Isla Contoy

What it is: It is a small island in the Yucatan, approximately 30 kilometers north of Isla Mujeres. The small island was declared a National Park by the Mexican government in 1998. Only a few tour companies are allowed to bring people into the island and only a maximum of 200 daily visitors are allowed. The reserve—supervised by eco-tourism—is a safe haven for sea turtles and a sanctuary to more than 152 birds.

How to get there: This tiny hidden treasure is located 15 miles north of Isla Mujeres and just over a 2 hour boat ride from Cancun. Since the island only accepts 200 visitors a day, it must be done through a tour operator.

Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve

What it is: It is a non-profit and non-governmental organization biosphere reserve in the municipality of Tulum. The organization’s mission is the conservation of the biodiversity. It was named a national park in 1986 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987. The biosphere covers 652,000 hectares or 1.3 million acres, making it the largest protected area in the Mexican Caribbean and the largest coastal protected area in Mexico. Sian Ka’an is also the third largest protected area in Mexico.

How to get there: If you choose not to do a tour and explore on your own, you first must travel to Punta Allen. The ride is tough. Renting a 4 wheel drive is your best option. You can also take a bus to Tulum and get a cab or combi (colectivo). The combi leaves every day around 11 a.m. fairly regularly with return trips leaving Punta Allen at around 5 a.m.

Dzibilchaltun

What it is: This Mayan archeological site sits approximately 30 minutes or 10 miles north of Merida. The site is supposedly where the meteorite that killed the dinosaurs impacted Earth. The archeological site’s most famous structure is the Temple of the Seven Dolls, named as such because of the seven small effigies found there. The temple is connected to the rest of the site by a sacbe. A Sacbe is a white road named as such because sacbes where originally coated with white limestone. The other major feature of the Dzibilchaltun Mayan ruins is its cenote. The Mayan ruins also contain the ruin of a 16th century Spanish church built at the site after the conquest.

How to get there: To get to Dzibilchaltún, take the Mérida-Progreso highway north. After 11 km. you will see the sign to turn right. Drive for about 3 more km. You will see signs directing you to turn right after you pass the village. If you don't have a car, you can hire a combi (collective taxi) on Calle 69 between 62 and 64 in Merida to take you there. This is in San Juan Park where they go directly to Dzibilchaltún.

Rio Lagartos

What it is: It is a river formation in the Yucatan famous for its enormous flamingo colony and large variety of other species. It is also a picturesque fishing village with colorfully painted wooden and cement homes. Declared a “Biosphere Reserve,” with 60,000 hectares, Río Lagartos hosts the largest American flamingo population in México, with approximately 44,000 birds and with an actual record of 388 different bird species in the area.

How to get there: You can get to Río Lagartos via a travel agency, in a rented car or by bus. By car drive east to Tizimín and then go north to Río Lagartos.

Progreso

What it is: Only 30 minutes away from the gorgeous city of Merida, Progreso city offers a laid-back ambiance with all the comforts of a bustling city with the added touch of the blue Caribbean Sea and white sand beaches. This port city houses 54,000 habitants plus visitors from North America, Europe and Merida who search out the city for its tranquil beaches. This quiet Mexican town houses a lighthouse that measures 36 meters with a 700 mm diameter inaugurated in 1893. Visitors can climb the lighthouse (El Faro) and shop for trinkets and souvenirs from the shops set up right outside the lighthouse.

How to get there: Driving from Merida, go north on Calle 60 or Paseo de Montejo until you reach Progreso. Public transportation is provided by Autoprogreso and operates several times an hour from their terminal on Calle 62 between 65 and 67.

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About the Author

Pamela Acosta is a Mexican travel photographer and writer for Yucatan Holidays. She is seeking to travel throughout the Yucatan Peninsula, Riviera Maya & Cancun in an attempt to capture beauty and wonder in words & pixels. Follow Pamela on Twitter.

 

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