The third ancient city which we visited on our trip along the Yucatán's Ruta Puuc was Sayil. Long since abandoned to the jungle, this extraordinary site is still paying silent testimony to the magnificence of the Maya civilization.
We weren't sure what to expect from the Eco-Museum of Cacao, found between the archaeological sites of Labná and Xlapak. Apart from a flier we'd picked up in a tourism office, we hadn't read a thing about it, and that's usually a bad sign. But the museum turned out to be excellent, with nicely-presented information, a chocolate-making demonstration, animals and even a re-creation of an ancient Maya rain ritual.
Down the road from the Grutas de Lóltun is the archaeological zone of Labná, the first of five ancient Maya sites we'd be visiting on our trip through the Puuc Valley. Nearby we'd find Xlapak, a much smaller site whose name means "Old Walls".
One of Mexico's biggest cave systems is found just south of Oxkutzcab. With woolly mammoth bones and evidence of human presence dating back to the Pleistocene Age, the Grutas de Loltún (Caves of the Flower Stone) served as a refuge to both the Maya and to those who came before them.
Some of the Yucatán's most impressive Maya ruins are laid out in a convenient row along the Ruta Puuc. Beginning in the village of Oxkutzcab, we made a rough semi-circle to the south and west, visiting caves, an eco-museum dedicated to cocoa, and five archaeological sites, among them the ruins of Uxmal.
I've got one of those brains that appreciates order. I love numbers and logic, and anything organized. I always keep a list of tasks for the day, and often an item on that list will be reminding me to make another list. Seriously. Don't even get me started on jigsaw puzzles. The challenge of arranging jumbled pieces into a coherent whole? I'm happy just thinking about it.
The tiny Gulf Coast town of Celestún was about as remote as possible, but to reach our hotel, we had to continue past its final shack and along a ridiculously bumpy dirt road for another half hour before reaching our hotel. Xixim is truly the back of beyond, and when we pulled into the parking lot, we knew the wearying trek was about to pay off.
In the southeastern corner of the Yucatán is the Celestún Biosphere Reserve, a natural lagoon home to mangrove forests, flamingos, crocodiles and fearsome snakes.
Unlike a lot of places we move to, Busan or Idaho for instance, we were fully confident that life in the Yucatán Peninsula was going to be wonderful. It didn't take anywhere near a month to confirm that. We spoiled ourselves with wonderful cuisine, explored Maya ruins, relaxed on the beach, and started to learn about our new home. They were an eventful 30 days, and I didn't know whether to be excited that we still had another two months to look forward to, or disappointed that we were already a third done.
As guests of Cozumel's tourism board, we weren't just exposed to a wide variety of sights and restaurants, but were also introduced to a few wonderful places to stay. Whether your budget is small, medium or large, one of these options should fit the bill.