A Travellerspoint blog

Playa del Carmen and around

Beaches, diving, turtles, Maya ruins and a bad cold

semi-overcast 28 °C
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I arrived in Playa del Carmen on Sunday. It is a very busy beach town on the Caribbean coast of Mexico. There are very nice beaches in town and in the whole area around it. Unfortunately it was cloudy a lot of the time and it rained a few times, so that sometimes the weather just did not allow me to go to the beach. So I went to the beach a few times and spent some rainy time in the hostel. Playa del Carmen is a good place to party, too. On Sunday night I went out to a few of the many bars and clubs in town and we had a very good night.
Playa del Carmen

Playa del Carmen

On Tuesday afternoon, I got a ferry to Cozumel, an island nearby. The place is visited by a lot of American cruise ship passengers, which I did not like so much, but I was only there for the diving which I had heard was amazing. At night, I met some very nice people in the hostel and we went out for dinner together. We all went to bed early, but soon I woke up and suddenly felt very ill. I had an awful night, feeling really bad with a sore through and a headache. In the morning I was a bit better and managed to go diving luckily, but I still had a bad cold for a few days and it still is not completely gone now.
Cozumel

Cozumel


Cozumel

Cozumel

Anyway, the diving was amazing! In the first dive we went to an incredible reef formation. There were some swim-through, so narrow passages and arches between the rocks which you could swim through. I had not done that before and it was great. On the second dive we saw more animals, many fish including a grouper, a barracuda, two lion fish and a sting ray which we got to watch swim away from very nearby.

In the afternoon I got back to the mainland and spent the next day relaxing at the beach to recover from my cold. On Friday, my French dormmate and I took a bus to another beach called Akumal. Here we rented snorkel gear and went to watch the sea turtles that live there in the water. I watched them munch on the seagrass and swim up to the surface to get air. It was amazing! There were also a lot of fish around and the beach was really pretty! It was a great day!
Akumal

Akumal

At night I travelled on to Tulum. I visited the Maya ruins of Tulum this morning. The site is much smaller than others, but the buildings are nice and the most interesting thing about it is its location next to the sea. At some points you stand on a rock above the water or a beach. You can even go down to the beach and sunbathe and swim, inside the archaeological site.
Tulum

Tulum


Tulum

Tulum


Tulum

Tulum


Tulum

Tulum


Beach at Tulum

Beach at Tulum

Afterwards I went to another beach nearby for a very short time. Then the clouds came in and I got back into town just before it started raining. I did not trust the weather the rest of the afternoon, so I went for a ncie lunch and then spent the rest of the time in the hostel, talking to different people and using the time to get some photos sorted and things like that. Tomorrow morning I will make my way to Isla Mujeres, an island near Cancun.
Las Palmas beach

Las Palmas beach

Posted by sarahm_lux 22:50 Archived in Mexico Tagged cozumel playa_del_carmen akumal Comments (0)

Villahermosa & Palenque

More ruins and waterfalls

sunny 28 °C
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After another day in Mexico City I finally got the night bus to Villahermosa. On and around the main square of the city everything is very nice and modern. Other than that there is not much to see in the city itself.
Villahermosa

Villahermosa


Villahermosa

Villahermosa

But just outside of the centre is the Parque Museo La Venta. The stone sculptures found at the archaeological site La Venta have been brought here and you can follow a trail through the park to see them all. They are really interesting to see and their setting in the park is very nice too. The site has a zoo in it as well, housing many types of animals such as jaguars, spider monkeys, toucans, snakes and crocodiles.
La Venta

La Venta


La Venta

La Venta


La Venta

La Venta


Zoo at La Venta

Zoo at La Venta

After visiting La Venta, I took a bus on to Palenque where I organised a tour for the next day. The tour first brought me to the ruins of Palenque. It is one of the most important Maya sites and it is really amazing. The temples and what is left of the carvings and paintings are beautiful. The location of the ruins in the jungle gives a nice mysterious feel to the ruins too.
Palenque

Palenque


Palenque

Palenque


Palenque

Palenque


Palenque

Palenque


Palenque

Palenque


Palenque

Palenque


Palenque

Palenque


Palenque

Palenque


Palenque

Palenque


Palenque

Palenque

After the ruins, we went to the waterfall Misol Ha. A large and strong waterfall. You can also follow a path behind the waterfall. It is a very nice place.
Misol Ha

Misol Ha


Behind the waterfall at Misol Ha

Behind the waterfall at Misol Ha

The last stop was the waterfalls at Agua Azul. This is a river running down a hill where it creates many smaller waterfalls and also pools for swimming. Another very beautiful site.
Agua Azul

Agua Azul


Agua Azul

Agua Azul


Agua Azul

Agua Azul

Posted by sarahm_lux 20:59 Archived in Mexico Tagged agua_azul palenque villahermosa la_venta misol_ha Comments (0)

The 'Colonial Heartland' as the Footprint guidebook calls it

3 colonial cities in Mexico

overcast 22 °C
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I finally packed my bags again and left my Mexico City hostel after 9 nights. I travelled North that day to spend a few days in some colonial cities.

My first stop was Querétaro, about 3 hours away from Mexico City. I left my backpack at the bus terminal to go explore the city centre. When I arrived it seemed like just a big city and I was wondering how nice and colonial the centre really would be. I was pleasantly surprised however. The historic centre was great. It had some beautiful squares. The centre and its squares are very green with many trees and grass. There are a lot of interesting colonial buildings and churches.
The pedestrian zone of the city is very nice, with many restaurants, souvenir shops and typical sweets stores. I got into a long conversation with the owner of one of those sweets shops. The elderly man gave me many recommendations for sweets to try, but also for places to visit in the area and in all of Mexico. I wandered around the city for a few hours, ate a gordita for lunch (a thicker tortilla, cut open and then filled, a bit like pita bread), tried some sweets of course and then went back to the bus station.
Statue in Querétaro

Statue in Querétaro


Church in Querétaro

Church in Querétaro


Plaza in Querétaro

Plaza in Querétaro


Church in Querétaro

Church in Querétaro


Statue in Querétaro

Statue in Querétaro


Aqueduct in Querétaro

Aqueduct in Querétaro


Gordita

Gordita

I then got a bus to San Miguel de Allende, which is only an hour away. I got there still pretty early so that I cold have a first look around in daylight. It seemed a very nice city too. The biggest difference to Querétaro being the presence of a lot more tourists. In Querétaro there were almost none, while here there were many, especially US American, tourists and expats. By night, the city had a very nice atmosphere too. There was a mariachi band playing next to the main square. Giant puppets were dancing to their music (some normal people were dancing as well of course). Kids were practising their breakdance moves in the centre of the square. People were sitting in the restaurants and cafés around, eating dinner or having a drink. Others were sitting on the benches in the square, just enjoying the night or eating some of the street food on sale around them. In the morning, I got a better look at the city centre and it was still as nice. Especially the Parroquia church next to the square is a stunning building.
San Miguel de Allende

San Miguel de Allende


Parroquia in San Miguel de Allende

Parroquia in San Miguel de Allende


Parroquia in San Miguel de Allende by night

Parroquia in San Miguel de Allende by night

San Miguel de Allende

San Miguel de Allende


San Miguel de Allende

San Miguel de Allende

When I had seen enough of San Miguel de Allende, I got on the next bus to Guanajuato. This city is special in many ways. First of all, it is built in a very hilly place which led to tunnels being built underneath a large part of the city. There are cars driving through the tunnels going underneath the city centre, but there are also pavements in the tunnels for pedestrians to walk through, and there are even underground bus stops and car parks. The second special thing is that it is not a planned city. Most cities, especially colonial cities, in this part of the world were planned and are therefore for the biggest part made up of straight streets that cross at right angles leading to everything being divided up in squares. Guanajuato is different. The streets are not straight, but follow the hills up and down, there are no square blocks and it is easy to get lost when you do not pay close attention. It felt a lot like in Europe. The third special thing about Guanajuato are its museums. It has got the Diego Rivera house, where the artist lived for part of his childhood and where some of his works are on display. More unusual are two other museums though. First the Don Quijote museum which shows only artwork related to the famous novel. Second the mummy museum, which show around 50 mummies found in a cemetery in the area. The bodies were naturally mummified for some unknown reason and were only discovered since some of them were dug up because their family had not paid the taxes for the cemetery spot.

On my first afternoon, I explored the city centre, visited a few of the pretty churches and went to the Don Quijote museum and the Diego Rivera house. Both were very interesting. I also went to the market, which is housed in a beautiful building designed by Eiffel.
Guanajuato

Guanajuato


Teatro Juárez in Guanajuato

Teatro Juárez in Guanajuato


Guanajuato

Guanajuato


Basilica in Guanajuato

Basilica in Guanajuato

The next morning I decided to take a city tour, which would bring me to the more remote areas as well. The tour brought us first to one of the many silver mines in the area. We got a guided tour and could enter the mine for a short bit.
After this, we visited a sweets whop where we got to try typical sweets and cream liqueurs. We also visited a shop selling gems and jewellery made out of these gems and of silver from the mines.
The next stop was a church near there where our guide gave us a lot of information on the church's artwork.
After this we visited the Museo del Purgatorio. Here we got a very interesting guided tour and were presented some of the torture methods used by the inquisition.
From there, we drove to a viewpoint with beautiful views over the city.
The last stop them was the very interesting mummy museum. It was strange to see those bodies that had mummified without any obvious reason and within very short periods of times (most of them were buried for only about 6 years) in their graves.
Casa Museo del Purgatorio

Casa Museo del Purgatorio

Casa Museo del Purgatorio

Casa Museo del Purgatorio

Guanajuato seen from the viewpoint at the statue of Pípila

Guanajuato seen from the viewpoint at the statue of Pípila

At the start of the tour I met a Mexican guy and his Brasilian couchsurfer (for those who do not know what that is: couchsurfing is a website which gets travellers in touch with people who let them stay in their homes for free, in exchange of course these travellers offer the same service when at home). Already after a short conversation they offered me a lift back into Mexico City that afternoon since I had not bought a bus ticket yet. Very nice of them I thought.
The tour was supposed to take 3 1/2 hours, but ended up taking 5. It was all interesting, so it was nice to have more time. However, I had to get back into Mexico City to get a bus that night. Nevertheless, we had to go eat something after the tour was finished. We were really hungry by then. After lunch, we picked up my bags and got on our way back to the capital. Unfortunately that also did not go so well. The ride took longer than expected, too. We also had somebody bump into the back of the car at some point. Luckily nothing happened though. And then it started raining as well. Nothing seemed to be going very well and when we got to Mexico City it was too late to safely take the metro with all my bags. We called to ask how much a taxi would be, but it was far too expensive. I did not know what to do until the guys offered to get the metro with me to the bus station. I did not want them to do this for me at first, but then I did accept. We got on the first metro and at the second station it stopped and did not get going again for almost 10 minutes. It was very late by then. We were doubting that we would make it on time for my last bus. So we turned back and I was invited to stay over at the house too. We watched a movie and then wanted to go to sleep. However, I was sharing the living room with the Brasilian and we ended up continuing talking till 5 in the morning. How did it get that late, I don't know... I only know I was very tired the next morning.

I did not want to waste a whole day on the bus, so I decided to take the bus at night and spend the day in Mexico City. I did not do much though, spent the day going back to Coyoacán for some tasty quesadillas and a juice and watching a couple of movies. I slept very well on the bus that night...

Posted by sarahm_lux 20:01 Archived in Mexico Tagged guanajuato queretaro san_miguel_de_allende Comments (0)

Mexico City

A big blog entry for a big city...

sunny 25 °C
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I spent the last 6 days exploring Mexico City. The city is really huge and there is so much to see!

Of course I went to a lot of museums while in the city. Here a list of the ones I visited:
- Palacio de Bellas Artes: a good museum in a great building. The expositions were just not as big as I thought they would be.
Palacio de Bellas Artes

Palacio de Bellas Artes


- Museo Mural Diego Rivera: shows Diego Rivera's massive mural Sueño de una Tarde Dominical en la Alameda Central. The rest of the museum is interesting, too.
- Museo de la Caricatura: shows mainly political caricatures.
- Museo de Sitio de la Secretaría de Educación Pública: 3 floors full with amazing murals, most by Diego Rivera.
Mural in the Secretaría de Educación Publica

Mural in the Secretaría de Educación Publica

Mural in the Secretaría de Educación Publica

Mural in the Secretaría de Educación Publica


- Museo Archivo de la Fotografía: small free photography museum.
- Museo Nacional de Antropología: an incredibly big museum on anthropology, evolution, pre-hispanic cultures and indigenous peoples' lives today. I found it very interesting, but also tiring towards the end.
Museo Nacional de Antropología

Museo Nacional de Antropología

Museo Nacional de Antropología

Museo Nacional de Antropología


Museo Nacional de Antropología

Museo Nacional de Antropología


- Museo de Arte Moderno: a nice modern art exhibition.
- Museo Dolores Olmedo Patiño: houses an interesting collection of Diego Rivera's and Frida Kahlo's work among others.
- Museo del Estanquillo: had a large exhibition on old Mexican movies.
- Museo de la Medicina Mexicana: shows the medical knowledge of pre-hispanic cultures and the evolution of medicine after the colonisation.
- Museo Nacional del Arte: very big and interesting art collection.
That's a lot of museums, I know, and I'll spare you more details on them...

Obviously I did do other things as well. I walked around the Historical centre quite a few times, enjoying the nice architecture and the good atmosphere. I saw the Casa de los Azulejos and walked through the Alameda Central park. I also went to the Cathedral, which is massive and beautiful inside. The Palacio Nacional is also striking inside and its walls are decorated with several amazing murals as well.
Casa de los Azulejos

Casa de los Azulejos


Cathedral

Cathedral


Palacio Nacional

Palacio Nacional


Mural in the Palacio Nacional

Mural in the Palacio Nacional

On Tuesday night, we went to see a Lucha Libre fight with a Canadian couple from our hostel. The wrestling show was pretty ridiculous, but very funny. You should definitely see this once when in Mexico. It's a shame we were not allowed to take our cameras in.

On Wednesday, I visited the Templo Mayor, which was a main temple of the Aztecs. A very interesting site.
Templo Mayor

Templo Mayor


Templo Mayor

Templo Mayor


Templo Mayor Museum

Templo Mayor Museum


Templo Mayor Museum

Templo Mayor Museum

On Wednesday night, my English friend took a flight back home to England. I could not believe it was time for her to go home. It just made me think of the end of my trip even more...

When I was at the anthropology museum, I saw Voladores de Papantla outside in the park. 4 men climb up a pole and then wind themselves down on a rope in 13 turns, making them look like they are flying. It is a very impressive show. It looks very scary the way they are turning around up there.
Danza de los Voladores

Danza de los Voladores

Walking around the Bosque de Chapultepec and along the Paseo de la Reforma with its statues in every roundabout was very nice too.
Monumento a la Independencia

Monumento a la Independencia


Mexico City sunset

Mexico City sunset

On Friday, I went to the neighbourhood of Xochimilco, where I took a boat ride on the canals. The colourful boats are called trajineras and are a lot like the gondolas in Venice. The funniest thing about the whole ride is that on the big canal you can find anything being sold off boats. Food and souvenirs are on sale, but there are also mariachi and marimba bands floating around and offering to play you a song for money. Although it was not very busy that day because it is low season and it was a weekday, it was a unique experience.
Trajineras in Xochimilco

Trajineras in Xochimilco


Mariachi band on a trajinera in Xochimilco

Mariachi band on a trajinera in Xochimilco

That night I went out with the Canadians and my Spanish roommate. We went for a few drinks, then met some other foreigners and ended up going to a club with them, which was absolutely packed and where we were the only non-Mexicans. You could barely move, but the music was alright and we enjoyed the experience.

I went to visit the Basilica de Guadalupe the next day. This is the church most visited by pilgrims in Mexico. It was a Saturday so it was very busy when I was there. There is the beautiful old church, which was being used for a wedding that day, but you could still go in and look around. Next to it a new church had been build. It is a huge building holding up to 40,000 people. It is a modern round building, built in a way so that everybody has the best possible view. The whole complex around the church is much bigger though. There are 4 more churches and a very nice park with different sculptures, a waterfall etc. You can also visit a museum in the back of the old church which shows religious art, mostly related to the story of the Virgin of Guadalupe, who the church is dedicated to.
Beautiful old Basilica de Guadalupe

Beautiful old Basilica de Guadalupe

Ugly new Basilica de Guadalupe

Ugly new Basilica de Guadalupe

The Mercado de la Merced is said to be the biggest in the Americas. I had a walk around and it is definitely very big! You can find everything here, food, clothes, electronics, make up... Just like it any Latin American market really, just with much more choice.

The Mercado de la Ciudadela sells handicrafts from all over Mexico. It was a good place to buy some souvenirs because you can find everything in one place and the prices are fixed, so no need to bargain.

On my last day in the city, I visited Coyoacán, another neighbourhood in the South of the city. It is a very pretty and lively place, especially on a Sunday. The 2 main squares just next to each other are beautifully decorated with trees, sculptures and fountains, and are surrounded by nice little cafés, restaurants and ice cream shops. By coincidence, there was a Fiesta del Tamal going on while I was there. Since I like tamales a lot I had to check this out of course. There were many different stalls offering different types of tamales, both savoury and sweet ones, from different regions of Mexico and even from other Latin American countries. I tried a Tamal con Mole Amarillo, which was very good and different from the ones I had had so far.
Coyoacán

Coyoacán


Museo Nacional de Culturas Populares

Museo Nacional de Culturas Populares


Tamal con Mole Amarillo

Tamal con Mole Amarillo

While in Mexico City I had street food for most meals except breakfast. You can find it anywhere and it is really cheap. I tried my way through the different types of tortilla dishes on offer: the freshly filled tacos (your choice of filling and the tacos are freshly heated on the frying plate and then folded up; you also have a choice of salads and sauces you can add yourself), tacos al guisado (tacos filled with stews of different types), tacos de canasta (pre-prepared tacos with simple fillings such as potatoes, beans or pork, sold out of a basket or bucket), tacos dorados (deep-fried taco shells filled with salad and potatoes beans or meat), quesadillas (tortillas filled with cheese and sometimes other ingredients before heating so that the cheese melts inside them), tlayudas (like in Oaxaca, although here they were oval shaped and made out of green maize) and garnachas (I am not quite sure what the difference is between these and the freshly filled tacos...). I also tried a couple of tortas, Mexican sandwiches filled with various types of meats and cheese. What makes them so delicious is that tomatoes and avocado can always be added. Elote is the word used for corn and this is sold on the cob on the street. When the corn is removed from the cob and sold in a cup it is called esquite. Both have mayonnaise, cheese and different sauces added.

And the conclusion is: I had a very good time in Mexico City and liked the place a lot. I am sure there still is a lot I missed though.
Mexico City Busyness

Mexico City Busyness


Izcoatl

Izcoatl

Posted by sarahm_lux 19:37 Archived in Mexico Tagged mexico_city xochimilco coyoacán Comments (0)

Teotihuacán, Monarch Butterflies & Puebla

3 amazing day trips

sunny 25 °C
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We decided to base ourselves in Mexico City for a while and see the city but also do some day trips from there. When we got to the city on the morning of 21st January, we decided to start off with a few day trips.

That day, we went to the ruins of Teotihuacán. The site is incredible although much of it is reconstructed.
Teotihuacán

Teotihuacán


Teotihuacán

Teotihuacán


The main structures are the temples of the sun and of the moon. You can climb the Temple of the Sun all the way to the top, which involves a lot of steps, but is worth it for the amazing views from up top.
Teotihuacán

Teotihuacán


Teotihuacán

Teotihuacán


The Temple of the Moon can only be climbed up to a certain point. From here, you get great views of the rest of the site including along the whole of the Avenue of the Dead.
Teotihuacán

Teotihuacán


Teotihuacán

Teotihuacán


Teotihuacán

Teotihuacán


We had a good guide who explained the site very well.
Teotihuacán

Teotihuacán


Teotihuacán

Teotihuacán


Teotihuacán

Teotihuacán

The next day, we took a trip to the Santuario de la Mariposa Monarca. This is a reserve where the monarch butterflies hibernate every year. They fly down from Canada, a journey of around 4000km. It was a long journey to get there for us too (3 hours each way, not including the time needed to get to the bus terminal), but it was worth every minute on the bus! After a 45 minute hike through the reserve, we arrived at the spot where the butterflies are. We were literally surrounded by millions of them! The trees were covered in them, so much that the branches actually looked orange, and the air was filled with the orange butterflies. It was incredible!! This was definitely another highlight of my trip!
Monarch butterflies

Monarch butterflies


The sky filled with monarch butterflies

The sky filled with monarch butterflies


Branches full of monarch butterflies

Branches full of monarch butterflies


Monarch butterflies on a tree

Monarch butterflies on a tree


Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

Our third day trip brought us to Puebla, a colonial city at about 2 hours distance from Mexico City. The city is very nice: interesting colonial arhitecture, good weather, a big tree-filled main square, many churches and really good food.
Puebla

Puebla


Coffee cup exhibition in Puebla

Coffee cup exhibition in Puebla


Puebla

Puebla

In fact, Puebla is known for its food and we tried the most famous dish, chile en nogada. This consists of a pepper filled with meat, fruits, nuts and spices and covered with a walnut sauce and pomegranate seeds. It was the best meal I had tried in Mexico so far!
Chile en Nogada

Chile en Nogada


Chile en Nogada

Chile en Nogada

We went to some of the churches and walked around the differents parts of the city. We saw a lot of artesanal work being sold and unfortunately stood in front of some closed doors where sites were shut for some reason. I visited the Museo Amparo as well, which is an important museum about pre-Colombian cultures. It has a lot of information about the development of Mexican cultures and shows many amazing artefacts from the different regions. Very interesting!
Puebla

Puebla


Puebla

Puebla

Posted by sarahm_lux 21:36 Archived in Mexico Tagged teotihuacan puebla santuario_de_la_mariposa_monarc chil_en_nogada Comments (0)

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