The state of Yucatan is located in southeastern Mexico on the northern part of the Yucatán Peninsula. The state offers visitors a cultural experience steeped in colonial villages, archeological ruins of its Mayan people, mystical cenotes, and ancient architecture even in its modern cities, still standing strong and heralding this great state’s history.
You’ll find that history and culture have a great influence on everything here. If you want to experience the authentic Mexico, don’t miss the following towns and attractions that will provide you with Yucatan’s most exciting sites from its ancient ruins to its colonial jewels to its white-sand beaches, all mixed with the essence of the Mayan culture of ceremony, dance, handcrafted treasures, and delectable cuisine.
The beautiful Merida is the capital city of the state of Yucatan and is considered one of the safest cities in Mexico. Boasting a low-crime rate and wonderful cultural attractions, it is fast becoming a sought-after travel destination. Even with its traditional Mayan roots, visitors are treated to colonial monuments amidst 19th century architecture.
Near Merida, old, abandoned, haciendas were bought by investors, restored, and turned into amazing hotels, restaurants, museums, or kept as private residences. Of particular interest is the Hacienda Sotuta de Peon, an incredible restored plantation and antique factory that shows henequen growing and processing steps used until the demise of this industry in the last century.
The typical Mexican fishing village of Celestun is located 96 km southwest of Merida and represents what the entire Mexican coast looked like before tourism set in in the 1970’s. It's rustic and charming, and you might just be the only gringo on the beach. If that’s not a beautiful thought all by itself, it is also considered an ecotourism paradise with its beautiful flamingo colonies in the Ria Celestun Biosphere Reserve, freshwater springs, and beaches, perfect for swimming and scuba diving.
Take boat tours to any of Celestun’s magnificent lagoons or through the Ria Celestun Biosphere Reserve’s mangroves for the best possible sighting of flamingoes, 300 other bird species, sea turtles, iguanas, crocodiles and boa constrictors.
Rio Lagartos is a quaint fishing village with a large claim to fame in the Rio Lagartos Biosphere, a UNESCO protected sanctuary for thousands of beautiful pink flamingoes and it wide variety of flora and fauna. Visit Lagoon of Rio Lagartos by boat for the best views of the stunning flamingoes.
Izamal is a gorgeous colonial city with yellow buildings and beautiful old houses. Stroll across its cobblestone streets in a horse-drawn carriage to view many of its attractions. Izamal is famous for its Franciscan Monastery, which houses the venerated Virgin of Izamal icon.
The town of Dzitya, located 10 km from Merida, is best known for the Dzibilchaltun archeological site. It was one of the major Mayan culture centers in the whole Yucatan Peninsula and was inhabited for the longest period.
There is an excellent museum on site, as well the Xlacah Cenote – one of Yucatan’s largest and deepest cenotes, in which visitors can swim in its fresh, clear waters.
Poxila is a picturesque town distinguished by its excellent handcrafted pieces in macrame, delicious regional cuisine, and beautiful Che spa.
Progreso is a fishing town of some 25,000 people with an emerging tourist sector. The pretty, colorful seaside promenade, "El Malecon", with its many restaurants is a primary attraction for the city. Progreso’s tranquil beach is ideal for swimming, boat races, and sailing.
Santa Clara is known for its beautiful spa, its extraordinary clear-water beaches, and its excellent seafood. Nearby is the beautiful Pajaros Island (Bird Island) – home to hundreds of beautiful birds; join a boat tour to see them!
Tecoh’s main attractions are the Temple and Ex-Convent of La Candelaria, the Zamna Cave system, and a cenote dramatized with lighting effects.
The picturesque town of Telchac Puerto is characterized by its beautiful fine-sand beaches with gentle waves, perfect for swimming and other water activities. This quiet port is on its way to becoming a significant tourist attraction. Visitors here are often reward by spectacular views of flocks of flamingoes flying overhead, enroute to one of Yucatan’s biospheres.
Ticul is located 100 km south of Merida and is known for the red clay planter pots that are seen everywhere, as well as for fine-leather shoes, which are designed and made by the local people. Among Ticul’s main attractions are the 17th century Temple of San Antonio, the Chapel of La Mejorada, and the Chapel of San Miguel.
Great nearby attraction include the Loltun Caves and the Kukuyache Cenote.
Tizimin is a picturesque town rich in traditions and ancient architecture. Here you can visit the 17th century temple dedicated to the Three Wise Men. An important nearby attraction is the Mayan archaeological site of Kuluba, featuring the Temple of Las Herraduras.
Valladolid, an elegant 16th century colonial town is distinguished by the colonial style of its buildings and monuments. Here you’ll see townspeople wearing traditional Mayan dress and the beautiful colonial Church of San Gervasio.
And do not miss the nearby Zaci and Dzitnup (aka Keken) Cenotes, perfect for swimming, exploring, and photographing.
Dzilam de Bravo, located 39 km from Santa Clara, is a traditional Mexican town, with beautiful white-sand beaches. Attractions here include the tomb of the famous pirate, Jean Lafitte. From Dzilam de Bravo catch a guided tour to the scenic and mysterious Las Bocas de Dzilam, where the strange phenomenon of fresh water emerging from the bottom of the sea occurs.
The town of Cuzamá is known for its large number of cenotes. Here you can board a horse-drawn platform buggy and tour some of the best cenotes in Yucatan with clear blue waters and interesting stalactite and stalagmite formations, such as Chelentun, Chansinic'che, and Bolonchoojol cenotes.
The village of Cenotillo gets its name from the large number of cenotes located in and around the town – the locals boast more than 150. Guided tours are available.
I would be remiss not to mention Yucatan’s most famous archeological sites. Of its 17 restored sites that are open to the public (the state boasts 2,600 - 2,700 archeological sites), the most famous are Chichen Itza, Ek Balam, and Uxmal. If you want to explore ancient cities of the Mayan people, don’t miss these top sites!
The state is promoting several tourist routes, and you might find one that meets your interests: From the Past Towards the Sea Route, The “Eternal East Route” The “Convent Route”, The “Puuc Route” and the “Ecology and Adventure Route”.
One thing is certain about traveling in Yucatan, whether you are swimming in its magnificent fresh water cenotes, investigating ancient Mayan ruins, or simply enjoying quaint villages filled with hospitable people, it will be an invaluable, enjoyable experience to remember.