Picking up where I left off in my last Mexico trip recap, we were leaving Isla Mujeres to head to our resort near Playa del Carmen! We stayed at the amazing Barcelo Maya Palace Deluxe. The remaining 7 days of our trip were spent here in total comfort. The resort was actually five resorts in one. We stayed at the newest and largest of them, giving us access to all five. The resort had some of the most amazing pools and swim up pool bars that I’ve ever seen (we definitely lived the good life just lounging in the pool). Anyway, of the remaining days of our trip we only left the resort twice – once to visit Chichen Itza and the other to visit Tulum (both are Mayan ruins).
Unfinished/Finished sides of El Castillo
The tour we booked for Chichen Itza was run by a company called Yukatreks. If you ever make it down to Mexico I highly suggest booking them. We paid around $100 per person for a tour that wound up lasting 12 hours (GREAT DEAL). The drive from our resort out to the ruins lasted about two hours, but was actually a lot of fun. Our tour group was about 12 people in total, and by the end of the day we’d made friends with a good chunk of them. Once we arrived at Chichen Itza, our 2 hour tour inside began. Our tour guide was phenomenal, showing us tons of photos of how Chichen Itza has transformed over the years since its discovery. Pictures are great and all, but being able to see the transformation for ourselves was the definite highlight. What I mean by that is this – the main building within Chichen Itza, El Castillo, has four sides. Three of them have been restored and one has been left as it was found (see my picture). Getting an idea of how the building was constructed was pretty amazing. We also learned that new excavations are going on around El Castillo that have revealed more base layers of the structure. Basically this means history is changing! Each side of the pyramid was originally thought to mathematically match ways we tell time in a calendar (e.g. 91 steps on each side + 1 top platform = 365 total steps) Anyway – with the addition of more layers, it’s throwing off all the math calculations and what historians thought it all meant. It’ll be intriguing to watch the new discoveries over the course of the next few years and what historians believe the new math means!
Following our trek through the ruins we all got back into the mini-bus and headed off for a traditional Mayan lunch. I ate cactus. Yes, I’m serious. I ate a tortilla with cactus on it (so strange). After filling our bellies up with some great food (minus the cactus) we headed off to a natural cenote. Cenotes are natural water pits and are typically found all throughout Mexico. The one we went to had a hole in its roof that tree roots have grown down. It’s difficult to tell in the photo but my sister and I believe the roots to have been over 100 feet long. The water was freezing but totally refreshing after melting in the heat at Chichen Itza all day.
Our tour didn’t stop there! We headed to a traditional colonial town after the cenote where I got to stop in a bookstore and buy the entire Don Quixote novel, split in 12 leather hardcover editions. The entire thing cost me 99 pesos. The exchange rate was 13.7 pesos to $1 – aka AN AMAZING FIND. Yes, the books are in Spanish, but I think it’s pretty awesome to have books in their natural languages sometimes. I told Todd that from now on when we traveled outside of the country, I’d try to buy a book(s) in the natural language of the country visiting (I’d love to head to France and get a copy of Madame Bovary in its native French). After our colonial town trip we headed back to the resort and promptly passed out.
My sister and I in our matching shorts on the way to Tulum
A few days later we made our only other trip off the resort to head to Tulum. Another Mayan ruin about 30 minutes away from us, Tulum is much smaller in scale than Chichen Itza. Tulum is also directly next to the water, so many of its beaches have been turned into private beaches for the sea turtles (I happily agreed with this). One of these beaches is open to the public, however, thank god. It was SO HOT and it was great to be able to cool off in the ocean. But back to the buildings a minute. It was fascinating to see how different Tulum and Chichen Itza were. Chichen Itza seemed as though its buildings were either repaired or in process of being repaired, while most of Tulum’s buildings were just ruins. There didn’t seem to be any repairs or anything going on, they’re just left as they’ve been found.
All in all the entire trip was amazing. I definitely recommend heading to Mexico to see the ruins at some point in your life. It was much more affordable than I thought it would be. My biggest tip though – DON’T GO IN AUGUST. The heat is just sweltering. If we hadn’t spent most of the trip next to the pool I probably would have died. Ok, not really, but you get the picture. Lots of pool time equated out to 5 books read while I was gone, so obviously it was a productive trip. I hope you enjoyed my wrap-ups! Now, back to our regularly scheduled book programming!