EXPLORING A LESSER-KNOWN SIDE OF MEXICO’S MAGICAL YUCATAN STATE
Whether you’ve been before or have yet to experience the state of Yucatan’s endless charm, it’s well worth putting some of the lesser-known sites on your must-visit list. The undiscovered natural beauty and magic can be seen everywhere— in the historical haciendas, archaeological sites surrounded by jungle and colourful colonial towns just waiting to be explored.
1. HANG OUT AT A TRADITIONAL HACIENDA
Haciendas producing sisal, a natural finer from henequen (a type of agave plant) is a significant part of Yucatan’s history. Henequen was called “ The Green Gold” since the natural fibre was exported from the state of Yucatan to the world. These days, many haciendas have been converted into museums or hotels and restaurants, such as Sotuta de Peón, (haciendaviva.com) built at the end of the 19th century. Book a stylish room at the charming hotel to experience what life would have been like on a working hacienda, witness the sisal production process, take a dip in the sparking on-site cenote and enjoy traditional Yucatan cuisine at Sotuta de Peón’s restaurant. This is an excellent opportunity to learn more about the history and culture of Yucat
an while also experiencing the region’s natural beauty at its best. If you’re not a guest of the hotel, you can still take the informative tour and swim in its cenote, have a lovely meal at the restaurant and enjoy the expansive property filled with ush tropical flower gardens.
2. SEE SOME LESSER-VISITED MAYAN SITES
Chichen Itza might get the bulk of travellers’ attention when it comes to Mayan archaeological sites in Yucatan, but there are plenty of lesser-known sites to discover that
are just as awe-inspiring and refreshingly less crowded. Ek Balam is just minutes from Valladolid and its 45 structures offer a fascinating glimpse into the past thanks to well-preserved, beautifully carved monuments. It’s also possible to climb the imposing main pyramid at Ek Balam for panoramic views over the surrounding jungle. Hiring a local guide is the best way to take a journey back in time through in-depth knowledge of this rich history. As a plus, you can swim in the Cenote X-Canché next to the site where you can also practice rappelling and zip lining over the impressive sink hole!
3. MINGLE WITH LOCALS IN MÉRIDA
Mérida offers many opportunities to experience local culture, traditions and art in all its expressions. Very popular among locals and tourists, as well, are Friday nights and Sundays at noon concerts by the Yucatán Symphony Orchestra at the beautiful Jose Peon Contreras Theater, which is one of the most important cultural spaces in Yucatan state. Combine a performance with lunch or dinner at one of the many surrounding restaurants, or those at nearby Santa Lucia Park, a few steps from the theatre. The orchestra performs from September to June. You can check the concert programs and get your tickets online at the Orchestra’s website: sinfonicadeyucatan.com.mx
4. BE CHARMED BY COLONIAL CITIES
Mérida is not the only colonial treasure of the state. You will definitely want to put Valladolid and Izamal on your list, Yucatan’s two Magic Towns (Pueblos Magicos), named for their historical and cultural significance. Valladolid is a beautiful colonial city filled with regal churches, cozy restaurants tucked down narrow streets and fascinating historical sights. Izamal, known as the “City of the Hills” due to the archaeological remains located in the town centre, is also known for its eye-catching array of ochre-hued buildings.
5. GET BACK TO NATURE
In addition to charming colonial cities and must-see Mayan sites, the state of Yucatan is
home to impressive natural attractions. In the village of Homún, only one hour from M
érida, there are over 300 cenotes to discover. These natural caves filled with pristine water are perfect for refreshing swim. Cenotes de Santa Barbara is an especially good choice to visit with four stunning cenotes that can be reached by a horse and cart ride, or you can bike your way to them on the bikes provided at the lobby. Lockers and dressing rooms are available as well as a restaurant serving delicious Yucatan food cooked by Mayan women in the most traditional way.
Travelling to Yucatán state is easily done via Mérida International Airport (MID), approximately a 30-minute drive to downtown Mérida. There are several flight options. During the period of December through April, WestJet offers direct service from Toronto to Mérida every Tuesday with connecting flights across Canada. Connecting flights are also available through WestJet’s codeshare partner, Aeromexico, via Mexico City departing from Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal. There are numerous places to stay in the area ranging from chain hotels to historic boutique hotels, luxurious
haciendas and small beach resorts along the coastline, to accommodate all budgets and styles. To plan your experience visit yucatan.travel.