Merida is surrounded by many amazing places and in this blog entry I would like to tell you guys about some of the nicest places I’ve been to and I would still like to see until the end of the semester.
Isla Holbox is a beautiful island surrounded by Caribbean light blue water and lots of white beaches. The island is very small and a great place to relax over the weekend. You won’t find a single car driving around there because there are no real streets. It’s mainly just sand. So the people who live on the island use quad bikes that visitors can rent on a daily or hourly basis. There are lots of restaurants that cook delicious food and prepare fresh seafood. At night you can lay under the palm trees at the beach or in hammock and enjoy the comfortable breeze while listening to the calming waves or enjoying a nice bonfire with your friends. The island offers a lot: horseback riding at the beach, snorkeling, kitesurfing and beautiful sunsets. From August until early spring the most exciting thing to do in the island is to go swim with the whale sharks. They grow up to 12m long and look like giant sharks, but they only feed on plants and algae. Some boats will take you out into the ocean for a few dollars and will put a life vest on you, so that you can jump in the water and take lots of amazing pictures with the beautiful giant animals. Isla Holbox is only 5 hours drive away from Merida, so the best thing is to take a bus at night. From the mainland you can take a little fisher boat or a ferry (that cost about 3 Dollars) which takes about 20min to arrive at the island.
Here are the best photos I took on my trip to Holbox:
Progreso is the closest beach to Merida. Even though the water is not as blue as it might be in Isla Holbox or Cancun it’s still a nice place to catch a fresh breeze and go for a nice dive. Especially on the weekend it’s a nice option for some refreshment because it can get pretty got in Merida almost all year long. And the best thing about Progreso is that it’s only about 20min driving distance from Merida. There are a couple of buses that take you to Progreso for only about a Dollar or if you’re lucky you will find some friends with cars. In the beachfront they sell beautiful handmade artisanry and hammocks.
Here is a photos I took about 2 weeks ago when I invited my sponsored boy from Tabasco to come visit me and go to the beach for the first time in his life:
Celestun is a beautiful beach and an Eco reserve that is home to hundreds of different species of birds. But the most common photos of Celestun that you will see on the internet are the ones of the vast flamingo flocks that migrate to Celestun over the winter months. The beach is about 1-1.5h away from Merida and definitely worth a weekend trip (still on my to-do list!!!
Rio Lagartos is located in the northwest of Yucatan. I haven’t been there so far, but I’ve seen beautiful photos from my friends. What makes it so special is that the water there is rose colored (due to small microorganisms, which the flamingos eat – thus their beautiful pink color). Definitely worth a visit not only for the amazing pictures, but also to see a lot of beautiful birds, possibly even crocodiles (the name Rio Lagartos translated to English means “Crocodile River”) and if you are very lucky, at least according to what I’ve read on the Internet, you might even catch a glance at a jaguar coming down to the water to drink. This place is as well on my to-do list and I’ve already checked for the bus connections from Merida, which are cheap and have a pretty frequent schedule.
The Riviera Maya is probably known to most people because of its importance as a paradise for tourists from all around the globe. Cancun has beautiful beaches, light blue Caribbean water and is a great place to go clubbing. The best club there is called the Coco Bongo. I’ve been to that club and highly recommend it because they offer live shows and you might see Spiderman swinging from the ceiling, the next moment be inside a Brazilian Carnival full of balloons and confetti and the next moment just dance like in any other disco. Here is the link to their website: http://www.cocobongo.com.mx/coco2010/inter/main/1/
Of course Cancun offers much more, like jet skiing, diving, snorkeling, horseback riding etc. There are two places I highly recommend which are called Xel-Ha and Xcaret. They are very famous ecological parks and the biggest natural aquatic parks in the world. There you can swim with dolphins, see traditional Mexican dances, ceremonies and shows, walk through the beautiful vegetation and swim in Cenotes, enter to a grotto, use zip bikes (like a bike you sit in which hangs down a zipline – looks like a lot of fun!) or use the rope-park where you can swing into the water or try to balance yourself between two loose ropes to the other side of the shore.
Playa del Carmen is also a beautiful beach where lots of tourists come. Personally I feel that the differences to Cancun are the color of the water (not as blue as in Cancun) and the types of tourists (Cancun is known to be a party place for teenagers, while Playa del Carmen is a bit more laid-back and focused on the relaxation of the visitors – yet of course they also offer great clubs and bars!). When I went to Playa del Carmen I stayed in a hotel called Sandos Caracol which is an ecotourism hotel. It was an amazing experience and we were greeted very friendly and immediately upgraded to a VIP room with my very own hot-tub right next to my king-size bed. The view from our room was straight out into the jungle. Right by the room door there would be raccoons and iguanas passing by and a few steps away, where there were a few more trees we would see monkeys hanging down from branches. In the entrance of the hotel there is a cenote for you to swim in, a few meters away some nice pools with bars that offer nice refreshments, and another few steps away the beautiful beach with its white sand. Almost right next to the hotel you can visit Mayan ruins. I definitely recommend this hotel if you plan on staying some days in Playa del Carmen.
Chiapas is definitely my favorite place of all. It is situated in the south of Mexico and borders with Guatemala. I went on a trip with about 30 friends from school and we had the best time. First we went to the ruins of Palenque (I will show some pictures below). They are in the middle of the jungle and in the distance you can hear monkeys and even jaguar growling (of course they don’t get close to you ) You will find many people selling local artisanry and I highly recommend bringing along money because you will definitely want to buy some of the beautiful handmade table clothes, tequila glasses, jewelry, bags, tshirts, and jaguar pipes (if you blow into them, you will hear a loud sound which sounds very much like a jaguar).
After that we went to some waterfalls nearby and took a bath in the refreshing water. It was a great view and of course we were able to take lots of amazing pictures.
Then finally after a long drive we finally reached San Cristobal de las Casas, which has got to be one of the prettiest places I’ve ever seen. The small little and colorful houses remind of colonial times. The atmosphere is very different from Merida, the temperatures much colder because San Cristobal is situated on top of a mountain. The city is very safe and at night we would slander through the streets, enjoy live music and delicious food in various restaurants. The city is always full of visitors from all over the world. I met a lot of Europeans that had come there to stay for over a month because there is just so much to see. The prices are much cheaper than in Merida and the ladies on the street always carry lots of beautiful scarfs and decorations with them that they sell to you at really good prices. They put a lot of effort into their work and are very talented, so I didn’t get around buying 3 scarfs, 1 tablecloth, 3 key chains, one belt etc. Let’s just say I bought a lot because the colors and details they are able to incorporate in their handmade work are incredible. Some of the ladies from Chiapas actually travel all the way to Merida and you will find them downtown because unfortunately they are very poor even though they have much talent. It’s a very interesting cultural experience and the smile their little children will give you once you buy something from them makes you feel very happy.
At day time we would go to see different churches, go horseback riding in the forest, or just stroll through the beautiful streets.
We also went to the Sumidero Canyon close to San Cristobal, which is a beautiful narrow canyon surrounded by a national park. We went on two boats through the tall walls of the canyons. The nature is so powerful and you will feel so small in the giant canyon. It was a great experience and we took hundreds of photos.
So these are just a few places of the many places you can go visit either over the weekend or during vacations/long weekends. Merida has such a great location, close to the beach and in the middle of the jungle which is home to the Mayan culture and lots of mystical adventures. This is one of the many reasons why I love being in Merida!