For many people the Yucatan represents Cancun, the Mayan Riviera, and Chichen-Itza. While each of these locations posses many positive attributes for the wayfarer, there are many other reasons to travel to the Yucatan. Most flights do culminate at Cancun, but there are also air services to Merida and Campeche on the Gulf side of the Peninsula if you prefer to start there.
As you approach the Cancun airport, the first striking characteristic is the relative flatness of the terrain. Thick vegetation commands the landscape in an even blanket that stretches in all directions. The only thing breaking the even green is a lonesome road or a foreboding electric tower appearing larger than it should be considering the surroundings.
The reason the Peninsula is so flat is because it is entirely composed of a limestone shelf jutting out into the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. The layers of limestone are composed of the life and death of compacted ancient coral reefs and sand, which serve as a metaphor for the multi-layered human history that chiseled its own existence into the surface of this even terrain starting more than 12,000 years ago.
Built on time, stone, and water, human habitation of the Yucatan has always relied on the geologic composition. At first glance, one would surmise that there is no fresh water available in this flat landscape. Surface lakes and rivers are practically nonexistent, for they lay predominately underground. The spongy limestone has been carved from underneath by the slow erosive properties of water and time, and it has created a vast network of cenotes (wells) and connecting rivers fed by rain and springs, which bring life. A trip to the Yucatan would not be complete without a visit to one of the countless cenotes that pock the landscape.