When visiting the Yucatán peninsula, most people have “Cancun” or “Cabo” on their minds. With major hotel chains popping up left and right in these very touristy beaches, it only makes sense that our minds quickly flock to these places. However, I would like to remind you that the brightest treasures usually lie off the beaten path. There is a world of color and culture that is sprinkled around the Yucatan peninsula, and I’m betting you haven’t heard of most of it. So, rather than trying to go to the same touristy beaches, think about hiring a tour company and stepping off the beaten path to experience the hidden gems, the trendy culture-filled small cities, that can be found sprinkled around Mérida in the Yucatán peninsula.
The culture in all these small cities is palpable. The Mayan heritage still lives strong in many of the communities, and there is also a lot of Asia- style inspiration found there, as well. The similarities between southeast Asia (such as Cambodia) and Yucatan are pretty uncanny, actually. Yet the pride in the Mayan culture and traditional ways found in Yucatán is strong and is what makes this peninsula truly stand out.
You can find so many talented local artisans working on their trade in each of the cities listed below. Full members of the same family can all work on the same trade from their homes, practicing centuries-old traditions. We visited a place where the family made intricately decorated bags, dresses, and hammocks, and their skills were traditionally passed down for generations. 30 family members all worked on the same trade together, and it was something that brought the family closer together. It was, honestly, a magical sight to behold.
So, if you’re looking to see color, heritage, history, and culture like you haven’t before in the beachy peninsula of Yucatán, look no further than the following hidden gems.
If you’re looking to get immersed into traditional Mayan culture, look no further than Acanceh. This small town and archaeological site has many restaurants, fondas, markets, and views that all confidently hold onto the Mayan culture. If you’re looking for something unique to do, speak with a guide at Wayak Travel & Tours and ask for them to arrange a visit to see some of the talented local artisans. Biking around the town to visit these traditional artisans at work is a unique experience you’ll remember for years to come.
Homún is a municipality near Mérida full of colonial architecture and culture. If you’re the type who has to visit cenotes when you go to Mexico, then the area of Homún is right for you. You can find countless cenotes (such as the Cenote Santa Cruz and the Cenote Santa Rosa), as well as many opportunities to ride buggies, go zip lining, or just go swimming.
How could you visit Mérida and not make at least a quick visit to Izamal? This golden yellow city is said to be a very special place, as pope John Paul II used to visit. It has the second largest Atrium in the world after the Vatican City, and it’s just an overall gorgeous place with breathtaking photo opportunities. After all, how could you not snap a gorgeous photo on your trip to the fully yellow town?
The municipality of Tekit stood out to me more than any other location around Mérida because of its talented local artisans. There are over 300 different workshops in Tekit where locals work normally as a family unit. We visited Fábrica de Guayaberas where we saw the unique, traditional fine guayabera shirts get crafted and made. While you may feel you can get shirts anywhere, the fine details in these hand-made pieces are really what makes them so distinctive. I, myself, found and got a gorgeous hat handmade by local artisans there. So, if you’re looking for that unique piece filled with culture and made with love, Tekit is for you!
Tekax is a gorgeous city surrounded by hills, and it also has a lot to offer in the adventure department. When we visited Tekax, we took an ATV tour through the city, out through the countryside and to the traditional Mayan village of San Anastasios. As we went through some of the smaller towns on our journey, I noticed some of the elderly women in the homes peaking out of their windows at us as we drove by in our ATVs while the children ran out and waved. Trees and bushes swayed into each other, hissing as we passed through the fields. Then, we arrived at San Anastasios, and I highly recommend you visit for yourself. Seeing the Mayan culture still held with pride today in the countryside of Tekax was truly a powerful image.
Don’t forget to end your day up at the San Juan Bautista cathedral where you can overlook the full beauty of Tekax. It’s a relatively easy walk up the hill for an extremely beneficial payoff. If you time it right, you can see the beauty of Tekax in the day and sit watching the city as it fades to night and all the lights pop on around you as if you’re in a story book.
Lastly, about an hour from Mérida, you will find an adventure like no other on the Yucatan peninsula. Hop on a boat and drive through the red mangroves in Celestún. On your journey, you will see an array of birds, as approximately 400,000 bird species have been found and identified in this area. Most commonly you can see flocks of flamingos hanging in the middle of the water. This biosphere has been appointed as a Wild Animal Refuge Zone since 1979, and it’s no wonder why. It’s very likely you’ll see a crocodile or two on your adventure, which makes you feel as if you’re on your very own Jungle Cruise. If you’re bold enough, you can even try swimming in some of the freshwater areas near the mangroves.
Regardless of your love for adventure, most people can easily fall in love with a tropical beach, and that’s exactly what you’ll find in Celestún, as well. The water is nice, the food is delicious, and you can easily get lost in your thoughts listening to the crashing of the waves.
Well, I’m hoping that I was able to introduce you to a multitude of places near Mérida that you haven’t heard of before. Be sure to contact Wayak Travel Tours, or your guide of choice, to orchestrate your own traditional Mayan adventure in the Yucatán peninsula today! I can honestly say it would be a great way to start your new year off right!
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE: