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The Maya Train Will Get You to All of Yucatán’s Best Spots. But Not Yet.

I stepped off the platform at the gleaming new Maxcanú train station, eager to see the magnificent Maya archaeological site of Uxmal. All I needed was a taxi to take me there, a trip of about 30 miles away.

There are no taxis, said the stationmaster, as we stood on the polished limestone floors of the high-ceilinged station, which was cool and breezy despite the brilliant late-morning sun outside. And I was the third person in two weeks to get off at Maxcanú expecting to reach Uxmal, he said.

I was midway through a five-day trip to explore the brand-new Maya Train and several of its destinations in the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico. Designed to run 965 miles (1,554 kilometers) around a loop of 34 stations when completed, the train will whisk passengers in cool comfort through colonial cities, archaeological sites, splashy resorts and tropical forests.

Now I was stunned. Wrangling a taxi has never been a problem in Mexico. But the drivers gathered in the main square of Maxcanú offered only beat-up vans that hopscotch through small towns, where I might or might not find a taxi to Uxmal. The next van was leaving in 45 minutes.

Yucatán’s layers of history have long held me spellbound. During earlier car trips, I have clambered up deserted Maya temples and palaces, stepped into the cool naves of massive 16th-century churches and visited restored haciendas, testaments of the ostentation — and hardship — of the peninsula’s 19th-century plantation economy. Traveling by train, I thought, would allow me to steep myself in more of that history.

But as I found in Maxcanú, a train won’t necessarily get you to where you want to go.

During my February trip, I traveled on the only route then available, an east-west leg that opened in December and runs from Cancún to Mérida, and then south through the port city of Campeche to the Maya site of Palenque (a short route between Cancún and Playa del Carmen opened last month, with three trains a day). I encountered scheduling confusion, unfinished stations and a dearth of trains — just two operating daily each way between Cancún and Campeche, and only one to Palenque. Overnight sleepers and special dining trains seem years away.

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