Where to go in Yucatán: biosphere reserves, Mayan pyramids, gorgeous beaches and delicious food


 

 

Yucatecans, if you speak to a real one, like to consider themselves to be Yucatecans before being Mexicans. Their peninsula, permeated with Mayan ancestry and gorgeous nature, is detached from the rest of Mexico. It boasts some of the most beautiful beaches, captivating sites and rich cultural heritage that you cannot find anywhere else in the country or the world.

Here is the guide to our favorite places in Yucatán. Enjoy!

 

Tulum

 

Tulum has one of the most visited Mayan walled cities, located right on the edge of a cliff, overlooking turquoise Caribbean Sea. Tulum used to serve as a port city for Coba, a major Mayan city, located 45 minutes away. You can bet that Mayans knew how to appreciate beachfront real estate. Currently, Tulum is also one of the fastest developing towns in all Latin America. A backpackers’ paradise just a few years ago with sugary sand beaches, Tulum is rapidly adding new eco-chic restaurants, remodeling boutique beachfront hotels  – that still depend on solar energy – and developing new neighborhoods, such as residential La Veleta. If you are out to catch a solid real estate opportunity, the time to invest in Tulum real estate is now.

 

Sian Ka’an

 

Sian Ka’an is the beautiful biosphere reserve, located right next to Tulum’s beach zone. Imagine virgin beaches, multiple species of birds, dolphins and turtles. Spectacular undeveloped Caribbean beaches are one side, while lagoons and jungle embrace the other. Sian Ka’an is a true paradise for nature lovers, bird watchers or simply those who want to relax on a beautiful paradise-like beach. Take a tour from Punta Allen (you will have to make a 2-hour trip through a dirt road first) or go to Muyil (10 min from Tulum) and get a guided boat tour from there. There are still some amazing Sian Ka’an real estate options available.

 

Coba

 
A major ancient Mayan city, Coba is located 45 min from Tulum. It had about 50,000 inhabitants during its peak time. Its major construction seems to come from the middle and late Classic periods, but it's possible that its temples survived up to the arrival of the Spanish. Coba boasts the tallest pyramid in Yucatán peninsula, Nohoch Mul. The road from Tulum to Coba offers some excellent investment opportunities for bargain prices.
 

Isla Mujeres

 

Take a 30 min boat ride from Cancun, and arrive to this idyllic Caribbean island, where golf carts will be your main transportation. Sip a cocktail on the beach while watching a sunset or visit a turtle farm. Go snorkeling in its calm waters and spot myriads of colorful fish. Enjoy sport fishing during winter months. Have a chat with friendly locals, almost all of whom are Mayans.

 

Isla Holbox

 

The pristine, relaxed Isla Holbox, reachable by a 20-min boat ride from Chiquila Port (40 min ride from Cancun) is a part of biosphere reserve of Yum Balam, making it home to more than 150 species of birds and other animals. The life here is slow, the cars are non-existent and the houses are colorful. The island is attached to the peninsula only by a sand strip, with various canals that connect it to the sea and to Yalahau lagoon. One of the highlights and main tourist draws of Holbox are whale sharks that come to its shores in huge numbers in the summer. Currently, Holbox island offers some amazing beachfront lots for sale.

 

Mérida

 

Get immersed in a beautiful mix of colonial and Mayan culture, provincial and cosmopolitan atmosphere weaved together in Mérida, the cultural capital of the region. Enjoy its colonial architecture, delicious Yucatecan cuisine, museums, parks and squares. If you have time, take a day trip to Progreso, a Gulf of Mexico beach frequented by Mérida inhabitants (20 min away) and have some fresh fish served at one of the beachfront restaurants.

 

Uxmal

 

Well-preserved and not at all crowded, Mayan ruins of Uxmal are located only an hour away from Mérida. This late-Classic Maya site dates from before the 10th century AD and is one of the most complex and beautiful masterpieces of Puuc architectural style. Puuc, which means "hilly country," is the name given to the hills nearby and the predominant style of ancient architecture found here. Puuc decoration is characterized by elaborate horizontal stonework. Uxmal is part of the "Puuc route,” together with nearby Sayil, Kabah, Xlapak, and Labná.

 

Chichén Itzá

 

Chichén Itzá, the grandiose Mayan city, is one of the must-visit sites in the Yucatan. Chichén Itzá was a sophisticated urban center of the Mayan empire from A.D. 750 to 1200. The most famous structure here is the Temple of Kukulkan, also known as El Castillo. This pyramid demonstrates the accuracy of Mayan astronomy. The temple functions as an astrological calendar, where each step represents one day of the year. Most remarkably, the pyramid is able to reflect solar eclipses - twice a year a shadow in the shape of a serpent falls on its side.

 

Mahahual

 

Mahahual is a beautiful, laid back Caribbean beachtown, located 2 hours' drive from Chetumal and 2 hours and 50 minutes' drive from Tulum. It is a sleepy Caribbean village that has been developing and growing in the past years, thanks to the cruise ship port. Life in Mahahual becomes slower, and beachfront restaurants serve fresh fish with cold beers – perfect for relaxation on a hot day. The beachfront zone is rapidly developing, but instead of becoming too “touristy,” it harmoniously mixes Mexican, Mayan and Caribbean cultures. There are rarely visited Mayan ruins located close to Mahahual: Chacchoben is next to Limones town and Kohunlich and Dzibanche are located to the south. Around Mahahual there are areas perfect for bird watchers. Mahahual real estate offers some amazing opportunities, with some brand new luxury beachfront condos among them.

 

Bacalar

 

Bacalar is called the lagoon of seven colors. It's the largest fresh water lake in Mexico, where different shades of blue and green mix to create amazing water colors. Here you can also find beautiful dive sites, such as Cenote Azul, located at the entrance of Bacalar town, and offering beautiful rock formations, caves and passages. There are also charming spots for swimming, boating, sailing and kayaking all over the lagoon. It's a beautiful place to invest in a peace of land, if that's on your mind.

 

Celestun

 
If you are in Mérida, take a day trip to this nature’s paradise, where you can take a boat ride through mangroves to Celestun Wildlife Refuge and observe thousands of pink flamingos, other bird species and different kids of animals. This biosphere reserve is home to 225 mammal species, such as spider monkeys and jaguars.
 

Izamal

 

Visit Yucatan’s Yellow City, Izamal, where most of the buildings are painted in yellow color. Izamal is a small city, located 72 km (40 miles) east of Merida. Five huge Mayan structures are still visible at Izamal - a great pyramid to the Maya Sun God, Kinich Kak Mo, a great temple of Itzamatul and Ppap Hol Chak building. The southwest side of the plaza was home to another pyramid, the Hun Pik Tok, and in the west there was the Kabul temple. After the colonization in the 16th century, a Spanish city was built on top of the existing Mayan one. The pyramids would have taken too much work to take down, so a Christian temple was placed on top of the great pyramid and a large Franciscan monastery was built on top of the acropolis. 

 

Cenotes

 

Cenotes (sink holes) are everywhere in Yucatán. This is a natural phenomenon of Yucatán, where the porous limestone allowed for a huge underground world of caverns, caves and rivers to be formed. There are about 7,000 cenotes in Yucatán peninsula. Since the water underground is connected, be careful not to contaminate cenotes. For the Mayans, cenotes used to be sacred. They were also the main source of fresh water for them, considered to contain healing powers, and also functioned as portals to the underworld. The Sacred Cenote at Chichen Itza was used for human sacrifices. Sac Aktun, located close to Tulum, is one of the most beautiful cenotes you will visit. Swim, snorkel, dive and admire amazing stalactites.

 

 

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