Tulum, Mexico

I took a chicken bus from Belize City all the way north to Chetumal in Mexico. There is an annoying exit tax when crossing from Belize – $20 US in fact, which I wasn’t too happy about. From Chetumal it was an uncomfortable second class ADO bus to Tulum, arriving at dark to a very chilled out hostel.

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Me relieved to have finally got to the beach!

Tulum is an odd town, not what I expected at all. The google pictures of it show sprawling beaches, which there are, but they are about 5km out of town – believe me, I walked it! Most people hire bikes which I would probably recommend as the best way of getting around, though collectivos and taxis are available.

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Beautiful sprawling coastline

Also the most obvious difference from any other part of Central America that I have travelled so far is the tourist trade. Even volunteering in Monteverde – a town that lives for tourism – I felt it more authentic than the coastline with resorts and hotels fencing every bit of sand.

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Main road in Tulum

There are ruins in Tulum, and they are quite impressive being directly on the coast. It is recommended to get here early (as with any tourist spot) and there was a random road train ferrying people around, though I have no idea of its origin or destination.

The town itself mainly lies along a long strip of busy road consisting of tourist restaurants. Mexico is cheap in comparison to Belize and towards the less busy end of the road I found an extremely nice street-food style burrito shop Burrtito Amor. This place has a great atmosphere and fast service, not to mention amazing burritos at a very cheap price; my hefty portion of a cheese and bean burrito cost me less than $3.

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Burrito Amor, for a good, cheap streetfood style experience

But alas, it is time to move further north, delving ever deeper into the lands of the American tourist.

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Flores and Tikal Ruins

A long journey north, through the many twisting mountain roads of the Highlands and cramped into many a local shuttle bus, I finally made it to Flores. A small island in Lake Peten Itza joined by a causeway to the mainland, Flores is a peculiar little place with little much going on and some moody shop keepers. There’s a square and a cathedral up on a hill, and some nice places to sit out and eat your lunch looking over the waters, but apart from that there’s little else to do.

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View of lake from Flores

It was interesting to watch a thunder storm brew over the lake though РI caught glimpses of actual veins of electricity darting through the night sky. And the hostel Los Amigos is definitely recommended with a good atmosphere, fairylights, a good many and cocktail list.

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Los Amigos Hostel

The real reason I ventured here was to head to Tikal, one of the finest Mayan civilisations that has been preserved. Tours can be booked across the island for sunrise, though it can be expensive and not always worth it if it’s cloudy. Indeed entrance to the park alone costs 150 Queatzales after 6am.

Tikal literally means “Place where the Gods Speak” and is a vast set of ruins stretching over an area of 26km squared. The main square in the middle has two great temples – you are able to climb up the Temple of the Queen which is little effort and gives you good views.

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King’s Temple at Tikal

Furthermore, if one stands in the plaza and claps, the echo from the pyramid buildings sends of an odd “ca-caw” sound which is peculiarly similar to the national bird the Quetzal which was worshiped by the Mayas.

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View of Central Plaza

Mayas are famous for their human sacrifice and there are many stone circles present at the sight where the sacrifices apparently took place. Mayas also tend to build their temples in pairs facing east to west – the civilization was very astronomical and aligning their holy places with sunrise and sunset was important to them.

Perhaps the most impressive view from the top of a pyramid was from Temple 4, also the furthest away from the park entrance. When at the top, the view is spectacular across Tikal whch is now mainly reclaimed by forest – much of it is green but for the two other peaks of the main plaza peaking through.

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View from Temple 4

Well worth a visit, this set of ruins is a treasure trove for discovery about a once great civilisation that fell to the hands of the Spanish invaders in the late 1400s