Yucatán – Ocean Time in a Caribbean Paradise

7. – 12. July 2019

At the Beach in Cancún

I arrived to Cancún in the afternoon, dropped my bags at Venado Hostel, chilled a bit, and then went out to discover that this place is very americanized with Walmarts, fast food-chains, and American bars everywhere. The next day, I checked out the beaches (the seaweed was not thaaat bad!) and got my first Mexican food.

A Variety of Mexican Dishes

In the morning, I met Asis – a Méxican traveler – and we took the ferry to Isla Mujeres. What a beautiful island with long white sandy beaches and turquoise water – we had a blast there! After having had a huge pizza for dinner, we went back to Cancún and took a bus to Playa del Carmen.

There, in Playa del Carmen, I had the privilege of living in a house with Asis and Mariana who are locals and the nicest Mexicans ever (You can thank me later for this compliment if you’re reading this! 😉 ). I was shown around town, especially 5th Avenue which is the main pedestrian road where tons of shops, bars, and clubs are located, and taken to restaurants to try all kinds of Mexican dishes.

One day, we got on the ferry to Cozumel, which is a very big island with clear waters due to the rocks and coral reefs surrounding it. The town of San Miguel where the ferry drops you, is also nice to just stroll around, have some ice cream, and enjoy your time. For beaches you’ll have to take a van to the other side of the island. Oh, and don’t forget to be back in time for sunset which you’ll have to watch at the Starbucks near the ferry terminal for an incredible view!

The Mayan Ruins of Tulum, Cobá & Chichén Itzá

12. – 16. July 2019

México is full of ancient ruins and it’s hard to decide which ones to visit. In the following, I will show three very different ones in Yucatán that are definitely worth stopping by.

From Playa del Carmen you can take a collective van to the ruins in Tulum. This ancient walled city perched on the edge of a cliff in Quintana Roo overlooking the Caribbean ocean is quite a sight. Definitely worth a visit when you’re in Yucatán! And beware the little reptiles and animals there! :-p In case you’d like to spend the night in the center of Tulum, check out Indajani Hostel that is kinda like a little oasis with pool and palm trees in the middle of town.

From Tulum there are hourly buses in the direction of Cobá where the next ruins are located. Because Coba doesn’t see as much tourism, you can actually still climb some of the structures for a totally different and unique perspective (Though I’ve heard that 2019 is supposed to be the last year for this). Furthermore, it isn’t as excavated as other sites, so you feel like you’re wandering through a forest, with many of the ruins still covered in trees.

Now holding the title as one of the new seven wonders of the world, Chichén Itzá was one of the largest Mayan cities in former times. And when we thought, we were already too late for a visit (it closes at 5pm), we got lucky and just had to pay half the entrance fee to get in and enjoy the views with almost no other visitors and without street vendors! What a great deal! Totally recommended!

Valladolid & the Pink Lakes of Las Coloradas

15. – 17. July 2019

Valladolid is DEFINITELY worth a visit! The nicest town I’ve seen in Mexico so far. Hostel Casa Chauac Ha is ok but not the best – the dorms are way too cold (f***ing ACs), and of some people, valuables have been stolen out of the lockers! :-/ A great thing was that they have bicycles for free and thus, I rode my pink one around town, went to Cenote Zaki with it, and just enjoyed the way passing these colorful houses. Oh, and when you’re there, take the free walking tour in the evening at 7pm. It ends at the monastery where they show light projections each night at 9:25 pm. Definitely worth going!

The following day, I was picked up by friends from Germany (Wht a cool incident, that they were here on holidays at the same time!) with a rental car and we went up North to Rio Lagartos. What a nice, peaceful place with white shiny boats, swings, and cute cafés.

From this quite little paradise, we went on to the pink lakes called Las Coloradas – an incredible natural sight! Salty ocean water from the mangroves nearby floods onto hard flat salt plains, creating shallow lagoons. The sun then slowly evaporates this water, leaving fresh sea salt behind. The vibrant pink color of these lakes is due to red-colored algae, plankton, and shrimp that thrive in the salty environment. As the water evaporates, these organisms become more concentrated, glimmering pink in the bright sunlight. I guess, these pictures speak for themselves:

Magical Cenotes & the Lake of the Seven Colors

16. – 20. July 2019

I arrived in Mérida in the evening since I had spent the first half of the day swimming in the cenote again…  Thus, I started to explore the city at night and continued the next day. Together with Cesar – a local who kindly showed me around – I discovered some nice parks, colorful houses, pretty churches, and colonial style buildings. Oh, and for shopping-lovers maaaany shops! I stayed in Hostal La Ermita which is quite nice equipped with a pool, a kitchen, small dorm rooms, and a delicious breakfast BUFFET (Love it! 🙂 ). And don’t forget to visit the cemetery while there (even more spectacular at night and with a free concert!).

From Merida, it is possible to go by Collectivo to Homun – a tiny village and home of hundreds of cenotes (underground waterholes which were used by the Maya as places to sacrifice to mother earth and their gods) but which are not all accessible of course. So I went with some people from the hostel to the cenote Tza Ujun Kat – a really nice one with a hole in the middle in which plants such as papaya tree grow. Afterwards, we went to the cenote Santa Maria where you enter a cave system – if you are adventurous, you squeeze yourself through, get soaked in mud and water a couple of times, and get some scratches  – and end up in a very nice lagoon all by yourself. This one was the best cenote I’ve been to!

Back to Merida, I had some Tacos al Pastor (with a kind of Kebap-meat), chilled at the hostel, and then took the night bus to Bacalar where I arrived at 4 in the morning. I went to the stunning Lake of the Seven Colors and stayed there until the early afternoon. What a chilled day in a beautiful place:

From Bacalar, I took a Collectivo to Chetumal where I spent the night in the Downtown Hostel – very recommendable with a great chillout-social-area, a nice rooftop overlooking the city, and a breakfast buffet! 🙂 There is not too much to see in Chetumal other than the ocean promenade… Thus, I left the next morning for the border in order to cross over to Belize.

At the Waterfront…

San Cristóbal & its Surroundings

2. – 5. Aug 2019

Having arrived in San Cristóbal, I checked in at Wanderlust Hostel – it is a very nice, brand new and clean hostel but the employees are not the brightest and beware of the snorers! :-/ This town itself is definitely one of the nicest and coolest places in México! 🙂 It is full of colorful houses, Ford Beatles, and nice churches. Oh, and I was deeply introduced to all this culture and tradition when I went on a free walking tour with Marina who took us around town, gave us free samples of coffee, chocolate, and mezcal, and showed us how the traditional clothes are made for more than four hours.

Surrounding San Cristóbal, you can find some very special villages that are still full of cultural and religious traditions. In San Juan Chamula, the people are wearing clothes made out of sheep wool and they pray and sacrifice in a church without any bench or chair – just sitting on the floor on pine needles surrounded by a sea of candles. In Zinacantán, the inhabitants wear purple clothes that are full of flowers. When I was there, a lot of festivities were going on – in the church, on the streets, and in front of the town hall because the inhabitants were celebrating their patron saint.

And since the state of Chiapas is not only known for its lively culture and traditions but also for its stunning natural wonders, I visited the Sumidero Canyon the following day. At first, I went on a boat ride through the canyon, starring in awe at this majestic sight. After having taken a look at the pretty little village of Chiapa de Corzo, I was taken up to the viewpoints in order to see the canyon from there.

Spending my Birthday in Oaxaca

6. – 8. Aug 2019

In Oaxaca I met Asis again who became my travel buddy throughout Mexico. We stayed in an Airbnb here and discovered the city in order to find some cool spots for celebrating my birthday. 🙂 It actually is an awesome place to be with lots of art galleries, colonial buildings, and street music. Thus, I spent my 32nd birthday eating cake, marveling at art, and listening to street musicians in this part of México. Big thanks to Asis, who did everything possible in order to give me a great birthday here far away from family and friends.

The next day, we went on a pretty cool tour around this region. First, we were taken to Santa Maria del Tule where the tree with the widest trunk in the world is to be found (el árbol del Tule). Then, we were able to watch people make rugs in the old-fashioned way and discover the process of making mezcal. The second last stop was at some ruins again (another day, another ruin…) before we finally ended up at the Hierve el Aqua – petrified waterfalls. An incredible natural wonder! 🙂

Discovering the State of Veracruz

9. – 11. Aug 2019

Having arrived in Tlacotalpan with a night bus, we strolled through this super cute and colorful little town before having breakfast in one of the nicest cafés ever here in México! Although this place is beautiful and full of colors, there is not too much to do there. Thus, we decided to go on to Veracruz the same day.

In Veracruz, we stayed in the Oyster Hostel and explored the city in the late afternoon / evening. To tell you the truth, there is nothing special about this harbor city. The only thing that caught our interest was a dance show at the main plaza…

Thus, we went on the next morning and arrived in Orizaba in the afternoon. Having discovered the city center, we stayed at Silmar Hotel in the outskirts and discovered the rest of this town the next day. What a beautiful place – and very playful and kids-friendly! We strolled along the river, checked out the dinosaur park, went to a lake, and paid a visit to the poliforum (this castle-like building contains several museums and exhibitions) before getting on a bus to Puebla.

Enjoying Puebla & Running with the Bulls in Huamantla

11. – 17. Aug 2019

Puebla is just great! There is so much to see and do here (that’s why we stayed almost 1 week in this area). Oh, and the Airbnb was just really cool! 🙂 It is another colorful colonial city with many churches, museums, and a very nice pedestrian area. And not to forget the tunnels leading up to an incredible place full of murals and finally ending on top of a hill where two forts can be found.

The neighboring town Cholula is said to be one of the oldest settlements in México. That’s also the reason why one of the oldest monasteries is located in this city. Furthermore, one of the many churches there has been built on a hill in which ruins are situated. From up there, it is possible to see the two volcanoes Popocatépetl (active) and Iztaccíhuatl (not active). What an incredible view! 🙂

Atlixco is known to have the best climate in the world for flowers, vegetables, and fruit to grow. It really is a gorgeous city! All over the place there are colorful flowers – especially at the main square and the street passing the monastery. Oh, and there is a hill with wonderful views that is not overly hard to climb.

From Puebla we took a bus to Tlaxcala where we stayed for a night in Hostal Casa Coki in order to see the city and visit the closeby village Huamantla where the famous fair was taking place these days. Originally just chosen as a base, Tlaxcala turned out to be a nice town. We strolled around, took a look at the city center, and visited the bull ring.

Finally having made it to Huamantla for the “noche que nadie duerme” (= the night when nobody sleeps), I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the decorated streets, the rugs made out of flowers and colorful powder, and the festive crowd. Every year in this night, the statue virgin is carried through the colorful street in a procession followed by thousands of people. It was such a unique and amazing experience that just cannot be explained in words…

The Saturday after that, bulls were released into the streets and people tried to provoke them. We went there, raced with the bulls but skipped the fight in the bull ring afterwards. The whole day, there were singing, dancing, and drinking Mexicans to be found in every corner of this small town. That’s also when we met Heike and Itze, two crazy Mexican girls we partied with. What a fun time! 🙂

Cuernavaca, Tepoztlan & Taxco (and my first time on a horse)

22. – 27.08.2019

Cuernavaca, Asis’ home town and the capital of the state Morelos, is well known for its pleasant weather all year round and is usually called “The City of Eternal Spring”. Here we went to the Ex-Hacienda de Cortez – a restaurant and hotel created in what used to be Hernan Cortez’s plantation. The most amazing thing about the restaurant is that it has a tree as the ceiling! It was a different and very beautiful venue to have breakfast at. Afterwards, we went to the city center, took a stroll around, looked at some churches and museums, and the botanical garden.

Asis’ family has a lot to do with horses. Thus, he took me to a horse ranch nearby and showed me the basics of horseback riding. I’m so proud of myself! Although it was my first time on horseback, I managed not to fall and tell the horse where to go (even backwards 😉 ) I’m definitely a born cowgirl! 🙂

Tepoztlan is a tiny town near Cuernavaca. It has a some very nice, colorful streets and a ruin at the top of a mountain. The hike is fairly easy (at least for me – for many Mexicans that went up that day, it wasn’t…) and can be done in about 1 hour. I just would recommend not going on weekends since it is full of people and not as enjoyable.

Taxco is a Pueblo Magico about an hour away from Cuernavaca in the neighboring state of Guerrero. Known for its silver products, narrow streets, and steep hills, Taxco has a peculiar charm to it. Filled with VW Beetles, it gives you the impression that this tiny town is a bit out of time. It also has this really cool hotel at the top of a mountain that we visited by cable car. Truly a gorgeous place to be at with an amazing view!

Toluca, Metepec & Valle de Bravo

28. – 30.08.2019

In Toluca, we stayed at a German friend’s house. The city, although industrial, has a charming center with nice colonial buildings. Seeing it on the way to dinner (black dough pizza 🙂 ) and back in the dark was definitely enough time.

The City Center of Toluca

The next morning we woke up early in order to go to the Nevado de Toluca, a volcano located about 45 minutes away from the city that has two lagoons at the crater known as the Sun and Moon lagoons. The hike was easy and I really liked being back in nature surrounded by beautiful views and clean air. But I do have to say that if you are hiking this trail, make sure to take the right shoes – the floor is loose and made out of gravel, so it’s easy to fall down if you don’t pay attention (like Asis 😉 ).

Metepec is a nice charming town that we went to after the hike. It is the birthplace of the Tree of Life – a Mexican craft that’s sold all over the country. It originally represented Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden but now there are many different representations. The one I got is tiny and very cool – it was painted by hand just for me! The town also has representations of the tree all over the place. Another specialty here is the church on top of a hill with some very nice forests and beautiful flowers behind it. We spent a wonderful afternoon in Metepec – definitely worth a visit!

The next day, the three of us went to Valle de Bravo – a nice, quiet town about 1 hour away from Toluca. Located at a lake, it’s a very popular tourist destination in the center of Mexico – especially, when the Monarch butterflies arrive in winter. The city is nice, clean and has a very peculiar feel to it with its white houses. The views are gorgeous – we enjoyed them while having dinner with the sun in our faces. In total, Valle de Bravo is a nice little town worth a visit when in this area!