Are you planning a trip to Mexico? Discover our top 10 things to do in Yucatán, one of the most touristic Mexican regions.
- 1. Merida
- 2. Valladolid
- 3. Playa del Carmen
- 4. Tulum
- 5. Try
- 6. Chichen Itza
- 7. Ruins of Edzna
- 8. Sian Ka’an Nature Reserve
- 9. Uxmal and the Puuc Route
- 10. Isla Mujeres
- How to get to Yucatán?
- In which city to stay in Yucatán?
- How to get around in Yucatán?
Located in southeastern Mexico, the Yucatán Peninsula is an open-air museum. The state of Yucatán has a population of 2,097,175 inhabitants (2015) spread over 39,612 km², but the province of Yucatán also includes the Mexican states Tabasco, Chiapas, Campeche, Quitana Roo and to a lesser extent, the Belize and part of Guatemala for a population of around 5 million.
The peninsula rises north between the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean coast to the east. Rich in a breathtaking historical, architectural and cultural heritage, the Yucatán is one of the must-see wonders for any traveler who comes to visit Mexico.
Between the paradisiacal tropical beaches and their seaside resorts – Playa del Carmen, among others -, the Mayan archaeological remains – like the site of Tulum -, the cities of Cancun or Mérida, we will not wonder what to do in Yucatán, but rather how to optimize visits among the countless unmissable places to visit in Yucatán. And precisely, here is to guide you our top 10 things to do in this region.
Capital of the state of Yucatán, Mérida is nicknamed the “white city”, located thirty kilometers from the northern coast of Yucatán. Founded on January 6, 1542 by the Spanish conquistador Francisco de Montejo (1479-1548), the city was built on the site of the ancient Mayan city T’ho – Ichcaanzihó in Maya-, “the city of the five hills”.
Mérida is described as a lively, friendly city, where there is an astonishing sweetness of life. It is a strategic position: you can stay there and discover the region, in particular the crater of Chicxulub – known to be the site of impact of a meteorite which struck the ground at 90,000 km/h (several billion times more powerful as the Hiroshima bomb), causing the extinction of the dinosaurs. Don’t miss a stroll in the central square (zocaló) and Paseo Montejo, or at the Lucas de Galvéz market.
A small town of 48,973 inhabitants, Valladolid was built on the site of the Maya city “Saki” or “Zaci-Val”. Visiting Valladolid allows you to discover a quieter city than Mérida, less crowded, but charming: a small village atmosphere, a tangle of cobbled streets and colorful facades typical of Central America.
3. Playa del Carmen
The quintessential seaside resort of Yucatán, Playa del Carmen is another starting point for visiting southern Mexico, but the area is very popular with thousands of Western tourists. This is the place to party on the beach and go shopping: hotel complexes, restaurants and bars on the seafront, hordes of tourists on the beach and pedestrian streets where you can shop. A very tourist site, therefore.
Between Playa del Carmen and Tulum, the Caribbean coast is revealed to the east of Yucatán: cenotes and natural pools and the village of Akumal – to swim with sea turtles. We go to Tulum to admire the famous Maya archaeological site, bordered by magnificent blue-green waters. It was then an influential fishing and trading port during its heyday around 1200.
Located an hour by bus from Tulum, the ruins of the archaeological zone of Coba are among the unmissable things to do when visiting Yucatán. It is a vast Maya site where you can climb to the top of the Nohoch Mul pyramid . It is the most important site of the Yucatán Peninsula, an ancient city that could have, according to estimates, counted up to 50,000 inhabitants.
6. Chichen Itza
We see it on all the postcards of any traveler who has gone to visit Mexico. We are obviously talking about the Mayan pyramid of Chichen Itza. Located between Valladolid and Mérida, the site has been on the UNESCO heritage list since 1988 and recognized as one of the new seven wonders of the world (2007). In the 10th century, it was the main religious center of Yucatán. In this emblematic place of Mexico, you can visit the great pyramid, the observatory, the wall of skulls, the ball court, the sacred Cenoté, the thousand columns: a singular mixture of Mayan and Toltec cultures.
7. Ruins of Edzna
Located in the state of Campeche, the ruins of Edzná – an ancient city founded in the 5th century BC – are very well preserved Mayan remains and much less frequented than Tulum or Chichen Itza. It is one of the rare examples of a Maya pyramid comprising floors with vaulted chambers.
8. Sian Ka’an Nature Reserve
Located south of Tulum, the Sian Ka’an Reserve is a huge natural park of 5,281 km², listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and recognized as a biosphere reserve since 1986. The area is home to flora and fauna. very rich: lush vegetation, bright colors, mangroves, tropical forest, marshes, and more than 300 species of birds.
9. Uxmal and the Puuc Route
What to do in Yucatán: beaches, archaeological ruins, cities? Visiting Yucatán without going to the ruins of Uxmal would be a shame. The Uxmal site – in the center of the Puuc region – is much less frequented than that of Chichen Itza, which will have the advantage of seducing you if you do not like sites where there is so much trampling people. Uxmal is accessed from the road south of Mérida. Uxmal is a pre-Columbian city founded around the year 700, and which housed up to 25,000 inhabitants.
10. Isla Mujeres
A small island off the coast of Cancun, Isla Mujeres is touristy but its crowds remain bearable according to the accounts of travelers. It can be reached in 20 minutes by ferry from Cancun. The island is a must for things to do when visiting Yucatán, especially if you like marine and nautical activities: snorkeling, lazing on Playa Norte beach , beautiful walks with your feet in crystal clear water, diving, etc.