Yucatán, Mexico is the next “it” destination – mark my words! After my visit to this culturally rich state, I’m convinced that between its hidden cenotes, ancient archeological sites, future developments and commitment to sustainable development, Yucatán will be on every traveler’s bucket list. It truly is the perfect sample of Mexican cultural heritage, gastronomy, architecture, art and more.
In the past year, Yucatán had a 27% increase of arrivals, mostly because of the increase of direct flights from Miami, Houston and Toronto. I was overjoyed to see the amount of travelers experiencing this slice of heaven on earth, just a few hours south of the USA! What’s even more special is that Yucatán tourism is committed to creating experiences that showcase the indigenous culture for visitors. I love that there are so many immersive trips and moments travelers can take part in to understand the Mayan people!
P.S. To clarify – the Yucatán state is not the same as the Yucatán Peninsula! Yucatán is the center of the peninsula, nestled between Quintana Roo (famous for its resorts in Cancun and Playa del Carmen) and Campeche.
Today, I’m excited to share some of my favorite finds and gems in Yucatán – from the colonial cultural hub of Valladolid, to the otherworldly scenes of Las Coloradas to the yellow wonderland of Izamal.
Just 25 miles away from the epic Chichén Itzá lies the colonial gem of Valladolid. The varied architectural styles within the city are each so unique, I loved walking through the historical styles block by block. The sixteenth century convent walks of San Bernardino of Siena and the baroque Municipal Palace, Temple of San Juan de Dios, Santa Ana, and The Central Park monuments all seamlessly feel like a walk through Valladolid of the past.
Where To Stay: Hotel Mesón del Marqués
Right in the main square of Valladolid is Hotel Mesón del Marqués, an old casona from the seventeenth century transformed into romantic lodgings with modern facilities. Locals and foreigners love its ideal location in the historical neighborhood, and I loved its charm and commitment to hospitality so much!
What To Do
There are so many activities to see and do in Valladolid! Here are some of my favorite experiences from my time in the city.
Visit The Convent of San Bernardino de Siena
This former convent was created in 1552 under the direction of a friar in the Sisal neighborhood, and is one of the second largest Franciscan constructions in the Yucatán. It’s now one of the most magical sights to see in Valladolid! I loved walking through the large tropical trees and colorful corridors of arched stone windows.
The Royal Palace of Valladolid once was the home of the many Kings of Spain between 1601 and 1606, and was even a temporary residence of the Spanish Monarchs and Napoleon during the War of the Independence. Now, you can explore the palace’s galleries, courtyard and incredibly large throne rooms, oratory and towers.
The Temple of San Juan de Dios
After visiting the center’s gems, be sure to stop by the yellow gem San Juan De Dios.
El Parque Central
The perfect place to get some shade and people watch! El Parque Central is a great resting place after sightseeing the historic sights.
Buy Chocolates At Choco Story
If you have a sweet tooth like me, you’ll love to shop for chocolates at Choco Story. The Yucatán has quite the chocolate culture!
Lagartos River and Las Coloradas Biosphere Reserve
Las Coloradas is a northern coast community in the Rio Lagartos Municipality, best known for its huge salt evaporated ponds with bright colors (due to the micro organisms living in the water) and home for many flocks of flamingos.
Be sure to take a boat tour with Rio Lagartos Adventures! The boat tour of the 150,000 acre wild life refuge showcases the 395 species found and recorded in the lagoon. We spotted flamingos from afar and ended the boat tour with a Mayan mud bath! So special. Plus, we were treated to a delicious seafood lunch, waiting for us at the starting point restaurant, Ria Maya.
The ancient city of Uxmal is home to one of the most important archaeological sites in Mayan culture. The Mayan city, located in the Puuc region of Yucatan, showcases the quintessential architectural style and is now designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its historical significance. It’s such a sight to behold! I loved trekking through the hundreds of temples and buildings, taking in all the detailed stone work and tall greenery.
Where To Stay: Lodge at Uxmal
Right outside of the Uxmal Archeological Zone (seriously, its a four minute walk!) is the Lodge at Uxmal – one of the coolest hotels with the closest connections to the wonders of the archeological zone. I loved the cool dipping pool and home cooked meals made every day. Not to mention, seeing the majestic Mayan ruins right outside were a marvel!
What To Do
The Archeological Zone of Uxmal is the centerpiece of activities, that’s for sure! But Uxmal has so many special experiences travelers to take part in to get a fresh perspective and historical context of the area.
Experience in Land Rovers by Mayaland Adventures
In taking part in an off road experience with Mayaland Adventures, visitors not only drive in one of the most iconic vehicles of the 20th century… but they are transported to another era. I loved this unique experience because it gave us the chance to see the way the area was explored many many years ago, when the archaeologists discovered Yucatán. Driving in a vintage Land Rover through the property’s plantation to visit the remains of the original Hacienda Uxmal founded in 1673 was one of my favorite moments!
Lights & Sound Show In Archeological Zone
The night tour at the archaeological site of Chichen Itzá begins at the main entrance of the site and allows travelers the chance to visit some of the main buildings in the surroundings of the Pyramid of Kukulkán (The Castle) wrapped in the mystery of the night. Afterwards, we were seated in front of the pyramid to enjoy the historical projection on its façade, where we learned more about the site’s amazing past.
Less than 50 miles outside of Merida is the Magical Town of Izamal. Izamal means “dew which descends from the sky” and is visually stunning covered in just one color – yellow.
Where To Stay: Hotel Rinconada Del Convento
This beautiful Mexican-style hotel features views of the San Antonio de Padua Convent. Following the city’s signature shade, you’ll find pops of yellow throughout the hotel! The pool was a delight to have after the hot afternoon exploring too.
What To Do
Of course, my biggest suggestion is to commit to traipsing through Izamal’s mustard hued alleys, streets and squares for a few hours. It’s such a stunning sight! But in between your explorations through the town, here are some of the best things to do in the yellow city.
Coqui Coqui Casa De Los Santos
I loved this residence and spa’s weathered look. It’s a beautiful place alone – and then I learned that it’s also a perfumery. If you’re looking to take something completely special home from your travels, this is it!
Convent of San Antonio De Padua
This is a must-do, in my opinion! Explore the Franciscan Convent of San Antonio de Padua, the saint of lost things. I was so moved by the simplicity of the building. So many rustic and minimalistic scenes.
Night Show “Light Paths”
Travelers looking to be wowed after a long day of exploring will love the night show projection on casonas of the convent.
Izamal also houses many ruins to explore. The ruins were the headquarters of Bishop Landa, the friar who both destroyed the ancient Mayan civilization and preserved it by creating written documents of the Mayan society. It’s an interesting look at the sordid past of the area.
Shop In The Big Mercado Market
Don’t miss the Big Mercado Market to get a real look at daily life in Izamal. Right in the center of the city, the market opens in the morning and stays open until mid afternoon. Come here to sample traditional dishes and a freshly made meal!
I loved this restaurant’s menu of traditional Yucatáean food and its beautiful and cozy atmosphere!
The vibrant city of Merida is the capital of Yucatán. Rich in culture and beauty, Merida just may be the next hot spot! It’s even been selected to host next year’s edition of Tianguis Turístico, the largest annual tourism event in the whole country. The whole city as a European flair to it, especially is architectural influences. But, throughout the whole city you’ll find a commitment to Yucatán traditions and ancient Mayan culture.
What To Do
Merida is rich with so many things to do and see. From the Paseo de Montejo’s wide avenue lined with enormous, stunning mansions to Catedral de San Ildefonso, the oldest churches in Latin America – Merida has it all!
Plus, there are many free cultural experiences to take part in. The Yucatán Vaqueria, The Serenade in Saint Lucia, and playing the Mayan ball game “pok ta pok” are just some things to do during your time without spending a penny.
Fundación De Artistas
Fundación de Artistas is a nonprofit organization that showcases and supports the development of arts in Yucatán, Mexico. You’ll find all sorts of art in the gorgeous building – it’s obvious that it’s quite the haven for artists in the area to find creativity and inspiration.
Coqui Coqui Merida
A gorgeous sister-store of Coqui Coqui, this time hidden in a colonial home with a boutique filled with hand-made goodies and high end gifts.
This restaurant has garnered quite a lot of buzz – so be sure to make a reservation while in Merida! The service is impeccable and its menu is top notch in providing a contemporary twist to classic Yucatán dishes.
Without a doubt, Yucatan charmed me through and through. I can’t wait to see more travelers explore this jewel of a state!
A big thank you to Yucatan Travel for sponsoring this trip. I was so overwhelmed with their kindness, hospitality and commitment to showcasing historical and cultural heritage of beautiful Yucatan!
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Hello! Beautifiul trip! Photo no.3 from Valladolid – where was it taken? This is my favourite one. We are planning a similar trip in two weeks and I’d like to make sure not to miss this place.
Hello! It’s La Casona De Valladolid