Subject: Yucatan
Hi Curtis and welcome to Travelzine,

Choosing to stay in Valladolid is a good idea. There are quite a few sights closeby. We stayed at the Hotel Meson de Marques. It is on the main square (zÛcalo) across from the cathedral. The front desk and dining area (with tables situated around the central garden courtyard) are located in the original older building on the street. More recent additions have been added towards the back including a pool. We enjoyed the food there so much we had most of our meals there. Rooms for two ran from $45 to $60. Clean comfortable modern rooms with air conditioning. I'm not sure about parking but there were definitely spaces on the street in front.

Hotel MesÛn del MarquÈs Calle 39 #203 Tel. 6 20 73 http://www.differentworld.com/mexico/hotels/meson_del_marques/pages/entrance.htm

Sights near Valladolid include:

Chichen Itz· This is an easy drive of about 45 mins. Highly recommended to arrive early (the gates open at 8:00am). Climb the Castle first so as to avoid having to share it with the busloads from Cancun which will begin arriving by 10:00am. We were there from 9:00 until 2:00, there's alot to see.

Ek Balam These ruins just north of Valladolid were a pleasant surprise. We headed there in the afternoon after visiting Chichen Itz·. No crowds and the most ornate sculptures, masks, figures, and hieroglyphs of the Yucat·n Maya ruins. Also, the acropolis is one of the largest of all Meso-american buildings. Be careful not to fall in one of the chultunes (cisterns) that are buried throughout the grounds.

Tip: All ruins and government museums in Mexico are free on Sundays.

Dzitnup Just outside of Valladolid is this cenote . Take your swimsuit for this one. Incredible underground pool of crystal clear fresh water. The smallest of holes in the center of the ceiling qualifies this as a cenote. We went later in the afternoon on a Saturday and there were not too many people. Some friends had been there previously in midday and encountered alot more. However, the sunlight through the hole was probably more spectacular for them. By all means go for a dip it is refreshing and thrilling. Look for the bats swooping down for sips of water.

Rio Lagartos One of the lagoons on the Gulf of Mexico (north of Valladolid) famous for its birdlife, crocodiles, and mangrove forests. The flocks of flamingos are the main draw here. We went to Celest·n (to the west of MÈrida) another lagoon such as this. A very worthwhile trip. Flamingos in flight are truly spectacular. I'm not sure about Rio Lagartos but Celest·n also had a nice beach with restaurants on the sand. After our visit to the lagoon we spent a couple of hours swimming, sunning and dining on the Gulf.

I'd recommend you read the book Incidents of Travel in the Yucat·n by John Lloyd Stephens for some interesting historical perspective on the the first detailed descriptions of the Mayan ruins. The drawings by Frederick Catherwood are priceless.

I'll write again with information about MÈrida and its environs plus another installment for the Tulum area.