Day of the Dead celebrations & beaches may be the things that come to mind when you think of Mexico, but Stephanie Hower says there’s so much more to the country than you realise.

Despite Cancun and Playa del Carmen having a reputation for being the beach holiday and party hotspots of Mexico’s east coast, they are also gateways to many ancient natural and cultural sites, some thousands of years old.

If you’re craving a dose of unique ancient history to explore on your Mexican getaway, here are 3 sites you can’t miss during your next visit to the country’s Caribbean coast.

 

CENOTES

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Cenotes are intricate underground water systems, formed thousands of years ago when the coastline was once submerged under water.

Some extend for hundreds of kilometres and even interconnect with one another at various points. Water has remained within the chasms, creating stunning natural swimming holes and remarkable underwater caves.

Already sounds cool right? This is the best part…

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You can actually get right in and explore them, by scuba diving, snorkelling or swimming. Scuba diving is only allowed in some sites and requires a high degree of buoyancy control (plus plenty of courage) to navigate the dark caverns and avoid damaging the stalactites and stalagmites protruding from above and below.

If enclosed spaces aren’t your thing, snorkelling or swimming in the cenotes is equally as magnificent.

 

CHICHEN ITZA

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A trip to Mexico wouldn’t be complete without a visit to one of the new seven wonders of the world, Chichen Itza.

The UNESCO World Heritage site is located on the Yucatan peninsula, about a 2.5-hour drive inland from the coast and boasts the iconic pyramid of Chichen Itza, along with other remaining structures from the ancient Mayan city.

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Standing at 30 metres tall, with 365 steps to represent each day of the year, ‘El Castillo’, or the Pyramid of Kukulcan, continues to be the tourist favourite, with the surrounding ruins complimenting the centre structure.

 

RUINS OF TULUM

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The beachside paradise of Tulum is home to a cliffside Archaeological Zone overlooking the spectacular Caribbean Sea.

After you’ve spent some time soaking up the clear azure water, make your way up to the ancient Mayan trading city, surrounded by a limestone wall which still remains.

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Here, you’ll find the ruins of temples, intricate carvings and even a castle, all well-preserved against a backdrop that’s hard to beat.

 

What are you waiting for? Vamos!

 

Where in Mexico is your ideal holiday spot?