The adventure of discovering Mexico, the Riviera Maya, the Mayan Route, lagoons of pink waters, turquoise waters, blue waters, underwater museums, nachos and guacamole began in Cancun, which is now one of the most accessible gates to the country, as there are very cheap flights to and from Cancun in countless destinations around the world.

After exploring the spectacular Caribbean waters of the Riviera Maya in the state of Quintana Roo, from the beautiful Isla Mujeres to Tulum, through Akumal and Playa del Carmen, the Mayan archaeological route called us. We decided to reach the epicenter of the Peninsula in the state of Yucatan: the magical town of Valladolid.

 We decided to rent a scooter to enjoy everything that the Mayan Land had to offer and explore Valladolid and its surrounding areas in an adventurous and comfortable way. The best Vamossomewhere’s Sytle! And it was an excellent idea to save money and time while traveling freely all around Valladolid.

The mystery of the “disappeared” Mayan Culture

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One of the things that shocked me the most while visiting this territory was to discover that the Mayan civilization has not disappeared, as is commonly believed. I do not know if that popular belief is part of a social-political control practice to erase peoples’ history and subdue them by removing their memory, but I can guarantee you, feeling great about it, that the Maya people is still here, alive.

I came looking for answers about the empire of a “mysteriously disappeared” civilization of which nothing remains but its outstanding architectural constructions. Although it is true that the inhabitants, of what we see today as vestiges, left their cities, and we do not know much about that, the reality is that the Mayan civilization still lives and not only in Mexico, but also in Guatemala and even Honduras, where the Mayan languages are still spoken, and rituals and traditions are preserved.

Why did the Mayan People leave their cities?

Much is speculated on the reasons that may have caused the abandonment of Mayan cities, but nothing is confirmed for sure. Wars, social-cultural differences that invited citizens to flee, territorial occupations of rivals, diseases. Among the most logical reasons, is the situation and crisis around water. The entire area of the Yucatan Peninsula has more than 10,000 cenotes, distributed and connected underground throughout the territory. Water was definitely the source on which life depended for the cultures of the region. Due to the human sacrifices, they made in the sacred cenotes, it is thought that the waters could have been contaminated, contributing to the spread of diseases throughout the cities, forcing its inhabitants to migrate in search of new places to live.

 The Mayan people inhabited the Yucatan territory since 300 BC and the lands were always competed by the different communities that occupied the zone, as well as transformed by the Spanish conquest and what resulted from it. This and the wars were also a frequent reason why the inhabitants left their cities.

 

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Explore the best of Valladolid and its surrounding areas in scooter

Valladolid is one of the most magical towns of Mexico, the epicenter of the Yucatan Peninsula, is an strategic point to get the most out of this territory, its history and legacy, marked by a strong indigenous influence and a recent Spanish colonial past. As a Mexican magical town, Valladolid is part of the places that preserve its secular and ancestral traditions, loaded with a historical wealth, although sometimes painful, culturally invaluable. If you look carefully at the houses of the town, you will discover that behind the facades of colonial architecture and colorful walls, the typical circular structure of the Mayan ancestral houses is hiding, with walls of cane and adobe, with ceilings made with palm leaves on wood frames. Ready for the route through the Yucateco-Mayan territory?

Ek Balam, the black jaguar

ek balam, peninsula yucatan, mexico

Just 30 minutes north of Valladolid is “Ek Balam” (Black Jaguar in Mayan language), an archaeological complex that was inhabited from the pre classic Mayan period, around 300 BC – 100 BC and had its greatest development in about 600-800 AD. Undoubtedly, that was one of the most impressive archaeological complexes we have visited. In fact, it was one of the last discovered archaeological sites in the peninsula and is perhaps one of the most important, as it is expected to be as large as Chichen Itza. Its structures are extremely well preserved and restored, with some murals carved on stone with spectacular details. You can ascend the acropolis, from where you can see the entire archaeological complex surrounded by thick tropical jungle and from where you can see, 48 kilometers away, the ruins of Coba.

Cobá, the water wetland

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This archaeological complex is located very close to the border between the states of Yucatan and Quintana Roo and is only 50 minutes east of Valladolid.

Cobá was an important political center for the Mayans, one of the most powerful cities of Yucatan, particularly between 200 and 600 AD and came to have a territorial domain that extended to Tikal in Guatemala. Something very interesting about this place is its Teotihuacan-style architecture (like those of the sun and the moon temples that are close to Mexico City), which show the importance of Cobá in all Mexican territory today. It is very pleasant to rent a bicycle (directly on the place and it’s cheap) to see the complex and it is worth visiting, although it is not as well preserved as Ek Balam or the Chichen Itza sites.

Chichen Itzá, the mouth of the itzáes’ well, sorcerers of water

chichen itza, maya, yucatan peninsula, mexico

Just 46 minutes west of Valladolid you can find Chichen Itza, one of the youngest archaeological complexes in Mayan history, founded around 525 AD. Chichen Itza is perhaps the best-known complex of the Mayan civilization because it was declared a World Heritage Site by the Unesco.

The most impressive aspect of this complex is to see the meeting of two cultures, the Maya and the Toltec, which is reflected not only in the architecture but also in the traditions, very different in relation to other complexes of the Mayan Empire. As they say, Chichen Itzá was the meeting of migrant groups that came from the Northwest of Mexico (Teotihuacán, of more warlike and bloodthirsty traditions), with the Mayans, of more pacifist backgrounds and dedication to the astrological research. Kukulkan “The Plumed Serpent” and maximum God of the Temple, is the Mayan representation of Quetzalcoalt (the Toltec God). This is the perfect example of the fusion of these two cultures. It is impressive to walk around the complex, observe the imposing architecture and the complexity of its history.

And, what to do with the Yucateco heat? Refresh!

Swim on the Cenotes, “dzonoot, holes with water”

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As we mentioned earlier, the Yucatan Peninsula has more than 10,000 cenotes. These formations, unique in the world, abound in the peninsula and you can see as many as you want. “Dzonoot” means: hole with water in Mayan language. You will find them open, closed, underground or semi-open. All of them are spectacular and truly something completely unique and special. We visited many, all we wanted, because having the scooter, it was simply a matter of deciding where to stop and refresh ourselves for a while, to continue with our Yucatecan tour.
At the end of this post you will find our favorite ones!

 

See flamingos and a pink water lagoon at Rio Lagartos and las Coloradas

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This was the place why we decided to rent the motorcycle. A lake with pink water? That is something that is not seen every day, nor everywhere. We were determined to discover the secrets of the pink lagoon.

 Río Lagartos and Las Coloradas are only 2 and a half hours north of Valladolid. They are located in a little port-town at the very northern point of the peninsula, passing by Tizimin. It is originally a salt refinery, but due to the special color the water takes in the pools with the minerals and the microorganism, it has become a place to see, and it is really special! Although you cannot swim anymore (it’s too salty, and it is forbidden), you will be in front of something unique: pink water pools!  

It is something worth seeing. We arrived there in our scouter, feeling the cold air currents that mixed with those of hot air, all along the way. These mixtures of these currents are the ones that create the huge hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico (crazy thing, alongside with the climate change, but that’s another story). Anyways, we first visited first Rio Lagartos, where we toured a beautiful mangrove area and where we could see many beautiful pink flamingos at a really short distance. (That was the highlight of the tour), but we did not the pink pools as we were imagining them. So we kept exploring, although the locals were telling us, it was forbidden to get closer to the pools and that they would not allow us. Don’t listen to them!
Go straight to the town Las Coloradas, from where the views are spectacular! You are literally in front of the pink pools, you could touch the water. And if you are lucky enough, you will also see flamingos here. 

At the end of this post, I will give useful info for visiting Las Coloradas

visit las coloradas in Mexico, visitar las coloradas en Yucatan

We were able to swim in as many cenotes as we wanted, we had the chance to visit Chichen Itza, Ek Balam, Cobá, we were able to see Las Coloradas… All of it, just because we had the scooter! If you are doubting, consider that you will have to pay for each bus ticket ($20- $40 MXN pesos each time you go down and up), you will not have so much time, waiting for the next bus to pass, you will have to stay on the route where the bus pass, not wander around freely. At the end, you will end up paying the same, or maybe more and seeing way less than at your own pace! We totally recommend you to consider this, at the end, you are not visiting Mexico every year, and it will be very fun! More info

Do you see why renting a scooter in Valladolid is the best idea you could have?

It would be false to say that we have known Mexico. In this area, we missed Mérida, Holbox, Uxmal, and who knows how many other incredible corners that this country has to fall in love with. We managed to discover just a corner of this spectacular nation. We had wanted to step on Mexican soil for a long time, we dreamed about food, margaritas, mariachis. And you know what? Mexico is so much, so much more than that! We had to leave because the rest of the continent was waiting for us, but we will return! Mexico, thanks for so much!

 Let them say that I am asleep and that they bring me to you … Nice and dear Mexico, if I die away from you! (A piece of a beautiful Mexican song)

USEFUL INFORMATION
INFO TO RENT A SCOUTER: Visit Valladolid on a Scooter
Scooter Valladolid is the company that we recommend to rent scooters.
Address: Calle 41 No. 197 between 40 and 38, Colonia Centro Valladolid, Yucatán 97780.
Phone number: +52 985 856 46 01
TIP: Ask them for the VamosSomewhere discount 😉

WHAT TO DO IN VALLADOLID:
We recommend you to walk freely and enjoy the architecture, the mixture of cultures.
Visit Frailes Street, visit the San Bernardino Convent, particularly see the video mapping show at night, the cenote Zací (inside the city), the Casa del Venado and eat a marquesita in the central park.

TIP: The show will play only from Wednesday to Sunday at 9:00 pm.

WHERE TO STAY?
At Pulpo Hostel- they have free breakfast and nice rooms.
Adress: Calle 45 entre 44 y 46 Centro Historico 97780 Valladolid (Yucatán)- 46 97782.
Phone number: +52 985 101 8975 or +52 985 119 0976

WHAT TO EAT?
Try Marquesitas, is like a crêpe and you can fill it with Nutella, banana, cheese… “awesomeness” made true!
We recommend you very good Yucatecan cuisine at the Restaurant El jardin de los Frailes
address: Street 41 a between 48 and 50 #222, Calzada de los Frailes, Valladolid, 97784
Phone number: +52 985 856 2593

TIP: Try the “michelada style” beer, is a mixture of beer with soy sauce, maggie, lemon, chili, and spicies. So interesting!

WHAT CENOTES TO VISIT?
All cenotes are special, but we recommend you to try to see at least one open and one closed or semi-closed. I had never seen a cave with stalactites before in my life, so that was something! 

Open cenote: Ik kil, next to Chichen Itza, is really impressive, but too crowded for my taste. In any case, something to see at least once in a lifetime. 

Kikil, on the way between Tizimin and Río Lagartos there is this very nice and refreshing open cenote. 

Almost closed cenote: Xkeken and Semulá (Dzinup’s). This is one of my favorites cenotes. The ray of light on the cave creates a surreal atmosphere with the stalactites and the water. It is breathtaking

Closed cenoteMultum Ha (very close to Cobá) this was amazing, not so crowded, crystal clear water, just amazing.

Pricing: This will depend on each one of them and the season, but it will vary from $50MXC pesos and up to $140 MXC pesos (Xkeken), or even more. This are the summer season 2017 prices.

HOW TO VISIT LAS COLORADAS:

If you want to see flamencos, mangroves, and cross the Natural Biosphere of Rio Lagartos, do not hesitate to take the tour by boat. But, do not expect to see the best pool with them! So, was the tour worth it? Yes (but pricey $450 MXN pesos (around $25 USD per person), plus the entrance fee to the National Park, $32 MXN pesos ($2 USD) plus the tip, and you won’t see the pink pools, although, the flamingos and the mangroves are spectacular). 

If you just want to see the pink lagoon, avoid Rio Lagartos tour and go directly to Las Coloradas village. (You do not have to pay to enter, and although the locals will tell you that they will not let you in, that you will see the same, do not listen to them, it is false and they simply want you to pay the boat tour). You can eat fresh fish in the town and enjoy at your pace!

See the map we have to drown for you to better decide what to do.
TIP: make sure to visit Las Coloradas on a sunny day, if it’s clouded, you won’t see pink but brown water. 

We kindly thank Scooter Rent Valladolid for having collaborate with us and having allowed us to live this amazing adventure in Mexico.

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And feel free to ask as many questions as you want in the comments to prepare your travel to Valladolid and its surrounding areas. Safe travels!

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