Read our pocket guide to Yucatán
Yucatán: A pocket guide
The Yucatan Peninsula, found in the southeast corner of Mexico on the Caribbean coast and bordering Belize and Guatemala, is steeped in culture, history and natural beauty. Explore the fascinating culture of the Maya, discover its unique flora and fauna at its wildlife sanctuaries or relax on its gorgeous sandy beaches, no matter how you spend your days, you’re bound to have a memorable holiday at a luxury villa or hacienda in this special part of Mexico.
The moment you arrive in this part of Mexico, you cannot escape the Maya. This is an invitation to learn and be amazed by one of the richest cultures in the world. Today’s Maya are direct descendants of the people who inhabited the region five hundred years ago – the same ancient people who built the cities and ceremonial centers that still amaze us in the twenty-first century. Their language, cultural individuality, rituals and numerous traditions are still very much alive.
But it’s not just the pre-Hispanic feel one senses in the air (more than 1,500 archaeological sites have been documented). You’ll also find colonial elements, traces of the Yucatán’s early-twentieth-century belle-époque, and even the latest innovations of the globalized world. This rich, historical mosaic is the stage where today’s Maya play out their entire lives. Archaeological sites, like world famous Chichén Itzá, seventeenth-century convents and churches, splendid haciendas that began life as cattle ranches, late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century plantations with their grand old houses, and modern-day urban constructions are the physical manifestation of that history.
If you explore deeper, you’ll find a number of beautiful colonial towns. Campeche, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1999, is a charming fortified city with small cobblestone lanes and colorful historic mansions. A sea of yellow coats the buildings of Izamal, presenting some of the best preserved colonial architecture in all of Mexico and on a deeper level, it provides you a window into the very best of small town Mexico life.
The Yucatan Peninsula is also an ideal destination for travelers who are passionate about the natural world and place visitors in contact with the magnificent geological, floral and zoological variety. Eco adventures might take you to remote cenotes, for daybreak bird-watching, or an exploration of its hidden depths. Visit the pink flamingos sanctuaries to witness the unique spectacle of these birds – both on land and in flight – or swim with whale sharks as they migrate along the Yucatan’s northeast coast (Holbox and Isla Mujeres are one of the world’s few authorized departure points for whale shark migration tours).
For beach lovers, Tulum is one of the most laid-back and gorgeous spots along Mexico’s Riviera Maya and further, there is the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, a 1.3 million acre UNESCO World Heritage Site. The sanctuary’s dozens of animal and birdlife species mean there’s something new to see on every outing. All the while, exquisite white sand beaches make for great swimming and sunning. The island’s coral reef, the second most pristine on the entire planet, offers visitors unbelievable scuba diving.
You can access the Yucatan peninsula through the international airports of Cancún, Cozumel, or Mérida. These may be your points of entry, however, your whole experience here will be an extraordinary point of departure that will open your eyes, mind and maybe even your soul to more than three millennia of living Maya culture. Whether you’re relaxing at haciendas, hiking nature reserves, swinging on a beach hammock, exploring ancient ruins or dining on irresistible cuisine, there’s nothing else like holidaying in the Yucatan.