The state of Quintana Roo (see map below) has an area of 42,360 square kilometers and a population of 1,361,821 (2010 estimate). The state is one of Mexico’s flattest states, with its highest point being only 230 meters above sea level. Its distinctive landscapes include coastal barrier islands (such as the one Cancún’s hotel zone is built on), magnificent coral reefs and tropical karst (limestone scenery). It also has tropical forests and mangrove swamps. The state’s capital city is Chetumal (estimated 2010 population: 146,000), an important port and the gateway for overland connections to Guatemala. A short distance north of Chetumal is the beautiful, tranquil Laguna Bacalar.
Until the mid-20th century, the state was best known for its chicle (used for chewing gum) collectors and its Mayan ruins. Many of these have been restored in the past 50 years or so, and are now important tourist attractions. The best known sites are Tulum perched on a cliff overlooking the azure Caribbean sea (and unfortunately all too accessible for cruise ship passengers) and Cobá, a magnificent city only partially cleared of jungle. Ecotourism is an important sector of tourism in Quintana Roo. Critics notwithstanding, one of the most memorable eco-related sites in the entire country is Xcaret marine park. The biosphere reserve of Sian Ka’an in the middle part of the state also draws large numbers of ecotourists.
The purpose-built resort of Cancún, begun in 1970, has grown into Mexico’s most important tourist resort. Easily reached by plane from most parts of the USA, Canada and Europe, it is one of the world’s major destinations for package holidays. The area south of Cancún is often referred to as the Mayan Riviera; it is one of Mexico’s most rapidly developing tourist areas.
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Maps of neighboring states
Geo-Mexico: the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico looks at many aspects of Quintana Roo, including its socio-economic make-up and its development indicators. If you are interested in the geography of Mexico, please recommend this book to your local library or consider buying your own copy, as well as following this site with details of all new posts via e-mail, Facebook or Twitter.