Mexico's Yucatan - It's Not All CancunIt’s no surprise Mexico is among the world’s most visited countries. 35 UNESCO World Heritage sites, friendly people, sunshine, tacos, tequila-do I have to say more? If you’re looking to explore the Yucatan Peninsula away from Cancun and Playa del Carmen resorts, these popular places are a good starting point.

After jetting into Cancun, head:

South to Tulum

Mexico Yucatan beach drink

The popularity of this little photogenic town may have recently skyrocketed thanks to Instagram, but it’s for good reason. 1,000-year-old ruins, cenotes and clean, sandy beaches are just a few of its key draws, and don’t forget La Eufemia – a waterfront taco joint that serves some of the best fish tacos and encourages you to hang out in their beach chairs all day. The cenotes of Tulum (the natural sinkholes) are hidden treasures of thousands of years predating the Mayans, and swimming in them will soon become your favorite activity. Gran Cenote and Cenote Dos Ojos are among the prettiest.

West to Chichén Itzá

Mexico Yucatan cenote

Chichén Itzá dates back to 550AD, and is one of the Seven “New” Wonders of the World, and these ancient Mayan temple ruins are enveloped in mystery. You’ll be surprised to discover out that there is more to see than the crowning glory, El Castillo, like the elaborate Warrior Temple, the Great Ballcourt where Mayan athletes used to play and the Observatory. Most tourists come from the coast to see the ruins within a day, but in the town of Valladolid it is recommended to spend one or two nights near by. Doing this will give you the chance to explore some of the area’s cenotes (Cenote Samulá and Ik Kil cenote), and remaining close to the ruins means you’ll avoid the crowds of tour buses by a couple of hours.

North to Las Coloradas (Río Lagartos)

Mexico Yucatan flamingos

On the edge of the Gulf of Mexico sits this tiny fishing village. Local guides often take visitors out on their boats where you won’t be disappointed by pink lakes, mud baths, flamingos and crocodiles. The region is part of the Biosphere Reserve Rio Lagartos – a protected wetland area also home to tortoises, jaguars, and sea birds. But the main attraction is the cotton candy pink lakes that get their color thriving in the salty environment from the red-colored algae and plankton.

East to Isla Holbox

Mexico Yucatan hammocks

Isla Holbox is a breath of fresh air with the Caribbean Coast cluttered by all-inclusive Resorts. Without roads or cars, it’s the epitome of ‘slow living.’ The beach is like a shallow pool, stretching far beyond the shore, and hammocks are hung in the water from wooden poles that allow you to watch the sun sink slowly while the pink-reflected sea laps over you. When you are in Holbox between mid-May and mid-September, it’s one of the best places to swim with whale sharks and you can see bioluminescent phytoplankton at nights when the moon isn’t too full.

Make sure to visit Alma Beach Bar – a rooftop pool bar overlooking the azure Caribbean waters before you leave. And it is easy to get back to the mainland; ferries depart every half hour, or it is a two-hour drive back to Cancun.

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