Mexico is known for its surf and sun, but there’s a whole different side of Mexico that very few have experienced. As adventure tourism continues to grow around the globe, perhaps it’s time to discover undiscovered secrets of the Yucatan region.
Here are three exclusive day tours that can be done from Mérida that are simply unforgettable.
Tour 1 “Santa Rita Caves” – This place is located about 200 km from Mérida and about 100 km from Cancun, near the small village of Chemax. It’s run by a co-op of local Mayan farmers who own the land and provide guided visits into the caves. There are two caves on the property, one more accessible and less demanding than the other. The “Madre Cristalina” (Crystal Mother) is given its name due to white colors of some rock formations that sometimes are so transparent that they resemble glass. This is the easiest to trek through, and is also the longest underground. At the far reaches of the cave are ancient Mayan hand engravings. The other cave is called “Aktun Kaab”, which is a bit more technical, requiring explorers to navigate a couple of rock formations in order to reach certain spots inside the cave. Guests could either be driven to the entrance by ATV type vehicle, or ride in on mountain bikes.
To break up the lengthy drive time to get there and back, tour guides will suggest a stop in Valladolid, the second largest city in the Yucatan. Restaurants here serve traditional Yucatecan food, such as Cochinita Pibil, Lomitos de Valladolid, Poc Chuc, Papadzules, Queso Relleno, Longaniza de Valladolid and Salbutes. There’s also a small cenote on the premises that guests are free to swim in. Although it takes some time to get to the destination and back, it’s most definitely worth the travel time.
Tour 2 “Sotuta & Rancho los 7 Cenotes” – Cenotes are a natural pit, or sinkhole resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater underneath, and they are more commonly found in the Yucatan region than anywhere else in the world. They are typically surface connections to subterranean water bodies, but many are buried deep beneath the ground. Water colors can range from crystal clear, to blues and greens that are almost translucent. The Yucatán Peninsula has almost no rivers and only a few lakes, so the cenotes are the only perennial source of potable water for the most part. They also make great swimming holes!
About an hour’s drive from Mérida is the quaint Mayan town of “Sotuta”, birth place of the famed Mayan warrior, Nachi Cocom, who fought during the Yucatecan caste war in the mid 1800s. Mayamazing Adventures have partnered with a nearby ranch owner who recently discovered two cenotes on his property, one with exposed surface and the other within a underground cave. There’s the option to continue here by vehicle or bike the less than 10 remaining kilometers along quiet secondary roads. The property is in the process of being set up to welcome guests to not only enjoy both cenotes, but to have the option to dine and even stay overnight. Meals are prepared on open wood burning fires, with selections that might include arrachera meat, as well as local specialties such as quesadillas, chambray onions, nopales, and more.
The surface exposed cenote is some 50 meters below, reached only by a secured rung ladder. Being there during the right time of day with the sun shining and angled from above, there’s a kaleidoscope of rays that’s just magical and unbelievable. It’s nature at its most beautiful. The second underground cenote is a completely different experience, yet just as remarkable. Once it was discovered beneath the surface, the owners excavated an entrance, built a staircase down, constructed a small dock, and added some lights. Now it’s one of the world’s best indoor swimming pools, and there’s even a kayak to paddle around in to give an idea of the scope and size of these cenotes. The most spectacular thing about the underground cenotes are stalagmites and stalactites high above the water surface. It should be noted that the temperature remains relatively constant all year round, between 77F and 80F (25C to 27C).
Tour 3 “La Carbonera” – Kayaking is something quite common in the region as well, however the open waters can make it somewhat difficult and more suited to experienced kayakers. Less than an hour from Mérida is the fishing port of “Chuburna Puerto”. From here, a private fishing charter shuttles guests approximately 30 minutes along the coastline toward a sheltered lagoon. Kayaks are ready and waiting for guest arrivals, who begin another 30 minute paddle toward a mangrove forest. Once at the mangroves, there’s a secluded entrance that leads to a natural enclosed tunnel built within, that has to be navigated through twists, turns, and overlaying branches.
Approximately 20 minutes later, the forest opens and the sky appears above once again, as the termination of the tunneled path is a fresh water spring that is constantly pumping water into the estuary. This is a great spot to take a break and enjoy a bit of swimming or snorkeling. Exiting the mangroves, and after paddling back toward the fishing boat, a beach side lunch was waiting, complete with shrimp ceviche and Tikinxic grilled grouper, and ice cold cervezas!
These are just three of the multitude of options available to explore in this wonderful region of Mexico. While some intrepid travelers seek out adventures on their own, the majority of travelers will choose a reputable and experienced local tour operator to arrange all details that will ensure a most valuable and safe experience.
To learn more about Maya Amazing Adventures go to http://www.mayamazing.com/or by phone in Mexico at 01 (800) 841-6445 and the United States (855) 216-2150.
Maya Amazing Adventures sponsored this experience.