Yucatan Peninsula Journals

Toucans in the Yucatan

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A January 2003 trip to Yucatan Peninsula by Safiri

Uxmal Mayan Ruins Photo, Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico More Photos
Quote: Think you'd like to see exotic wildlife while standing on top of a pyramid and eating a mango after spending the morning at the beach?

Toucans in the Yucatan

Overview

A resident of Uxmal Photo, Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico
Quote:
The Calakmul biosphere reserve: watch howler monkeys in the middle of the jungle while standing on the top of a pyramid. Snorkel in the cool waters of a cenote (underwater cave). Climb the side of an as-yet-unexcavated pyramid. Relax a bit and eat the excellent ice cream in Merida, the charming state capitol. Watch the birds! Toucans are absolutely ridiculous. And the spectacular blue mot-mots turn out to be pretty common. Quick Tips: Search out the less tourist-infested ruins! Some of the ancient cities that are harder to get to, like Calakmul, or the ones which have been only more recently excavated, like Ek-Balam, are among the most beautiful. Th...Read More

Dolores Alba

Hotel

Quote:
The Hotel Dolores Alba, a big pink building set around a central courtyard, has lovely public spaces, like a pretty sun-dappled swimming pool and a patio full of potted plants and birdcages separated only by the distance from the friendly reception desk, where you can buy drinks ($1/liter for water). The bedrooms are a little less airy (this might be because we asked for a room with air-conditioning), but they're quiet and decorated in a low-key manner. They have tiled floors and patterned bedspreads. Our room cost about $35/night; this was in 2002, so prices may have changed. Breakfast is a buffet of cereal, boiled eggs, fresh fruits, and baked goods - the kind of meal travel-health experts som...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on December 15, 2004

Dolores Alba
Calle 63 no. 464
Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico
99/28 56 50

Cabañas Mercedes

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Hotel

Quote:
The Cabañas Mercedes are located in exactly the middle of nowhere on the north side of Highway 186 in Campeche, about 15 km east of the turnoff for the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve. At approximately $15/night for a couple, plus maybe $1/person for breakfast, the cabañas are the cheapest rooms around. The cabañas themselves are quite comfortable: well-constructed wood-sided, palm-thatched (palapa) huts with attached, curtained-off concrete bathrooms containing a toilet, a shower, and sink-less water tap. (If you've made it this far, you probably know already that you shouldn't drink the water.) The room we stayed in contained a comfy if somewhat hard double bed in a wooden four-poster fram...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on May 17, 2005

Cabañas Mercedes
Highway 186
Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico

Sian Ka'an Reserve Camping

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Hotel | "Camping in the Sian Ka'an Reserve"

Quote:
Okay, this is exactly what you're not supposed to do when you travel. So don't do this. But we had a beautiful, beautiful (and incidentally, free) night camping on the beach at the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve. Just south of Tulum on the eastern coast of the Yucatan is the long, thin sliver of protected land called the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve. It's a difficult area to get very far into. Guidebooks tell you that you need a four-wheel-drive vehicle to even think about the place; better yet is a boat with a guide. We wouldn't know. What we did was drive through the northern entrance in our little rented VW, sign a guestbook saying we intended to spend the night in the reserve, bounce along the...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on May 20, 2005

Sian Ka'an Reserve Camping
Sian Ka'an Reserve Northern entrance
Tulum, Mexico

Uxmal Mayan Ruins

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Attraction | "Uxmal"

Uxmal Mayan Ruins Photo, Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico
Quote:
Uxmal is one of the major sights in any tour of the Mayan world. Like almost all of the big Mayan cities open to tourists, it is scrupulously maintained, with wide raked courtyards and tightly mown lawns surrounding the massive, meticulously restored pyramids. The most impressive of the pyramids is the Pyramid of the Magician, an enormous conical building with gently rounded corners and a carved penthouse on top. When we were there, the pyramid was, frustratingly, roped off so that we couldn't climb it, but the spectacular sight of it rising above the trees is the first thing you encounter when you arrive at Uxmal, and it's a wonderfully dramatic welcome. The Pyramid of the Magician i...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on February 12, 2005

Uxmal Mayan Ruins
62 km south of Mérida
Uxmal, Mexico

Dzibilchaltun

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Attraction

Quote:
Dzibilchaltun is 15km north of Merida and easy to get to by car. The ruins are spread over a fairly large area, which hints at the city of 20,000 people that was there when the Spanish arrived. The ruins are monumental: big and imposing. We went in the least preserved direction first, where there was a big pyramid waiting for us. We climbed it right away, of course, and then spent the next 10 minutes peering down off it through our binoculars at an array of brilliant birds: parakeets, magpies, and inky indigo birds with lovely voices. The House of the Seven Dolls, one of the site's main attractions, at the opposite end of the site from the pyramid we first climbed is at the top of a la...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on February 26, 2005

Dzibilchaltun
Dzibilchaltun
Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico

The Senorita Santa Elena Beauty Pageant

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Story/Tip

Quote:
While we were staying at the Flycatcher B&B in Santa Elena in the Yucatan, I made friends with the owner, a remarkable American woman named Kristine who abandoned a lucrative career, moved to the Yucatan, married a Mayan man, and now runs a remarkably polished B&B full of homemade wrought-iron furniture about 12km west of Uxmal. While we were there, my partner came down with a stomach bug (no reflection on Kristine's excellent fruit and homemade bread breakfasts), so we stayed for an extra night--a night during which I was somewhat at loose ends until Kristine invited me to watch her niece compete in the Senorita Santa Elena beauty pageant. The competition was among the local girls, aged...Read More

Calakmul, or Why You Should Rent a Car

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Story/Tip

Trees growing through the ruins Photo, Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico
Quote:
Calakmul is hard to get to. You don't end up there by accident; you have to want it. And it's worth wanting. Calakmul lies south of the main road between Escarcega and Chetumal, smack in the middle of a lot of empty or lightly farmed land. There is very little on either side of the Calakmul Biosphere reserve, and nearby accommodations are sparse. Do not let this prevent you from going. The day we went to Calakmul, we woke up in Escarcega and set off with a quick jog to visit the ruins at Balamke, which are remarkable for having a well-preserved stucco frieze of giant toads and anthropomorphized jaguars, and above them all, the very smug face of a sun king complacently rising. The friez...Read More

Wildlife in the Yucatan

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Story/Tip

Quote:
Unless you stay strictly on the most beaten of beaten paths in the Yucatan, you are almost sure to encounter some interesting animals and birds. Birds are the easiest, and sometimes the most spectacular. The motmot is a large, very beautiful bird with iridescent blue-green feathers and a long tail. It's almost surprising that such a remarkable bird would be common, but we saw several each day. Parrots are a frequent sight, chattering in the trees overhead. Tanagers make brilliant spots of color in the forests. Toucans are somewhat rarer; we spotted them three or four times over the course of our...Read More

Oxkintok and the Calcehtok Caves

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Story/Tip

Quote:
The first day out of Mérida, heading south towards the Puuc Route, we stopped at Oxkintok and the Calcehtok Caves. The ruins at Oxkintok were a surprise. They hardly feature in some guidebooks, and we were expecting something small and hardly excavated. Instead, after driving through kilometer after kilometer of bare countryside, at last we came to the usual impeccable entryway, with its nominal entry fee to the site's manicured lawns, carefully reconstructed buildings, and a slew of gardeners, two of whom tried to be helpful-for-hire until we politely avoided them. The ruins were a huge array of buildings in various states of repair, from perfectly reappointed to still a giant green bulge in th...Read More

Santa Rosa Xlapac and Ezbná

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Story/Tip

Quote:
When we left the main road from the Puuc Route heading south, following the sign for Santa Rosa Xlapac, we knew it was going to be bumpy -- the guidebook said the road had deteriorated in the four years since it had been built. What we didn't know was how far it was possible for a road to deteriorate in four years. There were stretches where it was gone entirely, just dirt -- or mud. Others were almost worse, with just enough pavement to form a lattice of potholes. And then there were some good stretches -- with fallen trees on them. But it was a beautiful drive. Yellow flowers bubbled over the edges of the roads, and birds, birds, birds -- herons flapping brown up out of the marshes, swifts, sw...Read More