Stunning beaches, mesmerising turquoise water, ancient Mayan cities, delicious food, and a vibrant atmosphere, all this is Mexico. We started 2020 with a 12 days trip to Playa Del Carmen, Cancun and guess what? We absolutely LOVED IT.
Things to do and see:
Every year millions of tourists go to Mexico, with one of the reasons being to see ancient Mayan ruins. There quite a few sites around Cancun and obviously we didn’t want to spend our entire time going around them, so here are the 3 sites we picked and can highly recommend visiting it.
Coba seemed to be the least popular and touristy among the 3 sites we visited. The ruins of Coba locate in the middle of the jungle and the site itself is pretty big, so when you enter you can choose, how you want to explore it: walking, rent a bicycle or hire a bicitaxi. We opted to walk.
There 16 sacbes (white roads) open to the public out of 50 sacbes discovered by far. The main attraction of Coba is a pyramid, known as Ixmoja or Nohoch Mul. The pyramid is 42 meters (138 feet) tall and you can still climb it. The stairs are narrow, uneven and a bit slippery, so I would highly recommend bringing appropriate shoes and hold onto a climbing rope. But the view from the top is truly rewarding and totally worth the climbing.
After seeing the main pyramid, you can wander the jungle and explore the other parts of the site, we suggest taking a site map at the entrance.
Can’t be missed. The only Mayan Ruins built on the edge of a cliff in Quintana Roo overlooking the Caribbean Sea. I’m not even sure what was I impressed with more, the ruins or those spectacular, dreamy views from the cliff. This site is my favourite and the most picturesque out of 3 we visited. When wandering around don’t miss out on the stairway to the Mayan beach where you can chill and swim, so bring your swimsuit.
The last but not least, the iconic Chichen Itza! A UNESCO World Heritage Site, one of the most visited locations in Mexico and the hottest places we have ever been to.
El Castillo Pyramid or the Temple of Kukulcan is the main attraction of Chichen Itza and a very impressive structure. You cannot miss it.
Also, do check The Great Ballcourt – the largest ballcourt in Mesoamerica where Mayan people played the ball game know in English as Pok-ta-Pok.
Temple of the Warriors is another impressive and important structures at Chichen Itza site.
You should also know: if you go to Chichen Itza from Cancun, Tulum, Playa Del Carmen or anywhere on that coast, you will face a time difference zone. Cancun and surroundings are in Eastern Standard Time and when you get to Chichen Itza, it’ll be Central time, so you gain an hour. Example: Cancun 7 am, Chichen Itza 6 am. So, keep in mind that if you plan to reach Chichen Itza by 8 am without knowing about the time difference, you will get there by 7 am.
Avoid going there on Sundays as it’s a day when Mexicans get a free entrance, it might be packed.
There more than 7 000 cenotes on the Yucatan peninsula. Cenotes – is a naturally formed sinkhole with crystal-clear turquoise water. According to archaeologists, the cenote was a place where Mayans prayed to gods and sacrificed people, human remains were found on the bottom of some of the cenotes. During your stay in Mexico, we would suggest visiting at least one cenote. The 99 % of locals we asked suggested the Ik Kil cenote, saying it is one the most beautiful cenotes on the Yucatan peninsula.
Cenote Ik Kil
Ik Kil is one of the most popular and crowded cenotes due to its proximity to Chichen Itza. This cenote is absolutely beautiful, with the sinkhole being 80 meters (240 feet) deep. We visited it right after exploring the Chichen Itza ruins, and that was the best decision, to cool off after 3 hours under the extremely hot sun.
This particular cenote also gained its popularity in the past because of a Red Bull cliff diving event, that was held here a few times, the last one took place in 2014.
Things to know:
- There is parking right in front of the entrance
- Bring cash. They don’t accept cards here at cenote Ik Kil. As of January 2020.
- Bring swimwear and a towel.
- You can rent a lifejacket if you need one for 30 pesos ($1,5)
- You can rent lockers for any valuables 30 pesos ($1,5)
- You will need to take a shower before entering the cenote
- Please do not wear make-up, suncream or any other skin products
- There are two restaurants and a couple of little shops that sell ice cream and drinks
Akumal Beach (Turtle Beach)
Akumal is a small town between Tulum and Playa Del Carmen. Akumal or locally known as Place of Turtles is one of the best places to snorkel and swim with turtles. The Akumal’s Bay seabed is covered in seagrass which makes it extremely attractive for turtles. The area is also a popular nesting site for some of the turtle species. So, basically, no matter what time of the year you visit Akumal, your chance to see turtles are 99.9%.
You can buy a snorkel tour at the beach, trust me you won’t miss one. But we recommend to snorkel by yourself first and ignore all the salesman. However, we suggest to rent out a lifejacket, even if you are a good swimmer, it will just help you to stay longer in the water without tiring yourself up. Give it some time, at least 30 min to spot turtles.
If you have no luck by yourself then we would recommend booking a snorkel tour. The guide will bring you to the exact feeding place, which you are “not allowed” to enter by yourself (as sales people claim).
So, fingers crossed, you can see turtles during your first own attempt.
If you stay in Playa del Carmen, it is hard to miss all the vendors selling ferry tickets to Cozumel. Cozumel is a Mexican island right across Playa del Carmen, which is just 28 miles long and 11 miles wide. Cozumel is also one of the most popular cruise ports in the Caribbean, so, do expect it to be quite crowded. The island itself is a very picturesque place.
We do recommend to rent a car and just drive around the island stopping on the way for some great views and shots. It is also, a great place for snorkelling or diving.
There some things you need to be aware of. Don’t get scammed! We lost our count on how many times they tried to scam us, this was the most negative thing during the entire trip, but as they say, it is Mexico!
- Check your restaurant bill before paying, as they can add extra drinks or food you didn’t order.
- Do not let waiters go with your card to swipe it for payment. ALWAYS ask for a card machine. They may write down your card details and do some online shopping later ( happened to our friends, the waiter is enjoying a 1-month Netflix subscription now )
- Doublecheck with your waiter if prices in the menu are in pesos, and not in dollars. In 99% prices are in pesos but the currency symbol is the same as the dollar symbol.
- We booked a car online with Hertz, when came to pick it up on the agreed day and time, it turned out there were no cars available. Moreover, it was a waiting list with 20+ people ahead of us waiting for their car. We were not alone in this situation.
- When renting out a car with local vendors, they will ask you to pay a deposit which is absolutely fine, but, notify your bank, let your bank know, that this particular amount is deposit money, not a payment, as you may never see that money again.
- When receiving the rented car, check it for any damages, take your own pictures, check the gas level.
- Negotiate your prices! Whether you shop for souvenirs or buying a tour, do negotiate your prices. There is a 99.9% chance you get yourself a better deal.
- We would recommend using cash while in Mexico, just to be on the safe side.
- If using a bank card for payments, do check your balance from time to time for any transactions you didn’t do.
We had a great time in Mexico and will be definitely coming back in the future. Friendly people, beautiful nature, amazing food and great atmosphere. There are so much to see and do there.
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