Monday, April 9, 2012

Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico

 The Mayan site of chichen itza

Executive summary by Darmansjah
 a motmot bird
Getting Around
The bus system is reliable and inexpensive, with routes covering all major cities. For more remote places, you’ll need to hire a car. Car hire outlets operate at Cancun and Merida airports (US$39 per day;

cancun beach
Best For Heritage. Calakmul’s vast ruins, with Mayan monuments and pyramids, are ringed by rainforest. Much of the jade excavated here is on display in the archaeological museum in Campeche (00 52 555 150 2073; calakmul; 8am-4.30pm; US$5).
calakmul's vast ruins
Best For Diving. Yucatan’s underwater labyrinths are ideal for cave diving. Visit for ideas. Above ground, wooden houses and beached boats make Xcalak and idyllic escape. Its mangrove swamps hide lagoons that invite kayakers to explore. Offshore, you can snorkel and drive the vibrant barrier reef. Hire equipment at XTC Dive Center (; three-tank dive US$205, snorkeling trips US$30).
Best For Culture. Merida is the cultural capital of the peninsula. Steeped in colonial history, its narrow streets house the region’s best museums. Plaza Grande is one of Mexico’s most attractive squares, on Sundays, meridanos promenade there.

 plaza grande

Playa del Carmen
Best For Beaches. A popular fiving spot since 1961, when Jacques Costeau showed its spectacular reefs to the world, Isla Cozumel is Mexico’s third-largest island. Ten miles south of San Miguel is Playa Palancar beach, where you can rent hydro bikes and snorkeling gear.
the waters around isla conzumel are dotted with coral reefs
Best For Architecture. The reserve de la Biosfera Slan Ka’an has 2,000 sq miles of tropical jungle and marsh that is home to howler monkeys, ocelots and pumas. Community tours Sian Ka’an runs tours here out of Tulum (00 52 984 871 2201;; Ave Tulum, tulum, tours US$80-US$110).
  de la Biosfera Slan Ka’an
Eat & Drink
Canadian owners Maria and Linda have turned the old Leaky Palapa in Xcalak into a dining sensation. The menu features flavorful dishes such as lobster in caramel ginger sauce. It’s three blocks west of the main plaza (Xcalak; dinner Fri-Mon Oct-Apr; mains from US$4).
Amaro is a romantic dining spot in the courtyard of the house in which Andres Quintana Roo – statesman and drafter of Mexico’s Declaration of independence – was born in 1787. Don’t miss the berenjena (aubergine) curry (00 52 999 928 2451; Calle 59, Merida; lunch and dinner; mains from US$5).
Tucked away between Calle 64 and 66, Restaurante kantun serves some of the best seafood in Merida. Main dishes are all prepared to order and delicately seasoned; try the fillet of fish stuffed with smoked oysters (00 52 999 923 4493; Calle 45, Merida; lunch and dinner Tue-Sunl; mains from US$5).
The trademarks of Playa del Carmens’s Restaurant 100% natural are fresh juices, salads and organic food. Try the guacamole and the fish ceviche (00 52 984 873 2242; cnr Quinta Av & Calle 10, Playa del Carmen; lunch & dinner; mains from US$8).
Famed more for its setting than its food, Alux is in a cavern full of stalactites. Tables are arranged around pools and the rocks are thrown into stark, backlit relief. It’s three blocks west of Hwy 307 in Playa del Carmen (00 52 984 803 2936; Av Juarez, Playa del Carmen; dinner; mains from US$9).
dine in a cavern full of stalactites at Alux Rextaurant
Genesis Retreat boasts ‘eco-cultural values’; its rooms are naturally cooled, insects are controlled by a squadron of ducks and there’s a wall made of plastics bottles. It’s also beautiful, with thatched rooms decorated in Mayan fabrics – and there’s a great restaurant (00 52 985 852 7980;; Ek Balam; Nov-Aug; from US$47).
One of Merida’s nicest small hotels, MedioMundo is decorated in bold, Mexican colours from its; Calle 55 No 534, Merida; from US$63). exterior to the red, blue and green rooms, all with equally bright contrasting fabrics. Traditional blue and yellow tilework is also used throughout (00 52 999 924 5472;
Casa Mexillio is a historic house with beautifully appointed rooms. The 1930s colonial-style décor incorporates local and Spanish antiques and artwork. There’s also a small bar and a tiny pool with Jacuzzi (00 52 999 928 2505;; Calle 68 No 495 between Calles 57 & 59, Merida; from US$79).
Plaza del Carmen’s Kinbe Hotel has a Mediterranean Mayan aesthetic. Designer furniture and green and red colour schemes give it an understated, stylish feel. There’s also a lovely courtyard garden and a rooftop terrace 900 52 984 873 0441;; Calle 10, Playa del Carmen; from  US$87).
A bright, cheery yellow, Casa Carolina in Xcalak has four rooms, each equipped with a kitchen and fridge, plus balconies with sea views. All levels of scuba instruction (NAUI) are offered here, as well as recreational dives at the barrier reef (; Calle Costero,nr Xcalak Pueblo, Xcalak 77940; from US$110).
casa carolina
Your Recommendation
Heady Stuff. Chichen Itza is a Mayan site where the main attraction is the Temple of kukulkan – agiant stepped pyramid. My favorite area, though, was the Great Ball Court, where the game played made use of stone rings in two walls. It was interesting to note that one of the losing team’s players would be decapitated (; 9am-5pm; US$8).
Royal Treatment. Some hotels are described as all-inclusive but have many exclusions – El Dorado Royale, however, is a fine adults-only resort near Cancun that’s truly all-inclusive. Rooms are spacious, with Jacuzzi baths, four-poster beds and minibars. There are lots of restaurants to choose from, numerous pools, and you can hire bikes to cycle round the beautifully tended grounds. This is the only hotel we have ever revisited and, yes we’ll be going there again (; from US$305).
Isla Bonita. You’ll probably want to get out of Cancun as fast as you arrive, but it is good for one thing – access to nearby Isla Mujeres. This beautiful little island has a laid-back vibe and incredibly pretty crushed coral beaches and turquoise waters. I recommended hiring a bike and cycling around the island to see the lighthouse and Mayan ruins berofe cracking open a Modelo beer on the Playa Norte to watch the sun set.
You can also download the Yucatan Peninsula chapter from the Mexico guide at James McNay Brumfield’s thriller A Tourist in The Yucatan is a fun holiday read. For practical information, log on to
Why Go. Despite some over-zealous development, the natural beauty of Mexico’s Yucatan abides. The jungle still echoes to the ethereal coo of the motmot , while the towering temples of the Maya, Toltec and Itza slowly yield up their mysteries. Offshore, the Mesoamerican Reef is the world’s second-largest barrier reef.
When To Go. The Yucatan Peninsula is hot and humid, with the rainy season from June to October. The best time to visit is November to March, when it is comparatively dry and cool. You can also catch Merida’s carnival and Holy week celebrations in February and March
How to Go. Fly into Mexico City with British Airways ( via Heathrow or with KLM ( via schipol. Flights to Cancun, Merida and Cozumel run daily from Mexico City.



mexico city 

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