Abundant tropical forests grow in this flat territory, while in the beaches, available along various kilometres, lie with smoothness the white tone of soft sand, giving way to coves, bays and mangrove swamps of exceptional beauty. And between the greenery of such a rich vegetation found in the Riviera, for the admiration of mankind, are the lagoons and cenotes of such beauty that they achieve to evoke the idea of being in paradise. Some mayan settlements took place precisely here, around the cenotes which are bodies of fresh water: a culture which possessed a notable wisdom quite close to mysticism and to the sacred. The cenote, a mayan term “ts’onot” or “dzonot”, is a structure formed in the calcareous soil with the characteristics of a cavern, rich in calcium carbonate due to rain water filtrations. Some of them were stages for sacred rituals, for example the Xtoloc in Chichen Itzá, Yucatán. Copper utensils, necklaces, plates, masks, and earrings... and even human remains! have been recovered from that place.
Economically speaking, the Mayan Riviera subsists due to the exploitation of wood found in forests, obtaining fine mahogany and cedar woods, or that of the chicozapote, a tree from which chewing gum is extracted. To this activity we must add the fishing of lobster, huachinango and couch’s sea bream, among other species, as well as the small proportioned agriculture and livestock. And, without a doubt, tourism is the activity with the greatest development, attracting great investments for the constant growing infrastructure.
The Mayan Riviera is a strip of 130 kilometres that comprises deserted beaches to modern architectural compounds with hotels, yacht clubs, sports centres, restaurants, etc. Playa del Carmen, for example, formerly a calm fishing town, nowadays lodges hotels of international prestige.
In the old days it was known as Xaman-Ha and it used to be the departure point to the sacred island of Cozumel, a place dedicated to the goddess Ixchel, fertility goddess, reason why women from all over Yucatán used to come here in canoes in order to worship the goddess of the island. Nowadays some of the mayan structures are preserved in Playa del Carmen, being the most accessible temple in Playacar.
Not very far from there is the the main ecological reserve of the area, Sian Ka’an, an habitat with a very rich flora and fauna. And the diversity is probably the main characteristic of this tourist destination: one may choose from adventure sports, the practice of golf or tennis, strolls along the forest either on foot or on horse, water sports, as well as a journey along the indescribable cultural richness and the archaelogical legacy by the mayan world. One of the most preferred activities by the visitors is diving, since the Great Mayan Reef is located here, the second longest in the entire world. Or would you rather observe the marine turtles from up close? In various areas of the Mayan Riviera, such as Tulúm or Xcacel and Xcacelito, declared in 1988 as the Marine Turtle Sanctuary, one may observe the laying of eggs of the Verde or the Caguama species (Caretta caretta or Loggerhead).
The archaelogical zones that stand out in the Mayan Riviera are those of Cobá, located 40 kilometres from Tulúm, anchored in a jungle that is surrounded by lakes and which was distinguished formerly as the capital of the empire of the southern lands. The most important building is Nohoch Mul, the Great Pyramid, the tallest pyramid of the peninsula (with 40 metres of height).
Muyil, also very close to Tulúm, is one of the most ancient cities and its name signifies “Place of the Rabbits”. It is formed by three temples surrounded by vegetation, next to a blue lake called the Lagoon of Muyil.
Tulúm, walled city located on a cliff at the edge of the sea, is one of the most important historic sites of the Mayan Riviera. A thousand years before our era, Tulum would stand out with Xcaret as one of the most crowded commercial centres among the mayans, having a central plaza utilized for ceremonies and rituals,
as well as magnificent buildings, such as the Temple of the Gods or the Temple of the Fresh, which still preserve great mural paintings.
The so called Castle is, without a doubt, the most impressive building of Tulúm, erected on top of a reef before the sea and with an extraordinary view of various kilometres of coast line in both directions.
But maybe, the most beautiful place is Xel-Ha, with a priviledged location that made it a commercial centre, a point for pilgrimage and refuge for sailors since prehispanic times. It possesses like all archaelogical areas, a great quantity or ruins, even though it is thought that most of them continue to be hidden underneath the soil. It is located 115 kilometres south of the city of Cancún and 16 kilometres north of Tulúm, along the west side of the 180 federal highway Puerto Juárez - Chetumal, not the east, where the park of Xelhá is located.
And all of this is just a brief description of what is considered to be one of the most important tourist destinations of the world: the Mayan Riviera, a place that offers to visitors a complex and assorted range of sport and recreational activities, making out of your vacation an unforgettable experience.