Yucatan Travel Guide

Are you looking for the type of vacation where you can lounge on the beach one day and explore archeological ruins the next? Yucatan vacations will fulfill these desires and more. Pack your bag and head south to Mexico for a trip full of vivid color, delicious cuisine, and unique culture.

This vacation guide will reveal a variety of options for Mexico Yucatan travel. Learn about ancient Mayan culture, go shopping for local art, or go scuba diving with whale sharks during Yucatan vacations. Once you’ve zoned in on an area you’d like to explore, let VacationRentals.com show you how affordable and luxurious a villa in the Yucatan can be.

What to Do in the Yucatan

Our vacation rental hot spots in the Yucatan include Cozumel, Cancun, and Playa del Carmen. Read on for a good overview of the region.

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Archeological Wonders

Many people travel to Yucatan to see the famous archeological site Chichen Itza. These famous Mayan pyramids are over 1500 years old and are located only 75 miles from the capital of the Yucatan, Merida. This site has been extensively researched, and visitors will benefit from the work of archeologists who bring Mayan civilization to life with their theories. Many travelers don’t know that they can continue their exploration of ancient civilizations beyond Chichen Itza at other sites across the Yucatan.

Uxmal is another must-see during Yucatan vacations. This archeological site isn’t as well known as Chichen Itza but it is just as spectacular. The colossal Magician’s Pyramids are just the beginning of this site; don’t miss the temples and palaces as well. Other archeological sites are in close proximity including Kabah, famous for its stone carvings, and Sayil, also known for its carvings. To see what these sites looked like when they were discovered, continue on to X-Lapak which has been less manicured and excavated than other sites. Whether you rent a car or join a tour group, experiencing this aspect of history will be a highlight of your trip.

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Lazy Days at the Beach

If you travel to the Yucatan, you will find beaches of every size and shape. This area of Mexico doesn’t have high rise buildings—just simple fishing villages, restaurants, and beachfront villas. If you’re looking to be able to spread out on the beach, go swimming in peace, and read your book to the sound of a breeze through the palms, than Mexico Yucatan travel is for you!

With over 250 miles of coastline to choose from, there are plenty of places for Yucatan vacations in the sand. This coast is home to a variety of popular beaches including Chelem, San Miguel, San Crisanto, Dzilam Bravo, Yucalpeten, Chicxulub, San Benito, Telchac Puerto, Cozumel, Cancun, and Playa del Carmen. There are many vacation rentals that provide easy access to these beaches, and you might just be surprised how affordable they can be! If you’re looking for the widest, quietest beaches look for rentals near San Benito.

Every beach activity you could imagine is on offer during Yucatan vacations. Build a sand castle with your kids, bring along your snorkel mask, or get serious about underwater discovery with a scuba dive. Whether you want to do some kayaking or just splash around in the warm surf, Yucatan beaches are the ideal backdrop for a relaxing vacation!

Cultural Discoveries

Besides the beaches, many people travel to Yucatan for the culture. Music, cuisine, and art are all passionate elements of culture in this area of Mexico. Local people take their gastronomy very seriously, and they use the best produce and spices to create unique dishes. If you’re interested in learning about the local cuisine, take a step further than wandering the farmer's markets and sign up for a cooking class at Los Dos Cooking School.

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Another interesting aspect of local culture is haciendas. These elegant buildings are all different in size and decoration and deserve to be seen during a trip. To experience a full tour of a hacienda, plan a visit to Sotuta de Peón. Here, knowledgeable guides will reveal interesting facts about the history and stories behind haciendas.

A different way to soak up the local culture is to visit colonial cities and Mayan villages. These pueblos are scattered around the Yucatan and include Valladolid, Muna, Ticul, Izamal, and more. If you happen to plan Yucatan vacations during one of their festivals or religious holidays, these villages are the places to be for an unforgettable cultural experience! Don’t miss local markets as well to pick up some fresh produce for cooking in your own kitchen.

Experience Nature

For many visitors, one of their favorite aspects of Mexico Yucatan travel is the wildlife. The coast of the Yucatan is home to many flamingo colonies, where you can see these striking birds in their natural habitats. To get up close and personal with these creatures, take a boat tour through the mangroves to either Celestun or Rio Lagartos. Kids will love seeing these exotic animals outside of a zoo in their natural colonies.

Another fascinating element of the nature of the Yucatan is its geographical characteristics. The peninsula is full of cenotes, or sinkholes, that formed because the Yucatan is situated on a limestone shelf that has been shaped by underground waterways. Today, visitors can swim and dive in these crystal-clear pools that were once sacred to the ancient Mayans. Cuzama is a local favorite site for experiencing the pleasures of the cenotes.

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What to See in the Yucatan

yucatan vacationsYucatan vacations can be as relaxing or action-packed as you desire. Whether you want to spend a week on the beach or catch an opera at the Teatro Peon Contreras, the choice is yours. Plan a visit to the City of Merida Museum where you will learn about the cultural heritage of the city while touring the historic post office.

For nightlife and shopping, head for the beautiful beaches of Playa del Carmen. For an alternative to traditional nightlife, sign up for the Noches de Leyendas, a night tour through historical Merida. This is a great way to see some of the top sites of the city including Parque Santa Lucia, the Cathedral of Merida, and the theater.

Mexico Yucatan travel wouldn’t be complete without visiting the different archeological ruins. At the very least visit Chichen Itza, but other sites such as Uxmal are equally as interesting. You will soon realize that one week isn’t long enough for Yucatan vacations as you try and squeeze in time to go scuba diving with whale sharks, explore the Punta Laguna Nature Reserve, or take an excursion through the caves of the Yucatan.

 

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Where to Shop and Eat in the Yucatan

Indulge in Some Retail Therapy

Yucatan vacations wouldn’t be complete without a little shopping. The best place to go is the capital of the Yucatan which is Merida. Whether you’re shopping for yourself or looking for souvenirs to bring home to friends and family, the jewelry, artwork, carvings, and pottery of Merida will entice you. Some of the best local products include gold and silver jewelry, chocolate, clay replicas of Mayan gods, embroidered dresses, and pottery.

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Art galleries are also a favorite for international visitors. Bringing home a piece of art will always bring back good memories of your Mexico Yucatan travel. Some of the top galleries include Nahualli Casa de lost Artistas and Soho Galleries that allow you not only to buy the original works, but prints of works you like as well. This means less of a commitment for the purchase but almost all of the enjoyment! Mercer Cigars is the place to pick up cigars and don’t miss Plaza Americana for a variety of Mexican handicrafts.

A Feast for Your Eyes and Your Taste Buds

Yucatan vacations will undoubtedly be filled with delicious culinary creations. A mixture of European and Mexican influences can be seen in a type of cuisine that is distinctly from the Yucatan. There are several local dishes you will encounter on many menus including Poc Chuc (tender grilled slices of pork served with pickled onions), Motul-style eggs (breakfast dish of tortilla covered with beans, a fried egg, tomato sauce, ham, and cheese), panuchos (a tortilla stuffed with refried beans, chicken, and garnished with lettuce and onion), and Pollo Pibil (chicken marinated in local spices then baked in banana leaves).

When you travel to Yucatan, keep the following restaurants and cafes in mind. Café Chocolate serves delicious and affordable breakfasts along with healthy dinners. La Chaya Maya is known for its authentic food in the heart of Merida while La Casa de Itzimna offers not only excellent food but a magnificent setting in a historic house. For something truly historic, visit Hacienda Teya, built in 1683 and serving local cuisine since 1995.

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When to Visit the Yucatan

Knowing when to travel to Yucatan will make your trip even better. The high season lasts from the end of December through Easter. These months are the best time of the year for scuba diving and snorkeling. The low season begins after Easter and continues through the beginning of December. If you’re traveling on a budget, prices can often be significantly cheaper during this season. Another popular time for Yucatan vacations is during the summer months when schools are closed. If you are the type of person that can deal with high temperatures, by all means, enjoy travel to Yucatan during this season. However, people who are sensitive to the sun and heat might want to avoid vacations during the hottest time of the year. Hurricane season lasts from June through October, and during this time, weather can be unpredictable.

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What to Bring to the Yucatan

Bring all of your beach basics during Mexico Yucatan travel. Bathing suits, sunglasses, strong sunscreen, and a hat will all help you enjoy the sandy beaches. To explore the nearby archeological sites, remember a good pair of walking shoes. Remember that you will want to drink bottled water during your trip to the Yucatan, so stock your vacation rental and bring cold bottles with you go to the beach. Don’t forget your camera; the striking beaches, ocean, and flamingos will make for beautiful photographs. Don't worry if you forget any beach-related items. Whether you want to pick up some beach toys for the kids or an extra bathing suit, there are many beach shops where you can find these items at affordable prices.

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Local Services in the Yucatan

During Yucatan vacations you will probably encounter some frustrations with local services. While restaurants, bars, and tourist offices will be widely available and keep good hours, don't expect banks, post offices, and shops to do the same. Stock up on bottled water to ensure you aren't left without any to find a closed shop. ATMs are generally available, and this is a better way of exchanging money than paying fees at an exchange booth. It is smart to always agree on taxi fares before your journey begins.

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What to Know About the Yucatan

During any trip to a warm weather destination it is important to drink plenty of water. If you’re planning Yucatan vacations, you may also want to take some other precautions against the heat and sun. Plan to visit the archeological sites early in the morning or late in the afternoon, avoiding the midday heat. This will make your trip all the more enjoyable!

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Getting to the Yucatan

The best way to reach the Yucatan is to fly to Merida. If you can’t find an affordable flight, you can also fly to Cancun and take a bus or rent a car and make the drive yourself. This bus ride takes about three to four hours. If direct flights to Merida aren’t available from your hometown, consider connecting in Houston, Texas where flights to Merida are available several times per week.

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Why Yucatan Vacation Rentals?

Yucatan vacations are a chance to get away from routine and experience a new culture. If you check into a hotel full of other travelers, you are seriously missing an opportunity for both relaxation and culture. Spread out in the privacy of your own vacation rental, step out directly onto the beach, and watch the stars come out at night from your balcony. Why stay in a hotel when you could find a home away from home? There is no better way to experience the pristine beaches of the Yucatan than with vacation rentals.

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