Unleash your inner explorer by discovering the Yucatan.

Epicenter to several UNESCO World Heritage and archeological sites, the Yucatan is on the northern part of the peninsula after which it’s named. Campeche and Quintana Roo bookend the Yucatan while the Gulf of Mexico is to its north.

The ancient Maya lowlands are also home to stunning colonial architecture, great food, and magnificent culture. Outside the vibrant city, centers are a diverse environment in protected biospheres and fresh water cenotes. Opportunities to immerse yourself in the Yucatan’s cultural, natural, and geographic heritage are plentiful. But here are three of our favorite must-sees and must-dos in the Yucatan.

Eat at Hacienda Xcanatun

Hacienda Xcanatun is an 18th-century mansion near Merida that was transformed into an elegant and spacious, boutique hotel.

Boasting 18 luxurious suites, three acres of lush gardens, two swimming pools, and magnificent marble terraces, Hacienda Xcanatun is where Mexican colonial architecture meets Old World hospitality.

While it’s easy to get swept away in Hacienda Xcanatun’s master suites with large sitting rooms, antiques, jacuzzi tubs, and a waterfall in two of the suites, breakfast at the hotel’s “Casa de Piedras” restaurant is a treat you don’t want to miss.

Casa de Piedras’ menu is a unique combination of French techniques and fresh, regional, Caribbean ingredients. We recommend the Fresh Caribbean Ceviche with Habanero and the Duck with an Xtabentun glaze — two dishes we enjoyed during a visit. The restaurant also has one of the most extensive wine lists in the region and an excellent assortment of tequilas and mezcals. Enjoy a luxurious gastronomic experience in the main dining room or on the romantic terrace with views of the gardens and royal palms.

Centrally located, Hacienda Xcanatun also serves as a strategic starting point for exploring the Chichen Itza and Uxmal ruins, the convent at Izamal, or drive west to Mexico’s “Emerald Coast” and visit the towns of Celestun, Progresso, and San Felipe.

The romance of Hacienda Xcanatun also makes it an ideal location for a romantic getaway or destination wedding.

Visit the Cathedral of San Servacio in Valladolid

Valladolid is a charming city, world-renowned for its extraordinary colonial architecture. And there’s no better example of this than its sacred structures.

Initially built in 1545 by Priest Francisco Hernandez, the Cathedral of San Servacio (also called San Gervacio Church) was the first Spanish colonial church constructed in the area. It has since been demolished due to Spanish invasions and eventually restored to its current state in 1706 and features soaring towers, the only public clock in the city, a temple, court, and annex.

The arched entrance of San Servacio includes elegantly carved stonework. Crowning the central body of the church’s façade are two, symmetrical towers that house great bells that, when rung, can be heard throughout the city. A pair of enormous crosses carved in stone cap the towers. The main building is between the two towers and includes an ancient clock with Roman numerals.

A 10-minute walk from the city center will take you to the Convent of San Bernardino de Siena. The Convent is open to the public and worth the tour led by one of the resident nuns. The property has a church, public square, and quiet park areas.

Take a walking tour of Valladolid’s sacred structures and walk away with a good understanding of Yucatecan history.

Fall in Love with the Flamingos at Rio Lagartos

A flush of pink flamingos flutters through the mangroves of Rio Lagartos, a small fishing village on the Gulf of Mexico.

Ideal for bird watching, UNESCO designated Rio Lagartos in 2004 as a biosphere reserve and recognized internationally as an “Important Bird Area.”

Rio Largartos is about three hours from the Riviera Maya coast and accessible via rental car or tour. The all-day adventure is worth the trip. A local boat tour takes you across the mangroves with a chance to see flamingos in their natural habitat, a mud bath in the Gulf’s salt waters, and tasty lunch in Rio Lagartos or San Felippe to cap off the trip.

This pristine, untouched area is a real adventure that will open you to the wide variety of regional, cultural, and environmental experiences available in the Yucatan. Check out information on Rio Lagartos and nearby hotels to see if this is your next vacation adventure or bucket list tour.

If you’ve traveled to Mexico before, want to leave busy Cancun behind, or long to explore off-the-beaten-track destinations, why not visit the Yucatan? Contact our reservations team to help you book your next vacation escape or our concierge to help plan activities if you are already in the area.

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