It may be known for its palm-fringed beaches and tequila, but there’s a whole lot more to Mexico than first meets the eye. To give you an idea of what its different regions have to offer, here we’ve taken a closer look at the best things to do in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.
Marvel at Chichen Itza
If you visit just one archaeological site in Mexico, it should be Chichen Itza. One of the New Seven Wonders of the World, this ruin was once the center of Mayan civilization.
Although it covers some 6.5 kilometres in area, its most impressive structure is the iconic Kukulkan Pyramid or ‘El Castillo‘. The four sides of this temple each have 91 steps which, including the step on the top platform, add up to 365 – the number of days in the calendar year.
Long left to the jungle, Chichen Itza was abandoned until its excavation in the 19th century. Now UNESCO-listed and one of Mexico’s most famous sites, you could easily spend a day marvelling at its fascinating ruins.
Those who entered our #WhatsYourWorldWonder photography competition got the chance to win a trip to Chichen Itza and seven other world wonders. Check out this selection of Mexico photos entered into the competition to see more of this incredible Mayan ruin.
Swim in the cenotes
While Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula draws most visitors to its white-sand beaches, the region is also home to thousands of cenotes. These natural swimming holes form by limestone bedrock collapsing, revealing crystal-clear groundwater below.
Visitors can enjoy a swim in their cooling waters and even snorkelling or scuba diving. Popular cenotes to visit include the Cuzama Cenotes and Cenote X’Batun. Cenote Dos Ojos is also a great choice, located between Tulum and Playa del Carmen.
Relax at Laguna Bacalar
The largest lagoon in the Yucatan Peninsula, Laguna Bacalar stretches for more than 60 kilometres through the jungle. Referred to as the ‘lake of seven colours’, its shimmering white sand makes the water appear many shades of blue.
It’s the perfect place to relax for a few days, with beautiful swimming, kayaking and boat trips. The town of Balacar is also yet to see much tourism, so you’ll be far from the crowds of Mexico’s coastal resorts.
Experience Day of the Dead in Merida
Known as Dia de Los Muertos in Spanish, Day of the Dead is quite possibly Mexico’s best known festival. Celebrated between October 31st and November 2nd, this festival celebrates the spirits of the deceased.
Mexicans visit cemeteries where loved ones are buried to decorate their graves. They also make elaborate altars known as ofrendas for their own homes. With much feasting, music and dance, this is a fantastic day to experience traditional Mexican culture.
Festivities vary across Mexico and in Merida it’s actually a two-day long event. Families gather to prepare feasts of pibipollo, which is chicken tamale wrapped in banana leaves. And you’ll find people celebrating in both the city’s streets and cemeteries.
Eat out in Valladolid
After Merida, Valladolid is the Yucatan Peninsula’s second most important city. Famous for its quiet streets with their pastel walls, this colonial city is the place to go to try some authentic Mexican cuisine.
Regional favourites include slow roast pork called Cochinita Pibil and a black turkey soup named Relleno negro de Pavo. Valladoid boasts some delicious traditional restaurants and food stalls. So you simply can’t visit without grabbing a bite.