Hop Aboard the Mayan Train and Discover Mexico Like Never Before

With 19 stations and 62 tours showcasing the region's cultural and natural beauty, this all-inclusive adventure, the highly anticipated Mayan Train, will take you through five of Mexico's states. Get ready for an unforgettable adventure!

Hop Aboard the Mayan Train and Discover Mexico Like Never Before
Discover the beauty and rich cultural heritage of Mexico through the Mayan Train - a journey to remember! Image credit: Fonatur

The Mayan Train is a highly anticipated transportation project that promises to revolutionize the way we experience Mexico's, Mayan Zone. With a comprehensive 1,500-kilometer route that connects five states, including Yucatan, Quintana Roo, Campeche, Chiapas, and Tabasco, the Mayan Train aims to provide connectivity and quality services to both national and international tourists.

The 19 stations along the route will provide tourists with a wealth of options, including 62 tours that showcase the region's diverse offerings, including 18 indigenous paradises, 28 rural communities, 14 magical towns, 46 archaeological sites, and six world heritage sites. The Mayan Train will give tourists a one-of-a-kind, all-inclusive way to see the region's cultural and natural beauty.

The Mayan Train is Set to Begin Operations on December 1st

Tren Maya S.A. de C.V's general director, Oscar David Lozano Aguila, announced that the company's flagship project, the Mayan Train, will commence operations on December 1, 2023. The railway will span a distance of 1,554 kilometers through the states of Tabasco, Chiapas, Campeche, Yucatan, and Quintana Roo. The launch date coincides with the fifth anniversary of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador's ascent to power and marks the beginning of his final 10 months as head of the Federal Executive.

During a recent press conference, Lozano Aguila emphasized the environmental benefits of the Tren Maya and noted that Pemex, the Mexican state-owned petroleum company, is working to supply the train's fuel. He added that the project will also increase the availability of energy in the region, with a projected margin of 1,500 megawatts.

Alstom, the railway company responsible for constructing the Tren Maya, is scheduled to deliver all the railway services by September of this year. Furthermore, the first Tren Maya convoy is set to be delivered by July 8, enabling pre-operational testing of the railway to commence.

The Tren Maya S.A. de C.V. has control centers located in key cities along the route, including Merida, Tulum, Bacalar, and Palenque, where the railway will originate. The project will enable the train to travel at speeds of up to 160 km/h for passengers and 109 km/h for cargo, creating an exciting opportunity for tourists to explore the region's archaeological sites.

The Route of the Mayan Train

The route will be approximately 1,500 kilometers long and will pass through 40 municipalities and 181 towns in the states of Chiapas, Tabasco, Campeche, Yucatan, and Quintana Roo. Forty-two trains will be built, which together will total 219 cars that will travel 7 sections, divided into three large areas: the Jungle, Caribbean, and Gulf.

  • Section 1 (Jungle One): Palenque-Escárcega (228 kilometers).
  • Section 2 (Gulf One): Escarcega-Calkiní (235 kilometers).
  • Section 3 (Gulf Two): Calkiní-Izamal (172 kilometers).
  • Section 4 (Gulf Three): Izamal-Cancún Airport (257 kilometers).
  • Section 5 (Caribbean One): Cancún Airport-Tulúm Airport (121 kilometers).
  • Section 6 (Caribbean Two): Tulúm Airport-Bacalar (254 kilometers).
  • Section 7 (Jungle Two): Bacalar-Escárcega (287 kilometers).
Discovering Mexico's rich history and stunning natural beauty, one stop at a time on the Tren Maya.
Discovering Mexico's rich history and stunning natural beauty, one stop at a time on the Tren Maya. Image: Inafed

There will be 21 main stations and 14 stops, distributed as follows:

  • Section 1: Stations (Palenque, Boca del Cerro, El Triunfo) and Stops (Tenosique, Candelaria).
  • Section 2: Stations (Escárcega, Edzná, San Francisco de Campeche) and Stops (Carrillo Puerto).
  • Section 3: Stations (Mérida, Teya, Izamal) and Stops (Mexcanú, Tixkokob).
  • Section 4: Stations (Chichén Itzá, Valladolid, Nuevo Xcán) and Stops (Xibalbá, Leona Vicario).
  • Section 5: Stations (Cancún Airport, Puerto Morelos, Playa del Carmen, Tulum, Tulum Airport) and Stops (Xcaret, Puerto Aventuras, Akumal).
  • Section 6: Stations (Felipe Carrillo Puerto, Bacalar, Chetumal Airport) and Stops (Limones).
  • Section 7: Stations (Xpujil) and Paraderos (Conhuas, Centenario).
Discovering the beauty of Mexico's rich cultural heritage aboard the Mayan Train.
Discovering the beauty of Mexico's rich cultural heritage aboard the Mayan Train.

Along the route, you can see 46 archaeological sites like Chichén Itzá, Uxmal, Calakmul, Edzná, and Palenque, as well as 28 rural communities, 18 indigenous paradises, 14 magical towns, and 6 sites that have been named World Heritage Sites.

An Indigenous Paradise, by the way, is a distinctive seal created by the National Institute of Indigenous Peoples. This seal is for tourist destinations, mostly ecotourism centers, that are protected and run by the local communities. These communities are in charge of keeping their cultural treasures and natural wonders safe and spreading the word about them.

The Categories of the Mayan Train

The Mayan Train plan will cover tourism services, local passengers, and cargo transportation, so the different sections will be adapted to these purposes. For example, the tourist and long-distance areas will have rooms for overnight stays and restaurants with typical food from the southeast of Mexico. Thirty-one of the 42 railcars will be used for passenger service, eight for tourist purposes, and three for long-distance travel. They will be divided into three types:

  • Xiinbal (Walking): The basic passenger service. It will have panoramic windows to admire the scenery, business class seats, standard seats, and a cafeteria.
  • Janal (Eat): Service with different seating configurations and restaurant with typical food and beverages from the regions through which the Tren Maya passes. Tables for two and four people.
  • P'atal (Stay): Designed for long distances and to enjoy the tourist and cultural sites along the route. With reclining seats and sleeping cabins with a private bathroom with shower and intercom.
Mayan train: The winning project, led by Alstom and Bombardier.
Mayan train: The winning project, led by Alstom and Bombardier, offered better costs, domestic manufacturing, delivery times, and design.

Mayan Train Ticket Prices

There are no official prices yet, but the projected fare for passenger transportation will likely be calculated per kilometer traveled and local passengers will pay less than national and foreign tourists, depending on the service offered and the route or section(s) of interest. Approximate prices will be 50 pesos for each section for single trips in the Xiinbal service (for locals). For tourists, the fare will be higher, as it is expected to be between $800 and 1,000 pesos per leg (between 40 and 50 dollars for the same trip from Cancun to Playa del Carmen).

The Design of the Mayan Train

The exterior and interior designs have been conceived as a combination that highlights the colors and graphic elements of the region. For the Xiinbal cars, the decoration takes elements from Mayan architecture, recognizable by carved stone pyramids and a stepped design. The distinctive colors are turquoise, white, and charcoal. The Janal locomotives exhibit a pattern inspired by the spots of the jaguar, the most representative feline of the region. Their main colors are gold, chestnut, and dark turquoise.

In the case of the P'atal trains, dark blue and gold colors are used to represent the starry night that the Maya studied as astronomers. The structure of the trains was conceived from the figure of a jaguar, a characteristic animal of the region that is "strong, elegant, skillful, fast, and silent," according to Maite Ramos Gómez, director of Alstom Mexico. "Great attention was paid to detail in the passenger cars, in the dining car, and in the cabins, where the colors harmonize with the panoramic view and with the themes of water, natural stones, and also wood," she said.

The interiors of the Tren Maya will be at the height of trains like those in Europe, as can be seen in the images. Said project corresponds to the consortium led by Bombardier and Alstom, companies responsible for manufacturing 42 trains at the plant in Ciudad Sahagún, Hidalgo. This consortium won the bidding process mainly due to four factors: the difference in costs compared to the other proposal (890 million pesos), the degree of national integration in the assembly of convoys, the delivery times, and the design of the cars, in addition to the conditions and analysis contained in the bidding process.

Operational Details of the Mayan Train

The trains will be hybrid trains powered by electric energy and diesel-electric engines, with an average speed of 120 kilometers per hour and a maximum speed of 160 kilometers per hour for passenger trains. 43.8% of the total section will be electrified and will run from Chetumal to Merida. Fonatur has said that in the future it could transition to hydrogen-powered locomotives. There will be "short" convoys with four cars of 98.5 meters in length and a capacity of 230 passengers, as well as long trains of seven cars for 450 people and a length of 169 meters.

Timeline for the Inauguration and Operation of the Mayan Train

As with costs, there is no official date for the inauguration of the Mayan train. However, the Mexican Government plans to begin testing in July 2023, when the first complete convoy will be delivered. The tentative date for the start of full operations has been set for December of this year. Train service is scheduled to start daily at 6:00 a.m. and end in the evening between 6:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m., except the Cancun-Tulum service, which will be extended until 11:00 p.m.

The first stone in the construction of the Mayan train was laid on December 16, 2018, and the project is expected to be completed in 2024. This infrastructure project has different construction phases. The first phase consisted of repairing the railway lines that run from Palenque to Valladolid in 2019. The construction of Selva y Caribe II began in 2020.

Embark on a Journey Through the Treasures of Mexico with the Mayan Train

Everything will start at Cancun Airport, the main visitor distribution center for the Mayan Train. From there, tourists will be able to reach the Puerto Morelos station, where the Cenotes Route opens up as a great opportunity to experience the adventure of the subway rivers, as well as snorkeling in the area of the National Reef Park, with a vast diversity of marine fauna and flora.

Further on, the Playa del Carmen station is the ideal place to visit another of the jewels of the Mexican Caribbean: Cozumel, with its natural park Chankanaab and the lagoon of the same name, home to more than 60 species of tropical fish, corals, and crustaceans, in addition to the Cozumel Reefs National Park.

In the resort and magical town of Tulum, visitors will have the opportunity to visit one of the most important archeological sites in Quintana Roo and the only one in front of the sea, while the perfect complement is a visit to the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve, which is also a World Heritage Site declared by UNESCO. Likewise, the Felipe Carrillo Puerto station is the heart of the history of the Caste War.

Living with the Mayan community and learning about their way of life and ancestral traditions is the experience offered by Kíichpam K'áax and the visit to Tihosuco, one of the oldest towns in Quintana Roo. For the station and magical town of Bacalar, the highlight is the Fort of San Felipe and the Route of its 100 murals, which will allow the traveler to discover the natural wonders through a tour of the Lagoon of 7 Colors, a tour that is complemented by the experience of beach, sea, and sun in Mahahual.

The station of Chetumal, the capital of Quintana Roo, is discovered through a tour of its monuments and gastronomy; the sculpture corridor is the perfect place to start and continue through the Rio Hondo Canal and the archaeological zones of Dzibanché and Kinichná. At the Xpujil station, you can see the archaeological zone of Calakmul, which is a cultural and natural UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is where the richness of the Maya world and the beauty of nature come together.

To enter the imposing Lacandon Jungle and discover one of the Natural Patrimonies of Humanity, you can arrive at the station and Magic Town of Palenque. Its impressive archaeological zone, the Agua Azul waterfalls, and the Misol-Ha waterfalls are mandatory stops. A visit to the magical town of Tapijulapa, in Tabasco, is its best compliment.

The Boca del Cerro station is where the Upper Usumacinta River ends and the Centla Swamps begin. Admiring this beauty from the Usumacinta Bridge is a unique experience. This is the best station to get to know the Lacandon culture of Chiapas. The inhabitants of Naha and Top Che will guide the visitor through nature, their culture, and millenary cosmovision.

The archaeological zone of Moral-Reforma and the ecological reserve of Las Cascadas are the protagonists of the El Triunfo station. From here, you can reach the magical town of Palizada, located in the state of Campeche. Residents of Zacil-Ha Isla de Pájaros will welcome tourists at the Escárcega station and take them by canoe through the Laguna de Términos and the enchanted town of Isla Aguada.

For stories of ships, seas, and pirates, the San Francisco de Campeche station is the one to visit. Its Historic Center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is where this cultural adventure begins and combines with the archaeological site of Edzná and its 25 square kilometers (16 square miles) of religious and residential buildings.

Mérida also has a station. The stately city, with its Paseo Montejo and its Historic Center; the Puuc Route, with its five archaeological zones that include the jewel Uxmal; as well as the new Pueblo Mágico de Maní, where the visitor will have the opportunity to taste the best Poc-Chuc dish.

The magical town of Izamal, or "City of the Three Cultures," is also part of the route; it was painted yellow ochre to maintain the eternal light, as well as its convent, San Antonio de Padua, from the XVI century. The Hacienda and archaeological zone of Aké are the unmissable points that tourists can visit when getting off the Tren Maya at this terminal.

The tour will have to stop at Chichén Itzá, which is an archaeological site and World Heritage site. The pyramid of Kukulkan is thought to be one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. The Yokdzonot cenote and the Balancanché Caves are just two of the main attractions for visitors.

The next point is located in the Magical Town of Valladolid, a strategic place to visit the archaeological zone of Ek Balam, Río Lagartos, and the Sac Aua and X'Canché cenotes, as well as the city itself and its Historic Center.

We are approaching the end of the circuit. At the Nuevo-Xcan station, the visitor can marvel at the Isla de la Pasión and the Isla de los Pájaros, a prelude to Holbox, as well as the archaeological zone of Cobá and the indigenous paradises of Ta'akbil-Ja and El Corchal.

The route closes with the Cancun Hotel Zone station, where visitors can visit the Magic Town of Isla Mujeres, with its Hacienda Mundaca, a 19th-century treasure, its reef park El Garrafón, and Isla Blanca, where the Chacmuchuchuch lagoon is located. The 62 tourist tours, which will be offered as soon as the Mayan train project is launched, will allow visitors to get to know and live new experiences such as those mentioned above and many others.