– Yucatan Mexico: 5 Points of Interest You Will Never Forget

When you read about “Yucatan”, many articles refer to the “Yucatan Peninsula” which actually is comprised of three states:  Quintana Roo (Cancun, Riveria Maya, Tulum etc.), Yucatan (Merida, Progreso, Valladolid etc.), and Campeche. 

This blog specifically refers to the AUTHENTIC experiences in the “State of Yucatan”.

These experiences are not listed in any particular order, although it is interesting to know that Archaeological Ruins / Pyramids have always been the top attraction until recently (2018) when the Cenotes became the top visited sites in the Yucatan.

    The Yucatan Peninsula is home to the worlds most impressive natural swimming holes called “Cenotes”.  There are an estimated 6000-12000 Cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula, each uniquely beautiful. Ranging from surface Cenotes, similar to ponds, to incredible subterranean Cenotes and stunning open Cenotes with amazing beams of light, you are bound to find a favorite.  Some Cenotes have become somewhat commercialized (and are easy to find online), however they may get crowded. . . . while others await you in the Mayan jungle for a private dip away from the crowds. If you have not been swimming in a Cenote, you must add it to your bucket list!  It is an experience that you will never forget.  There is something magical swimming in crystal clear waters, surrounded by rock cliffs and formations, in the middle of the jungle. It is so easy to get lost in the beauty and spirit of the Cenotes. We like to call it the womb of Mother Earth! If you are looking for an off-the-beaten-path Cenote experience to some of the lesser-known, more private Cenotes, away from the crowds, contact the Pro’s at YucatanCenote.com EcoAdventures who can take you on a Private Adventure to some of Yucatan’s best hidden gems. (Contact info at the end of this blog.)
    Types of Cenotes … Surface (top left) Mangrove (top right) Open (bottom left) Cave (bottom right).
    Skip a typical “tourist day” and experience the real Mexican culture.  Experience the authenticity of Yucatan and take a glimpse into the Maya culture. Get a real insight into the Maya way of life. Visit a genuine Mayan family home where your Guide will show you around the humble home and property, herbs, spices, milpa fields and explain the traditions and culture.  Enjoy a traditional Maya lunch, all of which is locally grown, and even roll up your sleeves and get involved in making handmade tortillas over the traditional open hearth fire, under the instruction and supervision of mother Maya.  Enjoy an authentic traditional lunch or, if you want to expand your culinary experience, you can request a local dish of Iguana or Bee Larvae (seasonal). The Maya families truly appreciate international travelers and are very friendly and proud of their culture and are happy to share their customs and traditions. Many guests have said that this rare behind the scene experience was an inspiring and humbling experience.
    – “This was an invaluable cultural experience, and was truly touching. It was a window into another world that we would not replace with anything.” – Anna T. Jan 2020.
    – “The meal prepared by the Mayan family was delicious. All the kids loved it! They really enjoyed being allowed to make their own tortilla. I loved being immersed in the culture, and the chance to sample true local food!” – Madison, Alabama.
    There are numerous archaeological zones within the state of Yucatan. Some are lost and forgotten, not yet excavated and left to be overtaken by the jungle, while others have been partially excavated and opened to the public.  Some archaeological sites have become quite popular, such as one of the most iconic sites “Chichen Itza”, which can get very crowded, with in excess of 1.5 million visitors yearly, while other secondary sites you can have practically to yourselves on most days. When exploring the archaeological sites, it is like stepping back in time and walking in the footsteps of the ancient Maya.  You are literally exploring the nooks and crannies of History.  We highly recommend that you wear appropriate footwear when exploring the archaeological sites.  Comfortable closed-toed footwear is a must.  It will get hot when you are trekking through the ruins and carrying water is a necessity!  Many sites offer Guides who can bring the experience to life for your family, please use their services and tip well. Note that some of the more remote archaeological sites do not receive many guests, therefore we encourage you use the guide service as their incomes are extremely limited. There are over 200 archaeological sites in Mexico.  Below is a list of “some” of the archaeological sites located within approximately 2 hours of the Capital city of Merida in the state of Yucatan:- Acanceh
    – Ake
    – Chichen Itza
    – Dzibilchaltun
    – Ek Balam
    – Izamal
    – Mayapan (image bottom left)
    – Oxkintok
    – Xcambo
    – Puuc Route Series
       i.   Uxmal (image bottom right)
       ii.  Kabah
       iii. Sayil
       iv. Xlapak
       v.  LabnaAs you can see, there is a large variety of sites that may interest you. We will be addressing individual archaeological sites in future blogs – stay tuned. 
    There are numerous cave systems scattered throughout the state of Yucatan. Some are more commercialized, with designated walking areas and lighting, while others are more extreme requiring ladders, climbing, crawling or rappel, although most offer a Familia tour which is an easy route for Families. Note that some caves are recommended only for the more adventurous type. If you are planning on exploring caves, we highly recommend that you wear long pants and appropriate footwear.  Note that caves can become damp and slippery and comfortable closed-toed shoes are a must. Even though some caves include guides offering flashlights, if you have your own, you may wish to bring it.  Do not explore a cave on your own. Hire a local guide (usually patrolling the cave area) and remember to tip well.Loltun Caves / Grutas de Loltun – N20 15.205 / W89 27.333
    One of the most popular is the Caves of Loltun, said to be one of the largest and oldest caves in Yucatan and located along the PUUC route Mayan Highway #261 which hosts a series of 5 archaeological sites along a 40KM section of this highway.  During the cave tour, which could range from 45 minutes-2hrs, you will be standing upright most of the time (crawling is not required, however you will do some minor climbing (stairs) and will occasionally be using your hands for balance).  The pathway through Loltun Caves, for the most part, has been smoothed out by running waters and foot traffic, but can get slippery when wet, therefore appropriate footwear is highly recommended (no flip flops). These caves are partially commercialized as they are lit with motion sensor lighting, however the footpath is rustic.  We do recommend that you bring your own flashlight or a headlamp, so that your hands are free to enable you easier maneuver around the rocks. You will see a series of formations, passages, vast chasms, colourful mineral deposits, stalactites and stalagmites as well as handprints dated back 10,000 years. Mammoth bones have been found in this cave as well as paintings along the walls.Price:  The Reviews on TripAdvisor for Loltun Caves is varied. As you will read, the price has been a contention with many tourists for quite some time. Parking can range from $30-$50 pesos per car, admission tickets are approximately $146 Pesos per person (for non-Mexicans) and $109 Pesos per person for Mexican citizens and you will be required to pay a Tip for the Guide. Note that the price of the admission ticket does NOT include the price of a Guide and an on-site Guide is mandatory in order to enter the cave.  Loltun welcomes visitors from from 9:30 am -4:00 p.m, seven days a week.  There are select times for Tours (available in English & Spanish):  9:30 am, 11:00, 12:30 pm, 2:00 pm, 3:00 pm, and 4:00 pm. If you arrive between those times, you will not be able to enter until the next tour time rolls around. Definitely worth seeing , these caves are truly spectacular.
  5. XPLORE XIBALBA – Underground River Xploration
    For the more Adventurous type, we would recommend the Xplore Xibalba Adventure, exclusively offered through YucatanCenote EcoAdventures (contact info at the end of this blog). In Maya mythology, “Xibalba” is known as the underworld.  To date my wife and I have mapped 750 Cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula and this one particular location stands out among the others. It is one of our favorites as it is uniquely different from any of our other experiences.If you are looking for something unique, if you love natural untouched beauty, if you want to escape the ordinary and step back in time in the footsteps of the Ancient Maya, then this is the Adventure for you – be prepared to be amazed. As this is one of our “secret hidden gems”, it is only available by booking with YucatanCenote EcoAdventures and it is called “Xplore Xibalba”.On this particular Adventure, you will be traveling through pueblos and villages to two amazing and unique Cenote locations. You will learn the history of the Maya Underworld as you explore and wade through a labyrinth of tunnels of an underground river system and see spectacular displays of geology illuminated only by flashlights!  Raise the bar on excitement,  overcome a few optional challenges along the way and experience the opportunity to expand your boundaries and push your limits a little.  Part of the excitement is not knowing what treasures you will find around the next turn!  In a natural setting, illuminated only by your flashlights, your heart will beat a little faster, in a world where the waters are sacred and history exists around each corner.Then travel further into the low-lying jungle to Jump from an underground cliff into the refreshing crystalline waters of a stunning subterranean Cenote.  Swim among the stalactites and view amazing rock formations.  After your exhilarating day, enjoy a traditional Yucatecan lunch prepared for you in a nearby village.For visitors arriving on the cruise ship (in Progreso), there is sufficient time to explore both the underground river, underground lake/cenote and enjoy a delicious lunch. 
    For vacationers, who are not restricted with time, if you have enough reserve energy, you can explore a rustic and beautiful archaeological site approximately 15 minutes from the lunch location. This site is rarely visited and there is an excellent chance that you will have the archaeological site to yourselves. The site consists of 6 excavated structures including a pyramid and numerous un-excavated structures still in the rough.

    Explore and experience the Culture of the indigenous people of Mexico through a private Adventure with:  YucatanCenote.com EcoAdventures.

    Contact:  YucatanCenote.com
    Email:  YucatanCenote@gmail.com

    Includes:  Pick up/Drop off, Private Transportation (tourism insured/plated), Federally licensed bilingual Guide, All Admissions,  Bottled Water & Soda, Full Lunch, and use of Goggles/Snorkels, LifeJackets, and Flashlights.  Car seats and booster seats also available at no extra charge for toddlers.

    Escape your Ordinary. 

    Feel the energy. 

    Experience the Magic. 

    Authentic Yucatecan is waiting.

    Welcome to Yucatan  / Bienvenidos