In this series of travel around Huatulco and how to travel from Huatulco as your new home base, we've explored How to Travel to Central and South America as well as How to Travel Around Mexico and How to Travel to Chiapas. Here, we'll share with you a curated experience of travel to the Yucatan and in and around the Yucatan backcountry. So if you're curious about our new developments on the Caribbean coast, buckle up. We'll see you there!
What is the Yucatan?
The Yucatan is a Mexican state and many times only associated with Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Tulum. They belong to the Yucatan peninsula. Hmmmm.
So what is exactly in the Yucatan?
Well, the Yucatan is a fascinating place, with a coastline where the Gulf meets the Caribbean. The waters are clear, warm and simply amazing. White sand beaches. Need we say more? We've also discovered a lot of treasures, unique experiences and personality inland.
Fly or Drive
From Huatulco, you can fly or drive. Flights go through Mexico City from Huatulco with frequent and easy connections every day to Merida or Cancun. From Merida or Cancun, you can rent a car if you plan on traveling around. If you plan on staying on the coast, you have taxis, bus connections and public transportation from the airports. Uber works like a charm.
See our articles about driving in Mexico and car rentals. Or you can drive your own car from Huatulco to Yucatan. It is about a 16-hour drive that can be divided into interesting days and sleeping over in San Cristobal de Chiapas and Palenque, for example. Plan your trip and take in some amazing sight-seeing along the way.
- Route 1: Huatulco- Salina Cruz -San Cristóbal de las Casas- Palenque- Escárcega – Campeche – Mérida
- Route 2: Huatulco- Salina Cruz – Coatzacoalcos – Escárcega – Campeche – Mérida
- Route 3: Huatulco -Oaxaca – Sierra Norte – Tuxtepec – Coatzacoalcos – Escárcega – Campeche – Mérida (longer, but lovely if you love the mountains)
The Planet of the Maya
The Yucatan itself is somehow its own planet. Merida is the capital of the region. It is a bustling city full of charm and easily walkable. Do not miss the Gran Museo de Mundo Maya (Mayan World Museum) in Merida. Ideally, you would start your Yucatan trip here for an explanation of the geography of the area.
The Yucatan of the inland has the magical cities of Valladolid, Izmal and stunning architectural sites.
The Yucatan peninsula is fascinating in many ways. Home to the Mayan civilization, the region has a high concentration of archaeological ruins and amazing natural beauty. Mayan civilization extends south to Chiapas, Guatemala and Honduras but is significantly concentrated in Yucatan. The Mayan languages are very much alive today.
Of course you've heard about the cenotes, these underground or open air pools of water created by the limestone rock. Some of the region's most breathtaking sites, the cenotes, are witnesses to the geological history that shaped Yucatan.
Formation of the Yucatan
At the end of the Cretaceous period, about 66 million years ago, an asteroid measuring about 10-15 kilometers in diameter struck the area which was then all under ocean water. This is the same asteroid attributed to widespread earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, all contributing to the extinction of the dinosaurs. Evidence of the Chicxulub crater, is found today in NASA satellite imagery that shows the cenotes form a perfect circle, sometimes referred to as the ring of cenotes. There are rare cenotes inside the crater or circle. Since the peninsula was covered by water, there is no evidence of a hole or crater. But you will notice that the Yucatan is monumentally …flat. That flatness of the interior is attributed to the spray received as a result of the crashing asteroid. The Yucatan rose from the ocean between 24 to 33 million years ago.
There is still a good amount of cattle ranching around the peninsula but the henequen production has been lost. (Henequen is a fiber made from the agave plant, comparable to hemp fiber. ) The economy today is concentrated in tourism. So, here, we'll give you a curated experience of what we love when we visit the Yucatan.
What to visit
Once in Yucatan, opportunities to visit are everywhere. The coast close to Merida has small towns, villages and sights that set this area apart from the heavily-visited tourist areas further down along the peninsula. Explore ecological reserves like Celestun to see the pink flamingos.
Mayapan is a precious Mayan site that you can experience almost visitor free. Arrive early in the morning and you have the site to yourself. Here, you can climb to the top of the pyramids and get a 360 view of a huge part of the whole Yucatan peninsula. From here, you can appreciate its extraordinary flatness.
The Puuc Route is a 58-kilometer, less-frequented route that will take you past several archaeological sites. The road is easily navigable. “Puuc” means hills. And this is really the only place where you will see some hills in the Yucatan. You can visit some or all of the sites that were constructed between 600-1100AD. There are not large crowds here either. You can genuinely appreciate sites submerged in the jungle and get an adventurous feeling as you imagine just how elaborate those ruins were in their prime.
Labna, Xlapak, Sayil, Kabah and Uxmal lie along the route. The sites are all part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Each site is fascinating in a different way. The route finishes at the grandiose Uxmal, one of the most important sites in the entire Mayan world.
Take a drive around and experience the cenotes. Internet searches will bring up many. Plan your daily visits and look at Google Maps to see where the cenotes are on your way. You won't be disappointed.