Yucatan Holidays: An Overview

The Yucatan Peninsula is a superb destination, simply made for relaxing on the beach interspersed with some culture.

Although popular resorts such as Playa del Carmen and Cancun are one image of the Yucatán Peninsula, there is another - far more charming - world available in this south-eastern tip of Mexico.

The Yucatán has plenty to offer the discerning culture vulture, lovers of jungle and wildlife, diving fans, and holidaymakers looking for romantic, exclusive and just plain beautiful beach hotels.

The peninsula separates the Gulf of Mexico from the Caribbean Sea. On the Caribbean side, the stretch of coastline known as the Riviera Maya offers pure white-sand beaches and calm blue waters, Tulum's ancient Mayan ruins, as well as a vast selection of hotels to suit pretty much all tastes from luxury family resorts to intimate jungle hideaways and laid back island retreats.

For a more low-key beach retreat, the idyllic Isla Holbox lies off the northern coast. This droplet of sand offers stunning white beaches and turquoise lagoons, and visitors will share the sandy roads (bikes and horse carts are the transport du jour here), with local fisherman, returning home with their morning catch. It's not all about the beach though. The northern part of the peninsula is home to the pretty colonial towns of Merida and Campeche as well as Original Travel's favourite inland haciendas which make the perfect bases to discover yet more beautiful Mayan ruins in the region.

No trip to the Yucatan is complete without visiting the outstanding Mayan site of Chichen Itza. Right in the middle of the peninsula, there is no excuse for not stopping off here when en route between your hacienda and beach hotel.

Cancun, with its international airport and direct flights from London, is the jumping-off point for the peninsula, but if you don't fancy putting your party sombrero on you can be in and out of the town in no time.

For a variation of a coastal holiday we recommend a few days on the beach combined with a few days inland at a typical Mexican Hacienda. Here you can explore the countryside, visit typical Mexican villages and Mayan Ruins, spend a morning at the underground cenotes (tunnels where you can go snorkelling or diving in crystalline water) and generally soaking up the local culture.

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Maya Ruins
If You Do Three Things
Mexico's Maya Ruins

Visit Mexico's ancient Mayan ruins starting at Chichen Itza, the most famous of them all. Take in its sheer size and engineering feats, wandering around gargantuan pyramids and great courts. Continue to the picture-perfect Tulum ruins, set on the rocky coastline, overlooking the Caribbean Sea. Stroll around its stone structures before descending the steps to the idyllic beach.

Beach in Cancun
If You Do Three Things
The Caribbean Coast

Unwind on the Yucatan's Caribbean coast; lap up pure white sand fringed by jungle and warm turquoise waters. You could even beach hop from Cancun all the way to the Belize border. There are also some fabulous eateries along the east coast, from chic ocean-facing restaurants to rustic seafood shacks.

Street in Campeche
If You Do Three Things
Colonial Campeche

Explore the UNESCO-listed town of Campeche, strolling around its cobbled streets and colourful colonial mansions. Nearby, you can see the lesser-visited Mayan sites of Edzna and Calakmul, inspecting their stone pyramids in rare peace. Then bunk down in a stylish hacienda immersed in tropical jungle with the sounds of howler monkeys to lull you to sleep.

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Yucatan Peninsula
Yucatan Peninsula
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Lake Bacalar
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Head off the beaten track and uncover the little-known gems of a destination
Escape the Crowds

For a quieter beach experience away from the crowds of Cancun and Tulum, head to Isla Holbox off the northern tip of the Yucatan, or for a different body of water altogether, visit the beautiful Lake Bacalar on the southern border with Belize. For wildlife fanatics, the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve just south of Tulum is well worth a visit, home to manatees, turtles, jaguar and plenty of birdlife.

Map of Yucatan Peninsula

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A Note on Price

A cheeky week on the beach can cost from around £2000 per person including flights, whereas an adventurous (and luxurious!) journey around the best bits of Mexico might cost more like £6000 or upwards. In the Yucatán, prices are comparatively low out of season.

Itinerary Suggestions

Havana and Tulum

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Pre-Columbian Ruins in Mexico

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