Saturday, 4 February 2017

Mexico, Cancun and Yucatan Highlights

Caribbean Beach in Cancun, Mexico ©Solange Hando

Tucked in the north-east corner of the Yucatan peninsula, Cancun enjoys a privileged location, Caribbean Sea on one side. lagoon on the other, and between them a thin strip of land where luxury hotels line pristine white sands sprinkled with swaying palms.

There are no private beaches in Mexico but many hotels have secured private access to the beach, so if you want to mix with the locals, head downtown, browse casual stalls and gleaming stores and enjoy some true Mexican fare.



Chichen Itza near Cancun ©Solange Hando

If you're looking for just one day trip from Cancun and a bit of culture, this is it, the amazing Maya and Toltec site of Chichen Itza set inland, half-way between the east and west coasts. The Kukulcan pyramid (above) is the most impressive monument but dozens more are scattered around from game courts, temples and shrines to the sacred well where the 'lucky' Mayas were sacrificed.

There is much talk of high priests and gods, sacred jaguars and snakes but it's pretty safe to wander around and bargain for silver trinkets, Maya masks  or colourful hammocks. Stalls are kept to the main alleyway and although Chichen Itza is a hugely popular site, it is so extensive it rarely feels crowded.


Tulum South of Cancun ©Solange Hando

While Chichen Itza is undoubtedly the most impressive site, Tulum has the best of both worlds: beach and ancient ruins. An easy drive from Cancun along the east coast, you discover the final retreat of the Mayas and the Toltecs, their successors, as they fled internal wars.

There are ruins to explore, including a temple to the God of the Wind but be prepared to share the site with beach lovers, cruise ship visitors and oversized iguanas.


Seafront Restaurants in Campeche, Yucatan ©Solange Hando

The Yucatan has some lovely resorts beyond Cancun such as this one, Campeche, nestling in the Gulf of Mexico with broad beach and quiet coves, thatched restaurants and a 5km long promenade dotted here and there with striking works of modern art.

The town has an attractive historic centre with pristine streets festooned in wrought iron balconies, flower pots and cottages in pastel colours from sky blue and mint green to yellow or ochre red. There are musical fountains and stylish colonial buildings beautifully lit up after dark.


Pelicans on the West Coast ©Solange Hando

Pelicans are frequent visitors along the coast, fabulous to watch as they dive from great heights, as fast as arrows, vanish underwater then emerge triumphant before rejoining the flock. See them, hear them and feel the vibes as they swoop around inches from your head.

Inland, look out for coati, members of the raccoon family, highly inquisitive, greedy and never taking 'no' for an answer. Snakes are rarely seen, even though Cancun means 'snakes nest'. That was
long before the hotels laid their claims to the land.


Golden Sunset in Cancun ©Solange Hando

Sunset over the lagoon, sunrise over the sea, you can't beat the amazing Cancun sky.











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