Friday, 29 June 2012 9:24 AM
A holiday in Yucatan promises much to keep activity lovers busy. One day you will be exploring ancient Mayan ruins and the next snorkelling in a cave deep underground. Indeed, this peninsula in Mexico is one of the most popular resorts in the country.
Read on to find out more about some of the top things to see and do during your time travelling here.
Discover Chichen Itza
Chichen Itza is one of the most famous Mayan sites in Mexico and was once among the civilisation's largest and most diverse cities. The site is considerable in size and has numerous fascinating features, from the El Castillo pyramid to the Great Ball Court.
The pyramid is a true marvel as during the spring and autumn equinox a shadow is cast down one side of the structure, with the sun illuminating the side of the staircase and the serpent head sculpture at the base. This creates the illusion of a snake formed from light slivering down the stones.
However, it is the Great Ball Court which is perhaps most famous. Just as its name suggests, this 150 m pitch has benches, carved stone ball hoops and intricate carved panels that show the players. An interesting feature is that the height of the walls and the temple at each end means that even a whisper can be clearly heard between two people stood at either end of the court - despite being more than 500 ft away. Even the wind has no effect on this phenomenon.
Merida is the next natural stop for you after visiting Chichen Itza as it is the capital of Yucatan and home to many of the ancient Mayans' decedents. Today, the city offers a rich blend of Mayan and Spanish culture for you to experience.
Make your way straight to the Plaza Grande - or el Zocalo - which is a real social hub. Around the square sit beautiful old buildings like the city cathedral. On some evenings, locals dress in their finery in order to enjoy a stroll as the sun sets and brass bands perform for free, helping to create a really magical atmosphere.
Relax in Campeche
By spending a few days in the city of Campeche, you'll be able to relax or take the opportunity to explore more ancient Mayan ruins. This walled city is the only one of its kind in the New World to stand on the coast, which makes it a particularly beautiful spot.
Uxmal is one of the Mayan sites you can visit, where there is a carved temple that was built to honour the God of Rain, Chac. You can also trek down the Mayan trade route to Palenque. Some of the relics here date back to centuries before the time of Christ, yet the dense jungle that surrounds it meant it lay abandoned for generations following the exodus of the Mayans.
All that exploring in a tropical climate can see you work up a sweat, so take the opportunity to dive into the cool waters of the Misol Ha waterfall. This beauty spot in the jungle is like a piece of paradise on earth.
Dive into a cenote
If you thought Misol Ha was beautiful, wait until you see Cenote Azul, one of Mexico's beautiful cenotes. These are underground water holes that have been created by the rock below collapsing into a void.
One of the best places to experience these is at the Discover Hidden Worlds Cenotes Park, where you are able to dive into azure waters beneath the lush jungle above and explore the underground caverns by snorkelling. Another treat is to cruise on the Lagoon of Seven Colours at Bacalar, where you can marvel at the stunning views before swimming through the refreshing waters.
Playa del Carmen
Activity fans don't like staying stationary for long, but due to the Mexican heat it is important you take some time out to chill during your adventure. This is particularly the case when you are visiting sugar-soft beaches lined with palms, such as Playa del Carmen.
However, if you just can't stay still, take advantage of the opportunities there are here to learn to scuba dive so you can see some of Mexico's treasures that lie beneath the ocean's surface. Once the sun sets, the beach comes alive to the sound of a reggae beat as holidaymakers and locals come together to dance under the stars.