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 of an article originally written in French. I apologise for any strange sentences and funny mistakes that may have resulted. If you read French, click on the French flag below to access the original, 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 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 :

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.

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 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!

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 about the history of the arch and the ancient Mayan road of San Gervasio. Cozumel, Quintana Roo, Mexico, July 2014.

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.

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

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.

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 ValladolidI'm planning to stay a few days to explore the area and visit several other famous 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. 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

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 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!

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 Chichén Itzá. Yucatán, Mexico, July 2014.
The huge playground of pelota. Large snakes guard the most imposing buildings. Yucatán, Mexico, July 2014.
The huge ball park. Large snakes watch over the most imposing buildings. They represent the god Kukulcán, 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 adorn 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 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.

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 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.

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 pyramid of Cobá, we can see over the jungle and we can guess the sea on the horizon. There are quantity of other buildings, more or less well preserved, scattered in the vegetation. Yucatán, Mexico, July 2014.

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... 😉

  Mexico: Yucatán - July 2014

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  1. It's funny because I just visited chicheniza and the site is superb but spoiled by the salesmen and the tourist bus company as well as the bad guidance. Following your article, I went to the yukatan dive in cozumel, it's not bad, but very expensive compared to Asia indeed. And if you are not American, there are chances that he will do the bare minimum if you are European as an instructor explained to me because it is mostly the Americans who give tips. This is what I noticed. The quality of the guidance is from bad to very good, it depends on the freelancer you find. I advise against deep blue who only care about your money and recommend eco divers if you're not too keen on the state of the material. They are cheaper, the guidance is better, and the park fee is included. I also don't recommend blue magic who scams the clients by taking a com on the park fee, which is illegal and theft ! I will go diving on Cayo centro more south after the cenotes. According to what I was told, it's better than Cozumel, I'll keep you posted !

    1. @Olivier : It is certain that the American style of tourism has transformed this region of Mexico. I chose my diving operators well, always small structures, often family-owned, and I was not disappointed. For my part, despite the tourist pressure in the area, I came back delighted with this trip and with the welcome of the Mexicans. I regretted not speaking better Spanish... Anyway, yes, it will be interesting to have your report on the dives further south 🙂

  2. So many memories, chichen, tulum, coba, but also uxmal, palenque and especially tikal which touched me the most, lost in the jungle, with the coatis, the howler monkeys. I advise you to admire the sunrise from the top of a pyramid. I spent 2 nights in Tikal in a bungalow where 3 walls out of 4 were only 1 m high. At the table d'hotes, you had to protect your plate (vegetarian) from the 2 howler monkeys of the owner more rasta than guatemalteque.
    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!!! Truth be told, I'm much less of a friend to the monkeys than I am to the sharks and I'm not sure I would have enjoyed the same experience... 🙄

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

  4. Hello Corinne,

    Our trip to the Yacatan is recent, it dates from February 2015 and your report brings us only good memories.we were in Playa in a small hotel on the beach to be close to the diving club Phocéa with whom we dived ... (bulldog sharks, turtles and wrecks ...)... Big structure of Club, very professional and they take good care of you!, Club Francophone and it's also appreciable ...

    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

  5. During my last trip to the Yucatan peninsula, I hesitated to visit Chichen Itza, because of lack of time. Also because it is very touristy (of course!), I preferred to skip it and go to the cenotes (something I do not regret). I liked the site of Uxmal and loved the one of Tikal which impressed me a lot. A return visit to Chichen Itza and Coba is necessary 🙂

  6. One of my most beautiful trips to date, with Iceland and Portugal! We were like you in Chichen Itza, all excited ;). I keep a marvelous 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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