Off The Beaten Path in Yucatan
The Yucatan Península
Through our experience, we have found that the most common mistake when planning a trip to Yucatan is to mix the Península and the State of Yucatán. The first brings together the states of Campeche, Quintana Roo and Yucatán.
Because of this, a lot of travelers miss out on the opportunity to visit incredible sights found only in the state of Yucatán, very different to world famous resort beaches in Cancún and Riviera Maya.
So before we start to talk about off-the-beaten-path in Yucatan…
We strongly suggest to base the trip in the city of Mérida, right in the heart of the Yucatán State.
From where you’ll be a very comfortable 2:00 hours ride range packed with incredible cenotes, archaeological sites, caves, not-so-touristy to not-touristy-at-all beaches, and AMAZING food in several Mayan villages, all surrounded by the majestic of evergreen Yucatan lowlands.
But…how to travel off the beaten path in Yucatan?
If you’re adventurous enough and like to have very open schedules the best idea is to rent a car, as most of the state roads are in great shape and well signalized.
But, if you’re traveling in a small group or want to just relax and let someone else care about details, booking a private tour is also a great idea.
Adding up to the great location of Mérida, accessibility of transportation is also an important asset of the city!
Shared day trips, bus tickets, cab rides and even Uber may take you to most of these sights, and are perfectly safe for foreigner travelers to make use of!
Where to go!
Calcehtok Underground Caves
This is one of our personal favorites!
As flat as it seems, the Yucatan soil is mainly limestone, thus, it has a very rough terrain underground.
A very complex cave system runs all throughout the peninsula resulting in several waterholes or cenotes, and some of them are now completely dry, opening a possibility of climbing, crawling and testing you’re endurance in a 1 to 5 hours ‘Mayan Underworld’ adventure.
Calcehtok is the best place for this experience! Just 1 hour southwest from Mérida en-route to Uxmal, it’s a Mayan Village where you should ask for Mr. Cuy, the best local guide, to take you to the caves, just a few kilometers outside the town.
Wondering about caves and cenotes? Check out this NatGeo video where they talk a bit more about them!
Mayapán Archaeological Site
How would you feel to have Chichén Itzá all for yourself? Bummed because you can’t climb the temples? You should definitely check out Mayapan archaeological site 1 hour south from Mérida.
Mayapan means Flag of the Mayan, and was the last big capitol, closely related to Chichén Itzá. Actually, most of the temples resemble those from the latter in such way that Mayapan is oftenly described as a “little” Chichén.
Nevertheless what really makes up for the visit, is that this off the beaten path archaeological site is not touristy at all. You can climb every temple and have them all for yourself! Plus, it can be easily be brought together in the same trip with our next sight.
Located south of Mérida, just outside of the mayan village of Abalá, you’ll find the charming cavern type, semi open cenote of Kankirixché “Yellow Tree-Fruit”. This natural beauty is somewhat hard to come across as it is hidden from the main roads, making it a live green and crystal clear mysterious paradise, where you’ll be able to refresh your “hot day” under the Mexican sun.
Once you encounter the rough pad, keep going, approximately 1 kilometer and a half will pass before you arrive to Kankirixché. Surrounded by jungle, you’ll know you are in the right place as you’ll see a wooden arc that kind of serves as a dwell, walk closer and you’ll be standing at the entrance of the cenote, use the wooden stair and descend to the beautiful waters.
Down here the degrees decrease, your skin turns porcelain like and you’ll hear the pure sounds of nature.
It makes you understand why these places are considered sacred for the Mayan culture.
Don’t forget to ditch using sunblock or any kind of creams which have chemicals when swimming at the cenotes. If you must, please wear biodegradable. This will help keeping them clean! And as the cenotes are all underground connected you’ll be making a big difference!
Rio Lagartos and Las Coloradas
Rio Lagartos Biosphere Reserve is one of the best kept secrets of the Yucatan, in the far northeast corner of the state.
This reserve is very important for its wildlife diversity which includes: the biggest nesting place for flamingos and crocodiles on the everglade portion of the reserve; a big deer, panther, and jaguar population on the lowlands portion; as well as mangrove formations called, which can only be found in Yucatán, Cuba and Florida.
Starting out in the small fishermen village of Rio Lagartos, you should travel east on a dirt road with the blue ocean on the left and the beautiful everglades at the right. After several miles of virgin, pristine beach, you’ll encounter Las Coloradas.
Las Coloradas is the most haunting sight in the Yucatán. The second last fishermen village of eastern Yucatán, only before El Cuyo, is the core of Rio Lagartos reserve.
Here the beautiful everglades take an unexpected trip as they become oceanic salt deposits, right in the middle of fairy-tale pink lagoons. Mineral packed sand here is often used as scrub for a silk soft skin.
All ready in Riviera Maya?
Here’s our best suggestion for an off the beathen path visit: Laguna Yal Ku, Akumal. This wonderful inlet is full of rainbow colored fish and turtles. Traveling south from Playa del Carmen, you should reach the small village of Akumal.
As you start driving closer to the beach you’ll find a road to the north, leading to the inlet. Please keep in mind that no food is allowed in, and only biodegradable sunscreen may be used!
Don’t want to miss en-route sights while traveling off the beaten path? Here’s Yucatan Today’s example on how to plan the perfect day in Yucatán!
Read more about the Yucatan best kept secrets here and start planning on your next off the beaten path adventure! We love it, you might too!