A road trip through southern Mexico
Virtual 10-day itinerary:
- Playa del Carmen
With a flight we leave for Munich airport - which always deserves a still image for its beauty characterized by the modernity of the trussed structures - from there another flight takes us to our destination: Cancun - Mexico.
The arrival in Cancun takes place in the late evening, after the recovery of the rental car and the night spent in a hotel near the airport, followed by immediate departure the next morning towards Valladolid (We will see Cancun on the way back during the last sea stop in Playa del Carmen).
Valladolid it is a town in perfect Spanish colonial style, with the square packed with Mexicans in colorful clothes, benches always busy for siesta under the shade of centuries-old trees. The life of the Mexicans takes place in the squares that are occupied by a large public garden, where they chat and families spend their free time.
During our stop in Valladolid we come across a political rally that anticipates the next local administrative elections. Megaphones in the street, posters posted everywhere, a real leap into the past to our eighties. We spend the night at the Hotel El Meson del Marques, a gem in full Spanish style, with its internal courtyard enriched with plants and flowers.
The next day we leave for the first archaeological stage of our journey: Chichen Itza. A day immersed in the Mayan world, among the fascinating legends of the historic site, where each building is addressed to the gods to whom the people entrusted all their prayers. A spiritual place to discover without haste, with a walk that follows the trend of the sun, which moves the shadows of the temples in a movement that revives this place still shrouded in mystery.
During our virtual journey in the Yucatan we come across several cenote, which in the Mayan language literally means "sacred water", vertical caves full of fresh water and lined with stalactites and stalagmites, where today we dive for a bath, while for the Maya they were sacred places where human sacrifices took place in honor of their deities.
After the splendid day with a blast from the past, we continue our journey north, destination Merida. From the outskirts where we glimpse precarious buildings destined for housing or simply as a shop, we reach the center of the city full of Spanish-style colonial houses with an air that is anything but Mexican.
Also in Merida there is the central square, the hub of Mexican nightlife. Small, well-kept and evergreen parks that offer shelter from the scorching Central American sun.
A hymn to the Mayan people can be found at every corner, even in the middle of a Merida roundabout 🙂
Tuk tuk? No it's not Thailand, we are still in Mexico, but it seems that this nice means of transport is going great here too.
We proceed with our traveling tour in the direction Campeche, the region of a thousand colors. Its colorful houses are a must in the small town of San Francisco de Campeche.
But before reaching Campeche on our way we stop at the archaeological site of Uxmal.
Uxmal is much smaller than Chichen Itza but just as fascinating: from the top of its pyramids we can enjoy a breathtaking view of the vegetation as far as the eye can see.
On the way we stop at the very small site of Kabah. In every corner of Mexico there is the Mayan world waiting for you!
Here we are at San Francisco de Campeche. Here is a taste of the colorful houses we were talking about earlier. Pure Mexico!
The square, the heart of the city and a reason for living for Mexicans, is unmissable!
It takes several hours by car from Campeche to cross the Tabasco region and reach the Chiapas. Police checks on the roads including roadblocks are recurring, but we feel safe. And the air we breathe here is even more authentic!
In 27 miles we reach Palenque, our destination today.
Once at our destination, we find the beautiful Palenque, a concentration of tropical vegetation that hides some Mayan wonders; it is thought that there are many others, largely hidden in the bowels of these dense forests, interminable and difficult to explore.
Palenque. Heart sank! A unique atmosphere, a deafening silence, the song of birds that echoes among the remains of the archaeological site, perhaps the most fascinating in southern Mexico. Few visitors. Away from mass tourism. A leap suspended in time.
In Palenque we are staying in a bungalow on a campsite located in the middle of the forest. Geckos, lizards and the singing of tropical birds accompany us throughout the night.
The next morning with some clouds and the threat of rain, we have breakfast in the middle of nature and say goodbye to this dream place, to immerse ourselves in the naturalistic center of the Cascada de Misol-Ha in the immediate vicinity. The abundance of water in this region has played an important role in the birth of the natural beauty of these wild places.
After a walk in the middle of the forest we reach the back of the very high waterfall. The sound of pouring water is deafening and covers everything. Try to close your eyes and imagine it.
We get back into our car and in spite of ourselves we leave Chiapas, even if we would like to reach San Cristóbal de Las Casas, but the time available does not allow it and the kilometers to go are still many. Therefore we start in a south-east direction, towards Playa del Carmen.
During our return journey we admire farms, small villages where we meet schoolchildren returning from school, Mexicans waiting at the bus stop, pick-ups with entire families on board.
We reach thus Chetumal, a quiet village overlooking a lagoon with the colors of the tropical sea where we stop only for the night. We then go out for dinner in a local Mexican restaurant and the next morning we resume our journey early.
Here we are in the Riviera Maya! We reach the accommodation in Playa del Carmen, where we leave our luggage and tired of the last days of travel, even if enriched by new experiences, we run towards the sea and dive into the warm waters of the Caribbean Sea.
We cannot fully relax, and so after seeing the metropolis of Cancun in half a day (a small miniature America full of trendy clubs), we leave it behind and head to the last archaeological site of our wonderful trip to Mexico southern: Tulum.
As beautiful for its colors and the charm of the site overlooking the sea, as crowded by the mass of tourists who from Cancun or Playa del Carmen pretend to travel among the Mayan ruins, with a short stop and a photo among the archaeological remains of the site to be able to say: "I was there too!" But the most authentic Mexico in our opinion is elsewhere, not here.
The last afternoon we indulge in idleness on the beach of Playa del Carmen, accompanied by the guitars of the mariachi, after having stuffed ourselves with chili con carne, tacos, nachos, all drowned by tons of guacamole sauce and spicy tomato sauce.
Thus ends our virtual trip to southern Mexico and with regret we return home.