A SMART WAY TO TRAVEL
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What it is: Near Progreso City, El Corchito is an ecological preserve that has been around for the last 10 years. The reserve is operated by local fishermen who work to nurture the mangrove swamp. A 5-minute boat ride will take you into the cool shadows of the mangroves. The fishermen who tend to El Corchito have build palapas and picnic tables. There are designated fresh-water pools where you can swim or explore the well-kept paths, or simply sling your hammock in the shade and relax. Pack your own lunch and camera.
How to get there: Located just 2 KM east of the entrance to Progreso, turn east toward Chicxulub at the entrance to Progreso (where the Pemex station is). Travel 2 KM to the second roundabout (known as glorieta in Mexico). You will see a sign to El Corchito. Veer right, continue on for a few meters until you see a dirt road on your right until you find the boat landing area. Boat rides begin at 8:30 a.m. daily.
What is it: This quaint fishing village with lovely beaches and no crowds is located 60 miles southwest of Merida. Celestun is famous for its seafood restaurants served on the beach. But mostly for the beautiful flamingo colonies, fresh water springs, and 36 foot tall lighthouse and salt fields. The main reason to visit Celestun is to travel the ria (river) and see the flamingos. The flamingos form part of a fragile ecosystem and we highly encourage you to respect their surroundings. Celestun is the main wintering area for the greater pink flamingo. You can also visit fresh water springs and “petrified forests”.
How to get there: By car, take the Periferico out of Merida to Uman and continue on to Kinchil and then Celestun. There are signs along the way. To reach Celestun by bus, go to the terminal on Calle 67 between 50 and 52 in Merida. The trip takes approximately two hours.
What it is: Loltun Cave is located in the Yucatan. The cave contains paintings attributed to the Mayan civilization from the Late Pre-Classic period. Lol-Tun is Mayan and means “Flower Stone.” According to prolonged examinations of over two kilometers, the cave is one of the most extensive in all Mexico. Recovered bones from mammoth, bison, cats, and horses confirm human occupation. Pottery, marine shells, stone artifacts, bas-relief carvings, petroglyphs and mural paintings have also been found inside the cave. The occupation in Loltun Cave goes back more than 10,000 years. Mammoth bones and extinct vegetation have also been found inside the cave. The Lol-Tun cave network, at its lowest levels, holds secrets that literally rewrite history.
How to get there:
This cave is located 110 km from Merida via federal highway 31 in the state of Yucatan. The two-hour tour is guided and venturing on your own without a guide is not allowed or recommended.
What is it: The Maya believe caves and caverns to be links with the underworld, or “inframundo. The Balankanche caves should be visited for their natural beauty and stone formations. Because of the humidity, stunning stalagmites and stalactites continue to form in this cave system. The most impressive one is located 200 meters from the entrance of Balankanche, next to the Balam Throne, a religious altar. The ceiba-looking formation is referred to as the sacred tree inside the earth. The cave also has archaeological importance as they once served as a ceremonial site for the Mayans. Caves are ceremonially important to the Mayans as they believed that sacredness of life is especially concentrated at unique geographic points such as mountains and caves. Ceremonial objects can be seen throughout the walk as well as reproductions of the original artifacts discovered in the cave.
How to get there:
Balankanche is located only 6 kilometers from Chichen Itza, via federal highway 180 in the state of Yucatan.
What it is: Labna means “Old or abandoned house”. The Mesoamerican archeological site is located in the Puuc Hills region of the Yucatan Peninsula. The Mayan ruins dates back to pre-Columbian Maya civilization. The site was incorporated with Uxmal as a UNESCO World Heritage in 1996. Although small, one of its notable structures is a large two-story palace. It is one of the longest contiguous structures in the Puuc route at approximately 120 m (393.7 ft) in length. A ceremonial road (sacbe) extends from the palace to an elaborately decorated gateway arch known as “El Arco.” The archway is believed to have been a passageway between public areas rather than an entrance to the city. Next to the gateway is “El Mirador” – a pyramid-like structure surmounted y a temple. The site was built in AD 862 as inscribed in the palace.
How to get there: Labna is located 42 kilometers southeast of Uxmal along freeway 261, detour to the left at km 30 by interstate 31. It is approximately 122 km.of Merida.
In case you missed it, take a look at the Off the Beaten Path through Yucatan - Part One.
About the Author
Pamela Acosta is a travel photographer, beer drinker and writer for Yucatan Holidays. She is seeking to travel throughout the Yucatan Peninsula, Riviera Maya & Cancun in an attempt to capture beauty and wonder in words & pixels. Follow Pamela on Twitter.