If you want to escape the crowds while exploring Yucatán, the best idea is to rent a car. You are free as a bird and won’t depend on public transportation or taxis. I did it intentionally to escape the partying spring breaking hordes of Americans. Because let’s be honest… Latin America is not known for its well-organised transportation system. It is known though for its awesome cocktails! So better make sure you take your car and arrive ASAP at your destination to order a margarita on the rocks!
Step one: rent a car
I always use Sunny Cars to book my car: their website is practical and in just a couple of clicks you are ready to start your adventure. The best part is that Sunny Cars is an all-inclusive rental car broker, including all insurances (indemnity insurance, theft insurance, liability insurance,…) you can think of and a 24/7 customer service line. Time zone difference or not, there is always someone ready to assist you (I tried it!). Forget the long hours wasting time finishing administrative work at your destination (Cancún airport in my case). Just get your keys and hit the road!
Step two: watch out for speed bumps
The main highway along the coast connecting Cancún with Yucatán state has been renovated recently, which guarantees you an easy drive. However… don’t panic if all the cars in front of you start braking all of a sudden. The many “tope” signs warn you every now and then for a speedbump. And believe me, Mexicans really do stop completely before every (tall and small) speedbump. Ten cuidado!
Step three: off to Chichén Itzá & Cobá!
The Mayas were a Mesoamerican civilization that has been nearly wiped out by the Spanish conquerors in the 16th century. One of the largest groups of modern Maya can be found in Yucatán state. That’s why this is an ideal region to discover their culture and architecture. Being one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, Chichén Itzá is definitely a bucket list item. As one of the largest Maya cities, these ruins are federal property and very well maintained and renovated during the past. I arrived pretty early to avoid the crowds and I was very happy to discover that the archeological site was calm. For me, this means picture time without too many tourists on my pictures! Although the main Castillo pyramid is impressive, you should also take your time to walk around these 300 hectares and enjoy the beauty of this pre-Hispanic city.
- Make sure you arrive around 8-9 AM before the tour buses arrive and the sun starts to burn.
- Although there are ticket boots, you still need to queue and purchase 2 different tickets (one for the state, the other one for INAH).
- A 2-hour visit gives you plenty of time to stroll around.
- Tulum-Chichén Itzá will take you ca. 2 hours by car.
Before you drive back to Tulum, please pass by Cobá. This might be my favorite archeological site in Yucatán thanks to the fact that it is less crowded and less excavated than others. The site contains a group of temple pyramids, of which the tallest one (Ixmoja) is 42 meters high. Cobá claims to have the largest network of stone causeways in the ancient Maya world. To discover the whole site at ease, you can either walk, hire a bici taxi for two or three people, or rent a bicycle yourself. My recommendation? Rent a bicycle! You will feel like driving through a forest, discovering many Maya structures both excavated and others still covered in plants. The apogee of the visit is climbing Ixmoja (42 meters!) with only a thick rope to cover for your safety. As the site gets more popular and tourism increases, I cannot believe the authorities will continue allowing it: be quick!
- Cobá is a 45min. drive from Tulum.
- Rent a bike to discover the site at your own pace.
- Wear comfortable shoes as you will be climbing a 42 meters high pyramid.
- Don’t forget to buy water at the entrance! There are not many stores or stands on the site.
- Drive all the way to the very end of the site, where you will find some beautiful sanctuaries.