Spring break is almost upon us and there is no better way to escape the winter doldrums than by visiting Mexico to take a road trip through the Yucatan Peninsula. Offering one of the world’s best winter vacation options, the region is home to the top vacation destination of Cancun, as well as Playa del Carmen and Tulum in the Riviera Maya, as well as the colonial gems of Campeche and Merida.
The roads in this part of Mexico are safe and modern, the food is spectacular, the beach condos are luxurious yet affordable and the sights are unforgettable. Also, the longest stretch of driving on a spring break road trip through southeast Mexico is only five hours, if you make a loop from downtown Playa del Carmen on Mexico’s Caribbean coast to Campeche on the Gulf, according to travel writer Amir Bibawy of the Associated Press.
The roughly 1,000-mile journey will take you through several very different areas while visiting Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. In the state of Quintana Roo you’ll enjoy the best beaches in the world while exploring Tulum, along with the chic vibe of Fifth Avenue in downtown Playa del Carmen and the nonstop excitement of Cancun. In the state of Campeche, visitors will thrill to the inland colonial magic of Merida, as well as the colorful, laid-back atmosphere of the town of Campeche, which also dates back to colonial times and lies on the Gulf coast.
“With $250 round-trip flights from the U.S. and the Mexican peso worth half what it was five years ago against the dollar, there’s no better time to visit [Mexico],” wrote Bibawy.
Start the Road Trip in Downtown Playa del Carmen
If you fly into the Cancun International Airport for spring break this season, be sure to schedule some time for exploring downtown Playa del Carmen before you head out to visit other areas on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. The excitement of Fifth Avenue in Playa del Carmen is like no other place on earth and there are many good reasons this Caribbean jewel has been named one of the best places to retire abroad, as well as one of the world’s best tourist destinations. From world-class cuisine and shopping in chic boutiques, to the wide array of water sports and other activities on the beach, there is truly something for everyone in Playa del Carmen. But the fun doesn’t stop there.
“After a week of lazy beach days and ceviche feasts, the road beckoned,” Bibawy wrote
On to Campeche
From downtown Playa del Carmen, Bibawy headed straight to the capital city of the state of Campeche on Mexico’s Gulf coast. Here, there’s a small-town vibe and colorful streets, especially in the Old Town, which dates back to the mid-17th century. The town’s hexagonal wall still has seven intact bulwarks that are each unique in their design and historical significance.
“Right outside the Puerta del Mar bulwark is a long, beautiful seaside walkway where joggers, strollers and tourists congregate,” Bibawy observed.
Moving on from Campeche is the well-preserved Mayan site of Edzna, which can be traced back to at least the 7th century B.C. and still has perfectly manicured lawns between a number of impressive ancient structures. The most breathtaking is the 120-foot Edificio de los Cincos Pisos, or “building of five doors,” which is also home to countless iguanas.
Campeche is also an ideal starting point from which to explore two of this spring break road trip’s most jaw-dropping sites, including the biosphere reserve at Celestun and the ancient Mayan mecca of Uxmal, one of the top Mayan sites of Mexico’s Riviera Maya. At Celestun, visitors will thrill to see thousands of pink flamingos, while the sprawling complex of Uxmal is home to incredible structures with intriguing names like the Governor’s Palace, the Nuns’ Quadrangle and the amazing Pyramid of the Magician.
Next, Bibawy went to the inland colonial city of Merida, which is home to a vibrant artist and expat community, along with a variety of popular tourist sites. Be sure to check out the town’s cathedral, as well as the wide variety of other architecturally significant buildings in the town’s historic center.
“Caleche (horse drawn carriage) rides through the old town are an entertaining way to spend an hour,” Bibawy wrote. “Open bus tours visit Merida’s modern neighborhoods, which have some stunning mansions, especially along Paseo de Montejo.”
Back to Tulum
Finally, Bibawy made the four-hour drive back to the beachfront town of Tulum, which lies just south of Playa del Carmen on the Caribbean Sea and is widely recognized as having the best beaches in the world. Here, you will find a stunning ancient Mayan seaside pyramid, as well as a variety of unique boutique hotels, condos, villas and other prime real estate. Tulum has long been a favorite destination among bohemian travelers and backpackers, but in recent years it has become a favorite eco-chic destination of Hollywood stars and the world’s fashion industry elite. There’s simply no better way to wrap up one of the best winter vacations and most epic spring break road trips of a lifetime than taking it easy and soaking up the sun, sand and surf of the Mexican Caribbean Sea.