©iStockphoto.com/virsuziglis Image by: ©iStockphoto.com/virsuziglis
Located in the southeast, the region is culturally and culinarily vibrant (fruits, pork and lamb are staples of Yucatán cuisine), as well as also historically rich (Yucatán was the epicenter of Mayan civilization). Transat Holidays* recently launched its Experience Collection getaways to the region: the "Escapade" (a two-day, one-night venture) and the "Duo" (two unique experiences). Organized with the help of the Mexico and Yucatán tourism boards (visitmexico.com), these packages complement a Cancun all-inclusive stay with day and overnight trips to Yucatán Peninsula destinations.
Your experience could include a visit to the following tourist hotspots.
1. Grand Sirenis Mayan Beach
With its three adult pools (plus one for the kids) and lazy river, this all-inclusive resort is perfect for families. There's even a Kids Club and long sandy beach for hours of family fun. Plus, mom and dad can sneak away for alone time at the spa or a workout in the fully equipped on-site gym. Visit sirenishotels.com.
2. Rio Secreto
Literally translated, this "hidden underground river" guides visitors along a 600-metre trail that's half in water and half on dry land. Lit only by visitors' headlamps, this close up view of stalactite and stalagmite rock formations is pure natural beauty. (Rio Secreto is offered as a day trip from Grand Sirenis, and isn't part of the Experience Collection.) Visit riosecreto.com.
This colourful city, known as the Sultaness of the East, is a popular stop between Cancun and Mérida. It offers shopping, restaurants and the San Servacio church in the centre of town—one of the city's seven colonial churches. Casa de Los Venados is a privately owned home that exhibits a vast Mexican art display and opens to the public daily at 11 a.m. Visit casadelosvenados.com.
4. Ek' Balam
This lesser known Mayan ruin, which translated means "Black Jaguar," features the Acropolis pyramid. Not fully mapped until the 1980s or restored until the late '90s, this is a fairly new tourist site. Much of the structure—including the pyramid, which also features intricate carvings and statues—can be climbed.
5. Hacienda San Jose
Beautifully converted and renovated, this hacienda is located about 45 minutes from Mérida airport. Its 15 rooms are spacious and extremely private, and its pool is surrounded by Mayan hammocks. The spa, library and access to Izamal and Chichen Itza make this a perfect getaway. Visit starwoodhotels.com.
6. Hacienda Sotuta de Peon
This reinvented hacienda strives to bring back the glory of "green gold," a term given to the making of henequen fibre that's harvested from the agave plant and turned into ropes. Visitors relive the process, take a ride through the fields on a real mule train, meet a Mayan elder, and enjoy an authentic Yucatán lunch at the on-site, open-air restaurant. Visit haciendaviva.com.
This bustling city of 950,000 is a Mexican cosmopolis—particularly on the upscale street of Pasejo Montejo, constructed as an homage to the Champs-Élysée. Here you can find Rosas & Xocolate, a 19th-century mansion that's been transformed into a sexy 17-room hotel, spa and restaurant. The rooftop Moon Lounge bar features live jazz and a delectable menu, making this a must-see. Visit rosasandxocolate.com.
8. Casa del Balam
Located in the heart of Mérida, this locally owned hotel offers clean, simply decorated rooms and an outdoor swimming pool. Its terrific authentic Mexican breakfast buffet starts visitors off on their walking tour of the historic city. The free Wi-Fi and patio bar make for a perfect poolside office. Visit casadelbalam.com.
The "Yellow City" (all buildings are painted in sunshine hues), this ancient site is home to a Franciscan monk order established in 1549. The remaining 10 monks in residence are often seen roaming the halls of the historic St. Antonio de Padua church. A horse-drawn ride through the village to the steps of Kinich Kak Moo pyramid completes your visit.
10. Moon Palace Golf & Spa Resort
This luxurious and massive all-inclusive resort features 12 bars and an array of restaurants featuring fine food from around the world—Japan, Italy, Brazil, France and, of course, Mexico. Pools are designated for sports, kids, adults and the popular "Flow Rider" surf experience. With 24/7 room service, you can eat in while taking advantage of their free calls back to the U.S . and Canada. (Not part of the Experience Collection.) Visit moonpalacecancun.com.
*During peak season, Air Transat offers daily flights from Toronto, and twice-weekly ones from Calgary, to Cancun. Visit transatholidays.com for more information.
Before you head out for your flight, read our tips on staying healthy during a plane ride.