The Maya Train is a new rail service that makes getting around the Yucatan Peninsula easier than it’s ever been.
This long-time talked-about project is finally coming to fruition in 2023. Set to start operations on December 1, 2023, the Maya Train will allow travelers to explore Yucatan Peninsula in a new way.
Not only will the train make it easier to travel between already-popular tourist destinations such as Cancun, Tulum, and Chichen Itza, but it will also stop at many less-visited places that are now easier to reach — including pristine beaches and cultural towns.
The high-speed train will easily have you cutting your travel time in half making sure you get the most out of your days in Mexico.
Here are some tips for traveling on the Maya Train as well as a suggested itinerary of some of the best places to visit along your journey. Vamos!
Plan your trip in the Yucatan
The train route is 1,554 kilometers long and passes through 34 stops, 20 stations, 7 nearby airports, and 26 archaeological zones.
If you’re wondering if you’ll be in a time crunch at your destination, similar to cruises, you don’t have to worry. It has 42 trains on the tracks and goes through five different Mexican states: Tabasco, Chiapas, Campeche, Yucatán, and Quintana Roo. All allowing you to hop on and hop off whenever you want.
The railway named after the Mayan civilization connects tourist hotspots in the Caribbean with the lesser-known, historical Mayan sites. While not without controversy, now that the railway is here it promises to be the most convenient transportation option in the Yucatan Peninsula.
It starts in Palenque, a city in Chiapas, and goes northeast towards Cancún in Quintana Roo, using three routes that encircle the peninsula.
To make a full loop around the Yucatan you can start from anywhere. Fly into Cancun, fly out of Chiapas, vice-versa, or take the whole route around (that is, once all the construction phases are finished).
The Caribbean route will provide transportation from Cancun to the southernmost part of Quintana Roo, making stops at Puerto Morelos, Playa Del Carmen, Tulum, and lastly Bacalar. This will surely become the most popular route since it takes you along the coast and is a great way to relax and enjoy the Caribbean sun.
The Gulf route will travel from Cancun to Merida, including a visit to the ancient ruins of Chichen Itza before continuing south to Campeche. This route is an excellent choice for those who enjoy exploring the area’s history and want to discover the hidden ways of the Mayans.
The Jungle route is built to connect the southern part of Quintana Roo with Southern Campeche state, making a stop at the famous Calakmul Mayan ruins site. This route is more about adventure than sightseeing, as it will take you through some of the most remote and breathtakingly beautiful places on the peninsula.
Like anywhere, some stations are going to be more popular than others. Currently the most popular destinations are Cancun, Tulum, Merida, Chichen Itza, Palenque, and Chiapas.
Getting tickets is easy, breezy, and beautiful.
To purchase tickets for the train, you have two options. You can buy them at any train station along the route, or you can use their app and website.
Although the ticket prices have not been announced yet, they will vary depending on the type of passenger. Like many places abroad, the price differs between national tourists, international tourists, local passengers, and seniors, among others.
10-Day Itinerary for Yucatan by Maya Train
For a great introduction to the Yucatan, you can use this 10-day itinerary as your template. All key stops are reachable by Maya Train.
It’s easy to plan your own Mexican holiday independently without the need to buy an expensive organized trip with a tour agency. The Maya Train can take care of all your transportation, while specific day tours can be booked online to add some fun activities to your trip (we’ll be linking to several recommended ones here).
|Day 1||Isla Mujeres||Catamaran Cruise|
|Day 2||Tulum||Tulum Ruins tour|
|Day 3||Tulum||Tulum cenotes adventure|
|Day 4||Merida||Walking food tour|
|Day 5||Chichen Itza||Mayan Ruins tour in Chichen Itza|
|Day 6||Campeche||Edzna archaeological site tour|
|Day 7||Palenque||Boat trip|
|Day 8||Palenque||Palenque Ruins tour|
|Day 9||Chiapas||Sumidero Canyon tour|
|Day 10||Chiapas||Travel back home|
Day 1: Fly into Cancun and take the ferry to Isla Mujeres
Cancun has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in Mexico and Latin America. This also makes it the easiest entry point into the Yucatan with many international flights landing in Cancun.
Once you land I would head directly to Puerto Juarez where you can take the ferry across to Isla Mujeres. Cancun can be fun, but it’s extreme tourism at its best and Isla Mujeres will be a nice change of pace. You might want to experience this Catamaran Cruise from Cancun to Isla Mujeres.
Isla Mujeres is a small, lush island surrounded by beautiful beaches, vibrant coral reefs, and colorful marine life. Spend the day snorkeling off the coast and exploring what this beautiful paradise has to offer.
Day 2: Take the Maya Train to Tulum
Today you’ll be taking the Maya Train from the Cancun station down south to Tulum. Usually, this takes 2 1/2 hours by bus but with the high-speed train, you’ll be there a lot faster.
Make sure to take in the gorgeous Caribbean views along the way. Once you arrive, explore the Tulum Centro, rent a bike and ride around town, and make sure to visit the famous Tulum Ruins.
Day 3: Explore Tulum’s beach town and nearby cenotes
Tulum is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Spend your mornings relaxing on the shore with a cup of coffee. In the afternoons take a day trip to visit nearby cenotes, the crystal-clear swimming holes that are a must-visit in this area of Mexico.
Day 4: Travel to Merida
Now it’s time to take the Maya Train from Tulum back up north to Merida. Make sure to take in all of the sites and sounds along the way and get ready for some amazing experiences in Merida.
Merida is full of colonial architecture, museums, and outdoor markets. Spend the day exploring the city and eating some of the best food Mexico has to offer. Try the traditional Yucatan dish, cochinita pibil.
Day 5: Explore Chichen Itza
Today you’ll be taking the Maya Train to one of the most famous Mayan ruins in all of Mexico – Chichen Itza. This world wonder is a must-see when on the Yucatan Peninsula and this day will be yours to explore it.
Take your time walking around the grounds, soaking up all the history and wonder of what this civilization was able to create so many years ago. Don’t forget to visit El Castillo temple for one of the best views in the area. For the best experience, enjoy easy access to Chichen Itza.
Day 6: Travel to Campeche and visit Edzna
Take the Maya Train from Chichen Itza down south to Campeche, where you’ll find the archaeological site of Edzna. This site is much less visited than Chichen Itza and is a great opportunity to explore Mayan history without all of the crowds.
Day 7: Take a boat trip in Palenque
On day seven, you’ll be taking the Maya Train from Campeche all the way up north to Palenque.
Palenque is a small town with breathtaking views and some of the most impressive Mayan ruins in the region. Once you arrive, take a boat trip on the Usamacinta River to explore some of the ruins and explore the jungle.
Day 8: Explore Palenque and the nearby Waterfalls
Spend day eight exploring the ruins of Palenque. Make sure to take a walking tour with a guide to get more information about this fascinating civilization — having a guide bring the ruins to life really adds to the experience.
For something different, go on an excursion to visit the nearby waterfalls where you can swim in crystal-clear waters and explore the Mexican jungle.
Day 9: Travel to Chiapas and explore its colonial cities
On day nine, head to your last stop in Chiapas. You won’t be able to do this section by train, and the bus from Planque to San Cristóbal de las Casas takes about eight hours, but you may still find it worth adding this extension to your itinerary. Chiapas is one of the most beautiful states in Mexico with its lush green forests and heritage towns.
If you prefer not to add this segment because it’s further away, you can spend an extra day in Palenque instead.
Day 10: Say Goodbye
On day 10, it’s time to say goodbye to this beautiful place. Catch a flight out of Chiapas or, because of the ultra-fast Maya train, you can make it back in time to Cancun if needed.
Cancun, Tulum, and Chichen Itza are among the most renowned destinations worldwide due to their accessibility and established tourist infrastructure. But one of the best things about the Maya Train is being able to discover the hidden gems of Yucatan.
From the beauty of Holbox Island to the colorful colonial city of Merida, you’ll find so many wonderful places that are off the beaten path and worth exploring and the train will help you get there with ease and comfort.
Here are some of my favorite lesser-known destinations:
Bacalar is one of Mexico’s hidden gems and is worth the trip if you have the time. This beautiful lake town is home to some of the clearest water in all of Mexico with a rainbow of colors reflecting off its surface. It’s a great spot for kayaking, swimming, or just taking it all in.
Bacalar is located on the border between Quintana Roo and Yucatan and can be reached via the Maya Train.
This tiny town is a great place to experience the local culture. You’ll find traditional food, music, and art in Nuevo Xcan that can’t be found anywhere else.
It’s located off the beaten path but can be reached from Palenque by taking the Maya Train. It’s worth the journey to get here and explore this unique town.
Izamal is often called the yellow town or Pueblo de Amarillo. This beautiful town is filled with colorful buildings and cobblestone streets. It’s a great place to visit for its culture, history, food, and architecture.
Izamal is right next to Merida and can be reached by taking the Maya Train. A lot of people go here on day trips from Merida and elsewhere, but it’s a really nice town worth staying a night in as well if you have the time available.
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