Northern Yucatan Trail
- Price from:
- 186 GBP /person
- 01273 322046
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Last updated: 02/19/2009
Experience a mix of culture, history and nature. This tour includes some of the most important ruins and beautiful colonial towns of North Yucatan, all at your own pace, no group travel.
Playa del Carmen to Chichen Itza
At 8am your bus departs from Playa del Carmen bus station to Chichen Itza, where you will arrive at around 11am. It's an even road and although the scenery is a bit boring at first, the last leg of the trip takes you through tropical (and hot) jungle.The bus stops close to the entrance of the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza. The complex is open until 5pm but visiting the complex straight away means enduring battling the crowds and the midday heat; not the most pleasant way of exploring these amazing ruins. Instead, bear the suspense for an extra day and take a taxi (US$1-2) to your hotel, close to the entrance.You will be spending the night close to the ruins in a comfortable hacienda surrounded by tropical gardens. The hacienda has an excellent restaurant and your room is tastefully decorated. Enjoy the tropical surroundings from the comfort of the rocking chair or hammock on your veranda.The starry night sky is amazing here, but there's an even better spot to gaze at the stars; from among the ruins. Every night at 8pm the main square of Chichen Itza is lit up by a spectacular light show. Listening to the legends of the city through your headphones, the stars shimmering above you, you're taken back in time to when the Mayans would call upon their god Chac to bring rain and offer human sacrifices in the cenote. Learning how the Mayans lived here centuries ago makes your walk around the ruins in daylight tomorrow morning all the more meaningful. A combination ticket for the light show, headphones and admission can be purchased at the entrance for around $US 15.
Chichen Itza to Merida
Another early start this morning so you can be one of the first ones into the complex when the gates open at 8am. Wear light clothing and bring plenty of water because it can get very hot during the day. Chichen Itza was the last major Mayan city and way ahead of its time. The focal point is towering pyramid El Castillo (the castle). It's a steep and scary climb up the steps but you'll be rewarded with an amazing view across the entire complex.On 21st March and 21st September the position of the sun creates a light-and-shadow optical illusion of a snake creeping down the steps of El Castillo. It is in fact a very clever architectural feat by the Mayans.Another highlight of Chichen Itza is the ball court with its amazing acoustics - you can sit at one end of the court and still hear the other person whispering at the other. Give it a try.After four hours you'll have covered most of the complex and you'll be ready to leave by the time the coach loads of day trippers from Cancun arrive. Take a taxi back to the hotel to freshen up and enjoy some lunch, because you'll need to be back at the entrance at 1.45pm to catch the bus to Merida, a 2Â½-hour bus ride.Merida is a big city and quite hot (not ideal for wandering round on foot) which is why we've arranged accommodation for you close to the central plaza. A taxi there costs 30 pesos, (just like any other taxi ride within the city). Your colonial hotel has a pool, steam baths and beautifully ornate hallways.In the afternoon it's time to explore the city. The main street, Paseo de Montejo is lined with beautiful buildings in French Neo-renaissance style which form an interesting contrast to the simple, traditional pastel-coloured Yucatecan houses. Merida is also home to the oldest cathedral in Yucatan and the Governors Palace which houses some beautiful murals depicting the history of Yucatan is open until late in the evening. Many shops stay open until 9pm.Merida is also one of the best places to buy a traditional Yucatecan hammock but do your research (ask the hotel receptionist for example) to find a reputable vendor, as there are plenty of cheap and poor quality renditions around. A great place for dinner in the evening is Restaurant Amaro with live music in a beautiful romantic Mexican patio in the historic centre.
Merida and surrounding area
Today's a good day for a trip out of the city. If you've fallen under the spell of the Mayans after visiting Chichen Itza then book an excursion to the Puuc Route, a route lined with Mayan ruins in decorative Puuc style. With all its frills, tassels and beautifully decorated statues we liked the ruins at Uxmal the best.If you've had enough of Mayan temples for a while and prefer seeing a bit of wildlife, then take an excursion to Celestun on the Gulf of Mexico for a boat trip through the Rio Celestun nature reserve. The lagoon is home to thousands of pink flamingos which you'll get to see close up on your boat trip. Both these excursions can easily be booked through your hotel in Merida. Departure daily around 8am, returning around 6pm. Costs approx US$50 per person.
Merida to Campeche
Around 9.15 am you take the bus from Merida bus terminal to Campeche where you'll arrive around midday. You can take a taxi to your hotel on the boulevard. Have some lunch on the sea front and then wander through the city gates into the historic centre.Campeche is a surprisingly interesting town and easier to navigate than Merida. A tram from the main square takes you past the various sights including the fortress walls and bastions that once protected the city against pirates. Many of the original colonial buildings have recently been restored to their former glory and are beautifully lit at night.
Campeche departureThis morning marks the end of the module. We couldn't resist a last morning walk through the centre of Campeche and admire what must be the cleanest, prettiest cobbled streets in the whole of Mexico.
- Inclusions -
- 1 night in hacienda near Chichen Itza, 2 nights in colonial hotel Merida, 1 night in Campeche, transportation as described.
- Exclusions -
- All meals.
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