Mexico is a wonderful place to visit, and how better to explore the North American country that on tailor made Yucatan holidays.

Hordes of people fly into Cancún from North America and Europe each year and it is not surprising why. The area is blessed with wonderful winter sun, the most amazing beaches and crystal clear seas which almost ensure a perfect holiday. However, there is so much more to offer in the neighbouring province of Yucatán from ancient Mayan ruins to beautifully preserved cities and the most refreshing cenote pools, to make this part of Mexico an ideal holiday destination for all seasons.

Chichén Itzá

Chichén Itzá
Chichén Itzá, the highlight of Yucatan holidays

Chichén Itzá is arguably the most famous of the Mayan archaeological sites, and was selected as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007. It is also one of the most popular attractions in Mexico largely due to its close proximity to Cancún.

The vast temple complex spans three periods of Mayan civilisation from the Late Classic (600-900 AD) to the Post Classic (900-1200 AD) periods, and thus demonstrates a variety of architectural styles for the budding Indiana Jones to admire. At its centre is the impressive Temple of Kukulcán (or El Castillo), which was built to the Sovereign Plumed Serpent the Mayans worshiped.

The complex also has the largest ball field in Mesoamerica with still existing hoops indicating where goals were scored, although unlike modern ball games this was played to death, as further engravings around the complex indicate. Chichén Itzá is a wonderful place to visit at sunrise.

Uxmal and Mayapan

Yucatan holidays Uxmal
Uxmal, rivals Chichén Itzá and is less crowded

Although by far the most popular, Chichén Itzá is by no means the only Mayan ruin in the Yucatán. Arguably Uxmal is equally impressive. More ornate than its more famous neighbour, Uxmal is more in the Puuc style with rounded walls that are supposed to represent traditional Mayan huts. It is also dedicated to the rain god Chaac, which is hardly surprising considering the lack of water here. Masks to Chaac can be found throughout the temple complex, which seems to emerge from the jungle.

Another attraction of Uxmal is the wonderful sense of space. However, if it is a deserted Mayan complex all to yourself that you are seeking on your Mexican holidays, then Mayapan is the place for you. Founded in the 13th century shortly after Chichén Itzá was abandoned it thus represents the late Mayan style. At least on my visit, we were practically the only people at the site. Meaning we could wander freely around and over the ruins without being distracted by others taking selfies beside the ruins. Also, unlike at Chichén Itzá you are allowed to climb the main temple and look down upon the surrounding landscape.

Mérida and Izmal, the Yellow City
Yucatan holidays
Plaza Grande in Mérida

In addition to the wonderful Mayan archaeological sites, the Yucatán has relatively more recent attractions, including haciendas that have been transformed into boutique hotels with elegantrestaurants, and beautiful cities. The capital Mérida is well worth the visit, and in addition to an atmospheric central square and cathedral has interesting architecture dating back to its heyday at the start of the twentieth century especially along the elegant Paseo de Montejo.

Alternatively, Izmal, known as the Yellow City due to the predominant colour of its architecture, is a great place to visit, especially as the sun is beginning to set. This is when the locals congregate around the square beneath the 16th century Convent of San Antonio de Padua (see main image), which was built with old Mayan stones, and the blackbirds flock to the trees making a quite deafening noise in the main square. Lots of people congregate here at sunset.

Cenotes

Taking a dip in a cenotes is a must on your Yucatan holidays
Taking a dip in a cenote is a must on your Yucatan holidays

Although the Yucatán has a distinct absence of rivers and lakes, it is not devoid of water. It is just that you have to look underground for it. Depending on your source, there are between 6,000 and 8,000 cenotes in the Yucatán. These are sinkholes that have been created by the collapse of the limestone cliffs to expose pools of water. The cenotes are linked underground through a series of streams and flooded caves.

One lies in the small village of Yaxunah, a short drive from Chichén Itzá. Few cenotes can have a more beautiful setting, the almost perfect oval bowl with creepers dangling from its green fringe beckons you to explore its waters. A trip here can be combined with visiting the local tourism centre where the local community can prepare lunch, cochinita bibil, a pig cooked in a pib pit. The money collected from tourism goes directly to the local community. The centre also promotes Mayan culture. Before lunch we were shown the small workshop where local crafts, including hammocks, are made.

While you enter this cenote from the surface, many others are only reachable via underground channels. You can only access the Maya Blue cave at the Hacienda Cenote Mucuyché via swimming through a narrow channel from another cenote. Entering the amazing cave is quite dazzling with shimmering lights and incredible stalactites dangling from the roof of the prehistoric cave; a truly memorable experience.

Playa Celestun

Yucatan holidays flamingos
Watch the flamingos in the Celestian River biosphere reserve

Although the area around Cancún is blessed with the most wonderful beaches and waters, an hour’s drive from Mérida, the Celestian River biosphere reserve offers a slightly more interactive experience. Measuring some 81,482 hectares, the reserve is home to more than 300 species of birds, many of whom are migratory. It also has turtles and as we were to discover some crocodiles.

Perhaps the main draw of a boat trip along the river is to see the 55,000 flamingos that come here for the salty waters. These are just a few of the species of birds that can be seen including cormorants, egrets, pelicans, blue herons and great blue hawks. You can even go for a quick dip in a small pool where the crocodiles – hopefully – do not frequent.

Just around the corner from the reserve is Celestun beach, a wonderful stretch of sand with more pelicans than tourists, which makes for an excellent place to chill out and have some beer and ceviche at a local palapa, a wooden structure where you can dine. For after all isn’t this why you have come to the Yucatan in the first place – to chill in the sun.


Tailor Made Yucatan Holidays

Mayapán
Why not include Mayapán in your tailor made Yucatan vacation?

With so much to choose from on your Mexican holiday in the Yucatán, it is sensible to book your holiday with the experts. Original Travel can arrange bespoke tailor made holidays to Cancún, the Yucatán and the Caribbean coast, as well as other parts of Mexico to fit your personal needs.

Also, through booking with Original Travel you know that you are contributing to saving the planet. Original Travel absorbs 100% of the carbon footprint generated by flights and ground transportation through financing large reforestation projects around the world.

Its participation in the €100m Livelihoods Carbon Fund helps to fight global warming by taking a highly practical approach aimed at having a strong local social and economic impact. Its Foundation, created in 2009, supports a number of humanitarian projects in developing countries in Africa, Asia and South America. Since 2009, nearly £1.4 million has been invested in the support of more than 250 projects in 30 countries.


For more information Original Travel itineraries and services or to book your Yucatan holidays, click here.

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