Often overshadowed by their emphatic neighbour to the North, Mexico is fast becoming a “must visit” destination of Europeans and North Americans alike. The land of ancient jungle ruins, paradise islands and lush rainforests, there is a lot more to do in the Yucatan peninsula than just partying the night away in Cancun with copious amounts of tequila. Political and civil unrest rippled through Mexico in the 20th century and kept away the tourists for a long time. However, its reputation is changing as tourists now flock to the region, due to its Caribbean climate and stunning beaches.
Flights to Cancun from UK airports are increasing every year and a number of great deals on flights and accommodation like the Club Med deals are popping up. There really has not been a better or cheaper time to visit. With so much to see it’s hard to know where to start. Fortunately for you this guide is on hand to make sure you make the most of your trip to the Cancun and the surrounding area.
When you think of Mayan ruins chances are a picture of Chichen Itza comes to mind. A two-hour drive from Cancun, the ruins are the largest and most impressive of all the Mayan temples. Covering an area of 6 square miles more than 30 buildings are still intact, including Kukulkan’s pyramid which stands at an impressive 75 feet. Surrounded by jungle, this world heritage site is a truly mystical place to visit, especially at dawn or dusk. One of the New 7 Wonders of the World, it would be tragic to miss this historic spectacle while in Cancun. With tours leaving Cancun in abundance there really is no excuse for you not to visit.
Just an hour and a half south of Cancun you will find the beautiful town of Tulum where Mayan Ruins look down from rugged cliffs onto white sandy beaches and crystal clear turquoise waters. There really is nowhere quite like it. Voted the second-best beach in the Caribbean, it is not one to be missed while in the area. If you visit in the right season you may even be lucky enough to see baby turtles hatching among the palm trees. Apart from the stunning beach, the main attraction of Tulum is the picturesque Mayan ruins located on a 12-meter cliff top above the beach. Construction is estimated to have occurred 1200 AD, and was mainly used as a port for the larger temple, Coba located further inland.
After spending a morning at the ruins or the beach, head on over to over to the cenotes. Dotted around the Yucatan, these naturally occurring fresh water pools are a great place to spend an afternoon swimming and relaxing. Gran Cenote and Cenote Dos Ojos, the most popular among tourists, are located just outside of Tulum and cost 100 pesos (£4) to enter. Connected by a complex underwater cave system, it is possible to scuba dive from one pool to another via this cave system. Alternatively, if you hire a mask and snorkel you will still manage to see an abundance of wildlife and dramatic underwater rock formations.
A world away from the bright lights and humongous hotels of Cancun, the paradise island of Isla Mujeres, located just 13 km from Cancun, is a hot spot for snorkelling and diving. Boasting an impressive underwater museum as well as some of the best reef diving in the world, diving enthusiasts spend weeks exploring the various dive sites around the island. Between the months of May and September it is possible to swim with Whale sharks as they migrate past the island. There are a number of reputable tours on the island and in Cancun that will take you to the deeper waters where they are swimming. Not only is the island a great place if you enjoy water sports, it is a great place to relax after a hectic few days in Cancun. Here laid back Caribbean vibes take precedence so be prepared to go slow.