How to spend a month or so in Mexico – an itinerary for independent travel

I chose Mexico for my six week trip over summer because I wanted a country with variety: with beaches, rainforests, Mayan history, fantastic food and local culture … and I wasn’t disappointed.

I started my trip in Cancun and worked my way to Mexico City. Here is an adaptable itinerary for a great four-six weeks in Mexico…

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Starting point: Cancun

Destination 1: Isla Mujeres. (Duration: 4 nights)
Arrive in Cancun, and err well, leave via ferry as soon as possible to the beautiful and fun Isla Mujeres, a stunning island with one main hostel – Poc Na hostel which means all of the action happens in one place!

The beach nearby has stunning sunset views and fab bars! Plus the most beautiful turquoise waters!

It was one of my favourite backpacker locations! I had a great time here and recommend staying at least three nights.

My blog post: Fun and parties on Isla Mujeres 

Once you’ve had your fill of parties and beach life head back to Cancun where I recommend you either immediately leave, or stay a night to dive at the amazing Underwater sculpture museum

If you’re not on a tight budget and enjoy clubbing, you may also wish to check out one of the crazy clubs such as Coco Bongo.  As I was on a budget I wasn’t keen on splashing out 70 US dollars on a club and so I gave that a miss.

Destination 2: Valladolid.  (Duration: 2-3 nights.)

Next stop is the pretty town of Valladolid,  about a three hour bus ride from the main bus station in Cancun. Here stay at the fab Candelaria hostel which has friendly staff, activities and free bikes so that you can go and explore some of the amazing cenotes nearby.

From Valladolid you will want to get up early and either take the main bus or a collectivo to Chichen Itza as a day trip. See my blog post here: Is Chichen Itza worth visiting?


After spending a night or more at Valladolid, head down to Tulum.

Destination 3: Tulum. (Duration: 4-7 nights)

Tulum is a beach town famous for its hippie vibe. More recently this has translated as charging extortionate amounts for beach huts.

But there are plenty of hostels where you can get a cheaper room, however most are located in or near the town rather than by the beach. Luckily most have bikes to rent and you can spend a pleasant few days cycling around and exploring.

Tulums most famous attraction are its Mayan ruins by the sea.


Cenotes are another major attraction in and around Tulum. Such as Cenote Cristal If you’re a diver I highly recommend diving the cenote of dos ojos.


From Tulum I took a detour to Coba– ancient Mayan ruins in the jungle. One thing I liked about this site was that you could climb up some of the pyramids where you’re rewarded with incredible views.


This blog has some great tips of things to do and see in and around Tulum, and stunning photos!

Destination 4: Lake Bacalar. (2-3 nights).

After Tulum continue South near to the border of  Guatemala and visit beautiful Lake Bacalar 

Now is time to relax and recharge from the parties, the early morning and the late nights. Here you can wake up, paddle board on the stunning clear turquoise waters, read a book, eat some vegan food and recuperate!


Destination 5: Palenque. (Duration: 2-3 nights)

Once you have your energy back it’s time to head to Chetumal for your overnight bus to Palenque for some Indiana Jones action.

Stay in a jungle hut in El Panchan, and sleep to the background noises of monkeys howling!

The next day its time to wake up and explore the mystical ruins…


Destination 5: San Cristobal de las Casas. (Duration: 5 nights minimum).

Don your warm jumpers as you ascend upto over 2000m above sea level. You are now leaving the touristy places behind and entering real Mexico…

A quirky town with great bars, coffee shops and wine bars it is a must see and do destination. Many travellers get stuck here and never leave. It’s a fab place to do language courses if you fancy improving your Spanish…

Away from the town it is the surrounding Zapatista villages and stunning lush green surroundings are the real draw of this area.


Visit the church in San Juan Chamula

Enjoy the nightlife and coffee scene

Destination 6: Puerto Escondido. (Duration: 7 nights).

From here get the overnight bus up to the Pacific Coast at Puerto Escondido, a surfers paradise. Here is a great place to stay at least a week, surfing, relaxing, partying, releasing turtles and horse riding on the beach. I had a wonderful time here and met lots of friendly travellers. Its another fab place to stay for a while- learn to surf in the mornings, take Spanish classes in the afternoon and party at night!

From here you can call in at the hippie beach towns of Mazunte, Zipolite and Puerto Angel, before you continue to Oaxaca. 

Be warned the trip from Puerto Escondido is through extremely winding roads and many backpackers had stories of people vomiting en route!

Destination 7: Oaxaca. (Duration 4-5 nights).


Oaxaca is a city of culture famous for its food. Personally I think it’s less suited to backpackers and more so for those with who don’t mind indulging in nice restaurants.

Although I thought it was nice enough, it didn’t hold much appeal for me beyond a day or two. I was more interested in the surrounding attractions, one being the Petrified waterfall- the ‘Hierve el Agua’. Although I got a ride with three others from my hostel, This blog gives detail of how you can get there by collectivo.

Hierve el Agua is an amazing natural formation of a waterfall ‘frozen’ in time. It’s actually a rock with the appearance of a waterfall, due to deposition of calcium carbonate from the high mineral content in the fresh water springs.

And one of the guys brought his drone so we captured some cool shots of us standing on it!


See my blog post for more detail on what I did in around Oaxaca.

Hippie in heels blog gives detail of various tours from Oaxaca.

Destination 7: Mexico City (4 nights)


It’s time for the final stop on this itinerary- the fifth most populated city in the world- Mexico City!

I hate to say it…but I was slightly disappointed by this city I had such high expectations of.

I think partly the reason is because most of the attraction were museums or the famous Teotihuacan pyramids.

I’m not a fan of museums unless they’re really special. Although the Teotihuacan ruins did look amazing…I couldn’t face spending another day traipsing around ruins. I was ruined out!

From my time here I did pick up some tips:

My tips for travelling to Mexico City – how to get around, stay safe and things to see and eat!

And this is it for my four-six week itinerary in Mexico!

Enjoy your trip to Mexico, it is one of the most diverse, fantastic countries I’ve spent time in, and there was still so much I missed out on due to the sheer distances between places.

All of my travel was by bus which slowed me down. Travelling by car would be more convenient and I do recommend that particularly if you’re in a pair or group, however, travelling by bus was perfectly fine although I did hear horror stories of people getting bags stolen on buses- this is fairly common so do take care with your passport and cards- a money wallet is a good idea.

For more travel tips in Mexico read:

The best apps to download before you travel 

Buses and taxis in Mexico…

Essential items every girl needs to pack for travelling Mexico!

About The Author

Dubai Dreamer

Hi, I live and work in Dubai. I enjoy getting out and about and seeing what Dubai has to offer, travelling in my holidays and spare time – prepare for blog posts about this, and cooking vegetarian recipes. I am passionate about travel and animals.


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