Mexico Prior to Covid (Dec. 2019)
What a day we have planned! As our visit to Yucatan, Mexico is brief and opportunities to learn exist in each new geographical location; we decided to immerse ourselves in cultural experiences with the local company Living Dreams Mexico and a private local tour guide. We selected the Chichen Itza Private tour with Sacred Cenote and Authentic Lunch“.
Although this tour was priced at over $300 CA each everything was included and our private guide was knowledgeable, adaptable, passionate and well respected by locals. We even had a surprising experience at the end of our Mexican buffet as servers broke into birthday song and we discovered it was our guide, Angela Rojas, Birthday! Here are highlights of our 7+ hour cultural tour around Yucatan with our amazing guide, Angela.
In order to minimize the rush of tourists at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Chichen Itza, Angela arrived at our resort in Playa del Carmen bright and early at 6:30 a.m. We stopped to grab a coffee and tasty morning treat while Angela explained the day’s agenda, showing us maps and sharing about the Mayan history and culture. Angela was a wealth of knowledge and bilingual in English and Mexican-Spanish.
During the 181.5 km drive from Playa del Carmen to Chichen Itza we took highways 305D and 180D passing through a toll station en route. The roads were not busy early in the morning and we arrived at our destination at 8:20 a.m. before the crowds of tourists and while parking spaces were plentiful.
It was educational watching the vendors pulling their wares along the sandy paths and setting up around the grounds at San Felipe Nuevo. Chichen Itza is a complex of Mayan-Toltec ruins centrally located on the northern half of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.
A little background information:
Chichen Itza was listed in 1988 as an UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is classified as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. My research reflects several meanings to the name Chichen Itza: “the mouth at the well of Itza” or “at the edge of the well of the Itzaes“. These meanings tie to the water located in natural cavities (cenotes) found throughout this location. (Which we will explore later in this blog post). Itza meaning ‘water magicians’ translated from Mayan Itz meaning ‘magic’ and a meaning ‘water’.
The sacred cenotes have further intrigue as scientists have theorized that the cenotes are located in a ring pattern across the Yucatan Peninsula and were created by the impact of a massive asteroid–probably also ending the existence of dinosaurs. Search “Chicxulub impactor“.
In ancient, pre-Columbian times Chichen Itza was a thriving civilization of Mayan- Toltec peoples. Archaeology records estimate the city at over 1,000 years old. The complex was conquered by the Spanish in the mid 16th century. Art and cultural influences are mainly from Mayan-Toltec (earlier) and Spanish (after conquest).
Please click the following video to experience highlights from our amazing guided tour around the Chichen Itza ruins.
The tallest structure in Chichen Itza is the ancient pyramid of Kukulkan, also known as El Castillo, which is 98 feet or 29.87 metres in height. In order to protect the archaeological pyramid from erosion, tourists are no longer permitted to climb the stairways. Other buildings at the heritage site which have survived include: the Warriors’ Temple, Circular observatory, Great Ball Court, Jaguar Temple, Group of Thousand Columns, and Tomb of the High Priest.
A reliable, educational source to check for further information, history and photos (available in several languages) is the UNESCO World Heritage website at http://whc.unesco.org Search: Chichen-Itza
After collecting souvenirs, we were off to explore a sacred cenote! The 40 km drive on highway 180 to Cenote Saamal near Valladolid took about 35 minutes. Our 2 hour visit at Cenote Saamal flew by so quickly!
The beautiful, soothing swim in the cenote was complete with catfish, dripping waterfalls, and a dive platform.
Despite your swimming ability, showers and lifejackets are requirements here.
After our refreshing swim, we had the good fortune of meeting a current athlete from the national Great Ball team. I can only imagine the damage those stone ‘balls’ would make on your body! Lunchtime! The Mexican buffet was extensive and delicious. We would love to return here. Plus….we had a surprise in store as we discovered it was our tour guide’s birthday!
Our final stop prior to the homebound journey, was to visit the city of Valladolid. This pretty city was very colorful and filled with flowers and gardens. Points to note include: the colonial buildings, the cathedrals and plazas, and definitely the Chocolate shops!
Thank you for the fabulous tour Angela Rojas! Our porthole into the history, culture, and customs of the Mayan people and the Yucatan peninsula has definitely expanded. We arrived back at Playa del Carmen Beach Resort in time for a relaxing sunset and dinner. What an inspiring day!
Tomorrow morning we head off to Benito Juarez to snorkel in the National Park reefs of this area. What will we discover?