I don’t know about you but winter has been really rough for me. Luckily, I got a bit of a much needed break a few weeks ago when I got to spend a few hot and sunny days in the Yucatán Peninsula with my parents. We landed in Cancun after spending a long weekend in Mexico City, rented a car and headed out for a short road trip through the Yucatán and the Quintana Roo. Here are some of the highlights from this trip and some great spots we visited along the way.
Cobá is about an hour drive from Tulum. The main reason to visit are the Coba ruins, which are set in the dense jungle and are quite fun to explore.
Coba Ruins Archaeological Park ~ the site is so big you can actually rents bikes to pedal from from pyramid to pyramid, including to Nohoch Mul, the tallest pyramid in Quintana Roo (and the second tallest in the peninsula). Nohoch Mul is actually one of the only Mayan pyramid you can still climb and the view of the jungle that surrounds it is breathtaking from the top.
El Cocodrilo ~ I admit, I picked that restaurant because it was close to the ruins, had colourful tablecloths AND it’s a ton of fun to say Cocodrilo. It’s also the closest you’ll get to “lakefront” dining at its nicely shaded terrace. It’s also where I had my first pollo pibil and the most amazing chaya-orange juice that began my obsession this chaya, a Mexican tree spinach like leafy green.
Cenotes Tamcach-Ha, Choo-Ha and Multum-Ha ~ these cavern-like cenotes, just 6km from the ruins, were the perfect spots take a break from the sun and to cool down with a refreshing dip.
From Cobá we headed to Uxmal, site of another UNESCO-listed Maya ruin.
Uxmal Mayan ruins ~ I was blown away by this site and it was SO much less crowded than Chichen Itzá.
Hacienda Uxmal Plantation & Museum ~ we stayed at this historic resort just across the street from the Uxmal Pyramids. The outdoor pools were a great spot to relax before hitting the road.
Cenotes X-Batun and Dzombakal ~ these two cenotes on the way towards Merida are practically on the same site but are very different, one being open-aired and the other more cave like.
The Pickled Onion ~ this charming eco-boutique Bed and Breakfast with traditional mayan huts is a ten minute drive from Uxmal, in the small town of Santa Elena. The restaurant was lovely and perfect for lunch (though I wish we could have eaten pool-side!)
Mérida is the official capital of the state of Yucatán, but it is also considered the cultural and culinary capital of the region. The city used to be quite wealthy from the production of sisal and I loved its big avenues (its Paseo Montejo was often compared to the Champs Elysees) lined with at times beautiful and at times crumbling colonial era mansions.
K’u’uk ~ Chef Pedro Evia celebrates the gastronomic history of the Yucatán peninsula with a tasting menu that can feel weird and wonderful at the same time. The mansion that hosts the restaurant is stunning though it could use a new interior designer!
Ki Xocolatl ~ The bathroom at K’u’uk had the most amazing chocolate soap which we traced back to this shop tht specializes in chocolate. It’s in the Santa Lucia plaza, next door to Apoala, one of the best restaurants in the city (which we didn’t have time to go to unfortunately.)
Izamal is known as the yellow city and for good reasons. It’s a quiet little town 70km east of Merida and yes, all the buildings including the impressive Franciscan monastery, are painted yellow.
Kinich ~ touristy restaurants known for its dzic de venado (shredded venison dish – we had it, it was great) and its leafy courtyard. It was a great spot to try Yucatecan cuisine (and have agua fresca de chaya!)
Cenote Zaci ~ I’m an urban baby so I can appreciate a cenote smack in the middle of town 😉
Mercado municipal ~ it wasn’t as overwhelming/crammed as some of the other markets we visited on this trip. It’s a great spot to grab fresh juice and a quick, inexpensive meal at one of the many taquerias that line the building like El Camaron Vagabundo.
The first time I went to this part of Mexico, we didn’t venture much from the beach (we were staying in Cozumel) except for a quick day trip to Chichen Itzá. I’m so glad I got to see more of this spectacular region and would actually love to go back, maybe in a few years, perhaps at a more relaxed pace… if only because there are over 6,000 cenotes and I barely saw like 5! Have you been to this part of Mexico? Any towns/experiences that stood out?