who like it fancy and busy. Furthermore, it is a good starting point
for day trips. Nevertheless, we wouldn't stay there for 3 nights again; but rather one or maximum two nights.
Streets: Are actually comfortable to drive. There is a speed limit of 100 kph on highways; of 80 kph on country roads and of 40 kph in town. Toll needs to be paid for several routes.
Pay attention to topes while driving through villages! Moreover, there sometimes are animals crossing the streets.
On balance, our road trip was fantastic, unforgettable and amazingly beautiful! Except for 2-3 odds and ends, we would do the trip exactly like this again. We are extremely grateful that we had the chance to do such a positive and beautiful road trip during the covid-19 pandemic and we will treasure it forever.