What is the Mayan Train? – Ultimate Travel Guide

One of Mexico’s most prominent projects in the past years is the Mayan Train – a massive routed train that promises to attract thousands of daily users.

With the constructions that started in 2018, the project has massive potential for the country’s economy and tourists’ and locals’ convenience.

In fact, the route will connect all the most tourist sites like Chichén Itzá, Chiapas, and Yucatán, among many others.

But apart from these figures, what is the Mayan train, its ultimate purpose, and what are the cities it will cover? This is what we’ll find out in this complete guide.

What is the Maya Train?

The Mayan train is currently the most significant project in Mexico, and it is worth 63.2bn pesos (US$3.06bn). While this may sound like a lot, the budget was increased in 2021 from its initial estimation.

Also, some new increase is expected in 2022, and the final overall cost could be anywhere between $6.5bn and $7.3bn.

But why is the Maya train one of the country’s potentially most successful projects? First of all, the train could actually be transporting up to 8,000 people daily. This is a significant gain for the Mexican economy, which will eventually escalate the country’s future.

Secondly, the route will cover 1,554 kilometers (965 miles) across five states Campeche, Chiapas, Quintana Roo, Tabasco, and Yucatán. This is an excellent opportunity for both locals and travelers since it will cut traveling times drastically.

At this moment in time, travelers need to get on a plane to Cancun or Playa del Carmen and take a local bus, rent a car, or jump on a taxi to get around the Mayan sites.

Naturally, such a colossal project takes years to complete, and we’ll discuss the operating time expectations in the following paragraphs.

How to Get Around the Mayan Route in 2022?

The Mayan train is a great project for both locals and tourists. However, what is the present way to get around the Mayan sites and cities?

At this moment, traveling from Cancun to Palenque, the farthest destination of the Maya train, takes about 11 hours by car and covers 838 kilometers, or 521 miles.

The most convenient way to travel around is, of course, by renting a car and driving interstate. This is also the perfect opportunity to discover more of the country while on vacation.

Apart from that, you can also take a bus from Cancun to Chichén Itzá that will last about 3 hours. However, if you’re willing to travel further or discover more sites, you will need to take another public bus or a taxi.

It’s worth noting that a $38 tourism tax is required for all travelers entering Quintana Roo. This is an easy document to get and can be done quickly on Visitax by filling in your travel information.

When Will the Maya Train Start Operating?

The Mayan train project will start operating in 2023, and three services will be offered.

To start with, the “Xiinbal” will be the most popular ticket offered and will be all about traveling from point A to B with both economy and first-class tickets for sale.

Also, the “Janal” tickets will be more premium and include dining cars with gastronomic events and famous Mexican chefs from the Yucatan peninsula. The dishes served will be from each state that the Mayan Train will cover, adding to its authenticity and experience.

Furthermore, the most exclusive ticket, the “P’atal”, will be for long-stay trips and include private cabins and showers for those willing to travel to the very end of the route.

It’s important to note that the Maya Train will also operate for regular commuters and tourists, which adds a layer of originality compared to day tours around the country.

Of course, a delay has to be expected with the Maya Train project, but we’re hopeful it will be ready by 2023.

The Maya Train Routes

The Mayan Train will originally depart from Cancun, Quintana Roo, to finally arrive in Palenque, Chiapas. The following are the train stops all around the Yucatan peninsula:

  • Cancun,
  • Puerto Morelos,
  • Playa del Carmen,
  • Tulum,
  • Felipe Carrillo Puerto,
  • Bacalar,
  • Escárcega,
  • Campeche,
  • Xpujil,
  • Calakmul,
  • Maxcanú,
  • Merida,
  • Izamal,
  • Chichén Itzá,
  • Valladolid

As you can see, the Tren Maya will stop in several cities and traveling around the peninsula will be much more practical and pleasant. For the ones willing to discover the most popular tourist attractions and the most important Mayan sites, the train is an opportunity not to miss.

The Sites You Can Find When Taking the Maya Train

Naturally, the most important and famous site on the way from Cancun to Palenque is Chichén Itzá. But there are many more hidden gems located on the way, and these are the following.

Chichén Itzá

The most famous stop on the Tren Maya route is Chichén Itzá – the number one attraction in the area that every traveler should visit. Chichén Itzá is an ancient Mayan city and archaeological site part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site and the World Wonders. The spots worth seeing inside are El Castillo (also called Pyramid of Kukulkán), the Caracol observatory, and the Xtoloc Cenote.

Izamal, Yucatán

Izamal is one colonial city located in the state of Yucatan, and it is located roughly 70 kilometers from Merida. While it’s known for its beautiful and yellow architecture, there are some unique activities in Izamal that you can do while stopping here as your final destination:

  • Convento de San Antonio de Padua
  • Kinich Kakmó Pyramid
  • Discover Itzamatul
  • Temple of Kabul
  • Parque Itzamna

Lastly, if you’re planning to discover more of this part of Mexico, make sure to continue the train journey later during the day or the day after and visit Merida.

Bacalar, Quintana Roo

Bacalar is another incredible spot on the Maya train route located near Chetumal and the Belize border. It isn’t only a good opportunity to visit the southern part of the state but also to discover a new country on your trip.

These are the most worthy attractions in town:

  • Explore Fort San Felipe
  • Watch the sunrise in Bacalar
  • Spend some time at the Bacalar Lagoon
  • Visit the unique Cenotes Azul, Cocalitos, Esmeralda, la Bruja

Of course, there’s more, and we recommend stopping for the night before resuming your train journey.

Palenque, Campeche

The final destination on the Tren Maya Route is Palenque, a small city located relatively close to the Guatemala border. While it’s a small town, you’ll find rare places unique to this area.

These are the most famous attractions in and around Palenque:

  • Visit the Palenque Ruins
  • Spend time at the Aluxes Palenque
  • Wander around the waterfalls Misol-Ha and Agua Azul

Naturally, the city itself is worth visiting and staying one or more nights before discovering more of Mexico on your way to Mexico City or Oaxaca.