every night around 8 pm in the main plaza or esplanade, will be a free show that captives both national and international tourist,,,the show is called Las bombas and those are folk dances mixed whith a little theater, music and the most important, traditional jokes with this heavy spanish Yucatan accent ,very funny rimes telll by funny people at the end they say bomba......and everybody screams Bombaaaa too, make sure you buy some snacks and enjoy the show..
I can't say enough about eating... and drinking at the Haciendas found all over the Yucatan. We spend the whole morning at the Ruins at Uxmal and then had a phenomenal lunch at Hacienda Ochil. Yet another great meal, with the most delicious guacamole, and freshest fruit juice, in a stunning outdoor setting. This Hacienda was a bit larger, with more to offer than some of the others we saw. It had many restored building from the henequen plantation days, which hold such diverse exibits from restored plantation equipment... to modern art! I believe this hacienda does offer tours, that we did not take advantage of. Hacienda Ochil is centrally located just off Rt 261 between Merida and Uxmal, so you can easily take advantage of it either place you are staying!
We were directed to this "secret" cenote by our B&B owner in Santa Elena, but it is an easy distance from Merida. It is hard to find, off the beaten path, in the middle of nowhere... but if you are adventurous and have a rental car, it is worth the solitude and the swim. We followed MX 261 to an exit westbound marked "Cocoa" (I believe it is marked in one direction, but not the other), near Hacienda Ochil. Once on this solitary road there are signs for the cenote, but be patient, you will pass thought some small towns. Once you get to the gate, I believe it is a nature preserve, and pay your 10 Pesos, you will continue down another long solitary road. Eventually the road will split and there is a cenote in either direction. We swam in the one to the right... it was phenomenal! The cenote down the left fork was deeper and you had to climb down a pit to get to it... it was darker and murkier, and I personally did not feel as comfortable swimming there.
After the hordes at Chichen Itza, and Uxmal, it was delightful to wander around these ruins WITHOUT ANOTHER SOUL AROUND! We could climb many of the pyramids and appreciate the great views they gave us of the Mayan "alps". Oxkintok is smaller and very manageable site with a lot to see. However, it is lacking the detail and intricacies of the carving that you see at the Puuc Route ruin site. This was an easy day trip from Merida.
After our serene, but hot, exploration of the Oxkintoc Runis (15Ks east of Maxcanu off Rt 180 from Merida), we were dying to find a place where we could get some cold drinks and good food. On a lark, we headed west toward Hotel Hacienda Santa Rosa. What a find! This place was in the middle of nowhere, but beautiful! We were told that it is one of the smallest Haciendas on the Yucatan, but this did not seem to affect the service or the quality of our meal. We enjoyed a delightful meal on an open patio surrounded by a well manicured little jungle.
Loltun Caves are about 90 minutes south of Merida in the Puuc Hills. The Yucatan peninsula is a fascinating mass of land. A large part of it has no rivers or lakes. Underneath the ground, however, is a large underground lake, that provides water to the area. This huge underground lake, over hundreds of thousands of years, has produced a network of caves, most of which haven't even been fully explored.
These caves were home to pre-Mayan people and used as a hideout during the War of the Castes in the mid-19th century. But why am I so skeptical that I couldn't believe that the painted handprint in the cave was really made by a pre-Mayan?
Visitors must go with a guide, and while there is no set price, you will be made to feel obligated to pay $450 pesos per family. It's worth it. Our guide, Rodrigo was knowledgeable and spoke very good English. The entire tour was about 90 minutes. You'll see stalactite and stalagmite formations, bats (which was really a treat) and the infamous pre-Mayan handprint.
While the cave is cooler than the surface, it is not like visiting a cave in the US, where the temperatures are so cold, you need a jacket even in the summer. It was about 90 degrees F outside when we were at Loltun, and probably 15 degrees cooler in the cave. Cooler but not too cool.
Izamal is about 60 minutes east of Merida. We made a side trip there on our way back from Chichen Itza. What a beautiful town! It was built on the site of a Mayan ruin. Most of the buildings in town are painted a mustard yellow, so it is known as the "Yellow City". The centerpiece of the town is the Franciscan convent, also painted yellow, which was built in the 16th century right on top of a Mayan temple. If you look carefully, you'll find ancient carved Mayan stones built into the walkways at strategic points.
Yucatan is trying to promote tourism to Izamal - that was obvious from the brochures we saw in Merida - but the town was still extremely uncrowded. Like most towns in the area, it is very poor. However, it was the only town in which we saw a new residential subdivision being built -- several rows of mustard colored boxes. They were so tiny - about the size of my tiny office. Yet they were new and had filtered water (the tank on the roof is the giveaway), so for most in Mexico, it is an improvement.
We took a day trip to Celestun, on the western shore of the Yucatan. Celestun is at the entrance to the Celestun Inlet, which is a migratory stopping point for flamingos, white pelicans, egrets and a number of other birds. We drove from Merida, which took about 90 minutes. Once we arrived in Celestun, we drove west on Calle 11 until we hit the beach. "Brokers" are just waiting for likely customers, and as soon as the broker spotted us, he helped us park our car and fixed us up with a boat and guide.
Even though the broker, told us we'd get an English speaking guide, our guide spoke only Spanish. No problems - our son put his Spanish studies to good use and translated for us (proving that he did learn something after 5 years of Spanish). The birds are spectacular, and so is the inlet. At the entrance of the inlet, the color of the water immediately changes from a greenish color to a reddish color, due to the algae and brine shrimp. As we traveled up the inlet, we saw flock after flock of bright pink flamingos. Interestingly, they are actually white, but feeding on the red algae and brine shrimp changes the pigment of their feathers to pink.
Our guide also took us through a mangrove forest ("manglores" in Spanish) and we stopped at a "petrified forest". It isn't really petrified, just dead, but why haggle over semantics. We were fascinated by the quicksand demonstration our guide gave us in the petrified forest.
This definitely was one of the highlights of our trip to the Yucatan!
18kms south east of Uxmal (and therefore c 100kms from Merida) is Kabah, another of the Puuc ruins that forms part of the Puuc Route. Much smaller than Uxmal, it is nevertheless an important site and is frequently incorporated with Uxmal on a private (4 people taxi) tour. It cannot be reached by public transport.
(To see more, I have placed a travelogue in the Ruinas Uxmal page)
This we came across by chance (OK, so we misread the direction of the one way system in central Merida and ended up exiting to the west instead of east towards Chichen Itza LOL). Driving round the bypass, we took small roads east towards CI and came across this extraordinary yellow town (hence known as Ciudad Amarilla). A huge central monastery (the Convento de San Antonio de Padua - the inner courtyard of which housed the public stage for the 1993 visit of the Pope), church buildings and streets all painted yellow. Quite extrordinary: an easy day trip from Merida or can be combined en route to Chichen Itza.
More 'out of town' than 'off the beaten track'. Uxmal is stupendous and, if you arrive in Merida from by plane, likely to be the first ruin you see. As it is an unheralded site compared to Chichen Itza and Tulum, tourists staying on the coast in places such as Cancun are unlikely to make the trip. Their loss!
See separate Uxmal pages.
Progreso is a beach town - 1/2 hour north of Mérida -- easily accessible by public transport ($1.25 each way). Most of the time it is a sleepy Mexican town (pop. 46,000). This changes during summer holidays (July and August) and over the Easter school break when Meridanos (the inhabitants of Mérida) flock to the sea shore for a break. During winter, Progreso is the home of many Canadian and American snowbirds.
Progreso locals are involved in fishing or supporting the tourist trade, and the town is a centre for supplies, for cruise ship docking, and for gringo snowbirds.
Visit my Progreso pages to learn more.
Dzibilchaltùn is another ruin we visited -- it has fewer buildings than Uxmal or Chichén-Itzá, but has an interesting air-conditioned museum and a cenote (sinkhole) that you can swim in.
It also features flora more; you can see and identify local trees and flowers. The ruins themselves have a bit more shade, so you are less likely to melt on a day where the temperatures go up above 35°C.
Dzibilchaltùn is 15 km north of Mérida (approx. 15 minute drive).
Visit Dzibilchaltùn for more information.
Uxmal is an outstanding large Mayan ruin site we visited. It is has an abundance of detail in the decoration on the buildings. Uxmal compares to Chichen Itza in grandeur; it just is not visited as much as it is quite a bit further from Cancun. The photo is a panorama of one of the building structures: the Nun's Quadrangle.
Uxmal is 80 km southwest of Mérida (approx. 1 ½ hour drive)
You will find more detail on my Uxmal page.
Celestùn is in a nature reserve where you can go on a boat tour that will feature many different birds including flamingos. I think that they promise that everyone will see flamingos. As well they have great seafood restaurants (no flamingo meat however). ;o) We went swimming in the Gulf of Mexico as well.
Celestùn is 100 km southwest (more west) of Mérida (approx. 1 ½ to 2 hour drive)
Visit my Celestùn page for more details.