Colonial Valladolid to Mérida. The highlights of this tour are the flamingos and other aquatic birds in the mangrove habitat of Ria Lagartos. We also visit Mayan ruins including the well kept secret of Ek Balam, and several cenotes. A cenote is an opening to the immense underground lake and river system of the Yucatan; each one is spectacular and unique. Along the route are also some interesting Mayan and Yucatecan towns and villages. This is a regular difficulty tour.
Day 1: Meet in Mérida or in Valladolid. Meet the group. We suggest flying into Mérida for better convenience, but you can also fly into Cancun. If you fly into Mérida, we will meet in the evening and arrange for our transfer to Valladolid the next day. If you prefer to fly into Cancun instead, then we will meet at our hotel in Valladolid the next day.
Day 2: Transfer to Valladolid or meet in Valladolid. Transfer or meet. Yucatan cuisine, Colonial Architecture, cenote, market. We will transfer by van or bus from Mérida to Valladolid this morning and you can spend the day exploring this beautiful city. If you flew into Cancun, then you should take a bus to Valladolid and you will meet the rest of the group today. Valladolid is one of the Yucatan's largest and most pleasing colonial cities. The spectacular cenote Zací is a great place to take a dip and cool off. Valladolid's churches, parks, markets and the beautiful zocalo are all worth a visit.
Day 3: Valladolid to Tizimin (via Ek Balam), (64 km cycling). Ek-Balam Mayan Ruins, cenotes. Ek Balam means "black jaguar" in Mayan. This site many well have achieved pivotal status in the public affairs of eastern Yucatan and judging from its monumental architecture it was quite probably an influential city. Much of the Yucatan's agriculture is centered around Tizimin, a pleasant town with some great Yucatecan restaurants.
Day 4: Tizimin to Río Lagartos (via Panobá, San Felipe), (67 km cycling) Quiet roads, the sea. Quiet back-roads, and small villages. The little fishing village of San Felipe and then Río Lagartos. Originally a Mayan town called Holcobem, its modern name, Río Lagartos, is a misnomer. Spanish explorers found a long estuary, which opens to the sea here, filled with crocodiles. They believed the estuary to be a river (río), and the crocodiles to be simple lizards (lagartos); hence the name Río Lagartos. Crocodiles are hard to come by now, but there are several flamingo nesting grounds in the area.
Day 5: Río Lagartos. Flamingos, seafood, cenote, spring. During our rest day in Río Lagartos, our local guide will take us out early in the morning on his boat to spy on a flock of flamingos. We are guaranteed to see a good sized flock - hundreds, or if we're really lucky, thousands! With a little more luck we'll also see a crocodile or two. Later we may explore Chikila spring, Pententucha cenote and enjoy some excellent fresh seafood.
Day 6: Rio Lagartos to Buctzotz (111km cycling). Longest day. On our longest day, we are hoping to take advantage of prevailing winds, riding away from the coastal area and through rolling ranching country to Buctzotz. This is a very typical, small and affluent Mayan town. A perfect place to practice speaking some Mayan!
Day 7: Buctzotz to Telchac Puerto (71km cycling) Gulf coast, wetlands. After cycling north through more small towns, we'll hit the gulf coast. Riding along the quiet coastal road we can enjoy views of the sea on the right and lagoons on the left. This is truly a spectacular day of cycling on well paved, quiet, narrow roads through some beautiful coastal wetlands.
Day 8: Telchac Puerto to Merida (91km cycling). More gulf coast, Dzibilchaltun Mayan ruins, cenote, Colonial Center, Zocalo, Market. We continue along the gulf coast before turning to the south. We'll take the backroads way into Mérida, passing through several little towns and visiting the Mayan ruins of Dzibilchaltun with its most unusual and interesting cenote, Xlacah Cenote. In Mérida.
Day 9: Mérida. Stay a bit longer or fly back home. Mérida is a state capital and commercial center. It's also the cultural focal point of the entire peninsula. Tourists are attracted to the history and beauty of this vibrant city. Its colonial center, Centro Colonial, is busy with Maya men and women in traditional dress. College students lounging at nearby cafes and businessmen and women rushing to their offices. Meridians enjoy long, leisurely promenades in the zocalo.
The zocalo's clock tower chimes 4 times an hour and dawn and dusk are greeted by a flag ceremony, accompanied by the music of a military band. Nearby you will be able to visit venerable old churches like the yellow cathedral with its twin towers containing what is claimed to be the second largest crucifix in the world. There is also the Palacio de Gobierno with its stairway painting depicting the Maya belief that humanity comes from maize. Under the balcony of the Palacio Municipal concerts and classes in jarana, a Yucatan colonial dance, take place.
The nearby market or Mercado is huge, noisy, colourful and crowded. Anything you might want to buy can be found there or even made for you while you wait. Of special interest are the famous Yucatan hammocks. There are numerous museums and parks to visit as well as a never-ending series of free music and dance events to attend each day of the week.
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