For millions of years, this mystical underworld stayed hidden deep underground in the Riviera Maya, Yucatan, Mexico. It’s where the underworld meets the heavens. This womb of the earth is a sacred place to the Mayans who believed it was the doorway to the afterlife.
We were exploring Mexico’s cenotes and caves, looking for that something special when we discovered one of the true Wonders of the World – ‘Rio Secreto’. So much more than a cenote, it’s a living breathing cave system.
Ever wanted to swim with Whale Sharks… Everyone does, right?
This article gives you the low down on what to expect, likely costs, trip planning tips and our experience swimming with Whale Sharks in Cancun, Mexico.
Des has long talked about swimming with Whale Sharks and I always just assumed it was something he would do, and I would go off and have a girlie day at the spa, or read a book by the pool. Read More
We’re staying in Caye Caulker, Belize… and on our way home we meet the ‘Caye Caulker Caveman’. He’s a solid guy, with dark frizzy hair that’s sun bleached white on top… and a big smile that stretches from ear to ear… It turns out Caye Caulker Caveman is a true legend of the sea.
I’d heard a lot about Caye Caulker (pronounced ‘Key’ Caulker) from travelers and everyone agreed that Caye Caulker was the ideal place for sun and low-key and anti-resorty fun. This sounded like us.
Dreaming how I could jump from bed into the ocean for a dip in the early warm mornings. Our days in Caye Caulker were to relax, be lazy, snorkel, dive and play in the crystal clear blue water everyday.
It feels kind of metropolitan–a wee bit European, a bit gritty and very Guatemalan. Quetzaltenango showed us an intimate and very real view of Guatemala.
Surrounded by a plethora of typical Mayan villages Quetzaltenango aka Xela is a city with a real heart.
To get the most out of this place and it’s surroundings come for more than a month if you can. Read More
Learning Spanish is popular in Guatemala and places like Antigua and Lago Atitlan are well-known for it.
But if you want to remain fairly off-the-trail, Xela is definitely the place to go.
It’s not like it’s the only Spanish speaking country on the continent but a number of factors make it Guatemala and in particular Xela the coolest place to learn. Read More
I loved saying I was going to Guatemala, it sounded faraway, unknown and kind of exotic in a strange way.
The smooth and rhythmic sound of “Gwah-teh-maah-laa.” was music to my ears.
I really had little idea what to expect and I wondered what it was really like?
Now I can say living in Guatemala for 2 months was an incredible experience I wish I could repeat in every country I ever visit. The word “Guatemala” is now more pleasing than ever to my heart.
Guatemala’s Tajumulco Volcano is impressive.
A gigantic 13,845 foot peak that stands among the great giants of the Americas. Surprisingly, it is not so well-known among trekkers, despite it being the highest point in Central America.
There were many volcanoes around Xela, but when we heard Celas Maya (our Spanish School) was planning a trip to Tajumulco.
We didn’t hesitate! Read More
I have so many messages from people about Mexico.
Many are myths, imaginations or perceptions about what Mexico is and how awfully dangerous it must be.
We have discovered the beautiful side of Mexico, far away from the myths and imaginations of some. I think Mexico is either underrated or unknown in some parts of the world. I guess this does not apply in the USA due to the close proximity. Certainly where we are from in New Zealand Mexico doesn’t seem to be a highly rated or known traveller destination.
For my kiwi readers – let me just say Mexico is much more that tacos, tequila, beaches and margaritas.
Rich history solidly based around family, religion, people and tradition, Mexico has a slower pace of life that we are used to, it’s laid-back with an emphasis on a cool, calm and collected pace. Some might find this frustrating if they are accustomed to the fast paced Western consumer driven environments. It is a country of contrasts, friendly people and endless travel options.
Mexico is a country where modern manufacturing plants sit next to ancient cities, desert dunes give way to a beautiful beaches, where rituals and craft making skills have been passed down for centuries. The capital city, one of the largest cities in the world, is built directly over an entire ancient city. They are constantly discovering artifacts from Aztec times under the streets of Mexico City. Contrasts such as this are the norm in Mexico, rather than the exception.
For us this is just perfect. The choices available are as varied as any one country could possibly offer. Mexico welcomes over twenty million visitors every year but I would say very few from New Zealand. This is a country where I can be snorkeling on a tropical beach in the morning, exploring ancient ruins in the afternoon, dining in a quaint colonial city in the evening. Such is the diversity, proximity and excellent transport system.
Mexico has gorgeous colonial cities that were being built in the 14th century, glitzy beach resorts if this is your thing, (it’s not ours) snow-capped volcanoes and some incredible sunrises. Then there’s the cherished archaeological sites that are fairly well spread out across the country. Centuries of mystery and intrigue are held within the pyramids, temples, ceremonial palaces and ancient cities. The huge pyramids of Teotihuacan near Mexico City, the Mayan city of Tulum, near Cancun and Monte Alban and Mitla are all easily accessible.
I find that Mexico is far from being a “developing” nation: it’s actually the world’s fourteenth largest economy, a remarkably efficient transport system and a vibrant contemporary arts and music scene.
It’s certainly not all suburbs and SUVs though, big adventure can still be found through happening upon a village fiesta, complete with a bullfight, music and dancing. Or try hopping on a public bus, packed with farmers all carrying machetes half their height and curious about how you’ve wound up going their way. The power may go off, the water may not be drinkable and you still cannot put toilet paper in the toilet. Occasionally it can seem that there’s inescapable noise and dirt.But more deeply disturbing are the extremes of haves and have nots, grim poverty that exists, most poignant in the big cities, where unemployment is high and living conditions are crowded. Then there is the ostentatious wealth of a few very evident again in the big cities.
There is also the ongoing drug wars that provide a seemingly non-stop stream of sensational, often gruesome headlines. Whilst the violence is very real in some parts of the country up north, we never ever felt like we were in any danger – for the most part, we found Mexico a friendly, fabulously varied and enormously enjoyable place in which to travel and live.
Our 3 month Mexican Experience started in Guadalajara, the second largest city. We had rented a small apartment in the outlying area of Tlaquepaque did a housesit in Lake Chapala and plodded our way through the colonial cities of Guanajuato, Mexico City, Puebla, Cholula, Oaxaca ending up south in Chiapas, at San Cristobal de las Casas.Living here is extremely affordable, rent is cheap, food is amazingly good and you gotta love the markets. Example we both got our teeth cleaned and scaled here for $45 each, cost in N Z $160. I also got a full blood test for $50.
After a break of 2 months in Guatemala we are soon to be headed back to the Yucatan of Mexico for our beachy, explore the ruins adventure. I am looking forward to getting back spanish speaking in Mexico. In Belize the english just feels wrong to me.
In 3 months, we barely scratched the surface of this richly historic country and now we are shouting at top of our lungs!
Te queremos Mexico, hasta la próxima vez
Still on the pyramid trail from Mexico City to Puebla…we discover another pyramid – The Great Pyramid of Cholula, another one of the world’s largest pyramids. Read More