TRAVEL

Discovering the Yucatan Peninsula in 4 days

Thi was my first time visiting Mexico, and it felt like I was home. The tropical weather, the particular smell of the street’s asphalt getting hit by sudden showers, the breeze in my face trying to compete with the sunshine, the smell of food from the street food carts and the warm smile from the locals. It reminded me of my Santo Domingo, where everybody is welcome to drink a “cafesito” right after lunch.

It was a weekend visit, my flight arrived at Cancun Airport (4 hours from Newark Airport) with no issues or delays. I arranged transportation in advance to take me to the hotel. The ride was about 20 minutes from the airport. While in the car, I enjoyed the pristine water view and the impressive hotels all competing along the coast. Due to the length of my visit (4 days, yes I know),  I planned the activities and places I wanted to visit, and I am glad I did it! It saved me time and money. So what to do in Cancun when your stay is kind of short?

Visit Valladolid

San Servacion Church, Valladolid

Located between Merida and Cancun, it is the third largest city in the Yucatan Peninsula with unique colonial architecture. It was once a ritual and ceremonial center of the Maya Civilization called “Zaci” (white hawk in Mayan). The majestic San Gervacio Cathedral (pictured) built in 1570, welcomes you with its splendor.    The Saint Bernardino Monastery, just a few blocks from the cathedral, was erected over the vault of a very large cenote. Some of the original paintings exhibited behind the altar, as well as its ancient garden with its water wheel.

The San Roque Museum, also an attraction in Valladolid. It was a temple and a Franciscan Convent; it became a center for the evangelism Mayan and a hospital later in 1634, it is open daily and free of charge. Just a few miles from the city you will find three favorite cenotes for swimming; Cenote Zamula, Cenote Dzinup and Cenote Zaci with a restaurant and gift shop to buy souvenirs, open daily 8am-5pm.

This charming Mexican city is a great place to sample some of the distinct regional cuisines of Yucatán, including the city’s signature dish lomitas de Valladolid (pork in a tomato and garlic broth), longaniza and chicken escabeche.  In the Historic Center, you will find a handicraft center called “Zaci” where you can admire craftsmen embroidering or working with wood. Another leading artisanal product is leather, various types of which are manufactured into sandals, wallets, belts, among many other things. Arte Rosa Mexicano had an excellent selection of organic bath and body products at low prices.

Cancun Zona Hotelera

          Hotel Fiesta Americana  Hotel Fiesta Americana

No transportation needed, just step out of your hotel and enjoy the pristine waters. If you are staying in an oceanfront hotel, the beach is at your feet; you will only need sunscreen and a piña colada. Make sure to check with the front desk about daily activities and enjoy!

After a relaxing day at the beach, you should explore Cancun Nightlife, known as one of the best destinations for partying, indeed! Bars, restaurants, and clubs along the main road, every day was a fiesta!. I tried Coco Bongo, a nightclub with a Broadway type of show, about 40 performances on stage, my adrenaline was pumping from the beginning to the end for about 5 hours.

Chichen-Itza                 

                   Chichen Itza                      Chichen Itza

One of the most recreational and educational day trips is a visit to Chichen-Itza. The site is divided into three sections. The North grouping of structures is distinctly Toltec in style. The central group appears to be from the early period. The southern group is known as “The Old Chichén.” All three can be seen comfortably during a day trip.

It is an imposing archeological site considered one of the new Seven Wonders of the World by the Unesco. You will find the Ball Court, several platforms, temples and the spectacular El Castillo (Pyramid of Kukulkan), a massive 25m stone representation of the Maya calendar (pictured). Each side had originally 91 steps, adding the platform at the top as a final step there are 365 in total one for every day of the year. Toltec warriors are represented in the carvings around the doorway at the top of El Castillo. Make sure to wear comfortable clothes and shoes, sunscreen is essential, a hat is also helpful to protect you from the sun and drink tons of water to stay hydrated.

At the entrance of the Mayans ruins, there is a museum, a dining room, clean restrooms, a few gift shops and vendor stands selling fabrics, sculptures, wood carving objects, paintings and more. This tour is offered by several tour operators; you can ask at the hotel front desk or even schedule it online or from the Cancun airport with several travel kiosks for you to choose.

The Yucatan Peninsula is a great vacation destination rich in culture and traditions; with white sand and astonishing blue turquoise waters. The vibrant wildlife is full of parks and nature reserves with over 450 species of birds identified in the area. It is home to modern hotels and resorts with a lot of opportunities for practicing water sports, learn about the Mayan Culture and relax in a paradisiac environment!

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