After a week of relaxing on the beach, visiting Mayan ruins and looking for tropical wildlife in the Yucatan Peninsula, Dan and I reluctantly returned to the rainy Bay Area. Dan had a work meeting in Cancun, so I joined him afterwards for a little vacation...wished we could have stayed longer!
I met up with Dan in Isla Mujeres, a small island north of Cancun. We stayed at an oceanside apartment, listening to the ocean waves and relaxing in a hammock on the patio.
Pretty pool of water by the ocean
From Isla Mujeres we took a day trip to Isla Contoy, a national park and bird sanctuary. We snorkeled in the warm waters, looking at different corals, tropical fish and a giant manta ray. Also saw many, many magnificent frigate birds and spotted a few sunning reptiles along the paths. We enjoyed delicious grilled fish under a palapa with a huge community of hermit crabs nipping at our toes.
The slow boat we took is on the right
After a couple of days of island relaxation, we rented a car from Cancun and drove inland to the town of Valladolid. Each morning we enjoyed breakfast in the pretty courtyard of El Meson del Marques, which is right on the town plaza, where we strolled while listening to a band perform on Sunday evening, and sampled delectable treats from various street vendors. From Valladolid, we visited the Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza.
El Castillo, the main pyramid
Shadows forming a serpent appear along the steps during the equinox! But people are not allowed to climb the pyramid anymore. The ruins were very impressive, and Dan loved examining the many intricate limestone carvings.
The Platform of Skulls
But by midday it was very crowded and hot, and not so fun. We drove to the colonial town of Izamal, where the Spanish built one of the first monasteries in the New World...slowing down as we passed through small villages by the topes, speed bumps along the roads throughout Mexico.
Santuario de la Virgen de Izamal
Stones from Mayan pyramids were used to build the monastery in 1533, which is like a fortress. The next day we visited Ek Balam, recently discovered ruins that are still being excavated.
View from halfway up the Acropolis
Acropolis, the main pyramid, can be climbed, and is higher than El Castillo at Chichen Itza.
Resting on the steps
Dan was enthralled by the many stucco carvings halfway up the Acropolis, amazingly preserved. (Or restored?) Jaguar teeth surround the carvings...Ek Balam means black jaguar in Mayan...
Intricate carvings topped by human figures
We also noticed many of the doorways had the same trapezoidal arch shape at all the ruins we visited.
To cool off from the midday heat we went for a dip at Cenote Samula. The Yucatan Peninsula has few surface lakes or rivers, but many cenotes, underground freshwater sinkholes exposed when the limestone surface falls through. Dan was slightly apprehensive as we descended the dark, slippery steps...but the freshwater pool was lovely and refreshing.
Tree roots extend down from the opening
The tree roots hanging down from the surface above were so long! We also saw stalactite formations and fish swimming in the water.
From Valladolid we drove back to the coast, and stayed in a bungalow on the beach in Tulum.
Sunset from the porch
We walked on the beach, snorkeled in Bahia de San Francisco, swam in Gran Cenote, relaxed in the hammock, and visited the ruins at Tulum...the only Mayan ruins built on the coastline....a spectacular setting...
Surrounded by three walls and the ocean
From Tulum we also visited Sian Ka'an, a biosphere reserve encompassing 1.3 million acres of tropical forests, mangroves, lagoons, and coastline. We went swimming, walked through the mangroves, saw beautiful beetles, a couple of small crocodiles, reddish egrets and many other birds flying to San Miguel Island as the sun set.
Sunset over Boca Paila Lagoon
On our last day on the way to the airport we stopped in Puerto Morelos to buy hammocks...and have one last look at the beautiful beach. It was a wonderful vacation...I was so sad to leave, and hope to return someday soon!
Beautiful blue-green waters