Ruins, Cenotes and more Ruins

Trip Start Oct 16, 2011
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Trip End Ongoing


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Flag of Mexico  , Central Mexico and Gulf Coast,
Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Valladolid was the next stop on our travels, it is a small colonial city in the heart of the Yucatan. It is close to the most famous Mexican Ruins, Chichen Itza and also the less known ruins of Ek Balam.

The Yucatan peninsula being flat and very dry has no rivers or lakes that the people can rely on for water. Luckily for them the peninsula is riddled with Cenotes, these are natural sinkholes and caves filled with water caused by a collapsing limestone bedrock. All of the major towns and ruins are built near major Cenotes. Many of them are open to the locals and tourists to swim in.

While in Tulum I went on a snorkelling tour in three of the local Cenotes. It was an amazing experience after having done so much salt water ocean snorkelling, the water in the caves was so clear and cold. Being underground with stalactites and stalagmites inches from your head was really cool and being able to watch the scuba divers swimming along the cave floor below me really made me want to give it a try one day.

While in Valladolid Liv and I hired bikes and rode to three of the local Centotes that are swimmable. They were all very different from each other and the water was quite cold but very refreshing. One of them had a huge rope swing set up that the local kids used, I of course had to give it a go which was a blast but I unfortunately couldn't talk Liv into having a crack.

Ever since I was a kid watching documentaries and movies about the Egyptian pyramids I have always had a fascination and need to climb one. Luckily for me the ruins at Ek Balam contain a pyramid of a sort that is still climbable. It was not quite as big as the Egyptian variety but still bloody steep and the view from the top was stunning. The steps leading to the top are really narrow and quite tall which is strange because the Mayan people who built these structures were less than 5 feet tall, so climbing them would have been a serious effort for them.

We also visited Chichen Itza and were luckily enough to arrive before the hoard of tourists descended on the site. This meant we were able to get decent pictures of the massive pyramid that is the main attraction there and also walk around relatively easily.
 
We left Valladolid and headed to the jungle town of Palenque. There are two options for accommodation in Palenque, you can stay in town or you can head 7km into the jungle to El Panchin which is a hippy commune that is a haven for people who don't conform to the norms of society and are looking for a simpler way of life. We of course chose the latter which was a great choice. The accommodation was a simple hostel next to a creek deep in the jungle. There is only one real choice of food in El Panchin which is Don Mucho's that serves up a fantastic range of Mexican and European food and has live music every night. Or you can do what the hippies do and live of the magic mushrooms that grow naturally in the jungle surrounding the village. Unfortunately it was the wrong time of the year for mushrooms!

The awesome jungle foothills overlooking the swampy plains that stretch northward all the way to the gulf coast contain the beautiful ruins of Palenque, these were by far my favourite ruins I saw in Mexico. They were absolutely stunning, surrounded by the jungle with steep hills rising on all sides and creeks and waterfalls running through the middle of them. I can see why these Mayans chose this spot to live.

 
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