Yucatan Peninsula

The Yucatan Peninsula, in southeastern Mexico, separates the Caribbean Sea from the Gulf of Mexico, with the northern coastline on the Yucatán Channel. The peninsula lies east of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, a northwestern geographic partition separating the region of Central America from the rest of North America.

The peninsula comprises the Mexican states of Yucatán, Campeche, and Quintana Roo, the northern part of the nation of Belize, and Guatemala's northern department of El Petén.

Not many places in the world have more to offer regarding outdoor activities than this part of Mexico with its amazing biological preserves offering bikers, hikers, kayakers and other outdoor enthusiasts many opportunities to spot animals and birds few people see in the wild. Even a short day trip can give you a chance to see wild life you thought you could only see on TV or in the movies.

The Yucatán Peninsula comprises a significant proportion of the ancient Maya Lowlands although the ancient Maya culture extended further south through present Guatemala and into Honduras and highland Chiapas. There are many Maya archaeological sites throughout the peninsula; some of the better-known are Chichen Itza, Tulum and Uxmal. Indigenous Maya and Mestizos of partial Maya descent still make up a sizable portion of the region's population, and Mayan languages are still widely spoken there.

In the late historic and early modern eras, the Yucatán Peninsula was largely a cattle ranching, logging, chicle and henequen production area. Since the 1970s (and the fall of the world henequen and chicle markets due to the advent of synthetic substitutes), the Yucatán Peninsula has reoriented its economy towards tourism, especially in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo. Once a small fishing village, Cancún in the northeast of the peninsula has grown into a thriving city. The Riviera Maya, which stretches along the east coast of the peninsula between Cancún and Tulum, currently has more than 50,000 beds and is visited by many thousands of tourists every year. The best-known locations are the formerly fishing town of Playa del Carmen, the ecological parks Xcaret and Xel-Há and the Mayan ruins of Tulum and Coba.

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