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Mexico’s Riviera Maya is the most sought after vacation spot among American sun seekers.
Famous for its opulent resort areas, where guests can experience life in world-class five-star properties, gorgeous coastline, and Mayan heritage, it attracted more than 30 million tourists last year alone.
However, there is a major drawback:
Places like Cancun, Tulum and Playa del Carmen, three of the busiest stretches of beach on the Riviera, have fallen victim to their own success, reporting disturbing levels of tourism and ridiculous prices, sometimes even higher than what you see. north of the border, but not all hope is lost for the wary visitor in the crowd.
There’s a lesser known seaside town, a little less than four hours of travel from Cancun, yet to fall under the control of big brands and international developers.
In fact, it is said to be one of the last remaining hidden gems of the Riviera Maya, although it is so beautiful that it might not stay that way for long:
A rarely visited natural oasis
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Tizimin is coastal territory that most American tourists never venture into or easily bypass on their way from Cancun to the north coast of Quintana Roo.
It may not be as well known as the increasingly popular province of Mérida, nor the car-free islands off the Yucatán coast, but it is home to an impressive little town called river lizardsstill undiscovered by the Instagram hordes, or ruined by internationalization.
The town is located on the banks of the Ría Lagartos (with a to), a calm lagoon that is part of a larger natural park, protected by UNESCO as a biosphere reserve. However, unlike the famous Tik Tok Lake of Seven Colors, in the extreme south of the Peninsula, Ría Lagartos is much more picturesque.
You won’t find a large number of tour boats plying these waters, as authorities have designated the area a heritage site, and the natural sights look much more unspoiled and tranquil than anywhere I’ve seen before. probably anywhere in Yucatan.
The main attraction of Ría Lagartos is the dreamy Las Coloradas, a pink lake in the municipality that extends over a wetland region that covers 150,000 acres.
A bubblegum pink lake
the waters are literally bubblegum pinkeasily distinguishing them from other lagoons in Mexico, which are normally crystal clear, and the reserve is inhabited by a wide variety of animals, including pink flamingosother unique-looking and colorful birds, crocodiles, and wild big cats, including jaguars, making it an ideal spot for wildlife sightings.
In fact, spotting crocodiles is extremely common in Río Lagartos, so much so that, in English, the name of the town translates as ‘crocodile river‘.
The best season to visit is between May and July, also known as the ‘dry season’, while muddy rainwater has yet to affect the pink hue of the lagoon.
the waters are not open to swimmersas they are supervised by a salt factory, but tourists can still reserve seats on guided tours to see them up close and try to snap a photo.
There are numerous reputable tour companies operating from Río Lagartos, and even in the southeast to Cancún.
The town itself is best known for its fishing culture, although it is slowly becoming a tourist destination as a result of fishing bans imposed by the Yucatan State Government.
A world-class dining destination
It is still very much a fishing village, and some of the best seafood in all of Yucatan It can be found here.
From octopus drenched in exotic spices to scallops drizzled with lime and fried fish, a visit to any of the few restaurants that line the main street of Río Lagartos will be an enriching and delicious experience.
As the main source on everything related to the Mexican Caribbean, the Cancun sun suggests that visitors pay a visit to La Mojarrita. Described as a ‘lovely’ restaurant, has amassed over 300 reviews on Google so far, and has been rated an average of 4.7 stars out of 5.
Patrons are particularly impressed by the tradition applied to the cuisine and seafood dishes, not to mention that the restaurant has a lovely, distinctly electric blue exterior that adds to the overall tropical vibe.
There are other incredible attractions nearby, such as visiting crocodile farms, where you can approach safely, under supervision and with all the security measures taken, and even feed the reptiles.
River tours are a popular activity Also, as the boat travels along the waterways where flamingos are known to migrate.
You should get your camera ready as you are likely to see more than one extravagance of the graceful pink-feathered beings as they waddle gently along the shallow banks.
ancient mayan ruins
This is Yucatan, after all, synonymous with millennial heritage and mayan ruinsand for any history buff who likes to combine a nature escape with cultural immersion, you’ll be glad to hear about the mystique ek balam It is only an hour’s drive from Río Lagartos.
It’s one of the oldest and best-preserved Mayan ruins in this far north of the Yucatan, filled with temples built to honor long-forgotten pre-Columbian deities, stepped pyramids, and the iconic Mayan ballcourts.
Maya cenotes they are also abundant: these underwater chambers were considered by the defeated civilization as a gateway to the underworld, and had great importance within their culture as a sacrificial altar.
Now, tourists can descend to the cenotesand in some of them, they are even able to swim. Such is the case at Xcanche, where you are allowed to take a dip in the bright blue waters, a great way to cool off from the prevailing humidity, or slide down the cenote when you feel adventurous enough.
How to Get to Rio Lagartos
The closest airports to Río Lagartos are international cancunwhere most of the tourists heading to the Mexican Caribbean will land, and the smallest hub in Mérida, the capital of the state of Yucatán.
From Cancun, there are numerous tourism companies that offer day tours or private transfers from the Hotel Zone to Río Lagartos; more specifically, to the Ría Lagartas reserve and Las Coloradas lagoon.
The total distance traveled is 3h26.
From Mérida, the trip is shorter at 2:40, although there are no regular buses that operate on the route. The best way to get there is to rent a car or join a group on a guided tour.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com