If there’s one thing everyone has to do in Yucatan, it’s explore Chichen Itza. This former Mayan city is now one of the most important archaeological sites in the country. With over 1.4 million visitors every year, make sure you’re one of them! Spend a few hours walking around this amazing complex. The modern site covers over five square kilometres of exposed ruins and impressive above-ground stone buildings. Characterised by its massive square pyramid, known as El Castillo, this former temple and UNESCO world heritage site is a stunning example of late Mayan architecture. Get your tomb raider on and explore all there is to see at Chichen Itza.
Visit Las Coloradas
Like something out of a storybook, Yucatan’s beautiful pink lakes are a must-see for all nature lovers. Located about three hours from Cancun, you’ll find Las Coloradas: the colourful lakes of the Ría Lagartos Biosphere Reserve. Discover the secret behind these brightly-coloured waters. The industrial-scale sea-salt production that causes a change in water salinity, causing a growth-spurt of red algae, plankton and brine shrimp. This one slight change sends ripples across the entire ecosystem, giving the waters a reddish-pink glow. Travel by car to this incredible site and see if you can spot a flamingo or two – which, are also given their colour by the same red algae. The more you know!
Visit Izamal, the yellow town
There’s a reason Mexico is called the colourful country, and Izamal is a great example of that. With almost every public wall and facade painted a deep golden yellow to welcome Pope John Paul II in 1993, this famous tribute has put the town of Izamal on the map. Located about 70 kilometres outside of Merida, visit this quaint town uncover more about its curious past. Built on a series of hills that once housed Mayan pyramids, the people of Izamal are descendants of the Mayans. In fact, one Mayan pyramid still remains. Climb the Kinich Kakmó Pyramid and gaze over this beautiful yellow town.
Swim in Cenotes
Formed by the sinking of limestone to expose hidden waterways, cenotes are underground caves that are filled with fresh water. Luckily, the Yucatan Peninsula is absolutely covered with them. Discover some of the 2000 different cenotes across the region. At these hidden locations, swim in the crisp mineral-rich waters that are clear enough to see the animal life all around you. Even though a dip in a cenote is the best way to cool off after a hot day, they’re way more than just a natural swimming pool: these sinkholes were sacred portals for the Mayans. This ancient culture believed that cenotes were a channel to communicate with the gods, which is why you’ll find cenotes around many important Mayan ruins, including Chichen Itza and Tulum.
Try Mayan food in Valladolid
Sitting at the end of the Mexican peninsula, Yucatan is often described as Mayan. This Mexican state is home to a proudly defiant people, many of whom still continue to live off the land. One of the best ways to learn about Mayan culture is through their food. Travel to Valladolid, one of the main cities of Yucatán, to sample some Mayan staples. With its main ingredients being achiote, citrus, habaneros and smoke, get a sense for Mayan cooking with its most famous dish; cochinita pibil. This delicious suckling pig is marinated in the Mayan way and slow-cooked in an earthy pit. Tamales also have roots in Mayan cuisine, and the variety found all over Yucatan are said to be the best in Mexico. Treat yourself to one heck of a Mayan feast in Valladolid.
Things to do in Yucatan
A seven-day festival before the beginning of Lent, get involved in one of the craziest events on the Mexican calendar: Carnaval. The Yucatan city of Merida holds one of the country’s most outrageous celebrations. Join in on the fun in mid-February to experience colourful costumes, eclectic floats, amazing food and non-stop partying.
Cinco de Mayo
Celebrating the Mexican victory against French invaders, Cinco de Mayo is a remembrance day for the famous battle that occurred on the 5th of May. All throughout Yucatan, locals celebrate with parades, parties and lots of heavy drinking.
The 5th of February is an important national holiday for Mexico. Marking the day the Mexican Constitution was approved by Congress, Constitution Day is celebrated all throughout Mexico and Yucatan. Join in on the community picnics, parties and public concerts.
Cancun International Music Festival
Music & Culture
Running for two weeks from the end of September to early October, the Cancun International Music Festival is a celebration of the cultural diversity of Yucatan. Bringing together different folkloric and cultural musicians from around the world, this festival holds concerts, workshops and seminars all around Cancun.
Inception Music Festival
What is renowned as the place to be during Spring Break, the Inception Music Festival is the one of the biggest parties in Cancun. For 30 days and nights, Inception delivers the best DJs from around the world playing to tens of thousands of young people on Cancun’s best beaches.
Top 5 Festivals in Yucatan
From Mexican national holidays to month-long beach parties, enjoy the best of Yucatan during its festive seasons. From celebrating Carnaval and Cinco de Mayo and showcasing some of the world’s best musicians, here are five of our favourite festivals in Yucatan.
Museo Fernando García Ponce
Housed in the former archbishop’s palace, Museo Fernando Garcia Ponce is a free art museum in Merida. This museum showcases Mexican and Latin art, including the works of three of Yucatán’s most famous painters: Fernando Castro Pacheco, Fernando García Ponce and Gabriel Ramírez Aznar. This is a must-see for lovers of art history.
Gran Museo del Mundo Maya
Walk through the world of the Maya at this incredible cultural museum. With a collection of more than 1100 remarkably well-preserved art and artefacts, including a reclining chac-mool sculpture from Chichén Itzá and a cool underworld figure unearthed at Ek' Balam, learn more about the ancient Mayan civilisation at the Gran Museo.
On the corner of Calle 43 in the Santa Ana neighbourhood of Merida, you’ll find a breath-taking white palatial home. This intricately-decorated building is Palacio Canton. Home to the former Governor of Yucatan, this lavish mansion-turned-museum tells the story of the region’s history.
Museo Casa Montejo
What originally built as a home for soldiers, before being converted into a palatial home for the Montejo family, the Museo Casa Montejo is now a museum and a bank. Check out its permanent exhibition of renovated Victorian, neo-rococo and neo-renaissance furnishings of the historic building.
Top 4 Museums and Galleries in Yucatan
Once home to the ancient Mayan Civilisation, Yucatan is a region with deep roots. Uncover the stories of its famous figures and events at some of the region’s best museums. From seeing the works of its medieval artists to watching a cocoa ceremony, here’s what you can expect to discover at these four Yucatan museums.
Rich and filling, Yucatan enchiladas will leave you licking the plate clean. This delicious dish is made using corn tortillas that are rolled and stuffed with meat, cheese, beans, vegetables and potatoes. Covered with a tomato and capsicum sauce and baked - you’ll be coming back for second helpings of these mouth-watering beauties.
Best eaten at Cafe Club, Calle 55, Centro, Merida 97000
Something between nachos and deconstructed enchiladas, chilaquiles are the ultimate breakfast food. What is essentially bits of stale tortillas that have been fried with a tomato and capsicum sauce and piled with cheese, you’ll wish you could wake up to these every morning.
Best eaten at Bisquets Obregon, Calle 37 509, Sol Campestre, 97113 Mérida
Tacos al pastor
Literally translating to ‘Shepherd’s-style tacos,’ the thing that separates tacos al pastor from the rest is its meat filling. Slow cooked on a rotisserie, these tacos demand a shawarma-style meat filling. Thought to have been influenced by the arrival of Lebanese immigrants in the 19th century, try these delicious tacos at El Pastor Suizo in Merida.
Best eaten at El Pastor Suizo, Calle 54 364, 47 y 49, Col. Benito Juárez Norte, 97139 Mérida
Another typical breakfast food in Yucatan, it’s easy to polish off five or six tostadas every morning. Made using a flat corn tostada shell, which is essentially a toasted tortilla, these shells are piled with fried beans, salads and avocado. Tuck into tostadas at Las Mestizas in Piste.
Best eaten at Las Mestizas, Calle 15 151, Pisté, 97751 Pisté
A native of Yucatán, cochinita pibil has become one of Mexico’s favourite dishes. This marinated pork is flavoured with juicy Seville oranges and spices, before being wrapped in banana leaves before being slow-cooked underground. Tender, fragrant and seriously delicious, try cochinita pibil at La Chaya Maya in Merida.
Best eaten at La Chaya Maya, Calle 55 x 60 y 62 Sucursal Centro, Merida 97000, Mexico
Food in Yucatan
As one of the oldest regions in Mexico, Yucatan food has had a huge impact on the development of Mexican cuisine. From breakfast favourites chilaquiles and tostadas, to more-filling enchiladas, tuck into the best foods Yucatan has to offer. Here are five of our favourites.