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Yucatan

Trip Planner Mexico  /  Yucatan Peninsula  /  Yucatan
(42,000+ reviews from top 30 attractions)
Historic Sites Nature Sightseeing
A trip to Yucatan reveals a place that caters to the more tranquil of travelers interested in seeing Mexico away from big crowds and modern resorts. A good alternative for anyone disinclined to visit Cancun or Cabo San Lucas, this part of the country boasts numerous historical and natural attractions, including pristine mangrove forests, quaint colonial-era towns, and a string of unspoiled beaches on the Gulf of Mexico. Most visitors begin their tour of Yucatan in Merida, the under-the-radar state capital considered one of Mexico's safest and architecturally significant cities. From there, you're just a drive away from hundreds of Mayan ruins, proof that organized humans lived here as long ago as 800 BCE. Plan your trip to Yucatan and other Mexico destinations using our handy Mexico trip itinerary maker.
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Yucatan Holiday Planning Guide

A trip to the Yucatan Peninsula takes visitors to the southeastern section of Mexico, an area that housed the legendary Maya civilization before the arrival of the Spanish conquerors in the 16th century. Much of the region's population traces its origins back to this old culture, and in many of the smaller settlements residents continue to speak the Maya language in addition to Spanish. Yucatan Peninsula tourism thrives largely thanks to the popularity of Cancun, a modern resort town on the so-called "Mayan Riviera." Away from the white-sand coastline, this part of Mexico treats visitors to some of the finest examples of Mayan pyramids and temples, offering a glimpse into the continent's pre-Hispanic history.

Places to Visit in Yucatan

Cities in Yucatan

Cancun: One of the world's top party destinations, the modern beach resort of Cancun buzzes with tourist activity and stands out as one of the highlights of a Yucatan itinerary.

Playa del Carmen: For all the scenic beauty and tourist convenience of Cancun minus the head-throbbing party scene, head to Playa del Carmen and let your stress melt away by the beach.

Tulum: Add a taste of ancient civilization to your Yucatan vacation by visiting Tulum, the site of Mexico's only pre-Hispanic Mayan town overlooking the sea.

Cozumel: Island resorts don't come much more picturesque than Cozumel, known as the best place for diving trips in Yucatan.

Popular Yucatan Tourist Attractions

Xcaret Eco Theme Park: Entertainment and nature come together at this educational theme park, where you can snorkel through vibrant reefs, swim with dolphins, and get close to plenty of native birds.

Ruinas Mayas de Tulum: Perched on the east coast of the peninsula, this complex of ruins stands out as one of the best historic attractions in Yucatan, offering commanding sea views to complement its architectural intrigue.

Chichen Itza: Featuring a massive stepped pyramid, the ancient Mayan site of Chichen Itza remains surprisingly well-preserved despite having stood for more than a thousand years.

Xel-Ha: Azure waters and historic ruins typify this gem of Yucatan tourism, where options include snorkeling, river tours, jungle hiking trails, and bike tours.

Akumal Beach: Pristine white sands and the warm blue sea lure visitors to this heavenly beach, where you may spot turtles gliding gracefully through the water.

Quinta Avenida: For shopping and nightlife during your Yucatan vacation, this hub has an array of souvenir shops, bars, restaurants, and cafes buzzing until the early hours of the morning.

Xplor Park Cancun: Delve into a network of caves or zipline above the treetops at this adventure center, which also offers tours into the surrounding jungle.

Cobá Zona Arqueológica Cobá: Scale modern-day Mexico's tallest pyramid at this historic highlight, whose poetic name translates from the ancient Mayan language as "water stirred by wind."

Avenida Kukulkan: Lined with countless bars and nightclubs--and within walking distance of many of the city's high-rise hotels--Cancun's main thoroughfare hums (loudly) with tourist energy, day and night.

Playa Norte: Another of Yucatan tourism's best-loved beaches, Playa Norte offers an abundance of seaside bars and restaurants to complement its natural riches of shady palms and clean white sand.

Planning a Yucatan Vacation with Kids

Places to Visit in Yucatan with Kids

You'll find plenty of destinations in Yucatan perfect for a family holiday, whether you plan on relaxing by the beach or discovering the region's ancient Mayan history. Cancun tops many Yucatan itineraries and offers a great choice of family accommodations and activities. However, if you have young kids, it might be worth avoiding this party city during summer and especially spring break in early March, when the raucous and messy celebrations hit their peak. Instead, look into other beach destinations, such as Playa del Carmen or Cozumel, for a more family-friendly Yucatan vacation. All of these places will give you access to the beach, and you can make day trips inland to explore Yucatan's famed Mayan ruins.

Things to Do in Yucatan with Kids

If your kids love swimming and playing by the beach, they'll be in heaven during a Yucatan holiday. Introduce them to the wonders of the marine world by visiting some of the great nature-based attractions in Yucatan, including Xel-Ha and Xcaret Eco Theme Park, where they can snorkel through coral wonderlands and get close to brightly colored tropical fish. For some inland adventure opportunities, head to Xplor Park Cancun, where the kids can fly on a zipline or explore the jungle on a tour. Even if they don't fully understand the history, kids will be amazed by historic sites like Cobá Zona Arqueológica Cobá and Chichen Itza.

Tips for a Family Vacation in Yucatan

If taking a trip to Yucatan with young children, consider staying in one of the many resorts that cater specifically to families. These establishments often have staff employed to look after and entertain kids, allowing you to enjoy some free time. They also typically offer specialized kids' menus, so you won't have to worry about your children coping with food they're not used to. Always take special care of your children's skin by applying sunscreen when out in the daylight, as the strong UV rays can cause painful sunburns.

Dining and Shopping on Holiday in Yucatan

Cuisine of Yucatan

Get a taste of the peninsula's strong Mayan heritage by sampling some of the delicious, culturally significant specialities during your Yucatan vacation. Of these Mayan dishes, pibil--smoky, spiced meat cooked in a barbecue pit and served with flatbread--stands out as the most popular. Many Yucatan dishes revolve around poultry, especially turkey and chicken, with oranges and bell peppers also featuring heavily in the local cuisine. When in major Yucatan destinations such as Cancun or Playa del Carmen, take the opportunity to try other typical dishes, like huevos motulenos (eggs served on corn tortillas with cheese and black beans) and papadzules (corn tortillas with pepita sauce, hard-boiled eggs, and tomato-pepper sauce).

Shopping in Yucatan

Perhaps the best range of shopping in Yucatan can be found in Merida, the peninsula's largest city. However, you might prefer to head straight to the coast on your Yucatan holiday, in which case Cancun or Playa del Carmen provide some excellent options. Market streets like Quinta Avenida offer an atmospheric setting to browse for souvenirs. Typical items to look for include palm-fiber products (Panama hats, colorful woven baskets, coasters, etc.), embroidered garments and linens, and filigree silver and gold jewelry. For gourmands, culinary treats like habanero peppers, artisanal chocolate, tequila, or rum infused with anise and honey will fit the bill.

Know Before You Go on a Trip to Yucatan

Interesting Facts About Yucatan

● When colonists arrived in Central America, the fiercely proud people of Yucatan resisted for two decades longer than the rest of Mexico.

● The region has also separated itself officially from Mexico twice throughout its history.

● The huge asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs struck in Yucatan.

● You can see the after-effects of that asteroid during your Yucatan vacation by swimming in one of the region's renowned cenotes.

Holidays & Festivals in Yucatan

As well as celebrating Mexico's national festivals and holidays, Yucatan has a few special days and events of its own. The region's strong Mayan heritage is reflected in the importance of the spring and fall equinoxes, when crowds of people head to Chichen Itza to watch a special shadow appear on the pyramid. If your trip to Yucatan falls in May, you might catch the International Gay Festival, a flamboyant five-day celebration in Cancun. Music fans should consider attending the Cancun Jazz Festival, also in May, with live performances from international artists. Birders will appreciate the Annual Yucatan Bird Festival in November, which includes bird-watching events, lectures, and workshops celebrating the significance of avian life on the peninsula.

Useful Yucatan Travel Tips

Climate of Yucatan

Yucatan's climate can be roughly divided into two categories: hot and wet. Between June and October, it's not uncommon for the peninsula to experience rain all day, most days, although conditions remain warm and humid during this time, with average maximum temperatures around 35 C (95 F). The best time for a trip to Yucatan is from December to February, when the weather is at its coolest and least muggy, with average highs below 30 C (86 F). April and May also provide drier conditions, but can get too hot--again around 35 C (95 F)--for a comfortable Yucatan vacation.

Transportation in Yucatan

Relatively good bus connections between most of the major destinations in Yucatan serve as the most convenient way to get from place to place in the region. You can also take private shared transport--known as "colectivos"--which are typically cheaper than buses, though sometimes cramped and uncomfortable. To get around and between popular coastal towns like Playa del Carmen and Cancun on your Yucatan itinerary, consider renting a bicycle: you'll get some exercise and have the freedom to stop and enjoy the scenery along the way.