Mexico City – Oaxaca – Cancun – Valladolid – Ek Balam ruins – Cenote Xcanche – Tizimin – Las Colorades – Rio Lagartos – Izamal – Cenote Sambula – Motul – Telchac Puerto – Progreso – Merida – Chichinitza & Cenote Xkeken and Cenote Samula – Valladolid – Playa del Carmen – Riviera Maya
February 13 – 25, 2020
I was meeting some friends for a roadtrip around the Yucatan but opted to the take long way there with a few days in Mexico City and Oaxaca. Check out my blog on stopovers to find out how to make the most of your trip with multiple stops here.
Mexico City (one night)
If arriving at rush hour, take the airport express bus instead of the metro. It is a few pesos more but you will get your own seat instead of being crammed on a hot subway. If you are arriving in an off peak time, an Uber will be a very affordable and comfortable alternative to shared transit options but beware of high prices during rush hour to compensate for time spent sitting in traffic.
I’m torn between recommending more than one night due to the amazing selection of places to eat and suggesting one day is enough due to the fact that it is just a huge, busy, city and most things can be seen in a day or two. I felt a night was enough but would have loved to have more time to experience more of the vegan food scene and nightlife.
Because I was staying in a very central area, I was able to explore much of the historic district and surrounding area on foot. Uber is cheap and widely available as an option for you if you do not want to log 40,000 Fitbit steps in one day as I did.
In addition to wandering around eating at the fantastic vegan restaurants and admiring the old buildings in the historic district, I did visit the chocolate museum. Not a must do in my books but if you have a half hour to an hour to kill, it is an interesting spot to learn a bit about the history of chocolate in Mexico. Otherwise, you may choose to spend your time and pesos on the incredible food and drink scene.
The transit in Mexico City does not run 24 hours and so I did take an Uber to the airport. It was cheap and efficient and highly recommend this as a means to get around Mexico City (70 pesos)
Oaxaca (2 nights)
Many people come to Oaxaca as a base to explore the region as the city itself does not have much to offer (outside of day of the dead and other celebrations)
I arrived super early in the morning and caught the standard collectivo from the airport to town for 90 pesos. It was one of those situations where I probably should have splurged on the private taxi as it was only 140 pesos and I would have saved the extra half hour circling town dropping everyone else off at 6 different spots before arriving at my hostel.
I stayed at a hostel with fantastic ratings in a central location and am still wondering how it got such high ratings. It was loud, crowded, and they thought 10 beds in one room with only one bathroom would be sufficient.
I had planned to head straight to the Hierve el Agua waterfall however my aging body had a different idea and needed a nap. I woke up by noon and spent the afternoon wandering around Oaxaca. If there is one thing I learned, there is always a party/celebration or parade happening. I was there on valentines day and so there were quite a few little parties set up in the squares as well as a parade. The city really comes alive in the evening and even the market is open quite late, as well as many, many, chocolate and mole shops.
The following day I went to Hierve el Agua.
To get to Hierve el Agua (the cheapest way, not the fastest way) follow the below directions. Total cost should be about 200 pesos including entry.
– walk to the McDonalds on Boulevard Jose Vasconcelos beside Estadio Eduardo Vasconcelos (the baseball stadium) – approx. 20 minutes from central Oaxaca.
– In front of Mcdonalds, just to the left, you will see a bus stop. There will be no sign or schedule, just a bus stop. Eventually a bus for Mitla will arrive.
– Give the driver your 20 pesos and let them know you are going to Mitla
– Approximately one hour later you will arrive in Mitla (hopefully the driver announces this or you have Google offline maps downloaded to follow along for the journey)
– Exactly where the bus drops you off in Mitla you will see some pick up trucks with Hierve el Agua signs on them. You will have to wait until the truck fills up with enough passengers. This was approximately 30 minutes for me. Once the truck is full, give the driver your 50 pesos and you will on your way for the bumpy, dusty, hour long ride to Hierve el Agua.
– You will need to pay an additional toll of 10 pesos and then entry of 25 pesos.
– Once you arrive in Hierve el Agua, you will see a little area with food and souvenir stands. Walk behind them and you will be treated to a beautiful hike in and around these “water”falls. I opted to hike quite far down, long past any of the tourist groups and the hike seemed to just keep going. Every time I turned a corner I told myself I would start to head back and saw another beautiful view so kept going. Give yourself plenty of time to enjoy this beautiful area.
– To get back to Oaxaca, reverse what you did to get to Hierve el Agua. Find a Camioneta (pick up truck) and wait for it to fill up, once you arrive in Mitla, wait for the bus at the bus stop in town and take the bus back to Oaxaca.
Except I didn’t do this.
I had booked myself to go to a Temazcal that afternoon at the Ceviarem Temazcal. Noticing it was just east of Oaxaca, I figured I could jump off the crowded bus at the highway turn off and catch another bus for the short ride up to the Temazcal. There was no signed bus stop but I asked someone in broken Spanish where I could find the bus and they pointed to a spot on the road. Sure enough, only a couple short minutes later a bus arrived. I paid my 8 pesos and rode the bus until… oh fuck, it turned off. I was close enough to the Temazcal that I walked the remainder of the way wondering how I end up alone on the side of a dusty Mexican highway. Long story short, I took a taxi back from the Temazcal (shared with 2 other Temazcal participants)
Ok now that you have those directions, lets talk about the Temazcal. I had read this was a top thing to do in Oaxaca but wasn’t entirely sure what I was signing up for.
– renting a car can be a challenge as many car rental companies will not accept your credit card insurance without a letter from your credit card company and will require you to pay their mandatory additional insurance. We rented a car with Mex Rent a Car who did not require this however I had emailed them in advance to confirm the rate we booked at ($115 US for one week inclusive of all taxes and fees) would be the actual rate we paid. Bring a letter from your credit card company just in case, but know that this additional insurance is not actually mandatory.
– scams. There are so many scams you will read about when planning your trip to Mexico. This is common when you’re a tourist in any country. Our friends family members were scammed at the airport when arriving by someone informing them their prepaid shuttle had cancelled and they would be required to pay the new shuttle directly and be reimbursed by their resort for the prepaid shuttle. Guess what? The resort did not reimburse them and their original shuttle hadn’t be cancelled but they only discovered this after taking and paying for the new shuttle.
– skip the overpriced roam like home plans and grab a sim card at the OXXO store or the Telcel store. I paid $179 pesos for 15 days of unlimited social media usage, unlimited calls to Canada/US/Mexico and 1.3 GB of data. I had read that Telcel has the best coverage so went with them but there are other options through AT&T and other companies.
– pay in pesos. It should seem obvious that you’ll get the best rate in pesos but you’d be surprised at the number of people bringing US dollars. US dollars are widely accepted in more touristy areas of Playa del Carmen but not at a great rate and not outside of tourist zones.