Cancun – Mexico
Cancun - Mexico

Cancun – Mexico

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The Riviera Maya

Our last 2 days in Mexico we decided to spend them resting in Cancun. After all the previous busy and tiring days, we though the best we should do was to have a well deserved rest in between, before continuing on to Belize for a short stop followed by a busy week in Guatemala and a final resting days in Panama. But from our original thoughts to what the reality unfortunately was, it’s a big difference.

The weather. It really ruined what was meant to be sun, beach and pool for two days. The freezing blizzard happening in North America pushed too much south and while temperatures were not cold in Cancun, we did not get see a ray of sun at all. Thankfully we could enjoy the beach on the first day. Very warm water and nice outside temperature, just big clouds but no rain. Only towards the end of the day it is when the strong wind and heavy rain started. That was the end of our beach time the following day.

In any case, if you plan in coming to Cancun around the same time of the year as we went, be aware that the chances of rain are quite high. Other months of the year are better but then you need to be careful during the hurricane season. It’s kind of a lottery to be honest. We were unfortunate in this occasion. (more…)

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Uxmal – Mexico
Uxmal - Mexico

Uxmal – Mexico

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Oxmal, Three Times Built

Another day and another Maya city: welcome to Uxmal. The 4th pre-Columbian archaeological site we visit in this trip so far, and sadly meaning only one more left to go. This is quite different to Chichen Itza even the distance separating both is not that big and both are of Maya civilization. The main difference is the architectural style. Although structures are always repeating on every city; final decoration, sculptures and finishings are not the same. While Chichen Itza has a wide mix of styles, Uxmal is entirely Puuc.

How can you easily spot what is Puuc architecture? Notice the intricate mosaics made of stone on the upper façades of the constructions. This is something unique to this style and the finest examples are found in Uxmal, the largest city on such style.

Being around half of the size of Chichen Itza, and so near to many other Maya cities, it is easy to actually visit more than one in the same day. In fact and as I will explain below in the section how to visit the site, there are Sunday tours where they take you to 5 cities. This is called La Ruta Puuc (the Puuc Route). (more…)

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Chichen Itza – Mexico
Chichen Itza - Mexico

Chichen Itza – Mexico

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At the Mouth of the Well of the Itza

Welcome to Chichen Itza. The third pre-Columbian archaeological site we visit on our tour, and one of the finest of the entire Maya civilization for the size, history and how well preserved it’s been kept and excavated. An UNESCO World Heritage listed masterpiece. Incredible to see how some of the constructions seem to have been built recently, but in fact, they are even 2000 years old. Of course it’s been greatly restored and rebuilt, adding back the missing stones taken over centuries for the use on other constructions like the Spanish did for churches and cathedrals upon conquering the region and founding new cities.

The site is still not fully excavated, but it’s one of the most uncovered and studied Maya cities in the region, including as far as Guatemala. The jungle in here is not as dense any more as it used to be years back, something that helped in the other hand to uncover and discover new constructions. This is a subject I will come across again when talking about Tikal in Guatemala because in there that is the totally opposite side of the coin, pristine thick jungle where 80% of the ancient city still lies under the jungle.

From all the structures in the site, two will get your look immediately for being in perfect shape. The Castle (El Castillo) pyramid and the ball court. The pyramid is so well preserved that you can see the snake effect on the stairs, for this you will need to look to it sideways and there you will see the head of the snake and the body all the way up to the top. (more…)

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Merida – Mexico
Merida - Mexico

Merida – Mexico

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The Capital of Yucatan Region

Leaving behind the Mexico City of the country and all the beautiful places we’ve been around, we move to our next base: Merida, the capital city of Yucatan region. Our main aim for a base here? Get to visit two of the major and most important Maya cities: Chichen Itza and Uxmal. Sadly for us, we could not count with more days to keep exploring the many other Maya cities in this region, therefore we had to choose and decided for the most important ones.

Merida has retained one of the finest collection of colonial buildings in the country and hosts the very first cathedral to be built in the New World. Of course no need to mention here that the distribution of the city follows the same pattern as any other in Mexico, where the Zocalo is the main square with the cathedral and City Hall along the sides and the streets follow a strict grid pattern. Wherever you walk is another sight, no wonder it is one of the finest colonial old towns in Mexico to be listed by the UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

Now the main question is how many days you do need here. Let me tell you, for the city itself you don’t need more than one. It is small enough to make a one day visit perfect. But since coming to Merida is mostly because of visiting the Maya cities around, then it is really when you need to calculate your time, which cities you want to visit, and how many. We spared 2 days to visit 2 sites. Gladly I would have stayed longer and keep visiting as many others as possible but my plan for this trip included 3 other countries, therefore I was limited in time. (more…)

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Puebla and Cholula – Mexico
Puebla and Cholula - Mexico

Puebla and Cholula – Mexico

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Angelopolis, the City of Angels

Moving on to some other stunning cities while we traveling across Mexico we reach the jewels of Puebla and Cholula, some of the most wonderful places the country has to offer. Two cities right next to each other, the smallest volcano in the world, and the largest pyramid by volume in the world. Plenty to see and do, ideally on a two day visit although if time is your limitation, a well planned one day visit will be good enough as it was in our case.

Both cities, but specially Puebla, the 4th largest city in Mexico and a wonderful UNESCO World Heritage Site listed old town, do follow the usual Spanish colonial orthogonal street planning with a central square, usually named the Zocalo, home to the cathedral and City Hall buildings along the sides. From all the cities we visited, plus the many villages we passed by travelling on buses, this was repeated on and on. Having such city planning, it is almost impossible to get at any point lost.

The best way to fully discover and enjoy the countless historical buildings and sights all around is by doing spirals or zig zags. Both ways are quite self explained. After all the sizes of this places are small and straightforward.

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Teotihuacan – Mexico
Teotihuacan - Mexico

Teotihuacan – Mexico

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Place Where Gods Were Born

Greetings from the stunning ancient city of Teotihuacan. Being the most visited place in Mexico there is no doubt to wonder why. Every visitor to Mexico City should include this place in their list, not only if you are just visiting DF or if on a wider tour around other cities across the country. It is one of the highlights of the American continent and for civilization lovers, it is one of the greatest places in the world. Included on any list of to-dos in a lifetime, of course listed by the UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

As opposed to what most people think, this is not a city from the ancient Maya, but from the Aztecs, although still unknown who precisely founded it. All that is known is that at the time, over 2000 years ago, it was already one of the largest cities on earth.

Today you can still admire such an impressive pyramidal structures, and the crown jewel of all, both the Sun and Moon pyramids; everything symmetrically organised along the Avenue of the Dead (Calzada de los Muertos). Incredible to think of such engineering and impressive techniques to build such enormous monuments. And consider that all you see there today are the stone constructions; now imagine how it would be looking in the ancient times with the countless homes made of wood surrounding the complex. Big! Yes, very big and overwhelming.

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Xochimilco – Mexico
Xochimilco - Mexico

Xochimilco – Mexico

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The Colorful Trajineras

The incredible UNESCO World Heritage Site listed Xochimilco is a place like no other. No visit to Mexico City can be completed until you come here. Those are the original canals and lakes built by the Aztecs that connected most of the settlements on the Valley of Mexico. Nowadays it is world famous for the colourful wooden boats taking locals and tourists alike up and down. The boats are called trajineras, and they are for rent on several options depending on size and time.

Having seen it in the movies, adverts and travel catalogs everywhere, it is somewhat one of the main images we have in mind when talking about Mexico. Colours, flowers, canals and boats, an unique experience not to be missed.

There are over 170km of canals and artificial islands all over Xochimilco. Of course the boats won’t take you any farther than the main canal and others on the side, but this is more than enough to appreciate the place and get to see how people also live on the shores. Watch out for the beautiful birds too but mostly, enjoy the quietness and music from the many mariachi boats passing by.

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Mexico City – Mexico
Mexico City - Mexico

Mexico City – Mexico

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Ancient Tenochtitlan, capital of New Spain in colonial times

The long awaited winter trip finally came to a reality. Not only the excitement of going again on a long holiday, but for going to places in the world never been before and wishing so much for long to go. A tour from Mexico to Panama via Belize and Guatemala. It was the very first time travelling to the once called “New World” and now that I take the chance to make some further updates to this guide 6 years later, aiming for Central and South America is somewhat a priority with another 4 times and more to come.

So coming to stunning Mexico City, or simply DF. The massive place that rivals Tokyo, Seoul and Mumbai as the largest metropolitan areas by population in the world. Only with the approach when landing at the airport is a sight on its own. A continuous and massive net of streets, perfectly defined orthogonal streets and avenues without an end. We got to see the night when landing, but the day when taking off. It is even difficult to believe the infinite expansion of this city.

Now, forget those erroneous stereotypes, negative nicknames and bad reputation you have heard and read about. Mexico City is not as dangerous as such as any other city can be, like for example London, Paris or Barcelona. Yes you read this right. I am in fact more cautious when carrying my camera in other cities in Europe than I have been in Mexico City. Yes, of course the city is enormous, but the areas any tourist is ever going to be are totally safe, day and night. If anyone decides to go where they’re not supposed to be and something happen to them, then acts like this should not really be included on any rating deprecating the city’s reputation as unsafe. Or do you go to any dangerous area in the city you are living in? I take that for a no.

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