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The old stones of Mexico are worth a visit. And Indiana Jones can (again) go and get dressed. The mysterious Mayan pyramids are mine!
There is not only diving in life... 😉 During my stay in Mexico in July 2014But I couldn't ignore the pyramids of the ancient Maya, which are very close. Here are four archeological sites that I took the time to explore between two immersions, and which I warmly recommend to visit, if you travel in the Yucatán peninsula :
- San Gervasio on the island of Cozumel
- Tulum, a former fortress on the Atlantic coast
- Chichen Itzaa spectacular inland city
- Coba and its ruins hidden in the jungle
Cozumel: iguanas and old stones
July 2014. Overwhelming heat. In this season, in the Caribbean Sea, the Mexican sun is beating down. In front of me, the remains of a small gray stone pyramid in the middle of a clearing, surrounded by vegetation.
A nice size iguana is watching me from the corner of my eye. I approach with slow steps to draw his portrait.
We are in San Gervasio, a Mayan archaeological site, created around 100 BC and occupied until the 16th century. Surrounded by a small jungle, it is in the center of the beautiful island of Cozumel, located off Playa del Carmen and Cancún.
There are old stones, trees hugging the old stones and a few dripping tourists, more fascinated by the iguanas hiding in the brush than by the old stones, really. Yet, this small site dedicated to the Mayan goddess Ixchel - goddess of fertility, of the Moon, of medicine, of weaving - does not lack charms. An old paved road, a graceful arch still standing, several temples and buildings in fairly good condition. The place is peaceful, far from everything.
→ For more information: Wikipedia page on San Gervasio
I rented a scooter for the day, just to explore Cozumel quietly. San Gervasio is my first Mexican "cultural" excursion, my first Mayan pyramid!
Tulum: facing the sea
A few days later, I left Cozumel, where I spent most of the week exploring the superb coral reef of the island. I now head for the beaches of Tulum and its archaeological site (created in the 6th century, occupied until the 16th), a few kilometers south of Playa del Carmen.
I took the ferry at dawn in Cozumel, then boarded a bus that dropped me off at the guesthouse i-TourThe hotel is located at the crossroads of two main roads in Tulum. I took the economic option for the only night I intend to spend here. The accommodations on the beach are crowded and overpriced, most of them flanked by bars with sound systems for nightly "beach parties"...
For just sleeping and walking around during the day, i-Tour is a good option. Lovely welcome (in French!), bike loan, impeccable air-conditioned rooms, comfortable and thematic (from Frida Kahlo to Hugo Sanchez), several nice restaurants around. They are also a tourist center : all the minibuses of excursions stop at their place in the morning for breakfast and at this hour, there is a lot of people in the small courtyard, funny as anything (wink to Marie-Julie and her Taxi-Brousse blog, who stopped there).
I leave my bag and go quickly by bike to the site of Tulum in the middle of the morning. It's already a little too late: the clusters of tourists coming from Cancún and Playa del Carmen start to pour in.
There too, the sun is beating down. Tulum was a fortress-port and we can discover many well preserved buildings, on a cliff overhanging the magnificent turquoise blue of the Caribbean Sea. The light is intense, the place very beautiful.
→ More information: Wikipedia page on Tulum
But the crowd of visitors, always more dense, spoils a little the contemplation. I end up fleeing and pedaling to a piece of beach to complete this day of tourist on the Riviera Maya.
Chichén Itzá: spectacular!
The next day, I take a bus to ValladolidI'm planning to stay a few days to explore the area and visit several other famous sites, including the very famous Chichén Itzá.
Valladolid is charming and enchanted me from the moment I arrived. Less big and less far from the coast than Merida, it is the ideal base to explore the region. One morning, very early, I board a collectivo (collective taxi), determined this time to be the very first one to visit Chichén Itzá site that day.
This is THE most famous Mayan site, the most visited, the most beautiful, Unesco listed, and everything and anything!!! 😲
→ For more information: Wikipedia entry on Chichén Itzá
I'm so excited when I get there, that I succumb to the Instagram selfie of pure tourist. Well, it's not every day that you can take a selfie in front of a Mayan pyramid... 😀
I arrive so early that the ticket booths are not yet open. I am really the first visitor of the day to pass the entrance of the site. It makes the staff at the cash registers laugh, enjoying the calm before the tourist influx of the day.
I had read mixed comments about Chichén Itzá. For my part, it is quite the opposite, I will leave enchanted by my visit.
I start with the big pyramid. The light is beautiful and soft, still, at this time of the day. Some lonely people like me are already following me on the vast grassy esplanade. The travelling merchants begin to arrive. For them, it is the race. They rush with their handcarts in the alleys, to quickly arrange their stalls of trinkets. They throw me astonished glances.
Chichén Itzá is really worth a visit. The huge pelota court, the still intact sculptures and this vertiginous central pyramid are the highlights of the show. When I leave, at the end of the morning, I have difficulty to go back up the flow of the crowd in the opposite direction!
Cobá: Mysteries in the jungle
And then, there is the nice site of Cobá, scattered in the jungle. It is also easily accessible from Valladolid. You can rent a bike, or a cyclo for two, at the entrance. It is a pleasure to pedal under the cover of the trees and to stop from one vestige to another.
I start with the great pyramid. One of the few where it is still allowed to climb. It is vertiginous, the steps are a little collapsed and you have to hold on to a big rope to go up as well as to go down. But it is worth it. The jungle spreads out endlessly, below, like a sea of greenery.
→ Find out more: Wikipedia file on Coba
There again, I succeeded in arriving early enough, to feel almost like an explorer. But it doesn't last very long... I will console myself with the small pyramids still buried in the vegetation, where the crowd doesn't stop.
I am publishing this post more than a year after my July 2014 trip to Mexico!
If I have already talked a lot about the spectacular dives that I could do in the waters of the Yucatán peninsula, but I still have some "terrestrial" memories to revive. Other Mexican articles should therefore appear unexpectedly, as the next publications go by...
To find all the articles previously published about this 2014 Mexico trip, click on the link below... 😉