Subject: Re: Vacation Ideas needed - Go Mayan
Hi Elizabeth, You expressed an interest in a Ruin/Relaxation vacation in Mexico, in particular in the Mayan lands. I can think of no better place where these two aspects of traveling meld. The remnants of the Mayan civilization to be found in the Mexican states of Yucatan and Quintana Roo are superb. Both states, located on the Yucatan Peninsula, are filled with awe inspiring ruins.

A trip to these states could include a few days stay in Mérida (the capital of Yucatan) from where you could take day trips to the ruins at Uxmal and/or the Puuc Maya Route to the cities of Kabah and Sayil, among others. Also, Mérida is a good base for a day trip to Celestún National Wildlife Refuge on the Gulf Coast where you can see brightly colored flocks of flamingoes, plenty of other waterfowl,and crocodiles in the lagoon and then spend a couple of hours lazing on the beach and playing in the warm shallow waters of the gulf. In Mérida you have the option of staying in a number of refurbished haciendas, B &B's, or a modern hotel, all from which you can explore this delightful colonial city.

On your way to the Caribbean coast along the state of Quintana Roo I'd recommend a two-day stop in Valladolid. This small city is a perfect place to venture over to the most famous of Mayan ruins in the Yucatan, Chichen-itza. Arriving early and climbing the Castle first is the key to visiting this site (you'll want to beat the tour buses coming from Cancun and Mérida arriving after 10:00am). Once you've been able to enjoy the top of the Castle (and visit the Jaguar Throne in its interior) without the hordes you'll be able to walk throughout the rest of the ruins at a leisurely pace. And this will take most of the day. Then on your way back to Valladolid you can head to the cenote at Dzitnup. This underground freshwater pool should not be missed. And visiting later in the day should help you to miss the crowds. In Valladolid you can explore the 16th century cathedral and, most likely catch some live music being played on the zócalo (the central plaza). Before leaving Valladolid you absolutely must head the few short kilometers north to the ruins at Ek Balam. This rarely visited site has breath-taking bas-relief stucco sculptures depicting the ceremonial life of these ancient peoples. At first sight you will think that these have been reconstructed. But that is not the case. These are the original works made by the Maya close to a thousand years ago. Unbelievable.

Now comes the relaxation part of the trip. On to the Caribbean! Skip Cancun and head to the Mayan Riviera south of Playa del Carmen. The infrastructure along this coast has grown considerably over the past few years so your options are almost limitless. Mega-resorts, large hotels, condos, beachouses, or a hammock under a palapa are all available. And all have this in common: the beautiful Caribbean, flour-like soft white sand, coral barrier reefs protecting lovely lagoons and exquisite tropical fish. After a few days of relaxation you can continue with some more visits to the ruins at Tulum and Coba. And after visiting Coba head over to the Spider Monkey Reserve at Punta Laguna.

Believe it or not I've barely scratched the surface on things to do and see in this magical part of the world. Any guide book on Mexico (in particular the Yucatan) will list the myriad options. Here are a few links to websites with which you can continue your research:

For a web travelogue (including photos) of this area go to: http://www.concentric.net/~yohon/maya.html

The state of Yucatan's tourism department (in English): http://www.mayayucatan.com.mx/eng/nuevo.htm

Celestún: http://www.mayanroutes.com/celestun.html

The city of Valladolid: http://www.chichen.com.mx/ingles/valladolid/index.html

>From the state of Quintana Roo's tourism department on the Mayan Riviera (in English): http://www.rivieramaya.com/portada_e.asp

Well, Elizabeth, that should be enough for a start. If you have any specific questions or just need some more help in general just ask.

John in San Diego