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Published: March 11th 2012
We have just finished a three week trip across the Yucatan peninsula, Mexico taking in the Quintana Roo, Yucatan, Campeche and Chiapas provinces of Mexico. After spending two and a half months in Cuba we were excited about the prospects of a new country, new food, new people, new places to see and a chance to practice the Spanish we had been learning in Cuba.
Our flight from Havana Cuba landed in Cancun and we spent the first few of nights in a fairly non discript fishing village called Puerto Juarez, just outside of Cancun. We used this as some time to research and consider what our potential itenary across Mexico might look like. Once we had made a plan we jumped on a ferry to the Island which sits directly opposite Cancun, Isla Mujeres - The Isle of Woman. Being from the Isle of Man, Benn was delighted to have finally found the match for his hometown! We never even realised the coincidence until we had worked out the English translation of 'Mujeres' (Women) a few days into our time on the island.
The island is super touristy so not everyone’s cup of tea but we spent the
next five days here and had a top time. If you ever visit Mujeres be sure to visit ‘Pita Amore’, a small fast food place run by a great guy Ricky. We got to meet some great people when hanging out here which helped make our time on the island extra special for us.
There are some lovely beaches which we spent a few days at and we spent one day walking the 8km length of the entire island. Our luck was in as we had timed our visit with the carnival season which sweeps over the whole of Latin America during February. Brasil is most famed for its carnivals but we found out that the Mexicans make a great party of it too. The street parades, costumes, dancing etc were great to watch and everyone was in carnival mood which made some good nights out. Benn went diving one day and really enjoyed the diving here seeing Sharks, tons of Barracaudas and Sting Rays. Isla Mujeres is also the site of an Underwater Museum where over 400 life sized statues have been placed on the seabed for the purpose of creating an artificial reef. It was an amazing
way to end some great dives when you finish up at the underwater museum.
As is customary with ANY COUNTRY that we visit, we spent a day fishing so that Benn could get that out of his system. A local fisherman took us 15km out to sea and we spent the day trying to catch a Sailfish but we could only seem to catch Barracuda's, a nice day though apart from that I puked up about ten times as the sea was rough!
After Isla Mujeres we travelled 4-5 hours by Bus and Boat and headed to our next stop, Isla Holbox. After the hectic tourist scene of Mujeres it was great to reach Holbox, an island on the Northern tip of the Yucatan Peninsula that has really yet to be hit too hard by the tourist bug. This beautiful stretch of island was still quite undeveloped in many ways and still has sand roads, tons of open space and miles of land with zero development. The wildlife and birds on the island is great and if we had visited a few months later between around June & September we would have surely had the opportunity to swim
with Whale Sharks who visit here in unprecedented numbers. We had a great time chilling, exploring the island and Carnival was still happening whilst we were there which was great but more low key with this being a small community.
After 4-5 days here we headed inland into the Central part of the Yucatan peninsula to a small town named Piste, which was the jumping off point for the nearby Mayan Ruins known as Chitchen Itza. Think of Angkow Wat in Cambodia and the Pyramids in Egypt, mix them together and you have something looking like Chitchen Itza. This was our first experience of Mayan ruins and whilst we enjoyed it a lot it is the most visited and touristy of all the Mayan ruins in Mexico so we vowed to do some more exploring and visit some more ruins a little more off the beaten path.
We continued our journey to the capital of the Yucatan province, Merida which was our first experience of the colonial side of Mexico. We stayed in a great hostel, our room having a balcony which overlooked the main square so was great for relaxing and people watching. Merida is pretty, was
nice for a couple of days and we visited museums, art galleries and went to the Ballet before setting off to our next destination, Campeche, which was the start of our journey southwards. Campeche is another beautiful colonial town covered with history, cobbled streets, plazas, colourful houses and a lovely promende/malecon, great for sunset strolls. Benn turned 31 whilst we were here and we had a lovely dinner on the balcony of a restaurant overlooking the Catherdral of Campeche which dates back to 1650, beautiful!
After Campeche we headed by bus further south to a place called Palenque, another site famous for Mayan ruins. We stayed in a tiny wooden hut in the middle of the forest at a place called El Panchan, which is a kind of backpacker/hippie jungle hidaway with a few different places to stay, bars & restaurants. Our room was $8 a night, totally in the middle of the forest and we had a little river running past the hut with a small terrace, perfect. We had a good night out in the jungle watching live music and fireshows, then woke early the next day to view to the ruins before the crowds arrived. The
ruins were beautiful, surrounded by thick jungle and it was great to see them, definatelty worth the trip here.
As we left Palenque again by bus we headed further south to our final destination in Mexico, San Christobal de la Casas. I had been searching for a stereotypical Mexican town for the entire trip and was not dissapointed when we arrived in San Christobal. It was a classic example of a Spanish colonial town, narrow cobbled streets, beautiful churches, colourful houses and jaw dropping views over the thousands of rooftops that made up the town. Not only was this a beautiful place but it was the highest concentration of Mayan people that we had encountered on our journey across southern Mexico. The Mayan people are indigenous of Central America and are fascinating, most still choosing to wear their traditional coloured clothing until today. We only managed to learn a little of the history and culture of the Mayan people, however, it was wonderful to be amongst them and we found them to be extremely friendly and hospitable. After a few days exploring, eating & drinking in San Cristobal we waved goodbye to our three weeks in Mexico, fond memories
of some great people and great places. Next stop, Guatemala!
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