Wow... Chichén Itzá! (Mexico, Yucatán, July 2014)
@ Corinne Bourbeillon / Little Bubbles Elsewhere

The girl who wanted to see the Mayan pyramids

#Mexico

  Mexico: Yucatán - July 2014

Dear English-speaking readers, this page is an automatic translation made from a post originally written in French. My apologies for any strange sentences and funny mistakes that may have been generated during the process. If you are reading French, click on the French flag below to access the original and correct text: 


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's more to life than diving... 😉 During my stay in Mexico in July 2014, I couldn't ignore the pyramids of the ancient Mayans, which are nearby. Here are four archaeological sites that I took the time to explore between two dives, and that I highly recommend visiting if you travel to the Yucatán peninsula:

Cozumel: iguanas and old stones

July 2014. Scorching heat. In this season, in the Caribbean Sea, the Mexican sun is beating down. In front of me, the remains of a small grey stone pyramid in the middle of a clearing, surrounded by vegetation.

A large iguana watches me out of the corner of its eye. I slowly approach it to take its picture.

An iguana watches over the ruins of the pyramid of San Gervasio. Cozumel, Quintana Roo, Mexico, July 2014.
An iguana watches over the ruins of the pyramid of San Gervasio. Cozumel, Quintana Roo, Mexico, July 2014.

We are in San Gervasio, a Mayan archaeological site, created around 100 BC and occupied until the 16th century. Surrounded by a patch of jungle, it is in the centre of the beautiful island of Cozumel, located off the coast of Playa del Carmen and Cancún.

There are old stones, trees hugging the old stones and a few hard-sweating tourists, more fascinated by the iguanas hiding in the bushes than by the old stones, really. Yet this small site dedicated to the Mayan goddess Ixchel - goddess of fertility, the moon, medicine, weaving - is not lacking in charm. An ancient 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, to explore Cozumel quietly. San Gervasio is my first Mexican "cultural" excursion, my first Mayan pyramid!

Intense heat on the small pyramid of San Gervasio. Cozumel, Quintana Roo, Mexico, July 2014.
Intense heat on the small pyramid of San Gervasio. Cozumel, Quintana Roo, Mexico, July 2014.
A guide tells a group of tourists the story of the ark and the old Mayan road of San Gervasio. Cozumel, Quintana Roo, Mexico, July 2014.
A guide tells a group of tourists the story of the ark and the old Mayan road of San Gervasio. Cozumel, Quintana Roo, Mexico, July 2014.

Tulum: facing the sea

A few days later, I leave Cozumel, where I spent most of the week exploring the beautiful 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.

Tulum is a Mayan archeological site overlooking the beach and the turquoise blue of the Caribbean Sea. Quintana Roo, Mexico, July 2014.
Tulum is a Mayan archeological site overlooking the beach and the turquoise blue of the Caribbean Sea. Quintana Roo, Mexico, July 2014.

I took the ferry at dawn in Cozumel, then boarded a bus that dropped me off at the guesthouse i-Tour, located at the crossroads of two main roads in Tulum. I went for the budget option for the one night I plan to spend here. The accommodations on the beach are crowded and overpriced, mostly 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. They have a lovely welcome (in French!), bicycles on loan, impeccable, comfortable and themed air-conditioned rooms (from Frida Kahlo to Hugo Sanchez), and several nice restaurants around. They are also a tourist centre: all the minibuses stop there in the morning for breakfast and at that time of the day, there is a big crowd in the little courtyard, which is quite a funny place (wink to Marie-Julie and her Taxi-Brousse blog, who stopped there).

i-Tour Mexico, Tulum. Quintana Roo, Mexico, July 2014.
i-Tour Mexico, Tulum. Quintana Roo, Mexico, July 2014.

I leave my bag and hurry by bike to the Tulum site in the middle of the morning. It's already a bit too late: the clusters of tourists transported from Cancún and Playa del Carmen start to pour in.

Here too, the sun is beating down. Tulum was a fortress-port and one 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, more and more dense, spoils a bit the contemplation. I end up fleeing and riding my bike to a stretch of beach to complete this tourist day on the Riviera Maya.

At the foot of the cliffs of Tulum, a protected beach, where turtles come to lay. Quintana Roo, Mexico, July 2014.
At the foot of the cliffs of Tulum, a protected beach, where turtles come to lay. Quintana Roo, Mexico, July 2014.
The Mayan site of Tulum is very busy. Quintana Roo, Mexico, July 2014.
The Mayan site of Tulum is very busy. Quintana Roo, Mexico, July 2014.
Tulum is one of the only archaeological sites that offers direct access to the beach. Quintana Roo, Mexico, July 2014.
Tulum is one of the only archaeological sites that offers direct access to the beach. Quintana Roo, Mexico, July 2014.

Chichén Itzá: spectacular!

The next day, I take a bus to Valladolid, an old colonial town a little further inland, where I plan to stay for a few days to explore the area and visit several other renowned sites, including the very famous Chichén Itzá.

Wouaaah ... Chichen Itza! Mexico, Yucatán, July 2014.
Wow... Chichén Itzá! Mexico, Yucatán, July 2014.

Valladolid is charming and enchanted me from the moment I arrived. Not as big and not as far from the coast as 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.

It is THE most famous Mayan site, the most visited, the most beautiful archeological site, and a Unesco World Heritage site, and everything and anything!!! 😲

For more information: Wikipedia entry on Chichén Itzá

The girl who wanted to see the Mayan pyramids saw them ... Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico, July 2014.
The girl who wanted to see the Mayan pyramids has seen them! Yucatán, Mexico, July 2014.

I'm so excited when I get there, that I indulge in the pure tourist Instagram selfie ... Well, it's not every day 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 ticket desks laugh, enjoying the calm before the day's tourist rush.

I had read mixed reviews about Chichén Itzá. For my part, it is quite the opposite, I will come out thrilled with my visit.

I start with the great pyramid. The light is still beautiful and soft at this time of the day. Some lonely people like me are already following in my wake on the vast grassy esplanade. The street vendors are starting to arrive. For them, it's a race. They rush with their handcarts through the alleys, quickly setting up their stalls of trinkets. They give me astonished looks.

Chichén Itzá is well 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 can barely make my way up the stream of the crowd on the opposite direction!

The great pyramid of Chichen Itza, just for me! Yucatán, Mexico, July 2014.
The great pyramid of Chichen Itza, just for me! Yucatán, Mexico, July 2014.
The great pyramid of Chichen Itza, before the arrival of the crowd. Mexico, Yucatán, July 2014.
The great pyramid of Chichén Itzá (called "Castillo" by the Spanish conquistadores) before the arrival of the crowd. Yucatán, Mexico, July 2014.
The arrival of street vendors in Chichen Itza. Yucatán, Mexico, July 2014.
The arrival of street vendors in Chichen Itza. Yucatán, Mexico, July 2014.
The huge playground of pelota. Large snakes guard the most imposing buildings. Yucatán, Mexico, July 2014.
The huge ball playground. Large snakes guard the most imposing buildings. They represent the god Kukulcan, the feathered serpent. Yucatán, Mexico, July 2014.
The Great Pyramid of Chichen Itza. Mexico, Yucatán, July 2014.
The Great Pyramid of Chichen Itza. Mexico, Yucatán, July 2014.
At the foot of one of the stairs of the great pyramid. Yucatán, Mexico, July 2014.
At the foot of one of the stairs of the great pyramid. Yucatán, Mexico, July 2014.
One of the strange faces that adorn the building called "La Iglesia". Yucatán, Mexico, July 2014.
One of the strange faces that decorate the building called "La Iglesia". Yucatán, Mexico, July 2014.
An army of skulls of warriors. Yucatán, Mexico, July 2014.
An army of skulls of warriors. Yucatán, Mexico, July 2014.
Skulls sold to tourists. Yucatán, Mexico, July 2014.
Skulls sold to tourists. Yucatán, Mexico, July 2014.
I leave the site when the crowd begins to arrive. Yucatán, Mexico, July 2014.
I leave the site when the crowd begins to arrive. Yucatán, Mexico, July 2014.

Cobá: Mysteries in the jungle

And then there is the lovely site of Cobá, scattered through the jungle. It too is easily accessible from Valladolid. You can rent a bike, or a two-seater, at the entrance. It's a pleasure to ride under the cover of the trees and to stop from one vestige to another.

The great Mayan pyramid of Cobá is one of the few where it is still allowed to climb. Yucatán, Mexico, July 2014.
The great Mayan pyramid of Cobá. Yucatán, Mexico, July 2014.

I start with the great pyramid. One of the few where it is still allowed to climb. It's vertiginous, the steps are a bit collapsed and you have to hold on to a big rope to go up and down. But it is worth it. The jungle spreads out endlessly below, like a sea of green.

Find out more: Wikipedia file on Coba

Here again, I managed to arrive early enough to feel almost like an explorer. But it doesn't last long... I comfort myself with the small pyramids still hidden in the greenery, where the crowd doesn't stop.

The huge site of Cobá can be visited by bike. Yucatán, Mexico, July 2014.
The huge site of Cobá can be visited by bike. Yucatán, Mexico, July 2014.
Smaller pyramids are still buried in the vegetation. Cobá, Yucatán, Mexico, July 2014.
Smaller pyramids are still buried in the vegetation. Cobá, Yucatán, Mexico, July 2014.
From the top of the pyramid of Cobá, we see over the jungle and we guess the sea, on the horizon. Smaller pyramids are still buried in the vegetation. Yucatán, Mexico, July 2014.
From the top of the Cobá pyramid, you can see over the jungle and the sea on the horizon. There are many other buildings, more or less well preserved, scattered among the vegetation. Yucatán, Mexico, July 2014.

I'm publishing this post over a year after my July 2014 trip to Mexico!

If I have already talked a lot about the spectacular dives that I was able to do in the waters of the Yucatán Peninsula, but I still have some "terrestrial" memories to bring back to life. Other Mexican articles should therefore appear unexpectedly, as the next publications come out...

To find all the articles previously published about this 2014 Mexico trip, click on the link below... 😉

  Mexico: Yucatán - July 2014

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  1. It's funny because I just visited chicheniza and the site is beautiful but spoliated by sellers and tourist bus companies and bad guidance. Following your article, I went to the yukatan dive cozumel, it's not bad, but very expensive compared to Asia indeed. And if you're not American, chances are he's doing the bare minimum if you're European, as an instructor explained, because it's mostly the Amerriins who tip. That's what I found. The quality of the guidance is bad, a very good, it depends on the "freelance" on which one falls. I deprecate deep blue which is only after your money and recomande eco divers if you are not too horse of the state of the material. They are cheaper, the guidance is better, and the park fee is included. I also advise against blue magic that scam the customer by taking a com on the park fee, which is illegal and theft! I'm going to dive on Cayo centro further south after the cenotes. From what I'm told, it's better than Cozumel, I'll hold you to the juice!

    1. @Olivier : there's no doubt that American-style tourism has transformed this region of Mexico. I chose well my dive operators, always small structures, often family owned, and I was not disappointed. For my part, in spite of the tourist pressure in the area, I came back enchanted by this trip and the welcome of the Mexicans. I regretted not to speak better Spanish... In any case, yes, it will be interesting to have your report on the dives further south 🙂

  2. What memories, chichen, tulum, coba, but also uxmal, palenque and especially tikal that hit me the most, lost in the jungle, with coatis, howler monkeys. I advise you to admire the sunrise from the top of a pyramid. I spent 2 nights in Tikal in a bungalow of which 3 walls of 4 were only 1 m high. At the table of hosts, it was necessary to protect its plate (vegetarian) of the 2 screaming monkeys of the proprietor more rasta than Guatemalan.
    Memorable dive in the cenotes, and superb drifting dives on the site of tortuga a playa: turtles and tarpon a lot that do not care about the current.

    1. @ Gerard: Tikal, another famous Mayan site, in the north of Guatemala... Another place to discover !!! In truth, I'm much less the friend of the monkeys than the friend of the sharks and I'm not sure I would have enjoyed the same experience... 🙄

  3. Ruins and not even buried under water, it's a shock tell me 😉 I hope it doesn't bode well for a future engulfment due to rising waters!
    Joking aside, I have never visited the Mayan ruins of Mexico, but I was pretty dazzled by those of Tikal in Guatemala, one of my first trips a long time ago ... 17 years (sequence rejuvenation!)

  4. Hello Corinne,

    Our trip to Yacatan is recent, it dates from February 2015 and your report brings us only good memories. We were in Playa in a nice little hotel on the beach to be ready for the diving club Phocéa with whom we dive ... (Bulldog sharks, Turtles and wrecks ...) .. Big Club structure, very pro and they take good care of you!, Club Francophone and it is appreciable too ...

    Chichen and Coba, we did with the Mimi tour (French installed for a long time in Playa) and very well organized, we were on sites before the horde of coaches ... while we are also .. tourists but not this impressions massive!
    We shared a meal with a Maya family and we kept a great memory.
    Diving in Cenotes with Phocea at Dos Ojos..excellent moment ..

    In short we highly recommend this trip and thank you for photos and comments.

    Eric

    1. @ Eric: I'm delighted that you too have enjoyed your foray into Mayan land... And thank you for taking the time to leave this little comment, it's always a pleasure!!! 🙂

  5. During my last trip to the Yucatan Peninsula, I hesitated to visit Chichen Itza, due to lack of time. Also because it's very touristic (of course!), I preferred to skip it and go to the cenotes (something I don't regret). I liked the site of Uxmal and adored that of Tikal which impressed me a lot. A return is thus necessary to visit Chichen Itza and Coba 🙂

  6. One of my best trips to date, with Iceland and Portugal! We were like you at Chichen Itza, all excited;). I keep a wonderful memory of the site of Uxmal, a little too far from the Riviera Maya and that's what is good ^ _-. Sabrina

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