The Chichen Itza Experience

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The Riviera Maya has everything you need for a perfect holiday, with beautiful beaches, nature, water sports, adventure and a lot of history. Since I was a child I have a big interest in archaeology and ancient cultures and there was something I had in mind for a long time was to visit Chichen Itza.

Our hotel had its own Tour Desk and we did the booking with them. They offered different options regarding tours to Chichen Itza and you can choose one depending on your budget. Some tours may include breakfast, buffet lunch, visiting the city of Valladolid, or visiting a Cenote. Before going on the tour make sure to bring insect repellent, sun block (the highest factor you can get!), sunglasses, and comfortable shoes. If you booked the tour including a visit to the Cenote you will need a swimsuit and towel. The tour to Chichen Itza takes all day, it’s about two hours journey from Playa del Carmen to Chichen Itza and before getting there the tour bus stops in a Handicraft Market where you will find souvenirs and you can get snacks too. My husband almost had a heat stroke because he wasn’t drinking enough water, so I advice you to drink plenty of water at all times. The weather in the Riviera Maya is extremely hot, or I should say it is wild!.

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During our bus journey the tour guide tour giving interesting facts about the Mayan culture. The Mayan language is still spoken in Mexico, Guatemala and Belize. Something curious about the language is that some words are similar to Chinese in pronunciation and reflects the Mayans being distant relatives of the Chinese! It seems to be that the Mayas built their buildings without using the wheel and no metal cutting tools have been found, which is still a bit of a mystery. Itza was the name given to the ancient warriors from the Yucatan peninsula but Itz-a means ‘water wizard’, and Chi-Chen means ‘mouth of the well’. So if we try to translate Chichen Itza into English, then it would be something like ‘Mouth of the Well of the Warriors’.

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On arrival to Chichen Itza we were very excited and ready to explore. And there it was in front of me ‘El Castillo’ a pyramid dedicated to the god Kukulcan. El Castillo is proof that the Mayans were architects, experts in maths and astronomy. It is incredible how the pyramid was built to perfection by the Mayans. People also call it the Kukulcan Pyramid, because of the Mayans serpent god.

Each side of the Pyramid has 91 steps which together with the step on the top give a total of 365 steps and that is the number of days in a year. Perfection!. Many cultures built pyramids on top of another and this is also the case for El Castillo. The Mexican government did further studies and excavations and they found another pyramid or temple buried inside El Castillo. Yucatan peninsula is famous for their sink-holes or cenotes, some could be small and some could be big. Cenotes were sacred places for the Mayans and there are two of them at Chichen Itza. In 2015 archaeologists found a Cenote inside El Castillo pyramid and with this discovery was clear that Cenotes had a deep religious meaning for the Mayans. On the Equionix (on march 20st and September 21), if you watch El Castillo it looks like a snake descends the pyramid when the sunlight hits it and appears to go down to the serpents head that is carved at the bottom of the Pyramid. This represents the god Kukulcan with the start and finish of the agricultural season. It is very cleverly achieved by the shadows cast onto the pyramid on those specific dates and is one more illustration of the Mayans architectural and astronomical skills. Around the Kukulcan pyramid you will find many other buildings such as the Warrior Temple, The Observatory, the Venus Platform, The Ballcourt and The Temple of the Jaguar.

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After the tour we went to a Mexican restaurant to have a delicious buffet lunch and also the tour included a visit to the Cenote Ik Kil near the city of Valladolid. Cenotes were sacred places for the Mayans and its believed that getting inside one purifies the body and spirit. We didn’t get inside the Cenote as it was crowded with people diving and swimming. Anyway it was a nice place to have a good rest and enjoy ice creams.

I felt more energized and full of joy after visiting Chichen Itza. The Riviera Maya is a place where adults discover having an ‘Indiana Jones spirit’ and children have fun learning about history. Thank you Chichen Itza for this wonderful experience.

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My Riviera Maya Summer Holiday

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I recently came back from the beautiful Riviera Maya in Mexico, a place that means a lot to me and my family. It was in Cancun where I officially met my husband after our Online Dating romance, and to us its our ‘love nest’ away from home.

We have stayed in the hotel zone area in Cancun in the past but this time we decided to stay somewhere a bit further away. I heard of Playa del Carmen, a small town located about 40 minutes away from Cancun International Airport. We did some research in Trip Advisor looking for a nice family resort to stay at and we found The Royal Haciendas which is suitable for families with children. Cancun Airport has too many shuttle or taxi transfers on the Arrivals area and they will offer you their services but don’t listen to them (even if they insist too much) if you already paid your airport/hotel transport online and follow the instructions of the company you booked with.

Our transfer to the hotel didn’t take too long and we had a very nice chatty driver who was telling us how Cancun has grown economically in the last ten years thanks to the continuing growth in tourism. In 2005 Hurricane Wilma practically destroyed Cancun, but the city, hotels and resorts were rebuilt in short time.

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The first couple of days we decided to just relax and enjoy the beach. In the morning I loved doing Zumba lessons while my husband and son were having fun in the swimming pool. In the afternoons we would be in the beach making sand castles and having walks along the lovely beach. My son enjoyed snorkeling and would spend hours looking for fish. One day while playing in the sea we saw something moving inside the water, not sure about what it was and my son suddenly shouts: ‘Turtle mummy!, its a turtle!’. And he was right, it was a baby turtle swimming near the sea bed and as the tide came in it was covered by sand and we lost sight of it. One of the best places to spot sea turtles is the Riviera Maya and The Royal Haciendas as part of the Royal Resorts takes part in the sea turtle conservation campaign.

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Playa del Carmen town was almost next door and we went for a walk along Quinta Avenida, an avenue with lots of craft shops, boutiques, cafes and restaurants. Xcaret is an echo-archeological park located close to Playa del Carmen. It is a very popular tourist location and one of its many attractions is to swim in the underground river. It is a unique experience!. It is easy to take the ferry from Playa del Carmen to Cozumel Island, the ferrys depart every hour and if you wish you could spend all day in the island which is great for snorkeling and diving. Also near Playa del Carmen you will find attractions like Xel-ha, the dolphins paradise, the archaeological city of Tulum which is well preserved and the Coba pyramids.

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Make sure you carry a bottle of water at all times with you because of the extreme heat. We traveled in August and the highest temperature was 35 Celsius which means bring a lot of sun block with you, mosquito repellent and hats to protect yourself from the sun.

I remember the first time we came to Riviera Maya we visited almost all the attractions but because we ran out of money we couldn’t visit Chichen Itza. So that was something pending to do, and it was like a sort of mission to go there on our second trip. We booked our tour to Chichen Itza in advance and it was a memorable experience, especially for our son who loves exploring and enjoys filming.

On our last day we took a taxi to Cancun, and again we had a very chatty taxi driver. His name was Orlando and for a reasonable fare he dropped us in Cancun and waited for us while we visited the Aquarium. The Cancun Aquarium is small but children enjoy it as they can pet starfish, stingrays and you can swim with dolphins which is optional with a fee. On the way back to the hotel Orlando said life in Cancun is good and there are always jobs available. The city is non stop growing, and there is even a new town resort being built called Puerto Morelos which is between Cancun and Playa del Carmen. Taxis are safe as long as you take them from your hotel lobby or with the bell boy. I was more than happy to tip all the taxi drivers, they all were friendly, helpful, they drive safely and they are experts in Mayan history.

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Our last day of holiday was sort of sad. My son said this was the best holiday ever and that he loved Cancun so much that he would love to live there. When our plane took off from Cancun it was not a good bye but more like a ‘see you soon’ with the wish of going back to Riviera Maya again next summer.

The Royal Haciendas, a lovely resort in the Riviera Maya, Mexico

 

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I would like to share our ‘Royal Haciendas’ experience as it was great staying in the resort. This review has been also posted with Trip Advisor.

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The Royal Haciendas is a family and child friendly resort located in Playa del Carmen, in the Mexican Riviera Maya. It is near many tourist attractions and about 40 minutes away from Cancun Airport.

The resort is massive and divided in two areas. Each area has swimming pools for adults and children and two restaurants called the Sol Grill and Luna Grill. These restaurants offer lovely nachos, wraps and burgers. Our reservation was all inclusive in a Deluxe Junior Suite. The suite was big, it was more like a ‘mini flat’, with microwave, minifridge, coffee maker and we had a terrace with a nice garden view. All the hotel has free high speed wifi too.

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Our fruit basket and red wine

 On our first day the resort gave a us a basket of fresh fruit and a bottle of red wine which was very kind of them. We enjoyed a variety of meals at La Palapa del Sol restaurant. Every night there is a themed buffet with Mexican, Caribbean, Mediterranean, Italian, Oriental and BBQ food. There is also a snack/sushi bar called La Rotonda and an elegant restaurant called Los Murales. At Los Murales we ordered for starters the avocado filled with sea food and as a main dish the salmon with asparagus. We absolutely loved it as well as the Ferrero dessert.

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Sea Food at Los Murales Restaurant in the Royal Haciendas, delicious!.

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Ferrero dessert, beautifully made. At Los Murales, Royal Haciendas Resort

The resort has a beautiful beach, it is well maintained and its cleaned in the mornings. If you decide to stay on the beach you will find blue flags that you can use to order food and drinks, we found this great.

Me and the beach, enjoying the Riviera Maya.

You will find hammocks near the gardens, they are perfect for an afternoon siesta, check your Facebook or just relax. There is a Sports desk and Activity Room with many things to do for adults and children. You can book the tennis court, play golf, do snorkelling or do kayaking. They count with an activity timetable for adults and children. You may try doing zumba, pilates, aquaerobics, beach volleyball, latin dance lessons and many more. I would like to thank the zumba instructor for such an enjoyable lesson. I just loved it!.

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Aquaerobics time.

 

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Kayaking in Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya.

The resort has a mini market, so don’t worry if you forgot your suntan lotion or any basics. There is a doctor on site, a Spa and a small travel agency that helped us with our trip to Chichen Itza and transfers to the airport.

The resort is near the Playa del Carmen town where you can do shopping or just go for a walk. The resort offers a shuttle and there are also taxis available near the front door, you have just to speak to one of the bell boys. The resort is very safe in terms of checking at all times who gets into the resort.

We booked the resort directly via their web site and we received a discount coupon to spend at the resort but we spoke to different members of staff and it was never clear about how to use the discount. At the end we didn’t use it but a member of reception took note of our case and said they will get in touch with us. Anyway we booked for nine days and decided to extend our stay for two more days because we simply loved the place.

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All inclusive means all the Piña Coladas you want and all the desserts you want. Yummi!!

The staff in general was friendly and polite, the rooms are spotless clean and there is always someone in charge to refill your fridge with drinks. Also, there is someone always late afternoon checking if you need any additional toiletries or towels, which was very nice and shows they look after you. It was nice for them to leave a lolly pop next to your bed every day after cleaning the room. Las Haciendas has everything you need and is perfect for families with small children. My 8 year old son always talks about how beautiful was our holiday, definitely we are considering going back in the future.

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