Mexico backpacking itinerary, Viva Mexico, Mexico was the first stop in my backpacking journey through Central America. Mexico is much larger than what I expected and its has many attraction to visit. Your travel itinerary in Mexico should depend on how much time you have to spend in Mexico. Regardless of that Mexico is budget friendly and will offer you a unique backpacking experience. I started in Mexico city and made my way toward Tulum In 17 days. Below you can see my Backpacking itinerary though out Mexico, which you can use as a guide to build your itinerary. The bus system in Mexico is awesome (apart when there are a blockade, Will tell you more about it below) Through out my trip I used night bus to transport from one city to another. Which will save you a lot of time and money.
Mexico backpacking itinerary
Destination: Central America, Mexico
Season: November 2017
Length: 17 days
Theme: Backpacking | City | Culture | Hiking | Sceneries
Mexico Itinerary at glanceTitle
Mexico Itinerary at glance
Mexico City 3D → Oaxaca 3D → San Cristóbal de las Casas 2D → Palenque 2D → Merida 2D → Tulum 2D
Mexico Backpacking Itinerary
Mexico backpacking itinerary
- The Icon for the transfer method
- The h for the number of hour of transportation time
- am or pm is the time of departure from the city
- The D for the number of days i spent in the city
- The ←→ for day trip
Through out my trip I used night bus to transport from one city to another. Which will save you a lot of time and money.
Mexico City 11pm8h → Oaxaca 9pm9h → San Cristóbal de las Casas 5am6h → Palenque 12am7h → Merida 12am4h → Tulum 12am6h → Belize City
Mexico Backpacking Itinerary
Mexico Backpacking Itinerary
Mexico Backpacking Itinerary
Day 1-3 Mexico City
I arrived to Mexico Airport (MEX) in Mexico city around 7:30 pm, It was an easy 30 mint taxi drive to my Hostel, Hostal Regina, which was in the heart of Mexico city and only 5 minutes walks from Mexico City Cathedral and Zócalo Square, and next to La-Joya Pasteleria & Pasteleria Madrid which was my main source of food in Mexico city, the Pastry they did was amazing and the price are very reasonable, plus if you are vegetarian this is your heaven. A good alternative hostel will be Hostal Amigo Suites.
I arrived to Mexico city on November the 2nd, lucky enough, the day of death celebration fall on that date, so I had an especial welcoming on my arrival to Mexico city, the city was full of positive vibes thought out the night. People were dancing and having fun all night.
Day 1: I started my first official day in Mexico city by exploring Zócalo Square and the city cathedral, and I did the free walking tour, which I highly recommend doing as it will give you a good insight about Mexico city and its history. In the evening I went to Coyoacan to see the day of death celebration, the city was packed and full of people from all over Mexico and the world. Its was very busy 2 hour was enough for me to pull the white flag up and go back to my hostel.
Day 2: I started the day by a nice breakfast at Pasteleria Madrid, then I linked up with few people from my hostel and we went to Chapultepec park, I was panning to spent few hours, but the park & zoo was massive, we ended up spending all the day exploring the park, zoo and the castle. P.S the walk to the castle is nice, you get a good view, however to enter the castle you have to pay around 70 Peso (4$). At the evening I decided to go for Lucha Libre (professional wrestling) game at Arena México, I wasn’t sure what to expect when attending the arena as iam not a wrestling fun. The music and the intro with the light effect was very nice but I personally did not enjoy the fight. It just feel pure acting for me, I left after one hour. However you might enjoy it. I say go and check it out if you have time.
Day 3: I booked a tour to go and visit Popocatépetl volcano, I used amigo tours, which was quite good and the office is located at Hostal Amigo.
The journey from Mexico city to Popocatépetl is an experience by it self. Its is about 2 hours ride, but the view from the car as you drive toward Popocatépetl is amazing(you can see a little clip from here), You will also go pass many local villages, if you driving yourself you should definitely spend sometime over their or stay over. The hike to the top is not an easy one, the ground is sandy and it can be a little bit slippy on the way down. But it easily double if you are fit. You will actually hike up to the top of Iztaccíhuatl and you will get the view of Popocatépetl. I loved the hike, I did not know that at the time, but you can camp over at the top of Iztaccíhuatl . Sadly I was not prepared so I did not do it. The two mountain have a story you can read it in here.
That was my last day at Mexico city unfortunately, after returning from Popocatépetl to Mexico city, I took a night bus from Terminal de Autobuses de Pasajeros de Oriente(TAPO) at Mexico city to one of my favorites city of Mexico, Oxaca
Top things to do in Mexico City
My accommodation in Mexico City
Mexico City is large and its has many area, The most important thing to me is the location of my accommodation, therefore I always stay in a safe(just kidding) and a central location. I stayed at Hostal Regina also Hostal Amigo Suites is another good option. With regards to Mexico city I highliy recommend you to stay somewhere with in 10 minutes walk from Mexico City Cathedral and Zócalo Square. As this is a main area and you will all you need around you. Mexico have many other district, but with Mexico metro you can easily move around between the different district of Mexico city.
Transport From Mexico city to Oaxaca
I love the buses in Mexico. I dont mind sleeping in busses, so night bus is all I used in Mexico. Its confutable, reasonable priced and fun. From Mexico to Oaxaca is around 8 hours. I booked a night bus for 8pm from Terminal de Autobuses de Pasajeros de Oriente(TAPO) ( this is where you need to get your ticket from, Its best to use the metro to go there in advance to booked the ticket) and I was in Oaxaca early morning. You can also take a fly to Oaxaca from Mexico city if you like, but its not for me, I prefer night bus.
Mexico Backpacking Itinerary
Day 4 -8 Oaxaca
After a nice 8 hour night bus ride, I woke up at Oaxaca Terminal ADO. I started to walk to my hostel Andaina Hostel, then decided to take a taxi, just because my friend was too lazy. Andaina Hostel, was in a very good location at the heart of Oaxaca only few minutes walk from the main attraction of the city. The staff and owner was very nice, my bus was cancelled due to blockade(I will tell you about letter) and she allowed me to check in at 8am in morning with out charging me. One thing you need to know about Oaxaca; the food are good in Oaxaca and its kind of different from the other Mexican city I have visited. The best way to appreciate this is by eating at Food and Flea Market, you can see a clip from here.
Day 1: after dropping my backpack at the hostel I explored the Food and Flea Market, 20 de Noviembre Market and Oaxaca Cathedral. Then at the afternoon I made my way to Tule Tree, which has The Widest Tree Trunk in the World located in Santa María del Tule about 9km from Oaxaca center. It is a must see if you stoping in Oaxaca. The most economic way to get their is by taking a bus from Oaxaca center toward Terminal ADO but keep going in the bus and stop near McDonald, from their you can take a service taxi(service taxi is simply a taxi but you shire with other passengers) to Tule. The total length of the journey about 40 mint. The tree is massive the only way to describe it is by seeing it, you can see a clip from here. Santa María del Tule town is fairly small, and you cant do much than visit the Tule tree, the church and possibly have a meal. Two hours is enough from my experience. Oaxaca at night is full with life, I spent my evening wondering around the different part of the city.
Day 2: was one of the highlight of Mexico, Monte Alban. I think Monte Alban is the Machu Picchu of Mexico. I booked a full day tour with ElAndador agency, which include Monte Alban, San Antonio Arrazola, Cuilapam de Guerrero and San Bartolo Coyotepec. You can see the details in the link. The trip was very nice however I think I would like to spend more time at Monte Alban. In the tour we only got to spend about 2 or 3 hours at the site, I think you can easily spend 5 hours at Monte Alban. I suggest you make your own way to Monte Alban and spend as much time as you like, Just take enough snacks and water with you. Bus go every hour from Oaxaca to Monte Alban starting at 8:30 and the last bus back to Oaxaca is at 17:00pm, you can book a bus from Hotel Rivera in Oaxaca and its only cost about $3. I have to say in the tour we covered 4 different area including at stop at an open buffet restaurant with local Mexican food, and this why we needed to move fast. Then I was back to Oaxaca for the evening. I already pre booked a night bus for my next distention San Cristobal the night before, So I had food and packed my bag and I was all ready for my night bus trip. One hour into my bus trip to San Cristobal, we were stopped blockade, I spent about 6 hours on the bus not moving and In the morning we returned back to Oaxaca, not knowing when the blockade will be lifted. The truth I was kind of happy because I loved Oaxaca and I was able to spend a third day in Oaxaca.
Day 3: On day three I decided to explore Hierve el Agua, and I am glad I did the place is magical and in the middle of nowhere. Its one of those palaces where you can just set and watch the world move by. You can go by a tour, but its best to take a bus from Oaxaca to San Pablo Villa de Mitla, then go on a Pickup truck which will take you up to Hierve el Agua and back to San Pablo Villa de Mitla, where you can take a bus back to Oaxaca. If you aim to get to an Pablo Villa de Mitla early around 9-10 am you can easily find Pickup truck with out previous arrangement. After a nice day at Hierve el Agua park, I was back to Oaxaca for the evening and fortunately the blockade was lifted. Hence I decided to take the night bus to San Cristobal.
Top things to do in Oaxaca and around
- 20 de Noviembre Market (In Oaxaca city)
- Food and Flea Market (In Oaxaca city)
- Downtown Oaxaca de Juarez (In Oaxaca city)
- Oaxaca Cathedral (In Oaxaca city)
- Santo Domingo Temple (In Oaxaca city)
- Tule Tree (about 10km from Oaxaca city)
- Monte Alban (day trip)
- Cuilapan de Guerrero (Part of Monte Alban tour)
- San Antonio Arrazola (Part of Monte Alban tour)
- San Bartolo Coyotepec (Part of Monte Alban tour)
- Hierve el Agua (day trip) ( You will stop in Pablo Villa de Mitla, you can explore the area there are few hours. There is a historical site in this area, I did not have time to explore it)
My accommodation in Oaxaca
Oaxaca is a small town, everything is within walking distance. I stayed at Andador hostel. I highly recommend it. Good location and service. With in walking distance from all the main attraction of the city. I treated myself in Oaxaca and styed in private room as the price was very reasonable.
Transport from Oaxaca to San Cristóbal de las Casas
After a second try following the blockade, I managed to take a night bus to San Cristóbal. After a smooth 9 hours bus ride from Oaxaca I arrived at 7am to OCC Terminal in San Cristóbal de las Casas. As usual transport was very easy and and the bus rid was very confutable.
Mexico Backpacking Itinerary
Day 9-11 San Cristóbal de las Casas
After another 9 hours bus ride, I arrived at 7am to OCC Terminal in San Cristóbal de las Casas. From their I took a taxi to my hostel Puerta Vieja Hostel, which is located in the heart of San Cristobal, only few minutes walk from Cruz Atrial and Plaza de la Paz San. San Cristobal is a unique city full of art, culture and history. As well as a very nice collections of restaurant and bars, simple you can easily spend few night exploring it with out thinking about leaving the city.
Day 1: Back to the itinerary, after dropping my logged at the hostel, the reception recommended to do San Cristóbal free walking tour which start at 9am, meeting point at Plaza de la Paz San, which I highly recommend. Our guide was Carlos Munoz, his mobile 005219671293465, was a very nice guide and he also offer other tours and have a hostel called Gran hostel, Address Guadalupe Victoria 41. The tour was a great a start to explore San Cristóbal and discover it hidden gems.
Day 2: early on the second day, I went to explore Canon del Sumidero, which was one of the highlight of Mexico. I booked a full day tour from my hostel which included exploring Canon del Sumidero by boat, a visit to Chiapa de Corzo town and then a trip by car to the top of Canon del Sumidero to get an epic view of Canon del Sumidero. I was back to San Cristobal for the evening. San Cristobal night life is very nice and the town very chilled and full of options. One the next day I booked a tour to Palenque ruins, which left San Cristobal at 5am.
Top things to do in San Cristóbal de las Casas
- Free walking tour
- San Cristobal de Las Casas
- Church of Santo Domingo (San Cristóbal de las Casas)
- Sna Jolobil Market
- Guadalupe church San Cristóbal
- Cañón del Sumidero tour (this is a most). You have two option for the tour, I highly recommend you do the full day trip including the top view of Cañón del Sumidero
Their are other tours and activity which you can do from San Cristobal, If you click on here you can find more information.
Accommodation in San Cristóbal
San Cristóbal is a small town, everything is within walking distance. I stayed at Puerta Vieja Hostel. I highly recommend it. Good location and service, the breakfast was awesome too. Also its with in walking distance from all the main attraction of the city.
Transport from San Cristóbal de las Casas to Palenque
You have different option from San Cristobal Palenque, but most backpacker aim to stop at Palenque to see Palenque ruinas which is another great ruinas in Mexico. You can take a direct bus from the OCC Terminal in San Cristóbal to Palenque.
But as a tip you can book a day trip from San Cristóbal to Palenque ruinas and stay in Palenque instead of returning back with the tour. I It work out cheaper than getting a bus from San Cristóbal to Palenque, plus you get to see the two waterfall on the way Cascadas de Agua Azul and Misol-Ha, which should not be missed, see the photo on the side. The trip is long and It will take you a good 6 hours to get to Palenque. The tour leave around 5am and you should get to Palenque ruins for around 1pm. After completing your tour in Palenque ruins you can ask the driver to drop you at Palenque town, which is only about 10 mint away from Palenque ruins.
Mexico Backpacking Itinerary
Day 12 – 13 Palenque
Palenque: My next stop in the itinerary was Palenque which has one of the nicest and biggest ruins. Instead of booking a bus to Palenque, I booked a tour from San Cristobal to Palenque ruins, which included two stops ; Cascadas de Agua Azul and Cascada de Misol-Ha waterfall. Then instead of returning with the tour to San Cristobal , I asked the driver to drop me at Palenque center, which is only 15minte from Palenque ruins. Cascadas de Agua Azul, is awesome and you can camp and sleep over their. There are a section of the park where you can set up your tent. Unfortunately I did not have the time of doing so, but I meet few backpacker who were staying over their.
Day 1: By the time I got to Palenque ruins it was around 1pm. You only need about 2 or 3 hours to explore Palenque ruins, so I was in my hostel for around 4pm. Palenque is a very small city, I spend the evening walking around the city, you can walk it in few hours if you like. Most people use Palenque as a base to explore Palenque ruins, however I enjoyed some peaceful quite time away from the big city buzz in Palenque. I stayed at Posada Nacha`n – Ka`an Dormitory, which had a good location. Don’t expect much from this Dormitory, as it is not a hostel its a Dormitory, so their is no kitchen area or a common room, Its perfect for one night sleep thou.
Day 2: I booked a night bus to my next stop Merida. However On that day it was pouring rain all the day, which was good in a way, because everyone stayed in the hostel and we ended up chatting and talking all day. By the evening I had made many new friends, Vivian, Thomas, Michelle, I had to mention them in here because the friend I made in each trip is an important part of the life experience. I have re union with some of them latter on my trip, I tell you about it later. Back to the Itinerary, by mid night I walked to Central de Autobuses ADO, only 10 minuets walk from the hostel, to catch a nice 7 hours bus to Merida.
Top things to do in Palenque
- Palenque ruinas (This is a most)
- You also have few day trip options to the surrounding water fall (You can check the link for the tour options)
Accommodation in Palenque
Palenque is very small town, probable the smallest town i stayed in in Mexico. Everything is within walking distance, although there is not much to see in Palenque. I stayed at Posada Nacha`n – Ka`an Dormitory, which had a good location. Don’t expect much from this Dormitory, as it is not a hostel its a Dormitory, so their is no kitchen area or a common room, Its perfect for one night sleep thou.
Transport from Palenque to Merida
As usual I booked a night bus from Palenque to Merida, its roughly around 7 hours bus ride. By mid night I walked to Central de Autobuses ADO, only 10 minuets walk from my hostel Posada Nacha`n – Ka`an Dormitory, to catch a nice 7 hours bus to Merida.
Mexico Backpacking Itinerary
Day 14 – 17 Merida
As usual I booked a night bus from Palenque to Merida, its roughly around 7 hours bus ride. I arrived to ADO Came Merida bus station ,Calle 70, in Merida around 7am. From their I walked to my hostel Nomadas Hostel, which I highly recommend, and its only about 25 mint walk from ADO Came bust station.
Merida was my fifth stop in Mexico. Merida is the capital of the Mexican state of Yucatán and it feel like the small version of Mexico city. Merida have a nice vibe and very lively, you can find all sort of different random area and streets such as Calle 54, where you can just walk around and enjoy its busyness and randomness . This is another thing in Mexico they have no street names only number!.
Merida have a very good location and you can easily pick it as a base if you like. Its only about 30 minutes bus ride from the beach of Progreso, 1 hour ride to Homun were you can find the Cenotes, and 1 hour bus ride to Uxmal ruins and 2 hours ride to Chichen Itza. I have created in this link a DIY document on how to get to any location from Merida, Thanks for Nomadas Hostel for providing these information to me so I can make it assessable to all backpackers an traveller around the world. Back to my Merida backpacking itinerary;
Day 1: Was mainly exploring, I stared as usual with the free city walking tour. Which starts at 9:30 am, Departures from the tourist information center at the city hall (street 62 between 61/63). Around 3pm I took a chicken bus to Progreso, and spend the rest of the day in Progreso. The beach and the town worth exploring, It was a must for me as I did not see the ocean in my previous 4 stops in Mexico. It was a good time to reconnect with nature and hear the sound of the waves again. Bus go regularly between Merida and Progreso, by the evening I took the chicken bus back to Merida.
Day 2: This day was a Cenotes day. Early in the morning I took the bus to Homun, once I got to Homun I booked toc toc taxi tour to visit the Cenotes in Homun. Which was one of the highlight of the trip, I personally loved Homun its road and landscape reminded me a lot of El Nido in Philippines. Their are different Cenotes tour option availably, but I only wanted to see the Cenotes and this option suit me best. It Is best to share the toc toc with other traveler to save on costs, normally 3 people per toc toc. Their are many Cenotes in Homun, The one I visited was Cenotes de Homun yaxbacaltun, Bal-Mil Cenote and Bienvenidos al cenote. Their are many Cenotes in Yucatán area, you can click on the link to see them. However, Homun is very ideal if you in Merida. I was back to exploring Merida in the evening.
Day 3: The third day was ruins day, I took a bus from Merida to Uxmal, It is very easy to do buy yourself without a tour, check my Merida DIY page on here for the details. I think Uxmal has one of the biggest ruins I seen in Mexico, I spent about 3 hours to explore the ruins then I took the bus back to Merida, The buss from Uxmal to Merida are not very frequent so make sure you get your timing right. I was back to Merida for 3pm. That day was my last day in Merida.
Top things to do in Merida
- Merida Free city walking tour
- Progreso beach
- Homun to explore Cenotes
- Uxmal ruins
I thinks it is very easy to spent more days in Merida without getting bored as their are many things and day trip you can do from Merida. I have to cut my stay in Merida short and go to Tulum. Tulum is one of my best city in Mexico. If you guys have more time in Merida you can explore the following area:
- Celestun home to a huge variety of animals and birdlife, including a large flamingo colony.
- Cenote San Ignacio, The cenote is 8-meter underground Cave. Entrance is by a cement staircase and the water being clear is incredible.
- Chichén Itzá ruins
- Loltun Cave
- Dzibilchaltun: Ruins with observatory, sinkhole, and museum
- Uaymitun Flamingos And Xcambo Ruins
- Holbox Island
- Las Coloradas Pink Lake
Accommodation in Merida
You will have many options in Merida. The must important thing to me is the location of my accommodation, therefore I always stay in a safe(just kidding) and a central location. I stayed at Nomadas Hostel, which I highly recommend. Good location and service, and With in walking distance from all the main attraction of the city. Everything is within walking distance in Merida, However you might walk for an hours or more some time as there are a lot of markets and busy street you can explore.
Transport from Merida to Tulum
Merida is not that far from Tulum, its only about 4 hours bus ride. As usual I took a night bus from Merida to Tulum. My bus left Merida around 12am at night and I was in Tulum for around 4am. I arrived to Autobuses Tulum ADO around 4am in the morning, from there I took a taxi to my Hostel. Tulum is pretty safe and you should have no issue with arriving let night.
Mexico Backpacking Itinerary
Day 18-20 Tulum
To stick to my schedule, I had to decide were to spend my last two night in Mexico. Tulum was the choice and I am glad I did that, However the other part of Yucatán I am sure have a great experiences to offer. But I guess I underestimate the size of Mexico. if time go back I will do the same, because I wanted to explore as much as possible of Mexico in about 3 weeks, However if you a slow traveler my tip to you is to do Yucatán if you only have 3 weeks. Alternatively if you fast mover like me you can still do it this way, but you have to compromise on skipping some parts. The positive thing about my itinerary is that it allowed me to have a very good understanding of Mexico now, and I can easily plan another trip to see what I have missed latter on.
Back to my travel itinerary, as usual I have booked 4 hours night bus from Merida to Tulum, I arrived to Autobuses Tulum ADO around 4am in the morning. From their I took a taxi to my hostel Quintana Roots Hostel. The hostel was nothing especial, If you look around you might get a better option, However the location is good about 10 minutes walk from the bus station and not far from the beach and it was quite at night. Just for your information Av. Tulum is the street where the main bus station Autobuses Tulum ADO is located, all the shops and night life is located in this street and around it.
To go to the beach you have few option; rent a bike, hitchhike or get a taxi. Its only 5 minutes by car and about 30 minutes by bike. Bike renting is very common. Alternatively you can walk it but it will take a good hour I think. One thing you need to know, that the beach is divided into two sides. If you go left toward the ruins this is the public beach. It is very very nice and It can get a bit busy. If you go right you will walk past resorts and then you will end up with a smaller and quieter beach. I seen both and I think you should experience both of them.
I spent my two day on the beach, on day one I explored Tulum ruins for few hours then back to the beach. The best things about Tulum ruins, they are on the beach so the view you get is unforgettable. You can easily spend hours walking around and enjoying the view. The beach is long and you can easily find a quite spot and the water is one of the best I ever seen.
Top Things to Do In Tulum
There are many day tour and area you can explore from Tulum, however due to the lack of my time I did not manage to see all the area I wanted to visit around Tulum. However below is a list of what I should have done if I had a time, perhaps you can check it out and let me know how it was.Top tip for you the prices for day trip from Tulum is much more expansive compare to Merida.
- Cenote Zacil-Ha
- Cenote Calavera
- Sian Ka’an
Accommodation in Tulum
I stayed in Quintana Roots Hostel, The hostel was nothing especial, If you look around you might get a better option, However the location is good about 10 mint walk from the bus station and not far from the beach, However the hostel had ac and was quite at night. Just for your information Av. Tulum is the street where the main bus station, Autobuses Tulum ADO is located, all the shops and night life is located in this street and around it. As long as you stay around close to the main bus station, Autobuses Tulum ADO you should be good.
Transport Tulum to Belize
My plan was to take a bus from Tulum to Bacalar spend few day in Bacalar, then go to Chetumal. From Chetumal I would take a ferry to Caye Caulker island in Belize. Unfortunately I had to divert from my schedule and I ended taking a night bus from Tulum to Belize city than a ferry from Belize city to Caye Caulker. I only did this due to the lack of time, plus the ferry will work out more expansive, but you can also take a bus Chetumal to Belize city. But hay if you have the time you should for sure stop in Bacalar and Chetumal. ferry service that leaves out of Chetumal at 15:00 to Ambergris Caye or Caye Caulker. The price is 900 pesos one-way and 1710 pesos round trip. You can book from here.
The bus from Tulum to Belize city is very comfortable and it will take a good six hours. The bus will leave from Autobuses Tulum ADO, this is the main bus terminal, so you cant miss it. As a side note do not use the atm machine in this terminal unless you have to, the atm swallowed my friend bank card.