Rent a car and get out on the highways and byways of the Yucatan Peninsula to discover the Maya Kingdom that still exists beyond Cancun's resorts and Chichen Itza's overrun ruins. Maya towns with charming colonial centers and empty ruins dot the flat terrain of this vast limestone peninsula.
With a car, a road map, and about two weeks you can complete a circuit course around the entire peninsula, stopping at lesser known Maya archaeological sites such as Dzibilnocac in the state of Campeche. The archaeological site had no tourists, or anybody for that matter, and was located just on the outskirts of a small Maya town named Iturbide. Small Maya hamlets and unknown ruins are great places to stop and eat and to get out and explore. The route takes you through Quintana Roo, Campeche, and Yucatan, which are the three states that comprise the peninsula. Along the way, the landscape changes very little other than being greener in the south and drier in the north, but you will observe unique styles of Maya architecture from region to region, and the constants are beautiful cenotes and laid-back towns. I flew into Cancun, rented a mid-size SUV, and headed straight for Tulum, bypassing Cancun altogether. From Tulum, I made a clockwise circle around the peninsula, stopping for a day or two in Chetumal, Xpujil, Campeche and Merida, before flying home from Cancun.
I used a guidebook and Internet research, and I chanced to find some real gems off the beaten path of the Yucatan Peninsula.