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Posts from the ‘Mexico’ Category

Street Art: Murals of Isla Mujeres

One of Isla Mujeres island's many charms is that many of its buildings are covered by beautiful murals, and each street corner reveals new artistic vistas.

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“Cinco de Mayo: Fury Road” in Puebla

You know you are in for one hell of a Cinco de Mayo parade when you see a giant fort roll slowly by, bellowing smoke from explosions and throwing the bodies of soldiers and horses into the air.

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Scuba Diving off Isla Mujeres

Isla Mujeres in Mexico offers fun and interesting options for scuba divers of all levels.

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Dog Sitting in Isla Mujeres

A canine companion is our excuse to relax on Mexico's beautiful Isla Mujeres.

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Trip Review: Royalton Riviera Cancun Resort

Get pampered at a posh family-friendly resort in Mexico's Riviera Maya.

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Top 10 Reasons Yucatán Peninsula Rocks

Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula is an amazing place to explore! Here are my top ten reasons why it should be on any traveller’s “must visit” list of world destinations:

1. Natural History

The whole area is limestone formed from ancient coral sealife – how cool is that? It’s flat, has almost no rivers, is covered in jungle, and is surrounded by some of the most beautiful beaches in the world.

Playa Norte on Isla Mujeres

Playa Norte on Isla Mujeres

Tulum Beach

Tulum Beach

And 66 million years ago, a powerful asteroid slammed into the Earth nearby, formed the Chicxulub Crater and (probably) wiped out the dinosaurs. In the process that shockwave created an amazing ring of cracks, tunnels and caves that filled with salt and fresh water, which brings us to reason #2 why the area rocks:

2. Cenotes

If it gets too hot just head down into the nearest limestone cenote for a cool, refreshing swim in clear clean water, under the sunlit glow of the cave opening above you. A perfect way to pass an afternoon.

Cenote swimming

Cenote swimming

But even more fun than swimming in cenotes is…

3. Cenote Diving

I think this is one of the only places in the world where you can easily scuba dive in caves. Read all about the joys of cenote diving here. This is a very special experience.

Cenote Diving at Gran Cenote

Cenote diving at Gran Cenote

And in addition to cave diving there is also…

4. Reef Diving and Snorkeling

Want to snorkel within feet of blissed-out turtles? Go to Akumal!

Tortugas at Akumal

Tortuga!

Some of the best scuba diving in the world is off the coast of Cozumel, a diver’s paradise, full of wall-dives, sea life, and abundant coral reefs. There is no shortage of amazing underwater adventures here.

Cozumel - some of the world's best scuba diving

Cozumel – some of the world’s best scuba diving

5. Human History and Culture

Merida has the oldest church in the Americas. The Casa de los Montejo, also in Merida, was constructed between 1542 and 1549 for the Spanish Conquistadors who conquered the area. When you go inside these buildings you feel how old the recorded history of this pensinsula is.

What’s most amazing is these buildings were created on an abandoned Mayan temple square, which means there is even older layer of human history beyond the one you can see on the street!

Casa de Montejos in Merida

The ancient and ornate Casa de Montejos in Merida

The mixing of the Spanish and Mayan cultures was often violent – we learned about the uprisings, wars, and suffering that occurred after the conquest, and into fairly recent times. One Spanish Priest burnt virtually all of the Mayan books containing their history, culture, and pictographic language. Luckily three copies were discovered later and so archaeologists and linguists have been able to reconstruct the language.

Happily, today the indigenous culture is alive and well, and everyone takes pride in it. Here’s a pic of some daredevil Voladores (“flyers”) as they begin their death-defying whirl to the ground. The dancers stand on top of a tall pole, representing the World Tree, and while one plays music, the others spin down to the bottom. The dance didn’t originate in the Yucatán but it is still impressive and colourful to watch.

6. Mayan Temples

Not only are the temple buildings incredible to look at, but the temples were built with mathematical precision, to line up with major astronomical events. For instance at Xichen-Itza, twice a year during the solstices the rays of the sun descend down a snake pattern on the side of the temple, and light up the carven stone head of a snake at the base.

As a bonus, when you clap your hands in front of a temple stairway, the acoustics rebound up and down, meet in the middle and bounce back at you in the distinctive call of the sacred quetzal bird. Crazy.

To support their Empire the Mayans laid thousands of kilometres of roads, developed sophisticated mathematics and astronomy, built intricate trade routes that interacted with tribes far to the north and south, developed sophisticated logistics to measure and distribute fresh water – and did I mention the height of their civilization was one thousand years ago?

…Awe inspiring.

Xichen-Itza Astronomical Observatory

Xichen-Itza Astronomical Observatory

Uxmal

Uxmal – The Temple of the Magician

7. Colonial Architecture

The Spanish also knew how to build impressive structures – each city in the Yucatán Peninsula is blessed with numerous limestone houses, palaces, and churches, in the Colonial Spanish style. The town plazas are leafy and social escapes from the day’s heat.

Merida

A square in Merida

And within and near the old buildings, you can find an incredible amount of beautiful and evocative statuary, paintings, murals, and monuments.

Merida town plaza

Merida town plaza

8. Amazing Food 

The best food we ate was at K’u’uk in Merida. They used the latest molecular cooking techniques to give us an amazing 15-course meal, but what made it really special was the tour they proudly gave us afterwards, of their kitchen and garden. Highly recommended!
Kuuk in Merida - 15-course Mayan-inspired molecular cuisine

Of course amazing food wasn’t limited to Merida. Everywhere we went we had our fill of Yucatecan-inspired food, like Chaya drinks (a local miracle plant mixed with fruit juices); sopa de lima, which is lime-marinated chicken with tortilla strips; cocinita pibil, which is meat marinated in a mix of achiote, bitter orange, and spices, wrapped in banana leaves and slow-roasted in a pit; and poc chuc, pork slices marinated in sour orange and covered with onions.

Yucatecan food

Yucatecan food at Las Campanas in Valladolid

9. Travel Fun

There is so much to see and do – take a boat through the mangrove swamp to see thousands of pink flamingos, explore the mysteries of ancient ruins, relax on a sunset sailboat cruise near Cancun – or hang out at a resort pool overlooking the beach!

Beach resorts

Beach resorts

Sunset sailing

Sunset sailing

Flamingos and mangroves at Celestun

Flamingos and mangroves at Celestun

10. The Yucateco People

Last but definitely not least – we travelled throughout the area for weeks by bus, collectivo (small privately-owned vans) and taxi, and met lots of local people. With only a few exceptions they were very friendly, helpful, and courteous. We found it helped to speak a little Spanish to people we met – “que la vaya bien” is a friendly goodbye and always got a smile.

What impressed us the most was how knowledgeable and proud the locals are of their history and culture.

And they are right to be – the Yucatán Peninsula rocks!

Yucatecan people are proud of their culture

Yucatecan people are proud of their culture

Have you been there? What did you think of it?

Cenote Diving in the Yucatan

Cenotes are water-filled limestone caves that hold a special place in Mayan folklore - and are great fun to explore. I'm lucky to be on vacation in Mexico and jumped at the chance to see them above and below the water line.

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