South East, Mexico
Once being one of the country's poorest and most backdraw areas, Quintana Roo has experienced in the last two decades an impressive development. Quintana Roo is best known for its idyllic beaches, with clear turquoise warm water and soft white sands. Dazzling resorts such as Cancún and Cozumel combine with the laid-back atmosphere of Puerto Morelos. Quintana Roo offers diverse options catered to different preferences, ranging from snorkling, fishing and scuba diving in its heavenly beaches to visiting the impressive Maya Ruins at Tulum or Cobá.
Tulum constitutes the largest Mayan coastal city, and the only Maya city known to have been inhabited when the conquistadores arrived. Known as the City of the Dawn, or City of Renewal, Tulum ruins have Toltect influence, resulting at the decline of the Mayan civilisation.
The spectacular setting against the blue-green waters of the Caribbean and proximity to Cancún and Islas Mujeres explain why Tulum is the most visited archaeological site in the Yucatán Peninsula. Built as a fortress, the most significant structures are the two-story Temple of the Frescoes, the Castillo and the Temple of the Descending God. Open daily from 8 am to 5 pm. Admission: 2 USD. Free on Sunday.
Cancún was built in the 1970s as an investment to develop the tourism business by the Mexican Government. Cancún results as a brand new worldwide resort, with luxury hotels extended along the island's shore 23-km-long (14 mi), forming the shape of a "7", the lucky number. The dazzling white sand, light in weight and cool underfoot, of its beaches combined with the crystalline Caribbean waters and temperatures averaging at about 80°F (26.6ºC), makes Cancún a pure delight for the visitors.
Isla Mujeres (Island of Women) is a tranquil and relaxed alternative in a tropical setting, with warm and turquoise waters. Only about 8 km (5 mi) long by 1 km (½ mi) wide, Isla Mujeres is flat, with sandy beaches on its northern end (Playa Cocoteros and Playa Norte are the most popular ones) and in the south along the western shore. The eastern shore is steep, with rocky bluffs facing open sea. Due to its proximity to Cancún, the Island has turned into a small-scale tourist destination, although it is still peaceful, with a rich culture centered on the sea. One of the existing theories of the name's origins is that the Spanish conquerors found onshore clay idols of Maya goddesses. Another explanation claims the Spaniards found only women when they arrived.
Cozumel (Place of the Swallows) provides a balance between Cancún and Isla Mujeres. Cozumel is about 53 km (33 mi) long and 15 km (9 mi) wide, the largest of Mexico's islands. With only 3% of the island developed, Cozumel offers sandy and rocky beaches, superb coral reefs, quiet little coves, dense jungles, lagoons and swamps; a perfect place for snorkelers and divers and those in search of a relaxing and friendly atmosphere. The island, a Mayan settlement from 300 AD, flourished both as a major ceremonial site and a commercial centre.
Cozumel Tours: Experience the breathtaking beauty of Contoy island with this unique boating tour. The tour includes at leats two hours sailing in a replica of the Columbus vessel, snorkelling, a tour of the island and scenic views from a 20-metre high observatory tower.
Mexico Regional Landmarks
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Image supplied by Jeff Thomas