Roadtrip in the Yucatan: between cenotes and Mayan ruins
Yucatan is one of the most popular places for vacation in the state of Quintana Roo in Mexico.
The Riviera Maya is famous for white beaches, lagoons, and many archaeological sites that connect to the Mayan era, in Yucatan, on the other hand, one can have more contact with the real Mexico and the local culture as well as discover cities in the style of the place and less American and tourists.
With my friend Mirko, we set off on an adventure, an entire weekend to discover Yucatan and its wonders: we left Playa del Carmen bound for Merida, passing Cenotes, Mayan ruins, and small towns. From here we headed to Valladolid to finish our weekend in Las Coloradas and Rio Lagartos.
The Departure: Playa del Carmen
We left on Friday afternoon from Playa del Carmen, having rented a car at one of the many places on the streets around the center. For about $150,00 we rented a simple, or rather basic car but that was fine with us. We loaded our backpacks and were ready to go on an adventure. As soon as we got out of the hustle and bustle of Playa del Carmen we found ourselves on a long street surrounded only by the jungle between construction work, obviously done Mexican style, and endless peace.
In about three hours we arrived at our first destination Merida. It is one of the cities that remains invaded by its colonial character with its wide plazas and museums, among the best in the region.
On Airbnb, we found a room in a hotel a few minutes from the center. Excellent quality/price.
We arrived in the evening so after a quick walk through downtown we went in search of a place to eat.
As we walked around discovering we found this small place run by a Mexican couple who made really special burgers.
The choice immediately fell on burgers with guacamole and crispy bacon, a nice lemonade, and dinner was perfect!
One last walk to enjoy the city illuminated by lights have a drink in one of the many squares surrounded by clubs, and it’s back to the room. Two more rather busy days full of discoveries awaited us.
The alarm clock went off early because we wanted to enjoy Merida in the morning enjoy its wonders and get to our next destination by lunch.
Even in the daytime, the city is full of people but you don’t feel the usual hustle and bustle of the big beach areas of the Riviera Maya, you breathe the air of real Mexico, of spontaneity and there are impressive buildings and churches typical of the colonial style.
We could not help but stop at one of the most famous and photographed cenotes in Mexico: Suytun.
For the Maya, cenotes were a water resource but more importantly one of their sacred places where they made contact with the gods or the dead.
The meaning of the term Suytun is stone center and it is a semi-open cenote that has a small hole at the top through which the sun’s rays pass.
The entrance fee is 250 pesos (about $11,00) and includes lunch and entrance to the cenote. There is also the option of doing a reduced ticket and then paying only for the entrance to the cenote. We headed straight to the restaurant for lunch which included some pasta, the typical Yucatan dish the Cochinita Pibil with tortillas, rice, and beans, and a drink of your choice. Dessert was also included but we did not like what was offered so we did not take it.
With our bellies full and excited we headed to the changing rooms, donned our swimsuits, and after showering at the entrance and donning our life jackets (mandatory to enter) we walked down the small walkway to the entrance and were finally ready to discover this little wonder.
Along with Chichen Itza and Tulum, it is one of the most famous archaeological sites of the Mayan empire. This is still one of the few places where you can climb the pyramids and climb to the top as a result immerse yourself in one of the world’s oldest cultures.
The name Ek Balam means Black Jaguar, and what surprises you most upon entering the archaeological site is the vastness of the forest that surrounds you and how great the enormity of nature is. Viewed from the top of the pyramid it manages to leave you speechless.
The entrance fee is 484 pesos for non-residents (about $20,00) and they are very strict about closing and opening times.
Valladolid was only an intermediate stop for the night and we only made time to take a tour of the plaza, eat the famous marquesitas in one of the carts in the center, have dinner, and return to the room in the downpour, it looked like they were dumping water down with buckets.
Again great value for money for the room, booked on Airbnb. Very nice pool at the entrance and a little secluded corner within the city.
Las Coloradas is the famous pink lagoon in Mexico that you have surely seen on the pages of Instagram. It is located on the east coast of the Yucatan Peninsula and just inside the Rio Lagartos Nature Reserve.
The coloration of the water comes from the presence of red plankton and the large amount of artemia, a small species of saltwater crustacean. Yes, the water is salty because we are right next to a salt marsh.
The entrance fee is 250 pesos (about $12,00) and includes a guide who will explain the lagoon and how it came to be.
Rio Lagartos is a small fishing village overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. It overlooks the entire surrounding biosphere that has been a UNESCO-protected nature reserve since 1979.
Also a quick visit here, the remote village was a little strange and it started raining almost immediately.
Along the way are many small towns where we stopped and where we could feel the real Mexico and the essence of a unique and world-famous culture.