Once a small, unremarkable fishing village, the resort of Cancun is today the reason most people visit Mexico. It is made up of two parts: the glitzy hotel zone dedicated to tourism, and the downtown area inhabited by the permanent residents. A different atmosphere prevails in each, with a dramatic contrast between the air-conditioned shopping malls, chic restaurant dining, and wealthy pleasure-seeking tourists in one; and bustling market street stalls, noisy vendors, and the daily grind of people at work in the other.
The hotel zone, situated on a thin strip of land (Isla Cancun) in the shape of a figure "7", is what people imagine when they talk about Cancun. It is a vision of Caribbean paradise with soft white sand beaches and clear blue-green waters. There is plenty of high quality accommodation available, a wide choice of restaurants and shops, a notoriously energetic nightlife, and an array of activities, including both land and water sports. The city is also a good base from which to explore some of the nearby attractions, particularly the ancient Mayan site of Chichen Itza on the mainland, which is the best restored and most famous of the archaeological sites on the Yucatán Peninsula.
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