A Little Ancient Culture With Your Pina Colada?

28/07/2016

If you’re looking for world class hotels, powder soft sand, Caribbean blue sea and year round sun, then the Caribbean coast of Mexico, also known as the Riviera Maya, is one for the short list.   Mexico is so much more than just great beaches and hotels, Just leave your hotel for a couple of day trips and you can easily explore some truly amazing cultural destinations that will make you feel like you’ve done so much more than just had a beach holiday.

The Riviera Maya stretches for 80 miles along the Yucutan Peninsula from Playa del Carmen down to Tulum, it’s easy to get to as there are flights regularly to nearby Cancun as it’s a popular year-round destination.  Choosing any one of the luxurious hotels in Cancun or Playa del Carmen will give you endless entertainment options, fantastic restaurants and seriously divine beaches.  The sand is so soft and white it feels like icing sugar between your toes and the sea is so clear and turquoise it is a Caribbean dream come true.

However, when you’ve had a few days relaxing, drag yourself away from the beach to make sure you don’t miss out on what’s on your doorstep...

The Yucatán Peninsula is home to the ancient Mayan civilization, with evidence of Mayan inhabitants as early as 2500 BC.  Once the civilization was established, it went on to prosper and become one of the most sophisticated civilizations with a booming population of about 19 million at its peak. By 700 BC, the Mayans had already devised their own way of writing which they used to create their own solar calendars carved in the stones. According to them, the world was created on August 11, 3114 BC and the supposed end was on December 21, 2012! 

The most famous and best restored of the Yucatán Maya sites is Chichén Itzá which along with other ruins includes the 24m high pyramid of El Castillo and is one of the newest seven wonders. At the spring and autumnal equinoxes (around March 20 and September 22), the sun produces a light-and-shadow illusion of the serpent descending the side of El Castillo’s staircase. These dates get very busy but don't worry - the illusion is recreated every night in the light-and-sound show so don’t worry about missing it!

Depending on where you are staying, it might be easier and closer to visit the Mayan ruins at Tulum.  Although they might not be quite as big as Chichen Itza, the ruins at Tulum make up for it with their dramatic beach-side setting.  Situated on a 12m high cliff overlooking the Caribbean, the ruins of Mayan walled city are spectacular.  Tulum is one of the last cities built by the Mayan people.  The city was at its height between the 13th and 15th centuries and managed to survive about 70 years after the Spanish began occupying Mexico.  However, it is thought that diseases brought by the Spanish settlers appear to have resulted in very high fatalities, disrupting the society and eventually causing the city to be abandoned.

 

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