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With stretches of white sand beaches, turquoise seas, scrubby emerald green jungles, tropical coral reefs, bustling cities, and historic Mayan ruins, it’s no surprise that Mexico is topping the charts of many travelers’ bucket lists. One of the most popular locations in Mexico is the Yucatan Peninsula – the south-easterly tip of the country that separates the Gulf of Mexico from the Caribbean Sea, and home to some of the most stunning destinations and experiences you will ever encounter. Here are my top six reason to visit the Yucatan Peninsula!
1) SWIMMING IN THE YUCATAN CENOTES
Cenotes are natural sinkholes caused by the collapse of the limestone bedrock beneath them. The water within them is filtered by the earth, creating minerally rich, crystal clear and bright turquoise waters that draw cave divers, underwater photographers and tourists from far and wide. They are also steeped in historical Mayan significance, as they were once considered a portal to the gods and were used as a place of sacrificial offerings. A perfect place to cool off from the Mexican heat, you can spend hours on end either lounging by the water or jumping in and exploring all the aquatic playgrounds have to offer. Try to arrive early in the day to beat the crowds and remember to bring a snorkel to feast your eyes on these stunning underwater marvels. You will find cenotes dotted all around the Yucatan Peninsula (especially near Tulum), but my favourites were Cenote Dos Ojos and Cenote Azul.
2) EXPLORING THE MAYAN RUINS
The ancient Mayan history of the Yucatan Peninsula and it’s surrounding areas is pretty impressive, and even if you’re not one for history books it’s easy to appreciate by visiting the jaw-dropping Mayan ruins that are scattered throughout the country. Chichen Itza is definitely the most popular and most famous, but I’d also recommend visiting Coba and Tulum ruins for the slightly thinner crowds and the gorgeous ocean backdrops.
3) SCUBA DIVING THROUGH MUSA
MUSA is a museum of underwater art featuring hundreds of sculptures of Mexican villagers on the ocean floor, situated just off shore from Isla de Mujeres and Cancun. The coral reefs along the Yucatan Peninsula are phenomenal and rich with sea life, but unfortunately they’ve suffered from the pressure of thousands of visiting tourists and are now damaged. MUSA was designed with reef preservation in mind, and acts as an alternative site to draw tourists away from the damaged areas and encourage the growth of new reefs on the sculptures.
As well as being environmentally friendly, it’s also mind bogglingly beautiful to swim alongside turtles and schools of fish as they meander through these life sized human sculptures that aim to demonstrate how humans can live alongside nature in harmony. The sculptures are sat only 3-6 metres deep so you can also have a peep by snorkelling or on a glass bottomed boat tour.
4) SNORKELING WITH WHALE SHARKS
All around Isla de Mujeres and Isla Holbox you can find tour operators that will take you to huge congregations of whale sharks in the open ocean and encourage you to jump off and swim alongside these gentle giants. Swimming with whale sharks was one of the best experiences of my life so far and I strongly recommend trying it out for yourself in this area above all others, as the tour guides are very conscious of the animal’s well-being so the trips are carried out in a super safe and environmentally friendly way.
I was lucky enough to time my trip with whale shark breeding season (June – September) and a full moon, which meant we were joined by around 60 whale sharks at once! The trips can vary in price depending on your package but most are around the $100 (USD) mark. The Holbox Whale Shark Tours are a reputable company based on Isla Holbox.
5) BEACH HOPPING IN ISLA DE MUJERES
If you’re after a paradisiacal beach with a cruisy island vibe I’d recommend leaving the main resorts and strips of the riviera maya, jumping on a ferry and sailing your way to the beautiful Isla de Mujeres. It’s still pretty touristy here with an abundance of dining and drinking options, as well as a huge array of market stalls that line the tiny streets with brightly coloured textures, intricately decorated ornaments and more sombreros that you can shake a stick at. The coral crushed beaches are stunning and it’s easy to see how days here melt into weeks. It’s also a hub for water based activities like snorkelling, SUP, kayaking and scuba diving so there’s something here for everyone.
6) COUNTING THE COLORS OF LAGUNA BACALAR
Laguna Bacalar is a 60km lake stretching through the port town of Bacalar at the very South of Mexico, near the border of Belize. The bed of the lake is made of white limestone and the water is crystal clear, resulting in the creation of a breathtaking number of colours depending on the varying depths of the lake. For this reason the lake is also known as the lake of seven colours. For those that are more active you can kayak, paddle board and float your way through this lake and it’s various swimming holes. For those of you who like to take it easy, grab a mojito and a plate of deliciously fresh ceviche, kick back in a hammock and swoon at all those bluey hues.
Have you visited Mexico? Share your own favourite experiences with our readers in the comments below. Read Next > 3 Days In Mexico City