Today is a special day of travel, as we travel to a new part of Mexico. I have heard some great things about Yucatan, so we are going to head out to this state. It is very close to Mexico City, so it is a perfect place to go for our first trip out of the country. We are going to stay in the city of Merida for a couple of days, to get our bearings and start exploring the area.
I have been going to Mexico since I was a kid, but this last year I finally made the trip to the Yucatan Peninsula. The region is an off-the-beaten-path oasis of ancient Mayan ruins, beautiful beaches, crystal-clear rivers, and the Guatemalan jungle. And in this part of Mexico, it is easy to feel like you are in another world.
Now that tourists are again flocking to attractive international destinations, the Mexican state of Yucatan is trying to distinguish itself from its neighbor Quintana Roo. The latter is home to popular tourist destinations such as Cancún, Playa del Carmen, Cozumel and Tulum; geographically, it lies alongside the former in a larger area known (incorrectly) as the Yucatan Peninsula.
While Quintana Roo has more famous and developed tourist destinations, the state of Yucatan, considered the gateway to the Mayan world, has many unique authentic places that offer visitors cultural and historical discoveries, as well as unparalleled encounters with nature. Especially in the wake of the pandemic, the country’s government and tourism authorities are emphasizing slow, eco-friendly travel while maintaining the integrity of the services offered.
Many people still don’t know what Yucatan is and what Cancún is. Many people go to Cancun thinking they’re going to Yucatan, said Michel Friedman, Yucatan’s minister of tourism, in a recent interview.
The state of Yucatan is covered in lush semi-tropical rainforest and offers a variety of natural wonders, including Las Coloradas, bright pink saltwater lagoons separated from the sea by a narrow strip of land and usually home to pink flamingos. The region is also home to 19 archaeological sites open to visitors, who can immerse themselves in the remains of the ancient Mayan world. There are also entire cities with historic colonial architecture where guests are more likely to find charming bed-and-breakfasts than large chain hotels.
Friedman stressed that her country does not see Cancún as a competitor, but as a complement. So we understand that Cancún, its infrastructure and connectivity allow us to attract more tourists to our state. We are now trying to educate agencies, airlines, media and tourists about our situation and the experiences we can offer, which are very different from those in Quintana Roo.
We have thousands or millions of years of history, and Cancún is maybe 50 or 60 years old, she said. Our state has nearly 400 kilometers of beaches, more than 3,600 cenotes, Mayan villages, haciendas – in short, there’s a lot to see and it’s all part of the Yucatan.
With each visit, it becomes clear that this region, first inhabited by the ancient Maya, is culturally distinct from other parts of Mexico. The Maya culture is a living culture in Yucatan, we dress differently, we eat differently, the traditions are different – especially since we live with the Maya culture everywhere. Many families still speak the Mayan language, Friedman says.
We are working hard on new products throughout the state, in all six regions of the state, because we believe in sustainability, which means tourism should be for everyone and everyone should be involved in the industry. We have enabled development and investment, the creation of new products and the training of people throughout the country.
Because the Yucatan is easily accessible by car from Cancun’s international airport, travelers can easily visit parts of Quintana Roo and the Yucatan in one trip and enjoy the best of both worlds. It is also a small state that can be driven from one end to the other in a few hours, with excellent roads and infrastructure. As a result, it is freely accessible to visitors who want to explore the main sights, including those who arrive by cruise ship and can only spend a day there.
The area is also a particularly safe place for recreation. Since the US State Department began issuing separate travel advisories for each state, rather than for Mexico as a whole, this is the first time Yucatán has received Level 1 – the lowest possible level of precaution.
In the state of Yucatan, more than 100 percent of pre-pandemic air traffic has already been restored. New routes from Oakland and Dallas are now in service, and frequencies on existing routes have been increased. The main airlines serving this destination are United and American Airlines, as well as Canadian carrier WestJet and Mexican carrier Volaris.
Shipping traffic is also being restored with the return of cruise ships to Puerto Progreso in the Gulf of Yucatan, Mexico. Carnival Cruise Lines is one of the main operators. Thanks to the improved port infrastructure and the state’s exemplary health and safety certifications, other cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean, Virgin Voyages, MSC Cruises and Disney Cruise Lines have expressed interest in returning this year.
For more information, visit yucatan.travel/en.
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