The Yucatan Peninsula is a beautifully distinct part of Mexico, because until the 1960’s, when road and rail networks were finally established, the region had more contact with Europe than it did with Mexico. Home to everything from beaches and wildlife to historic Mayan ruins, those who take the time to explore the Yucatan Peninsula are rewarded with an unforgettable experience that will leave them wanting to see so much more.
Beaches and Cenotes
Miles of soft white sand and sparkling blue water is what you will find at just about every beach in the Yucatan Peninsula, but each beach still stands out for its own unique reason. Some of the very best beaches can be found around Cancun, Playa Del Carmen, and Tulum, but for those seeking out a quieter, more paradisaical world, the region’s cenotes are what you should be exploring. Cenotes are natural swimming holes that usually contain fresh water that has been filtered by the earth, making it extremely clean and pure. Some of the most stunning cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula include the Cenote Yokdzonot, which is near Chichen Itza, Cenote Ponderosa, which you can also dive in as it is 15 meters deep, and Grutas de Loltun, which boasts the largest caves in the Yucatan Peninsula.
History and Archaeology
The Yucatan Peninsula is home to several world-famous ancient Mayan archaeological sites, as well as a sprinkling of lesser-known, but equally fascinating, smaller sites. Chichen Itza is always the most popular, as here you will find the Kukulcan Pyramid, the Maya Observatory and the Sacred Cenote. Izamal also boasts several remains of large Mayan pyramids, as well as a colonial convent, while Chetumal is home to the Mayan Cultural Museum. Xpujil is a small inland village that has Mayan ruins scattered throughout, making this a great region to explore if you are traveling by car, as you will easily be able to stop off along your journey at the various points of interest.
The cuisine that you will find in the Yucatan Peninsula is famous throughout Mexico, as these culinary traditions are a tantalizing combination of ancient Mayan and Spanish influences, making the region quite the foodie destination. Some of the trademark dishes that you simply must try here include Pibil, which is chicken or pork that has been wrapped in a banana leaf and then barbecued to perfection, Poc Chuc, which is a tender pork dish featuring onions, lime juice, and a colorful array of spices, and Pollo Motuleno, a chicken dish that makes use of orange juice, achiote and plantains. While the glitzy holiday resorts all over the Yucatan Peninsula may serve up some tasty local dishes, you need to sample some street food fare in order to really experience the authentic flavors of this ancient region.
Visitors travel from all over the world to explore the Yucatan Peninsula for a number of different reasons. Whether this may be its tropical beaches and otherworldly cenotes, its fascinating ancient history, or its incomparable culinary traditions, this is a region that really has so much to offer.