Yucatán, a peninsula on the eastern coast of Mexico and Central America, between the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. Yucatán includes the Mexican states of Campeche, Yucatán, and Quintana Roo, part of northern Guatemala, and Belize. It has an area of about 70,000 square miles (180,000 km2).
Yucatán consists mainly of a limestone lowland less than 500 feet (150 m) above sea level. The northern part is hot and dry and covered by scrub vegetation. Rainfall increases markedly in the south, where there are dense tropical forests. The peninsula has few rivers. In most places rainwater seeps directly into the porous limestone, forming underground reservoirs and channels.
Farming is the chief occupation on Yucatán. Plantations in the north produce much of the world's henequen, a fiber similar to sisal. Many tourists are attracted by ruins of Mayan cities and by seaside resorts, especially at Cancún and the island of Cozumel.
The inhabitants of Yucatán are mainly Maya Indians and mestizos, people of mixed Indian and Spanish origin. Spanish and Mayan tongues are the chief languages spoken. Mérida, capital of the state of Yucatán, is the region's largest city.
Yucatán was the site of a great Mayan civilization that reached its peak in the seventh and eighth centuries and had already declined when the Spanish arrived in the 1500's. Ruins of ancient Mayan cities include Chichén-Itzá and Uxmal, in Mexico, and Tikal, in Guatemala.