5 must-see places in Mexico´s Yucatan Peninsula this Autumn
Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula is a vast coastal region brimming with tropical beaches, spectacular wildlife, ancient Mayan ruins, small colonial towns, and plenty of outdoor adventures.
It’s a place where you will discover lush green forests dotted with Mayan ruins, cool shades of colonial-era architecture, and sea-life ablaze with color – all under Caribbean blue skies.
The Yucatan is easily accessible with cheap and easy flights from domestic and international airports. As such it is an increasingly popular place to take a vacation.
- Explore Chichen Itza
This UNESCO world heritage site is a centerpiece of the Mayan archaeological scene in Mexico and receives around 1.4 million visitors a year — by far the region’s most popular ruins.
For over a thousand years this was one of the great cities of Central America – located here because of proximity to deep cenotes that gave access to fresh water. The modern site covers 5 square kilometers of exposed archaeology and impressive above-ground stone buildings, surrounded by dense forest.
You’ve probably seen pictures of the temple of Kukulcan – also known as El Castillo – because it’s breathtakingly photogenic. However, a century’s worth of excavations means the rest of Chichen Itza is equally cool.
Above all, September is one of the two best times to visit Chichen Itza for the equinox. This phenomenon occurs in March and September and can be observed approximately during five days: on the day of the equinox and the days surrounding it. The effect begins about 3 hours before sunset, where a form of undulating light can be seen on the railing of the main staircase of the Temple of Kukulkan that slowly shows seven isosceles triangles.
2. Visit Las Coloradas
In a corner of the Río 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 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 can visit the lakes (and a small town by the same name) It’s a really weird sight – and, curiously, the reason why flamingos are pink!
You may even spot some flamingos hanging out in the area too. Las Coloradas has become famous on Instagram recently. It is no longer possible to get into the water, but you can still take photos.
3. Snorkel with Sea Turtles
Who doesn’t want to swim with sea turtles? Don´t miss the opportunity to get up close and personal with them at Akumal beach, just 30 minutes South of Playa del Carmen. This shallow blue-green water is home to 3 different kinds of sea turtles.
Take note. For years you could simply swim with the turtles at Akumal on your own, bringing your own snorkeling gear. However, to help preserve the area, some new rules were recently implemented.
A lifejacket is required (which you can rent along with snorkel gear), and lifeguards patrol the water on paddleboards. Organized sea turtle snorkeling tours are also offered by locals.
- Swimming in Cenotes
What’s a cenote you ask? It’s an underground cave filled with fresh water. The Yucatan Peninsula offers one of the world´s largest network of 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 formed when the limestone bedrock caved in to reveal underground rivers below.
There are around 2000 different cenotes to be found throughout the Yucatan. Classic cenotes you should visit are Dzitnip, Azul, Dos Ojos, and La Noria.
For the more adventurous, scuba divers can also explore these underwater caverns. If you are a certified PADI diver then the Yucatan is one of the world’s premier cave-diving destinations.
5. Whale Sharks at Isla Holbox
Whale sharks are the largest fish in the ocean, growing up to 40 feet long and weighing up to 20,000 pounds. And, you can enjoy an interactive swimming experience with them. However, you don’t have to worry about them eating you, as they prefer plankton.
Swimming next to a 30-foot long sea creature, the size of a bus is a wild experience. It’s a bit intimidating to be honest… they’re huge!
Whale shark snorkeling trips can be organized from Cancun, but if you want a real adventure, try doing this activity out of Isla Holbox, a small sleepy island paradise off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula.