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Are you planning a fun Yucatan Itinerary and want to add some lesser-known places to escape the crowds? Then read on…
The Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico is a gorgeous place full of white sand beaches, dreamy tropical islands, pretty towns with colorful buildings and cobblestone streets, tons of Mexican culture including delicious local dishes, cenotes with crystal clear waters, and jungle-covered ruins. What’s not to love?!
I have visited this beautiful part of the world a couple of times now and I know I will definitely be back again.
But unfortunately, because it is such an amazing destination, it is also very, VERY popular. If you only plan on visiting the most well-known places in the Yucatan like Cancun, Playa Del Carmen, Chichen Itza, and Tulum – you better be OK with crowds.
Luckily, there are actually a number of places in the Yucatan where you can escape the grasp of mass tourism and all-inclusive resorts. It’s not as hard as you would think and it is so worth getting a little off the beaten path to have a more authentic experience.
I put together this list of the best places to visit in the Yucatan to get away from most of the crowds. Make sure you add at least a couple of these offbeat spots to your Yucatan Itinerary – you won’t regret it.
To avoid confusion when eating out and staying in hotels, check out these tips for tipping in Mexico.
Best Places To Add To Your Yucatan Itinerary
Valladolid is an absolute gem of a place and number one on my list of places to visit on the Yucatan. The beautifully restored historic buildings that are painted in vibrant pastels, the charming cobblestone streets, the excellent stores stocked with local art and handicrafts – there are so many reasons to love Valladolid.
And one of the more unique features of Valladolid is that there is a cenote right in town! I don’t know of any other city that has that.
Valladolid is worth so much more than a quick stop on the way to nearby Chichen Itza, and I highly recommend basing yourself here for a few days to wander around the pretty town center and visit some of the nearby cenotes and ruins.
2) Laguna Bacalar
Laguna Bacalar is a large freshwater lake in the south of the Yucatan that is known for its seven shades of blue. This pretty lake, and the town of Bacalar, are the perfect places to relax and enjoy activities on the water.
You can take a boat tour, kayak, and SUP on the lake, swim in the numerous cenotes around town, and float down the gentle currents of the river at nearby Los Rapidos.
I will admit that it has been ten years since I have been to Laguna Bacalar and it is definitely more discovered these days, but from what I have heard it is still relatively uncrowded and just as beautiful as ever – I can’t wait to go back.
3) Isla Holbox
Isla Holbox is a laid-back island with a hippie vibe off the northern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, where the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico meet. The streets are sand, there are no cars on the island, and there is a slow pace of life here that will force you to sit back and relax.
One of the best reasons to visit Holbox is to swim with whale sharks from June to September. The rest of the year the best thing to do on Holbox is to hang out at one of the calm beaches or swing in a hammock above the shallow sea.
A lot of people don’t venture to Holbox because they think it is hard to get to but you can catch a direct bus from Cancun to Chiquila and then it’s just a quick hop on the ferry to the island. Easy!
Uxmal is a brilliant alternative to Chichen Itza if you are looking to add some impressive ruins to your Yucatan itinerary but don’t want to deal with massive crowds of people.
These unique Mayan ruins were built between 700 and 1000 CE and are one of the most important and well-preserved Mayan ruins. They were built in the Puuc style and were constructed with well-cut stones and concrete.
There are numerous buildings, temples, and a great pyramid that comprise Uxmal, which means “Thrice Built”. The intricate designs and patterns in the building’s brickwork impressed me more than anything and these ruins have to be seen to be believed.
Lovely Izamal is known as the yellow city because, well, pretty much all the buildings are painted bright yellow. Izamal is a Pueblo Magico and rightfully so – it is definitely magical and very photogenic.
I loved wandering the cobbled streets, past the beautiful canary yellow buildings, and to the top of the ruined pyramid right in town. Horses and carriages line the main square and add to the fairytale vibe.
Izamal is definitely another gem to add to your Yucatan Itinerary.
6) Puerto Morelos
Puerto Morelos is home to stunning white sand beaches with translucent water, a colorful village center, excellent diving and snorkeling (the largest reef in the Western Hemisphere is just offshore!), and even a leaning lighthouse.
Life here is slow and you could easily spend a week just lazing around on the uncrowded beaches, I’d sure like to.
This is the only place on my list that I haven’t been to – yet. I have every intention of visiting because I have only heard great things about this sleepy fishing village.
Charming Merida is the largest city on the Yucatan Peninsula and the capital of the state of Yucatan. Despite being a city, it has a laidback feel to it, lots of colorful colonial-era churches and mansions, and it is an excellent base to see more in the area including beaches, cenotes, the flamingos at Celestun, Mayan ruins, and more.
I hope I have convinced you to venture away from the Yucatan Peninsula hotspots to see more of why this place is so special.
If you want to ensure you are safe when drinking out of a tap abroad, I recommend taking a LARQ self-cleaning and purifying water bottle with you on your travels – I love mine.
The Best Travel Insurance For Your Yucatan Trip
Make sure you get travel and health insurance before your Mexico trip. Safety Wing is my go-to and they are cheap and easy to claim with.
Safety Wing also allows you to sign up when you are already traveling, unlike a lot of other travel insurance providers.
If you liked this post, check out some of my other Mexico posts:
- How To Hike Between the Pueblos Mancomunados Villages in Mexico
- Turquoise Dreaming on the Yucatan Coast of Mexico
- Beautiful Chiapas: Mexico’s Undiscovered State
- A Week on the Steamy Pacific Coast of Mexico