While we managed to move to a new apartment and travel to 3 countries in the past 5 weeks, my blog was on mute. But I’m still around and I’m happy to finally share my little Christmas getaway in Mexico with you 😀 I was super excited to have my first experience with this country. But to be honest, we all know that the area around Cancún, Playa del Carmen and Tulum is super developed and anything else than untouched by tourism, however that didn’t detract my excitement: We had our base in a quiet corner of Playa del Carmen and a rental car for a week. The car turned out to be quite expensive (Mexican car insurance really kills you 🙁 ) but after all it really paid off being flexible and mobile. The Yucatán Peninsula is a fantastic place for road trips as the roads are easy to navigate (the land is flat as a pancake, therefore the roads are basically straight), traffic outside the cities is light and there’s so much to see: Countless Mayan ruins, sink holes (cenotes) and postcard-perfect beaches. In the following I’m going to show you some of the gorgeous archaeological sites, as well as some less visited cenotes in Tulum:
For a little Indiana-Jones experience we headed over to Coba, an ancient Mayan city only a 45-minute drive away from Tulum: The site is famous for its pyramid structures in the middle of the jungle which are believed to be over 1.500 years old! Most visitors come for the Grand Pyramid which (surprisingly!) can be climbed to the top. The 120 steep steps were a nice little workout, however I much more enjoyed the surroundings of the ruins! I highly recommend to rent a bike at the rental shop after the entrance (alternatively you can hire a rikshaw + driver) and ride along the ancient sacbes (white roads) from site to site while passing by some of the coolest tree formations. It’s recommended to come early (the site opens at 8am) to beat the worst heat and crowds. There’s a parking lot with souvenir shops and restaurants, however once inside the park there are no supplies, so it’s advisable to bring some water. The admission fee is 70 pesos per person.
2. Multum-Ha, Tankach-Ha, Cho-Ha
After you explored the Coba ruins you might be ready for a little refreshment? Anyways, there’s no excuse to skip these 3 cenotes in close proximity to Coba because they were absolutely gorgeous! We hit the first one before 12pm and had it completely for ourselves! That quickly changed after more visitors from Coba showed up (even tour buses make a stop there…) It was our first time in a cenote and we had no idea what to expect when we saw the ticket vendor in these humble huts. Once we entered the cave we were blown away how big they were inside. The water was crystal-clear and a little chilly but I’ll promise you – swimming in such an eerily beautiful setting is an experience you’ll never forget! Each cenote costs 55 pesos to enter but it’s worth to see all of them!
One of Mexico’s most famous archaeological sites are the Tulum ruins that are uniquely located by a beautiful beach and boasts amazing views of the Caribbean sea. The ruins belong to a rather “new” Mayan settlement dated around 1200 AC. Of course, such a pretty environment draws in thousands of visitors – daily! It gets pretty crowded, so you should try to get there as soon as the park opens (8am) before the long line forms in front of the admission counter (70 pesos per person). Also, keep an eye open for Lucy, a cute coati that got used to humans and likes to hang out in the park 😉
The atmosphere is completely different than in Coba – the area is wide open with pretty gardens in-between, paths and stairs that lead to the different sites and to the beach. Although the space is big, it can get tight at some places with the best views… Don’t get discouraged by the amount of people because the place is still incredibly beautiful!
The beach fulfills all Caribbean clichés: White powder sand, turquoise water and swinging palm trees…
The “Temple of the God of the Wind” is Tulum’s most popular view. The Mayans certainly had an eye for location…
A short drive from the ruins lies this hidden gem – hidden, because I was surprised how quiet it was: Look for the painted “cenote” sign by the road, head into someone’s backyard, pay the guy the 110 pesos admission, follow the improvised path and you’ll soon find the natural pool you always dreamed of. It’s an Emerald swimming hole surrounded by mangroves – not more and not less. Not many people seem to visit that place although it’s a wonderful oasis in the middle of busy Tulum!
Tulum is 118 km South of Cancún Airport – a main international hub of Mexico. Frequent flights go to/from many big cities in North- and South-America and Europe. Almost every tour operator offers tours to Coba and Tulum from Cancun and Playa del Carmen, however a rental car is the most independent way to get around. Warning: Be aware of the hidden costs of renting a car in Mexico and be prepared to pay more than advertised.
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