The Ruta Puuc (Puuc Route) is a fascinating trip to take from Merida, Mexico. This roadway slices through the Yucatan to connect various ancient ruins for such an interesting look into the ancient Mayan culture. Embarking on the Ruta Puuc is a great adventure to take in the Yucatan, whether by bus, tour or driving on your own. The Ruta Puuc can make for an action-packed day trip from Merida or, perhaps even better, a two-day slower roll across those sunny ruin-filled hills.
These ancient Mayan ruins, spread across the Ruta Puuc, are not as popular as some of the Yucatan’s other famous sites like Chichen Itza. So part of the appeal of touring the Ruta Puuc is the ability to enjoy the peaceful environments of these mystical and intriguing structures that have been here for over a millennium. Roaming around the rugged sites that are surrounded by a thick dry jungle is a very tranquil experience. It’s not uncommon to be the only visitors at the Ruta Puuc ruins.
The Ruta Puuc road itself is easily navigable too. So despite being a bit off the main tourist trail, the path is still well worn enough to navigate around these enchanting Mayan ruins on your own. Then add in some great places to stay along the Ruta Puuc, toss in a cave system or two, some interesting Mayan towns, and a few other attractions along the way and it all adds up to an amazing Yucatan road trip!
During our regular visits to the Yucatan, we’ve embarked on the Ruta Puuc on a few occasions now, most recently in June 2018. As travel information about the Puuc Route is somewhat scarce, we’ve now decided to share our Ruta Puuc travel tips to help other travelers to experience these alluring Mayan ruins spread across the Yucatan.
Be sure to watch the short video below, to get an idea of what it’s like to visit the Ruta Puuc. Then read on for all the details on exactly how to do so.
Ruta Puuc Travel Guide: Table of Contents
- What is the Ruta Puuc?
- Visiting 5 Ruta Puuc Ruins
- Additional Ruta Puuc Attractions
- How to Get to Ruta Puuc
- by bus | by tour | by driving
- Travel Tips for Driving Ruta Puuc
What Is the Ruta Puuc (Puuc Route)?
The Ruta Puuc is a driving route that connects a number of Mayan ruin sites, located in the Yucatan state of Mexico. The “Ruta Puuc” simply translates to the “Puuc Route.”
To further delve into the word “Puuc,” it comes from the Mayan word for hills. While the Yucatan is mostly flat, there are indeed some hills in this southern region of Yucatan state. It’s in this hilly area where housing, temples, administrative buildings, and other structures were constructed over a thousand years ago! Most of these ancient Mayan buildings along the Ruta Puuc date way back between 600-1100 AD. “Puuc” is also used to describe this architectural style of the ruins along the route.
The ruin complexes spread across the Ruta Puuc are connected by sacbes. A sacbe is an ancient Mayan pathway between the settlements. Today a narrow roadway further connects these ruin sites that remain in the hills. This is now known as the Ruta Puuc, or Puuc Route.
In its most basic definition, the Ruta Puuc is a 30-kilometer (~19-mile) stretch of roadway, where you can find these three Mayan complexes along the route:
Yet broader definitions of the Ruta Puuc go on to include the nearby ancient Mayan settlements of:
(4) Kabah, and
That’s a 58-kilometer drive (36 miles), connecting all five sites. It would take about an hour driving this stretch without stopping. But stopping at all these intriguing Mayan ruins is what the Ruta Puuc is all about!
All five of these Mayan ruins are part of a UNESCO World Heritage site, based on Uxmal. The significance of these five Puuc ruin sites to be included in the Unesco-designation is largely due to their high points of Mayan art and architecture. Read the full UNESCO description and criteria: here.
In discussing the travel logistics of how to visit the Ruta Puuc, we’re also using this broad definition of the Ruta Puuc to include all five sites. It would be a real shame to come out to the first three Ruta Puuc complexes without further seeing the intricacies of Kabah and the grandiosity of Uxmal.
A Journey Across the 5 Mayan Ruins of the Ruta Puuc
Touring the Ruta Puuc is an adventure into the ancient Mayan world that can make you feel like a true explorer. Coming out from the short forested trails that ultimately expose some fascinating ruins can give off a real sense of discovery.
If you’re setting off on your own, without a tour guide, it’s really nice to have some background on the ruins, the Mayans, and their ancient history. A visit to the Gran Museo de Mundo Maya (Mayan World museum) in Merida is a fantastic primer to visit before setting out on the Ruta Puuc. (More info this museum can be found in our Top 15 Things To Do in Merida, scrolling down to #14.)
It’s nice to gain some info about the ruins themselves too. Some signs are in English at the Ruta Puuc sites, but such signs are somewhat limited.
The following provides a glimpse, and a bit of background info, on each of these fascinating ancient Mayan ruin sites along the Ruta Puuc.
When touring the Ruta Puuc, we like to start on the far end, beginning at the Labna ruin complex. It’s always a welcomed greeting to pull into the small empty parking lot. This is a nice indication that the Ruta Puuc still remains an intimate experience to embark upon.
The Labna ruins date back to between 750-1000 AD when there was thought to be around 2,500 people living here. The town was spread across 1¼ sq miles that you can now roam around and envision what Mayan life may have been like.
After a short meander through a canopy of trees, El Palacio (the palace) appears. It’s one of the longest structures in the Puuc area! The palace is so wide that it proves impossible in attempting to photograph the entire extent of this Labna ruin.
But it’s worthwhile to view the lengthy structure not just from afar but to get up close. That’s how to see the well-preserved carvings that adorn the ancient structure.
Upon doing an about-face, El Arco (the arch) beckons. A stroll through a ruin lined field under the intense Yucatan sun leads to this arch that Labna is perhaps equally well-known. It’s thought to have been the entrance way between plazas of upper-class families who resided here a thousand years ago.
There are further ruins to explore here like the crumbling Mirador pyramid, but it’s El Arco and El Palacio that are the two main points of interest.
Labna Entrance Fee: $55 pesos
Labna Hours: 8:00-5:00
The Xlapak ruins are the smallest complex along the Puuc Route. But don’t dare pass it up! It’s still a very worthwhile stop along the Ruta Puuc and the only site on the route that is entirely free to enter.
There are three palace complexes at Xlapak, one of which stands out as it’s adorned by masks depicting Chaac, the infamous Mayan rain god. That palace is surrounded by rubble that was once residential complexes, all amidst the Yucatan dry jungle. This ancient Mayan town reached its climax between 800-1000 AD.
Xlapak Entrance Fee: Free entry
Xlapak Hours: 8:00-5:00
The big three-tiered palace at Sayil is quite an impressive sight to gaze upon after a visit to Xlapak. It’s not permitted to climb upon the staired structure. But, like most of the Ruta Puuc ruins, be sure to get an up-close look at the funky Chaac masks.
Sayil is thought to have had a population of 10,000 people when the town thrived around 900 AD. It’s not too difficult to imagine the large town since it sprawls across a large area, connected by sacbes (Mayan pathways).
Wandering across those sacbes reveal more crumbling structures, such as what’s left of the Mirador structure.
Sayil Entrance Fee: $55 pesos
Sayil Hours: 8:00-5:00
After departing the three primary Ruta Puuc sites, the ruins appear to be growing even bigger. That brings us to Kabah. It was another ancient Mayan town that was believed to have a population of about 10,000 people when the buildings were constructed around 700-1000 AD.
There’s no forest canopy providing shade at Kabah, as these fascinating ruins have been cleared from the adjacent jungle. The interconnected Palace, Codz Pop, and the Palace of Masks structures are all visible upon entering the site. This exposed group of ancient buildings is the only among the three groups at Kabah that are open to visitors. There are actually even more Puuc ruins still hidden in the jungle that haven’t been excavated.
Kabah is great at inducing that sense of exploration since you can actually climb up onto the palaces and even go into some of these ancient temples. The Palace of Masks really lives up to its name, as it has the vastest display of Chaac masks yet. There are over 300 of them, many in great condition! And they can be viewed at eye level, after climbing up to the upper reaches of this temple. It’s pretty amazing to see this Mayan art that has been adorning the building since ancient times.
Take time to thoroughly explore and climb around this multi-tiered palace that is so exemplary of Puuc style architecture. It always leaves us with a sense of wonderment. Yet before heading out, don’t miss the somewhat hidden monument that’s actually on the other side of the highway. Take a 5-minute walk up the sacbe there and you’ll stumble across the Temple of Columns.
The sacbe is said to continue for another 18 km (11 miles) further to Uxmal. We wouldn’t know from firsthand experience. After the intense Yucatan heat throughout the exposed site of Kabah, we’ll gladly get back into our air-conditioned car to drive to Uxmal!
Kabah Entrance Fee: $55 pesos
Kabah Hours: 8:00-5:00
Uxmal is a climactic grand finale to culminate a journey down the Ruta Puuc. It’s easily the most important Maya complex in the Puuc region and one of the most significant Mayan ruin complexes period. It’s a large site in both scope and scale, making it easy to spend a few hours exploring it. Rather than the potentially 10,000 people who resided in other Puuc towns, Uxmal once boasted a staggering population of 25,000 Mayans who lived here about 1,100 years ago!
There are multiple palaces of religious and political significance, ball courts, intricate housing structures, and even a full-on pyramid!
Climbing up the 30-meter (~100-foot) tall Pyramid of the Magician is no longer permitted. Yet most of the other structures at Uxmal do allow visitors to traverse the steep stone stairs. It’s even possible to go inside many of the rooms that are now largely occupied by birds.
Upon entering Uxmal, as the pathway opens up to the pyramid, be sure to give a loud clap. The pyramid will return the clap back at you by the unique echoing phenomena.
There is so much to explore all over Uxmal. We are continually fascinated by the intricate carvings that remain well-preserved today as well as the sprawling views from high atop the Governer’s Palace.
Uxmal is easily our favorite Mayan ruin site to visit throughout the entire Yucatan peninsula.
And while Uxmal is certainly the most popular site in the Puuc region, crowd sizes pale in comparison to other well-known sites in the Yucatan, such as Chichen Itza and Tulum. Go in the early morning when Uxmal opens and you’ll likely have this grand and remarkable ancient complex almost entirely to yourself.
Yet even by midday, we usually don’t find it overly crowded. Rather, it’s the mid-afternoon heat that becomes a more unbearable factor. You can get a sense of the crowds (or lack thereof) from our mid-day visit in June 2018, in the video below:
Uxmal Entrance Fee (as of Jan 2020): $418 pesos total from 2 separate required tickets ($80 + $338 = $418 pesos)
Uxmal Hours: 8:00-4:30
Additional Attractions Along the Ruta Puuc
While the five aforementioned Mayan ruin complexes are the main archeological draws along the Ruta Puuc, there are some other attractions along the route that make worthwhile stops.
Beginning a Ruta Puuc drive on the eastern side, many travelers opt to start the adventure by stopping into the Grutas de Loltun, or Loltun Caves. This cave system is just before the eastern turn-off for the Ruta Puuc.
The dry cave is most known for the amount of ancient Mayan artifacts that have been discovered in its depths, as well as murals by the ancient people. The cave can only be entered with a guide by joining a tour. The earliest Loltun Cave tour departs at 9:30 am, which is recommended before continuing on to the Ruta Puuc. Other departure times are 11am, 12:30pm, 2pm, 3pm, and 4pm.
These tours (one hour and 20 minutes) are usually in Spanish but can be in English if that is the majority of the language of the people in the tour group. We only recommend stopping here if you are visiting the Ruta Puuc over the course of a 2-day (or longer) trip. If attempting the Ruta Puuc as part of a one-day road trip from Merida, you almost certainly won’t have time to visit the five subsequent Mayan ruin sites along the Ruta Puuc. Although squeezing in the Loltun Caves plus the next four ruins (without Uxmal) can be feasible.
The Choco-Story museum is located right across from Uxmal, so it makes for a natural stop when touring the Ruta Puuc. It has all the markings of a tourist trap, located right across from Uxmal. But it’s not. We found Choco-Story to be an extremely well-done museum that goes far beyond the story of chocolate. Mayans are credited with the discovery cocoa after all, so the museum does examine its origins here.
But Choco-Story ultimately delves deep into the Mayan civilization and culture, which we found to be more in-depth and informative than the onsite museum at Uxmal, or any of the other Ruta Puuc ruin sites for that matter.
The museum is also part eco-park and is sprawled out across a number of open-air huts connected by trails. Choco-Story museum also operates as an animal rescue center, where they are caring for and rehabilitating jungle life such as jaguars that were discovered injured or illegally captured, hence cannot go back into the wild.
Halfway across the trails, don’t be surprised to be ushered into a private Mayan ceremony. It’s an interesting ceremony to witness and brings further connection with the Mayans culture in this Puuc region.
But a highlight, of course, is tasting the fresh hot chocolate drinks made from an ancestral recipe.
For those that haven’t gotten their fill of ruins along the Ruta Puuc, there’s another interesting and less-visited Mayan Puuc site nearby. Continuing west from Uxmal for another 40 minutes and you’ll really begin to notice the hills that the Puuc region is known for. It’s here along a narrow road with plenty of car-scratching overgrowth where the interesting Oxkintok ruins are located.
The ruins of Oxkintok are notable as they are said to be among the oldest in the area. There’s a well-preserved pyramid that you may be able to climb and even go inside. If it’s locked, ask if they’ll open it.
It would only be possible to include Oxkintok on a 2-day (or longer) journey down the Ruta Puuc.
Oxkintok is open 8:00-5:00, entrance fee: $55 pesos, located here.
On the way to the Oxkintok ruins is the Grutas de Calcehtok. This is the largest dry-cave system in the Yucatan. Yet when approaching this cave, it looks like nothing more than a hole in the ground. Local guides lead you on private tours of the cave system, based on the level of adventure you feel most comfortable with: easy, adventure, or extreme!
We chose “adventure,” which we felt to be pretty extreme to us (and we’ve done a lot of caving around the world). This is not for anyone who is even mildly claustrophobic.
But the payoff of this cave deep within the Puuc hills is the ancient Mayan relics and even the remains of sacrificial sites. These artifacts have been preserved deep in this cave, untouched for thousands of years. This caving experience to see these artifacts is perhaps the most adventurous way possible to conclude a journey down the Ruta Puuc. Wear old clothes. You will get filthy.
It would only be possible to pursue these caves as part of a Ruta Puuc trip that is on a two-day road trip or longer.
Calcehtok Caves guides are usually there between 9:00-5:00. We were charged $250 (total for the both of us) for a nearly 2-hour adventure tour. This is the exact location of the Calcehtok Caves we ventured to. There’s another cave (X-Pukil) nearby too.
How to Get to the Ruta Puuc Mexico?
The Ruta Puuc is in the southern reaches of Mexico’s Yucatan State, about a 90-minute to 2-hour drive from the Yucatan capital of Merida. So we suggest getting to Merida first, which is accessible by its airport and regular bus connections throughout the Yucatan.
From Merida to Ruta Puuc, there are three methods of transportation:
- Take the Sunday bus to Ruta Puuc
- Book an organized tour to Ruta Puuc
- Take a rental car to Ruta Puuc
Which is the best way to tour Ruta Puuc? That’s up to you.
Choosing how to get to Ruta Puuc depends on your travel style, budget, and comfort level of driving in Mexico.
We enjoy the freedom that a rental car offers and feel comfortable on the roads in the Yucatan.
More formal Ruta Puuc tours can be a good option for those who desire more information, don’t feel comfortable driving, or just want the ease and simplicity that tours can provide.
Meanwhile, there’s also a Ruta Puuc bus from Merida that departs each Sunday, which quickly rushes around to all five Ruta Puuc ruin sites.
Ruta Puuc Bus from Merida
While you can easily get from Merida to Uxmal by bus, there isn’t any public transportation to get around the other Ruta Puuc sites. That is, except for the Sunday Ruta Puuc bus.
Oriente Bus operates a Sunday Ruta Puuc bus, departing at 8:00 am each week. Thi Sunday Ruta Puuc bus stops at all three sites on the Puuc route for 30-minutes each. This Ruta Puuc bus continues onto Kabah for a 40-minute stop. Then the bus goes to Uxmal, where 2 hours is allotted to roam around. The price for this Sunday Ruta Puuc bus is $280 pesos.
Note that the $280-peso fee is solely for the transportation of the bus. There is no tour guide. So you visit the Ruta Puuc sites on your own. All Ruta Puuc admission fees are at your own expense. Those Ruta Puuc entrance fees add up to $538 pesos for all 5 sites.
The Ruta Puuc bus price plus admission fees ultimately total $863 pesos + lunch expense for the Sunday outing. This Ruta Puuc bus returns to Merida around 5:00 pm. The Ruta Puuc bus departs from and returns to the Terminal de Segunda Clase (TAME station) on calle 69 between 68 and 70 in Merida.
Ruta Puuc Tour from Merida
Instead of taking the big Sunday bus, there are more intimate Ruta Puuc tours available from Merida. This small group tour to the Ruta Puuc and Loltun Caves runs every day of the week and includes transportation and guide to Loltun Caves, Labna, Xkalak, and Sayil. This makes for a nice full day of adventure to all three of the Ruta Puuc ruin sites in addition to the Loltun Caves. You can book and check availability of this tour on Expedia.
Self-Driving the Ruta Puuc
If you’re comfortable behind the wheel in Mexico, driving the Ruta Puuc yourself can be an ideal way to explore the mystical ruins along this awesome driving route in the Yucatan. The roads from Merida to the Ruta Puuc (and back) are in good condition. Additionally, the Ruta Puuc itself is very well sign-posted and there’s only one main road to follow. So it’s easily navigable.
That said, having a GPS or a phone with data and a map app is helpful and advised. But such navigation tools are not absolutely essential if armed with a map of the Yucatan and directions how to get to Ruta Puuc. There are some further travel tips you should be aware of if considering the drive from Merida to Ruta Puuc, which we’ve furthered detailed in the section below.
Travel Tips for Driving the Ruta Puuc
Pursuing the Ruta Puuc can be an excellent road trip in the Yucatan. Here are some travel tips to know before you go.
Road Conditions on the Ruta Puuc
From Merida, it’s all good, safe, and well-maintained highway-type roads leading up to the Ruta Puuc. Once on the actual 30-kilometer Ruta Puuc (between Labna, Xkalak, and Sayil), the road is more narrow. It’s still paved the entire way.
This stretch of Ruta Puuc is found between the tiny pueblo of Emiliano Zapata on Yucatan State Road 31 and Federal Road 261.
Despite that Google Maps currently suggests the Ruta Puuc is a one-way road in parts, we can tell you firsthand that it is most definitely a two-way road.
We found the hilly jungle road to be really fun to drive on too. Other cars are far and few between. Keep an eye out for wildlife though!
Renting a Car for Ruta Puuc
There are many rental car agencies to rent from in Merida centro. We’ve gotten great rental car deals on Priceline for a little as $5 USD per day. It’s a downright bargain.
Note: such low prices don’t include the insurance though. Come armed with proof of coverage (travel credit cards often include rental car insurance) or else you’ll end up having to pay a bit more at the counter to get insurance. Even if having to pay for the added insurance, it’s still a heck of a deal. Search Priceline Rental Cars for your travel dates and see what’s available.
Ruta Puuc Map for Driving from Merida
You can follow this Ruta Puuc map to form a loop from Merida. The entire distance from Merida centro is 259 km (161 kilometers) and takes about four hours of actual driving time. On the way to-and-from the Ruta Puuc, you’ll pass through some interesting Mayan towns that are worth stopping to poke around if you have time.
Note: when following this east-to-west Ruta Puuc driving route, there is a glitch in Google Maps. From the Loltun Caves to Labna, beware that Google Maps provides roundabout directions that are inefficient and incorrect. The directions shown in the Ruta Puuc map below are correct.
Why It’s Best To Visit Ruta Puuc East-to-West
You can begin your drive of the Ruta Puuc complexes from the east, beginning at Labna. Or you can just as easily start from the west, with Uxmal. While both ways work fine, we prefer and recommend beginning a Ruta Puuc drive from the east, starting at Labna. Here’s why:
1) Save the best for last. Uxmal is the grandest of all five complexes. So it can be nice to build up to. Meanwhile if touring Uxmal first, you may feel underwhelmed at the subsequent smaller Puuc ruin sites.
2) Shorter return. Assuming that you’re beginning the Ruta Puuc drive from Merida, Labna is the furthest point. So it can be nice to get that longer drive out of the way on the front end, working your way back towards Merida. If attempting to do the Ruta Puuc all in one day, returning to Merida will then be shorter from Uxmal. This will be much welcomed after a long, hot day touring the ruins.
3) Better for overnight visits. If you’re spreading out the Ruta Puuc into a two-day journey, there are more (and better) accommodation options between Kabah and Uxmal.
Ruta Puuc Day Trip vs Overnight
While it is possible to experience the Ruta Puuc in one single day, it’s a race against the clock to squeeze it all in.
We find Ruta Puuc to be much more enjoyable over the course of two days (or longer). These mystical Mayan sites can then be visited at a more relaxed pace.
Staying overnight along the Ruta Puuc will also allow enough time to visit other non-ruin attractions that are nearby, such as the nearby Loltun Caves and the Choco-Story Museum.
Staying overnight further gives the opportunity to check out the Uxmal light and sound show, which occurs at 7 pm in the summer and 8 pm in the winter. It’s a dazzling display across the ruins and informative too!
And there are some fantastic places to stay between Uxmal and Kabah. This also gives the opportunity for an afternoon dip, which can offer a refreshing reprieve from the intense Yucatan heat.
Best Places To Stay Along the Ruta Puuc
There are some great, and very affordable, lodging options near the Ruta Puuc that can be worth it for the pools alone. Yet the rooms tends to match the well-manicured grounds these hotels lie upon.
Pickled Onion: Every time we drive across the Ruta Puuc we always stay at this lovely boutique eco-lodge. It’s located on the outskirts of the Mayan town of Santa Elena, between Kabah and Uxmal. The traditional palapa hut rooms all have comfy beds, but we love that there’s also an option to keep-it-local by sleeping in a hammock. The beckoning pool amongst the gardens is a clear attraction. The on-site restaurant is delicious and, of course, all meals are served with namesake pickled onions.
Rates for the Pickled Onion reflect budget accommodation. Yet we always feel a bit of luxury when staying here. The included hot breakfast further adds to the incredible value. There are only eight rooms at the Pickled Onion, so advanced reservations are strongly recommended, as it does tend to book up. Search your travel date now for Pickled Onion. When you get there, tell the friendly owner, Valerie Pickles, we say hello!
If the Pickled Onion has no vacancy, you’re looking for something a bit different, or just prefer to be closer to Uxmal, then consider the following hotels. Each of these hotels is within a stone’s throw of Uxmal, have a nice pool, come highly recommended, and are often at bargain prices.
🏨 Uxmal Resort Maya – This four-star resort is 2 km from Uxmal and often has very attractive prices, around $50 USD. Check the current rates at Uxmal Resort.
🏨 Hacienda Uxmal – This five-star resort is located just across the street from Uxmal and boasts large rooms on beautiful sprawling grounds. Check availability at Hacienda Uxmal.
🏨 Lodge at Uxmal – This five-star resort is located right at the entrance to Uxmal. You can walk right there! It’s not only the closest hotel, but also the most premium. It could be worth the splurge to stay at this gorgeous property for what amounts to only the low $100 range USD. Check rates for your dates at Lodge at Uxmal.
What To Pack for Ruta Puuc
👕 Dry-wicking clothes – This is an absolute must, as the heat gets pretty intense along the Ruta Puuc. Cool, light clothing is essential. Don’t just think about your outwear though. Things get really hot & sticky throughout the Yucatan and these ExOfficio Boxers are the only underwear we’ve worn down there that have been able to hold up to the heat while touring the sweltering Ruta Puuc. They’re dry-wicking, super comfy, and after a day of use, they somehow don’t smell! But don’t just take my word for it, check out the thousands of positive reviews on Amazon. They have women’s Give-N-Go Bikini Briefs too.
💧 Water – Bring lots of agua for a trip down the Ruta Puuc. We suggest a bare minimum of a 1.5-liter bottle per person. But realistically you’ll want at least two of those to keep hydrated on a typical scalding Yucatan day. There are some places where you can buy water along the way, but best to come prepared so that you’re not without.
🏊 Bathing Suit – Don’t forget to pack a swimsuit and maybe a towel too. Stopping at a pool or even a cenote along the way can be heavenly to escape the heat.
😎 Sun Protection – Hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen are other must-pack items. If you’re lacking a good wide-brimmed hat, you’ll have the opportunity to buy one at Uxmal. Be sure to pack plenty of sunscreen too. Go for SPF 30+ at a bare minimum. If you’ll be swimming in cenotes during your trip to the Yucatan, it’s very important to have biodegradable sunscreen as to not harm that fragile underground environment. This Alba Botanica Hawaiian Sunscreen SPF 45 is a great choice on Amazon, has consistently great reviews, and is inexpensive too.
🦟 Bug repellent – Pesky mosquitos can be found in the jungle throughout the Ruta Puuc. So if you’re susceptible to mosquito bites (like I am), bring some spray. This natural Repel Lemon-Eucalyptus repellent works well, isn’t as harsh on your skin, and is also better for the environment when if you do venture into any cenotes.
📷 Camera – There’s obviously lots of cool stuff to photograph along the Ruta Puuc, so don’t forget your camera or mobile phone to snap some pics. Drones are not allowed at the Ruta Puuc ruin sites and professional video equipment requires an extra fee.
🗺️ Navigation – Determine how you’re going to find your way around. We felt comfortable with using Google Maps and a data plan on our mobile phone. If you don’t have a data plan, consider downloading offline maps before you set off. Or get a GPS device with your rental car. Or go old-school and find an actual paper map of the Yucatan if you’re comfortable with directions. Whatever you choose, just have a plan.
💵 Cash – There aren’t many banks or even ATMs near the Ruta Puuc. None of the ruin sites accept credit cards either. Uxmal reportedly accepts credit cards, but we found that in practice they do not. Come armed with cash for entrance fees and meals. Most hotels do accept credit cards, but they’re the only exceptions. Everywhere else will require pesos. You’ll need a minimum of $538 pesos per person, just for the entrance fees to each of the ruins. Then consider cash for meals, water, snacks, gas, and anything else you may want. A sundowner cerveza perhaps?
⚠️ Have You Purchased Your Travel Insurance Yet? You never know what may happen while driving the Ruta Puuc or on any trip to Mexico. Usually, all will be fine, but possibilities include getting sick, a flight gets canceled, hurricanes (June-Nov), car accidents, lost baggage, your phone falls in the water, a camera gets lost or stolen, rental car damage, etc. Travel insurance will have you covered so that you don’t incur the high cost of these unfortunate possibilities. We never roam around Mexico without travel insurance. We use and have been happy with World Nomads, with what we’ve found to have the best price and coverage combination. Enter the dates for your trip to get a quick estimate.
A Mayan Adventure Across the Ruta Puuc
We hope this Ruta Puuc travel guide has helped to inspire or plan your own adventure to these fascinating Mayan ruins.
If you’ve taken a trip across the Ruta Puuc, we’d love to hear about it in the comments. Or if you have any questions, drop us a line below and we’ll try to answer as best as we can.
And for more adventures across the Yucatan, be sure to check out our big fat travel guide detailing the 15 Best Day Trips from Merida Mexico.
Also, for more travel tips, be sure to check out our our in-depth look into the 75+ Best Mexico Travel Tips to Know Before Your Trip in 2022. It reveals how to save money, avoid hassle, stay safe, respect cultural etiquette and have fun all throughout this wonderful country!
Thank you very much for all this information! 🙂
I´m from Brazil and I´ll visit route PUUC in Jan/23. I´m preparing for the trip and reading your article really helped me!
Roger Burke says
Great sight and if anything they underestimate the impressiveness of the sight. One comment, prepare to spend $30-40 per day for rental car insurance.
John Widmer says
We’ve never had to pay for car insurance in Mexico because we have a credit card that covers us and travel with documentation that proves that. But most car rental places will indeed insist that you’ll need to pay an extra $30+ on insurance, and some using scare tactics when insisting that it’s necessary. We’ve always managed to hold firm and avoid those fees since our card covers us. But totally understand that may not be the case for everyone.
Steve C says
A good credit card will cover the Physical Damage, so you can decline that, but it is the Personal Injury Liability that should be purchased if your card doesn’t cover it and few, if any, do. If you book through Expedia, you may get a small amount of Personal Liability (about USD $40,000), but it is good to pay a little extra (maybe $20 per day which is what I just paid, and increase the liability up to about USD $170,000). Be prepared to show the car rental agent your Credit Card Agreement where it indicates the card covers the Physical Damage (collision). They may also place a deposit on your card temporarily until after they inspect it for damage when you return it, but again, any damage should be covered by your credit card issuer. They quickly removed the deposit after inspecting the car. This is based on my experience at Alamo Car Rental in Merida at the Fiesta Americana Hotel building a few weeks ago. It cost me $110 USD for a 6 day rental (new Nissan Sentra) and it is worth adding the personal injury liablity to have that feeling of comfort because if you are at fault in an accident in Mexico, it can be a very bad experience.
OMG…are you serious? This informations helped me so much, I’m currently lying in my hotel room in Merida (Hotel Zamna) and me and my gf want to visit the Ruta Puuc tomorrow 😀 I’m so grateful for your Tips, now its easy for me to plan the day. Greetings from Yucatan and Germany!!! 😉
John Widmer says
So glad this helped! There seemed to be a lack of info about the Ruta Puuc out there, so we were happy to try and fill that gap so others can experience this fascinating Mayan World. Hope you have/had a great trip!
Merida seems to be a hot spot these days and I like that you have found the road less traveled. I would much prefer to visit ruins that are peaceful. Your posts are so detailed and full of great information. Now I’m going to read the 15 Best day Trips from Merida…
John Widmer says
Yeah, Merida has really been growing in popularity as we’ve witnessed an increase of visitors ourselves over the past five years. It’s understandable, as we find Merida to be such an attractive place to travel. Yet it is refreshing to know that despite Merida’s growing popularity, there are still serene places nearby to explore, like the peaceful Ruta Puuc ruins! 🙂
The Travelling Dave says
A lot of information to take in! the videos are great! i had never heard of these places before, but i will look into them even more for sure now! photos are awesome too!
keep up the great posts!
Ami Bhat says
This is totally my kind of a trail. Each one of these sites is just so amazing. I particularly am fascinated with Xlapak – even though it is the smallest. Kabah too, seems quite intriguing. I even like the idea of those caves
John Widmer says
They’re all great really, even the smallest ruins of Xlapak. Felt like a real explorer wandering around those trails and stumbling across the crumbling ruins. Each of the ruins really does have their own special qualities. Those caves were intense but such an awesome adventure into the Mayan underworld! 🙂
Oh wow…what an incredible post! I love ancient sites and surprisingly have never heard about this. Thanks for highlighting such a place 🙂
I loved spending time in Mexico, I visited Uxmal but didn’t get to do the whole of the Ruta Puuc as I was on my own and didn’t want to join a tour. I also like to spend more time wandering around than the bus allows so I’d love to go back and hire a car when I have a bit more cash! All the ruins in the Yucatan are incredible, and finding them so quiet is a definite bonus!
John Widmer says
Uxmal really is the crown jewel of the Puuc ruins, so great to hear you got to experience it! You don’t necessarily have to wait until you have more cash to drive around the Ruta Puuc though. Rental cars from Merida tend to be very economical! 🙂
Sandy N Vyjay says
Have always been fascinated by Mayan culture and the Mayan ruins. The Ruta Puuc sounds like an epic experience. The best part is one can explore the various ruins without the usual tourist rush. This is definitely something up our alley. All the ruins sound so fascinating and Uxmal indeed seems to be a grand finale. Exploring the labyrinthine caves is another adventure that sounds so exciting.
Sincerely this is one of the best blogs that i ever read. You put here all information for someone who wants to go and visit Ruta Puuc. I love Mayan culture, and I really hope so that I will have opportunity to visit this places once in my life.
John Widmer says
Thanks for such kind sentiments! If you love Mayan culture, you’ll love a spin down the Ruta Puuc. We hope you get a chance to make it to this magical route!
Those ancient Mayan bulidings look awesome to think that they had the skills to build them that long ago. As for Ruta Puuc in my opinion i think its the perfect vacation spot i love the off the main tourist trails.
Kate Flores says
Wow – so much incredible stories and histories in one blog post! I love the Calcehtok Caves the most and also the “respect” for both you visiting the old Mayan community with enthusiasm – this should be read by all people – and as travellers – we don’t forget the history behind beautiful photos!
John Widmer says
Thanks! And there is soooo much more history behind these photos and the ruins. We’ve just scratched the surface really. We find these ruins all to be so intriguing place, so glad to hear that our enthusiasm has shined through! 🙂
We had a great time here in January. Uxmal was definitely a highlight. Just a note on car insurance: Mexico doesn’t recognize foreign insurance. Even when we had a foreign plated car here we had to buy Mexican insurance. No doubt the rental companies are making a serious profit on the insurance they sell you and of course it’s frustrating to have to buy additional insurance when your credit card company already provides it but that’s the law.
John Widmer says
Uxmal is such an awesome highlight! 🙂 But actually Mexico most certainly does accept CDW policies not from Mexico if the policy covers international travel. We use Visa Signature’s CDW rental car benefit and have done so dozens of times when renting cars in Mexico. The rental car agency may try to be tricky and tell you they do not accept it, so they can sell you their coverage, but they must accept it. We always come prepared with printed copies of the paper work stating this. They always do ask to see it. It’s always accepted. Visa Signature’s CDW rental car benefit is recognized in Mexico. It’s actually recognized worldwide except for 4 countries: Israel, Jamaica, Ireland, and Northern Ireland. We’ve relied on it all when renting cars all around the world and have even successfully filed many damage claims, which have been covered. There’s a phone number to call if a rental car agency refuses to accept their coverage. Thankfully, we’ve never had to use that line. The only issue with getting coverage in this manner is that the rental car agency puts a hold on the card that is usually somewhere in the several thousand dollars range, which can be nerve-racking. But the hold has always been released and we’ve had no problems whatsoever.
Wow! What a great guide for the Ruta Puuc road and I have bookmarked this page as I really want to see the Mayan sites. I have to admit I didnt know about the Ruta Puuc until I read this so this will come in very handy.
John Widmer says
Glad we could introduce you to someplace new! 🙂 If ever in the Yucatan, it’s a great adventure.
Loved the detailed itinerary and tips. I’m a big fan of the Mayan heritage and the huge pyramids. Your post is probably all the preparation I need to pack my bags:)
John Widmer says
Pack your bags! 🙂 If you like Mayan history, this is an awesome route to pursue and take in five amazing sites all in one swoop.