CANCÚN AND THE YUCATÁN FOR FREE

1. San Bernardino Sisal, Valladolid

Google Map

An elegant Franciscan church and former convent San Bernardino Sisal has a magnificent 18th-century altarpiece, as well as walls that are covered with evocative 17th-century paintings.

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San Bernardino Sisal altarpiece

2. MACAY, Mérida

prac_info Pasaje de la Revolución • Open 10am–6pm Wed–Mon • www.macay.org

Google Map

The Museo de Arte Contemporáneo Ateneo de Yucatán (MACAY) in Mérida is home to an outstanding modern art collection, featuring works by leading Yucatecán painters such as Fernando Castro Pacheco and Fernando García Ponce.

3. Nightlife in Mérida

Google Map

Each night of the week the city center plays host to a range of live music, dance events, theatrical performances, film screenings, and other entertainment. Check out the latest schedule at the city’s (see Mérida) tourist office.

4. Izamal’s Crafts Workshops

prac_info Various locations around town • Most workshops open from around 10am–2pm & 4–7pm daily

Google Map

The small town of Izamal is famous for its crafts scene, and its woodcarvers, jewelers, hammock-makers, and other artisans are happy to show tourists round their workshops (see Market, Izamal). A map showing the locations of many such workshops is available from most hotels in town for free.

5. Palacio Centro Cultural, Campeche

Google Map

Charting the tempestuous history of Campeche, this museum offers multimedia displays and innovative exhibits, including a replica Spanish galleon. Most of the descriptions are in Spanish, though a few are also translated into English. There’s also a spectacular music and light show on weekends.

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Palacio Centro Cultural, Campeche

6. Xlapak

Google Map

The smallest and least visited of the Ruta Puuc archaeological sites, the Mayan site of Xlapak features a restored palace with doorways decorated with large, eye-catching Chac (the rain god) masks.

7. Oxkutzcab Market

prac_info From 7am daily

Google Map

This charming colonial-era town, surrounded by fruit and vegetable farms, hosts in its main square one of the liveliest and most colorful markets in the region.

8. Punta Bete Beach

Google Map

This is one of the most picturesque stretches of sand (see Punta Bete) on the Riviera Maya, and less crowded than many of its neighbors thanks to a bumpy access road.

9. Carnival

Although it’s not quite on the scale of its more famous Brazilian counterpart, carnival in Mexico is still a lively and raucous affair. Cancún, Cozumel, and Mérida host the biggest celebrations in the Yucatán region – expect costumed dancers, live music, and plenty of good food and drink. Carnival takes place in the week before Lent.

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Yucatán Carnival performers

10. Mérida Cathedral

Google Map

Dating back to the late 16th century, Mérida’s imposing cathedral is one of the oldest in Latin America.

TOP 10 BUDGET TIPS

1. Markets and snack stands are the cheapest and often the most atmospheric places to eat.

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Fried tortillas at a food stall

2. Visit in the low-season: May–June and late November–early December offer the best combinations of prices and weather.

3. The extensive public bus system is an inexpensive way to travel around the region.

4. It is cheaper to rent a car at a small agency in Mérida than in Cancún.

5. Local free magazines often have discount coupons for hotels, restaurants, and other attractions.

6. Some national monuments offer free admission for Mexican nationals on Sundays, and general admission to museums and historic sites is generally cheaper for Mexican residents.

7. Cut costs for trips and tours by getting a group together.

8. Most diving operators offer discounts for group or advance bookings, or if you book several dives at the same time.

9. Most Riviera Maya bars offer two- for-one deals for at least a few hours each night.

10. Save money by using pesos rather than US dollars.

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Mexican currency

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