A few months ago, two others and I came together wanting to escape the dark, cold, winter months of Germany. We were itching to explore a new culture, and country, I mean it has been a while since this has been possible. The current covid regulations around the world did not make it easy for us to select many countries. We quickly concluded: Vamos a México (let's go to Mexico!).
As we did want to chase good weather, and have a few days of downtime on the beach, we selected the Yucatán & Quintana Roo area. After discussing the itinerary, the group naturally grew and ended up being 6 enthusiastic photographers in total.
This area is known to be fairly touristic. Every year, nearly 45,000 US college students fly to Cancún to celebrate their spring break. Thankfully, we travelled a few weeks before this hell broke loose.
As we all travelled from different cities, and countries, we decided to group up in Cancún and stay here for one night. Cancún was perfect to regroup, recover from jetlag and calm down after a full day of travel. However, Cancún itself was for me definitely a do not visit destination. I named it Disneyland for a reason. The area had hundreds of resorts that were located next to each other. There were flashing lights and loud music in nearly every restaurant, and the prices are touristically high. A zero Mexican cultural experience.
We did explore the strip, saw sunrise at the beach (pro's of the jetlag), relaxed, and got our rental car to travel to our next destination: Holbox.
Holbox is an island in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, also known as paradise, and trust me this is paradise! We drove to Chiquila where we parked the rental cars, arranged a little boat to take us to Holbox. There is also a ferry available, but when you haggle for 6 people, we got a better price than taking the ferry. This island is such a vibe. There are no cars allowed on Holbox, the sand was whiter than my skin coming from cold, winter-y Germany and the seawater is completely turquoise. It looked like one of those typical screensavers we have been staring at for the past two years. We had a total of three nights on the island. There are various activities you can do on and around the island. We took a boat trip to explore nature and wildlife: beautiful and a big variety of birds, lots of Iguanas and the first cenotes of the trip.
Part of the island is where you can explore glowing blue water, also called bioluminescent waters. This effect is caused by microscopic phytoplankton. The water glows blue when you splash it or by waves (depending on the intensity of that day). We did manage to see some sparks in the water, which was very surreal and magical!
We also just chilled on the beach, did a few sunrises on beach banks in the sea, explored the town, and ate a lot of food; also just a must-do in Holbox.
After travelling back to the mainland, we picked up the car again and drove to Valladolid. An incredible local city, with colourful houses, and many little Beetle cars. In Valladolid, we explored also another beautiful cenote. A cenote is a natural sinkhole, resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater. As most cenotes are quite deep, you can also dive. The light rays are very stunning that you can see underwater, and a really cool experience!
Another must-do in Valladolid is visiting 1/7 world wonder: Chichen Itza. Three out of the seven has been completed!
The journey from Valladolid to Merida was a two-hour drive. On our way, we stopped over at Izamal where we did a quad-bike tour through the city! Izamal is a very historic city, and used to have one of the biggest temple pyramids of Mexico. It was a really cool experience to see a historic city on a quad bike, even off-roading a bit - big smiles throughout!
We arrived in Merida quite late. We stayed in a gorgeous Hacienda, which felt more like a palace. In this Hacienda, many weddings take place, and they also do have rooms where guests can sleep in. We quickly figured out that we had the whole entire place for ourselves.
At night, we visited the city of Merida. A very busy city, and also quite touristic. I am not sure if I would suggest Merida to people interested.
The drive from Merida to Bacalar was long, and one straight road. Bacalar, "The Maldives of Mexico" is a town on the south-east border, a 40-minute drive from Belize. Bacalar became my favourite place that we have visited because of the beautiful freshwater lagoon.
We stayed at a 100% sustainable, and ecological lodge, on the lagoon: Azul Nomeolvides. In this place, the warm water and electricity came from the solar panels, the water was filtered from the lagoon, and we could only use the soap given to us, as that is biodegradable soap. It was very inspiring and educational to learn so much more about eco-friendly living, the small change we can do in our lives to make the world a better place.
We kayaked on the lagoon, rented a sailing boat for half a day to explore some other parts, relaxed, and ate some really incredible food!
Tulum.... pff. What to say about Tulum.
Tulum is quite touristic and famous for two types of people: The first type is the people who want to party all day and night. Only go from beach clubs during the day, to nightclubs at night. The other type of people are the yogis sipping on their kombucha teas, ready for a morning meditation to cleanse their bodies with the purest ingredients, pouting for their Instagram accounts with their soya iced coffees, and gluten-free meals. There is actually also a third type of people; people that do both, party at night, and cure their hangover with a yoga session and kombucha teas in the morning.
Okay, I might have very over-stereotyped Tulum here, but there is some truth in this.
In recent years, Tulum has boomed with high-end wealthy travellers coming in. It is a very stunning, place to relax, and have some downtime. If you want to do this, stay at a resort on the beach. To relax on a beach bed on the beach, most resorts ask you to spend a minimum of 50$ (USD) on food and drinks. This is if you do not stay at the resort itself. Luckily, there are some rare spots that ask you to spend 25$ for a day. This was very do-able.
One of the must-do's around Tulum is visiting the Azulik museum. This is really a full senses experience where art and nature come together. There are two locations for this museum, one is inside Tulum (very busy), and the other one is outside the city. I would recommend going to the one outside the city. You are not allowed to take any cameras into the museum, for this you have to pay 100$ (USD).
Overall, this trip was an absolute blast! We visited so many stunning places you can only dream of, met a lot of incredible people, and experienced a lot over the 2.5 weeks we were there. This makes me very curious about what the rest of Mexico has to offer! The analogue photographs are still to be developed, so stay tuned for that!