Cancun & Playa del Carmen, Mexico

11 May 2012

Ever wanted to experience Mexico at its best? Why not visit Cancun and Playa del Carmen, which show off  the beauty that Mexico has to offer. Tracy Morton has recently travelled here and shares her experiences with us.

Cancun and Playa del Carmen, some 70km south of Cancun, are situated on the south-east coast of Mexico in the state of Quintana Roo in the Yucatan Peninsula. Five-star all-inclusive resorts dot the coastline on some of the world’s most beautiful white sand beaches and offering adventure and water sports, golf, shopping, spas, and a world of nightlife and entertainment.

Beyond the white sand beaches and turquoise waters, is an area steeped in archaeological history and sights and sounds like no other.

Chichen-Itza

Dating back to 800 AD when the Mayans occupied what is today a UNESCO World Heritage site, a guided tour of the Chichen-Itza site offers spine-chilling stories of human sacrifice and incredible tales of early architecture, art and sports where the captain of the winning team was sacrificed to the gods.

Here the ancient Mayans built structures including the Castillo pyramid - a structure depicting the solar and agricultural year.  Stand at the base of the steps and clap your hands, the structure will return the gesture with the echo of a chirping Quetzal bird (Quitzalcoatl is the feathered serpent deity).

Cenote Il Kil

Just 3km from Chichen-Itza is the Il Kil Cenote. A cenote is generally created when the surrounding limestone collapses exposing the groundwater underneath.  The Il Kil cenote is surrounded by speculation that it, and others like it in the Yucatan Peninsular, was created by giant falling meteors way back in the dawn of the dinosaur.  Whatever you choose to believe, swimming in the cold clear water is an incredible experience.

Shopping

Playa del Carmen offers a fantastic tourist shopping experience on "Quinta Avenida" (5th Avenue).  Bartering is expected and if you can remove the emotion from the experience you’ll grab yourself some fantastic bargains.

A 45 minute bus trip away is Cancun.  The stores and malls on the hotel strip are the recommended shopping experience by the locals, and possibly more suited to the non-adventurous traveller.  Kiwi’s like us, on the other hand, ignored the taxi driver warnings that “Cancun is not for you” and took the bus right into Cancun itself.  Here a 20 minute walk from the bus terminal we found Mercado 28 (Market 28), a local market where we spent hours bartering to the last .20c on items ranging from bags, clothes and jewellery.

Tequila

If you’re in Mexico, you have to try the Tequila - even if you don’t like Tequila!  The Tequila we get in New Zealand pales in significance to the smooth texture and aromatic experience that is real quality Mexican Tequila. There are entire shops dedicated to selling Tequila in a range of basic and exotic-looking bottles. These make a great gift for that person back home that already has a T-Shirt from every city in the world.

Cancun and Playa del Carmen offer an incredibly diverse holiday destination like no other I've experienced - it offers the beaches & watersports that I love, along with a big serving of ancient history. Stay at one of the many all-inclusive resorts along the Mayan Riviera and you'll add luxury to the mix too!

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