Were it not for its amazing flamingo-filled lagoon, Celestún, 93km west of Mérida, would be little more than a one-boat fishing village. It’s literally the end of the road, dead-straight for most of the drive through the forest, until you emerge and cross a bridge to the end of a sandbar on the northwest coast of the peninsula. The town has grown a tiny bit in the twenty-first century (with an ATM and a petrol station, finally), but still has a castaway feel; it’s busy only on occasional Sundays and during Mexican holidays.
The beach is wide, and the sea is cloudy yet clean – but it’s the birds in the 600-square-kilometre Ría Celestún Biosphere Reserve here that are the real draw. A typical boat tour takes in the flamingos, most numerous from November to May, when blue-winged teal and shovellers also migrate. Dedicated birders can hire a skilled guide, or, if you want something more active, you can bike and canoe through the mangroves.