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Yucatan Peninsula: 5 Minute Guide

Image: CPTM_Mexico-Tourism-Board_Ricardo-Espinosa-reo

About: For those looking to give the tequila slammers and frenzied clubs a miss, the state of Yucatan is a good bet, laced with mangrove forests, colonial villages and beaches where few footprints mark the sand.

Attraction: Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula may be carpeted in sinkholes — natural chasms — primarily as it’s made up of porous limestone, yet Ik Kil or the ‘sacred blue cenote’ is one of its more beautiful, dangling with vines and smoothed by waterfalls. The word ‘cenote’ is taken from the Mayan ‘well’; historically, they were the site of human sacrifices to the god of rain.

Building: The crowning glory for most travellers to the region is Chichen Itza — a sprawling archeological site built by the Maya civilization. And while you can’t expect it all to yourself, you can expect to tick off one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Time your visit with the spring or autumn equinox to witness the great feathered serpent ‘slithering’ down the pyramid of Kukulkan; it’s actually an illusion of light and shadow, and a great example of the Maya’s astronomical knowledge.

Shop: Take a bit of the Yucatan’s laid-back vibe with you and invest in a traditional handmade hammock to hang at home. Crafted using timeless techniques, they’re sold across the state, from roadside vendors to beach hawkers.

Eat: A prime cut for culinary travellers: Mexico’s cuisine made it on to UNESCO’s World Heritage list in 2010, and Merida, the capital of the Yucatan, is a fine place to start. Think superb street food, morsels of tacos, panuchos (refried tortilla stuffed with beans and topped with pulled meat) and chicharrones (fried pork rinds) at the Parque de Santa Lucia, or for slicker, more refined local dishes, try Rosas & Xocolate. And if you have a sweet tooth, it has a resident chocolatier knocking up all manner of delicious chocolate creations.

Bar: Slip into Merida’s El Cielo Lounge with its open-air bar and cool-as-they-come cocktails, before unleashing your best dance moves amongst the city’s beautiful set.

View: You don’t have to ascend great heights in the Yucatan for views that’ll make you grin. Head to the town of Celestun with its custard yellow sands — you might just be the only gringo wallowing in its waters. Alternatively hitch a boat ride and set sail for glimpses of flamingo. Book with an ethical operator.

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