Chichén Itzá Maya Ruins

We woke up at 7am, and we took the fist bus from Valladolid to Chichén Itzá (1h-  $31), I can’t recommend you this enough, It’s really essencial to arrive as earlier as possible. Chichén Itzá is one of Mexico’s most visited attraction, I don’t need to say much more than that..  do I 🙂

Chichén Itzá is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the Seven Wonders of the World, so independently of what kind of traveller you are;  solo travel, backpacker, all-inclusive, etc. you will end up there like everybody else.. Chichén Itzá is an icon and its central location in the peninsula of Yucatan, makes it incredible accessible. And don’t think that because is the largest archeological site in Yucatan you can’t fell the heaps of people, believe me..  this place gets seriously overcrowded, and you can feel it 🙂

Although I generally tend to prefer exploring lesser-visited places that are situated a little further off the main tourist path, Chichen Itza still makes a perfect day or half-day trip. I can’s say they are my favourite but the still are magnificent and definitely worthy of a visit.

Despite the fact that all inclusive trips to Chichén Itzá are very popular and abundant, It couldn’t  be easier to visit it on your own, and I do recommend it, first because you can walk and stop as many time you want and where you want, its cheaper, and you can get there before the crowds.

When you arrive early you beat the crazily large crowds, tour buses and the hundreds of vendors that are selling the same thing along every pathway. Waking up early will pay off, and you will have almost the entire ruins to yourselves.

If you end up visiting Chichén Itzá, I’m sure you will not be let down, they make a fantastic introduction into Maya culture and beliefs! It’s always better to have a guidebook with you so you know what you are looking at 🙂

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

 

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Izamal, the yellow town

Its easy to reach Izamal from Mérida by bus. You catch the bus from the northeast bus terminal and is 1 1/2 hour to Izamal (27$). Izamal is about 70 km east of Merida.

This small town is incredible beautiful, and looks like a magic movie set, it’s picturesque and known for obvious reasons by ‘The Yellow Town’ because most of its buildings are painted in a beautiful and eye-catching mustard yellow colour.

 

The impressive franciscan monastery stands out in the heart of this yellow town. It houses a museum and a church. In front of the monastery they have horses dressed in ridiculous floral hats pull carriages of tourists around the town.

 

Walking around town by foot getting lost and discovering it’s cobblestone streets it’s very pleasant. It’s also possible to visit by foot the archaeological sites.

Kinch Kak moo, is a small site that has a Mayan pyramid that you can climb and enjoy the view from the top over the city, the pyramid it might not be as big, well preserved or stunning as Chichén Itzá but is still very impressive.

 

The ‘centro cultural y artesanal‘ (cultural and Artesanal centre) it’s a small museum that displays a selection of outstanding examples of folk art from across Mexico. The pieces are truly beautiful and colourful.

 

The local market near the monastery is a good place to eat traditional Yucatan food.

There’s not much more to see and do in this town, and that is also part of it’s charm. I would say that Izamal is a  mandatory stop when visiting Yucatan, even if only for a day,  Izamal is simply enchanting!

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

 

The Three Cuzama Cenotes

The Yucatán Peninsula has literally hundreds of cenotes that are fed by subterranean rivers, these natural pools are incredible beautiful, and theres something mysterious and enchanted about the light and colours they have.

The Cenotes of Chunkamán were the first ones we visited, and we couldn’t really ask for anything more beautiful and peaceful. From Mérida to the small village of Chunkamán is an hour trip by bus.

Where the bus stops there are a couple of tuk-tuks waiting, they charge 10 pesos to go to the cenotes area to locals, but they will ask more to tourists. You have two options, negotiate the price, or walk (+-3km). We chose the last options, because the day wasn’t to hot and we love to walk.

The admission fee is 400 pesos ($22) for 1 to 4 people (non-negotiable) and believe me, we tried :). We arrived very early in the morning (around 8) and the place was absolutely empty.  We were the first visitors that day, so we had the canotes just for ourselves. It was amazing to explore and swim with no one else there, BUT…. to reach the cenotes your only option is going by horse-drawn railcart,  along an old railway track. This is an huge negative point about this place, the poor horses look rough, and very thin, they don’t give them any water during the journey, some have visible injuries, diseases and open bleeding wounds 😦 it’s truly a shame and I rather much prefer to go to a place that doesn’t use or mistreat animals.

Unfortunately I didn’t know that before hand, otherwise I would go to a different one, and there are plenty to choose from, you don’t really need to finance any business that have abusive behaviour towards animals.

And again don’t get me wrong the cenotes are amazing, but please don’t make the same mistake as we did and just choose a different one, until they  change their ways, and again there are literally hundreds  of cenotes throughout Yucatan, all different but equally beautiful in their very unique manner.

The path to the cenotes is surrounded by dense vegetation and had thousands of colourful butterflies flying around.  The 3 cenotes are the Cenote Bolonchojol, Cenote Chelentún, and Cenote Chacsinicché.2017-07-25 11.21.09.jpg

The first stop was at the smallest but very picturesque Cenote, the Bolonchojol. To go in, you enter through a very small hole in the ground, once inside you discover an amazing cave with a small area with crystalline and refreshingly cool water.

The other two cenotes are bigger and have ropes-like roots descending with the light. The Cenote Chelentún has a long wooden ladder to a a concrete platform. The water is deep blue and has a fantastic light, this was my favourite one.

 

The last one, the Cenote Chacsinicché has a  mirador with a 15 metre drop down into the water.

To accesses this one theres metal steps. This was by far my least first wasn’t empty and because this is the more accessible one, some people don’t end up going to the others. And unfortunately there was lots of jumping going on, shouting and screaming.. as a teacher I get that all year round..and I like peace and quiet 🙂

The visit takes around 3 hours, and  you will get 30 minutes to swim at each of the cenotes.

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Cenote Chelentún 

 

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

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The Mayan city of Uxmal

Uxmal its a great day trip from Merida, and its easy to reach by bus, about an hour drive south of the city.

Uxmal is the biggest  architectural site of Mayan Ruins in Yucatan.The entrance ticket is 203 pesos (11$), and  is open  from 8am until 5pm.

The complex at Uxmal is  less commercial and popular  than Chichen Itza, and is an UNESCO site. Uxmal was constructed around 700AD so it’s older than Chichen Itza. If you plan your visit early in the morning, it’s not crowded at all.

Having a guide helps to understand and contextualise what you are seeing. The Ruins are beautiful and imposing.  This place truly deserves a visit.

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We truly found the Mayan city of Uxmal amazing despite the fact that we end up in the hospital urgencies later that day 😮, nothing serious, just another experience 🙂

After climbing one of the pyramids, I saw a stream of blood on my partner’s leg.. it was already dry but you could still see two tiny holes. He didn’t feel anything, and didn’t have any pain, and because the blood was already dry when we saw it, we just thought “can’t be to poisonous….”, so we just carried on enjoying the ruins.

Later after dinner his leg was very swollen and the place where he was  bitten was getting  very infected, so we took a bus to the public hospital. Everybody was nice and helpful despite our little Spanish. The doctor couldn’t tell which animal had bitted him and gave him some pills, and luckily he got better.

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if you zoom the picture you can see his leg 🤕, at this point we had not yet noticed the blood 😊

 

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

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Colourful Mérida – México

Merida is the capital of the Mexican state of Yucatan on the north of the Yucatan peninsula, and just 4 hours and 1/2 by bus from Cancun.

When we arrived we were received with a traditional crafts fair in the main plaza with dance and live concerts. Despite the food stalls being very disappointing the festive vibe and atmosphere around the Plaza Grand was amazing. This plaza deserves a visit specially on Sundays when the city centre is closed to traffic until early afternoon.

Around Plaza Grand you can visit the Casa Montejo (a free museum with a permanent exhibition of victorian, neorococo and neorenaissance furnishings),  Olimpo cultura center, municipal Palace, the government palace, Cathedral de San Ildefonso (the oldest Cathedral in all of Americas) and the museum of contemporary art. So there’s lots to do and visit around just this central square. The whole square is really cool at night and there is even a video projection onto the cathedral.

There are 2 Tourist Information posts in opposite sides of the Plaza Grand, they organize two free walking  tours around the central square. One in the morning (9.30) and another in the evening (6pm). They give a great inside about the monuments around the central square, Yucatan history and Maya traditions.

Merida has lots of great options to eat, even if you have a plant based diet. There are more authentic Mexican places to very fancy restaurants. The Quesadillas, the Sopes and the vegan tacos are a must, Yucatan food is delicious and  there’s a very large selection of dishes to choose from and many vegan, vegetarian and veg-friendly restaurants.

And as I always do I went to have a look at the food markets. Merida has a couple selling local fruits and veggies. My favourites were the Mercado Lucas De Galvéz (Merida’s central food market) and  the Mercado Santa Ana. If you are in Mérida during a Saturday (9am-1pm) or Wednesday (6pm-9pm) don’t miss the organic Slow Food Market.

Calle 60 is the main  touristic street, it leads north from the main square passing by lots of interesting places like the Parque Hidalgo, Parque de SantiagoTeatro Peón Conteras, Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán and Parque de Santa Lucía.

Another famous street is the Paseo Montejo, which was the local attempt to create a modern boulevard. There are some nice houses monuments lining the Paseo.

Merida is beautiful, colourful  and also an excellent point from where you can explore part of the state of Yucatan, which offers several archaeological sites, cenotes, caves, flamingos, and nice beaches.

Merida has an excellent location, and is great place to stay and take different day trips to places like Uxmal, Cuzamá or Izamal.

 

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

Adventures through the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico

Mexico was the firsts country I have visited in the American continent, and couldn’t be asking for anything better, Mexico was an amazing surprise.

The picture below shows the rota I did over the 16 days I spent there.

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✈️ Cancun    Mérida

Mérida Uxmal

Mérida  Cuzamá

Mérida Izamal

Izamal  Valladolid

Valladolid Chichén Itzá

Valladolid   Tulum

Tulum Cobá

Tulum Natural Park Aktun Chen

Tulum Kaan Luum Lagoon Kaan

Tulum Playa del Carmen

Tulum Puerto Morelos

Puerto Morelos  Cenote Verde Lucero

Puerto Morelos Cancun ✈️

* The double sided arrow ⇠⇢ means  that I went to that place just for the day *

With time, I will be posting about all those places. Meanwhile if you are traveling soon to the yucatan peninsula and you have any questions, just shout, and I will do my best to share same tips and my personal experience.

 

 

Hope you can keep reading and following my adventures 🙏 Cheers Ana xx

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

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