Must-See Attractions in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula

by Rianne Ojeh on 05 November 2014, 11:11AM

With around 3.3 million visitors every single year, Cancun ranks amongst the most popular travel destinations not only in Mexico, but on the planet. This exotic paradise of golden beaches, vibrant bars and ancient crumbling monuments is heaven on earth for most travellers. It provides sun, sea, sand and sass. Yet, Cancun is very much a tale of two cities. There is the flashy hotel strip, with its legendary white beaches, wild party scene and plethora of high quality restaurants and there is the city itself.

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The city of Cancun is where you will find the truly authentic flavour of Mexico; in traditional taco joints, bustling neighbourhood night spots and downtown salsa clubs. The best part of the tale is that the two are in close proximity, providing intrepid adventurers combined with a relaxing holiday fulfilling both the need to explore and the desire to kick back and unwind. Plus, if you fancy a break from the jazz bars and the discos, the Yucatan Peninsula is filled with must-see attractions.

Your trip to Mexico should offer you the best of all worlds – nightlife, relaxation, world class facilities and lots of genuine adventure. It just so happens that many of the most exciting outdoor attractions, within the Yucatan Peninsula, are located within a two hour drive of the bustling hotel zone in Cancun. If you can bear to tear yourself away from the sun lounger for the afternoon, you could end up stopping off at some amazing attractions, as this guide to the Yucatan Peninsula demonstrates. 

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Akumal
Situated just 60 miles south of Cancun, right between Playa del Carmen and Tulum, the name of this tiny resort can be translated as ‘place of the turtles,’ in Mayan. If you want to know why, you will have to visit the sandy paradise of Half Moon Bay, which offers water sports fans the chance to dive and swim with sea turtles and manta rays. The water here is crystal clear, making it perfect for snorkelling. In fact, the nearby Yal-ku Lagoon is one of the best places in Mexico to get up close and personal with a whole host of marine creatures.

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Cancun Underwater Museum
If you are a keen snorkeler or scuba diver, you might also want to check out the world famous Cancun Underwater Museum. This astonishing attraction is half art exhibit, half marine conservation project. It was conceived by artist Jason deCaires Taylor, as an approach to rebalancing some of the damage caused to the Mesoamerican coral reef by the 150,000 visitors who snorkel in its waters every year. The result is a fascinatingly eerie series of underwater statues, being very slowly devoured by the sea. For non-divers, there are regular glass bottomed boat trips out the museum.

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Coba
For those who are keen to immerse themselves in Mayan history, whilst avoiding the bustling crowds at popular sites like Tulum and Chichen Itza, there is the beautiful ancient city of Coba. It tends to draw in a lot less visitors than its more famous sisters, but it is every bit as breathtaking. It was estimated to have been home to more than 50,000 people during the seventh century, and is more than large enough to make cycling around the site a good idea. The city of Coba is also home to the tallest Mayan pyramid on the Yucatan Peninsula – Ixmoja – which stands at 138 feet.   

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Rio Secreto
This remarkable nature reserve is located just three miles from Playa del Carmen and features a truly stunning cave system, carved out over the centuries by an underground river. It stretches approximately 8 miles in all and contains 15 natural outlets, making it the longest flooded cave on the Yucatan Peninsula. The really special thing about Rio Secreto is that it is only semi-flooded, meaning that adventurers can hike or boat through a large portion of it. This is not one for the faint hearted as eco treks in Rio Secreto involve a slow boat ride through pitch black caves. 

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Playa del Carmen
As one of the most popular tourist resorts on the Yucatan Peninsula, Playa del Carmen can get very busy during the peak months of the year. If you like your holidays to be filled with noise, laughter and atmosphere, however there is nothing quite like it. It is filled with restaurants, bars, nightclubs, cafes, seafood restaurants. Plus, it is home to the luxury five star Secrets Maroma Beach Riviera, an adults only holiday resort located on the edge of an unbelievably soft white sand beach.

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Grutas de Loltun
This is one of the more unusual attractions in the area but it is bound to thrill anybody with an interest in history. The Loltun caves are home to a series of 10,000 year old cave paintings, which are considered to be some of the oldest evidence of human habitation in the Yucatan. The caves are thought to have been used by the Mayans for ceremonial purposes, and later as a place of refuge in times of war. If you are going to visit this attraction, take a guided tour and plenty of water as it is hot and it is humid. 

For more information about holidays to Cancun click here


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