Our last couple of days in Mexico were action-packed, from a Seventh Wonder of the World to floating in salty seas to 24 hours of pure luxury. In between we stayed in a beautiful colonial town and bathed in crystal clear waters deep beneath the ground! Quite the end to my amazing Cuban and Mexican adventure.
News is now coming through of a catastrophic earthquake that hit Mexico City and Puebla state overnight. My thoughts are with all those affected.
Chichen Itza is one of the new Seven Wonders of the World, so I know I’m going to sound like a spoilt travel-brat when I say that I was underwhelmed. Possibly if we’d visited on a less-crowded day, or I was more absorbed in the historical and archaeological significance, I would have been blown away, but I enjoyed the delights of Teotihuacan and Palenque from earlier in the trip more. I think that is also a result of my preference for places that are a little off the beaten path, or at least not packed with coach crowds.
That’s not to say that the nearly intact ball game court, the massive central pyramid of El Castillo, and the Thousand Columns are not impressive… just that I didn’t enjoy them as much as other places. And its history is amazing. Chichen Itza was likely to have been one of the mythical great Mesoamerican cities. The city may have had the most diverse population in the Maya world, a factor that could have contributed to the variety of architectural styles at the site. Chichen Itza was a major focal point of Mayan culture from c. AD 600 through to c.1200. It is the second-most visited archaeological site in Mexico; an estimated 1.4 million tourists visit the ruins every year.
However, I WAS blown away by our next stop, the cenote of Ik-Kil which is located very close to Chichen Itza. A cenote is a sink-hole in limestone… sounds pretty boring right? Not at all – a cenote is a beautiful pool of magic! We arrived at the site and changed up top in the bright sunshine, before descending down slippery stone steps with the aid of a rope running along the slick walls. Before long we were gazing across the dark pool, excited voices echoing as the bravest jumped from high stone steps.
Laura makes a splash in Mexico
A total water-baby, I was straight into the water – and delighted to discover it was crystal clear! The wide walls of the cenote dripped with ferns, and my favourite moments were floating on my back, gazing up through the mouth of the cenote to the beautiful blue sky and sunshine above. I truly didn’t want to leave.
Fortunately the gorgeous colonial town of Valladolid, where we spent the night, was enough to draw my attention. We wandered its streets as the sun set and were charmed by the vibrant colours.
Cathedral of San Gervasio
However, what happened next was what really caught my interest – a street party set up and we got to watch what we think was a beauty pageant crowning the local Miss, before dancers took over the square. Although I was tired from such a long day, I had to be torn away (again!) from watching them stamp and swirl with passion. It was beautiful to watch!
On our last day of our tour with Cesar and Adan we headed for the Atlantic coast. Our destination, the national park of Rio Lagartos, is home to many different bird species, with the highlights being flamingos and pelicans and also to a patch of salty water much like the Dead Sea, where you can float in the sunshine at ease.
We jumped into teeny boats and headed out into the lagoon, spotting pelicans perched in every possible spot along the way. We also kept an eye out for crocodiles… I still hadn’t got over my sighting from the Chiapas canyon and was more than a little nervous!
Our first sight of the bright pink flamingos was pure magic, and I was mesmerised watching the elegant long-legged birds pick their way through the shallow waters.
The piles of white aren’t snow but sea spray!
Not everyone was keen – I’ll admit the muddy waters weren’t as visually appealling as Ik-Kil – but a few of us took the opportunity to experience the unusual situation of bobbing gently with no effort in the sea. It was quite weird at first, but a lot of fun! We also coated ourselves in the mud lining the sides, which apparently is good for the skin. Certainly it was a good exfoliant!
After a delicious fishy late lunch, we made for our final stop of the holiday. Although our proximity to Tulum taunted me, we only had 24 hours until we had to be back in London, and after our whirlwind of a trip we decided to save that beauty for another day and instead spend our short time in luxury at the new Grand Hyatt Playa del Carmen.
My awesome friends, our amazing guide Cesar and stellar driver Adan – and our van!
If you’re a regular reader you’ll know that I don’t often stay in hotels, let alone ones as special and high-end as this one – it was a total treat! We drank cocktails in over-water pool loungers, soaked up the sun, read and generally tried to act as though we were never returning to the UK.
Margarita or martini.. oh the tough choices
And that’s a wrap! It was such an amazing trip – having never visited the Americas before I now have dreams of returning and backpacking Central America… or maybe a mix of that and luxury hotel-hopping?! I learnt so much about the history of this region, ate so much good Mexican food, and saw more colourful facades in two weeks than I might in a year in London! Just brilliant.
Have you visited Mexico? Where was your highlight?