What to see in Yucatan: places not to be missed

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Isla Holbox

Do you want to know what to see in Yucatan? We went there, and we can guarantee that it is an amazing region. If you like history and nature, you should absolutely pay it a visit. There are so many things to see that you won't get bored for several weeks. Amazing white sandy beaches, thousands kilometers of green jungle and astonishing Maya ruins. The life in Yucatan goes slow, so take your time and don't rush if you want to enjoy it.

The best way to discover the jewels of the regions is by renting a car: you will be able to move around without limitations and to discover some non-touristic spots. Check our useful tips if you want to rent a car.

When to go

Months between February and June are the best ones. You will find less tourists, dry season and hot weather, however you can expect some occasional showers and colder days in February. From July to September the weather is at the hottest point, with some showers but it’s still "summer". December and January are the high season, with higher prices and plenty of tourists.

Not sure how to plan the trip? read our travel planning page!

Prices

The prices are, generally speaking, quite low. If you can be satisfied with simple but beautiful accommodation, you will pay 15-25 USD for a double room.

Eat local! Be careful about the hygienic conditions of the markets and local places, avoid buffets that could be dangerous and choose fresh food instead. We ate in the market for less than 1USD per person, we had dinners for 3 USD as well as lunches in restaurants for 15 USD: it's up to you.

The entrance fees to the archaeological sites could be a bit expensive sometimes (Chichen Itza 12USD), to the main cenotes between 7 and 10 USD.

What to see in Yucatan

Depending on the duration of your travel, here is our list of places you should not miss. You will probably arrive at Cancun airport. In case you need a transfer from the airport, check this link: You can find different prices and options.

Tulum

Tulum
Tulum

Endless beaches, dramatic ruins on a cliff, cheap fresh fish and seafood, a calm atmosphere.

Situated on 12-meter-tall cliffs on the east coast of the Yucatán Peninsula, Tulum was one of the last cities built and inhabited by the Maya. Its golden age was between the 13th and 15th centuries and it managed to resist for about 70 years after the Spanish occupation of Mexico began.

Go to see the ruins at the opening hours, otherwise you'll be surrounded by huge crowds. At the entrance after the parking lot they will try to sell you a ticket for the "train" that will bring you to the ruins: don't waste your money, it's just a 10-minute walk

You can also rent a bicycle and go to the beach, enjoying the panoramic route, and come back for a couple of frozen cervezas in the streets of the pueblo. The atmosphere in the town is really enjoyable!

Laguna Bacalar

What to see in Yucatan? a sunset in Laguna Bacalar
Sunset in Laguna Bacalar

A less touristic spot in the south of the peninsula. This is the "lake of the seven colors": the legend says that some days you can see seven different colors in the water of the lagoon. Honestly, we saw "just" five of them, but the emotions raised from that view were more than seven! It's simply amazing.

If you like to relax, you must go to Bacalar. Rent a kayak and explore the lagoon, you will not regret it.

Then, take an evening walk in the pueblo. There are often musical events taking place in the little square, and one little special restaurant, called "Orizaba". Our What to see in Yucatan post is full of food advices!

There is no menu, but the waitress is there to help you. The food is delicious: simple, tasty and really homemade and cheap. and when we say cheap, we mean c-h-e-a-p: a dinner of four dishes and drinks for 4 USD. That's the local place you are looking for!

Merida

Merida Windows
Merida Windows

The capital of the culture is a little big chaotic city worth a visit for the beauty of its colonial buildings. The cathedral is also nice, but the main square is our favorite place. However, we ran away from the “chaos” of this city after only one day. Before you leave, try the "sopa de lima", a refreshing and brilliant lime soup.

Izamal

Izamal
Izamal

You will find this little gem 40 minutes away from Merida. It's called "the yellow city", since every building there is yellow. It's enchanting, and it has a nice monastery dedicated to S. Antonio from Padova. Take your time and walk around, trying to find the best angle for your photos!

In Izamal you will also find our favorite restaurant in the whole Yucatan, "Kinich". Read our reviews below, in the section Travel Hysteria's choices.

Rio Lagartos

Pink flamingos in Rio Lagartos
Pink flamingos in Rio Lagartos

It's a small fishing village in the north of Yucatan, where the life goes so slow that it's impossible not to get relaxed immediately.

When people ask us: What to see in Yucatan?, we would send them in this town. A perfect place to observe pink flamingos: Rio Lagartos is the home for more than 10.000 flamingos. You can rent a boat and go admire them. No need to book anything in advance, just go to the little port and the guides will find you. Alternatively, ask your hotel and they will help you.

At the sunset, go to the port where the fishermen clean and sell fresh fish and admire the sunset, surrounded by cormorants striving for a piece of fish!

Maya ruins

We have decided to list here all the best Maya ruins of the region. What to see in Yucatan if not the Maya ruins?

Chichen Itza
Chichen Itza

If you go to Chichen Itza, the most famous site, be sure to be there at the opening time. There will be fewer vendors inside (yes, Chichen Itza is a big open air souvenirs market...) and not too many people. Anyway, this site is amazing. You will immediately understand why is protected by UNESCO and why is one of the New 7 Wonders of the World.

Uxmal
Uxmal

We liked Uxmal, less crowded and huge with a lot of iguanas: the ruins are well preserved and the view from the Palacio del Gobernador is amazing.

Zuz in Coba
Zuz in Coba

In Coba you can rent a bicycle and explore the ruins with it: the temples are in the middle of the jungle, and the Nohoch Mul is really stunning. It is the highest temple of the region - 42 meters - and you can, you should climb it! It's really exciting to climb more than 1000 years of history. It's easy to go up, but you must be careful on the way down.

Dzibanchè
Dzibanchè

Dzibanchè is in the deep south, far from the touristic routes, but full of charm and magic. With ancient trees growing from the stones, Dzibanchè is well preserved and really suggestive. The last piece of the road to go there is not so great...well, there are more stones and holes then the road itself. So be careful if you are going there by car!

Cenotes

Cenote Dos Ojos
Cenote Dos Ojos

Cenotes of Yucatan are famous in the whole world, and the reasons are simple:

  • crystal clear fresh water;
  • brilliant colors with hundreds shapes of blue and green;
  • ancient tree roots pending from the cellar;
  • underwater stalagmites and caves;
  • snorkeling with fish and turtles.

Is this enough for you?

Do not miss Grand Cenote, Cenote Dos Ojos, and Cenote Dzitnup. It's hard to say which is the best one, since each of them is different and amazing. But if we had to choose we would say Grand Cenote.

Before entering the water, you’ll have to take a shower in order to clean yourself from sunscreen, perfume and so on, since the environment is fragile and we must protect it. We suggest you to buy snorkeling gear at the beginning of your travel, instead of renting it every time. You'll save money and time!

Travel Hysteria's choices

Food

Restaurant Kinich in Izamal. This classy but cheap restaurant has a beautiful, exotic and fresh garden in which you can try Yucatecan specialties. Try the "Papadzules Kinich" (stuffed tortillas with sausage and egg and pumpkin seed sauce) or "Cochinita Pibil (mayan recipe, it’s slow roasted pork meat, marinated with orange and lime juices and spices). You will be embarrassed by the pure goodness of the dishes.

Stay

Pickled Onion B&B in Santa Elena:

This little gem in the jungle close to Santa Elena, it's just the best accommodation you can find in Yucatan. Owned by Valerie, a lovely Canadian lady, it is made of 8 independent Maya-style palapas, in a stunning tropical garden.

There is a swimming pool, a bar and an astonishing restaurant. Valerie is a "information mine": talk with her and you will see how much she is passionate about her job and Yucatan.

The prices are a bit higher for the standard of the region, about 50 USD per night for a palapa for 2 people, but this place worth them till the last cent. Last but not least, the village of Santa Elena is really nice and this hotel employ just people from there, giving them a great chance to made their life without being obliged to go to Cancun to find a work.

Casita Carolina in Laguna Bacalar:

If we had to choose one word for this place, we would use “peacefully”. Casita Carolina is an enchanting, simple but full of charm location. Room are nicely furnished with traditional colors, located in 5 semi-independent houses. Each of them has the view on the enchanting Laguna. The only thing that separates you from the water is a 50 meters garden. Do you want an advice: wake up early and enjoy the beautiful sunrise.

Have you ever been in Yucatan? Do you think we should include some other places in this post? Let us know in the comment section and share it on your social!

4 Responses

  1. Valeria Holding
    | Reply

    Hello Zuzana & Enrico! First, great pics, exc information about Mexico.Will like to go there one day, I am from Costa Rica and never went there when I was closer, I guess now leaving here in Europe will be a bit pricy! Hope you remember me…! Its Val from http://www.dondeestavale.com ; I found you amazing pics on instagram!

    • Enri & Zuz
      | Reply

      Hey Valeria! It’s great to see you here 🙂 Mexico is a great country, we loved Yucatan so much and we would like to come back soon, to visit the rest of the country. Congrats for your blog, it’s lovely!

  2. Valerie Pickles
    | Reply

    Wonderful guide/blog for future travellers and very well done and beautiful photos . Thank you
    Only thing is the temperatures that you mentioned are a little off ….
    December to the end of March is the coolest time to travel normally… although we are experiencing warmer temperatures than normal this year…..By the end of March until the end of June temperatures rise to between 40 and 44 C and is called the dry season. Local farmers do not plant in these months due to the heat but prepare the land ready for sowing seeds by the end of June ready for the rainy season in July through to October. By saying rainy season the sun comes up daily and temperatures are around 35 c but by late afternoon one can see the rain clouds forming for a wonderful downpour that normally last around 1 to 2 hours . It does however bring more humidity which is good for the growing of corn. Late October the weather changes again as we head into November and December bringing … we hope cooler and dryer weather again .
    Best wishes from
    Valerie ….. The Pickled Onion Yucatan

    • Enri & Zuz
      | Reply

      Hi Valerie,

      lovely comment! At the time we went there (February 2016), the weather was a bit grumpy for 4-5 days, with some heavy rains and a “fresh” wind. the rest of the month was great with long sunny days and warmer temperatures. We’ll add these more detailed info into the post 🙂 Thanks a lot for sharing this!

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