The two largest cities of the Yucatan Peninsula, Merida and Cancun, are separated by 300 kilometers. We will travel this distance from Mérida to Cancun on the 180 road, known as free, to see where to stop and what to see along the way.

Mérida and Cancun are the two most populated cities in the Yucatan peninsula, two of the most sought-after destinations in this land. Some 300 kilometers of asphalt separate, with the great claim of Chichén Itzá almost halfway between the two.

Two roads link Merida and Cancun: the toll road and the free, one of payment and the other free of payment. By fee road There are intermediate exits in Chichén Itzá and Valladolid. If you choose free You are going to take pleasant surprises on your way, take your time and enjoy the trip, it can be several days.

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What to see by free from Merida to Cancun?

Let's do the tour leaving Mérida and arriving in Cancún, or failing that to Playa del Carmen, Puerto Morelos or Tulum, the other towns of Riviera Maya. We focus on tourist visits close to the road, so you can also plan your route if you go in public transport using collective taxis or vans that travel free. From goose to goose and I shoot because it's my turn, you grab your van and from town to town you stop where you want. What interesting stops You find by free?

Oh, and do not worry about where to eat en free, there are local food stores along the road. In the busiest section from Piste to Valladolid there is more offer of restaurants.

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Mérida to Kantunil road section:

From Mérida to Kantunil, via Acanceh-Cuzamá-Homún: from the periphery of the city of Mérida, follow the sign for Chichén Itzá. After about 5 km you must take the detour that indicates Acanceh. After the town of Acanceh, you will follow the signs to Cuzamá and Homún is 5 km away.

What to see in this section ?:

  • archaeological zone of Acanceh: A Mayan archeological gem on your way, where you can visit one of the ancient Mayan cities of the Peninsula, with well-preserved masks.
  • Cenotes of Cuzama: in this town they offer you a circuit of three cenotes, the Chelentún, the Chansinic'Ché and the Bolón-Chohol. The three precious ones and with the added adventure of reaching them by mule-drawn wagon, an old transport system of the henequen. It is a very popular place to visit.
  • Cenotes of Homún: barely 5 kilometers from Cuzamá follows the population of Homún, with more than 10 tourist cenotes to visit. You can visit them in your private car or they guide you on a motorcycle taxi to them. In this population you have several options for lodging, for those who like to take things slowly.

The Cuzamá and Homún cenotes are the most popular, but there are cenotes in most towns in this area, an area to discover calmly. Once past Homun, go to Kantunil via Huhí, or you go through Sotuta to Holcá. These roads to Kantunil are secondary, that means they are not fast and are not as marked as the main ones. The good thing is that if you get lost there is always someone to ask in the towns, it is part of the trip 🙂

From Mérida to Kantunil, the fast track: the road section to Kantunil is not paid and has the characteristics of the toll road. Follow the signs of the toll road until you see the detour to Kantunil, about 50 kilometers. Since Kantunil you already take the free highway of the interior. This is the fast track if you are not interested in stopping in either Cuzamá or Homún, both towns famous for their cenotes.

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Section road Kantunil to Piste:

From Kantunil to Piste: This free section runs parallel to the toll road. It is a somewhat narrow but well paved road with good indications. On the way you can visit several cenotes, populate and get to Piste, where the jewel in the crown of the Peninsula is, the wonderful Chichén Itzá. 

What to see in this section ?:

  • Chihuan cenote: it is of the cenotes that make above all the delights of the divers, but if you want to refresh yourself it is one of the options on the way.
  • Cenote Xtogil: in the surroundings of the town of Free Union There are several cenotes, the Xtogil is a beauty. It is signposted in the town, but then they took the sign and did not replace it. If you get here you will surely be alone visiting this beautiful cenote.
  • Yokdzonot cenote: It is one of the cenotes that inevitably fall in love, a beauty of place and a good example of a Mayan community managing its treasure. A large diameter hole with walls 20 meters high up to the crystalline waters of the cenote. It is in the town of Yokdzonot, well signposted.
  • Yaxunah archaeological area: you must deviate about 20 kilometers of the road to visit this ancient Mayan city, and the interesting one town of Yaxunah, where you can cool off in the beautiful cenote de Lol Ha and visit the community museum.
  • Track: this population, being in the foothills of Chichén ItzáIt is a good place to spend the night, with several hotels and restaurants in the town and on the road.
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Chichén Itzá is the jewel of this road, let yourself be surprised by the rest

Piste to Valladolid road section:

From Piste to Valladolid: In this stretch of road there are very succulent stops for the visitor, one of the widest and most comfortable stretches of the whole free, where you will see several restaurants and a larger tourist influx. At each stop of the road and in each village you will sell handicrafts, food or whatever third. 

What to see in this section ?:

  • Chichén Itzá archaeological zone: there are very few visitors to these lands who skip the "must" visit to Chichén, one of those places that is in the subconscious of the traveler.
  • Balankanche grottoesThey were among the first suitable for the visitor, the scarce 6 kilometers that separate it from Chichén Itzá has greatly favored them, being a practical stop for the traveler, and a sweet tooth to promote and make profitable.
  • cenote I Kil: it is one of the most popular cenotes on the Peninsula, of great beauty and with services adapted to all travelers. If you arrive early you will enjoy it without the crowds of tourists, something that many of us appreciate.
  • Cenotes de Dzitnup: two other fantastic cenotes, the Xkeken and Samulá, one of the most popular too. Its proximity to just 7 kilometers from Valladolid in one of the busiest sections, makes them a sweet treat for visitors.
  • Saamal cenote: very close to the cenotes of Dzitnup is the Saamal, inside a Hacienda with buffet restaurant. It is not so well known, large groups of tourists go. The married
  • Colonial city of Valladolid: one of the must-see stops on the way, an ideal place as a base on your trip to get to know the area. Valladolid has the services and amenities for the traveler, hooks this colonial city.
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Get off the car and town, it's wonderful to soak up the atmosphere

Section road Valladolid to X-Can:

From Valladolid to X-Can: This stretch continues to be wide and comfortable, especially to Chemax. In Chemax you find a detour to Tulum, a good road that takes you to the coast passing by Cobá. Past X-Can you find another detour to Tulum, on a narrower road that passes by places of interest such as Tres Reyes, Pac chen, Punta Laguna y Cobá. Our route takes us to X-Can, do not get lost let's go to the Riviera Maya.

What to see in this section ?:

  • Suytun cenote: This cenote has a colossal vault and it is next to the road. Visit comfortable on your trip, you can stay in their cabins.
  • Santa Rita caves: one of my favorite places in the Peninsula for its beauty and the possibility of entering the Mayan underworld and seeing the traces of our past. The detour to the caves is following the sign to the town of Buenavista.
  • Chooj Ja 'cenote: Another stop that I would do without thinking twice would be this cenote: its beauty and good admission makes it one of my favorites. Another that seems very attractive is the cenote Sac Ha, in the town of X-Can.

In this section you will see several indications to cenotes, remember that here we only name those near the free road. In the town of X-Can You find local adventure agencies, this area is very interesting in cenotes and grottos.

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Section X-Can road to Riviera Maya:

Once you pass X-Can, the last town in the state of Yucatan, you will find detours to the populations of Cancun, Puerto Morelos, Playa del Carmen y Tulum, all on the Caribbean coast, known as this strip Riviera Maya. You also find the signage towards Holbox after X-Can.

From X-Can to Leona Vicario: this section passes through several towns and the road stops having the amplitude that he has from Piste to Chemax. Proast X-Can you will reach New X-Can, the first town of Quintana Roo, you already changed state. In this section, once you pass the town of Ignacio Zaragoza, you have the possibility of taking the fee road but also Playa del Carmen, road that also takes you to Tulum. 

What to see in this section ?:

  • El Naranjal archaeological zone: For the crazy people of the Mayan world and travelers who like to get out of the usual places, El Naranjal is a good stop on your way. You can find the detour in the town of Ignacio Zaragoza.

From Leona Vicario to Puerto Morelos: in Leona Vicario you can take what is known as short route to Puerto Morelos, a very entertaining section to travel. Before leaving Leona Vicario you should see the sign to Puerto Morelos.

What to see in this section ?:

  • Cenotes route: in this 35-kilometer stretch there are several cenotes, restaurants, accommodations and adventure parks. Around here you can already see the tourist roll of Riviera Maya. You have several beautiful cenotes to choose from, interesting this section.

From Leona Vicario via Cancun: About 40 kilometers of narrow road in good condition that will lead you directly to Cancun. You will go through several ranches, places that are used as spas for celebrations or spend with the family on Sundays. There isn't much to stop here, so head straight to Cancun.

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If you stop at a new place, you will explain to us how it went to write it down on the list. For each town you pass you can poke your head and browse, sometimes a stop along the way leads to a good talk or a laugh. Drive with caution because by free you cross several towns where it is easy to see a dog dozing on the asphalt or a kid running after a ball.

Tips for driving through the Yucatan Peninsula.

I hope you enjoy free, of those roads that if you have time will make you a whole trip.

Good way,

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Sandra Salvadó Training photographer, traveler by vocation and certified tourism guide by the Government of Mexico. We promote natural wonders and contemporary Mayan culture. Great fan of pre-Hispanic history. Author of the blog and co-founder of The Shortest Path Travel, agency that guides you through alternative paths in Mayan lands. Social and sustainable tourism in the Yucatan Peninsula and Chiapas.
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