The Yucatan peninsula lies between the Gulf of Mexico to the west and north and the Caribbean Sea to the east and covers approximately 76,300 square miles (197,600 square km). Situated in southeastern Mexico, it is composed almost entirely of limestone and is home to the Mexican nations of Yucatan, Campeche, and Quintana Roo. It also comprises the northern parts of Belize and Guatemala. This entire compact peninsula is famous for its tropical rainforests and jungles, as well as its ancient Mayan sites.
How to get there?
Mexico has dozens of international and domestic airports. You can fly in through Cancún (CUN), Cozumel (CZM), and Mérida (MID) to reach the Yucatan region. The major airport in Chiapas is in Tuxtla Gutiérrez (TGZ) and in Tabasco, Villahermosa (VSA). For the best deals, look for charter flight consolidation seats – spare capacity on flights run by package tour operators to Cancún.
If you travel to the Yucatán by bus from the northern border, its more than likely that you will pass through Mexico City, the country’s capital and main transportation hub. You can also take a bus from the west through the Chiapas or Villahermosa states. Although, it’s better to buy tickets for long journeys in advance, particularly at busy times such as weekends and public or religious holidays.
Numerous cruise lines serve Mexico and some of them often include stops in Cancún, Playa del Carmen, and Cozumel.
How to get around the Yucatan Peninsula?
The bus system is quite reliable and inexpensive, with routes covering all major and many minor cities. Mexican first-class buses are excellent and remarkably comfortable. Many cheaper services are also available – from second class to very basic minibus and truck services.
If you want to visit remote places, you’ll need to hire a car. Car hire outlets operate at Cancún and Mérida airports.
Best time to visit
Although this corner of Mexico is wonderful year-round, the best time to visit will be November to early December when it is less crowded. The climate is comfortably dry and cool and during this period you’ll also get the best prices as Prices are noticeably higher during the busy season of mid-December to April. Surcharges are also common around Christmas, New Year’s, and Easter.
Things to see
Visit Calakmul’s vast ruins, with Mayan monuments and pyramids, are ringed by rainforest.
Divers won’t want to miss the reefs and underwater fantasy worlds of Yucatan. Its underwater labyrinths are treasure troves for cave diving, snorkelling and scuba- diving. The Banco Chinchorro is the largest coral atoll in the northern hemisphere and known for its shipwreck sites, coral walls and canyons.
Parque Nacional Isla Contoy
This is a bird lover’s delight. It’s an uninhabited national park and sanctuary that is an easy day trip from Cancún or Isla Mujeres.
Yucatán is home of several famous Mayan archaeological zones. The best known and most widely visited by tourists is Chichén Itzá. Other famous Mayan sites are located at Coba, Uxmal and Tulum.
Visit the capital of Yucatán state, which is the cultural capital of the peninsula. Steeped in colonial history, Merida’s narrow streets house the region’s best museums. There are many cenotes (freshwater springs) also nearby.
Reserva de la Biósfera Sian Ka’an
Explore this 2,000 sq miles of the tropical jungle and marsh that is also home to howler monkeys, anteaters, ocelots and pumas.
What to eat
This traditional Mexican dish is prepared by marinating the meat overnight, seasoning it with achiote paste which imparts a vivid burnt orange colour, and then slowly roasting while it is wrapped in banana leaf.
This dish is made up of eggs, tortillas, black beans, cheese and ham, peas, and tomato sauce.
Originating in Merida, Panuchos are small fried corn tortillas filled with refried black beans and topped with turkey or chicken, lettuce, avocado and pickled onions.
Also Read: A Travel Guide to the Cook Islands
Have you been to the Yucatan Peninsula? If so, do share your experiences in the comments below.