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Amid soaring demand for international travel, Mexico continues to grow in popularity, easily claiming the place of most visited country by Americans.
Despite their love for Mexico, with its laid-back atmosphere and incredible culture, one of the things that lingers on the minds of American vacationers is security. After all, Mexico is repeatedly portrayed in the media as a place where crime happens regularly and where gang activity is rampant.
Most of these complaints are unfoundedas anyone who has been south of the border knows, but there are are areas of Mexico where caution is advised, like any other country, and where one could argue that tourism should be discouraged.
Fortunately, there is other parts where security risks are minimal, and tourists are welcome for a stress-free holiday. This is the case of the lesser known Yucatan, the safest state in Mexico and also one of the most beautiful:
The safest state in Mexico
Not to be confused with the Yucatan Peninsula, of which it is a part, the Yucatan State has been named the safest tourist destination in Mexico by US authorities.
According to the State Department, it is one of only two Mexican states to have been granted Tier 1 status.
If you are used to following State Department updates, you will know that this is the best status a destination can seek, as it essentially means that security levels are high and normal precautions apply.
Understanding US Travel Advisories
For example, some of the safest and most stable countries in the world have been added to the Tier 1 list, including Iceland and Finland, where crime and violence rates are remarkably low.
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Level 2 applies to countries or territories where criminal activity may be taking place or disruption may be occurring, whether protests or terrorism, and greater caution is required, although travel is not discouraged because the risks are not significant.
At level 3, however, trips need to be “reconsidered”, either due to security concerns – read about Colombia – or major civil unrest, the case recently with Peru. Level 4 is reserved for prohibited countries where the threat to life is significant, such as countries at war (Russia and Ukraine) or hostile states such as North Korea.
Mexico is such a popular destination for Americans going on vacation that US authorities are issuing individual advisories from each Mexican state or territory individually, while the country is, on average, at Level 2, Yucatan is one of the two safest states.
The only other state to be added to Tier 1 is Campeche, also in the Yucatan Peninsula.
One of the most beautiful but lesser known regions of Mexico
Yucatan is located at the northern end of the Yucatan Peninsula, and it has a rich history prior to the arrival of the Spanish colonizers.
Like much of the wider Maya world, the region had great significance within the Maya civilization as the location of several important city-states and small settlements.
The legendary Chichen Itza, once one of the most powerful Mayan cities and now a world-renowned archaeological site, lies within the state’s borders.
After the European conquest, Yucatan underwent profound changes, particularly concerning its cultural and social development. The Spaniards brought their colonial architecturerazed Maya villages and decimated or forced the native population to assimilate.
As a result of colonization, Yucatan culture is now an amalgamation of Mayan and Spanish influences. It’s a land where you’re also likely to find European-style towns that wouldn’t seem out of place in Spain, and much older Mayan temples shrouded in myth.
An exciting state capital
The capital is Merida, a typical colonial gem built on the ashes of the ruined Mayan Ti’ho in the early 16th century.
A big dynamic city, Merida has been described in a United Nations report as the best place to live in Mexico based on social markers such as the Human Development Index and Urban Safety and as a regional center for culture, having been named the capital of the cultivation in North America twice.
Its historic center would be the third largest in the Americasand Mérida’s famous cathedral, built from dismantled Ti’ho stones, is one of the oldest in the Americas, completed in 1598.
Mérida has enough attractions to fill an entire article or a week-long itinerary, but you’ll want to get out of town to experience the real magic of Yucatan.
Beaches and preserved nature
Straddling the Gulf of Mexico, the state is teeming with gorgeous beach areaslike Progreso, a booming resort with a more “cool” vibe compared to Tulum in Quintana Roo.
The beaches here are pristine and the sea is crystal clear, and if you’re lucky enough you might spot a blaze of flamingos as they feed in the shallow waters.
El Cuyo is another popular bathing spot a short drive from Mérida and a small fishing village still tarnished by overdevelopment, home to a number of luxury hotels and resorts.
Further inland there is many cenotes and other Mayan-era subterranean complexes to discover, as well as historic ruins that will soothe the history buff in you.
Mayan ruins and colonial treasures
Other than, of course, Chichen Itza, there are some incredible and not very popular ruins to visit in Ek’ Balamin the northern Maya lowlands, and Uxmalfamous for its unique, rounded Pyramid of the Magician.
The state is also the proud home of four Magical Towns, as defined by Mexican tourism authorities. here are the ‘Yellow City’ of Izamal, Valladolid, Sisal and Mani.
The title is awarded to destinations known to have contributed massively to Mexican identity through their culture or historical relevance, reaffirming Yucatan’s prestige as a cultural hotspot.
Given these amazing attributes, it’s not hard to see why it’s considered one of the most beautiful areas in Mexico.
How to get to Yucatan
Mérida has an international airport welcoming flights operated by the following airlines departing from these American hubs:
Dallas/Fort Worth, Miami
Soon, visitors to the Yucatan Peninsula will enjoy non-stop train connections to Mérida and other tourist destinations in the state of Yucatan from Cancun and Cancun Airport, when the highly anticipated Maya Train launches in December.
The new tourist train, that of Mexico biggest infrastructure project in yearsaims to improve connectivity across the Yucatan Peninsula and its three states and bring tourists closer to smaller destinations where international flights are not as frequent.
Traveler alert: Don’t forget travel insurance for your next trip!
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com