- Travel Topics
Beating the winter blues is easy to say and not so easily achieved when it gets dark in the north in the late afternoon and rains near-constantly for a large part of the year. One of the simplest solutions is a winter break; it offers the best way to boost your mood and see the sun before spring, not to mention bring back an unseasonal tan. There are any number of winter sun destinations out there worth a look, but winter holidays to Mexico have got to be near the top.
White-sand beaches, jungle-covered ruins, foods so tempting you could spend all day trying them and a paradise above and below the waves, it’s hard to pinpoint even one corner of this vast and surprising country. Each region offers so much personality and so much variety in its people and culture, but for the perfect combination of lazy resorts, historical interest and an opportunity to explore, the Yucatan Peninsula is a great choice.
The area’s major stop-offs include Cancun, an unapologetic seaside town where days are spent floating on the ocean or lounging at the beach, cocktail in hand. For a bit more adventure, there are plenty of tour companies offering you the chance to swim with Sea Turtles or take part in a wide variety of water-sports. Night-time heralds party time in Cancun and the atmosphere adjusts accordingly, from relaxed to high-octane.
Smaller towns such as Playa del Carmen offer a similar vibe but with a little more sophistication and a more intimate feel. Once a fishing village, this beachfront resort is a good choice for experiencing the Mexican Caribbean on a manageable scale. Base yourself here for water-sports such as deep-sea fishing and windsurfing, while the Isla Cozumel out in the bay provides plenty of colourful underwater scenery to enjoy with snorkelling or scuba gear.
Also known as the Mexican Riviera, this stretch of idyllic coastline is home to plenty more sights to enjoy whilst working on that winter tan. Tulum is almost too low-key and relaxed to call a resort and with the impressive Mayan ruins that grace the cliff-tops here, it has a lot more interest beyond the surf and sand. This said, the beach here is a stunning one, and feels positively under-populated compared with Playa or Cancun.
Elsewhere, the “cenotes” or underground sinkholes which riddle the earth here are definitely worth a closer look. Natural, water-filled caves, they contain amazing rock formations, tropical fish and, in the case of Dos Ojos near Playa del Carmen, fruit bats. The interconnected twin caves here are a must-see, so hire snorkel or scuba equipment and take a tour with an experienced guide to get the best out of your time.
Away from the sparkling shores, inland Yucatan very much holds its own. The colonial city of Merida in the west of the peninsula has been called its cultural capital and even a day’s visit will be enough to see why. Wide plazas and elegant streets are lined with Spanish architecture from casas to the great cathedral. You can improve your local knowledge with the Museo Regional de Antropologia and view the vast murals inside the Palacio de Gobierno, or just comb the handicraft market and artisan stores for souvenirs.
Most people visiting this part of the country, or just Mexico in general, will head for Chichen Itza at some point during their stay. Appearing on a new list of the Seven Wonders of the World, this bucket-list classic is worth all of the hype. Impressively restored, these temples remain a great way of seeing what Mayan civilisation was like and the winter months are a good time to do it, as the worst of the crowds can be avoided.
Its true variety is what makes Yucatan such a tempting holiday spot. Fewer tourists make winter holidays here a shrewd choice and the temperatures are still pleasantly balmy in the cooler months without being overpowering. So whether you aim for coastal highlights such as Tulum, the city streets of Merida or base your stay in the party capital of Cancun, you’re certain to bring back a smile along with a suitcase full of scarves and sombreros.