I spent the last two weeks of May in Mexico, mostly for some relaxation on the beach, but also (as I can’t resist exploring a new place, camera in tow) a few days exploring the Quintana Roo and Yucatán areas.
After a couple of days at the beach, getting used to the heat (and the tequila for breakfast!), we picked up a hire car and set off westwards. Our first stop was at Ek’ Balam archaeological site. The city of Ek’ Balam was occupied from 600 BC to 1600 AD and its name means “black jaguar” in Mayan.
Whilst I’d love to have climbed the steps of the main structure, to see the detailed carvings at the top, the nearly 40 °C heat was just too much, so we made do with exploring at ground level.
The next day we had an early start to visit Chichén Itzá before it got too hot and too busy. Chichén Itzá was one of the largest Maya cities, occupied between 600 AD and 1200 AD, and now attracts 1.4 million visitors every year, so it can get a bit packed! But we managed a good couple of hours exploring before it got too busy, then enjoyed some lovely ice cream as we watched all the coach loads of people arrive as we were leaving.
Our next stop was the colourful small city of Izamal, where we had some lunch and a wander about the town and its pretty squares. Izamal is known in Yucatán as the Yellow City, for obvious reasons! It’s definitely somewhere I’d like to have been able to spend more time; it had a really relaxed but vibrant feel to it.
Our last stop of the day was the small town of Hoctún, where I wanted to visit the cemetery. It was top of my list to see a colourful Mexican cemetery, and this one fitted the bill perfectly. It was fantastic; so bright and interesting. I think this is how all cemeteries should be – a celebration of life. This was also the hottest I felt on the trip, I don’t know what the temperature was, but without a breath of wind, and in the direct sunlight, I was melting! I was glad to get back in the air-conditioned car and head back to Valladolid for a swim in the pool at the lovely Zentik Boutique Hotel.
The next morning was spent in Valladolid, wandering the streets and squares. This is another lovely small city with a nice feel to it. I had a swim in Cenote Zací, which was great to cool down after a morning walking in the heat.
We then headed back towards the coast, visiting the archaeological sites of Muyil (where we were the only people there) and Tulum (which was packed). Muyil is of the oldest of Mayan archeological sites, dating back to 300 BC. Tulum was one of the last cities built and inhabited by the Maya (around 1200 AD) and is one of the best-preserved coastal Maya sites.
After a very busy and hot few days, it was time to return the hire car and head back to the beach, and the Grand Sirenis Riviera Maya hotel, for a week. Our hotel just outside of Akumal was directly on the beach, and I spent time swimming with turtles and snorkelling with the fish. All in all this was a great trip, with a nice mix of exploration and relaxation.