The Yucatan was once a powerful Mayan center, making it the go-to state to see and experience notable ancient Mayan ruins. The famous ruins of Chichen Itza are located in the heart of the Yucatan, as well as some lesser known but impressive archaeological sites such as Uxmal, Ek Balam and Dzibilchaltun. Yucatan is a history buff’s paradise and a great place to deepen your knowledge of the Maya. In addition to the historical and cultural sites located in the area, visitors will enjoy sustainable tourism activities in the Biosphere Reserves of Celestun and Rio Lagartos. Both reserves are home to hundreds of flamingos, turtles and migratory birds year-round. To add to the glory found inland, the cenotes or fresh water sink-holes in the Yucatan offer a different experience to those found in the Riviera Maya.
The Yucatan is a diverse, culturally rich state with many different adventures and experiences for travelers and visitors. Use the State of the Yucatan as your home base or make day trips to the villages and cities from the beaches of the Riviera Maya.
Merida is the cultural and artistic center of the Yucatan Peninsula, as well as the capital of Yucatan state. When the Spanish invaded Merida, the original Mayan city was called Th’o. Though it is a large city, Merida retains a distinct small town charm in the centro historico where narrow streets are lined with colorful colonial facades. The zocalo and city center is a lively cultural hub, presided over by the cathedral, San Ildefonso. A variety of galleries, museums, markets and theaters will keep cultural enthusiasts entertained. Foodies will enjoy the diverse selection of restaurants influenced by Spanish, Mayan, Yucatecan and European cuisines.
Izamal is definitely worth a visit, either as a stop-over on the way to Merida from Cancun, or as a day trip from the capital. Its yellow painted buildings are extremely photogenic, and the Franciscan monastery is an outstanding tour. There are some unattended Mayan ruins on the outskirts of the city center. Horse drawn carriages line up around the zocalo to take you for a tour of the city during your stay.
Valladolid is the third largest town on the Yucatan Peninsula. This city has a charming colonial center with impressive cathedrals, a pretty zocalo and picturesque streets in the centro historico. There is a large cenote minutes from the city center called Cenote Zaci where visitors can enjoy a swim, lunch and a tour of this freshwater cavern. Valladolidid is becoming a hot destination with the ever-increasing artistic culture calling this colonial city home.
Foot loose and fancy free has always been the adventure travelers' credo. Travel light and softly so when you do find your special place in the sun you don't trample it. Isla Holbox is one of those fragile, precious places, a little gem that takes you back to the days of no cars, beach roads and beautiful sunsets. In the Summer don't miss swimming with the whale sharks, while winters bring great breezes for kite boarding.
Mérida is the cultural heart and soul of the Yucatan. With a history starting with the Maya, leading to Spanish conquistadors and continuing with henequin plantations, this historic city offers you insights into a rich culture, incredible cuisine and friendly people. Mérida will give you an understanding about Mexico you will not find anywhere else.
Valladolid, located approximately half way between Riviera Maya cities and the capital city of Merida, is a colonial Yucatan city packed with historical, natural and cultural treasures. With a picturesque historical center, impressive cathedrals and a lively zocalo, it is definitely worth a stop to absorb the culture and colonial atmosphere.