This Mexican state is known for its Gulf of Mexico beaches and the Mayan ruins. It has some of the prettiest sights in the world. We spent 4 days in different parts of the state starting with the largest city in the state and the state capital, Merida.
Merida is only a short 2-hour flight away from Mexico city. It is a Spanish colonial town with colorful colonial buildings and cobbled streets. All the streets are one-way streets near Zocalo (the main square in the city). Do yourself a favor and park your car in one of the parking lots close to the Zocalo (they are just 10 pesos for all day!) and walk down the cobbled streets. Also, make sure you note down the intersection where you have parked your car. Or else, by the end of the day you will be lost in the maze of streets, trying to figure it out! Happened to us 🙁 we spent an hour searching the parking lot! Trust me, the streets all look the same! Walking down the streets, you will find Bakeries, restaurants, and shops at every corner. We stopped at a Bakery for some Mexican desserts.
Merida is a very tourist friendly place. You can pretty much walk inside any of those huge colonial buildings and tour it for free. Some of them even have free guided tours. We spent a few hours exploring the colonial buildings and did some shopping in the markets. Best way to explore the city is by walk or by horse carriage ride. There are colorful, decorated horse carriages offering guided tours of the city (30 min to an hour long tours cost 200 to 300 pesos. You have to bargain!). We took an evening sunset ride. Our guide not only showed us around, he also gave us some insider info on where to get the best food 😉
Our guide dropped us near the cathedral, just in time for the evening show at the Zocalo. Every Friday night, the streets around the Zocalo are closed down and the area is transformed into an open-air theatre. Usually, they have some folk dance shows or folk plays. Grab some drinks and sit back and enjoy the show with the locals 🙂
Later that night, we headed to La Jarana restaurant for dinner. The restaurant had good ambiance. There was a Mariachi band who came over and played a romantic song for us 🙂 (of course we had to pay 50 pesos for a song). Their handmade tortillas are good. After dinner, we hit the road. We drove 2 hours to reach Chichen Itza late in the night.
Day 2 :
Started our day with some scrumptious breakfast at our hotel, Villas Arqueologicas, a comfortable budget hotel, very close (5-minute walk) to Chichen Itza site. After loading on some carbs, we headed to see one of the “New 7 Wonders of the World”.
Chichén Itzá, which was once the most powerful city in all of Yucatan; is a popular tourist destination today and one of the most visited Mayan ruins in the Yucatan. It is spread over a 5 square kilometer area and is an architectural marvel. The Castillo, The Warrior’s Temple, and The Great Ball Court, all those stone buildings were constructed around 600 AD. They have survived the worst of the weather and wars! This photo is of “El Castillo”, the temple of Kukulkan, the feathered serpent deity. Apparently, on the Spring and Autumn equinoxes, the shadows cast by the northwest corner of the pyramid evokes the appearance of a serpent wriggling down the staircase. Word of caution: It is very difficult to find a spot to pose in front of this pyramid without other tourists photo-bombing you! So plan to reach early if you want to avoid all other tourists.
The Mayans were not only great architects, they were also great astronomers. If you are at Chichén Itzá, do not miss the 30-minute documentary show on Mayan history at the Planetarium. We had a buffet lunch at the only restaurant inside Chichen Itza and headed back for some more of the temples and stories. Usually, they have a light show at night narrating the history of Chichen Itza and Mayan people. Since it was stormy and raining all day, the town had a power outage for that night and the show was canceled. It was a surprise candlelight dinner for us that night back at the hotel 😛 I was so glad that I had bug spray and flashlights 🙂 It was a surprisingly good break for us, not worrying about charging our gadgets or checking Instagram that night! We got a good night’s sleep. Maybe the power outage was not that bad (but only for a day).
Tips: Chichén Itzá is always crowded and very hot in summer. The best time to avoid the crowd and the heat would be to be there at 8 AM when it opens.
The most anticipated part of our trip finally arrived! It was time for the pink lakes, Las Coloradas. But before that, we visited Cenote Ik-Kil. It would be a shame to miss a dip in a cenote if you are in this part of the world! A cenote is a natural sinkhole, resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater underneath. Cenote Ik-Kil is a couple of miles from Chichén Itzá archeological site. The cenote has waterfalls and green vegetation hanging all the way down to the clear crystal water, which is perfect to swim and snorkel. We spent an hour over there and got back on the road.
The 2-hour drive from cenote Ik-Kil to Las Coloradas takes you through the lush green countryside of Yucatan. The scenery changes suddenly when you reach the fishermen villages of Las Coloradas. We were welcomed by giant white salt mountains. After driving around the salt mountains for some time, we finally found someone local who took us to a private salt lake – a pink lake at last:) We could not believe our eyes, the sight was so pretty! The pink waters and blue sky, a feast for eyes 🙂
After spending some time capturing some photos and enjoying the view, we got back on the road. We headed towards our Airbnb near Laguna Rosada for the evening. The view from our room was breathtaking. The turquoise blue water of the white sandy beach was right on the doorstep! We headed to the beach first (the beaches here are as good as private beaches, secluded and quiet) and then went to the restaurant next door which our host suggested. It was the best dinner we ever had in Mexico 🙂 After dinner, we took long walks on the beach to be surprised by bioluminescence, it was amazing! A perfect end to a wonderful day.
We were treated to yummy breakfast by our host after some morning walk at the beach. Our host also gave us some tips on where to find the flamingos 🙂 Thanks to our host, it was an easy search for flamingos! The flamingos can be seen in certain areas (it keeps changing) around Laguna Rosada and Xcambo area all throughout the year.
While we were searching for flamingos we came across a few smaller salt lakes, they were even brighter and colorful than the ones we saw at Las Coloradas!
In the evening, we reached Merida and headed to the Bust station to catch our bus ride to Tulum. Since we travel on a budget, taking an overnight bus (ADO bus) from Merida to Tulum was a good option for us. We waved goodbye to colorful Yucatan and headed towards the hip and happening beach town, Tulum.