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Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico

Be fascinated by all the destinations the Yucatan Peninsula offers to you as you experience the perfect unification of ancient times and the contemporary-modern age. 

Not only does it offer the most stunning beaches, but it is also the gateway to the mysterious Mayan World. Get to know the ancient civilizations, visit some of the most impressive Mayan ruins and discover one of the Seven New World Wonders. Be pampered in a comfortable beach resort in Celestun and watch flamingos in their natural habitat.

Travel through colonial history in Merida, and spend some nights in the region’s most luxurious hacienda hotels. Re-discover yourself in close harmony with nature.

Reasons to visit Yucatan

Natural Wonders

Yucatan also offers an incredible range of natural attractions making this state perfect for resting and relaxing. Even if you are totally an adventurer, you need to explore the eco touristic options Yucatan offers. Including caves, mangroves, “cenotes, “and, of course, the Flamingos spectacle in Ria and Celestun Biosphere Reserves.

Caves of Calcehtokalso known as Actun Spukil. This cave system is said to be the largest in the Yucatan Peninsula. The caves hold impressive natural formations, human and animal remain, and plenty of artifacts dedicated to the (ancient) Maya. Besides, the caverns are home to birds and bats. Every day you can witness an extraordinary natural spectacle when thousands of bats leave the caves searching for food.

Loltun the cave where Maya ceremonies were carried out. This place offers magnificent galleries with stunning stalagmites and stalactites, as well as cave paintings that date back to the Pleistocene period. These caves have an extension of 6 miles approximately, but only 1 mile of the total has been explored.

Cenotes

Surrounded by vegetation made by exotic plants and many birds, one of the fascinating cenotesIk Kil, is an open site close enough to Chichen Itza. Admire the beautiful atmosphere while you dive in its bright, refreshing water. 

Dzitnup, where stalactites decorate the whole place, and you will be able to snorkel and discover an underwater experience. 

Maya “cenote,” where you can practice rappel, zip line, and learn and know about medicinal plants. And Yokdzonot, where all kinds of adventure activities can be practiced: snorkel, rappel, zip line, camping, biking, and diving.

Gastronomy

The Yucatec gastronomy perfectly exemplifies the rich heritage of the Mayan culture. A classic combination of native and Hispanic flavors; based on different characteristic ingredients from the region. The most representative regional plate is Cochinita Pibil. You need to try this pork meat cooked with “achiote.” You can’t leave Yucatan without enjoying these plates: Queso Relleno (stuffed cheese), PapadzueslPanuchos, Poc Chuc (orange and pork steak), or lime soup (chicken soup & lime).

Archaeological Sites

Yucatan is definitely filled with archaeological richness; some countless ruins and sites reflect ancient Mayan culture. Only some of them can be visited from all the existing sites, but don’t worry; without a doubt, these places will fascinate you. You can see the majestic Chichen Itza or go to a less popular but still impressive site Ek Balam. 

Colonial Heritage and Haciendas

Merida, Valladolid, and Izamal are authentic representations of how the colonial ages influenced Yucatan’s development. Most Haciendas are located in these cities, and they have turned now into attractive touristic spots. Dated from the XIX and XX century, these elegant constructions offer a historical peek. One of the most famous Haciendas is Sotuta de Peon: An authentic flash of what was once a fully operational hacienda, in the grand style and tradition of the nineteenth century. A unique experience! 

Modern Mayan Culture

Modern Mayan villages that have preserved many of their traditions and customs are mostly known for their typical, traditional houses. When you travel to Merida, the unique culture and traditions that you’ll experience are overwhelmingly apparent in the local dress, language, and celebrations.

If you really want to learn about this state’s culture, lifestyle, and folklore, you need to visit Santa Elena. Here you can meet a Mayan Family and learn more about Mayan heritage.

Another town you need to know about: Ticula quiet but beautiful little village located about 85 kilometers from Merida. Mostly famous for its ceramics production, with colorful inhabitants, who are proud of their Mayan heritage.

According to all changes Izamal has suffered through history, this city is called the “city of three cultures.” You’ll find the most exciting combination of a culture where legends, rituals, and traditions are incredibly unique.

Destinations

Merida

Mérida was established in 1542 by Francisco de Montejo “el Mozo” and built on the ancient Maya city T’ho (the city of five hills).

It’s called la Ciudad Blanca (The White City), to the predominance of white limestone used as a building material. However, locals today will tell you that it also relates to the cleanliness of the city. Merida is the capital city of Yucatan, with still a strong influence of Mayan cultural heritage. 

This stunning colonial city is described by its own mansions and historical architecture from the XVI century; its monuments such as Government Palace, the Cathedral, House of Montejo, and the José Peon Contreras Theatre. Merida is also a modern and cosmopolitan city with museums, art galleries, restaurants, shops, and boutiques. It is considered one of the best places to learn about modern-day Mayan heritage. It’s also an excellent base for discovering ancient culinary treasures.

Merida was built as a walled city, and several of the old Spanish city gates can still be seen. The city has the second-largest historic center in Mexico.

Chichen Itza

Its exceptional beauty and convenient geographic location make Chichen Itza one of the most visited archaeological places on the Yucatan Peninsula and one of the largest and most prominent Maya cities.

Nowadays, Chichen Itza is, without a doubt, the best-preserved Maya site in the region. Recognized as UNESCO World Heritage and also recently declared one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Different architectural styles are seen in Chichen Itza. The most famous landmarks are the Ballgame Court, the Temple of Kukulkan (“El Castillo”), the Skulls’ Platform, the Observatory, the Temple of the Jaguar, the One Thousand Columns, and the Sacred Cenote. The cosmological and mathematical knowledge applied in this site’s constructions has astounded scholars from around the World. It’s definitely one of the most iconic places in the country, a place that can’t be missed on a trip to Mexico.

Celestun

Located 96 km west of Merida, Celestun is a quiet fishing town with some lovely pristine beaches. But the main reason for visiting this remarkable place; is the biosphere reserve Ría Celestun

It is a famous wildlife sanctuary with white-tailed deer, armadillos, crocodiles, bush turkeys, ocelots, ducks, and many birds. The greatest attraction in this ecological reserve is, without doubt, the flamingo reserve, a unique natural spectacle. You will be astonished by the local flora and fauna in this tropical paradise, with the unique opportunity to observe the glorious pink flamingo in its natural habitat, an unforgettable experience!

Learn more about Celestun in our article:

Celestún, Flamingos and Pink Life

Uxmal

Uxmal was one of the most important ceremonial centers of the ancient Maya civilization a long time ago. It can still be considered one of the most beautiful pre-Hispanic archaeological places on the American continent, thanks to the proportion of its majestic constructions. The exactness and elegance of the decorations are astonishing.

Listed as World Heritage, it is now one of the best-preserved; its precision and elegance will astonish you. The “Pyramid of the Magician,” the “Governor’s Palace,” and the “Quadrangle of the Nuns” are just some structures you’ll find in this heavenly place. A spectacular light and sound show will take you to discover more mysterious Mayan legends. It is located in the Puuc region, a series of ancient Mayan cities that share the same architectural patterns. Its name means “built three times” (although it was actually constructed five times).

Kabah

Close to Uxmal, another site belongs to the Puuc route: Kabah, just 23 km from Uxmal. Explore Kabah, and you will see the famous Arch that connects the city with Uxmal, the Great Pyramid, and the stunning Temple of the Masks.

About 42 km from Uxmal, Labná is waiting for you. Its name means old or abandoned house. 

For its impeccable construction and perfect decoration, archaeologists think it was an important ceremonial center. Among its essential structures, there is the Palace, Castle, and the symbolic Arch. 

Valladolid

Valladolid will make you go through the olden years among its elegant and dazzling constructions, a historical vice regal city surrounded by pre-Hispanic pyramids. In contrast, its pre-Hispanic surroundings create the perfect contrast for the city view.

Its main attraction is the remarkable and sacred sinkhole Zaci “cenote, “; the only one inside the city. In this area, you can get a dive and swim in fresh water and, at the same time, admire its charming rustic style. 

Progreso

Yucatan’s own relaxing beach destination. This port has been characterized by being a peaceful and secured coast thanks to its calm and soft sea waves. Innumerous cruise ships arrive in Progreso on their way to the Caribbean. Progreso is perfect for practicing aquatic sports and even touristic boat rides through the entire beach. Be sure to visit the famous seafront, have a walk and relax; if you’re looking for souvenirs, there’s an artisanal market where you can purchase regional handmade crafts. 

Izamal

Izamal represents Mayan culture’s dynamic historical evolution like no other town, combining ancient Mayan history, colonial history, and present-day Mayan tradition. 

It was founded in the 4th century to honor the Mayan god Itzamná and is known as the “city of three cultures.” After the conquest in the 16th century, the Spaniards started to build a city upon the existing Mayan city. Franciscan Convent is the most notable example of this development. It was constructed at the top of the ruins of an ancient Maya temple. The whole town is colored in yellow and white, giving the yellow city “a distinctive look. Although many pre-Hispanic buildings have been destroyed by the Spanish, six can still be seen in Izamal. One example is the Kinich Kak Moo pyramid, one of the most massive pyramids in the Yucatan Peninsula. 

Add to this the still rich Mayan traditions, and you have one of the most remarkable “Magical Towns” of Mexico.

Ek Balam

A unique archaeological site, there’s no other place like Ek Balam, which means black jaguar.

This double-walled Puuc style city owns astonishing constructions like Central Plaza, Ball Game Court, Observatory, and the famous Acropolis

This construction is one of Mesoamerica’s tallest archaeological buildings; while you are climbing up, you will see an important king’s tomb, which looks a lot like a monster’s mouth. Once you arrive at the top, you’ll be able to admire the whole fascinating place. 

Biosphere Reserve Ria Lagartos

This mangrove is full of vegetation, jungles, bushes, and swamp forests. This place has become a vital refuge for marine species such as fish and crustaceans. Thousands of Pink Flamingos perform an incredible spectacle from January to September as they settle down in this reserve. Many other animal species can be found here: ocelot (leopard species), anteaters, and some monkeys. In July and August, Turtles reach this place looking for a refugee for its eggs, creating a memorable scene. Imagine how amazing sunsets are in this spectacular place…

Festivals and International Events

Hanal Pixan 

On October 31, memorable ceremonies take place in the whole Yucatan state. Hanal means food, and Pixan means soul; this festivity is dedicated to dead family or friends. The inhabitants of Yucatan’s communities create an altar for them. But it’s not only about offering the altar but about preparing special rituals for them; traditionally, they prepare a specific plate for this celebration: Mukbil chicken. According to their beliefs, they need to clean the whole house and place candles and the entire house to light the soul’s path.

Festival Internacional de la Cultura Maya

Presented in October, this festival gathers art, culture, traditional music. Dancing and intellectual contemplation create a relevant event. Yucatan tries to share all about ancient and modern Maya civilization and Mexico’s cultural diversity.        

Chichen Itza Equinox

A spectacle of lights and shadows appears twice a year. It appears on March 21 for the welcoming spring season and on September 22 for the autumn season. 

This show takes place on Kukulcan’s pyramid, where its 9 platforms produce shadows producing 7 inverted triangle lights. These lights cover down the pyramid walls and brighten a stoned snake’s head located on the stairs entrance. Ancient Mayans believed this event symbolized God Kukulcan’s presence on earth.  

Merida Carnival

Once a year, in February, Merida performs an excellent carnival for celebrating its folkloric culture. During 7 days, colorful and exotic costumes, music, fireworks, and Jaranas (typical dances) illuminate Merida’s streets. This occasion is dedicated to Momo, the god of jokes and fun. 

Another popular activity during this festival; is the Flower Battle. As its name says, it’s an activity where the assistants throw flowers at each other. This festival is definitely Merida’s most prestigious event.

Visit Yucatan and live the experience.

Visiting Yucatan sounds too good to be true. So, come and see it for yourself:

Mini Yucatan Tour

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Yucatan.Travel

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