There are so many things to do in the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. In fact, there are so many fun things to do that you will be spoilt for choice or run out of time and you will have to return for more Mexican vacations. We share with you the best places to visit in Yucatan Mexico, where to stay and what to do there. This is an extensive post, so grab a coffee or a wine and sit back and relax and plan your next adventure to the best places in the Yucatan to visit – (península de yucatán no méxico)!
One of our frequently asked questions is is it safe to travel to Mexico?
We felt very safe travelling around Mexico for 6 months by ADO bus.
We would recommend checking with your country’s government on current health warnings for Mexico in light of COVID 19 and any unrest in parts of the country.
(Editor Update 2021)
Mexico is one of our favourite destinations. We have travelled to so many cities such as Guanajuato, San Miguel de Allende, Morelia, Oaxaca, Tepoztlan, and more and we still have more Mexican destinations to experience and explore. We have written our own special guide book on Mexico. Click here to purchase through Amazon.
This post may contain affiliate links. Please see our disclosure for more information. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases (if applicable).
So, what is it about Mexico? We enjoy the weather in Mexico, Mexican food, Mayan ruins and other archaeological sites, the people and the Mexican vibe. We also believe that the Yucatan Peninsula is one of the safest places in Mexico, although saying that everywhere we have travelled to in Mexico we have felt safe. Don’t believe what you read in the media, go see for yourself.
Mexico is one of the best countries for shopping. Are you wondering what are some of the best souvenirs in Mexico to buy for family and friends? In the Yucatan Peninsula, wooden masks are a popular souvenir. They can be found in the villages of the Yucatan.
Before we start on this long post we share with you some interesting facts about Mexico.
- 1 Where is the Yucatan Peninsula Mexico
- 2 The 5 UNESCO World Heritage Sites of the Yucatan
- 3 The Pueblo Magico Towns of Mexico – Yucatán points of interest
- 4 Frequently Asked Questions about Travelling to the Yucatan Peninsula
- 5 Top Things to do in the State of Quintana Roo
- 5.1 Theme Parks/National Parks/Biosphere
- 5.2 Visit Isla Mujeres, Cozumel and Holbox
- 5.3 Isla Mujeres
- 5.4 Cozumel
- 5.5 Where to stay in Cozumel
- 5.6 Things to do in Holbox
- 5.7 Accommodation in Holbox
- 5.8 Things to do in the Mayan Riviera
- 5.9 Things to do in Playa del Carmen
- 5.10 Where to stay in Playa del Carmen
- 5.11 Hotels in Playa del Carmen
- 5.12 Restaurants Playa Del Carmen
- 5.13 Things to do in Tulum Mexico
- 5.14 Things to do in Akumal
- 5.15 Things to do in Cancun
- 5.15.1 Cancun Nightlife
- 5.15.2 Cancun Hotel Map
- 5.15.3 Things to do in Downtown Cancun
- 5.15.4 Visit the main park and large plaza for shopping, food and entertainment – Parque Las Palapas
- 5.15.5 Things to do in Cancun:
- 5.15.6 Xoximilco
- 5.15.7 Maya Cancun Museum
- 5.15.8 El Ray Archaeological Site
- 5.15.9 El Meco Archaeological Site
- 5.15.10 Isla Contoy
- 5.16 Where to stay in Cancun
- 6 Top Things to do in the Yucatan State
- 6.1 Things to do in Merida
- 6.2 Merida Tours:
- 6.3 Where to stay in Merida
- 6.4 Things to do Outside Merida
- 6.5 Chichen Itza
- 6.6 Chichen Itza Tours
- 6.7 Where to stay in Chichen Itza
- 6.8 Uxmal
- 6.9 Choco Museum
- 6.10 Uxmal Tours
- 6.11 Celestun Biosphere Reserve
- 6.12 Izamal “The Yellow City”
- 6.13 Things to do in Progreso
- 6.14 Things to do in Valladolid
- 6.15 Where to Stay in Vallodolid
- 6.16 Mayan Site of Ek Balam
- 6.17 Mayan Site of Dzibilchaltun
- 6.18 Things to do in Rio Lagartos
- 7 Top Things to do in the State of Campeche Mexico
- 7.1 Things to do in Campeche city
- 7.2 Things to do outside the City of Campeche
- 7.3 Where to stay in Campeche
- 7.4 Where to eat in Campeche
- 8 Mexico Weather – Weather in the Yucatan Peninsula
- 9 Yucatan Peninsula Facts
- 10 Other Beautiful Places in Mexico To Inspire You
Where is the Yucatan Peninsula Mexico
The Península de Yucatán México covers 197,600 square km of South-Eastern Mexico. It is made up of the states of:
- Quintana Roo
The Yucatan Peninsula is located between the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico with 1100 km of coastline and a breadth of 320 km. We can say that the Yucatan beaches are the best beaches in Mexico.
Related Reading: Best Places to Stay in Cancun
The 5 UNESCO World Heritage Sites of the Yucatan
Mexico has 34 UNESCO World Heritage sites which include:
- 27 cultural sites
- 6 natural sites
- 1 mixed site on the list
Out of the 34 sites, the Yucatan Peninsula has 5 of them:
- Sian Ka’an a biosphere reserve in Tulum
- Chichen Itza – a pre-Hispanic city
- Uxmal – a pre-Hispanic town
- Campeche – historic fortified town
- Campeche – ancient Maya city and protected tropical forests of Calakmul
The Pueblo Magico Towns of Mexico – Yucatán points of interest
There are 111 designated ‘Pueblo Magico’ towns in Mexico and 6 of those are located in the Yucatan Peninsula. A ‘Pueblo Magico’ town is one designated by the authorities of Mexico that have something special to offer; legends, history, important events, symbolism and a feeling of magic.
The 6 Pueblo Magico Towns are:
- Izamal – for its 3 cultures pre-Colombian, colonial and modern
- Valladolid – for its rich culture
- Palizada in Campeche for its wooded forests
- Bacalar for its lagoon of 7 colours
- Isla Mujeres – its dazzling beaches and way of life
- Tulum – for its Mayan Ruins and beaches
Frequently Asked Questions about Travelling to the Yucatan Peninsula
What is the Yucatan Peninsula well known for?
The Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico is well known for its Mayan architecture such as Chichen Itza, Uxmal and Tulum and many more smaller architectural sites.
Is the Yucatan Peninsula safe to travel to?
There are parts in Mexico and in other countries as well that it is recommended not to venture into. Mexico does have a drug cartel that is located in certain parts of the country. It is safe to travel but you need to exercise caution. Petty theft occurs everywhere in the world. Always check your countries government travel department for the latest updates.
How far in advance should I book travel?
We would recommend booking 30 – 60 days in advance. December to March is their busy tourist season.
What is the power voltage in Mexico?
110 volts is used in Mexico, visitors from Europe will need to bring an adapter.
Is it safe to travel on buses in Mexico?
We have travelled all over Mexico by buses and have found it safe. Take care with your personal belongings, do not put them under the seat but in front of you.
What are the birds of the Yucatan and where can I get more information?
This is a good reference book that will assist you in identifying the birds of the Yucatan Peninsula.
The state of Quintana Roo includes 3 Islands; Cozumel, Holbox and Isla Mujeres. Apart from the towns of Playa del Carmen, Akumal and Bacalar, it houses the large Caribbean resort area of Riviera Maya Mexico with its range of hotels.
You may enjoy some further reading before you travel to Quintana Roo.
Cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula
There are thousands of Cenotes in and around the Yucatan and some are quite expensive to visit as they are included in the many theme parks around the area.
Some recommended tours available are:
Xel-ha in the Mayan language means “where the water is born”. It is a natural aquatic theme park where you can snorkel with the fish and wander through jungle paths.
An eco-archaeological park where you can:
- explore along the jungle trails
- visit Jaguar Island
- spend time at the Butterfly Pavillion
- enjoy a snorkelling tour
- swim with the dolphins
- swim in underground rivers
Sian Ka’an is a designated World Heritage Site near Tulum. The Biosphere Reserve is home to thousands of species of flora and fauna.
The website of Sian Ka’an for tickets and more information.
Rio Secreto is an underground river museum where you can view stalactites and stalagmites.
The official website for more information and tickets.
Cancun Underwater Museum or MUSA
Located in the waters around Cancun, Isla Mujeres and Punta Nizuc is an underwater museum with over 500 life-sized monuments 8m deep in the ocean. You can visit by either a glass-bottom boat, scuba dive or snorkel from a boat tour.
The official website for more information.
Visit Isla Mujeres, Cozumel and Holbox
How to get to Isla Mujeres
You can catch the Gran Puerto Cancun (Ultramar) ferry from Puerto Juarez downtown Cancun. The crossing takes about 15 minutes and the boats leave every 30 minutes from 05.00 to 21.00. Cost is MXN160 (USD$8.00) each way (2021 prices)
- visit the Town Square
- go for a walk along the West and East Malecon
- visit the Sea Wall murals
- visit the 3 Lighthouses
- visit the grave of Mundaca, a famous pirate, at the local cemetery
- enjoy finding all the local statues scattered around the island
- visit Punta Sur at the south of the island
- take photos from the outside path of the unique Shell House – but don’t ask to go in and visit
- visit Floating Bottle Island where the base is made from over 100,000 plastic bottles
- snorkel Garrafon Reef Park
- visit the turtle farm known as La Tortuga Granja
- hire a golf cart and drive around the island, beware of the speed bumps though
- attend a yoga session in the morning or in the evening
- swim with dolphins at the Dolphin Discovery
- swim with the whale sharks – there are many tour operators to choose from
- go deep-sea fishing
- Catamaran tour with lunch and open bar from Cancun
Where to stay in Isla Mujeres:
We have found some great accommodation choices for you, check your travel dates for the latest deals on Booking.com.
Tripadvisor has a wealth of information on restaurants in Isla Mujeres with the latest reviews.
How to get to Cozumel
There are 3 ferry companies that travel from Playa del Carmen to Cozumel. Prices range from MXN150 (USD$7.60) to MXN300 (USD$15.00) depending on the company and the timing, the journey should take 45 minutes depending on the type of craft and the weather.
Top Things to do in Cozumel
Cozumel is a top cruise port off the coast near Playa del Carmen. It is also famous for being one of the best diving sites in the world.
- Visit Chankanaab Beach Adventure Park for snorkelling, dolphin tours, zip lining, tequila factory or just relax on the beach
- San Gervasio – Mayan ruins founded in 300 AD. Entrance fee USD$9.50.
- Palancar Beach – great for sailing, kayaking, diving and snorkelling
- Punta Sur Eco Beach Park – 2,500 acres of an ecological park which contains hundreds of exotic birds, crocodiles and sea turtles. You can also visit El Caracol the Mayan Ruins, swim in the Laguna Colombia or visit the Celerain Lighthouse. The park is open between 9.00 am and 4.00 pm and costs USD$18 to enter.
- Atlantis Submarine Expedition
- VIP Glass Bottom Boat & Snorkelling 3 Reefs Tour
Where to stay in Cozumel
Looking for some great accommodation in Cozumel? We have found some great accommodation in Cozumel through Booking.com – check your travel dates and latest deals here
Check out Tripadvisor for the top 10 restaurants in Cozumel to suit your budget as well as reviews from other travellers.
Holbox is a small island to the North of Quintana Roo. There are no cars on the island only golf carts. We hear that the sunsets are amazing.
How to get to Holbox:
The Holbox Catamaran Ferry takes 45 minutes from Chiquila and costs MXN200 (USD$10.00).
Top Things to do in Holbox
- Swim with the whale sharks
- Visit Yum Balam Eco Reserve and its 60,000 acres of natural rainforest which is home to 5 of the wild cat species such as jaguar, jungle cat, ocelot, puma and a small ocelot known as margay
- Kayak through the mangroves
- See the flamingos at Isla Passion, a small island that is located between the mainland and Holbox
- Island Day Tour – Discover the paradisiacal beaches of Holbox Island, a natural and beautiful island characterized by spectacular landscapes and its great diversity of birds.
Accommodation in Holbox
Tripadvisor is our go-to resource for recommendations on restaurants in Holbox that suits all budgets and tastes.
Also known as the Mexican Riviera, the Mayan Riviera stretches for 75 miles from 10 miles south of Cancun at Puerto Morelos and finishes at the town of Carrillo Puerto. The towns of Playa del Carmen, Puerto Aventuras, Tulum and Akumal are scattered along the Caribbean coast. It is one of the best places to visit in Mexico. There are many Mayan Riviera resorts to choose from.
Tripadvisor has a list of restaurants to suit all budgets and tastes. Check out their top 10 recommendations.
Xplor is a park of many activities from zip-lining, underground rafting, amphibious vehicles to hammock splash. You can even experience adventures during the evening.
Cenote Chaak Tun
Your opportunity to swim underground and experience the marvels of the Cenote – a natural sinkhole.
Scuba and Snorkelling
There are various companies offering a variety of scuba and snorkelling experiences.
From Playa del Carmen – Snorkelling and Spearfishing Lessons
Reef Diving in Playa del Carmen
Where to stay in Playa del Carmen
We stayed at the fully inclusive hotel – Reef Cocobeach in Playa del Carmen.
Hotels in Playa del Carmen
Restaurants Playa Del Carmen
Tripadvisor has an extensive list of restaurants to suit all budgets. Check out their top 10 recommendations.
The #1 tourist attraction in Tulum is the 13th century walled Mayan Ruins on the cliffs overlooking the Caribbean Sea. Get there early before the many busloads of tourists. Apart from the ruins, you will see the natural habitats of the iguanas. Bring sunscreen, water and mosquito repellent. We would recommend hiring the services of a guide, it is one regret that we had about visiting Tulum, we didn’t hire a guide.
Opening Hours: 08.00 – 17.00 hours
Entrance Fee 2021: MXN80 (USD$4.00).
We would nominate Tulum as the most stunning of all of the locations of the Mayan Ruins, situated on the cliffs overlooking the Caribbean Sea. You can take your swimmers with you, if the beach is accessible you will be able to swim. It was high tide when we visited which made it difficult for swimming.
Just 43 km from Tulum is the Coba Ruins.
Enjoy a full-day tour of Tulum and Coba Ruins – book your place on the tour here
Coba is a large Mayan ancient ruined city in the state of Quintana Roo. The Nohuch Mul group of pyramids with Ixmoja standing at 42m is the tallest Mayan pyramid in the Northern Yucatan. Coba is not as touristy as Chichen Itza or Tulum and you are still able to climb some of the structures.
There are over 50 sacbes (white roads) in Coba which are stone causeways that were used to connect waterways around the site and residents to the pyramids. You can visit 16 of them.
Entrance fee as of 2021: USD6.50
Location: 45 minutes from Tulum
An underground cenote and cave system which is suitable for swimming and snorkelling.
Enjoy a tour that includes Sac Actun and the Mayan Jungle – for more information click here
The official website for more information.
Grand Cenote in the Yucatan Peninsula
A limestone cenote and cavern suitable for snorkelling and swimming, with the water so clear you may not even need to hire a snorkel.
Open between 10.00 am and 5.00 pm the Grand Cenote is the largest of all cenotes in Quintana Roo.
Entrance fee MXN180 (USD10.00)
Long white silvery beaches that are semi-private, check first as some belong the Beach Clubs and others to smaller hotels. For the price of lunch, you can use the facilities of the Beach Clubs i.e. parking and beach chairs. There are restaurants available as well.
Where to stay in Tulum
We stayed at the Punta Piedra Beach Posada along Tulum Beach with lots of small restaurants outside. It is a small hotel, lovely comfortable rooms and its own private beach. A great place to just chill.
Find out availability and travel deals for your travel dates for Tulum here with booking.com
A few years ago when we were staying in Tulum we enjoyed the following 2 restaurants:
Casa Banana at Tulum Boca Paila Km 8.5
Mateo’s Mexican Grill at Tulum Beach Road Paila Km 5.2. If you get there early you can have a ‘sundowner’ on the top deck whilst watching the sunset. Take mosquito repellent with you.
Tripadvisor has an extensive list of where to eat with reviews in and around Tulum.
If you are like us we love to do some initial research before we head to a destination. Here are some great suggestions for Tulum.
Akumal is a small beach resort near Cancun. The top tourist attractions are:
- swimming or snorkelling with the sea turtles from Akumal Beach
- swimming in the Yal Ku lagoon with schools of coloured fish
- Akumal Monkey Sanctuary Tour
- Full day kayak tour from Bacalar
The weather in Cancun is pleasant all year round, no wonder it is one of the best places to go in Mexico.
Cancun is also the largest city in the state of Quintana Roo. Cancun International Airport is Mexico’s 2nd busiest. It is a good jumping-off point to travel to Havana in Cuba. It was cheaper to obtain visas at the airport in Cancun for Cuba than in the USA, USD20 compared to over USD100.
Head to the Zona Hotelera for the best of Cancun Nightlife.
Here are the best places to visit in Cancun
Cancun Hotel Map
Things to do in Downtown Cancun
Visit the main park and large plaza for shopping, food and entertainment – Parque Las Palapas
- Malecon America’s shopping plaza
- Walk from Nichupte Lagoon along the Malecon Tajamar
- Shop in a real Mexican marketplace at Market 28
Things to do in Cancun:
There are so many fun things to do in Cancun.
A modern replica of UNESCO Xochimilco in Mexico City. 5 minutes from Cancun’s International Airport where you can board colourful barges and party through the night as you sail down the canals through the Mayan Jungle.
The official website for tickets and more information. Tickets are cheaper if you purchase online.
Maya Cancun Museum
The Maya Cancun Museum contains collections of ancient Mayan artifacts and the Mayan site of San Miguelito.
Located Blvd. Kukulcan Km 16.5, Zona Hotelera, 77500 Cancún, Q.R., Mexico
Opening Hours: 09.00 to 17.30
Entrance fee: USD$4.00
The official website for the Maya Cancun Museum for more information.
El Ray Archaeological Site
One of the most important Mayan sites along the Cancun strip dating back to 250 AD which includes a pyramid-shaped structure as well as 46 other buildings.
Location: Zona Hotelera, 77500 Cancún, Quintana Roo
Opening Hours: 08.00 to 17.00
The official website for El Ray Archaeological Site for more information.
El Meco Archaeological Site
Ancient Mayan ruins that include a pyramid. You will also see iguanas in their natural habitat.
Location: Carretera Puerto Juaréz, López Portillo, 77520 Cancún
Opening Hours: 08.00 to 16.30
Entrance Fee: MXN50 (USD$2.75)
The official website for more information.
Only 200 visitors daily are allowed on Isla Contoy. There are snorkelling and swimming with the whale shark tours available.
Where to stay in Cancun
For a luxury stay in the Zona Hotelera strip of Cancun, we can recommend the Nizuc Resort and Spa. You will have a truly ‘zen experience’. Our 1-night stay was not long enough to enjoy all of the facilities and the 6 restaurants that Nizuc has to offer. It is the only hotel on the strip that welcomes the sunrise in the morning and where you can enjoy a cocktail and the sunset in the evening.
Location: Zona Hotelera, 77500 Cancún
Best restaurants in Cancun has an extensive list of the best restaurants to suit all budgets in Cancun, with the latest reviews from travellers.
The state of Yucatan on the Yucatan Peninsula is home to the important archaeological Mayan Ruins of Chichen Itza and Uxmal.
The state is bordered by Campeche to the South West, Quintana Roo to the East and South-East and the Gulf of Mexico to the North and West and covers 39,524 square km. The Capital is Merida.
Merida Yucatan Map
Free Walking Tour
A free walking tour of the historical centre of Merida starts at 9.30 am. The tour is conducted in English and Spanish.
Duration: 1.5 – 2 hours
Meeting Place: Tourism Office on Calle 62 between Calle 61 and 63
Cost: Free but based on tips
Horse and Carriage Ride
Also called a Calesa the rides depart from Calle 61 in front of the Cathedral. The traffic around the Centro Historico area of Merida is hectic. It is recommended to time your ride for an evening or a Sunday when it is quieter.
Cost MXN250 (USD$14) and takes around 45 minutes.
Pok Ta Pok
Every Friday night in front of the Cathedral in Merida the ancient Mayan Ballgame Pok Ta Pok is played.
It starts at 8.00 pm we would recommend getting there early to get a good seat. It is free.
An extensive world-class Mayan Museum with exhibits of ancient Mayan artefacts, and home to everything Mayan.
Entrance Fee: MXN150 (USD$8.50)
Opening Hours: Wednesday to Monday 08.00 to 17.00
Location: Calle 60 Norte No. 299 E Unidad Revolucion C.P.97110 Merida
The official website of the Grand Museum of the Mayan World for tickets and more information.
Paseo de Montejo
Merida’s equivalent of Paris’s Champs Elysees. Paseo de Montejo runs North to South along Calle 47. It is home to the magnificent mansions of 19th and 20th Century which were built by the Sisal Barons of Merida to replicate the mansions of Europe. From the Plaza of Merida, Paseo runs 2 blocks east and 7 blocks north and is worth spending a few hours wandering around on your own. Today the buildings that have been renovated are used by banks and insurance companies, boutique hotels, restaurants and nightclubs.
The original Palacio Canton has been turned into the Museo Regional de Antropologia, covering the Mayan History throughout its time in the Yucatan Peninsula.
Opening Hours: Tuesday to Saturday 8.00 am to 8.00 pm Sunday 08.00 am to 2.00 pm
Entrance Fee: USD$5.00
A Yucatecan Serenade
Every Thursday evening at Santa Lucia Park on Calle 60 and Calle 55 an open-air concert takes place from 9.00 pm.
The oldest Cathedral on the Continent is the Cathedral of Merida which sits opposite the Main Square at Calle 60. It was constructed between 1561 and 1598 and built over the Mayan city of T’ho. Most of the stone came from the local Mayan temples in the area.
Around the Plaza you can see:
- Palacio de Gobierno – built in 1892 and houses the large murals of Yucatecan artists Fernando Castro Pacheco. Opens from Monday to Saturday from 08.00am to 8.00 pm and Sunday from 09.00 am to 5.00 pm.
- Museo de Arte Contemporaneo Ateneo de Yucatan (MACAY) – works by contemporary artists. Free entrance. Open from Wednesday to Monday 10.00 am to 6.00pm but Friday and Saturday nights close at 8.00 pm.
- Palacio Montejo – built by the famous Montejo family the palace has now been sold to a Mexican Bank. Unfortunately, due to the ever-increasing high taxes of Merida, the family had no alternative but to sell their home. You can still visit the interior and the courtyard it will give you an idea of how life once was.
- Ayuntamiento – City Hall. The building dates back to the mid 19th Century. There are great views from the balcony overlooking the Park.
On Calle 65 between Calle 56 is the City Museum housed in the Old Post Office. The Museum includes maps and pictures of Merida and the Mayan City of T’ho.
We were driving along Avenida Itzaes and got the shock of our lives when suddenly on our left was a Giraffe! The Zoo is set in a beautiful park with a small lake.
Park Hours: Tuesday through Sunday 8 am – 5 pm
Where to stay in Merida
During our 4 nights in Merida visiting the major tourist attractions of the Yucatan Peninsula, we stayed at the Wyndham Hotel in Merida. It was well located to visit the top sights. The swimming pool was welcomed after a long day of sightseeing. Read more here.
Merida Hotel Accommodation
Location: Calle 55 Entre 60 y 62 No. 510 Centro.
Opening hours: 05.30am to 13.00
La Chaya Maya is a great choice for a family restaurant serving local Yucatan specialties.
Location: Calle 55 Entre 60 y 62 No. 510 Centro.
Tripadvisor has an extensive range of restaurants to suit all budgets in Merida.
Things to do Outside Merida
Chichen Itza is the Yucatan’s most famous site and the busiest during the high season between November and April. The ancient Mayan Site was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988. Plan to spend at least the morning there.
To get the most out of your visit to Chichen Itza here are the top 9 tips you need to know.
See our post on how to visit Chichen Itza during the day and night enjoying the Light and Sound Show.
Opening Hours: Daily: 08.00 to 16.30
Summer: Light & Sound Show 20.00 to 21.00
Winter: Light & Sound Show: 1900 to 20.00
Mexican Government Officials control and administrate Chichen Itza archaeological site.
For the Light & Sound Show at night there is a limited well lit pathway that you wander around before the 15-minute show commences.
Chichen Itza Tours
Where to stay in Chichen Itza
Check out the latest prices and availability for your dates of travel.
Tripadvisor has a range of restaurant reviews in the vicinity of Chichen Itza suitable for all budgets and tastes.
In 1996 the ancient Mayan site of Uxmal was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s most famous pyramid – the Pyramid of the Magician stands 35m tall and it is very impressive with its round sides. For visitors, it is a quieter Mayan site to visit as the site gets fewer tourists than Chichen Itza. We would recommend using the services of a local guide.
Uxmal is located 62km south of Merida.
Daily from 08.00 to 17.00
Outside the gates of the Mayan Ruins of Uxmal is the Choco Museum. This is not your typical museum, you wander through the grounds where you witness a local Mayan ceremony, as well as visit the animal refuge centre which houses animals that have been mistreated and who can’t return to the wild.
There are 6 exhibition halls presenting the history of chocolate from the Mayans till today. You can taste traditional hot chocolate and purchase chocolate and other gifts from the Choco Museum shop.
The official website for more information.
Opening Hours: 09.00 am – 08.00 pm spring/summer; 09.00 am – 07.00 pm fall/winter
Celestun Biosphere Reserve
The Celestun Biosphere Reserve is located in the northwestern part of the Yucatan Peninsula on 146,000 acres. Celestun is famous for its pink flamingos who flock here during the winter months between November and March for courting. During the summer months, they head to Rio Largatos for nesting.
When you arrive at Celestun there are launches available to take you on the 2-hour boat ride to see the flamingos feeding as well as a tour through the mangroves.
The cost of the boat tour: USD$120 for the boat, prices are negotiable with the boat owner.
Where to stay at Celestun
There are at least 10 restaurants around the Celestun Biosphere Reserve to suit all budgets.
Izamal is one of Mexico’s “Pueblo Magico” towns. It is located 68km from Merida. Izamal is a very photogenic town with most of the buildings painted yellow. Why are they painted yellow? Find out by reading our article on Izamal.
Things to do in Izamal
From the 1st to the 8th December each year a major religious pilgrimage takes place in Izamal. All bed and breakfast accommodation, as well as hotels, are booked out well in advance. Some of the pilgrims sleep in the park and in the corridors of the City Hall and the Convent. If you are planning to visit Izamal ensure that you miss these dates unless your visit is for the pilgrimage.
Our visit to Izamal included lunch at Restaurant Zamna which we can recommend. Their Sopa de Lima is highly recommended.
Other places to eat according to the reviews on Tripadvisor.
Progreso is located in the North West of the state of Yucatan in the Gulf of Mexico.
You can wander down the Malecon and shop at the street vendors along the way. Progreso has become a new Cruise Port for the Yucatan Peninsula, it can be very busy when cruise ships are in port. There are many restaurants overlooking the Malecon.
We have a range of accommodation available in Progreso to suit all budgets.
There are a range of restaurants in Progreso, the popular ones are located on the waterfront.
Our recommendation is the newly opened in early 2017 – Crabsters.
To Travel Too tip – If you are selecting grilled fish off the menu request the smallest possible. Our fish could have fed 4 of us
Valladolid is an inland city in the eastern part of Yucatan state. It has been given the honour of a “Pueblo Magico town”. It is a town known for its colonial churches and architecture.
The top tourist attractions of Valladolid are:
- Cathedral of San Gervasio located in Centro Historico. It was rebuilt in 1705 using the local stones from Mayan temples.
- Cenote Zaci – a few blocks from the central park is Cenote Zaci. The entrance fee is MXN30 (USD$1.70) – don’t forget to take your swimmers with you.
- Convent of San Bernardino of Siena at Calle 50 210B, Sisal, Valladolid. It has been recognised as one of the most beautiful buildings in the Yucatan Peninsula and one that was built over the vault of a cenote.
- Casa de Los Venados – located in a private home this Museum has the largest collection of Mexican folk art in private hands, over 3,000 pieces. It is open daily at 10.oo am and there are tours available.
Tour from Valladolid: Cenote Maya Native Park Admission Ticket
Where to Stay in Vallodolid
Tripadvisor has a range of restaurants to be enjoyed in Valladolid to suit all budgets and tastes.
25 km north of Valladolid is the ancient Mayan site Ek Balam. El Torre the Tower is one of the largest Mayan structures with a height of 30m, 151m long and 60m wide.
Opening Hours: 08.00 to 17.00
Entrance Fee: MXN413 (USD$20.00)
16km North of Merida is Dzibilchaltun – a small ancient Mayan site. The most famous structure is the Temple of the 7 Dolls. Archaeologists discovered that inside the temple were 7 small dolls, they are now housed in the Museum on the grounds. There is also a restaurant on site, a cenote, a church and a gift shop. You can hire a guide, we highly recommend it.
Opening Hours: 08.00 to 17.00
Museum Opening Hours: 08.00 to 16.00
Entrance Fee: USD$10.00
Rio Lagartos is a small working fishing village within the 150,000-acre reserve. During the summer months, you can expect to see over 40,000 flamingos who flock here from Celestun for nesting and birthing. Rio Lagartos is also home to over 395 species of birds.
You can organise tours to Rio Largartos.
Top Things to do in the State of Campeche Mexico
The state of Campeche is bordered by the Yucatan to the North, Quintana Roo to the East and Tabasco to the South West. The Gulf of Mexico lies to the west of the state. To the South and South East, it borders the countries of Guatemala and Belize. It is a state that encompasses rainforests and beaches.
The Capital of Campeche is San Francisco de Campeche – commonly called Campeche.
Campeche has many Mayan ruins such as Calakmul, Uxul and Xicalango. The name Campeche comes from the ancient Mayan province Kimpech. The City of Campeche and its ancient colonial centre and fortified walls were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999. In 2002 the Mayan ruins of Calakmul was also designated a UNESCO Site.
The Malecon stretches for 5km from Justo Sierra to Joaquin Musel Avenue. There are 3 tracks suitable for bicycles, skateboards and walking or running. It is a great place to watch the sunset.
Walk the City Walls
The City Walls and Forts were built during the 16th century to protect the city from pirate attacks. There are 7 Baluartes (a stronghold into which people could go for shelter during a battle) some are free along the 2-mile walk and others have a fee of between MXN10 – MXN50 (USD$0.55 – USD$2.75). It is best to walk the walls either in the morning or late afternoon to escape the heat of the midday sun.
Fort San Jose
Fort San Jose was built to protect Campeche during the 18th century. The Fort contains a museum of armaments and boats. Check opening times before you visit.
Fort San Miguel
The Fort of San Miguel is now a Museum and houses pre-Hispanic items.
Campeche Evening Light Show
8.00 pm every evening in the main park in the Centro Historico of Merida is the popular 1 hour Light & Sound Show which depicts historical events, characters and stories.
Located on Calle 10 opposite Centro Park is Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Cathedral of Campeche. The Cathedral was constructed in the baroque and neoclassical style during 1650 – 1760.
Things to do outside the City of Campeche
55km South East of Campeche, you can visit the Mayan Ruins of Edzna. The most impressive structure is the 40m high, 5 storey pyramid known as the Pyramid of 5 Storeys. There is also an impressive Mayan Ball Court in the Plaza.
Opening Hours: 08.00 am to 17.00 pm
Entrance Fee: MXN60 (USD$3.00)
Becan is located 150km north of Tikal National Park in Guatemala. There is a moat built around the city as a defensive ditch to protect the city between the years AD100 and AD250. Located in the Central Plaza is the tallest pyramid standing at 30m high.
Opening Hours 08.00 am to 17.00 pm.
Entrance fee: MXN60 (USD$3.00).
Xpuhil is a small Mayan site in the state of Campeche. It is famous for its group of 3 Mayan towers that have facades of 70 degrees. The archaeologists located secret stairways that transported priests to the top of the temples, the Mayan people thought it was magic when they saw the Priests on top of the temples.
Opening Hours: 08.00 am to 17.00 pm
Deep in the jungles of the Peten Basin in a biosphere reserve 35km from the border of Guatemala is the Mayan Ruins of Calakmul. Calakmul was one of the largest Mayan cities and was the power seat of the Kingdom of the Snake – its emblem. There are over 6,750 structures within the site and the largest is the Pyramid known as Structure 2 which stands at an impressive 45 metres high. It is believed to have contained 4 tombs inside the structure.
Opening Hours 08.00 am to 17.00 pm
Entrance Fee: There are 4 separate fees:
Community charge MXN28 (USD$1.60)
Vehicle MXN56 (USD$3.10)
Biosphere Reserve MXN54 (USD$3.00)
Archaeological site MXN46 (USD$2.60)
Laguna de Terminos
Mexico’s largest estuary Laguna de Terminos is in the state of Campeche. It is 705,000 protected hectares of flora and fauna.
The mangroves are inhabited by ocelots, raccoons, manatees, boa constrictors, turtles, crocodiles and the green iguana. There is an abundance of fish as well as bottlenose dolphins.
Campeche Mexico Beaches
Even though Campeche is on the coast it is not known for its beaches.
- Playa Bonita at Lerma
- Seybaplaya – a small fishing village with a rocky beach 20 miles south of Campeche
- Champoton-a fishing village, south of here are miles of beaches
- Sabancuy – a lagoon that is suitable for swimming
Where to stay in Campeche
When we visited Campeche we stayed at the Hotel Maya Ah Kim Pech. Our room overlooked the swimming pool, with high ceilings and it had a great colonial feel to it. The location was perfect, 1 block away from the Main Square. It was excellent value for money.
Where to eat in Campeche
Tripadvisor has an extensive list of recommendations on where to eat in Campeche. Check out their recommended top 10.
Mexico Weather – Weather in the Yucatan Peninsula
Mexico is such a large country its weather varies from region to region. The weather in the coastal regions is generally hot but you will need to understand when the rainy season kicks in. When we visited San Cristobal de Las Casas in Chiapas state we had to wrap up warm, and early mornings in places like San Miguel de Allende and Ajijic as examples can be quite cool. Mexico City can be chilly at times as well – so it is worthwhile researching weather patterns before you travel and pack accordingly.
The best time to go to Mexico to visit the Yucatan Peninsula is:
Winter is the best time to visit the Yucatan Peninsula between the months of December and April. This is also high season for tourism and major sites such as Chichen Itza can be very busy.
During summer in July and August, it can be very hot and humid.
The rainy season is between September and November.
The Hurricane Season in the Yucatan Peninsula runs from June 1st to November 30th.
Yucatan Peninsula Facts
Some general information to make the best of your holiday to Yucatan Mexico.
Airports in the Yucatan
Cancun International Airport [CUN]
Location: KM22 on the Cancun-Chetumal Highway
Cancun International Airport is located outside the city of Cancun at kilometre 22 of the Cancun-Chetumal highway.
Official airport website for more information: Cancun International Airport
Merida – International Airport [MID]
Location: 13km from the city centre of Merida
Campeche Airport [CPE]
Location: 6km south-east of Campeche
Campeche airport is located 6 km/4 Miles south-east of the City.
Chetumal Airport [CTM]
Location: 2km from Chetumal
Cozumel Airport [CZM]
Location: 3km north of San Miguel
Booking Air Travel
We use Skyscanner to book all our flights around the world. Skyscanner is one of our partners. It is important for us to recommend to our readers a product that we regularly use and one that we feel confident in using. There are a lot of airline websites out there, Skyscanner is one of the largest with an extensive range of airline fares available on a daily basis. It is worth signing up for their alerts when planning your Mexico Holidays.
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Find the cheapest flights with Skyscanner who then directs you to the airline’s website with no extra fees to pay.
We have travelled extensively throughout Mexico with most of the journeys with ADO. ADO covers the Yucatan Peninsula. Check out the latest schedules and ticket prices here.
Rental Cars are available throughout the Yucatan Peninsula from airport and city locations. Our partner is AutoEurope.com. As always when you hire any rental car please always read the small print. Before you leave the Car Rental station, take photos of any dents or scratches on the car with your mobile phone and log the date and time if not already shown on your photos.
Always check your travel insurance policy to see what your travel policy covers in the way of car rental.
We recommend taking out travel insurance as soon as you book your flights and pay deposits on any cruises, tours or hotels.
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Do You Need a Visa for Mexico?
Other General Facts:
The Currency of Mexico is the Mexican Peso. Check out our currency conversion below.
127v/60hz American Plug type
It is recommended not to drink the water in any region of Mexico.
We have written many articles on Mexico you can read more here.
Other Beautiful Places in Mexico To Inspire You
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Our thanks to Visit Mexico and Yucatan Turismo for assisting us for 4 nights visiting the Yucatan Peninsula. They provided us with a valuable itinerary, transport and some entrance fees to sites. We also thank Wyndham Merida hotel for our complimentary accommodation.
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