Pueblos & Ponchos

Don a fedora and spend 15 nights investigating Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. This remarkable family holiday guides you through a land steeped in ancient traditions, where sherbet-hued colonial villas share the landscape with mystical Maya ruins. You will have the opportunity to swim in cenotes, see pink flamingos, experience a traditional Mexican hacienda and chill by the turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea.

Beginning in the UNESCO treasure of Campeche, journey along the western fringes of the peninsula to wildlife-rich Celestún, before heading to Mérida, the Yucatán’s impressive colonial capital with its legendary fiestas. Next, travel to the jungle shrouded ruins of Uxmal and Chichén Itzá before heading to the yoga retreats of Tulum and the unique wetlands of Sian Ka’an. End your adventure on the idyllic beaches of Mexico’s Caribbean coast. Grab a taco (or tequila) and listen to the whale sharks that honour these waters with their songs.

Family Adventure Holidays - Trip Duration

Family Adventure Holidays - Departure Dates
Mexico - Pueblos & Ponchos - Trip Map
Family Adventure Holidays - Minimum Age

Family Adventure Holidays - Activity Level

What's included

  • Flights: Scheduled flights from UK airports to Mérida (MID)
  • Transport: Car hire from airport pick-up to airport drop-off
  • Accommodation: 15 nights in characterful lodges, hotels & remote haciendas
  • Meals: All breakfasts
  • Trip Pack: Key family-friendly information about the country you are visiting with recommended activity links, places to eat, travel blogs and fun facts

Trip highlights

  • Marvel at the colonial elegance of Campeche and Meridá
  • Watch pink flamingos in the wild at Celestún
  • Explore the jungle-clad ruins of Uxmal and the mighty pyramid of Chichén Itzá
  • Spot spider monkeys at the Punta Laguna Nature Reserve
  • Dip your toes in the deep blue cenotes surrounding Tulum
  • Float on your back through the mangroves at the Sian Ka’an Biosphere
  • Relax by the turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea

Key facts

  • When can we go? All year round
  • What type of tour is it? Private self-drive tour
  • Who is it suitable for? For Mayan ruin enthusiasts, wildlife seekers, fiesta lovers, beach bums and cravers of Vitamin-D lovers.
  • What is the minimum age? We would recommend a minimum age of 6 years for this trip but this is just a guide - our itineraries can be adapted, no problem, for families with younger children.

Guide price

We publish ‘guideline prices’ for both the high and low season to give a reasonable estimate of what you might expect to pay per person based on a family of four (two adults, two children) - to get an accurate price based on your estimated departure date and party size please contact us directly

Guide Price: Jan to Dec - £2,135 pp

Adventure Holiday - Trip itinerary

DAY 1-2: Campeche - Taquerias & Tinsel

Beautiful Campeche is a perfectly preserved UNESCO world heritage fairyland with a tight enclave of restored pastel buildings and narrow cobblestone streets filled with independently-owned shops selling everything from tinsel to radios. Venture beyond the city walls and you will find a frenetic market, peaceful malecón and old fishing docks.

We would recommend checking out the excellent Museo de la Arquitectura Maya and Plaza de la Independencia before taking a sunset stroll or bike ride along the malecón lined with bright taquerias. By evening, young Campechanos head out salsa dancing with tourists encouraged to join in on Calle 59.

Campeche is the perfect base for day trips to the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve and Zona Arquelogica Edzna. The vast, untrammelled Calakmul Biosphere Reserve is surrounded by Mayan ruins and rainforest plus wildlife such as jaguars, pumas, monkeys.

Fun Facts: Campeche was a favourite target for European pirates, who repeatedly ransacked the city.

Optional Activities: Museo de la Arquitectura Maya, Calakmul Biosphere Reserve, Zona Arquelogica Edzna

DAY 3-4: Celestún – Flamingos & Pelicans

Celestún is a sleepy sun-scorched fishing village that is a veritable paradise for ornithologists. The town sits next to the Celestún Biosphere Reserve, a wildlife sanctuary abundant in waterfowl, with spindly-legged flamingos the star attraction. We would recommend joining a boat cruise to explore the reserve which is also home to crocodiles and iguanas. There is also the option to kayak through the tangle of mangroves. Afterwards, laid-back beach shacks serve up freshly caught seafood making it a great place to chill and relax.

A few kilometres southeast of town, the abandoned Hacienda Real de Salinas once produced dyewood and salt. The hacienda makes a good bicycle excursion from town (you'll find bike rentals on the town square).

In the afternoon of Day 4, make the 1½ hour journey to Mérida which will be your base for the next three nights.

Fun Facts: The word ‘flamingo’ comes from the Latin and Spanish for ‘fire’ referring of course to their bright pink feathers.

Optional Activities: oat cruise, kayaking, bicycle rental

DAY 5-6: Mérida – Hammocks & Fiestas

The colonial city of Mérida is an off-the-radar town that seems to have walked right out of a Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel – think sherbet-hued colonial villas, vintage cars, hole-in-the-wall eateries, vendors selling everything from high-octane coffee to tacos and men wearing wide-brimmed straw hats.

During your time in Mérida, we would recommend joining the free walking tour, exploring the impressive Gran Museo del Mundo Maya, participating in a cookery class, visiting the nearby cenotes such as San Antonio Mulix or strolling around Lucas de Galvez market. If you ever lusted after a hammock, then this is the town to get one. We would also recommend visiting Hacienda Sotuta de Peon, which offers a true glimpse into a traditional Henequen Hacienda.

In the evenings, free concerts, cultural performances and other events jam the calendar. The pace picks up on weekends, when the entire city, it seems, comes out to play. On Fridays, experience Pok Ta Pok, an ancient sport kept alive on Calle 60 in front of the Cathedral. Saturday is Noche Mexicana where you can grab a marquesita and a taco and enjoy the atmosphere.

Fun Facts: From the late 1800s to the 1920s, Merida was the richest city in the world as it was the leading producer of henequen, a plant used to make ropes.

Optional Activities: Gran Museo del Mundo Maya, cookery lesson, Hacienda Sotuta de Peon

DAY 7: Uxmal – Pyramids & Steam Baths

From Mérida, it is a 40-minute drive to Uxmal, another UNESCO World Heritage site brimming with mystic ambience and far fewer crowds than its famous neighbour, Chichén Itzá. Along the way, we would recommend stopping for a dip at the crystal-clear waters of the Kankirixche cenote. Uxmal (pronounced oosh-mahl), is considered to be one of the most complex and impressive Maya sites. It dates to the late classic era (500-800AD) and features the majestic Pyramid of the Magician, the Pigeon House and the vast Governor's Palace encrusted with stonework pieced together like a jigsaw puzzle.

In the evening, we would suggest kicking back at Uxmal’s planetarium. The short performance includes an informative overview of Mayan tradition and legends along with a stunning visual display.

You will stay overnight at a traditional hacienda close to the ruins where you have the option to experience a Temazcal Maya, a pre-Hispanic steam bath representing restoration, purification and cleansing.

Fun Facts: As the story goes, the Pyramid of the Magician, was constructed overnight by one of the city’s dwarfs, thrusting him into royalty.

Optional Activities: Planetarium, steam bath

DAY 8: Izamal – Museums & Monasteries

After breakfast, we would recommend visiting the Choco Museum located within the grounds of the hacienda. Alternatively, embark on a relaxing bike ride through the citrus plantation taking in the sights and smells of the all-organic sour oranges, grapefruits, coconuts and hibiscus.

Afterwards travel to Izamal, named as one of Mexico’s “Pueblos Magicos” in 2002 where each building is painted mustard yellow. It is well-known for its 16th Century Franciscan monastery that was built upon the base of a Mayan pyramid and has two beautiful tree-filled parks adjacent to each other in the centre of town. Add these to the horse-drawn carriages and quaint alleyways and you have one of the most photogenic towns in the Yucatán Peninsula.

After visiting Izamal, travel on to Chichén Itzá which will be your base for the next two nights.

Fun Facts: Pueblos Magicos are towns recognized by the Mexican government for their “magical” qualities, whether that be their astonishing beauty, rich history, or extraordinary legends.

Optional Activities: Choco museum, cycling

DAY 9: Chichén Itzá – Temples & Cenotes

Today is a free day to explore the awe-inspiring, Chichén Itzá. We would recommend an early start to avoid the maddening crowds and would suggest exploring the pyramid of Kukulkan, the Temple of Chac Mool, the Hall of the Thousand Pillars and the Playing Field of the Prisoners. If you would like to explore the site using a guide, this can be arranged at the entrance.

Viewed as a whole, the incredible complex reveals much about the Maya and Toltec vision of the universe which was intimately tied to what was visible in the dark night skies of the Yucatán Peninsula. The Maya’s astronomical skills were so advanced they could even predict solar eclipses. The temple has 365 steps, one for each day of the year.

After visiting Chichén Itzá, we would suggest heading to Cenote Ik-kil, one of Yucatan's most enchanting underground pools. Later in the evening, we would recommend the Chichén Itzá “light & sound show” that starts at 8pm in the summer and is projected onto the pyramids.

Fun Facts: Twice a year on the spring and autumn equinoxes, a shadow falls on the pyramid at Chichén Itzá in the shape of a serpent. As the sun sets, this shadowy snake descends the steps to join a stone serpent head at the base of the great staircase.

Optional Activities: Chichén Itzá tour, light & sound show

DAY 10: Valladolid & Punta Laguna – Haciendas & Lagoons

This morning visit Valladolid, a bohemian town with stunning colonial architecture. We would recommend renting bikes and heading down Calzada de los Frailes which acts as a time capsule to the city’s colonial past. After you’ve refuelled with caffeine, make your way (20-25 minutes via bike) to Hacienda San Lorenzo, a gorgeous 18th century estate with towering pink archways, pool and on-site cenote. Alternatively, Cenote Zací is a short walk from the centre of town where for an added bonus, fish nibble at your feet for a mini pedicure.

In the afternoon, travel to the protected nature reserve of Punta Laguna, home to around 500 spider monkeys. Covered in lush vegetation, this ancient jungle is inhabited by a sacred 700-year-old Pitch tree where traditional Mayan blessings are conducted. The small Mayan community organise activities such as hiking, bird watching, monkey watching, zip-lining and rappelling.

In the evening head to the laid-back, coastal town of Tulum, which will be your base for the next three nights.

Fun Facts: Estimations indicate there are over 6000 cenotes in Yucatán alone.

Optional Activities: Cycle hire, Punta Laguna wildlife tour, zip-lining, rappelling

DAY 11: Tulum – Yoga & Smoothies

Tulum’s spectacular coastline with its sugar sands, azure waters and balmy breezes makes it one of the top beaches in Mexico. Expect to see brightly painted posadas, thatched palapa-style beach bars and fishermen wading into the water with spears to catch the elegant-looking boquinete.

Tulum is also considered one of the most beautiful Mayan sites due to its location, set on 15-metre-high cliffs above the sea. Also known as Zama, or city of dawn, Tulum was the only Mayan archaeological site to be in use at the time of the Spanish conquest. We would suggest taking the morning to explore the site.

In the afternoon, there are lots of activities to keep your family busy. You might like to visit Laguna Kaan Luum, a sinkhole in the jungle where you can scuba dive or spend time on the beach enjoying stand up paddle boarding, snorkelling, kayaking or catamaran sailing.

Fun Facts: Tulum was a school of astronomy attended by Aztec nobles and Zapotecs.

Optional Activities: Stand up paddle boarding, snorkelling, kayaking, sailing

DAY 12: Sian Kaán Biosphere Reserve – Big Cats & Wetlands

Today we would recommend driving south to the Sian Kaán biosphere reserve. Meaning 'origin of the sky' in Mayan, this reserve spans over 500,000 hectares comprising tropical forests, palm savannah, crystal clear lagoons, sandy beaches and one of the most pristine wetlands in the country. From big cat predators such as the jaguar or puma to hundreds of different species of birds, you’ll be in awe of this paradise of flora and fauna. We would suggest the short hike through the jungle to the Muyil Maya temple, before a guided boat tour or snorkelling trip.

Alternatively, indulge the children with a full day at the Xel-Ha Waterpark, an enormous outdoor tropical paradise complete with lazy river, over-water zip-lines, rope courses and water slides.

Fun Facts: In the language of the Mayan people, Sian Ka’an means the “origin of the sky”.

Optional Activities: Sian Kaán boat tour, Xel-Ha Waterpark

DAY 13-15: Caribbean Coast - Isla Mujeres, Cozumel or Holbox

Your last few days are free to relax and enjoy the coastal lifestyle. Depending on your preference we would suggest staying on Cozumel, Holbox or Isla Mujeres. Cozumel offers beautiful coral reefs, home to loggerhead turtles, eagle rays and barracuda which can be explored with local dive operators or on the Atlantis Submarine. There are also Mayan ruins, ATV tours, water sports, chocolate farm tours and clifftop restaurants.

Bohemian, carefree Isla Holbox (hol-bosh) boasts sandy streets, sun-drunk dogs and golf buggy traffic jams. Lying within the Yum Balam reserve, it’s home to more than 150 bird species, including ibis and flamingos. In summer, whale sharks pop by to say hello. Its also a great place to rent bikes, kayak through the mangroves and witness the bioluminescence phenomenon. Isla Mujeres is busier than Holbox but a world away from Cancun. Spend time on Playa Norte, go scuba diving, join a yoga class, take a day trip to Isla Contoy or visit the turtle farm to see hatchlings released into the sea.

Fun Facts: Translated from Spanish, Isla Mujeres means the “Island of Women”, named after the Mayan Goddess Ixchel, the Goddess of fertility and happiness.

Optional Activities: Scuba diving, Atlantis Submarine, ATV tour, chocolate farm tour, swimming with whale sharks, kayaking, turtle farm

Day 16: The Journey Home

Transfer to Cancun airport for your return flight home to the UK.

Wandering Tribe has travelled to all of the destinations that we feature and we like nothing better than talking about them. If you would like further information about these tours or a tailor-made quote then please contact us on 07392 742333. Alternatively you can fill in the contact form and we will endeavour to get back to you as soon as possible.