Everything You Need To Know About the New Train That Connects Mexico’s Top Sights

by  Lauren Dana Ellman | Mar 1, 2024
Courtesy of Tren Maya

Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Tulum — you’ve probably heard of all these hotspots since they’re what make Mexico’s famous Yucatan Peninsula one of the most popular destinations in the world, attracting millions of visitors each year with stunning beaches and incredible food. While some tourists might venture out beyond these areas to visit top attractions like Cenotes and Chichen Itza, generally they don’t stray too far from their loungers at the many all-inclusive resorts the area is known for.

Enter: Tren Maya (the Mayan Train), a new $28-billion rail route that connects dozens of must-see sights — especially hard-to-reach ones — in the hopes of luring travelers further afield and strengthening the economy in lesser-known spots.


After several years of construction, the highly anticipated Tren Maya partially opened in December 2023, offering service between Palenque and the Cancun International Airport. Although the train was initially slated to be fully operational in February 2024, a recent federal court order halted construction on the fifth section of the route (there will be seven in total), which will connect Playa del Carmen and Tulum, but crosses some environmentally sensitive terrain.


Upon completion, Tren Maya will traverse five Mexican states — Quintana Roo, Yucatán, Campeche, Tabasco, and Chiapas — offering a total of 34 stops along a nearly 1,000-mile-long route. This will make it easier to explore more remote archeological sites such as Calakmul, an ancient Mayan city nestled in the jungle, and Uxmal, a prehistoric town dotted with ancient buildings and ceremonial sites, among many others. Travelers will also be able to visit historic cities such as Merida, the Yucatan capital known for its rich Mayan history and colonial architecture, and Izamal, a small UNESCO-listed town famous for its striking yellow buildings and ancient sites. 

The Look of Tren Maya 

Courtesy of Tren Maya

These specially designed trains — there will be 42 of them total — have striking blue, green, and gold exteriors that feature different patterns said to be inspired by Mayan culture as well as the majesty of the endemic jaguar. The interior similarly features calming shades of blue and green, both on the seats themselves and in common areas like lobbies and cafeterias. 

The Onboard Experience

Courtesy of Tren Maya

Upon completion, Tren Maya will offer three types of train service: 

  • Xiinbal (walking): Standard train service with large panoramic windows, natural light, and plush seats.
  • Janal (eating): A restaurant car with comfy spaces where guests can enjoy regional cuisine. 
  • P'atal (staying): A train with sleeper cabins and reclining seats for longer distances.  

As of now, Xiinbal is the only one in operation. Passengers can choose from two class options, tourist (a.k.a. Tren Maya’s version of coach) and premier. The main difference? The latter has a 2-1 seat configuration (two seats on one side of the aisle and one on the other, making seats wider and more comfortable), while the former has a 2-2 seat configuration. 

All three categories offer ample seating, Wi-Fi, in-seat power outlets, and luggage storage.

How to Get Tickets — and How Much They Cost

Courtesy of Tren Maya

Tickets can be purchased directly through the Tren Maya website. From here, travelers can search available routes — right now, the only route is from Cancun to Palenque and vice-versa — enter their departure and arrival stations, and select a date and time (once fully operational, trains will depart every two hours). Once the results load, travelers will be prompted to choose their seats and complete payment. 

Currently, train tickets from Cancun International Airport to Palenque (approximately 530 miles) cost 2,123.50 pesos ($124.63) per person in the standard tourist class. Those looking to spring on a seat in the upgraded premier class can expect to pay 3,391.00 pesos ($198.96) per person.


The train has not been without its fair share of controversies: The original cost estimate of around $8.5 billion ballooned to almost $28 billion, per AP. And, according to TIME, while no tree was meant to be felled for the train’s construction, in actuality, around 300,000 trees have been cut down along section five alone (and some claim as many as 9 million total). Environmentalists also fear the threat the train poses to cenotes and underground cave systems, which is the reason construction on section five was halted. There have also been concerns about the displacement of locals in the train’s path. 

Finally, it may not be financially viable. According to AP, a first-class ticket for the highly popular route of Cancun to Merida will cost around $68, while taking a first-class bus currently costs around $58, with buses leaving far more frequently and from more accessible areas than the train.

Find The Best Cruises
Find a cruise

Find the best deals!

Click on multiple sites to get the lowest prices

Click on multiple sites to get the lowest prices