A travel guide to the yucatan peninsula

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Jutting out into the Caribbean Sea, you will find the gorgeous sands of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. Long a magnet for tourists, the Yucatan Peninsula features warm year-round temperatures and a relaxed atmosphere that makes it a premier destination. 

One minute you are sitting on white sand Mexican beaches, sipping fruity drinks and splashing in the warm Gulf of Mexico waters; and the next minute you are exploring ancient Mayan ruins. Cities like Merida showcase some of the best colonial architecture Mexico has to offer, and the city has plenty of wonderful culture stops to quench your thirst. 

Chichen Itza is just a stone's throw away from Merida, so visiting one of the most famous Mayan cities is possible. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is a perfect day trip during a holiday to the Yucatan.  

Of course, it's the beaches that everyone wants to visit; and the peninsula has plenty of them. You won't be disappointed in a holiday to Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. 

Culture

Spanish conquistadors landed on the Yucatan Peninsula in the early 1500s. With them came food, language and a European way of life. Over 90% of Mexican citizens speak Spanish today, while much of the remainder of people still speak indigenous languages.  

As a country, Mexicans are very proud of their country, family and religion. Families are usually large and Mexicans pay close attention to both immediate and extended family members. A majority of the population are of the Catholic faith, and seeing large numbers of people at church on Sundays isn't uncommon. 

Throughout the Yucatan, you will find Mexican art, literature and music that is distinctly local. These items help to identify the citizens and keeps them unique from other areas in the country. 

Places to visit

Playa del Carmen

Situated on the tip of the Yucatan Peninsula, Playa del Carmen is a trendy city of beaches and cool Caribbean breezes. Playa del Carmen is located near Cancun's international airport, making travel to the city easy. If you want to be seen, Playa del Carmen's Fifth Avenue is the place to do it. A completely pedestrian zone, Fifth Avenue is the place to strut your stuff. Or if you prefer, you can watch others walk the street as you stay in the shade at a street café. The city has grown in recent years and is a favourite tourist spot. Beaches, bars and trendy restaurants are all on the menu in Playa del Carmen. 

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Cozumel Island

Cozumel is one of Mexico's largest islands and can be reached from Playa del Carmen via a ferry. Cozumel is one of the hottest scuba diving spots in the entire Caribbean, and its crystal clear waters make it ideal for swimming and snorkelling. A former refuge for pirates and buccaneers in the Caribbean, the island is also a destination for pilgrims who worship the sun gods. Attractive white sand beaches dot the island and are a perfect escape while holidaying in Mexican paradise. The island is also home to wonderful Mayan heritage sites that are well worth the trip alone. 

Akumal Bay

South of Cancun is Akumal, which is easily accessible from Playa del Carmen. The area is a perfect spot for snorkelling, and visitors can swim with endangered green sea turtles as they glide through the water. The resort town is close to Tulum, a Mayan fortress city. Tulum was one of the only Mayan cities near the coast which makes it a unique area, and a must-see if you are visiting Akumal Bay. 

Tulum

Tulum is located on the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, and is a place that resonates with a peaceful, bohemian, hippyesque style lifestyle.  Think white sand beaches, turquoise blue waters, cenotes, palm tree's and hammocks.  As you stroll along the main beach in Tulum, you aren't met with 100's of tourists (at least not yet anyway), it's more of a chilled out atmosphere, with people perfecting their yoga moves, or the locals and travellers jumping high over the nets of the beach volleyball courts, immersed in a game that brings all cultures together. As you approach the waters edge, you're met with local Mexican children playing in the surf with polystyrene boats, they've made themselves, watched proudly by their parents & their wide smiles.

This place is not Cancun, nor Playa del Carmen, its slightly less touristic sister.  This is a gem of a place that screams RELAX.  There isn't a fast food eatery or nightclub in site.  Just street food, cute little restaurants with even cuter table cloths & the famous mojito bar that is the epicentre of the nightlife here, where the crowds of care free travellers gather.

 

Food

Mexican food blends flavours of the old world and the new world to make a cuisine distinctly its own. Many of the items used in Mexican food are originally found in Central and North America. These include maize, beans, tomatoes and a variety of meats. 

There is nothing like buying freshly made tacos from a street vendor or sitting down to eat delicious beans and rice at sunset. These items are all made with local knowhow and pride. 

In the Yucatan, you will find tastes that are region specific. The area is well-known for spicy vegetable recipes and meat dishes. Some parts also have a Caribbean influence on the cuisine.  

What to see? 

Regardless if you stay in Playa del Carmen, Cozumel or Akumal Bay, you will find plenty of white sand beaches and blue waters. Each area has a number of great attractions to explore when you get too much sun.  

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Cozumel's Museo de la Isla features exhibits that explore the island's rich history. There are also shops that sell locally made products as well as luxury items. Discover the island's main Mayan attraction at San Gervasio. There are over 30 Mayan sites on the island, but San Gervasio is the most famous. It was long the centre of Mayan religion on the island. 

Back near Playa del Carmen is Xel-Ha Park. You can take a dip in the eco park's lagoon, which is home to tropical fish. Once you have toweled off, get ready to jump back into the water at the dolphin swimming attraction.  

Merida is the capital of the Yucatan, and day tripping to the city is easy when staying in Playa del Carmen or Akumal. Merida is full of Spanish colonial architecture and it will take you back in time when you step out on to its streets. Many expats call the city home and you may too once you visit its enchanting avenues. 

Yucatan Peninsula nightlife

Of course, Cancun is often thought of as the centre of the Yucatan's nightlife, which in some ways it is. But it really depends on what you are looking for in a holiday. Cancun definitely caters to American university students on spring break. So, if you want to experience that oh-so American pastime, by all means head to Cancun from February to April. You are sure to find some people to party with. 

In Playa del Carmen, the nightlife centres around Fifth Avenue. Bars, restaurants and nightclubs won't be hard to find off of the main drag. There are also restaurants with live music and tequila bars to quench your thirst inside.  

Compared to Cancun and Playa del Carmen, Cozumel's nightlife is more subdued. Parque Benito Juarez has a number of great venues just off its edges. Eat, drink and relax at the venues around the area. Then head over to Malecon where you will find more bars and clubs with pulsating music produced by local DJs.  

The Yucatan has everything you could want in a holiday paradise. The only problem you will have is leaving.