Month: February 2019

Uxmal, the Maya Sports City

Uxmal holds a special place among all the fabulous Maya cities. Its gorgeous constructions and the detail of its reliefs make it one of the most significant. No wonder the Unesco declared it World Cultural Heritage, back in 1996. Do you know what makes it so special?

It is situated in the Santa Elena Valley, over 38 miles from Mérida, beside hills known as Puuc. The same name is used for a style of architecture and art, of which Uxmal is the leading example.

Uxmal extends over seven and a half square miles, and its population reached nearly 20,000. During the 9th and 12th centuries A.D., it was the seat of political and economic power on the Maya peninsula.

The name means “three times built”, and they say it has had three periods of splendor. The first construction period was close to the 7th century. The second may have been around the 10th century and the third, just before the arrival of the Spaniards.

 

Although agriculture was the primary activity, they were outstanding in engineering and urbanism. They developed chultunes, or cisterns, hydraulic works for collecting and conserving drinking water. They positioned their buildings according to astronomical phenomena. And thanks to its proximity to the ocean, Uxmal must have been a major center for trade.

The Uxmal archeological zone has 15 groups of buildings set around courtyards. All of them display the Puuc style, with its decorative elements such as masks of the god Chaac, snakes, two-headed jaguars and other iconographic symbols. Small polished stones were used to create these reliefs.

At a height of 115 feet, the Pyramid of the Soothsayer, which took more than 400 years to build, stands out. Likewise, the Nuns’ Quadrangle is a stunning courtyard surrounded by four long buildings.

 

The Governor’s Palace is covered with masks and much of the art from the region. The same goes for the Great Pyramid, at the top of which is the Temple of the Macaws, displaying joyful depictions of the birds.

 

But the huge size of the Ball Court is extremely intriguing. It helps understand the importance the Maya placed on recreation and sports.

Other treasures at Uxmal include The House of Turtles, The Dovecote; the Platform of Jaguars and the Chimez Structure.  Most of all, though, is the grand six-foot arch at the beginning of the sacbé (Maya road) that led to Kabac and the rest of the world.

 

These mysterious constructions are part of the magnificent, mysterious and suggestive Maya legacy, which never stop amazing us.

Not to Share! 10 Beaches We Want to Keep Under Wraps

Share this article sparingly. We want these beaches, fried fish stands and rental cabins to stay hidden behind their mountains and palm trees. We’ll see if we can keep these beaches for those in the know, far from the mainstream.

 

1. Chacahua (Oaxaca)

It’s actually two beaches. On one side is the tourist beach with thatched palm palapasrestaurants and camping areas. But across the lagoon is another beach, with no infrastructure and a quiet population of turtles and crocodiles. Chacahua also has a good-size Afro-Mexican community.

 

2. Chamela Bay (Jalisco)

With 11 islets, it is only accessible by boat or kayak and is great for extreme sports. Swimming is good at La Colorada and Cocinas, while the surf at La Rumorosa is overwhelming. Bird watching is great on Pasavera, home of booby birds.

 

3. Celestún (Yucatán)

Fifty-nine miles from the state capital and nearly at the border of the state of Campeche, Celestún is a biosphere reserve. Standing out amid the biodiversity of its mangroves, the spectacular pink flamingos are as magnificent as they are showy. Pelicans and turtles are other common sights.

 

4. Madresal (Chiapas)

Located in the coastal mangroves of the Soconusco region, near Tonalá, the natural estuary means good fishing.A cooperative of fishermen has provided minimal infrastructure: cabins, thatched palm palapas and a boat landing.

 

5. San Juan de Alima (Michoacán)

This almost flat beach looks out onto the open sea, with its crystal clear water and tricky tide that can unexpectedly douse everything. The area boasts exotic birds, modest hotels and camping areas. Turtles lay their eggs here between July and December.

 

6. Los Algodones (Sonora)

Situated in San Carlos Bay, it gets its name –literally cotton balls or cotton candy– from the pure white sand. It already has some deluxe hotels and activities suchas scuba diving, sportsfishing and windsurfing. The desert landscape, though, also makes it great for other kinds of outings and hiking.

 

7. Playa del Secreto (Quintana Roo)

You cross three miles of mangroves to get to this environmentally sustainable community that makes use of wind and solar energy. It is a sanctuary for sea turtles and crabs and one of the best beaches on the Riviera Maya, with turquoise water and soft sand.

 

8. Cihuatlán (Jalisco)

Peaceful, warm water. It has shrimp farms and is known for its pink sunsets. , Delicious pineapples stuffed with seafood and fish tacos are well worth trying, in the town of Melaque, three miles away.

 

9. Mahahual (Quintana Roo)

This small fishing town on the Mexican Caribbean has a cruise ship pier. Just 20 minutes away is Banco Chinchorro, a stunning coral reef with great diversity of fish, turtles, dolphins and sharks.And for scuba, less than 40 miles away is Xcalak, the so-called “last corner of the country”.

 

10. Puerto Balandra (Baja California Sur)

Snorkelers love this shallow spot four and a half miles from La Paz. Caves and stone arches make underwater exploration hard to resist. Just a third of a mile in, and you see fish swimming in the turquoise water. Be sure not to miss (and take the mandatory selfie) the rock nick named “Balandra Mushroom”.

Isla Mujeres, three miles of paradise

Inhabited by the Maya, admired by the Spanish conquistadors and attacked by pirates, this island is filled with exciting tales and is a destination no traveler should miss.

 

It is located eight miles from the Yucatán Peninsula, in the Caribbean Sea. The main street, Rueda Medina Avenue, runs the three miles of the island’s length.

Isla Mujeres has three beaches: Paraíso Beach, Lancheros Beach and Indios Beach. All three offer thrilling water activities.

Don’t miss El Garrafón nature park, before you get to Punta Sur and named for the reef awaiting just a few meters from the coast. The view of the Caribbean Sea is spectacular, and the calm water is great for snorkeling.

Further in on the island, the Mundaca Hacienda is worth a visit. Built by Spaniard Fermín Mundaca, he dedicated it to Martiniana Gómez Pantoja, a beautiful woman he had fallen in love with and who never requited.

See outdoor art at the Punta Sur Sculpture Park, with works by 23 Mexican and international artists. Very nearby is the lighthouse –El Faro–, and most interesting of all: the temple of Ixchel, goddess of fertility and the moon.

If ecology concerns you, be sure and go to La Tortugranja. Literally the turtlefarm, it is a place that protects sea turtles. Visitors can follow their entire process: from when they’re tiny eggs until the exciting moment when they take to the sea.

 

 

And in the Underwater Art Museum, you can discover a unique relationship between art and nature. Here, some 500 marine concrete sculptures lend themselves to coral growth and have turned into a refuge for marine life, with two galleries: Manchones and Punta Nizuc.

But beyond its attractions, Isla Mujeres is a place to relax and enjoy.You can spend evenings in a bar, talking with locals and other tourists, and try the delicious Tikin-Xic-style grilled fish, with annatto and white wine sauce, served with rice, peppers and red onion.

Whether you’re into sports, ecotourism or are simply a lover of life, Islas Mujeres is your destination: small in size yet huge in possibilities for fun.

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