A Handmade Travel Guide: Tulum, Mexico
Almost everybody thought we were crazy when we told them that we wouldn’t be staying in an all-inclusive resort for our Mexican vacation. To be honest, the thought of having to eat at the same place everyday and having to chit chat with the stereotypical Western tourist terrified us. We also believe that if you travel to another country, you should support the local economy and not some huge American corporation. Well, our hotel ended up being not the nicest which was rather disappointing for the price we paid but it was an adventure (Maggots in the sink, anyone?). But would I want to stay in a resort? Definitely not if it’s just me and le Monsieur travelling, but you could convince me if it was for a family reunion, with a group of friends or for somebody’s wedding.
Tulum is located in the Mexican state of Yucatan and according to my sister-in-law, who used to live there and my Mexican friend Luz, who doesn’t live there, the most beautiful place in Mexico. I can’t really compare as I haven’t been to any other place in Mexico but the nature is so impressive. And there is so much more to do than just laying at the beach!
Just South of Tulum, there’s the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve. It is the largest protected area in the Mexican Caribbean and a UNESCO World Heritage site (Somehow, I always seem to travel to one of those!). There is only limited access for humans and the only people living there are native Mayans fishermen. It is geographically super interesting with the wetlands hitting the caribbean sea with its mesoamerican barrier reef. So many wonderful fishes, birds and mammals live there and deserve to be protected. We even saw wild dolphins and sea turtles from a respectful distance (Thank goodness for Guillaume’s awesome zoom-lense!).
I love the vibrant colours used in Mexican crafts and of course had to go souvenir hunting. Tulum is a very touristy spot, so you have to look closely to find really nice artisan goods made locally. Lots of places sell mass-produced stuff that you could get anywhere in Latin America. There’s one tiny hole in the wall called “Decoraciones Tulum” that I really liked and a place called “Mixique” with gorgeous artisan work from note books to day-of-the-dead skulls. It is right next to and shares a backyard with “Charlie’s”, a restaurant specializing in local specialties.
The historic heritage of the Yucatan is the Mayan culture and you can find ruins of their big settlements and pyramids everywhere. The ones in Tulum is located just outside of town and is supposed to be the only seaport of the Mayan civilization and specialized in the trade of turquoise and jade stones. How cool is that? Just wandering through the dark and light grey walls and buildings let’s your imagination spark and makes you wonder about what happened? Why did this culture deteriorate? There are different theories in historic and arhcaelogic research and it’s fascinating to learn about it.
We went on more excursion: to the Gran Cenote. Cenotes are water holes and part of the huuuge underground river system that lays underneath the Yucatan peninsula. They can be found every few kilometres where those rivers come to the surface. You can go either dive or snorkel to explore the caves; watch small fresh water fish and turtles; admire the stalagmites and stalactites or just go for a refreshing swim. The water is crystal clear and the atmosphere super eerie, you just have to be there early before millions of other tourists arrive!
Of course we spent lots of time hanging out at the beach (as we stayed in town, we had to either take a cab or rent bikes and I just loved riding my bike to the beach!), drinking margaritas in town and eating chips with guacamole or other local specialties. Lots of the restaurants felt over-priced to us but if you venture off the beaten path a little, there are wonderful small taquerias for not too expensive. Try Cochinita Pibil for breakfast at “Taqueria Honorio” or Tacos Al Pastor for dinner at “Antojitos La Chiapaneca”. Mexico, I like you. Hasta luego!
With love from the Maple And Oak Diaries,