The second stop in our RTW tour is Mexico, Tulum, where we base ourselves to discover the Riviera Maya. The delayed flight from Phoenix to Cancun makes it impossible to take the ADO bus that connects the airport with Tulum, so we have to transfer in Playa del Carmen. Anyway, we got tickets and the ADO bus leaves in less than 15 minutes, so, no more waiting today!
ADO is a very comfortable bus company that connects important cities in Mexico, very convenient because besides of being super comfy it is fast and reliable, at least in the Riviera Maya, since we’ve read that the company has had some incidents with assaults in the past in other routes.
In Playa del Carmen we get to try our first tacos on a street stand, the tacos campechanos, a super tasty combination of chicken, chorizo, fried onion and lettuce, all put on a super tiny tortilla (actually 2). You just need to have your hands clean to eat it, and open your mouth in a way that nothing falls out. Funny and tasty, also eating on the street makes it easier to start a short conversation with the locals eating there.
The second leg of our ADO bus journey brings us to Tulum, finally! And a little overpriced taxi drops us to what is going to be our home for the next week: Residencia México y Nubes. Big eyes when we see the apartment! We actually didn’t know that we were going to have a whole apartment for ourselves! Great kitchen, big eating space, clean and spacious bathroom and a huuuuge bed! All seasoned with a beautiful garden shared with the other 3 apartments, with hammocks, a barbeque, and bikes to get to the village. The only drawback is that the apartment is a bit far off Tulum village, so we need the bike during the day, and a taxi during the night.
From here we visit several attractions. We start with Tulum itself, we can’t wait to see the ruins, so, “early” in the morning we get on our bikes and ride down to the ruins. Tulum ruins are very characteristic for being the only ones next to the beach. El Castillo is the most famous construction and it used to serve as a reference for sailors during Maya times. We cannot go up to the top of El Castillo as there is a sign for restoration work, we don’t know if it’s going to be forbidden permanently or just during the works. The whole Tulum ancient site served for worshiping the Descending god. In Tulum there are also very well preserved Mayan frescoes and some other constructions such as the temple of the god of wind and the famous city wall that gave the city its name: Tulum.
From Tulum, there is an ADO bus going to Chichen Itzá ruins, the most famous ruins in Yucatán. We considered renting a car, taking a tour, or hiring a taxi, but the cheapest and yet convenient way of getting there is by public bus. Since we already explored the ruins of Tulum without really seeing much more than the stones, we think that getting a guide will make our visit way more interesting. We joined a group of 3 other Spaniards for a guided tour (the guides charge 650 MXN flat rate for a visit of about 2h). Our guide gives us a fantastic explanation of the site and we enjoy it very much. Moreover the weather is just great, it’s hot, but not unpleasant and some clouds now and then make it more bearable.
Everyone says that the cheapest souvenirs are to be bought in Chichen Itzá, but we are tired and don’t want to haggle, so we get our little memory probably overpriced, but we are happy 🙂 A colectivo or a taxi can bring you to the cenote Ik-kil, which is about 3km from the ruins. We go by colectivo (30 MXN for 2 people) and return by taxi (50MXN).
We visit the last and the biggest pyramid in our little Tulum tour: Cobá. It is still allowed to climb up the pyramid and we just want to get there to see all the jungle on our feet. There is an ADO bus going from Tulum to the Cobá ruins, but we like it with the colectivo 😉 After asking like 5 different people where the colectivo stop going to Cobá was, and getting contradictory answers, we finally find it. It’s surprising that not even the owner of the bar right in front of the stop doesn’t know that the colectivos depart from there…
Cobá is impressive! We really like it, the climbing of the 130 steps brings us to the top of the pyramid with splendid views! We are 42 m high and all under us is green jungle. There is a rope for going down the stairs, very handy!
The rest of the site is nice mainly because it’s hidden in the jungle and if you are lucky, you have the feeling of having discovered the ruins yourself just walking in the woods.
Did you know that…
… Tulum’s Mayan name was Zama, which means City of Dawn because it faces the sunrise?
… Tulum is also a Mayan word meaning wall and it was later given to the city because of it city wall?
… there are theories that say that Mayan descendants still exist and they live somewhere in the Amazonas jungle between Perú and Brasil?
… the Mayan human sacrifices were introduced after the Mayas adquired the Tolteca’s culture?
… the human sacrifices were offered to Kukulkan deity twice a year coinciding with the equinoxes?
… the offer to the God was only the skull and the femur of the captain of the winning team after “the ball” game? And that it was thrown to the sacred cenote in Chichen Itzá?
… the responsible for beheading the sacrificed person was the captain of the losing team? And that in Mayan times it was an honor to be killed for a god?
… the Mayan architecture wasn’t simple buildings but they contained information such as a calendar for the people?
- Tacos: Cheap and tasty, everywhere! Go to the not so fancy restaurants, mostly the ones full with locals. Careful with the sauces (chile habaneros)! We mistakenly thought the red one was the least spicy 😀 it’s better to first try them before covering all your tacos with them.
- Weather: Weather in December is just great! Hot but nice.
- Empty Chichen Itzá: with the same ticket you can enter more than once to the site. At 16 pm is the last entry and most of the people are already gone. Then you can get the so wanted pictures with no people on them 😉
- Public transportation: With ADO buses and colectivos you can reach almost any place in the area.
- Cobá: gaze across the jungle from the top of the highest pyramid in Yucatan.
- Sunscreen: Put sunscreen on, even if you think you are tan. Sun burns your skin without you noticing it.
- Social differences: It’s not new to us that there are social differences, and they are even more pronounced in touristic places, where there is the nice street prepared for the tourists and a couple of streets behind the rubbish accumulates on every corner. In any case, we think it’s good we got to see it.