This Mayan archaeological site was discovered after the ones of Chichén Itzá and Uxmal (open daily
from 8AM to 5PM, $55 then state tax : MXN$115 for foreigners and MXN 89 for residents).
Twenty kilometers from Mérida,
the ancient Mayan city of Dzibilchaltún is located in a National
Park which protects the cultural, natural and historic heritage
of the area while providing information about it. The Museum of
the Mayan People displays the aspects of a living culture, faithful
to its ancestral traditions. It has been continuously inhabited
since 300 B.C. to the Conquest and was mainly devoted to the salt
trade. During its splendor peak (800 A.D.), its population reached
25,000 inhabitants. They then built 25 monuments, administrative
buildings and palaces for the elite, around two main places.
On the Main Place, by the cenote of Xlacah, the
open chapel shows evidence of evangelism.
Right picture : Burial chambers in Dzibilchaltún
At the end of a 500m (1640 feet) long white trail (sacbé,
in Maya), is the Temple of the Seven Dolls, named for the seven
statuettes excavated. The architecture is not common : the temple
is like a calendar: during the equinoxes, the rising sun shines,
with an astronomic exactitude, directly through the door and windows.
It is the big attraction of this archaeological zone. It is wonderfully
restored and shows unique pieces in Mayan region, pieces that are
still unexplained like the 4 faces of the temple, unique in the
area. It is also the only temple with windows. Very primitive Chaac
masks are above the doors and corners of the building.
Map of the site :
The cenote of Dzibilchaltún is also worth the visit. Even
if it is twice smaller than the one in Chichén
Itzá (30 m (98 feet) of diameter), it was also a place
for sacrifices. The frogmen of the National Geographic Society estimate
the depth of water at 44 m (144 feet), meaning 30m (98 feet) deeper
Itzá. And, because of the numerous human bones found
among the 30,000 objects removed from there, we can say that human
sacrifice was practiced on a large scale in this cenote. All the
excavated pieces are displayed in the museum (museo del Pueblo
Maya, open 8AM-4PM, closed UFN).
Left picture : the cenote of Dzibilchaltun
Located 45 km (27 miles) south from Mérida,
on the Convents road, Mayapán was built in 1221, after the
rout of Chichén
Itzá by Hunac Ceel, one of its governors. Under the power
of the Cocom family, the new capital of the Itzaes dominated the
northern and western provinces of Yucatán during 250 years.
The architecture of Mayapán is reminiscent of the grandeur
and prestige of Chichén
Itzá, its predecessor : the Kukulcán temple and
the round building are the smaller replicas of El Castillo and El
Caracol. The archaeological excavations engaged by the Carnégie
Institute of Washington showed a walled city protected against any
military attack. Inside, there are civil administrative and religious
buildings, as well as the residences of the governors and a spring.
Nice murals show warlike scenes and the death worship.
At mid fifteenth century, a rebellion against the governing family
led to the looting and abandon of the city of Mayapán (open
daily, 8AM-5PM, MXN$35).
Map of the site :
Thanks to the huge biological richness, several parts of the littoral
were named biosphere reserves and are internationally recognized.
They house more than 580 species of vertebrates, 95 species of reptiles,
71 species of fish and 388 species of birds, including 40,000 pink
flamingos. They have nice beaches and spectacular scenery. The fishing
villages offer the essential tourist services.
Reserve of Celestún (west coast) At the west of the state, 92 km (57 miles) from Mérida,
the Ria Celestún Biosphere Reserve is made by a 20 km (12.4
miles) long estuary that can been visited by boats with authorized
guides waiting for the tourists at the entrance of the reserve.
To the very north, there are many colonies of pink flamingos looking
The Caribbean pink
flamingo is one of the largest, most colorful and most beautiful
birds in the world. Visitors come from far away to admire
this fabulous ancient bird in its natural environment and
to get excited watching a flock of pink flamingos flying in
the sky. Celestún is a paradise for birdwatchers and
photographers of nature because it is the habitat of many
species of endemic and migratory birds.
boat tour in the mangrove swamps allows you to watch grey herons,
egrets, ducks, white pelicans and pink spoonbills. While navigating
in the estuary and the canals winding among the mangroves, you will
reach Valdiosera and Venecia, two fresh water springs where the
clear water is good for swimming or apnea diving. The petrified
forest of Tampeten, with strange shaped trees and a ghost atmosphere,
is another attraction of the area (open daily, 8AM-5PM, entrance
fee: MXN$ 33; 2 hour boat ride : MXN$550 for 8 persons). Close to
the harbor, there is a quaint beach where you can find picturesque
restaurants specializing in fresh fish and seafood.
: flight of pink flamingos
Log on to the website about ecotourism in Celestún reserve
You can go to Celestún from Mérida, Terminal del Sur y del Noreste, calle 67, corner 50 and 52 (Second class Terminal) at the rate of MSN 46 single way. Schedules : 5h15, 6h,8h then every hour. Last departure from Celestún at 8:00PM. Celestún is a small village with a few hotels, market and Bus Terminal.
Reserve of Ria Lagartos (north-east) : Located at the other end of the state, this reserve is also a
natural sanctuary where the birds take refuge. Before travelling
above the Gulf of Mexico, the migratory birds rest
a last time there. More than 330 species of aquatic birds, including
the pink flamingos, reproduce there too. El Cuyo basin shelters
a unique reproducing colony in North-America. Travelling the estuary,
you can admire the landscape made of mangroves, marsh and low vegetation
and you can observe the abundant fauna : a crocodile gliding smoothly
through the water, a majestic jabiru stork, a white-tailed deer,
a small tiger or an imposing jaguar.
You can go kayaking along the mild-waves littoral. During the Summer
full moon nights, the sea turtles – called white turtles and
hawksbill turtles- come there for nesting (open daily, 8AM-5PM,
entrance fee : MXN$ 25; 2hour boat ride: MXN$850 for 6/8 persons).
You can go to Rio Lagartos from Mérida, Terminal del Sur y del Noreste, calle 67, corner 50 and 52 (Second class Terminal). Rio Lagartos is a small village with a few hotels, inns, restaurants. You can book Tours and accomodations with www.riolagartosnaturetours.com, cel. 986 100 83 90.
In front of Puerto Progreso Coast, the reef of the scorpions (alacranes)
is a new place to explore. Despite it is far from the continent,
this beautiful 29 km (18 miles) long reef, with five sandy islets,
is worth the adventure, especially for the divers.
State map of Yucatán :
South of Mérida, the Convents
Route is a day trip leading to some out-of-the-way places in the
heart of the state. The convents were built just after the Conquest.
It is easier to visit them by car.
UMAN, convent dating from the sixteenth century (18 km or 11 miles
from Mérida, open 7AM-12noon
MUNA, convent dating from the seventeenth century (64 km or 40 miles
from Mérida, open 7AM-1PM
and 4-8PM). There is an interesting celebration on August 15th,
with folk dances. Local craft for sale (same opening hours).
OXKUTZCAB, founded by the Xius after the abandon of Mani, from 1581
to 1699 (109 km or 68 miles from Mérida, open 7AM-1PM and
4-8PM). Fruit Capital of Yucatán with a huge daily fruit
MANI, with an open chapel and the temple of the convent of St. Michael
the Archangel dating from 1549. It is where Fray Diego de Landa ordered
the destruction of the Mayan documents and statues. (96 km or 60
miles from Mérida, open 6AM-12noon and 5-7PM).
TEABO, famous for its two sacred buildings , the Parish and ex-Convent
of San Pedro and San Pablo built in the seventeenth century (84
km or 52 miles from Mérida,
open 7-10AM and 5-7PM).
CHUMAYEL, convent dating from the sixteenth century (temple of the
Immaculate Conception with a black wooden Christ) -80 km or 50 miles
from Mérida, open 7AM-12noon
MAMA, Franciscan temple and ex-convent built in 1612, surrounded
with a nice garden displaying saints in niches (71 km or 44 miles
from Mérida, open 6AM-2PM
TEKIT is a prosperous city where the church of San Antonio de Padua
displays saints in every corner. The church looks like a museum.
(64 km or 40 miles from Mérida).
TECOH, convent and church dedicated to the Virgin of the Assumption.
The church was built on top of a Mayan pyramid. Many paintings are
still visible. Local craft for sale too. (34 km or 21 miles from Mérida).
ACANCEH is famous for the Plaza of the three cultures. The temple
dedicated to “Our Lady of Nativity” and the chapel of
the "Virgin of Guadalupe" are unique because of the pure
Franciscan style (26 km or 16 miles from Mérida).
Haciendas route The city of Mérida is surrounded by low vegetation,
uniform landscape broken by high brick-red chimneys. These chimneys
indicated the presence of ancient Haciendas of sisal.
The Haciendas of sisal started in the mid nineteenth century thanks
to a specific plant, variety of agave, the henequen, better known
under the name of sisal. The extraordinary high demand of hard fibers
on the international market, mainly for the American industry of
ropes, brought, from 1880 to 1920, the henequen in the industry
of Yucatán. This region was converted in an area of “Green
Gold”. The henequen declined after World War II when it was
replaced by synthetic fibers.
The thick leaves of this plant produce hard fibers used for making
bags and ropes of every size, from the thin cords to hang the hammocks
to the cords to tie the wheat bunches and big ropes for mooring
Nowadays, the numerous haciendas are the witnesses of this period
of wealth. Most of them became villages; some are still working
the henequen in a small scale while other are converted to luxurious
hotels, tourist places or museums. They all were restored in the
best historic and architectural way.
: indian women leaving the market
Originally, many haciendas were farms dedicated to the culture of
corn or cattle raising. They were then converted to sisal plantations,
with diverse styles. The entrance of a hacienda is often marked
by picturesque Moorish arches. The thick plastered stone walls of
the main buildings as well as the steep roofs with tiles imported
from Europe protected the people from the heat. The house was oriented
according to the winds, in such a way that the air could circulate
through the house.
Every Hacienda comprised the same outbuildings set around the main
central courtyard: the main house, the chapel, the store, the machine
house, the administration building and the jail constituted the
economic and social center. Within the thick walls, there were also
a well, the orchard, the poultry-yard, the esplanades for manoeuvre
and areas for hanging out the fibers to dry.
The Haciendas were administrated by butlers who were in charge of
the finances, brought goods and dictated the rules.
Cutting the agave leaves was hard work and needed many men. Despite
the local people, Chinese and Korean workers as well as northern
Mexican Yaqui Indians were hired. The trucks (small flat wagons),
riding on some kind of railways called decauville, carried 2.5meter
( 8 feet) long leaves from the huge sisal fields to the machine
house for peeling and drying stages. The long railways led also
to the main villages and the other haciendas.
Several Haciendas preserve the essence of the glorious days of the
henequen. Recently renovated, they are an ideal alternative for
safeguarding an essential part of the historic heritage of Yucatán.
The Haciendas, with their elegant arches, fresh verandas with wicker
rocking chairs, marble floors and sepia portraits, offer a romantic
trip in Yucatán back in time.
Some Haciendas are nowadays luxurious hotels welcoming people in
an intimate and pleasant atmosphere. It is the best place for resting
and tasting Yucatan cooking.
You can visit the Haciendas SAN JOSE in Tixkokob, SANTA ROSA in
Maxcanú, TEMEZÓN in Abalá, UAYAMON in Chiná
(Campeche State), YAXCOPOIL in the village with the same name, SOTUTA
DE PEON in Tecoh, TEPICH in Mayapán or OCHIL in Abalá.
Progreso : It was a
small fishing village located 36 km (22 miles) north from Mérida.
It now has more than 50,000 inhabitants. Take the road to the long
sandy beaches of Progreso. Have a look at the 7 km (4.3 miles) long
pier, the longest in the world. It was built mainly for the cruising
ships. You can swim and enjoy the excellent seafood. Departures
every fifteen minutes from the Autoprogreso Terminal of Mérida.
City map of Progreso :
Left picture : Progreso near the cruising ships bridge
You can go from Mérida to Progreso : Terminal Autoprogreso de Mérida, calle 62 #524, corner 65 and 67, departures every 15 minutes from 5:00AM to 10:00PM (around MXN 30 R/T).
Right picture : one of Progreso beaches
What is a "cenote"? This come from the Mayan word "Dzonot"
meaning "water sinkhole". There are unique in the world.
They were both a way to obtain fresh water in a forest and a sacred
place : For Mayan people, they were the gateways to afterlife.
With a calcareous and porous soil, the peninsula has almost no river.
This kind of soil often collapses creating open water pools. It
is the opportunity for discovering a spectacular landscape made
of a network of underground clear, green and turquoise waters. The
formation of stalactites and stalagmites, true art works, and the
daylight going through the interstices of the rocks and shimmering
on the clear water offer a unique visual show to the visitors.
The cenotes have different shape and size depending on their location.
Many offerings, jewels and human bones, thrown by the ancient Mayan
people, were discovered there.
There are many "cenotes" distributed in the whole State.
The most famous are the ones in X'Kekén (Dzitnup), Ik'kil,
Bolonchocol and Kankirixche.
There are also many underground caves beneath Yucatán. There
are linked with a net of tunnels. These caves were and still are
sacred places for Mayan people. The most important caves are in
Loltún, Calcehtok and Balamkanché; they are part of
the "archaeological routes" such as the Puuc
Route (Uxmal, Kabah, Sayil, X'lapac and Labná) and the
Eastern Route (Izamal, Chichén
Itzá, Valladolid, Ticopó,
Yaxunah and Ek'Balam).
Diving in the "cenote" Dos
The "cenotes" and the caves of Yucatán
offer a unique experience, a dive into a magic world whose
beauty seems unreal............ A gift from the Gods.
The "cenote" Dos Ojos
is located 1 km (0.6miles) south from Xel-Ha (QR).
: pink flamingos in the reserve of