Recently, I travel to the Yucatán Peninsula, located in southeastern Mexico. To put it simply, I fell in love. Turquoise waters, delicious food, and a warm welcome from the people were all I needed for the Yucatán to become one of my favorite places.
The Yucatán Peninsula is known for its beautiful beaches and big resorts like Cancun and Playa Del Carmen. While the resort areas are wonderful, it is worth venturing away from your all-inclusive resort to experience all that this part of Mexico has to offer. There is something for every kind of traveler from culture to adventure.
Here are the top ten experiences you won't want to miss in the Yucatán Peninsula.
1. Visit Rio Lagartos Biosphere Reserve and Las Coloradas, the pink lakes of Mexico, which are located about 10 miles from each other on the north coast of the Yucatán Peninsula. They are known for their harvesting and production of solar salt from the pink lakes which become colored that way due to the red algae, brine shrimp, and plankton that live in it. The flamingos’ feathers will turn pink over time from eating the creatures of the lakes.
2. Discover one of the six (6) famous Mayan Ruins. While each is worth the time to visit, the most popular ruins to see these days are Tulum, which is situated on the edge of a cliff, and Chichen Itza. Chichen Itza has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site and even labeled as one of the “New Seven Wonders of the World.”
3. Valladolid is a great Yucatán city to explore on the way to or from the Chichen Itza Ruins. It’s conveniently located halfway between the Riviera Maya and Merida. Despite its tough beginnings in the Yucatán Caste War, Valladolid is home to some great historical places worth the visit. Be sure to check out the Casa de Los Venados Mexican folk art museum and the San
Gervacio Church. Then head over to the Convent of San Bernadino Siena where you can get to know resident nuns or enjoy their zocalo (public square).
4. Swim and snorkel in a popular cenote like Grand Cenote in Tulum or Rio Secreto in Playa Del Carmen. See crystal clear underground rivers running through partially open caves.
5. For those that love a city experience, Playa Del Carmen has 5th Avenue with shops for some of the most well-known international brands in addition to local souvenirs. Be sure to also pick up something to commemorate your trip and your own classic Huipiles Mexican dress.
6. Sugar skulls, marigold flowers, and butterflies, oh my! Don’t be spooked by the Day of the Dead! Plan your visit to the Yucatán Peninsula during its Day of the Dead celebration on November 1st and 2nd, which is a celebration of life and remembrance. Many believe their deceased relatives are with them as they celebrate and honor them and even are laughing along with them in the annual celebration.
7. Add Akumal Bay to your list of places to see when you visit during the summer months. This area is known for its sea turtles which you can swim with right from the beach. Grab your snorkel gear and enjoy a day of fun with these friendly creatures. Just be careful not to disrupt them and touch them as they will be most visible during their nesting season.
8. Whether you visit by air, by ferry, or by cruise ship, Cozumel Island has many gems worth exploring. History lovers can explore San Gervasio, divers can explore the reefs of Cozumel, and anyone can get a kiss from a sea lion in Chankanaab Park.
9. Combine a love of museum art with water sports to go see MUSA, the Cancun Underwater Museum of Art. You can snorkel, scuba dive, or take a glass-bottom boat to see this marvel.
10. One of the most unique experiences to have while vacationing in the Yucatán Peninsula is to swim with whale sharks. This large creature is quite friendly and is a gentle giant. You can snorkel or scuba dive to enjoy these animals in the early summer months off the coast of Isla Mujeres.
From unique cultural experiences to connecting with nature and sea life, the Yucatán Peninsula will not disappoint the most discerning traveler looking for a unique experience.