Recently we had the opportunity to travel with our family through Yucatán, Mexico. Our first long distant trip after the global pandemic. Mexico is a huge country and has a lot to offer, but we decided to stay on the Yucatan peninsula. With our rental car, we crossed 3 states: Campeche, Quintana Roo and Yucatan. And to make a long story short: yes, it was perfectly safe (we traveled alone in our rental car), yes there was a lot to see (you could easily spend an entire month there), and yes, we had a fantastic time!
We circled the peninsula and stayed successively in Playa del Carmen, Rio Lagartos, Valladolid, Merida, Campeche, Xpujil, Bacalar and Isla Mujeres. Hundreds of pictures were shot by our family, but in this post, I am showing what Yucatan has to offer in a modest 15 photos…
First stop: Rio Lagartos and Los Colorados
In Rio Lagartos we spent couple of hours boating through the lagoon, enjoying its natural beauty and observing big groups of flamingos. Rio Lagartos is also home to the famous (Las Colorados) pink salt lakes, an almost surreal sight. The lakes are part of a sea salt harvesting plant. Being so salty, the water attracts salt-tolerant algae that produce carotenoids (organic pigments). In the sunlight these organisms become more concentrated, creating the famous pink water. Brightness varies depending on the weather. Try to visit around middle of the day and avoid cloudy days. Some people have indeed returned somewhat disappointed so be prepared (also to pay an entrance fee because you won’t get in otherwise). There are a few spots on earth where you can experience pink lakes, here is an overview.
Valladolid and Chichén Itzá
From there we went to Valladolid, a charming colonial town full of history and culture. We visited the Mayan city of Chichén Itzá, where we marveled at the ancient ruins (along with hundreds of tourists from around the world, as Chichén Itzá is one of the 7 New Wonders of the World). As with these places, come as early as possible to avoid the dozens of busses that bring tourists from Cancun and Playa del Carmen. Once these groups take over the place you should be ready to move on! Chichén Itzá is world famous, but there are so many more ancient Maya sites to discover in Yucatan, like Ek’ Balam, Bécan (see later on) or Calakmul.
Yellow city of Izamal
Next up on our roadtrip: the city of Izamal. Known for its brightly colored buildings, all yellow! Izamal is one Mexico’s “Magical Towns,” or “Pueblos Mágicos.” Why are so many of the buildings yellow? Some say this was done in honor of the visit of Pope John Paul II in 1993, but honestly, no one seems to really know.
Via Merida we found ourselves captivated again by another lovely place: Campeche. Campeche itself offers colorful houses and a lively street full of bars and restaurants. Enjoying the delicious Yucatecan cuisine, including local beers, music and a shot of tequila. When in Mexico…, right?
And when in Yucatan, you can’t leave without having visited one of the hundreds (maybe thousands) of Cenotes! Cenotes are large caves filled with cool, clear water. Some are real caves, others are semi-closed with an opening to the sky above. Tree roots are lingering down passed the limestone walls, reaching out to the water (which is full of fish by the way). The deepest cenote is around 282m deep…. On top of that, they say that all these cenotes are connected to each other through underground rivers. Scientists confirm that these cenotes were formed after that big meteorite hit Yucatan 66 million years ago (marking the extinction of the dinosaurs by the way). If you are interested in the scientific story (about the Ring of Cenotes), check out this article.
Multiple day tours around Campeche and Merida are possible, think (even more) cenotes, Maya ruins, white sandy beaches, haciendas, caves, etc., etc.
Maya ruins of Becán
After Campeche, we went further south to the ruins of Bécan, near the town of Xpujil. Beautiful Mayan ruins hidden in the lush jungle. Because of its location away from the beaten tourist path, we had almost the entire area to ourselves! Contrast to Chichén Itzá, visitors are allowed to climb these structures, providing you with a majestic view of the surrounding jungle.
Known as the Lake of Seven Colors, Bacalar was a great stop on our road trip. Upon arrival, we first had lunch at the food truck called Mr. Burrito, highly recommended! The Bacalar lake offered us time to relax, swim, (sunrise) kayaking and delicious food. Enough for our family to fully enjoy this place, slowly approaching the end of our 14-day trip.
Our trip ended with a visit to beautiful Isla Mujeres, where we spent our days lounging on sandy beaches and exploring the island’s charming streets.
Travel in Yucatan
Yucatan is so much more than only the beach towns and cities like Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Tulum. Go out and explore, you will be pleasantly surprised by the beauty of it all.
Hope you enjoyed the selection of photos!
Is Yucatán worth a visit?
Absolutely yes. It was an unforgettable experience full of adventure, history and natural beauty. There are many possible itineraries to be found on the Internet, should you be considering a trip to Yucatán yourself. My goal is to give you an idea of what all these amazing places on the peninsula look like.
We were pretty excited upon checking the box on our 6th of the ‘New 7 Wonders of the World’ by visiting the Mayan city of Chichén Itzá. One more to go, the Great Wall of China…
Feel free to contact me if you have any questions. Just send me a message on Twitter or Instagram.
And yes, this post has some bonus pictures (the two family selfies!)