Coba

COBA.  Co-ba.  Co-BA.  It’s a strong sounding name, isn’t it?  Coba, say it with me, with an accent like you are Antonio Banderas.  Co-Ba.  Coba is a cool place.  It is lush and green compared to some of the other local Yucatan Archaeological spots like Chichen Itza, Uxmal, Mayapan, and Tulum.  The greenery provides some privacy for each structure lending excitement to each corner making one feel as though they are an early explorer.

Raised stone pathways (sacbes) that are present throughout the site setting it apart from other local Yucatan sites.  They combined residential areas together and lead off in the direction of other neighboring sites.

An in-tact ball court makes me want to learn the game and play it or at the very least play a modern game there on the site of the ancients.

Nearby Lakes/Lagoons add to the rain forest charm…and the mosquitoes.

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I really enjoyed this site primarily because it is not perfect.  It is still somewhat in disrepair, the number of visitors is smaller, it is quieter…more wild.  It’s hard to visualize 50,000+ inhabitants living in the area when it sometimes feels like I was the only one there.  The site is dying for a murder mystery or an Indiana Jones/Dwayne Johnson-style adventure movie to be shot here…

It’s places like these that keep me wanting to go back to Mexico, Central America, and South America searching for more archaeological sites.

For more Mexican Archaeological Sites visit me here.

Tulum

OK, so Tulum gets extra points for “Best location for an archaeological site in the Yucatan!”  It is a positively lovely place to visit, with seriously glorious Caribbean sea views, despite the crowds and less extensive/impressive archaeology.  It’s almost like the ancestors of the people who have created so many of the all inclusive oceanside Cancun resorts made the decision to locate Tulum on the coast as well.  Shoot why not live somewhere beautiful with a nice breeze, right?

Tulum stands out from other Mayan sites for being located on a bluff overlooking the sea. But, second it is a walled city partially protected by the bluff it sits upon.  It would have been an important city for trade being on the water and having access to a fresh water cenote.

Here is the downside though: Be ready to brave the crowds if you come to this site.  Folks from Cancun and Playa del Carmen will stomp all over you and whack you with their selfie sticks and stand in front of your photos.  Co-eds will show up in bathing suits probably still drunk from the night before.  But friends, take a deep breath and go anyway. It is too beautiful to miss.  And if you get lucky you will have a moment of solitude without a stroller rolling over your foot or a distracted wanderer from Kansas blindly walking in to your photos.

 

For more Archaeological sites in Yucatan clicky clicky here.

Mayapan

My mind has been drifting to Mexico lately…probably because I don’t have any big trips planned at the moment.  On a whim, a while back, well as much of a whim as I am capable of, we headed down to Cancun and promptly left it for a road trip around the Yucatan Peninsula.

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One of the stops we made along the way was in Mayapan.  We, and some gardeners had the entire place to ourselves.  (Mental note: When you see all the gardeners making tracks for their cars from atop a temple pyramid and some pretty ominous looking black clouds headed your way you should do what the locals do and leave.  But, that will be later in the story.)

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Mayapan is a lovely smallish and charming Pre-Columbian archaeological site with what Google tells me has 4,000 structures.  (Maybe its not so small after all.)  Having said that thought the main Temple, the Temple of Kukulcan or El Castillo, is the main event.

The construction is not as grand, large, or sophisticated as Chichen Itza or Uxmal.  However, in many ways, I enjoyed this site better because it was less preserved and was more peaceful without crowds and commercialism surrounding its every thought.

So, that gets me back to the clouds and the fleeing locals.  Visitors were allowed, when we were there, to climb the structures.  While atop the pyramid we noticed some pretty significant weather coming in fast.  As we descended the pyramid the local gardeners were literally running away.  Rather than follow them, like we should have, we walked over to a stella that was protected under a small rickety structure.  While we waited for the rain to start Eric raised his camera to take my photo hamming it up next to this depiction of a Mayan God.  As he was about to snap the photo the largest lightning bolt I have ever seen descended down behind him and the floodgates opened.  The rain didn’t stop and we, and our wet clothes, laughed all the way back to the car promising to take queues from the locals and to not anger the Gods during the rest of the trip.

For more Mexican archaeological sites check this out…  

  

Chichen Itza

There are a lot of trips from the past that I haven’t gotten around to blogging about.  So in an effort to resurrect a few of those I introduce UNESCO Heritage Site Chichen Itza, Mexico to you.  Eric and I took advantage of some inexpensive plane tickets a few years back and flew on down to visit the Yucatan Peninsula.  We flew in to Cancun and promptly left town as quickly as our moderately safe rental car would take us.  (It started exactly 50% of the time and I am not lying when I tell you we push started the thing within eye site of a bunch of Alligators near Coba. But, that’s another story.)

Chichen Itza, normally a beacon for every single visitor to the Yucatan and nearly all who visit Cancun, was devoid of visitors due to the Swine flu.  While some people might stay away from Chichen Itza due to the crowds or the heat they will sorely miss one of the better archaeological sites in Mexico and arguably in the world.  

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The Chichen Itza complex is large enough to wander around and spend the entire day looking at temples, stone buildings, ball courts, the sacred cenote, and stone carvings. Some have been restored and some are still unexcavated.  Most temples are protected and do not allow for visitors to climb up or on them in an effort to keep visitors safe and to protect the structures.

El Castillo is a magnificent temple, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.  (Google tells me the new seven are: Chichen Itza, Pyramids of Giza, Great Wall of China, Petra, The Coliseum, Machu Picchu, Taj Mahal, and Christ the Redeemer in Rio!  Can anyone say Bucket List?) Spring and Autumn equinox lights the staircase in the form of a serpent down the staircase of the temple with a Hollywood worthy play of shadow and light ending at the head of the feathered serpent.  For the hardy of the bunch Chichen Itza does a very entertaining evening light show that explains the story of Chichen Itza, its gods, its history, and the Mayan People.  And who doesn’t love a neon light show simulating the feathered serpent?   Kitschy yes, but still awesome especially if you are sleeping locally.

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The great Ball Court is the largest of thirteen on site with the Temple of the Jaguar flanking one end. One can walk around and see just how high the ball ring is grateful it was not their hips required to project the ball upward.  Carvings surround the ball court depicting ball players losing their heads and bleeding either in victory or defeat.  Some argue this represents the losers others think it represents the happy sacrifice of the winners. 

The Skull Platform made me raise one eyebrow and ask if this was for real.  Well, it is and it is endlessly entertaining.  It harkens to modern day Dios Day Los Muertos activities, masks, and art.

It is impossible to ignore the Columns of the Temple of a Thousand Warriors with Chac Mool proudly staring outward from above.  Chac Mool is a stunning carving that begs to be photographed until you realize sacrifices were made on its very belly.  Then you keep your distance and nod in respect.

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La Iglesia, sometimes called the Nunnery, is away from the busiest section of El Castillo and the Chac Mool.  The angles and architecture are my favorite on site.  It is smaller and less vast and somehow cozier.  But, the angles and decorations of the buildings are no less interesting than the size and power of El Castillo.

I never get tired of visiting archaeological ruins.   I love each and every location in its own way.  But, some sites certainly stick out as being complete, impressive, important, and well worth the visit.  The Yucatan Peninsula is chalked full of locations like Chichen Itza, Uxmal, Mayapan, Coba, and Tulum on the coast.  It’s easy to get temple fatigue but I urge you to visit the sites and you will experience culture and food and kindness that is a world away from Cancun.  

If you liked this post you might like to visit other posts on Mexico I have written by clicking here!

These Boots are Made for Walking

The great blog Where’s My Backpack came up with a fun and unusual Travel Theme of Feet!  One could go all over the place with this theme…my feet, animal feet, statute feet, furniture feet, feats of strength…this gives me an excuse to display some of the random photos I have taken while trekking around…

One thing is for sure.  Apparently, I have nothing better to do than to take photos of my feet while wandering through the world! I suppose these photos tell a story of their own separate from those that were taken directly of the attraction I was visiting.  🙂

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Relaxing in Mendocino

Spring Flower Hiking in the California Sierras

Resting at the top of one of the temples of Tikal

Cooling off in Phoenix

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Boonie Crashing at the Arch of Labna in the Yucatan

Searching for Water in California

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Hot Chili and Cool Cars in Rocklin, California

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Mendocino Mushroom Festival

Hiking in El Dorado National Forest

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Standard Beach apparel – Doran Beach

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Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland

Uxmal…glorious Uxmal

When visiting the Yucatan everyone always goes to Chichen Itza, and they should, but Uxmal is where it’s really at.  Chichen Itza is full of tourists taking the bus from Cancun which takes away from the experience.  Uxmal is a little more off the beaten path, south of Merida, but certainly worth a visit.  Uxmal is an important Mayan site located in the Puuc region and boasts an architectural style different from other Mayan sites I have visited.  One can spend all day at this UNESCO heritage site just bring a hat, some sunscreen, and some bug spray for comfort.

I took hundreds of photos of the site but have included a few to give you an idea of the complex.

Multiple buildings exist on the complex most of which are in splendid shape.

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Random turtle I found climbing on one of the buildings.  Many animals like jaguars, birds, even crocodiles are prevalent in Mayan art.  But, I haven’t seen too many turtles.

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Gorgeous arch at Uxmal in a portion of the grounds in the House of the Doves that has been less restored but no less gorgeous, interesting, and mystical.

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While the main pyramid at Uxmal is breathtaking but this end of the complex was my favorite architecturally.  I love the angles on these buildings.

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This remains one of my favorite sculptures anywhere.  The double-headed jaguar sits in a courtyard and is an imposing figure.  Many a ceremony must have occurred at her feet.

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Another example of decoration throughout the grounds.

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My intrepid travel partner.

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There are an enormous number of iguanas on site at Uxmal.

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The angles of this pyramid are also gorgeous.

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The Great Pyramid at Uxmal when she was experiencing some repairs.

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