Travel in the Yucatán: Chichén Itzá and a Flamingo Reserve

On Tuesday, after a spicy breakfast, I took the ADO bus to Valladolid, located 3 hours from Playa del Carmen.IMG_2646

Valladolid 

Valladolid is a magic town or Pueblo Mágico, appropriately named, like many others I have visited throughout Mexico. 🙂IMG_2703It was conquered by the Spanish in 1545, and named after the capital of Spain during the time.

With its restored colonial houses, painted in pastel colors, lining impeccably clean cobblestone streets, the town literally  oozes with character and charm.IMG_2654IMG_2678IMG_2650During that time, the Mayans fought forcefully to retain this land.IMG_2675Eventually the Spaniards prevailed and tore down many of their pyramids to use for these stone buildings.

Ex Convento de San BernardinoIMG_2690IMG_2697IMG_2688IMG_2687Maybe they are trying some type of Pinterest DIY. Cute! 🙂IMG_2694IMG_2683While walking through town, I spotted these regional tamales and decided to give them a try.

These tamales are filled with chicken and wrapped in almond leaves.
IMG_7213The chicken was juicy and the almond leaves gave the corn flour an earthy taste, very unique compared to the traditional corn husk wrapping.
IMG_7212They also came with this baggy of spicy sauce. Whoa baby! Use in small doses only!
IMG_7214Anyway, after walking all afternoon in the strong heat and ingesting some spicy salsa, I decided to cool off at one of the many surrounding natural sinkholes, or cenotes.

Cenote Zaci

These various cenotes are said to have been found by workers on accident, when they were trekking through the jungle searching for sapodilla trees, which are used in the making of chewing gum.

Cenote Zaci in particular is centrally located near downtown, and the entrance fee is around $2.IMG_2655IMG_2671IMG_2658IMG_2662Unfortunately, it was full of algae, cat fish, and not very inviting. (GoPro photo) g4687065I dipped my toe in, but that was enough. 😛

Where to Stay

While in Valladolid, I stayed at Hostel La Candeleria.IMG_2704The hostel had a hippie vibe, with colorful Mexican decor, and a gorgeous outdoor garden.IMG_2705For $10/night, I received clean sheets, a cozy dorm bed, locker, water, free WiFi, and a full breakfast with made-to-order omelets. Amazing! 😀IMG_7209IMG_7210

http://www.hostelvalladolidyucatan.com/

While at the hostel, I met a traveler from Munich and invited her to go sightseeing with me the following day. 😀

Chichen Itza

Our first stop was to the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza.

Tickets to the ruins will cost around $15. (luckily teachers gain free entrance) 🙂 IMG_2707Temple of KukulkanIMG_2716Chichen Itza is the most visited archaeological site in Mexico, and also one of the largest Mayan civilizations, with structures spread out over an area of 5 km.
800px-Chichen_Itza_Plan_ENIMG_2738La IglesiaIMG_2736We went early, so we could avoid the crowds; however, even in the early morning, the heat was very strong. Most used umbrellas to hide from the sunIMG_2740My friend from Munich will be traveling around the world for the next few months. After already visiting Hawaii, Alaska, and Mexico, she plans to travel through central America and then to South Africa.g4687065IMG_2719After being in the heat all morning, we decided to take the hostel bikes to visit a few more cenotes for an afternoon swim.11783651_10104475729084917_885063661_oWe visited Cenote Samula and X´Keken. Entrance for each cenote was $3.11783606_10104475729104877_1584861056_o

Cenote Samula

11791188_10104475728825437_1349610561_oThis cenote was absolutely fantastic, with crystal clear blue water for swimming, and gorgeous stalactites dripping from the ceiling.

Cenote X’keken

11791166_10104475731120837_1143428137_o

This cenote was beautiful as well, but the water wasn’t as clear. Samula was our favorite by far! 😀

Rio Lagartos

On Thursday, I made a day trip to Rio Lagartos.

I contemplated going on a tour, because they are convenient; however, a lot of the time with tours you miss out on unique experiences and getting to know the vibe of the town.Be-a-Flamingo-desktop-wallpaper-1024x576Instead of following a group on a tour, I decided to travel solo and make my own adventure. 🙂

In order to get there, I would need to take two buses. One bus to Tizimín and a second bus to Rio Lagartos.yucmap03Unfortunately, the driver on our first bus decided to stop and work on his air conditioner, so I ended up missing my connecting bus and I had to wait 3 hours in Tizimín for the next bus to Rio Lagartos. :/IMG_7081Well, what do you do with 3 hours in a small, podunk town in the middle of nowhere?

In my case, I went to the park where I saw a lot of street dogs.

They were pretty malnourished, so I started to feel bad…IMG_7084…so I ended up going to the grocery store to buy them dog food. Hah.IMG_7083Anyway, there was this sweet woman selling newspapers in park, who was feeding the dogs as well, so I gave her the bag for their breakfast tomorrow.

I know it’s just a band aid on the big problem of pet homelessness, but at least in this case, the woman was making an effort to care for them.

Anyway, afterwards I was able to catch my bus and arrive in Rio Lagartos! 😀IMG_7207IMG_7090IMG_7086This absolutely adorable fishing village stretches along the coast of the south peninsula.IMG_7091IMG_7205My main goal was to take a boat ride through the Rio Lagartos Biospehere Reserve, which is the main flamingo nesting ground in the Yucatan. 😀

I began by walking to look for the boats offering rides through the reserve.IMG_7204IMG_7203
Most tour companies were asking 90 USD for the boat ride, but luckily I ran into a group from Quintana Roo and joined with them on their ride. An easy $7 later, I was cruising through the mangroves! 😀IMG_7111IMG_7129

Rio Lagartos Biosphere Reserve 

This reserve protects 150,000 acres of mangrove forests and wildlife.

On our boat ride, we spotted various species of resident and migratory birds.IMG_7118IMG_7127IMG_7120IMG_7131Finally, we arrived at the nesting grounds. 😀IMG_7164Every year in late April, thousands of flamingos gather here to mate and nest.IMG_7156These are non-migratory Caribbean flamingos that simply move along the Yucatan coast throughout the year.IMG_7143IMG_7171We had to maintain a large distance between our boats and the birds as to not interfere or disturb them.IMG_7170 The water surrounding the birds is white, and sometimes pink due to the high concentration of salt and Beto Carotene, which is the main food source for the flamingos.IMG_7180The concentration of salt is so high, that in some parts, we were able to float on the surface, like in the Dead Sea.IMG_7187Check out the shell of this beast!IMG_7193From there we took advantage of the mud baths to exfoliate our skin. 😛IMG_7189I slathered a bit on my face, but others went for the full body effect. Hah.IMG_7199The mud dried like a white clay, and after washing up, my face felt silky smooth. 😀

http://www.birdingyucatan.com/Pages/flamingos.aspx

I left Rio Lagartos shortly after, but will always remember this fantastic little town. 🙂IMG_7101This morning I’m off to Tulum, the last stop on my Mexican journey.

In the meantime, I was able to compile two videos from scuba diving.

Please excuse my videography skills. They are a work in progress. 🙂

Enjoy! 😀

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