Finally! Finally, we can emerge from our homes, throw up our arms with a mix of joy and relief and get back to marveling at all Yucatán has to offer us. In case you’ve somewhat lost your exploration-mojo in the last six months, I offer three of my favorite day trips from Mérida for your delectation. All include an archaeological site and a cenote – because what better way to reacquaint ourselves with adventuring than by sampling Yucatán’s finest offerings?
Exercise Your Muscles Near the Coast
If you’re ready to flex those muscles then the Laguna Rosada should be calling to you. Start your day early in a kayak with Sayachaltún Ecoturismo. There’s nothing like kayaking for blowing away cobwebs first thing in the morning.
Once on the water, head straight for the entrance to the mangroves to see the flamingos that often hang out around there. If you’re super lucky you might even see some fly overhead. If you’re not sure about doing the actual kayaking, don’t worry, you can simply hire a boat with someone to take you around for an hour or so.
There is a restaurant on site so why not replenish yourself here before heading off to continue the day?
Next, drive west on the highway that takes you to Progreso and take the Dzemul-X’tampú exit, towards X’cambó archaeological site. If you can, drive straight over, ignoring the beautiful views on either side and follow the sign on the right to X’cambó. At this wonderfully small and compact site, the Maya produced and traded salt, a vital commodity. I particularly love that salt continues to be produced here today. Take an hour to stroll around the site before jumping back in the car to continue your drive towards Progreso. If you have time and energy, stop to photograph the flamingos that generally congregate and to check out the stunningly beautiful pink salt lakes in X’tampú, just outside the entrance to the site.
El Corchito is home to the only cenotes really close to Progreso. Here, you take a tiny boat across the Ría to a wonderfully verdant site. There are three open cenotes to swim in whilst enjoying the sounds of coatis chattering around you.
Take: swimming kit, spare clothes, insect repellant, sunscreen, snacks, and water.
History and Cenotes Galore
If you’re more into cenote fun than kayaking, then Homún plus a cultural stop at Acanceh (because we all need culture, right?) could work for you.
I like to stop in Acanceh on my way to Homún since I can’t guarantee I won’t be too tired for some climbing on my way back home. Acanceh is one of the oldest Maya sites around. The older pyramid was built between 700 – 300 BCE and is decorated at the top with some incredible masks that are still visible today if you’re feeling strong enough to climb the stairs. I highly recommend letting a guide tell you about the site as they are full of fascinating facts about Acanceh as a continuously inhabited Maya town. Head for the town plaza, park, and walk towards the very obvious pyramid to one side. If no guide comes to take your money, look to the left where you’ll find a tiny structure – pay there.
Now let’s talk cenotes – for a “wild” and “untouched” vibe, head into the cenote circle. To get there, drive through Homún along Calle 19, and look out for a sign on the left indicating where to turn. This is kind of off-road driving, but your car will be fine. All you have to do now is follow the road until you see a sign to a cenote that grabs your attention and follow it! There are around 15 cenotes that are officially open to the public in this area. Some have restaurants attached, while others are just a swimming area. The Santa Cruz cooperative along the road between the cenote circle and Homún offers simple meals in a delightfully laid-back setting.
If you prefer your cenote experience to have a little more infrastructure, then you may wish to consider Santa Bárbara, a complex with three beautiful cenotes, a good restaurant, and a gift shop. The cenotes are reached via a little horse-drawn truck or by bicycle if you want to work up a sweat.
Climb and Swim Wild
The third and final suggestion is my first love when it comes to Maya historical sites: Mayapán. Less than an hour from Mérida is this stunningly beautiful site that never ceases to amaze. The main pyramid, Kukulkán, is often compared to El Castillo, the principal structure at Chichén Itzá. There is plenty to see and climb here and there are rarely many others around, which makes it a great place to let imaginations run free.
Once you’ve exhausted yourself, head (by car) to the village of Telchaquillo, just across the road. Here you’ll find a tiny little cenote on the village plaza. You can stop here for a refreshing dip, or, if you’re feeling super brave, head on down the road to Noh-Mozón cenote outside Pixyáh. You’ll find this easiest if you pick up a guide in Pixyáh (generally, someone with a motorbike will go ahead to show you the way).
This remote and deep cenote isn’t for the faint-hearted. First, you have to keep faith and follow your guide all the way to the end, despite wondering over and over if it’s a trick, then you have to be able to actually get yourself down the rickety stairs and into this deep, deep hole in the ground. You won’t regret it. I promise it’s a fabulous prize of a cenote. What you will be, though, is starving so be sure to take a picnic to guzzle after. Remember, you’re in the middle of nowhere!
Take: swimming kit, pic nic, sunscreen, and water.
Editorial by Cassie Pearse
Freelance writer and blogger
Adventure lover who never lost her sense of fun or wonder
Sayachaltún Ecoturismo and restaurant
Located right-hand side of road just before Telchac Puerto
Tel. (999) 230 8119
LIbramiento s/n Progreso
Tel. (999) 158 5155
Cenote Santa Cruz
Calle 19, Homún
Tel. (999) 159 5118
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