Friday, 22 August 2014

The Mayan Land: Mexico

We landed in Cancun in the afternoon of July 26th 2013. There was a sudden shift of energy compared to Miami. The ambient and the people seemed much more alive, relaxed and authentic. We felt welcomed in this friendly country from the beginning. Even the immigration and customs officers were  humorous. When we got out of the airport, we were greeted with a vibrant and colourful country.

Cancun is a very touristy town, therefore we took the first bus to Valladolid, a colonial city of Spanish arcades in Yucatan Peninsula. The bus ride (2nd class bus) was our first challenge in Mexico due to a strong smell of urine. Luckily, Alex had some essential oils which were very helpful during the 2 hour ride.

Cathedral San Servacio of Valladolid
We checked into a fantastic hostel called La Candelaria. Jose greeted us at the reception. He was very friendly and had a calming energy. It was a great spot with spacious rooms, nice colours, a lovely garden and a functional kitchen. 

The authentic city of Valladolid (also known as the Sultaness of the East)  was a great start to our Mexican adventure. Yucatan's third largest city offers incredible architecture, colourful buildings, great food and a fantastic ambiance. It is also an excellent hub to visit infamous Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza, Ek Balam and a number of nearby cenotes.  Our fist day came to an end with an excellent dinner at the Conato restaurant.

We had an early start the next morning, as we wanted to discover the incredible cenotes of Dzitnup. After renting our bicycles, we were on our way to witness the beautiful wonders of Yucatan. Cenotes are natural sink-holes resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater underneath. They are incredible formations and it is a unique experience to swim in them. Depending on the popularity, they charge an entrance fee. Apparently, there are around 7,000 cenotes in Yucatan district. For more information on marvellous structures, you can visit Jack and Jill’s travel blog. Visiting 3 cenotes by bicycle took most of our day, and left us with some heat exhaustion and a big smile.   

Upon our return to the hostel, we met a lovely couple, Annalies and Ricardo, who have been travelling in South America for 6 months. They were full of great advices on things to do in this amazing continent. We connected very well with them, and decided to check out the pre-Hispanic city of Chichen Itza the next day.

Pyramid of Chichen Itza
Chichen Itza is one of the greatest Mayan sacred centres in Yucatan peninsula. It is world 
heritage listed by UNESCO and is the 2nd most visited archaeological site in Mexico. According to our tour guide from Mayan origin, the area was settled by the Mayan civilization around 455 A.D. Towards the end of the 10th century, Toltec warriors from central Mexico took over the city. The conquest of the Yucatan region caused a fusion of Mayan-Toltec culture. He mentioned that due to the Toltec influence, there were human sacrifices especially for the Rain God. A colossal pyramid was built for Kukulkan (feathered serpent deity) which still dominates the grounds of this incredible site. According to our guide, a cast system existed in Mayan culture and these grounds were only used by the elite. No one from the lower casts was allowed in. The area was mainly used for astronomy, maths and religious ceremonies.   

Our new friends 
We spent 3 hours on these impressive grounds. It is prohibited to climb the pyramids or any other structure as according to some stories a tourist fell down and unfortunately died a couple of years ago.

Mayan Ruins of Ek Balam
The next day, visited another amazing Mayan site, Ek Balam. On Sundays and Wednesdays, there is a bus organised by the council that goes there directly. The ruins of Ek Balam is definitely smaller than Chichen Itza but you can climb the temples. The view from the top of the tallest structure was just spectacular. I felt more connected with the energy in Ek Balam than in Chichen Itza. The entrance fee was also cheaper and it was definitely less touristy.      

Ek Balam
On our last day in Valladolid, we visited a chocolate factory which produces extraordinary raw chocolate with traditional Mayan recipes. It was established by a French man who extensively researched the Mayan culture to obtain the method.  According to our guide, Mayans were the first people who discovered the chocolate. It was an incredible experience to try different samples of traditional Mayan chocolate. Of course, we couldn't help buying a couple of packets which unfortunately did not last very long. 

Destileria Artesanal de Agave
It would have been a shame to leave this fantastic city without visiting the Destileria Artesanal de Agave where we learned all the processes to make tequila. The tour was naturally followed by a free tasting of their unique brands. They produce 4 different types of tequila aged between 1 day and 5 years. My favourite was the 10 months old one. 

Valladolid was a wonderful introduction to Mayan and Mexican cultures. I felt very connected with this land, its people and the incredible energy, especially in the Mayan ruins. After 4 fantastic days, we were ready to discover the magnificent beaches of the Yucatan Peninsula.


  1. I love Mexico due to its beauty due to Cenotes like Cenote Playa Del Carmen , and Mayan Land. I and my family many time make trip of these places and enjoy it. I mostly use Labnaha travel here you can read more about them.

    1. Thank you for your message and sending the link Shahid. We loved Mexico too and will sure be back for more travels in the near future. Wish you and your family happy travels. Best regards,Jon