In May I had the amazing opportunity to take part in the 8 Day Wonders of Mexico’s Yucatan tour operated seamlessly by Globus. Mexico has always been on my list of places to travel so I felt very privileged to be offered this opportunity. My tour operated in the reverse direction to how it is normally run but that made no difference to us.
Our first stop was the beautiful Cancun with their white sandy beaches and bustling city. With a quick overnight stop, the next morning we were on our way to Chichen Itza. En-route we made a stop in the colonial city of Valladolid where we had an orientation tour with free time to explore afterwards. This is Yucatán’s third-largest city and is full of colour with a laid-back atmosphere.
After travelling through Valladolid and tequila plantations we arrived at Hotel Mayaland Resort in Chichen Itza. Hotel Mayaland was built in 1923, set on 100 acres of tropical gardens and maintains its own private entrance to the Archaeological Park. With beautiful pools scattered around the property, we had plenty of time to cool off. This was our home for the next two nights.
As we had some spare time after our arrival we were lucky enough to add an excursion to the nearby Cenote Ik Kil. If you get the chance to do this it is a must do! It is a 27 metre sinkhole. With a quick walk down the stairs, you are ready to jump in. Don’t worry, if you are not a confident swimmer you are able to hire lifejackets so you don’t miss out! Approximately 6000 Cenotes are scattered throughout Yucatan.
After a beautiful dinner with live entertainment by the pool we were invited to a dramatic Sound and Light show. This took place amongst the ruins which was a unique experience for everyone involved. Throughout the show our Tour Director kept us informed about the historical importance of what was being shown.
After a great night’s sleep, we started a morning tour of Chichen Itza which was built by the Mayans. First up is the El Castillo, also known as the Pyramid of Kukulcán. There are two temples here, one inside the other. The older pyramid is said to have a red jaguar throne with inlaid eyes and spots of jade. Unfortunately, due to the height and largeness of this temple you cannot climb it but it is still amazing to see.
You also get to see the Grand Ball Court which is the largest in Mesoamerica. The Ball Court was a place of sacrifice and was used to settle social and political disputes. This court is acoustically perfect. If you talk to the northern wall for example, you can hear it clearly at the southern wall.
Also included on this tour is the Cenote Sagrado, this is known to the Mayan people as a sacred well. The belief is that it was once filled with treasure that was offered to the gods. There is so much interesting history at Chichen Itza, you won’t be disappointed!
This afternoon was spent exploring Ek Balam. This is also known as the Maya city of the Black Jaguar. The pyramids are over 1000 years old and the tallest one you can climb is 31 metres. This is not for the light hearted as there are no hand rails for guidance but it is worth the hike. The views at the top are amazing!
On Day 4 we were onto Merida. Merida is known as the cultural capital of the Yucatan Peninsula. This city is known for its colonial history and is a popular tourist destination. Our accommodation was in a colonial mansion which was centrally located, with just a short walk into the centre. Here we had a morning walking tour with our Tour Director Viktor. He showed us many interesting buildings that were significant to Merida’s history including the Plaza Grande. Once we had free time we were given the chance to get our retail fix. Merida has great shopping so whatever you are wanting to purchase and take home with you this was the place to do it.
After departing Merida we travelled to Becal. Here we visited a local hat maker to learn about the Mayan hat making techniques. The technique and patience that is involved in making these hats is fascinating. They also taught us how to fold a sombrero correctly, just in case we wanted to bring one home as a souvenir.
After our hat demonstration was finished we were onto Campeche. This is a coastal town and was once a pirate haven but is now a World Heritage site. This city has cobblestone streets and pastel coloured buildings, which are lovely to explore. Campeche is a lively town with great restaurants, bars and very friendly people. After dinner we went to a bar and ended up dancing the night away in the rain with the locals.
On Day 6 we left Campeche for Uxmal for the final days of our tour. Uxmal is a UNESCO World Heritage site. This area is considered a very important archaeological site for Mayan culture. This afternoon, we were free to enjoy our accommodation at the Hacienda Uxmal. In my opinion, this place had the BEST guacamole of our whole trip! After dinner, we watched a display of the ceremonial Pok Ta Pok ballgame complete with fire ball. The objective of the game was to get a ball through a narrow stone hoop placed on the court wall, often as high up as 20 feet from the ground.
The next morning, we were treated to a traditional Mayan breakfast which was prepared by our Tour Directors family. This filled our bellies so we were ready to explore even more ruins. This included the Pyramid of the Magician which is set amongst a forest landscape. Uxmal is also known for its chocolate including traditional hot chocolates! These are delicious and great presents for people back home.
After Uxmal we returned to Cancun for one last night until we were transferred to our flight home. This Globus trip was amazing and I highly recommend it to anyone wanting to visit Mexico. The knowledge of the guides and the comfort of the accommodation and coach really help you create memories of a lifetime.