Published On: Mon, Mar 28th, 2016

6 stops to make in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula

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As anyone who has explored Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula can attest, this region of the country is something special. Home to impressive Mayan ruins, powdery white sand beaches, clear turquoise waters and so much more, it comes as no surprise that the Yucatan Peninsula is one of Mexico’s top tourist destinations. With so much to see, do and experience, we pared down a guide to the region with some of its most remarkable stops along the way.

1.) Roam the Ancient Ruins of Chichen Itza

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Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Mayan archaeological site Chichen Itza is one of the most popular sights in the Yucatan Peninsula. Considered one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, the ruins span 2.5 square miles. If you’re thinking of heading to this archaeological site during the fall or spring equinox, you can expect to see quite the phenomenon. During these points in the year, a shadow of what appears to be a serpent goes up and down the Pyramid of Kukulkán, due to the sun’s placement. Hordes of people gather during the fall and spring equinoxes to witness the serpent heading up and down the pyramid. If you can’t make it during the day, the illusion is recreated at night with a light show.

2.) Beach It Up and Party Down in Cancun

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While a mega resort town, Cancun is easily one of the main launching points for exploring the region. The settlement claims some of the best beaches in Mexico, known for their powdery white sands and warm Caribbean waters. With 13 miles of coast to explore, you’re bound to find a beach for you. Playa Delfines is one of the largest beaches, ideal for all sorts of watersports, while Playa Forum remains the city’s most popular public access beach. After a day in the sun, Cancun tends to take the party at night to the Zona Hotelera area. From here, you can find all the bars and nightclubs to dance the night away.

3.) View Underwater Art in the MUSA Collection

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Located off the coasts of Cancun and Isla Mujeres, the Yucatan Peninsula offers an otherworldly experience where you can view more than 400 sculptures submerged in the water, known as the MUSA collection. Hundreds of life-sized concrete figures make up the underwater contemporary museum. The sculptures are the work of British artist Jason deCaires Taylor. All of the materials used in the makeup of the sculptures help promote coral life. In order to view this underwater museum, you can either take a glass bottom boat ride or arrange to snorkel over some 500 statues.

4.) Discover the Old in Mérida

A street scene in Mérida. The city is popular with students and as a base for tourists who are visiting the nearby Mayan ruins. (Photo: Getty Images)

A street scene in Mérida. The city is popular with students and as a base for tourists who are visiting the nearby Mayan ruins. (Photo: Getty Images)

Roughly 200 miles west of Cancun, Mérida offers a taste of a centuries old Yucatan, one far different than Cancun. While still a contemporary city, Mérida remains saturated in colonial history. Down its narrow streets and throughout its broad plazas, you will find a Mexico of a different time. In fact, the city boasts the second largest historic center in Mexico. Some standout attractions in town include the Cathedral, the oldest on the continent, and the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo Ateneo de Yucatán, the city’s contemporary art museum with mostly works from Yucatán artists.

5.) Flock to the Flamingos at the Reserva de la Biósfora Ría Celestún

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Located near the fishing village of Celestún, the 146,000-acre wildlife reserve should make any Yucatan itinerary. In addition to its extensive mangrove forest and more than 365 species of birds, the wildlife reserve is also home to one of the largest colonies of flamingos in North America. Seeing all that pink right before your eyes is possible at the reserve year round. To tour the reserve, you can hire a boat or even rent your own kayak to explore the narrow waterways on your own.

6.) Swim in the Famous Cenotes of the Yucatan

Subbotina Anna / Shutterstock

The Yucatan Peninsula might be known for its beaches and Mayan ruins, but it has also made a name for its cenotes. These natural swimming holes are formed by the breakdown of porous limestone bedrock. Luckily for travelers, these formations lend extremely clear and pure groundwater pools to swim in while in the region. The Mayans even regarded the cenotes as sacred, believing they were portals to speak with the gods. There are a number of these natural swimming holes around the region including Cenote Dos Ojos near Tulum and Cenote Samulá near Chichén Itza. Most lend great environments to strap on your snorkel and flutter around in crystal clear waters.

It’s easy to see why the Yucatan Peninsula is one of the most popular destinations in Mexico. From its constant beach parties in Cancun to its magical cenotes to its wondrous Mayan ruins, the region lends a packed itinerary no matter what you’re looking for in a vacation.

Have you been to the Yucatan Peninsula? What’s your favorite place to visit in the region?

Let us know in the comments below!

 

by Suzy Guese for https://www.cheapoair.com

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Suzy Guese

Suzy Guese is a travel writer from Denver, Colorado. She caught the travel bug after taking her very first flight at just three months old—she was headed for Disney World—and has been a total travel junkie ever since. From family car trips across North America to stints abroad in Europe, Suzy travels the globe with her redheaded temperament in search of sarcasm, stories, and travel tips to share with anyone willing to listen. She blogs about her travels at http://suzyguese.com.

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