The eastern coast of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula fronts the Caribbean, and it is the beaches above all that define this area known as the “Riviera Maya” or “Mayan Riviera”.
Soft, blinding white strands of sand embracing clear turquoise waters, shorelines that curve into calm lagoons, waves that crash against cliffs, mangrove swamps with minuscule islands where only the birds hold sway alongside freshwater Cenotes (sinkholes). The Great Mayan Reef is the largest coral reef in the Western Hemisphere.
Offshore, a magnificent coral reef teems with marine life swimming lazily among the shipwrecks and relics left by pirates, while inland, savannah gives way to wetland to scrubby limestone terrain to jungle, the flora and fauna varying with each setting. All this makes the Caribbean coast, which borders Mexico’s state of Quintana Roo, a marvelous place for lovers of the outdoors.
Tulum holds the honor of being the most picturesque archaeological site in the Riviera Maya and the only one to have been built overlooking the ocean.
Originally thought to be called Zama, Mayan for dawn, Tulum was a major crossroads of trade from both land and sea managing trade from Honduras and into the Yucatan. Tulum is one of the only fortified Mayan sites and is one of the best preserved coastal sites in all of Mexico. Tulum established prominence in the 13th century AD as a seaport. It controlled maritime commerce along this section of the coast from Honduras to the Yucatán.
Much of what we know of Tulum at the time of the Spanish Conquest comes from the writings of Diego de Landa, the third bishop of the Yucatán. The bishop recorded that Tulum was a small city inhabited by about 600 people who lived in platform dwellings along a street and who supervised the trade traffic. Though it was a walled city, most of the inhabitants probably lived outside the walls, leaving the interior for the residences of governors and priests and ceremonial structures.
There are three major structures of interest: El Castillo (the tower which dominates the area and is perched on the cliff edge), The Temple of the Frescoes and The Temple of the Descending God.
Due to the limited size of this Mayan city, the Castillo was the town center where inhabitants worked, ceremonies where held and goods were received and then dispersed. The Castillo is built on the highest point, is the tallest building and faces the rising sun. It also has an unobstructed view of the night sky.
Tulum remained inhabited about 70 years after the Conquest, when it was finally abandoned. However, local Maya continued to visit the temples to burn incense and pray until the late 20th century, when tourists visiting the site became too numerous.
Tulums most common depiction is that of the diving god or descending god. This god is depicted as an upside down figure and is seen among many doorways on the ruins in Tulum. The waters around Tulum, mostly cenotes, were believed by the ancient Mayan to be the entrance to the underworld.
The stepped pyramids, temples, columned arcades, and other stone structures of Chichén Itzá were sacred to the Maya and a sophisticated urban center of their empire from A.D. 750 to 1200. Viewed as a whole, the incredible complex reveals much about the Maya and Toltec vision of the universe, which was intimately tied to what was visible in the dark night skies of the Yucatán Peninsula.
The most recognizable structure here is the Temple of Kukulkan, also known as El Castillo. This glorious step pyramid demonstrates the accuracy and importance of Maya astronomy, and the heavy influence of the Toltecs, who invaded around 1000 and precipitated a merger of the two cultural traditions. The temple has 365 steps one for each day of the year. Each of the temple’s four sides has 91 steps, and the top platform makes the 365th.
Devising a 365-day calendar was just one feat of Maya science. Incredibly, twice a year on the spring and autumn equinoxes, a shadow falls on the pyramid in the shape of a serpent. As the sun sets, this shadowy snake descends the steps to eventually join a stone serpent head at the base of the great staircase up the pyramid’s side.
The Maya’s astronomical skills were so advanced they could even predict solar eclipses, and an impressive and sophisticated observatory structure remains on the site today.
This great city’s only permanent water source was a series of sinkhole wells. Spanish records report that young female victims were thrown into the largest of these, live, as sacrifices to the Maya rain god thought to live in its depths. Archaeologists have since found their bones, as well as the jewelry and other precious objects they wore in their final hours.
Chichén Itzá’s ball court is the largest known in the Americas, measuring 554 feet (168 meters) long and 231 feet (70 meters) wide. During ritual games here, players tried to hit a 12-pound (5.4-kilogram) rubber ball through stone scoring hoops set high on the court walls. Competition must have been fierce indeed—losers were put to death.
Chichén Itzá was more than a religious and ceremonial site. It was also a sophisticated urban center and hub of regional trade. But after centuries of prosperity and absorbing influxes of other cultures like the Toltecs, the city met a mysterious end.
During the 1400s people abandoned Chichén Itzá to the jungle. Though they left behind amazing works of architecture and art, the city’s inhabitants left no known record of why they abandoned their homes. Scientists speculate that droughts, exhausted soils, and royal quests for conquest and treasure may have contributed to Chichén Itzá’s downfall.
Recently this World Heritage site was accorded another honor. In a worldwide vote Chichén Itzá was named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
The Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico is largely made up of limestone landscape with no rivers…
The land is not fertile and the Mayan farmers burn and slash the trees to grow their crops. When the limestone collapsed, a sinkhole or cenote is formed. There are numerous sinkholes and the one I visited is called Ikil which means “Sacred Blue Cenote” which is located approximately 10 minutes drive from Chichen Itza The impressive Cenote Ikil from the top surface looking down it’s a sinkhole almost round. The surface to the water level is around 90 feet deep.
Akumal is a true paradise for swimming, snorkeling, diving, fishing, relaxing and much more!…
Akumal is a Mayan word that means “Place of the Turtles”, as it has been and still is one of their favorite spot to nest and is the only place in the Riviera Maya that you can Snorkel and see turtlesall year around in the main bay. The fine white sandy beaches at Akumal Bay and Half Moon Bay are ideal for swimming. Sea turtles can be found in Akumal laying eggs on the beaches at night throughout the nesting season (end of April to October).
You can also visit the Yal-ku Lagoon in Akumal, It is a spectacular Lagoon fed by a fresh water cenote. It is an ideal place for snorkeling. Akumal bay is a fantastic diving destination located on the world`s 2nd largest barrier reef. To top off your diving fantasies we are located in the center of the world`s largest underwater river system`s there are more than 50 cenotes within a 15 to 20 minute drive from Akumal. You will dive in the clearest water in the world with visibilities in excess of 300 feet underwater. It is truly a lifetime experience.
Valladolid is known as “The Sultan of the East,” a title given for the architectural beauty of its colonial buildings such as the Convent of San Bernardino de Siena…
…the Municipal Palace, the Iglesia de San Servacio, and the Museum of San Roque, among others; as well as for its architectural inheritance of the XIX and early XX centuries; the Ex Telar de la Aurora, the Parque Central Francisco Cantón de Rosado, and the train station.
Valladolid was founded by Don Francisco de Montejo “El Mozo” in 1543 and acquired the category of city in 1823. Valladolid is the setting of two of Mexico’s most significant events: the Caste War in 1847 and the first spark of the Mexican Revolution in 1910.
From the beginning, Valladolid has had the structure of the Spanish establishments in Yucatán, with a checkerboard design, wide streets, and its great main plaza, today known as Parque Francisco Cantón. It is divided into the city center and its neighborhoods; the whole together is known as the Centro Histórico.