The Yucatán Peninsula is the most visited part of Mexico, and no wonder. The beautiful white beaches, the pleasant holiday atmosphere, the turquoise waters and the mysterious history of the Mayan civilisation will make for a truly exotic holiday. If you’re heading here, we’ve put together a list of the best things you shouldn’t miss.
The Yucatán Peninsula is also abbreviated to just “Yucatán”, but this is misleading because Yucatán is also the name of one of the four states that are located in the Yucatán. There are four Mexican states on the Yucatán Peninsula, namely Yucatán, Campeche, Quintana Roo and Tabasco.
This pool island is also the point that separates the Caribbean Sea from the Gulf of Mexico. Everything you imagine under the word “Caribbean” can be found here. From Europe, the main destination is Cancún, but we recommend that you visit the whole peninsula, or at least part of it. There is a lot to see here. You can also find more tips in our video.
The most beautiful places in Yucatán
1) Swim in the cenotes
Karst caves filled with groundwater and rainwater, or cenotes, are, according to the best and most beautiful thing in the Yucatán. Some of them have sunken ceilings, forming deep pools of fresh (or semi-sweet) water that are refreshingly clear, unlike the sea, and in many of them you can dive and snorkel.
On the Yucatán Peninsula you will find just over 6,000 cenotes. Some of our favorites were Gran Cenote (there are turtles!), Cenote Azul and the lesser visited Cenote Xunaan Ha. We also recommend checking out the list of the best cenotes on the Yucatán Peninsula, which you can find at
2) Pink Lakes of Las Coloradas
Yes, pink lakes do exist. Las Coloradas is a day trip from Valladolid and is located in the part of the peninsula that is part of the Rio Lagartos Biosphere Reserve, this reserve is home to flamingos, crocodiles, jaguars and water turtles.
Pink lakes are used to produce salt and their colour is given by the red-coloured plankton – algae – that live in the very salty water. For more information, see our article on
3) Visit the boho city of Tulum
Tulum has been popularised not only by its white beaches, which have taken the internet world by storm, but also by its beautiful hipster businesses and hotels. Tulum is the place where the modern elite go to relax, but it still has something to offer every traveller.
We recommend strolling through the hotel zone full of boho shops, going to the local ruins early in the morning and swimming with the turtles. All tips can be found in our article on
3) The best hammocks from the prison at Valladolid
Valladolid is an often talked about city, as it is an ideal starting point for many highly sought-after excursions. There are the most beautiful cenotes around it, Chitzen Itza is a short walk away and the town is also very affordable.
But not many people know that right next door
in Ebdunsi, you can buy the finest hammocks in the Yucatán. It must be said that these hammocks are the product of the inmates of the local prison and each hammock has the name of the prisoner who made it written on the sign.
4) The Yellow City of Izamal
Izamal is often called the “yellow city” or “city of three cultures” because it combines Mayan, colonial and contemporary cultures. In Izamal there are a number of important archaeological sites of the pre-Hispanic culture.
During the Spanish invasion, the Europeans built their monastery on the site where the pyramid used to be. Today, the bright yellow monastery is the dominant feature of the town. For more information, see the article on
5) Amusement park for children and adults – Xel-ha
Families with children should head to the Xel-ha theme park, located between Playa del Carmen and Tulum. The amusement park has its own cenotes, lagoon, as well as a water slide, ziplines and parrots. Adults will appreciate that unlimited food, drink and some alcoholic beverages are included. Snorkelling equipment can also be rented free of charge.
6) Plankton on Holbox
As if the stars have moved out to sea, that’s what luminous plankton looks like. At Holbox you have a unique opportunity to not only see these starfish at sea, but even walk around in them. Just head out on the Holbox after dark to Punta Coco, where it’s dark enough. For more information, see our article on
7) Snorkelling in the underwater museum
You can go snorkelling at MUSA, the underwater museum, from Isla Mujeres or Cancún. This is a museum on the seabed created by Jason deCaires Taylor. In total, there are about 500 sculptures depicting people and cars. If you have a diving license, you can dive here.
8) The easternmost point of Mexico – Isla Mujeres
The easternmost point of Mexico is Punta Sur on Isla Mujeres, it is also the southernmost point of the island. Although this island is infamous for the large number of tourists, you don’t have to worry too much.
These are mostly located on Playa Norte and few make it here. At least we were almost alone. If you want to know more about what to do on Isla Mujeres, read our article.
9) Kayaking on Bacalar
Laguna of seven colours in
will surprise you with its milky turquoise water. This is an ideal place for kayaking, an activity that should not be missed at any cost if you go to the Yucatán. The most romantic activity of the whole peninsula!
10) Climb a Mayan pyramid
There are still a few places where you can climb the Mayan pyramid. If you’re coming to Cancun and will be primarily on the Riviera Maya, head outside of Chitzen Itza to the Coba Pyramids, which are easily accessible from here.
For the more adventurous, there’s Calakmul, where you’ll experience the true atmosphere of Mayan civilization and probably be completely alone on the pyramids. Read more about the Mayan pyramids in our article
Yucatán – Mayan ruins
11) Visit the new wonder of the world Chitzen Itza
Yes, Chitzen Itza is perhaps the most touristy place in the entire Yucatán. But if you want to skip it, we advise you to think carefully. We have seen almost all the ruins in the Yucatán and we still think that Chitzen Itza is the most impressive of them all. More information (
12) Discover the most colourful city in the Yucatán – Campeche
Campeche is often overlooked by tourists. What a shame. The city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most colourful places in the Yucatán. There you will find a number of cute cafes and nice restaurants. The city has typical colonial architecture and the original city fortifications have been preserved. Read our article about
13) Taste the local food
The regional cuisine of Yucatán is strongly influenced by Mayan culture, the Caribbean and Europe. Typical ingredients are pinsavo (turkey) and pollo (chicken). Being a coastal area, fish and seafood are often eaten here as well.
In addition to the traditional tacos you find everywhere in Mexico, you can also enjoy Chilaquiles. It used to be fried tortilla leftovers from the previous day covered with salsa, served with an egg and beans. Today, classic tortilla chips are used for preparation. You can usually choose whether you want red or green salsa. Sometimes they are also served with chicken pieces, if you are vegetarian, be sure to ask.
Another classic breakfast dish is Huevos Motulenos, which are oxtails served on tortillas with beans and tomato sauce. They often put some meat, roasted banana or traditional Mexican cheese on them.
The last dish I’ll mention is Sopa de Lima, which is a chicken broth soup with lime served with chunks of chicken and tortilla chips.
14) Swimming with a whale shark
If you arrive in the Yucatán between May and September, don’t miss the biggest local attraction – swimming with the giant shark (whale shark). These largest known sharks are between 8-10 meters long, but they feed only on plankton. If you decide you want to swim with whale sharks, there are organised trips in Isla Mujeres, Holbox and Cancún.
Is Yucatan safe?
If you’ve seen Narcos: Mexico recently, you may be wondering if the Yucatan is safe to travel to. Although Yucatán has a rather bloody history, you don’t have to worry. Yucatán is one of the safest places in Mexico and the local government tries to protect tourists as much as possible. We lived in Mexico for four months and never had the slightest problem.
How to get around Yucatán
The best mode of transport is of course a car, but beware, there are often problems with renting, so it’s worth renting a car through rentalcars.com and taking out as much cover as possible. A car can therefore get quite expensive, but the stories on the internet about rental companies wanting unrealistic amounts for the slightest thing are quite intimidating. Rentalcars.com works mostly reliably for claims, at least we haven’t had a problem anywhere.
Unless you’re planning on a longer roadtrip around the Yucatán, the local ADO buses will get you almost anywhere. They have excellent service and are used mainly by tourists. If you would like to travel as a local, you can travel through colectivos. Which are minibuses that leave the moment they fill up. We went with them from Cancun to Playa del Carmen. One minibus after another left the bus station. Don’t worry, even if you have a large suitcase and hand luggage, you’ll just have to wait a few minutes longer for the minibus with the larger suitcase to arrive.
Where to stay in Yucatán
Like everywhere else in the world, you can choose from a wide variety of accommodation types in the Yucatán, from the cheapest hostels to expensive luxury five-star hotels. We’ve picked out some tips for you in three of the most popular destinations in the Yucatán.
Best accommodation in Cancun[lgc_column grid=”33″ tablet_grid=”33″ mobile_grid=”100″ last=”false”]
The best accommodation in Playa del Carmen[lgc_column grid=”33″ tablet_grid=”33″ mobile_grid=”100″ last=”false”]
Unbeatable accommodation in Tulum[lgc_column grid=”33″ tablet_grid=”50″ mobile_grid=”100″ last=”false”]
Hostel right in the hotel zone in Tulum, which has its own cenote and restaurant with affordable prices. That’s almost a miracle in a hotel zone.[/lgc_column] [lgc_column grid=”33″ tablet_grid=”50″ mobile_grid=”100″ last=”false”]
Zamunda Garden View Apartments may not be right on the beach in the hotel zone, but you get a great apartment at a great price. Accommodation is located in the city center.[/lgc_column] [lgc_column grid=”33″ tablet_grid=”50″ mobile_grid=”100″ last=”true”]
One of the most stylish hotels in all of Mexico.[/lgc_column]
Video from our stay in Yucatán[arve url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G7rkJoc1xCY” align=”center” thumbnail=”55115″ title=”The 14 most beautiful places in the Yucatán: Roadtrip Mexico (Caribbean beaches, cenotes and Mayan ruins)” description=”V Mexiku jsme strávili 4 měsíce a dnes se společně podíváme na 14 nejkrásnějších míst na poloostrově Yucatán, která jsme navštívili během našeho roadtripu. ☺️ Podíváme se společně na nádherný ostrov Cozumel, ukážeme vám hipster město Tulum, ale i hlavní město Yucatánu Meridu, zaplaveme si v laguně na Bacalaru i v nádherných cenotes a vezmeme vás na mayské ruiny (Chitzen Itza, Uxmal, Calakmul). Když to vydržíte do konce, uvidíte také nejkrásnější pláže Mexika na ostrově Holbox a záchrannou stanici želv na Isla Mujeres. Rozhodli jsme se také zařadit zábavný park pro rodiny s dětmi i méně navštěvovaná města, jako je Campeche, Valladolid a Izamal. ” duration=”14M” /]
When to go to Mexico
The best time to visit Mexico is from October to April, when Mexico is in the dry season. Mexico is most visited from December to March, when temperatures hover around a pleasant 28 degrees. The rainy season starts in the south in May and lasts until October. It rains the most from May to September. The Yucatán Peninsula is prone to hurricanes, with a hurricane season from June to November.
Tips and tricks for travelling in Mexico
What to pack
Take a look at our
Where to get tickets
Reservation of accommodation
Don’t forget about insurance
Travel insurance is an absolute must. For shorter journeys, choose AXA (
Recommended Lonely Planet Yucatanguide