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The Cenotes of Valladolid

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An inexhaustible number of cenotes riddle the limestone earth of the Yucatán Peninsula, but Valladolid is blessed with some of the most beautiful. In a single morning, we visited three, the first of which is right in the middle of town.

Cenotes Valladolid

The Cenote Zaci takes its name from the Maya city on top of which Valladolid was founded. We visited after enjoying breakfast at the city market. Given its location in central Valladolid, I had expected a small pool, but this was a massive cave, shaded by trees and shrubs. We descended a set of stairs and felt as though we’d entered a lost jungle paradise, unable to believe that this gorgeous pool is in the middle of a busy city.

But it is in the middle of a busy city. Let’s just say that, although it’s technically allowed, I wouldn’t want to swim at the Cenote Zaci. And the locals apparently agree. Despite the morning heat, there wasn’t a single person in the water.

In the nearby town of Dzitnup are two of the Yucatán’s most celebrated cenotes: Xkekén and Samulá. Dzitnup can be reached by bike from Valladolid; after the pleasant 20-minute ride, you can reward yourself with a cool swim. The two cenotes are right across the road from each other, and though you have to pay for each separately, both are worth seeing. We started at Samulá, which is famous for the dangling roots of the giant alamo tree that sits above it. Xkekén was perhaps even more stunning, a massive cavern with stalactites and crystal blue water.

Dzitnup is a popular bus stop on the well-established route between Cancún and Chichén Itzá, so the chances of finding its cenotes unoccupied are slim-to-none. They’re extremely photogenic, but the crowds and ubiquitous vendors are off-putting. We stayed out of the water.

Locations on our Map: Cenote Zaci | Dzitnup

Great Place To Stay In Valladolid

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January 30, 2014 at 5:32 pm Comments (0)

The Incredible, Horrible Chichén Itzá

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On a visit to Chichén Itzá, you’re going to oscillate violently between love and hate for your fellow man. The mathematics, artistry and astrology involved in constructing these ancient buildings… people did this? People are awesome! But still, there’s no way around it: people are terrible. Today, the site is overrun with money-grubbing locals, megaphone-wielding guides and sheep-herd tour groups. On leaving, I said to Jürgen, “The ingenuity and ambition of humanity is truly inspiring.” And then: “I wish everyone was dead.”

Chichen Itza

We knew in advance that Chichén Itzá was going to be crowded and annoying, so we had a game plan: oblivious enjoyment. Just put the other people out of our minds, ignore the pushy guys hawking cigars, and concentrate on the wonders. There’s so much to love, we reasoned, let’s stash the hate.

That noble mindset lasted about fifteen minutes. It’s hard, though. It really is. You’re standing there admiring something like the Tzompantli, a massive pedestal decorated with hundreds of carved skulls, reflecting on how it must have looked when it was used to actually display the severed heads of enemies, and behind you this guy just will not stop selling you a jaguar whistle. ROWARR! Over and over again, blowing this whistle into your ear, ROWARR, regardless of how many times you turn to him and say, “No gracias”. ROWARR! “No, señor, mil disculpas pero no tengo ningún interés”. ROWARR! “¡Que te vayas, malidita p***!”

Nice one, Zen Boy. Way to rise above.

Chichen Itza

Now shake it off and get back into the zone. Jaguar Whistle defeated you, but over there: the Holy Cenote. Just have to get past… shove by… shoulder-check our way through these bikini-clad girls making pouty faces for their selfies. Look, girls, I get it. Seriously, I understand. Taking pictures of yourself is fun and easy, and smartphones and Instagram and youth, I get it. I can even understand why you might think your pouty-face is sexy, although I do not concur. But why do you have to do this here? Why not, say, at home in your room, on a bed with fresh white sheets and pillows of feathery down? That is the place for pouty-face selfies. Not in front of Chichén Itzá’s Holy Cenote. Seriously!

“Stop it”, I say to myself. “These girls are just enjoying themselves. Step down off the ‘Perfect Tourist’ pedestal and start concentrating on your own experience instead of theirs. Just look at this gorgeous, almost perfectly circular sinkhole, surrounded by the jungle.” I pick up my guide book and read about how the ancient Maya would throw trinkets and valuables into this cenote as sacrifices to the gods. And I read how, in the later years of Chichén Itzá, it was also used for human sacrifices. Ever so briefly, my eyes flit over to the pouty-face-selfie-girls. Just one little shove… Ah Puch would be so pleased!

Moving on. There’s the fascinating Ball Court, still in fabulous condition. The Platform of Eagles and Jaguars, decorated with the animals feasting on human hearts. The Temple of Warriors, with its famous chac mool: a reclined figure on whose stomach the hearts of sacrificial victims were thought to be placed. The Plaza of 1000 Columns. The Ossuary. The massive group of sweating, safari-hat zombies whose guide is shouting at the top of his lungs so that everyone on Planet Earth can hear him.

Chichen Itza

The wealth of treasures at Chichén Itzá is mind-blowing. It’s unreal. Just being able to see El Caracol, an ancient astrological observatory aligned with the cycles of Venus, was worth the price of entrance. Everywhere you turn, there’s another incredible ruin.

The Castillo! I almost didn’t mention El Castillo, the most famous Maya construction of all. This giant pyramid is the ancient world’s most incredible calendar. Four monumental staircases ascend its four sides, each of which has 91 stairs. Together with the large step which makes up the top platform, these represent the 365 days of the year. (It’s the same math which led us to the concept of For 91 Days).

And on the spring and autumn solstices, something remarkable happens. The shadows cast along the sides of the principal staircases undulate from the top of the pyramid to the bottom, attaching to giant snake heads on the ground. And Kulkulcan, the serpent god, comes to life. The level of knowledge required to devise such a building, and the will and strength to pull it off, it’s hard to conceive that an ancient people who lived in the jungle were capable of it.

Despite the number of visitors and the awfulness of the people selling junky trinkets, we loved Chichén Itzá. It’s absolutely understandable why the place is so popular. And even if it degrades the experience, ultimately it’s a good thing that so many people get to see it.

Location on our Yucatan Map

Hotels Near Chichen Itza

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January 29, 2014 at 9:07 pm Comments (8)

The Gran Museo del Mundo Maya

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The Gran Museo del Mundo Maya, found on the nothern outskirts of Mérida, is one of the Yucatán’s largest and most popular new museums. From the glories of the past right up into the modern day, the museum takes visitors on a comprehensive journey through the history of the Yucatán’s original inhabitants.

El Mundo Maya Museum

Aimed to coincide with the famous Maya doomsday prophecies, the Gran Museo del Mundo Maya opened on December 21st, 2012. Not exactly the best timing… why open a museum about the Maya on the same day that worldwide interest in them was set to evaporate? But it doesn’t seem to have mattered, because the place was packed when we visited on a Saturday afternoon, despite the high ticket price and an inconvenient location outside the city.

The museum begins with an exhibition about the living Maya, instead of delving right into their illustrious history. I appreciated this; the word “Maya” conjures almost exclusively the images of an ancient race, but this is very much a modern-day people. By starting with their contemporary faces and an explanation of their current situation, the museum doesn’t allow you to forget that.

With the size of the crowd, it was difficult to experience everything the museum has to offer… the interactive exhibits, such as mapping your birthday to Maya astrology or learning how to count with their vigesimal numeric system, had long lines behind them. And it’s no fun to read detailed accounts of archaeological finds, when the impatient people waiting behind you are sighing.

So we didn’t stay as long as we would have liked, and were rather agitated by the time we left. The lesson, though, isn’t to avoid the Gran Museo del Mundo Maya, but to choose a weekday, when the number of other visitors will be manageable. This is the kind of place which warrants at least a couple hours of your time.

Location on our Map

Great Hotels And Haciendas In Mérida

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January 23, 2014 at 7:24 pm Comment (1)

Progreso – Mérida’s Beach Town

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Talking to expats and reading online accounts had led us to believe that Progreso was a humdrum place, and when we finally visited, it was more out of a vague sense of duty than any personal desire. But while we had braced ourselves for boredom, what we discovered was a friendly, likable and unpretentious beach town. Chalk it up to the miracle of low expectations, if you wish, but we loved Progreso.

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As we learned while trying to reach Maní, the Yucatán isn’t exactly blessed with speedy and efficient public transportation. But getting to Progreso from Mérida couldn’t have been easier. Direct buses leave frequently from the city center and arrive at the beach in less than an hour. I had become accustomed to painfully slow bus rides, but the trip to Progreso was so brief that I barely had time to dig into my bagful of “Mexican Bus Distractions” (books, music, sudoku, food, comics, needlework). I was almost disappointed when we arrived so quickly.

Besides a pleasant main square, a prominent lighthouse and an entertaining covered market, there isn’t much to the town. We didn’t visit any fascinating museums, upscale art galleries, or beautiful old churches. But that’s not the point of Progreso. The point is “beach”. We spent most of the day strolling along the promenade, sitting under the shade of a coconut tree, lounging at a bar and people-watching.

Part of the reason we so enjoyed Progreso was due to the dumb luck of visiting on a day without cruise ships, which anchor at the end of an insanely long four-kilometer concrete pier. Apparently, the town changes its flavor dramatically when the boats arrive, becoming much more commercial and obnoxious. But we didn’t experience any of that. Our trip to Progreso was perfect. Relaxed, easy and fun… just the kind of atmosphere a beach town should have.

Location of Progreso on our Map

Hotels In Progreso

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January 23, 2014 at 1:49 pm Comments (3)

Mayapan – The Final Capital of the Maya

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Mayapan was the final major capital of the Maya civilization, with a period of preeminence that lasted from 1200 to 1400, postdating the fall of Chichén Itzá. Thanks to its relatively recent age, many of the ruins have survived in good condition, making it easier to imagine how the city must have looked during its prime.

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With over 4000 structures packed into a small site, Mayapan is nothing if not compact. Check out this detailed map from archaeologist Dr. Bradley Russell, who spent years studying the site. We were shocked by the density of the pyramids and temples, houses and platforms, towers and altars, and even a cenote. Mayapan’s growth was kept in check by a set of defensive walls, which are a rare feature in normally sprawling, spread-out Maya cities.

For years, Mayapan was the focus of excavations by multiple teams of archaeologists, and so a lot is known about the people who lived here, from their social structure to their diet. A lot of material about the city is available online. The University of New York at Albany’s Mayapán Archaeology is an excellent resource to start with, as is Dr. Russell’s Mayapan Periphery Project.

According to those well-versed in the archaeology of the Maya, the ruins of Mayapan aren’t as important as those at other sites. The culture was already in the throes of its final decline, and Mayapan isn’t as elegant or interesting as the cities which preceded it. I don’t know, though; we were amazed by the city’s ruins. We’re laymen, of course, but this was one of the most visually impressive sites we visited, and Mayapan ended up as one of our very favorites.

Location on our Map

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January 15, 2014 at 9:31 pm Comment (1)

MACAY – Mérida’s Contemporary Art Museum

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Next to the cathedral and inside one of the city’s most historic buildings, the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo Ateneo de Yucatán (MACAY) offers a great place to escape the sweltering heat of the sun and take in some thought-provoking modern art. During our visit, we were almost as impressed by the fabulous air-conditioning as by the bizarre pieces hanging on the walls.

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The museum is totally free to visit, so even if contemporary art isn’t your thing, there’s no reason not to take a quick tour. This building was constructed in 1573 as an ateneo, or private cultural institution, on the orders of the Bishop Diego de Landa. Perhaps he was still feeling a tinge of guilt for having destroyed every Maya codex, book and idol he could get his hands on during 1562’s notorious auto-da-fé in Maní. Regardless, the ateneo is a striking building, and has found a perfect modern purpose as home to the MACAY.

The exhibition begins on the upper floor in a series of rooms organized around a courtyard. Most of the rooms are dedicated to temporary collections, focusing mostly on contemporary Mexican artists, though there are a couple permanent exhibitions. One features the work of Mérida’s own Fernando Castro Pacheco, one of Mexico’s greatest muralists. We had already been impressed by his work in the nearby Palacio del Gobierno, and were happy to see more.

A tour through the museum can take about an hour, depending on your tolerance for contemporary art. For me, it was a mixed bag; some of the exhibitions were truly fantastic, while others inspired “what a load of rubbish”-type sentiments. But still, I was disappointed when, after walking through the sculpture garden, our tour had come to its conclusion. The MACAY is quiet, cool and interesting, and spending time there is a pleasure.

Location on our Map

Framed Photos From The Yucatan

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January 14, 2014 at 12:35 am Comments (0)

Meet the Meridians

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After one month in our new homes, we always review our initial impressions with a self-interview. We figured it would be interesting to do another interview after two months… but this time with locals. So over the course of an entertaining day, we went out into the streets of Mérida and introduced ourselves to some random people. There’s nothing scientific about the survey which follows, of course, but it was a fun way to meet some Meridians.

We met Jorge in the Plaza de San Cristóbol, where he was leading a group of boy scouts in some outdoor activities.

Where do you work, or what do you study? I’m in college studying Administration and Information Technology.

What’s your favorite Yucatecan food? Cochinita Pibil

What’s your favorite place in the Yucatán? I love the cenotes. If I had to chose one, I would say Peba, near Yaxcopoil.

What about the Yucatán makes you most proud? The ancient Maya archaeological zones.

And what makes you least proud? Mérida’s cleaning service… there’s just too much trash in the streets here!

What kind of music do you like, and who’s your favorite artist? I like rock, and one of my favorite Mexican groups is El Tri.

If you could visit one spot in the entire world, where would it be? Two countries really have always appealed to me: the USA and Germany. [note: we hadn’t told Jorge that we were from these exact two countries!]

Father and daughter José and Maria were enjoying a sunny Sunday on a bench in San Cristobal, when we approached and introduced ourselves. José did most of the talking, and everything we said seemed to make María Victoria giggle.

Where do you work, or what do you study? [José] I’m retired, but I used to work in a factory. [María Victoria] I clean the house of a doctor.

What’s your favorite Yucatecan food? Relleno Negro

What’s your favorite place in the Yucatán? The Plaza Principal, here in Mérida.

What about the Yucatán makes you most proud? I suppose the statues.

And what makes you least proud? It’s hard to get help from the government. They promise things and you can ask, but you’ll never get any assistance.

What kind of music do you like, and who’s your favorite artist? Marco Antonio Solís… listening to him always makes you feel good.

If you could visit one spot in the entire world, where would it be? Cancún! We’ve never been, and would love to see it.

We intercepted Abel in the Plaza de San Juan, on his way to meet his family. He was in a hurry, but agreed to take a few minutes and chat.

Where do you work, or what do you study? I’m 12 years old, so I’m still in school.

What’s your favorite Yucatecan food? Tamales

What’s your favorite place in the Yucatán? Tizimín

What about the Yucatán makes you most proud? I think we have a really great culture.

And what makes you least proud? In Mexico, there’s just too much violence.

What kind of music do you like, and who’s your favorite artist? I like American music, and I suppose my favorite is Usher.

If you could visit one spot in the entire world, where would it be? The USA.

Enrique was in the gorgeous Plaza de San Sebastián, when we approached him. Very enthusiastic about Mérida and knowledgeable about its history, he was eager to talk with us about it.

Where do you work, or what do you study? I work at a decorations store.

What’s your favorite Yucatecan food? Hmm… Pavo en escabeche. Also queso relleno, although this only for special occasions. Also, I love zic de venado (shredded deer in sauce), but it’s hard to find this nowadays.

What’s your favorite place in the Yucatán? The ports. Progreso and especially Sisal, which used to be the main port.

What about the Yucatán makes you most proud? The importance of family in the culture here. Also, I love how tranquil the Yucatán can be.

And what makes you least proud? There can be a lack of manners among the people, and the city is too dirty. Mérida’s called “The White City”, but let me tell you… it’s not because it’s so clean!

What kind of music do you like, and who’s your favorite artist? I most enjoy tropical or Caribbean music, but my favorite artist is Armando Manzanero.

If you could visit one spot in the entire world, where would it be? It’s not very likely that I’ll get there, but I would love to visit Australia.

Leticia was hard at work in the market near San Sebastian, making and selling tortillas. It was amazing to watch her hands continue to work automatically, while her mind was busy with our questions.

Where do you work, or what do you study? [We skipped this question, since we interrupted her at work, making tortillas!]

What’s your favorite Yucatecan food? Relleno Negro

What’s your favorite place in the Yucatán? Chelém, a beach near Progreso.

What about the Yucatán makes you most proud? The people and our customs.

And what makes you least proud? I suppose the politicians. Probably nobody is proud of their politicians!

What kind of music do you like, and who’s your favorite artist? I love ballads, and especially Marco Antonio Solís.

If you could visit one spot in the entire world, where would it be? Egypt.

Andrés was walking through the Plaza de Santa Ana with his guitar, when we approached him with our questions.

Where do you work, or what do you study? I’m in school, studying Communication.

What’s your favorite Yucatecan food? Cochinita Pibil… I love sushi the most, but I suppose that’s not really Yucatecan.

What’s your favorite place in the Yucatán? Progreso

What about the Yucatán makes you most proud? I think the state does a great job supporting the arts. There’s a lot of culture here.

And what makes you least proud? Honestly, I can’t think of anything negative. I love it here, it’s so peaceful.

What kind of music do you like, and who’s your favorite artist? I’m into jazz-fusion, and one of my favorite musicians is Lee Ritenour.

If you could visit one spot in the entire world, where would it be? England.

Yanin had just finished participating in a half-marathon, when we cornered her in the Plaza de Santa Ana.

Where do you work, or what do you study? I’m a veterinarian, working in Progreso.

What’s your favorite Yucatecan food? Tamales

What’s your favorite place in the Yucatán? Cuzamá

What about the Yucatán makes you most proud? The people here, and the lack of crime. It’s wonderfully safe.

And what makes you least proud? I suppose people don’t know how to treat animals very well. Especially in the rural communities, there’s a lot of abuse, which is sad.

What kind of music do you like, and who’s your favorite artist? I love listening to ballads, and one of my favorite singers is Alejandro Sanz.

If you could visit one spot in the entire world, where would it be? Spain.

Rafael was selling ice cream in the Plaza de Santa Lucia. It was a sunny day, and he was doing good business, so we waited for a quiet moment before approaching.

Where do you work, or what do you study? I sell ice cream, and my wife is also here in the plaza, selling homemade crafts.

What’s your favorite Yucatecan food? Cochinita Pibil

What’s your favorite place in the Yucatán? I would say the capital. And to be specific, right here in Santa Lucia… it’s the best spot in the best city.

What about the Yucatán makes you most proud? I’m just proud to have been born here.

And what makes you least proud? There’s really nothing I can think of. Everything here is great.

What kind of music do you like, and who’s your favorite artist? I love the classics of the Trova Yucateca, especially the music of Guty Cárdenas.

If you could visit one spot in the entire world, where would it be? [This one took him awhile… his eyes kind of drifted off while he deliberated; either he had never put much thought into this, or he had thought about it a lot and had too many options.] France.

There was a public dance going on in Santa Lucia, and these three sisters were just taking their leave, pushing along their mother in a wheelchair. I correctly suspected that chatting with them would be fun…

Where do you work, or what do you study? [Right away, the sisters were talking and laughing and teasing us a little. Caught up in the fun, we forgot to ask this initial question!]

What’s your favorite Yucatecan food? Guadalupe: Cochinita Pibil, Tere: Frijol con Puerco, Paula: Papadzules

What’s your favorite place in the Yucatán? Mérida and Izamal

What about the Yucatán makes you most proud? How friendly everyone here is. You’ve noticed this, haven’t you? Of course you have! The food, naturally, and the culture.

And what makes you least proud? The heat, and the mosquitoes. These can really be a problem.

What kind of music do you like, and who’s your favorite artist? The Trova Yucateca. Armando Manzanero is the best. [I started serenading them with Manzanero’s “Somos Novios“…] Not yet we aren’t!

If you could visit one spot in the entire world, where would it be? Ancient Rome and Jerusalem.

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January 13, 2014 at 11:30 pm Comments (7)

Christmas in the Yucatán

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Although speeding toward a depressing hegemony, most of the world’s Christian countries still maintain some yuletide traditions that are all their own. Jürgen and I aren’t big Christmas freaks, but we do enjoy learning how different places put their unique spin on the holidays.

In the Yucatán, as throughout Mexico, the Christmas season officially kicks off on December 3rd with the feast of the Virgin of Guadalupe. We try not to think about Christmas until the day before it arrives, and so were caught totally off-guard when on the evening of the 3rd, a street party kicked off right outside our house. We lived in a quiet, residential place, but tonight our neighbors were dancing to the rhythms of a slurry crooner until well after midnight.

The days leading up to the 25th see a series of processions called Las Posadas, during which children walk around their neighborhood, re-enacting Joseph and Mary’s search for an inn. After attempting to find shelter at two different homes, and being twice turned away, the children will be welcomed by the third house, where there’s a party and a piñata to smash. This tradition was started by Mexico’s Catholic evangelicals, as a teaching tool for the indigenous population.

The classic Christmas piñata is star-shaped with seven points that represent the seven cardinal sins. The bat wielded by the eager little Defenders of the Faith represents Christian righteousness. And the candy represents the rewards of placing your faith in God. I’m sure that the bat-swinging candy monsters put a lot of stock in all that symbolism.

Most households in the Yucatán have their big feast on Christmas Eve, leaving Christmas Day as a time for rest. Indeed, when we ventured out into Mérida on the 25th, it was a ghost town. There was almost no traffic, and the few people we saw were stumbling either into or out of a bar.

The next party is New Year’s Eve, which is celebrated mostly among family, and not out in the streets as in the US or Germany. This was another surprise for us. We were planning to join the festivities in our local square, but when the clock struck midnight, we were the only people present. We ate our twelve grapes in unison with the striking of each bell at midnight, and ambled home. The grapes are a tradition inherited from Spain, as is a belief that wearing red underwear on New Year’s Eve is lucky.

Another tradition of the Mexican New Year is the creation and destruction of an effigy in the shape of an elderly man, made of papier-mâché and used clothes, who is supposed to represent the past year. There’s nothing better for ringing in a prosperous año nuevo than setting fire to an elderly person.

January 6th is Three Kings Day and we made sure to be in Tizimín, which is home to the largest celebrations. This town is the state’s cattle capital, but transforms into a center of pilgrimage during Three Kings. I couldn’t believe the line of people waiting to get into the cathedral… it stretched around two blocks. We watched proceedings from Tizimín’s most famous restaurant, named (appropriately enough) Los Tres Reyes, which boldly claims to serve the best food in the world. Quite a boast, but having tried their arrachera steak, I’m not inclined to disagree.

Location on our Map: Tizimín

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January 12, 2014 at 4:12 pm Comments (3)

Uxmal: Thrice-Built Home of the Dwarf King

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An expansive city with soaring buildings that have somehow retained much of their detail, Uxmal is among the most important Maya archaeological sites. It’s about an hour south of Mérida in the Puuc Valley, and we showed up early in the morning after spending the night in nearby Santa Elena.

Uxmal Maya Ruins

Uxmal, which means “Built Three Times”, was at its most powerful between AD 875 and 900. When the Spanish arrived the Maya who were still living among the ruins shared the story of their city’s creation. Of course, just because it came straight from the mouths of the Maya, doesn’t necessarily mean that we should trust it…

According to the legend, Uxmal was ruled by a magic dwarf from nearby Kabah. The dwarf’s mother was a witch who managed to goad the king of Uxmal into a contest against her son. The king challenged the little man with a series of tasks; the final one being to build, in a single day, a structure taller than any other in the city.

When the king awoke the next morning and found a towering pyramid outside his door, he was forced to abdicate, and the dwarf ruled the city for the rest of his days. Today, the stunning Pyramid of the Magician is the first structure you see when entering Uxmal. This five-story temple is notable for its steep incline and elliptical base.

Uxmal Maya Ruins

Just past the pyramid is a set of buildings arranged around a spacious courtyard. This is the Nunnery Quadrangle: the central gathering place of the ancient city. Surrounded by buildings boasting exquisite sculpted motifs of snakes, Maya thatch-roofed houses and the Rain Gods of both the Maya (Chaac) and Aztecs (Tlaloc), the plaza is gorgeous. Its current name was provided by the Spanish. Nunneries, it scarcely needs said, were not a concept which existed among the Maya.

Other highlights include the reconstructed ball court, where the sacred Maya game would be played before ritual sacrifices. The House of the Turtles, a pleasingly simple house with a frieze full of turtles. The House of the Doves. The Great Pyramid. The House of the Witch. And of course, the Palace of the Governor, set atop a hill, whose intricately detailed facade is the longest anywhere in Maya architecture.

Our strategy to arrive as early as possible at the gates of Uxmal paid off handsomely. Just an hour south of Mérida, it’s a popular site with tour groups, but these tend to arrive around 11am. So it wasn’t until the end of our three-hour visit that the site was swarming with other tourists. And by then we didn’t mind. We were on top of the Great Pyramid, looking down on Uxmal as though we were the Dwarf Kings and the people below, our subjects. Just for fun, I picked one out for sacrifice: a strapping lad of twenty, with a strong and healthy heart. Almighty Chaac would be pleased!

Location on our Map

Neat Cabañas Where We Stayed in Santa Elena

Uxmal Maya Ruins
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January 2, 2014 at 11:55 pm Comments (4)

Kabah and the Codz Poop

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Kabah was the fourth archaeological site we visited on a very long day dedicated to the Maya ruins of the Ruta Puuc. Our energy might have been low upon arriving, but it’s hard to feel listless in the presence of a building like the Codz Poop.

Kabah and the Codz Poop

Covered from top to bottom in a mesmerizing pattern of masks of the rain god Chaac, the Codz Poop was most likely used as a ceremonial temple. Its name might inspire juvenile laughs, but translates to the rather unfunny phrase “Rolled Mats”, which refers to the visual effect produced by the repeating masks. This repetition of a single decorative element is unique, and found at no other Maya site.

Kabah lies between Sayil and Uxmal, and was contemporary to both, but there is still academic debate about whether it was a satellite city of one of these bigger sites, or a powerhouse in its own right. In fact, there’s a whole lot left to be learned about Kabah. Today, you can visit the Codz Poop and a few other buildings, but the vast majority is yet to be excavated. That includes a massive pyramid laying just off the road, completely covered by overgrowth.

What mysteries are waiting to be discovered in the pyramid? What treasures? And the biggest question: how have professionals been able to resist digging for long? I’m seriously considering buying a shovel, and returning to Kabah myself.

Location on our Map

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Kabah and the Codz Poop
Kabah and the Codz Poop
Kabah and the Codz Poop
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January 2, 2014 at 12:40 am Comments (2)

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The Cenotes of Valladolid An inexhaustible number of cenotes riddle the limestone earth of the Yucatán Peninsula, but Valladolid is blessed with some of the most beautiful. In a single morning, we visited three, the first of which is right in the middle of town.
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