Tulum, Cenotes and Riviera Maya

As we had previously commented, Tulum is an excellent place to stay, and after knowing and enjoying it, you can move to other equally attractive and diverse points of interest within the Riviera Maya. From cenotes, archaeological zones, parks, and other towns. Without forgetting that the entire Riviera Maya area is a destination rich in customs and gastronomy. So here we suggest other points of interest to know beyond Tulum.

The Cenotes

Quintana Roo has been blessed with Cenotes (dzono’t), which means “abyss” in Mayan. The Mayans considered them sources of life and the entrance to the other world.

In this territory there are many underground rivers and caverns, and the cenotes are part of this network. That’s way we recommend that you try to make a route of cenotes to visit; Here are some of the most beautiful:

  1. The Great Cenote. Shaped like a crescent, it is located about 4 km from the Mayan ruins of Tulum, on the side of the road in the direction of the archaeological site of Coba. One of the best known due to its beauty.
  2. Aktun. It gained its most known name of “Carwash” because it was a taxi car wash before Quintanarroans realized it could be used much better as a tourist attraction. Shallow in the open part, perfect for snorkeling for children.
  3. Cenote Cristal. Among the Tulum cenotes to visit, this one cannot be missing. Also known as Cenote Naharon, its access is on the Riviera Maya highway, a few kilometers from the archaeological site. It is a true haven of peace, with blue waters that form a natural pool surrounded by a multitude of palm trees and other species of the tropical flora of Quintana Roo.
  4. Cenote Escondido. It forms a couple of cenotes together with the Cristal cenote; Nearby is the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve (“door of heaven” in the Mayan language), a natural area protected by decree in January 1986 and recognized as a World Heritage Site in 1987. The geological nature of this reserve, with basically limestone soils, it favors the formation of cenotes, such as Escondido and Cristal. The transparent and fresh waters of the cenote ensure a peaceful dip under the gaze of the iguanas.
  5. Cenote Calavera. It is a cenote frequently used by scuba diving enthusiasts to obtain their cavern diving accreditations, located 3 km from the city of Tulum and 4 km from the archaeological site, on the road to Coba. It is semi-open, and the descent is through wooden stairs placed inside the body of water or by jumping directly. The waters are refreshing and inhabited by several species of fish.
  6. Cenote Tak Be Ha. This impressive cenote for diving and snorkeling is located about 15 minutes from Tulum and half an hour from Playa del Carmen. It is of great beauty and is found in a cavern that is entered through a hole.

Archaeological zones

Talking about the Riviera Maya is not only talking about fine white beaches, unique turquoise waters in the world or wonderful flora and fauna; This privileged place also has a rich culture that dates back more than 2,000 years, with cities dating back to 750 BC, which placed the Mayan culture among the greatest pre-Hispanic civilizations in the world. This wonderful civilization is as rich and vast as the vestiges that appear among the jungle, and we invite you to discover the best five in the area:

  1. Chichen Itza. It is definitely the iconic archaeological site when visiting the Yucatan peninsula, it is the most emblematic place on the entire coast and one of the seven wonders of the world, due to its privileged location and the excellent conservation of its buildings and murals. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it was built to honor the Mayan version of Quetzalcoatl: Kukulkan who, thanks to the architecture of the pyramid and the feathered serpent heads found at its base, makes the illusion of the descent of the Mayan god at every equinox. The view of the Caribbean Sea is spectacular, and it has access to a beautiful beach.
  2. Xel-Ha. This place was one of the most important ports of the Mayan city of Coba in its time, it is known by few people because they confuse it with a nearby park that took its name. As part of the tour that can currently be done, it is possible to observe magnificent examples of mural painting, particularly in the so-called “Birds Building” and a “Sacbe”, which the Mayans considered a straight path without unevenness. Upon the arrival of the Spanish, Xel-Ha was almost abandoned. Ideal for travelers who love historical expeditions.
  3. Coba. It is approximately 30 minutes from Tulum. It is simply spectacular; on this site you can see monumental buildings and the trails are in a delicious jungle environment to walk or bike. Here is “Nohoch Mul” the highest Mayan construction in the Yucatan peninsula.
  4. Chacchoben. Less than two hours in the direction of Bacalar, is this archaeological site recently opened to the public and that few know about. It is the most important settlement detected to date in the lake region. Chacchoben was an important site linked to a regional Mayan capital.
  5. Ek Balam. In the vicinity of the city of Valladolid is this site, which has a name in the Yucatecan Mayan language, formed by the words “ek”, with which the color black is called, and which also means “star” or “bright star”; and “balam”, which means “jaguar”. It can then be translated as “jaguar -dark- or black”. However, some Mayan speakers in the region also translate it as “star-jaguar”. The impressive palace that we currently known as the acropolis stands out, the delicacy of the art that preva ils in this site is ideal for taking many photographs.
  6. Xel-Ha water park. Now, if parks immersed in nature are your thing, we have the Xel-Ha Natural Water Park 20 minutes by car north of Tulum, which belongs to the Xcaret group. A place to spend a day snorkeling between canals and cenotes, as well as being able to enjoy zip lines, caves, or trails through the jungle.

Other sites of interest.

Los 10 mejores destinos de la Riviera Maya - ¿Dónde hospedarse en la Riviera  Maya? - Go Guides
Photo credit: hoteles.com

If you are going to have more time and want to take Tulum as a starting point for more secluded tours of the Riviera Maya, we suggest some of these authentic essentials:

  1. Bacalar Lagoon. Following the road to the south, before reaching Chetumal, is this magical Mexican town with a great attraction: the lagoon of seven colors.
  2. Valladolid. Passing Coba, it takes just an hour and a half by road from Tulum to this beautiful colonial city full of colors that you can’t miss either.

A spectacular trip will always be the Riviera Maya, but now we recommend taking Tulum as a reference; We suggest, when putting together your tours, consider renting a car or reviewing the guided tours so that you have a smooth and easy trip.

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