Hot and historic, Yucatan Peninsula Mexico travel is the way to lounge on the white sand beaches of Playa del Carmen and Cancun and also explore historical sites and nature reserves.

A few hours inland from the nightlife of Cancun lies the regional capital of Merida, a colonial city with 17th century cathedrals, wide plazas, and narrow streets to wander. The Gran Museo del Mundo Maya houses a collection of Maya artifacts, which is a great starting point before carrying on to see the ruins sprinkled throughout this region.

A colonial walled city with pastel buildings and cobblestone streets awaits in Campeche, a UNESCO World Heritage Site built in the 18th and 19th century. Nearby find Mayan ruins amid the jungles.

The Maya ruins of Tulum are perched right next to glimmering turquoise waters of the Caribbean. One of the New Seven Wonders of the World, Chichen Itza in Yucatan was a great city of the Mayan empire from 750 to 1200 A.D. Climb the 365 steps of this UNESCO World Heritage Site to view this astounding remnant of an ancient civilization. At sunset on the spring and autumn equinoxes, a shadow of a serpent falls on the pyramid and slithers down to join a stone serpent head at the base of the structure. The Maya could predict solar eclipses and an ancient observatory remains on-site.

During your Yucatan Peninsula vacation, you can also travel through small villages where locals still follow a slower, more relaxed way of life amid natural wonders. The Celestun Biosphere Reserve is a wildlife retreat for winter migrating birds and home to mangrove forests and a vibrant colony of flamingos. The Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with thousands of species of flora and fauna, lagoons, reefs, and tropical forests. Try local mangoes and jicama sprinkled with chili and lime to refuel after your adventures.

The sapphire-colored waters of the Caribbean coast’s Maya Riviera provide some of the best snorkeling in the world. Swim through schools of fish in the coral reefs and float with whale sharks at Isla Holbox’s Yum Balam reserve. At the Isla Mujeres Turtle Farm off the coast of Cancun, watch thousands of hatchlings scurry across the powdery sand into the crystal waters of the Yucatan Peninsula.