Yucatan Peninsula

Shutterstock/25179433/Fred HendriksThe Yucatán Peninsula, which includes the states of Campeche, Yucatán and Quintana Roo, is sold to tourists as the land of Maya archaeology and Caribbean beach resorts. And there's no denying it, the warm turquoise sea, fringed with fine white-sand beaches and palm groves of the 'Mayan Riviera' are second to none.

It would almost be a crime not to tread the beaten path to the sensational ruins at Chichén Itzá, Uxmal and Tulum, but it more than pays to explore beyond the main itineraries to visit some of the lesser-known Maya sites such as Cobá, Edzná or Dzibilchaltún, or the imposing Franciscan monastery and huge pyramid at Izamal.

There are flamingo feeding grounds at Celestún and Río Lagartos and more than 500 other species of bird, many of which are protected in Sian Ka'an biosphere reserve, which covers 4500 sq km of tropical forest, savannah and coastline. Ever since Jacques Cousteau filmed the Palancar Reef in the 1960s, divers have swarmed to the clear waters of Cozumel, the 'Island of the Swallows', to marvel at the many species of coral and other underwater plants and creatures, in what has become one of the most popular diving centres in the world.

Also popular, but more specialized, is diving in the many
cenotes
(sink holes), including the famous Nohooch Nah Chich, part of the world's largest underground cave system.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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