The Yucatan Peninsula boasts an enchanting array of historic cities, rich culture and natural wonders. Even the most jaded travelers are bound to find at least a few reasons to fall in love with this special region of Mexico. Want to know more?
Here are five reasons to start planning your escape right now:
The Mexican Caribbean is world-renowned for its powder white beaches and aquamarine water—and for good reason. Whether you’re looking for a plush all-inclusive, a hippy hangout, or an elusive getaway, there’s bound to be beach for you on the Yucatan Peninsula. If you’re not sure where to start, try a few of the following:
Cancun for its prime location and abundance of hotels, restaurants, and family-friendly activities.
Playa del Carmen for its stylish boutique hotels, trendy cafes and riveting nightlife.
Tulum for its plethora of yoga studios, eco-friendly bungalows, and sand-packed streets.
The Islands for uninterrupted relaxation and miles of pristine beaches.
No trip to Mexico is complete without a visit to at least one Mayan ruin. One of the greatest civilizations of Mesoamerica, the Mayan civilization is known for its hieroglyph writing, architectural feats, and impressive astrological and mathematical knowledge. Some of the best Mayan ruins are conveniently located on the Yucatan Peninsula.
Ek Balam: Ek Balam doesn’t see nearly as many tourists as other Mayan temples, which makes it all the more captivating. Only the center of Ek Balam has been excavated; of this the Acropolis Temple is the most impressive, towering above at 95 feet tall. Visitors can climb the six levels to the top of the Acropolis for a fantastic view of the surrounding area.
Chichen Itza is perhaps the most popular of Mayan temples. It was first brought to attention in the book, “Incidents of Traveling the Yucatan”, and today is considered one of the ‘New 7 Wonders of the World’. Like most attractions, Chichen Itza is touristy for a reason. Be sure to visit the ball court, the largest and best preserved in the Americas.
Coba contains the largest Mayan pyramid at 130 feet. You can climb to the top for a fantastic view of the temple grounds, intricate network of ancient roads, and vast surrounding landscape.
Cenotes are natural sinkholes resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater underneath. Mayans have long considered these unique bodies of water to be sacred entrances to Xibalba (the underworld). Offering sacrifices into the cenotes was a medium to communicate with the gods, specifically the rain gods, of the underworld. But in addition to their spiritual significance, cenotes were also the main source of freshwater for the Mayan people. That’s because the Yucatan has no visible rivers—they are all underground. There are over 6000 cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula, meaning you shouldn’t have any trouble exploring at least a few.
The Colonial Towns
If beaches aren’t for you, then consider a visit to Merida or Valladolid, both charming Spanish Colonial towns. Merida is the larger of the two, mixing a cosmopolitan air with its colonial roots. Valladolid is more manageable, with cobblestone roads, shady plazas, friendly locals and a great location. Valladolid still boasts a large Mayan population, making it a great place to not only learn about colonial history, but also about the Mayan culture that still abounds on the peninsula.
Swim with whale sharks off Isla Holbox. Snorkel with turtles at Akumel. Dive with colorful fish and coral at the second largest barrier reef in the world in Cozumel. If you prefer to keep your toes dry, then try a hike through one of the peninsula’s national parks to spot birds and flamingos, reptiles, and maybe if you’re lucky even the elusive jaguar. Though it’s easy to get stuck within the concrete walls of Cancun and Playa del Carmen, it’s equally easy to lose yourself exploring the region’s rich nature parks and reserves.
Is the Yucatan Peninsula calling out to you?