While a trip to the Yucatán Peninsula is not complete without visiting the beaches of Cancún or the world-famous Mayan ruins of Chichén Itzá, this part of Mexico has plenty of other less-visited attractions that make for a memorable experience. Here are five underrated places you should visit in Yucatán.
Jardín Botánico Dr. Alfredo Barrera Marín
These botanical gardens in Puerto Morelos cover an astonishing 65 acres. If you want to soak up Yucatán’s natural beauty, exploring the flora and fauna of Jardín Botánico Dr. Alfredo Barrera Marín is for you. Along winding trails, you will find palms, ferns, orchids, cacti, and other plants that were all used in traditional Mayan medicine. The gardens are also home to much wildlife, including a coastal troop of spider monkeys.
The many attractions of Mérida
Although Mérida is not exactly underrated, the city offers so many places to visit, that you will always be able to find somewhere new. In the vibrant capital of Yucatán state, you could learn more about the Mayan people by visiting the Gran Museo del Mundo Maya Mérida, wander the Lucas de Galvez market where you will find fresh vegetables, local clothing, and artisan crafts, or attend one of the city’s many festivals and events. Come the evening, you could check out live music at trendy La Negrita, catch a drag queen show at PK2, or visit Casino Life Merida, which features a host of casino games as well as televised live sporting events. Alternatively, you could head up the colorful spiral staircase to the terrace at Cubaro bar and play live casino games on your phone.
There is not a great deal to do on Isla Mujeres, but that is why it is underrated and most certainly worth a visit. The vibe on the island, which is only a twenty-minute ferry ride from Cancún, is slow and extremely peaceful. If you are looking for somewhere to relax and get away from it all, the sleepy island is ideal. You can stroll along the quiet sandy beaches, meander through the market stalls, and watch the sun go down over the sea. If you are feeling more adventurous, you can go snorkeling, but watch out for the sharks.
Laguna de Bacalar
While most visitors understandably head to the glorious beaches in Yucatán, such as the ones in Tulum and Cancún, some of the best scenic water in the region is not the ocean, but a lake. The long and narrow Laguna de Bacalar, or Lake Bacalar in English, is around 26 miles long and 1.25 miles wide at its widest point. The lake is nicknamed The Lake of Seven Colors, and it is easy to see why. Its striking color and water clarity are due to its white limestone bottom. If you want to explore the largest lake in the Yucatán peninsula, the best way is to hire a kayak or a stand-up paddleboard.
While most people flock to Chichén Itzá, the Yucatán peninsula is home to many other Mayan ruins. For a lesser-visited site off the beaten path, check out the ruins of the ancient Coba city, which dates back to 600 – 900 AD. It is believed that 100,000 Mayans once occupied the city. Coba is located in a remote and dense jungle and surrounded by two gorgeous lagoons, making it a truly breathtaking sight. But it also makes it challenging to explore. Excavations are still occurring at Coba. Only a fraction of the 6,500 structures has been uncovered thus far. The main attraction is the Nohoch Mul pyramid, which is the largest temple pyramid of the Yucatán peninsula. You will certainly be rewarded with an amazing view if you climb the 120 steps of the pyramid.