Calakmul Maya Ruins - Maya train sights

Maya Train Route: 80+ Sights to Plan Your Itinerary

On the brink of transforming the Yucatán Peninsula’s tourism landscape, Mexico’s Maya Train project is gearing up to offer a journey into the heart of Mayan civilization, its colorful colonial cities, and the unique natural beauty of the region. Traversing Cari bbean, Jungle, and Gulf of Mexico routes, the train will open up a new era of travel in the region.  Discover more than 80 Maya Train sights and start planning your journey!

Scheduled to open on December 1, 2023, the Maya Train – or Tren Maya in Spanish – is an ambitious undertaking.  This 930-mile (1,500-kilometer) high-speed railway will seamlessly weave together history, culture, and ecotourism, making it an irresistible draw for globetrotters and culture enthusiasts alike. 

I’ve assembled this list as a guide to the top 80+ sights dotting the extensive Maya Train route. From the awe-inspiring Mexico ruins of Chichén Itzá and Palenque to the beaches of Cancún and the markets of Mérida, I’m digging deep into each station’s allure and its irresistible nearby sights. Beyond the familiar tourist sites, I’ve also included lesser-known gems that offer authentic local experiences and rich cultural immersion.

Whether you’re a seasoned adventurer or a curious traveler, I hope to provide you with an indispensable companion for this upcoming journey. Join me as we navigate through each section of the Maya Train route, delving into its history, must-visit attractions, and the extraordinary experiences it promises to bring.

Maya Train Map Routes Sights Cities
Maya Train Map: Route and Major Cities (Alamy)

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Cenote Casa Tortuga near Tulum
Cenote Casa Tortuga will be close to the Tulum and Akumal train stops.

Concerns About the Project

Of course, the impact of the Maya Train extends far beyond tourism. Since the project was announced in 2018, construction has been met with deep concern over negative impacts.  Environmental and indigenous rights activists objected to plans for construction through the jungle.  

Objections have persisted regarding impacts on indigenous communities, archaeological sites, and natural ecosystems and landscapes. Thousands of hidden archaeological sites were even discovered during construction.

As the project is well underway now with no signs of stopping, I can only hope that the finished product finds a balance of promoting tourism while minimizing negative impacts on the region’s ecological and cultural integrity.   

Routes, Cities, and Sights Accessible Via the Maya Train

As the rails progress, so does the anticipation for this journey that promises unparalleled access to both popular Mexico destinations and lesser-touristed sights.

The Maya Train is set to journey through the heart of the Yucatan Peninsula. The train’s routes will cover approximately 1500 kilometers, with 17 stops.  It promises access to both popular destinations and lesser-known gems that were only accessible previously by bus or car.

There are 3 routes planned: the Caribbean, Gulf, and Jungle Routes.

Yaxchilan ruins
Yaxchilan ruins, accessible via the Jungle Route of the Maya Train

Caribbean, Gulf, and Jungle Routes

The Caribbean route will connect the northern and southern ends of Quintana Roo, starting in Cancun with stops in Puerto Morelos, Akumal, Playa Del Carmen, Tulum, and Bacalar. 

The Gulf route will connect Cancun to the colonial city of Merida, with stops in Chichen Itza, Izamal, and Valladolid before continuing on to Campeche.

The Jungle route will connect the southern Quintana Roo to southern Campeche state, making accessible some of the less-touristed Mayan ruins like Palenque and Calakmul.  This is the part of the project I am personally most excited about!

Maya Train Route Map: Stations + Sightseeing Stops

To see more details on the route, stations, and stops, check out this map, which is broken into all the subsections of these routes.  The stops are indicated by letters, while stations have a train icon.

Detailed Maya Train Trip Itinerary Planner by Section

Start planning your Mexico travel now with an overview of the top sights in each section of the Maya Train Route.  Whether you’re a beach-lover, culture vulture, foodie, or history buff, you’ll surely find enough ideas to fill an itinerary (or ten!).

Note that not all cities and sights are located directly on the train route. A car, bus, taxi or tour might be needed to reach the destination from the train station or stop. But all will be much easier to reach with a significant portion of the journey via train instead of bus or car.

Section 1: Palenque – Escárcega 

Palenque Maya ruins - Maya Train sights
Palenque Maya Ruins, located at the start of the Tren Maya route in Chiapas state

This section covers a distance of approximately 142 miles (228 kilometers) through the dense tropical forests of Chiapas and Tabasco toward Campeche. The terrain here is rugged, with a rich biodiversity, bodies of water, and pristine wilderness.

Key sights include the impressive Palenque archaeological site set amidst lush greenery, as well as the towns of Tenosique and Candelaria, which provide a snapshot into the local culture and history. This part of the route promises an immersion into nature’s abundance and a glimpse of Mexico’s ancient past.

  • Stations: Palenque, Chiapas; Boca del Cerro, Tabasco; El Triunfo, Tabasco; Escárcega, Campeche 
  • Additional Stops: Tenosique, Tabasco; Candelaria, Tabasco 
  • Closest Airports: VSA Villahermosa Capitan Carlos Perez Airport (64 mi from Palenque); TGZ Tuxtla Gutiérrez Ángel Albino Corzo Airport (95 mi from Palenque)

Top Sights to Visit on Section 1: Palenque – Escárcega 

Palenque Maya Ruins - Chiapas Mexico
Palenque Maya Ruins, Chiapas

Palenque, Chiapas Station Sights for your Itinerary

Palenque Ruins

One of Mexico’s most famous archaeological sites, the Palenque Ruins, is enveloped by lush jungle and filled with ancient pyramids, temples, and palaces. The elegance and craftsmanship of the structures testify to the sophistication of the Maya civilization. One standout feature is the Temple of Inscriptions, which houses the crypt of a Maya ruler, Pakal the Great. A visit here offers a deep dive into Maya history and architecture.

Palenque National Park

The Palenque National Park, in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas, is home to one of the most famous Maya archaeological sites. Surrounded by dense jungle, the ancient city of Palenque offers a stunning contrast of carved stone structures against a backdrop of vibrant green foliage. Here, you can explore the impressive Temple of the Inscriptions, the ancient palace, and the tomb of the Maya ruler Pakal. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is not only a historical landmark but also a biodiversity hotspot, home to a myriad of local fauna and flora.

Misol-Ha Waterfall

An impressive 35-meter tall waterfall, Misol-Ha is a natural beauty that provides a refreshing contrast to the ruins. Its single, powerful cascade drops into a beautiful, serene pool below, making it a perfect swimming spot. The path behind the waterfall leading to a small cave is an added adventure, and its appearance in the movie “Predator” is a fun trivia point for film buffs.

Agua Azul waterfall Chiapas
Agua Azul Waterfalls, Chiapas

Agua Azul Waterfalls

Named for their vibrant blue waters, the Agua Azul Waterfalls consist of a series of cascades flowing through the lush jungle. Visitors can swim in the clear, natural pools, enjoy a picnic by the water, or explore the local stalls selling artisan crafts and food. The vivid color of the water, enhanced by the high mineral content, makes for great photography.

Yaxchilan Ruins

Accessible via a boat ride on the Usumacinta River, the Yaxchilan Ruins are an adventure to reach and a treasure to explore. This ancient city is famed for its intricate and well-preserved stelae and lintels with hieroglyphic inscriptions. The site’s seclusion adds to its charm, offering a quieter, more intimate experience with Maya history. Like Bonampak, it’s possible to book day trip tours to visit these remote ruins from Palenque.

Bonampak Ruins
Frescoes at Bonampak Ruins

Bonampak Ruins

The Bonampak Ruins, located within the Lacandon Rainforest, are renowned for their preserved ancient Maya murals, which provide invaluable insights into the civilization’s social and political life. The vibrant colors of the murals, representing various aspects of Maya culture like ceremonies, battles, and rituals, are a compelling reason to visit. These ruins are still rather remote, and are technically closer to the Boca del Cerro; but it’s possible to book day trips from Palenque to visit here.

Boca del Cerro Station + Tenosique, Tabasco Stop Sights for your Itinerary

Usumancinta Canyon
Usumancinta Canyon

Usumacinta Canyon

The Usumacinta Canyon, straddling the states of Chiapas and Tabasco, is a geographical wonder carved by the mighty Usumacinta River. Forming the border with Guatemala, the river boasts an immense biodiversity and offers adventurous boat rides and rafting trips where visitors can see crocodiles, monkeys, and various bird species.

Archaeological Zone of Pomona

The Pomoná Archaeological Zone, tucked in the Tabasco jungle, was an influential city in the Maya world due to its strategic location along the Usumacinta River. Visitors can explore the Plaza Principal, Temple of the Captives, and numerous stele and altars, many of which display intricate carvings detailing the city’s history and the exploits of its rulers. It’s an off-the-beaten-track site offering a serene, crowd-free exploration of Maya culture.

Candelaria, Campeche Stop Sights for your Itinerary

Candelaria River

The Candelaria River in Campeche is known for its stunning riverine landscapes and cultural significance. The river runs through the biosphere reserve of the same name, home to a variety of wildlife and lush tropical vegetation. It is also known for the network of caves and grottos along its course that have revealed traces of ancient Maya occupation. A river tour here provides an opportunity to appreciate the natural beauty and the archaeological heritage of the region.

Zona Arqueológica El Tigre

Zona Arqueológica El Tigre in Campeche is an intriguing archaeological site of the Maya civilization, hidden in the depths of the jungle. It is named after the hill (“El Tigre”) on which it sits, and it features several monumental structures, including pyramids and palaces adorned with elaborate stucco work. Despite being less frequented by tourists, it offers an immersive journey into the ancient Maya world, away from the crowds.

Zona Arqueológica de Cerro de los Muertos

Zona Arqueológica de Cerro de los Muertos, or “Hill of the Dead,” is an archaeological site in Campeche featuring several ancient Maya structures. It is best known for its central pyramid, offering panoramic views of the surrounding landscape from its peak. Though smaller and less developed than some other sites, its serene ambiance and the sense of mystery it evokes make it a rewarding visit for history enthusiasts.

Maya Ruins at Sayil
Maya Ruins at Sayil. The Calkini Station is the closest stop to the ruins group of Uxmal, Kabah, Labná and Sayil.

Maya Train Section 2: Escárcega – Calkiní 

This section covers a distance of approximately 146 miles (235 kilometers) through the heartland of Campeche, marked by low-lying jungles and savannahs. It has a rich cultural heritage with colonial towns and archaeological sites dotting the landscape.

The most notable sight on this route is the ancient city of Edzná with its unique architectural style. The charming towns of Tenabo and Hecelchakán also offer a delightful exploration of local life. The Calkini Station is the closest stop to the ruins group of Uxmal, Kabah, Labná and Sayil.

  • Stations: Escárcega, Campeche; Edzná, Campeche; San Francisco de Campeche, Campeche 
  • Additional Stops: Carrillo Puerto, Campeche; Tenabo, Campeche; Hecelchakán, Campeche; Calkiní, Campeche 
  • Nearest Airport: CPE Campeche International Airport

Top Cities and Sightseeing on Section 2: Escárcega – Calkiní 

Escárcega Station Sights for your Itinerary

The Escárcega Station will be the closest point to the Laguna de Terminos, a coastal lagoon, and coastal barrier islands like Sabancuy, Isla del Carmen and Isla Aguada. They are known for quaint villages and beautiful, less-touristed beaches.

Laguna de Terminos

Laguna de Terminos, located in Campeche, is Mexico’s largest coastal lagoon. This expansive, tranquil body of water teems with diverse species of marine life, including dolphins, manatees, and multiple varieties of fish, and is surrounded by mangroves that are home to various bird species. The lagoon is also notable for its picturesque scenery, particularly at sunset, making it a wonderful place for nature lovers, birdwatchers, and photographers.


Sabancuy, often referred to as the “Pearl of the Gulf,” is a small fishing village known for its pristine beaches, crystal-clear waters, and vast mangroves. It is home to a variety of bird species, making it a fantastic location for birdwatching. Additionally, Sabancuy offers an authentic taste of rural Mexican life, away from the commercialized tourist areas, making it a peaceful retreat for visitors.

Ciudad del Carmen

Escárcega is the closest station to Ciudad del Carmen, a quaint colonial town known for its churches, picturesque lagoon and impressive bridge. The city boasts beautiful beaches including Playa Caracol, a lively dining scene, and the stunning Laguna de Términos, a must-visit for nature lovers.

Isla Aguada

Isla Aguada is a tranquil fishing village in Campeche, offering beautiful beaches and rich aquatic biodiversity. Known for its picturesque lighthouse and the Laguna de Términos, it’s an ideal location for tourists seeking a quiet escape. The area is also a prime spot for birdwatching and is famous for the ‘Dolphin Route’, where visitors can enjoy boat tours to see the friendly marine mammals in their natural habitat.

Edzna Maya Ruins
Edzna Maya Ruins near Campeche


Located near the city of Campeche, Edzná is an impressive Mayan archaeological site, famous for its well-preserved buildings and advanced hydraulic system. Its main attraction, the five-story Building of the Five Floors, showcases the sophistication of ancient Mayan architecture and urban planning. Visitors can learn about the area’s ancient history, enjoy panoramic views, and witness the remarkable echo phenomenon at the main plaza.

Hacienda Uayamon

Hacienda Uayamon, located near Campeche City, is a beautifully restored 18th-century hacienda that offers a glimpse into Mexico’s colonial past. Today, it operates as a luxury hotel with its original structure largely preserved, allowing visitors to experience the grandeur of historical Mexican architecture. Set amid lush tropical gardens, it is an oasis of tranquility that also provides close proximity to the Maya archaeological site of Edzná.

San Francisco de Campeche Station Sights for your Itinerary

San Francisco de Campeche

This charming city is known for its well-preserved colonial architecture and fortified walls, built to protect against pirate attacks. The city’s historic center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, features pastel-colored houses, baroque-style churches, and narrow cobblestone streets. Other attractions include the Campeche Archaeological Museum, the Sea Gate, and the San Miguel Fort.

Campeche Mexico
San Francisco de Campeche

Fort San Miguel

Fort San Miguel, located in Campeche city, is an 18th-century fortress-turned-museum that offers panoramic views of the city and the Gulf of Mexico. The fort, once a pivotal defense structure against pirate attacks, now houses the Campeche Archaeological Museum, which showcases a collection of Maya artifacts. Visitors can explore the old bastions, climb the walls, and appreciate the colonial architecture, making it an essential stop for history enthusiasts.

Fort San Miguel Campeche - Maya Train Route
Fort San Miguel in Campeche


Tenabo is also home to a small but notable archaeological site named Kanki. The ruins include a pyramid and other structures, offering visitors a glimpse of the Mayan civilization.


This town is known its colonial architecture, tranquil atmosphere, and traditional gastronomy. Hecelchakán is also a gateway to the nearby Pomuch Cenote and several archaeological sites, making it an excellent place for tourists interested in history, culture, and natural beauty.

Calkiní Station Sights

A charming colonial town, Calkiní boasts beautiful churches, quiet streets, and traditional Mayan culture. It’s home to the Church of San Luis Obispo, one of the oldest in the Yucatán. The Calkini Station is the closest stop to the ruins group of Uxmal, Kabah, Labná and Sayil.

Uxmal ruins
Uxmal ruins, a UNESCO Heritage Site


Uxmal, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is one of the most well-preserved Mayan sites in Mexico and an architectural marvel. Located in the Puuc region, Uxmal is renowned for its Puuc style architecture, characterized by detailed facades and intricate stone mosaics. The most significant structures include the Pyramid of the Magician, with its unusual oval shape, and the Governor’s Palace, praised for its detailed façade. The site’s impressive architecture, combined with fewer crowds than other Mayan sites like Chichen Itza, make Uxmal a must-visit for history and archaeology enthusiasts.


Situated along the Puuc Route in Yucatán, Sayil is a captivating archaeological site that offers a glimpse into the ancient Maya civilization. Notably less crowded than other sites, Sayil is known for its iconic Grand Palace, a three-level structure that once contained around 90 bedrooms and several chultunes (Maya water cisterns). With its lush surroundings and detailed stone carvings of the Maya “diving god,” visiting Sayil provides an opportunity to appreciate the intricate artistry and sophisticated urban planning of the ancient Maya.


Kabah, the second largest ruin site in the Puuc region after Uxmal, is most famous for its “Palace of the Masks,” also known as Codz Poop. This building is adorned with hundreds of stone masks of the rain god, Chaac, making it a remarkable sight. Other notable structures include the Palace and the Arch of Kabah, which was once part of a sacbé (ancient Maya road) linking Kabah to Uxmal. The sheer volume of preserved sculptures and the connection to Uxmal make Kabah an intriguing site for those seeking to explore the richness of Maya civilization.

Labna Ruins
Labna Ruins


Labna, another significant archaeological site in the Puuc region, is smaller than its neighbors but offers its unique charm. It is renowned for its beautiful Gateway Arch, which served both a decorative and functional purpose, acting as a division between public and private spaces. The site also includes the El Palacio (The Palace), a large complex of several connected buildings, and El Mirador, a pyramid-like structure. Labna’s well-preserved ruins and detailed carvings provide a fascinating insight into ancient Maya life, making it worth the visit for those exploring the Puuc Route.

Maya Train Section 3: Calkiní – Izamal 

This stretch of the Maya Train route covers a distance of approximately 107 miles (172 kilometers). It winds through the Yucatán’s low-lying, semi-arid terrain dotted with cenotes and Maya ruins.

Major sights include the colonial city of Mérida, with its rich blend of Maya and Spanish influences, and Izamal, known as the “Yellow City,” and home to the famous Convent of San Antonio de Padua. The town of Tixkokob, famous for its hammock-making, adds a unique cultural touch to this route.

  • Stations: Merida Airport, Yucatán; Teya, Yucatán; Izamal, Yucatán 
  • Additional Stops: Maxcanú, Yucatán; Tixkokob, Yucatán 
  • Nearest Airport: MID Merida International Airport.

Top Cities and Sights to Visit on Section 3: Calkiní – Izamal 

Merida Airport

While not a tourist attraction in itself, Mérida’s airport is a convenient gateway to the Yucatán. From here, it’s a short journey to the city’s historic center, with its colonial architecture, lively markets, and rich cultural offerings, including music, dance, and culinary experiences.

Merida Yucatan Mexico
Merida, capital of the state of Yucatan


Merida, the capital of Yucatan, is a vibrant city that blends rich Mayan history with colonial heritage. Known as “The White City” due to the common color of its buildings, Merida was built atop the ancient Mayan city of T’ho and features several significant architectural sites, such as the Merida Cathedral and Paseo de Montejo. Renowned for its lively music scene, delicious Yucatecan cuisine, and its close proximity to world-class archaeological sites like Uxmal and Chichen Itza, Merida is a cultural gem and an excellent base for exploring the Yucatan Peninsula.

Celestun Biosphere Reserve
Flamingos in Celestun Biosphere Reserve

Celestun Biosphere Reserve

Celestun Biosphere Reserve, located on the Yucatán’s western coast, is a haven for wildlife and a paradise for birdwatchers. Its most famous inhabitants are the thousands of flamingos that paint the landscape pink. This reserve also boasts diverse ecosystems, including mangrove forests, freshwater springs, and sand dunes. Boat tours offer the opportunity to observe the wildlife up close and to enjoy the striking natural beauty of the reserve.


Teya is a small town renowned for its haciendas, large estates dating back to the colonial era that were once the center of economic life in the region. Hacienda Teya is the highlight, operating today as a restaurant and event venue, and offering visitors a glimpse into the opulent past of the Yucatán.

Izamal Yucatan - The Yellow City
Izamal, Yucatan – The Yellow City


Known as the “Yellow City” due to the color of its buildings, Izamal is a small city with a rich history. It’s a Pueblo Mágico, known for the Convent of Saint Anthony of Padua, where one of the largest atriums in the world can be found. Izamal also has several Mayan structures right in town, including the Kinich Kak Moo pyramid.


This small town offers a glimpse into the rural life of Yucatán. Its main attraction is the former hacienda-turned-luxury hotel, Hacienda Santa Rosa. The surrounding area also has several cenotes and small archaeological sites worth visiting.


Known as the “Land of Hammocks,” Tixkokob is a small town that still practices the ancestral tradition of hammock weaving. Visitors can watch artisans at work, shop for handmade hammocks, and enjoy the relaxed pace of local life.

Section 4: Izamal – Cancún 

This section covers a distance of approximately 160 miles (257 kilometers). It showcases the diversity of Yucatán and Quintana Roo’s landscapes, transitioning from scrub jungle to coastal views.

Highlights include the mystical ruins of Chichén Itzá, the colonial town of Valladolid, and the vibrant, modern city of Cancún. This section of the train journey offers a thrilling blend of history, culture, and natural beauty.

  • Stations: Chichén Itzá, Yucatán; Valladolid, Yucatán; Nuevo Xcán, Quintana Roo 
  • Additional Stops: Xibalbá, Yucatán; Leona Vicario, Yucatán
  • Nearest Airport: CUN Cancún International Airport

Top Maya Train Sights to Visit Along Section 4: Izamal – Cancún 

Chichen Itza
The famous Chichen Itza Maya ruins

Chichén Itzá

As one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World, Chichén Itzá is a must-visit for tourists in the Yucatán. This ancient city is a testament to the mathematical and astronomical prowess of the Mayans, with structures like the Kukulkan Pyramid showcasing fascinating phenomena during the equinoxes. Don’t miss the Great Ball Court, the Temple of the Warriors, and the observatory known as El Caracol.

Iglesia de San Servacio - Valladolid Cathedral
Iglesia de San Servacio, the cathedral in Valladolid


Valladolid is a colonial city known for its well-preserved colonial architecture and colorful streets. Visit the Cathedral of San Servasio, explore the historic Cenote Zaci in the city center, or stop by the Casa de los Venados for an impressive collection of Mexican folk art.

Coba Archaeological Site

Nestled in the jungles of Quintana Roo, the Coba Archaeological Site is home to one of the largest networks of stone causeways of the ancient Maya world. The site is dotted with several lagoons and features monumental architecture, including Nohoch Mul, the tallest pyramid in the Yucatán Peninsula. Visitors can hike or bike through the trails, climb the pyramid for spectacular views, and learn about the intriguing history and culture of the ancient Maya civilization. Its setting amidst the verdant jungle adds to the allure, making Coba an essential stop on any exploration of the region.

Ek Balam

This Mayan archaeological site near Valladolid is less frequented by tourists, making it a peaceful spot to appreciate ancient Mayan architecture. Ek Balam includes the Acropolis, one of the largest Mayan structures in the Yucatán, and visitors can climb it for stunning jungle views.

Ek Balam Maya ruins near Valladolid
Ek Balam Maya ruins near Valladolid, view from the top of the Acropolis

Cenote X’Canche

Located near Ek Balam, Cenote X’Canche is an open sinkhole ideal for a refreshing swim after exploring the ruins. It’s situated within a well-maintained ecological park that offers additional activities like zip-lining and cycling.


Located outside Valladolid, Uayma is a small town steeped in history and charm. Originally a Maya settlement, the town was established in the pre-Hispanic era, and its name, meaning “the place of not much water,” reflects its ancient roots. The highlight here is the Iglesia de Uayma church, a striking example of colonial architecture characterized by its intricate façade of ornate stucco work. Beyond the church, visitors can stroll through the peaceful streets, lined with traditional, brightly colored Yucatecan homes, immersing themselves in the laid-back rhythm of life.

Iglesia de Uayma
Iglesia de Uayma near Valladolid

Cenote Suytun

This cenote is famous for the beam of light that shines through a hole in the ceiling, illuminating the still, crystal-clear water below. It’s particularly stunning in the middle of the day when the light is at its brightest and travelers can snap a photo on the platform.

Nuevo Xcán

This small town is an ideal stopping point for travelers seeking a quiet, authentic Mexican experience. Its close proximity to various cenotes and caves, like the remarkable Cenote Kankirixche, makes it a great base for exploration. This town will also be the closest access point from the train route to get to Isla Holbox.

Isla Holbox - Quintana Roo
Isla Holbox, Quintana Roo


Holbox, an idyllic island located in the Yucatán Peninsula’s north, is a serene paradise largely untouched by mass tourism. Originally a Maya settlement and later a pirate refuge, Holbox is now famous for its tranquil, shallow waters, fresh seafood, and a migration of whale sharks that can be witnessed between June and September. Holbox’s car-free sandy streets, vibrant murals, and abundant wildlife, including a variety of birds and marine life, make it a must-visit destination for those seeking tranquility and natural beauty.


As one of Mexico’s most famous resort cities, Cancún offers beautiful beaches, vibrant nightlife, and a wide range of dining and shopping options. Visit the El Rey Ruins for a touch of history, snorkel in the clear waters of the Museo Subacuático de Arte, or simply enjoy the sun on the stunning white sand beaches.

Section 5 North: Cancún – Playa del Carmen 

This section covers a distance of approximately 31 miles (49.8 kilometers).  It is the gateway to the sparkling Caribbean coastline with white sandy beaches, turquoise waters, and bustling tourist hotspots.

This stretch is famous for its beach resorts and the bustling city of Playa del Carmen. With easy access to the world-famous coral reefs and picturesque beaches, this section offers a quintessential tropical paradise experience.

  • Stations: Cancún Aeropuerto, Quintana Roo; Puerto Morelos, Quintana Roo; Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo 
  • Nearest Airport: CUN Cancún International Airport

Top Sights to Visit on Section 5 North: Cancún – Playa del Carmen 

Playa Delfines - best beaches in Cancun
Playa Delfines, one of the best beaches in Cancun

Playa Delfines

Offering an idyllic beach experience, Playa Delfines is one of Cancún’s largest public beaches. The bright blue Caribbean waters and soft, sandy beaches are perfect for sunbathing, swimming, and beach sports. Additionally, the colorful “CANCUN” sign offers an iconic photo opportunity for visitors. Its relatively quiet and less crowded environment make it a more relaxing choice for beachgoers.

Read nextMy guide to the best beaches in the Riviera Maya

El Rey Ruins (Zona Arqueológica El Rey)

Situated in Cancún’s hotel zone, El Rey Ruins is an easily accessible archaeological site perfect for those who wish to experience Mayan history without venturing too far from the city. Named after a mask found on site believed to be dedicated to the sun god, the site is home to numerous structures including temples, ceremonial platforms, and a pyramid. The ruins are also inhabited by a colony of friendly iguanas, much to the delight of younger visitors.

Museo Maya de Cancún

Housing one of the Yucatán’s most important collections of Maya artifacts, the Museo Maya de Cancún is a must-visit for history buffs. The museum’s sleek, modern architecture is a counterpoint to the ancient civilization it explores, featuring three main exhibition halls that cover aspects of Maya history, culture, and archaeology. A visit here also provides access to the San Miguelito archaeological site, located right within the museum’s grounds.

Nichupté Lagoon

Situated in the heart of Cancún, the Nichupté Lagoon is a vast system of lagoons and mangroves teeming with diverse wildlife. Comprising seven different lagoons, it’s a paradise for nature enthusiasts, boasting over 20 different species of water birds and marine life including sea turtles and crocodiles. The lagoon offers various activities such as kayaking, jungle tours, and sunset cruises. With its tranquil waters, lush mangroves, and rich biodiversity, a visit to Nichupté Lagoon offers a refreshing contrast to the bustling hotel zone of Cancún.

Isla Contoy
Isla Contoy

Isla Contoy

Isla Contoy, located north of Cancún, is a pristine island and a designated national park, renowned for its remarkable biodiversity. Referred to as the “Island of Birds,” it is home to more than 150 species of birds, and it serves as an important nesting site for sea turtles. The island’s crystal-clear waters and vibrant coral reefs also make it a popular spot for snorkeling. Limited to a certain number of visitors per day to preserve its untouched environment, Isla Contoy is a must-visit for nature lovers seeking to immerse themselves in an unspoiled ecosystem and vibrant birdlife.

Xoximilco Cancún

This attraction is a recreation of Xochimilco, the famous network of waterways and flower gardens near Mexico City. Visitors can enjoy a festive evening on colorful, traditional “trajinera” boats, complete with live Mexican music, dancing, games, and a delicious spread of local cuisine. Xoximilco Cancún offers an unforgettable cultural experience that’s a riot of colors, sounds, and flavors.

Croco Cun Zoo

An interactive conservationist zoo located just north of Cancún, Croco Cun Zoo is an ideal destination for families with children. Visitors have the opportunity to learn about and interact with various local species, including crocodiles, spider monkeys, and snakes. The guided tour educates visitors on the importance of wildlife conservation and provides unique experiences like a walk through a crocodile-filled jungle.

Xplor Park

For those seeking adventure, Xplor Park offers thrilling activities such as zip-lining, amphibious vehicle driving, and rafting in underground rivers. Located just outside Playa del Carmen, the park is set in an environment rich with natural beauty, featuring lush jungle and impressive rock formations. This eco-adventure park is a testament to the region’s remarkable geography and a fun-filled destination for thrill-seekers.

isla mujeres
Isla Mujeres, accessible by ferry from Cancun

Isla Mujeres

East of Cancún and easily accessible by ferry, Isla Mujeres is a vibrant island renowned for its beautiful beaches, such as Playa Norte, and its thriving coral reefs. Historically, the island was a sanctuary dedicated to Ixchel, the Maya goddess of childbirth and medicine, with numerous statues dedicated to her found on the island. The remnants of a Maya temple can be visited at the southern tip of the island, Punta Sur, which also offers stunning cliffside views of the Caribbean. The island’s laid-back atmosphere, combined with opportunities for snorkeling, diving, and sampling local cuisine, make it an enticing escape from Cancún’s bustling scene.


Cozumel, Mexico’s third-largest island, is located off the eastern coast of the Yucatán Peninsula, near Playa del Carmen. Rich in Maya history, the island was once a hub for the worship of the goddess Ixchel and is home to several significant archaeological sites, including San Gervasio and El Cedral. Today, Cozumel is a world-renowned destination for scuba diving and snorkeling, boasting an extensive reef system with vibrant marine life within the Cozumel Reefs National Marine Park. Additionally, its charming San Miguel town, teeming with shops, restaurants, and cultural sights, along with the island’s quiet beaches and lush parks, ensure Cozumel’s appeal to a wide range of travelers.

Maya Train Section 5 South: Playa del Carmen – Tulum 

This section of the Maya Train Route covers a distance of approximately 37 miles (60.3 kilometers).  It offers stunning views of Quintana Roo’s famed Riviera Maya, marked by lush jungle, pristine beaches, and spectacular cenotes. C

The main highlight of this section is Tulum, known for its cliffside Maya ruins and idyllic beaches. Stops at Xcaret and Akumal, popular for eco-parks and snorkeling, respectively, ensure this section is a treat for nature and adventure lovers.

  • Stations: Tulum, Quintana Roo; Tulum Aeropuerto, Quintana Roo 
  • Additional Stops: Xcaret, Quintana Roo; Puerto Aventuras, Quintana Roo; Akumal, Quintana Roo 
  • Nearest Airport: CUN Cancún International Airport; TUY Tulum Airport is scheduled to open in 2024

Top Cities and Sightseeing on Section 5 South: Playa del Carmen – Tulum

Xcaret, eco-archaeological park near Cancun


An eco-archaeological park just south of Playa del Carmen, Xcaret offers a variety of activities that celebrate Mexico’s natural beauty and cultural heritage. Visitors can explore underground rivers, enjoy traditional Mayan ceremonies, observe local wildlife, or relax on a stunning inlet beach. In the evening, the spectacular “Xcaret Mexico Espectacular” show brings Mexican history and culture to life.

Rio Secreto

Rio Secreto is a natural reserve that offers a unique journey. Here, you can explore a series of crystal-clear underground rivers and impressive stalactite and stalagmite formations. Guided tours include wading and swimming through the caves, making it an excellent choice for adventure enthusiasts.

Puerto Morelos
Puerto Morelos

Puerto Morelos

Puerto Morelos is a charming coastal town nestled between Cancún and Playa del Carmen on Mexico’s Riviera Maya. It has managed to maintain its identity as a quaint fishing village despite its popularity with tourists. Located along the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the second-largest barrier reef in the world, Puerto Morelos offers fantastic snorkeling and scuba diving opportunities. Other notable sights include the leaning lighthouse, a symbol of the town’s resilience to hurricanes, and the lush Botanical Garden ‘Dr. Alfredo Barrera Marin’, the largest in Mexico. Its relaxed atmosphere and natural beauty make it an enticing stop for those seeking a respite from more crowded destinations.

Playa del Carmen Quintana Roo
Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo

Playa del Carmen

Playa del Carmen, originally a small fishing town, has transformed into one of the most popular tourist destinations along the Riviera Maya. Known for its vibrant nightlife, international cuisine, and stunning beaches, it provides a unique blend of natural beauty and modern sophistication. Visitors can stroll along Quinta Avenida (5th Avenue), a pedestrian walkway filled with shops, restaurants, and bars. It’s also the gateway to Cozumel Island, offering easy access to world-class diving and snorkeling. Despite its rapid development, Playa del Carmen has managed to retain its laid-back, small-town charm, making it a must-visit destination for any Riviera Maya itinerary.

Cenote Chaak Tun

Just a short drive from Playa del Carmen, Cenote Chaak Tun offers visitors the chance to swim in the crystal-clear waters of a cavernous underground cenote. The stalactites and stalagmites in this lesser-visited cenote, illuminated by natural light, create a mystical environment. Professional guides provide information about the geological and cultural significance of cenotes.

Half Moon Bay Akumal - best beaches in Riviera Maya


Akumal, meaning ‘Place of the Turtle’ in the Mayan language, is a small beach-front tourist resort famous for its green sea turtles that visitors can snorkel with. It also has beautiful beaches, clear waters, and a coral reef that is perfect for snorkeling and diving. The nearby Akumal Monkey Sanctuary & Rescued Animals is another attraction that animal lovers will appreciate.

Yal-Ku Lagoon

This beautiful, sheltered lagoon in Akumal is a wonderful place to snorkel. It’s where fresh water from an underground river mingles with saltwater from the sea, creating a unique environment for various marine species. Visitors often describe Yal-Ku as a natural aquarium, making it a must-visit for snorkeling enthusiasts.

Xel-Ha aquatic park


Named after the Mayan word for “where water is born,” Xel-Ha is a natural aquatic park located in the Riviera Maya. It boasts a large inlet where fresh and saltwater mix, creating an ideal habitat for a variety of marine life. Visitors can snorkel, float down a lazy river, explore jungle trails, or simply relax and enjoy the surrounding beauty.

Tulum Ruins

Tulum Mayan Ruins
Tulum seaside Mayan Ruins

Perched on a cliff overlooking the Caribbean Sea, the Tulum Ruins are one of the most well-preserved coastal Maya sites and one of the most photographed due to their stunning location. Key structures include El Castillo, the Temple of the Frescoes, and the Temple of the Descending God. Visitors can explore the ancient ruins, learn about Maya history, and then relax on the beach beneath the ruins.

Cenote Dos Ojos

One of the most famous cenotes in the Yucatán, Cenote Dos Ojos (Two Eyes) is a flooded cave system that offers spectacular snorkeling and diving experiences. The crystal-clear water provides excellent visibility for viewing the stunning underwater rock formations. It’s considered one of the best diving spots in the area due to its extensive underwater passages and caverns.


Tulum is a remarkable fusion of cultural history and natural beauty. It’s known for its well-preserved ruins of an ancient Maya port city. Tulum is also famous for its white sandy beaches, stunning cenotes, and the vibrant Tulum Pueblo, with restaurants and bars. Whether you’re an avid history enthusiast, nature lover, or someone who enjoys the comforts of a boho beach town, Tulum has something to offer everyone.

Read nextMy travel guide to Tulum

Sian Kaan Biosphere
Sian Kaan Biosphere

Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve

Sian Ka’an is a UNESCO World Heritage site and the largest protected area in the Mexican Caribbean. It’s home to thousands of species of flora and fauna, and its landscapes range from tropical forests to marshes, mangroves, and a barrier reef. Visitors can take guided tours to appreciate the reserve’s biodiversity, kayak through mangroves, or even spot dolphins and sea turtles.

Tren Maya Section 6: Tulum – Bacalar 

This section covers a distance of approximately 158 miles (254 kilometers) across Quintana Roo’s southeastern coastline. The landscape is a blend of lush jungle, untouched beaches, and cenotes. It’s a region where the Caribbean Sea meets dense tropical forests, creating a truly unique landscape.

The crown jewel of this route is Tulum, famous for its well-preserved Mayan ruins perched on a cliff by the sea. Other highlights include the lesser-known town of Felipe Carrillo Puerto, a notable landmark of Maya history, and Bacalar, a charming town situated by a lagoon famously known as the ‘Lake of Seven Colors.’ This section of the journey is an ideal mix of culture, history, and natural beauty.

  • Stations: Felipe Carrillo Puerto, Quintana Roo; Bacalar, Quintana Roo; Chetumal, Quintana Roo 
  • Additional Stops: Limones, Othón P. Blanco, Quintana Roo 
  • Nearest airport: CTM Chetumal International Airport.

Top Maya Train Sights + Cities to Visit on Section 6: Tulum – Bacalar

Felipe Carrillo Puerto

This small city is steeped in history and known for its Mayan roots. It was named after a revolutionary hero who championed indigenous rights. Visitors can enjoy a quiet, authentic Mexican experience, explore the local markets, and savor traditional Yucatecan cuisine.

Muyil Ruins
Muyil Ruins

Muyil Archaeological Site

Located on the western edge of the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, Muyil (also known as Chunyaxche) is home to several Mayan ruins, including a 17-meter tall pyramid. Visitors can explore the ruins, take a boat tour to view ancient Mayan trade routes, or float in the lazy river that winds through the mangroves.


Known as the “Lake of Seven Colors,” Bacalar is a charming town that sits on the edge of a stunning, multi-hued freshwater lake. Visitors can explore the San Felipe Fort, which houses a pirate museum, enjoy water activities on the lake, or simply bask in the serene beauty of this Pueblo Mágico (Magic Town).

Cenote Azul - Bacalar
Cenote Azul and Bacalar Lagoon

Cenote Azul

This open, fresh-water cenote near Bacalar is known for its depth and strikingly clear blue waters. It’s a popular spot for swimming, snorkeling, and sunbathing. Its depth makes it a favorite spot for free-diving enthusiasts.


This city is the capital of Quintana Roo and has a laid-back Caribbean atmosphere. Tourists can visit the Museum of Mayan Culture, enjoy local cuisine, and use it as a gateway to Belize and other Caribbean destinations.


Located in the verdant jungle near the Bacalar Lagoon, Chacchoben is a pre-Columbian Maya archaeological site that dates back to around 200 B.C. Although it remained a thriving hub of Maya civilization for centuries, it was abandoned and reclaimed by the jungle, only to be rediscovered in 1972. Among the well-preserved structures, the three massive pyramids, the ceremonial center, and the Gran Basamento, a complex elevated on a platform, stand out. Visitors are attracted to Chacchoben for its historical significance, the grandeur of the ruins, and its peaceful setting away from the tourist crowds.


Deep in the heart of the Quintana Roo jungle, Dzibanche (meaning “writing on wood” in the Mayan language) holds a treasure of Maya history dating from the Classic period (300-900 A.D.). This ancient city is notable for its massive plazas, palaces, and temples, including the impressive Temple of the Lintels. An added thrill for visitors is the opportunity to climb some of the structures, offering panoramic views of the surrounding jungle canopy, a feature that many other archaeological sites don’t allow. Its relative obscurity compared to more famous sites offers an intimate, crowd-free exploration of Maya history.

Kohunlich ruins - mask
Mask at the Kohunlich ruins


Named after the Cohune palm trees that populate the area, Kohunlich is an expansive archaeological site spanning over 21 acres. Established around 200 B.C., its most prominent feature is the Temple of the Masks, adorned with giant stucco masks representing the sun god Kinich Ahau. Other highlights include a sunken palace complex, a plaza surrounded by residential buildings, and the remarkably preserved Kohunlich Acropolis. The site’s remote location and its magnificent ruins immersed in a lush jungle setting make Kohunlich an adventure-filled destination for history buffs and nature lovers alike.

Maya Train Section 7: Bacalar – Escárcega 

This section covers a distance of approximately 178 miles (287 kilometers). It transports you deeper into the interior of the Yucatán Peninsula, where the landscape comprises tropical forests interspersed with quiet lagoons and small towns.

This route starts from the captivating Bacalar Lagoon, proceeding towards the town of Xpujil in Campeche, known for its grouping of significant Mayan archaeological site. The landscape transforms from the stunning waters of Bacalar Lagoon to the dense tropical forests of Campeche, providing a stark contrast in terrains.

This section offers a more off-the-beaten-path experience, making it perfect for travelers looking to explore the untapped beauty of the Yucatán Peninsula.

  • Stations: Xpujil, Campeche 
  • Additional Stops: Conhuas, Campeche; Centenario, Campeche 
  • Nearest airport: CTM Chetumal International Airport.

Top Cities and Sights to Visit on Section 7: Bacalar – Escárcega 


A small town named after a species of reed, Xpujil serves as the gateway to the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve. The town is also known for the Xpujil ruins, which feature three large structures and numerous smaller ones, marked by their unique ‘false arch’ architectural style.

Calakmul Maya Ruins
Calakmul Maya Ruins

Calakmul Archaeological Zone

Hidden deep in the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve, the ancient city of Calakmul is one of the largest and most powerful ancient cities discovered in the Maya lowlands. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, featuring majestic pyramids and palaces among its nearly 7,000 ancient structures. Its remote location provides a unique, off-the-beaten-path experience for history and archaeology enthusiasts.

Xpujil Archaeological Zone

Xpujil, named after the “cat’s whiskers” plant, is a prominent Mayan archaeological site nestled in the dense forests of Campeche. Its most significant structure is the three-towered Structure I, with remarkable façade carvings and architectural designs. Founded around 300 BC, the city reached its peak during the Late Classic period (600-900 AD). The site’s distinct architecture and quiet setting away from large tourist crowds make Xpujil a must-visit for history enthusiasts and peace seekers.

Xpujil Maya Ruins
Xpujil Maya Ruins

Becan Archaeological Zone

Located in Campeche, Becan is a fascinating archaeological site with a history dating back to approximately 550 AD. Notable for its large defensive moat, Becan was once a powerful city-state during the Classic Maya period. Visitors can explore the well-preserved ruins including the imposing Structure IX, which offers panoramic views of the site from its top. A visit to Becan offers an insight into ancient Maya civilization’s defensive strategies and architectural genius.

Chicanna ruins - Maya Train sights
Chicanna Ruins

Chicanna Archaeological Zone

The Maya archaeological site of Chicanna in Campeche is famous for its detailed and well-preserved façades, particularly Structure II, which resembles a monster-like mouth entrance – a representation of the Maya “Earth Monster.” Chicanna, meaning “House of the Serpent Mouth,” thrived from 300 to 1100 AD and was closely linked to the larger city of Becan. This site offers a unique opportunity to admire the artistic and symbolic elements of Maya architecture.

Hormiguero Archaeological Zone

Hormiguero, which translates to “ant hill,” is a smaller but impressively ornate archaeological site in Campeche. It flourished during the Late Classic period (600-900 AD) and is well-known for its Rio Bec architectural style, which includes elaborate façades and roof combs. The central pyramid, Structure II, is the most striking feature, with a façade designed to resemble a monster-like creature. Hormiguero is perfect for those seeking to explore an intimate, lesser-known site showcasing a unique architectural style.

Balamku ruins - Maya Train sights
Maya frieze at the Balamku ruins

Balamku Archaeological Site

Just north of Escárcega, Balamku hosts an impressive Maya frieze that is one of the best preserved in the Maya world. The frieze, which measures more than 16 meters in length, depicts Maya gods and mythological scenes.


Located near Xpujil, Conhuas is a small town and will be the closest train stop to the Calakmul ruins.


This small town near Escárcega is an important agricultural center for the region. It’s a great place to experience local Mexican life and taste regional cuisine.


Escárcega is a bustling city and a crucial transportation hub in Campeche. While not a major tourist destination itself, it is a convenient base for trips to Calakmul or other attractions in the area. See Section 1 of the route above for all the sights accessible from this station.

Ready to Buy A Train Ticket?

While tickets aren’t really yet on sale, this just gives you time to start planning your bucket list journey and Maya Train itinerary!

The Maya Train promises to be a pathway into the heart of the Yucatán Peninsula, offering easy access to a rich tapestry of cultural heritage, natural wonders, and vibrant urban life. From the archaeological grandeur of Palenque and Calakmul to the charming cityscapes of Mérida and Campeche, this ambitious project presents an unmatched opportunity to explore the best of the region.

No matter what draws you to the Yucatán Peninsula, the Maya Train provides a new, exciting, and sustainable way to experience the magic of Mexico. Whether you’re a history buff, a nature lover, a foodie, or just a traveler in search of the unfamiliar, the Maya Train is your ticket to an unforgettable journey. So pack your bags — the adventure of a lifetime awaits!

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