Once part of an extensive Mayan empire, the Yucatán Peninsula is these days better known as one of Mexico's most enduring tourist attractions. Little wonder when the so-called Riviera Maya, the famous ruins of Chichen Itza and the charming colonial city of Mérida are all located on this isolated stretch of land. Blessed with resplendent sunshine and the bright, sandy beaches of the Caribbean-facing Cancún, there's no shortage of visitors eager to relax on Mexico's unique Yucatán Peninsula.
Once the party capital of Central America, these days Cancún is a somewhat more subdued seaside resort. It may have lost some of its lustre since its heyday in the 1970s, however its prime location facing the Caribbean Sea ensures it remains an ever-popular tourist destination. Indeed, Cancún's pride of place is the endless stretch of warm-water beaches teeming with swimmers cavorting in its turquoise waters. The water-based fun doesn't end there, with dolphin discovery tours, snorkelling and guided scuba dives all popular exploits in this glamorous coastal city.
When Christopher Columbus took his first tentative steps in the so-called New World, he was unaware that indigenous civilisations were already flourishing. One of the most powerful was the Mayan and the remains of Chichén Itzá are an impressive reminder of their power and prestige. This vast complex was one of the largest Maya cities and contains an overwhelming array of architectural styles and structures. Like many of the great Maya cities, the ruins of Chichén Itzá lay forgotten amidst dense Mexican jungle for hundreds of years, however it's now one of the Yucatán's most popular tourist sites.
Mérida is Yucatán's charming state capital and this sizeable city owes much to its Spanish roots. Named after the Spanish birthplace of three consquistadors, Mérida was actually built atop a former Mayan city and is sometimes referred to as the oldest continually-occupied city anywhere in the Americas. Today it houses a fascinating mix of Spanish colonial and Mayan influences, and the city's famous 'centro histórico' district is one of the largest in Central America.