Jutting into the Caribbean, the Yucatán peninsula sprang to fame in the 1970s with the development of the Cancún beach resorts. With easy access, this is Mexico’s most popular tourist destination, now extending down the Riviera Maya (and a hire car is a practical way of making the most of a visit).
Campeche is a charming colonial port with many restored buildings and an old fort that helped it to become a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999. It also has a lovely zócalo and is one of the most photogenic colonial cities in Mexico.
Mérida is a large colonial city with many beautiful churches and museums to explore. Accommodation ranges from boutique city hotels, to elegant and historic haciendas in the surrounding countryside which also provide a glimpse of rural life.
Easily the best known and well-restored of Yucatán Maya archaeological sites, Chichén-Itzá is also the largest in the Yucatán, with a monumental ball court and plenty of gory carvings attracting many visitors each day.
Whether you choose the lively resorts like Playa del Carmen or Isla Mujeres, or a secluded luxury hotel, stunning beaches and crystal-clear waters are guaranteed. To the south is Tulum, with many small beachfront properties, Maya sites nearby and the tranquil biosphere reserve of Sian Ka’an.
Off the northern Yucatán coast is Isla Holbox, a protected island of mangrove and idyllic beaches famous for excellent wildlife viewing (whale sharks are present from June to September), and is a good choice to escape the crowds.