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Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula is an enormous coastal area brimming with tropical seashores, spectacular wildlife, historical Mayan ruins, small colonial cities, and loads of out of doors adventures.
The Yucatan Peninsula is a spot of emerald waters turning to turquoise waves crashing on completely white coral-sand seashores.
It’s a spot of lush inexperienced forests dotted with Mayan ruins, cool shades of colonial-era structure, and sea-life ablaze with colour – all below Caribbean blue skies.
Many individuals shorten “Yucatan Peninsula” to “Yucatan”. That’s really deceptive, for the reason that peninsula itself is made up of 4 completely different states: Yucatan, Campeche, Quintana Roo, and Tabasco.
The peninsula separates the Caribbean Sea from the Gulf of Mexico, and every part tropical you affiliate with the phrase “Caribbean” is on full show alongside its shorelines. It’s one among my favourite components of Mexico!
Understandably, the Yucatan is an more and more fashionable place to take a trip, with low-cost & simple flights from many main cities to Mexico’s infamous occasion city of Cancun.
However there’s sooooo far more to the Yucatan Peninsula than Cancun!
Finest Of The Yucatan Peninsula
1: Discover Chichen Itza
This UNESCO world heritage web site is a centerpiece of the Mayan archaeological scene in Mexico, and will get round 1.four million guests a 12 months — the area’s hottest ruins.
For over a thousand years this was one of many nice cities of Central America – situated right here due to proximity to deep cenotes that gave entry to recent water. The fashionable web site covers 5 sq. kilometers of uncovered archaeology and spectacular above-ground stone buildings, surrounded by dense forest.
You’ve most likely seen footage of the temple of Kukulcan – also referred to as El Castillo – as a result of it’s breathtakingly photogenic. Nevertheless, a century’s price of excavations means the remainder of Chichen Itza is equally cool.
2: Go to Las Coloradas
In a nook of the Ría Lagartos Biosphere Reserve, about three hours from Cancun, you’ll discover a magical place the place sea water turns vivid pink on an epic scale.
It’s all right down to salt manufacturing. The Las Coloradas pink lakes are used for industrial-scale sea-salt manufacturing. Because the water evaporates, salinity causes an explosion within the development of crimson algae, plankton and brine shrimp, tinting the water reddish-pink.
You may go to the lakes (and small city by the identical identify) when you’ve got a automotive, and stroll alongside their shores taking surreal images of the pink water. It’s a very bizarre sight – and, curiously, the explanation why flamingos are pink!
You could even spot some flamingos hanging out within the space too. Las Coloradas has change into Instagram well-known lately, and it’s not attainable to get into the water, however you possibly can nonetheless take images.
three: Snorkel With Sea Turtles
Who doesn’t need to swim with sea turtles? Effectively you possibly can at Akumal seashore, simply 30 minutes South of Playa del Carmen. This shallow blue-green water is house to three completely different sorts of sea turtles which you can swim with.
For years you would merely swim with the turtles at Akumal by yourself, bringing your individual snorkeling gear. Nevertheless to assist protect the world, they’ve carried out some new guidelines in 2017.
A lifejacket is required (which you’ll hire together with snorkel gear), and lifeguards patrol the water on paddle boards. Organized sea turtle snorkeling excursions are additionally supplied by locals.
four: Purchase A Hammock In Merida
The capital metropolis of Yucatan state has colonial historical past is written into the structure of a lot of the buildings within the stunning, pedestrian-friendly metropolis centre, and liberal use of white limestone has given Merida the nickname “the white metropolis”.
It’s a cosmopolitan place, that means there are many vacationers – however broad streets and excessive rooftops by no means make it really feel crowded or closely populated. It’s an amazing place to base your self for exploring the remainder of the peninsula.
There are some nice Maya ruins situated close by, like the location at Uxmal. Together with big flocks of pink flamingos simply 2 hours away at Celestun Biosphere.
Merida can be an ideal place to choose up a regionally made Mexican hammock. Hammock weaving within the Yucatan Peninsula is a 700 12 months previous custom, producing a number of the most stunning hammocks on the planet.
5: Whale Sharks At Isla Holbox
Whale sharks are the biggest fish within the ocean, rising as much as 40 toes lengthy and weighing as much as 20,000 kilos. And, you possibly can swim with them! Nevertheless you don’t have to fret about them consuming you, as they like plankton.
Swimming subsequent to a 30 foot lengthy sea creature, the scale of a bus, was a wild expertise. It’s a bit intimidating to be trustworthy… they’re big!
Whale shark snorkeling journeys might be organized from Cancun, however if you’d like an actual journey, I like to recommend doing it from Isla Holbox, a small sleepy island paradise off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula.
6: Izamal The Yellow City
Welcome to a different metropolis obsessive about a major colour! Virtually each main expanse of wall and constructing facade was painted a deep golden yellow for a particular go to from Pope John Paul II in 1993, they usually simply by no means modified it.
Izamal is constructed on a collection of hills that when housed Mayan pyramids (and far of the city nonetheless speaks the Mayan language). There’s nonetheless one huge pyramid overlooking the city which you can really climb.
Like Merida, the city of Izamal is designed to be walkable (you’ll want to try the big yellow-painted Franciscan monastery within the historic heart) – however you can even get round by hiring horse-drawn carriages.
7: Swimming In Cenotes
What’s a cenote you ask? It’s an underground cave full of recent water. The Yucatan Peninsula has tons of them — sinkholes that open up into underground rivers with the clearest water you’ve ever seen.
Cenotes are the right solution to cool off on a scorching day, Mexico’s pure swimming holes created when the limestone bedrock caved in to disclose underground rivers under.
There are round 2000 completely different cenotes throughout the Yucatan. I’ve visited lots of them, however a few of my favorites are Dzitnip, Azul, Dos Ojos, and La Noria.
For the extra adventurous, scuba divers also can discover these underwater caves when you’re a licensed PADI diver. The Yucatan is among the world’s premier cave-diving locations.
eight: Mayan Meals In Valladolid
To not be confused with its Spanish counterpart, this sleepy colonial metropolis can be constructed on prime of an historical Mayan settlement. The centra plaza is stuffed with traditional Spanish-looking buildings, museums, and lots of splendidly tasty conventional Maya eating places and meals stalls!
Valladolid is one other good base for exploring the Yucatan Peninsula with reasonably priced lodging, shut proximity to Chichen Itza (solely 45 minutes away), and a bunch of various freshwater cenotes close by.
The Yucatecan meals right here is superior, and I extremely advocate you attempt some conventional favorites like Cochinita Pibil (pulled pork) and Relleno Negro De Pavo (black turkey soup).
9: Social gathering In Cancún!
A tough translation of the phrase Cancun in Mayan is “pot of snakes” – and this precisely describes the way you may really feel about this riotous metropolis of accommodations, bars and each type of occasion you possibly can dream up.
Cancun does have lots going for it although. You may swim with whale sharks, hire jet skis, chill out on the seashore, take a scuba diving course, race Lamborghinis, or sail round at sundown with a drink in your hand.
Plus, in fact, the superior nightlife you’ll discover there.
Most individuals go to Cancun for the all-inclusive resorts and late night time debauchery, however when you skip the remainder of the Yucatan Peninsula, you’re completely lacking one of the best stuff for my part!
10: Stroll La Quinta Avenida
On the subject of Playa del Carmen, aka “Playa”, I’m a little bit biased – I spent over a 12 months residing and dealing right here. It’s one of many main vacationer spots alongside the Riviera Maya, a formidable stretch of shoreline from Cancun to Tulum.
Regardless of its reputation, the city is lots much less party-oriented than its neighbors, and the nightlife isn’t as loopy. It’s additionally pedestrian-friendly and specified by a grid, making exploring on foot an absolute breeze.
Playa del Carmen’s spotlight is a walking-street referred to as La Quinta Avenida, lined with all method of outlets, seashore bars, and eating places. For extra particulars on what you are able to do in Playa del Carmen, try my devoted weblog submit.
11: Scuba Diving Round Cozumel
A brief ferry journey away from Playa del Carmen, the island of Cozumel runs at a very completely different tempo of life. This low limestone island is lined with scenic rocky seashores and jungle.
It’s additionally on the cruise ship route, as clearly seen from the quantity of reward retailers close to the docks at San Miguel, house to a lot of the island’s inhabitants – however get away from city and the island’s wealthy vacancy reveals itself.
Unsurprisingly, Cozumel is a premier vacation spot for scuba diving & snorkeling, catering to all ability ranges.
One in all my favourite issues to do is simply hire a automotive or moped and drive across the island, stopping at fairly seashores and enjoyable bars alongside the best way (cautious to not drink an excessive amount of!).
12: Sunbathing & Yoga In Tulum
Tulum has one of the best seashores within the Yucatan Peninsula. The world initially served as a serious port for the close by Mayan jungle metropolis of Cobá – however as of late it’s filled with hippies, backpackers, and celebrities seeking to unwind.
Strictly talking, there are three “Tulums.” There’s the pueblo (native city) the place you could find reasonably priced locations to eat and sleep. The Tulum Archaeological Website options Mayan ruins perched on the sting of a sea cliff.
Lastly, Tulum’s playa is the stretch of shoreline the place you’ll discover fancy resorts, vegan eating places, well being spas, and yoga studios. Lease a seashore cruiser bicycle and take a look at all of Tulum’s nice seashores!
Tulum has ample scuba diving, snorkeling, kite browsing, yoga, and cenote alternatives. You can too head a little bit out of city into the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve for superior mangrove & wildlife excursions.
13: Kayaking Bacalar Lagoon
It’s exhausting to think about this sedate lakeside city being overrun by pirates – however that’s the historical past in these components. A scarcity of defensive energy within the 17th Century noticed the arrival of Caribbean pirates, utilizing pure waterways from the ocean to assist their plundering.
At the moment it’s a quiet, stress-free place of 12,000 souls, well-preserved fishermen’s homes – and plenty of boats. Should you come to Bacalar and don’t hire a kayak for the day, you’re lacking all of the enjoyable!
Paddling throughout the glowing blue waters of the Lagoon of Seven Colours, you’ll discover the way it will get its identify from the impact of various depths and contrasting floor soils upon daylight, giving the lagoon a multi-hued look.
14: Mexico’s Journey Theme Parks
All through the Yucatan Peninsula, particularly alongside the Riviera Maya, you’ll discover a collection of out of doors journey theme parks constructed to benefit from the pure panorama.
A number of the hottest ones are Xcaret, Xel Ha, Xplor and Rio Secreto. They’re like organized adventures that can take you zip-lining by means of the timber, swimming in caves, driving ATVs, or snorkeling with colourful fish.
An effective way for households to spend a day in Mexico, however adults can have time at these theme parks too. I feel my favourite was Rio Secreto, as a result of it feels a little bit extra genuine and fewer touristy.
15: Calakmul Mayan Ruins
Calakmul is an historical Mayan metropolis situated deep throughout the jungle in Campeche state close to the border with Guatemala. Not many individuals make it out this fashion as a result of it’s distant location.
Surrounded by the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve, it’s extraordinarily distant, and a real journey for these seeking to get off the crushed vacationer path within the Yucatan Peninsula. You’re more likely to see solely a handful of different guests.
Among the many many attention-grabbing buildings discovered at this archeological web site are two gigantic pyramids — with the biggest one reaching 55 meters excessive (165 toes). It’s the 2nd highest pyramid in Mexico, and you’ll nonetheless climb it!
Is The Yucatan Protected?
Regardless of Mexico’s troubled historical past with cartel violence, native governments within the Yucatan Peninsula have labored exhausting to maintain their main vacationer points of interest crime-free.
It’s considerably safer for guests than different components of Mexico, making it a preferred trip vacation spot for Mexicans in addition to foreigners.
Petty crime and customary journey scams might be a difficulty in additional touristy cities like Cancun & Playa del Carmen, however the extra severe drug cartel sort violence normally doesn’t goal vacationers.
Transport Round The Yucatan
In case your funds can stretch it, I normally advocate renting a automotive – it’ll provide the freedom you need, and can help you get to points of interest early within the morning, earlier than the crowds flip up and noon warmth units in.
In any other case, you’ll be fairly properly served by the ADO bus community – aside from while you’re within the extra out-the-way locations. Word which you can’t purchase bus tickets on-line – the one means is to buy them at native bus terminals.
You can too search out native colectivos, shared transportation, the place you’ll be squeezing into vehicles with locals (this isn’t an amazing choice when you’ve got a number of baggage).
Finest Time To Go to
Should you’re from a comparatively chilly a part of the US or Europe, plan to go to Yucatan between the tip of October and the start of April. It’s when the skies are clearest and the temperature is most bearable.
Busy season within the Yucatan Peninsula begins in December and goes on by means of March. Mainly when all of the snow-birds from the US and Canada fly down to flee the winter snow. ★
Touring To Mexico Quickly?
Don’t neglect journey insurance coverage! I’m a giant fan of World Nomads for short-term journeys. Defend your self from attainable damage & theft overseas. Learn extra about why it’s best to at all times carry journey insurance coverage right here.
Have any questions in regards to the Yucatan Peninsula? Are you planning a go to? Drop me a message within the feedback under!