The Yucatan Peninsula is quite different from the rest of Mexico. A distinct change in the landscape, people and architecture as one crosses into the remoteness of the Mayan realm, is easily noticeable. The atmosphere is more relaxed and tranquil and the legacy of an ancient people is evident in the scattering of ruins within the encroaching jungle. It is an area famed for its white sand beaches, magnificent off-shore coral reefs and diving opportunities on the Caribbean coast, as well as for the region's splendid ruins: the extraordinary Mayan temples and ceremonial centres of an ancient kingdom.
The peninsula is an area of great diversity, from tropical jungle and rainforest, flat and hot countryside dotted with Mayan villages, a superb coastline with popular resorts and islands, numerous archaeological sites, and colonial towns. Once distant and inaccessible, tourism has made determined advances especially around the major places of interest, to the Mayan sites of Chichen Itza and Uxmal, and along the most visited stretch of the coast incorporating the 'party resort' of Cancun and the islands of Cozumel and Isla Mujeres. These resorts and islands have become highly sought-after package tour destinations with renowned vacation facilities.
The traditions, religious beliefs and ancient customs of today's Mayan culture are a natural part of the Yucatan's character, but large-scale tourism development has shifted many of the Mayan people to unwanted areas where they live in small settlements, scratching out an existence from their crops, and relying on the brazen publicity of the tourist brochures to endear them and their handicrafts to the tourist trade.
The Yucatan Peninsula is serviced by regular first and second-class bus services that connect Merida to Cancun and the Caribbean coast along Highway 180, via Chichen Itza. Frequent buses also travel along the coast between Cancun and Playa del Carmen. Taxis are the preferred way to get around most of the resort areas, and can also be hired to visit nearby sites, although several tours are offered to the main sites of interest on the peninsula or the islands. There are also frequent ferry services to the islands of Cozumel and Mujeres.
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