Why the Yucatan Is My Favorite Part of Mexico

A crude approximation of all the places I've been, so far, in Mexico, shaded with pinky-purple.

I’ve now visited 23 of the 31 states of Mexico (have yet to visit the two Baja states, Sinaloa, Sonora, San Luis Potosi, Hidalgo, Aguascalientes nor Durango). This means I’ve been to most regions of Mexico, except the Baja peninsula.

After all that traveling, my favorite is still the Yucatan peninsula, which I first visited in 2004 when we lived in New York City. During that trip, Brendan and I were smart enough to rent a car, avoid Cancun and head south for the still-somewhat-pristine beaches of Tulum. From there, we turned inland and visited some amazing, way off-the-beaten-path Mayan ruins known as the Ruta Pu’uc (southeast of Uxmal). Along the way, we’d stop and swim at the cenotes, freshwater pools formed in limestone.  The combination of perfect beaches + road trip to gorgeous limestone ruins + deep freshwater caves you can swim in =’ed my sort of vacation.

I longed to return. After our first initial visit, we visited again in 2006 for a short trip to the Sian Ka’an Biosphere, a protected stretch of the Caribbean coastline. We kayaked in the mangroves and snorkeled in the ocean while it snowed in New York City.

Now that we’re living in Mexico City, the distance is still pretty far — it requires a flight or a 24-hour bus ride. We went back last February to hang out with my sister-in-law and her boyfriend in Tulum for a few days, then in June, I stayed on Isla Mujeres off the coast of Cancun to swim with wild whale sharks — one of the singular most amazing days of my entire life.

And….finally….a few weeks ago, we went to the lower Western portion of the Yucatan peninsula, where few tourists go. We visited the protected ruins and biosphere of Calakmul, then the city of Campeche, ending the trip with a long drive down the Gulf shore back to the state of Tabasco.

The only trip I have left to do in this part of Mexico is the northern perimeter, following Progreso to Merida to Isla Holbox. I’ve been discussing the Isla Holbox idea with whale shark buddy, Sue-Lyn — maybe later this year we’ll go.

Back to my point: I can’t get enough of the great beaches, great ruins and great wildlife. Since we returned from this recent vacation, I’ve already blogged about the amazing nature we saw (MONKEYS!) and so now let’s take a look at some of the lesser-known archaeological sites we visited, plus pretty little pastel Campeche.

Climbing one of the two pyramids in Becan.

becan

After I finished climbing, this was the view of the other big pyramid at the Mayan site of Becan.

Chicanna

Brendan looking (not so) frightened inside the "monster mouth" at Chicanna

campeche

Campeche, Mexico is now my favorite city in Mexico. It's super cute.

tucan sihoplaya

Down the road about 45 minutes from Campeche is the remote hotel of Tucan Sihoplaya.

yucatan thatched bar

The drive between Xpujil and Campeche takes four hours and is mostly desolate. Except cute buildings like this.

thatched hut

In this part of Mexico, the Mayan people still live like they did hundreds of years ago, for the most part.

mexican fisherman

Fisherman somewhere near Champoton, Mexico

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