The Yucatan Peninsula is a place of emerald waters turning to turquoise waves crashing on perfectly white coral-sand beaches. It’s home to Mexico’s famous Riviera Maya.
You’ll also find lush green forests dotted with Mayan ruins, colonial-era architecture, and sea life ablaze with color – all under Caribbean blue skies.
Many people shorten “Yucatan Peninsula” to “Yucatan”. That’s actually misleading since the peninsula itself is made up of four different states: Yucatan, Campeche and Quintana Roo.
In a corner of the Ría Lagartos Biosphere Reserve, about 3 hours from Cancun, you’ll find a magical place where sea water turns bright pink on an epic scale.
It’s all down to salt production. The Las Coloradas pink lakes are used for industrial-scale sea-salt production. As the water evaporates, salinity causes an explosion in the growth of red algae, plankton and brine shrimp, tinting the water reddish-pink.
You may even spot some flamingos hanging out in the area too. Las Coloradas has become Instagram famous recently, and it’s no longer possible to get into the water, but you can still take photos.
The capital city of Yucatan state has colonial history is written into the architecture of most of the buildings in the beautiful, pedestrian-friendly city center, and liberal use of white limestone has given Merida the nickname “the white city”.
It’s a cosmopolitan place, meaning there are plenty of tourists – but broad streets and high rooftops never make it feel crowded or heavily populated.
Merida is also a perfect place to pick up a locally made Mexican hammock. Hammock weaving in the Yucatan Peninsula is a 700-year-old tradition, producing some of the most beautiful hammocks in the world.
Izamal is built on a series of hills that once housed Mayan pyramids (and much of the town still speaks the Mayan language). There is still one big pyramid overlooking the town that you can actually climb.
Like Merida, the town of Izamal is designed to be walkable (be sure to check out the enormous yellow-painted Franciscan monastery in the historic center) – but you can also get around by hiring horse-drawn carriages.
It’s an underground cave filled with fresh water. The Yucatan Peninsula has tons of them — sinkholes that open up into underground rivers with the clearest water you’ve ever seen.
Cenotes are the perfect way to cool off on a hot day, Mexico’s natural swimming holes created when the limestone bedrock caved in to reveal underground rivers below.
There are around 6000 different cenotes across the Yucatan, but some of the most visited are Dzitnip, Azul, Dos Ojos, and La Noria.
For the more adventurous, scuba divers can also explore these underwater caves if you’re a certified PADI diver. The Yucatan is one of the world’s premier cave-diving destinations included in our yucatan travel guide.