Morelia, Michoacán – The Most Spanish City In México

Once a year, go some place you’ve never been before.”

Dalia Lama

Morelia is a little gem in the state of Michoacán and often referred to as the most ‘Spanish town in México ‘. We have to admit, it hadn’t come up on our radar, until my sister, Liz and her husband, Mark were planning their trip to México earlier this year.

Liz gave this UNESCO World Heritage site stunning reviews, so we knew then that we needed to adjust our plans and ensure we visited this wonderful city. A great decision – if only we had more time there!

Morelia is the capital of the state of Michoacán, with a population of around 600,000. The city boasts historic charm and colonial architecture, and as a tourist it is a lovely city walk around slowly admiring the magnificent architecture.

So, why is it that Morelia doesn’t come up on the hit list of places to visit in México?

Word on the street is that the state of Michoacán is unsafe. I don’t want to sound dismissive but we never felt unsafe in Morelia or driving through the state. We take the usual precautions with our personal safety just like we would in other parts of the world; don’t go down dark lane-ways at night, lock our doors whilst driving, and don’t mess with drug dealers etc. 😜

Yes, there could be unsafe areas in the state of Michoacán, (we don’t know where) but we felt very comfortable in Morelia.

Here’s a list of what you’ll find in this historic city:

Acueducto de Morelia (Aqueduct)

Built in 1785 from limestone, the structure is one of the most popular attractions in Morelia.

In its day, the aqueduct had the important role of bringing water to the city.

Over a mile long and boasting 253 towering arches, this structure cannot be missed as it snakes its way through the Central Historico part of the city, for its age is in very good condition.

If you are feeling energetic, there is a pedestrian walkway that parallels the entire length of the aqueduct.

This amazingly beautiful structure makes a great backdrop for a photo. Or better still, it can be one of your features of this city.

Morelia Cathedral

In the heart of Morelia stands this boroque-style Roman Catholic cathedral. Considered by many to be the most beautiful cathedral in the country!

The cathedral was built from pink cantera stone and took 84 years to complete. The construction commenced in 1660 and was finally completed in 1744.

The cathedral features two 70 metre high towers, an elaborate 18th century baroque altar and an organ with 4600 pipes. The organ was imported from Germany in 1905 and was the largest in the Western Hemisphere at the time.

Of an evening the cathedral and its towers are beautifully lit up making it look absolutely stunning.

The cathedral is open to visit, 7 days a week 6am to 9pm.

Close by to the cathedral are some roof top bars/restaurants with views of the cathedral. We enjoyed a cool refreshment at two of the bars, on separate occasions. Here’s the links if you are ever in town. 🙂 El Campanarioa Cafe 1 & El Campanarioa Cafe 2 .

Callejón de Romance (Romance Lane)

Located in the Centro histórico area off Avenida Francisco I Madero (see the map below) is this cute lane-way. The lane-way is pleasant to stroll down, read the poetry on the walls, declare your love on a padlock or take some time out to sit by the fountain at the end of the lane.

Morelia City Sign

One of the ‘things we do’ when visiting a new place is to grab a shot at the sign of the city. 😊

These tourist attractions are a global phenomenon, and México like other countries loves to provide these landmarks for photos.

Museo de Arte Contemporáneo (Modern Art Museum)

We spent a short amount of time here, the museum is compact but the artwork was interesting.

The staff were friendly and entrance is free!

The museum is open 7 days a week from 10am.

There are many Museums in Morelia, however time was not on our side on this visit, so here are the links to some of the museums on offer: Paseo Escultorico De Las Artes, Museo del Dulce De La Calle Real, Museo de Arte Colonial, Museo Casa Natal de Morelos & Museo Regional Michoacano, Dr. Nicolás León Calderón.

Monument to Morelos

Morelia is a colonial city steeped in its Spanish history, you can wander the streets for hours. We wandered around in awe at the amazing buildings and the architecture, there are over 200 protected buildings in the Centro Historico area alone!

When we needed to rest our feet we took rest/bite in Plaza Morelos. Here in the gardens you can take a photo of the statue of Jose De Morelos, take in views of the aqueduct and when you’re ready, cross the street to visit the Shine of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church which is not to be missed.

Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church

Construction began on this grand old lady back in 1708 and was completed in 1716. The church is dedicated to the Virgin of Guadalupe and is a fine example of neo-gothic style, which arrived in Mexico in the 19th century.

The church is conveniently located across the street from the Monument to Morelos. Its plain brown facade doesn’t look that special from the street, but just wait until you walk inside!

The inside of the church is spectacular, like the inside of a jewellery box and is regarded by many as a national treasure. Inside, there are colours aplenty, along with countless intricate plastered rosettes and gold leaf covering the ceiling. Photos do not do it justice, this church is astonishing and needs to be seen in person.

Morelia flys under the radar for many international tourists. In our opinion it is definitely worth putting on the itinerary when visiting México.

We recommend a visit to discover this hidden gem for yourself.

Happy travels.

Valladolid, México – A Town We Needed To Revisit

“Blessed are the curious for they shall have adventures”

Lovelle Drachman

Valladolid is a quaint colonial town in the Yucatán state of México that needed a second visit.

The city was founded in 1543 by Francisco de Montejo, and is full of colonial architecture and charm. On our first visit to México in early 2018, we had taken an all day tour out of Mérida, which included a visit to Chichén Itzá, Izamal, Cenote Ik’Kil and a few other places.

The last stop of the day was Valladolid.

Unfortunately, we only had a short amount of time at the end of a very, very long day at this Pueblo Magico town. It was just enough time to stretch our legs, do a walk around the zocalo, buy a touristy trinket.

But even in this short amount of time, the town made a big impression on us. It was very charming!

So, when we finished up a house and pet sit in Playa del Carmen recently and we were only a few hours’ drive away from Valladolid, we couldn’t resist the urge to revisit.

And we were not disappointed! Valladolid was as cute and charming as we remembered it, and this time, we got to explore it on our terms and at our own pace.

We booked our hotel right in town, walking distance to the zocalo, Catedral San de Gervadio (Instagram opportunity) and San Bernardino Cathedral.

A zocalo, in a Mexican town is essentially the heart of the city. And there always seems to be some activity happening there. It’s a great spot to get a feel for the town, grab an ice cream or sit on a park bench to people watch.

Valladolid’s zocalo is one of the prettiest we have been to in México!

The Zocalo in Valladolid

We also enjoyed walking the blocks around the zocalo; the buildings are a kaleidoscope of colours, music and food. You can quickly lose a few hours just wondering around here.

No visit to the Yucatan and Quintana Roo states of México is complete without a swim in a cenote or two. Cenotes are an underground river system formed from limestone, and come in all shapes and sizes. They may be open sinkholes, or full or partially opened caves; they all have crystal clear, super cold water and are so beautiful to swim in.

We took full advantage of being in these two states and swam as often as we could. In the Valladolid area there is no shortage of choices; here is a few for you to choose from:

Cenote Zaci

Cenote Zaci, just a short stroll from the hotel right in town. This cenote is an open-air sinkhole. Here you can have swim around in the cenote as you watch the sun rays hit the brillant, blue water. The water is so clear that you can view the array of the fish that live there swimming beneath you as you do.

Zaci Cenote is on Calle 36, between Calle 37 & 39. It also has a restaurant on the grounds for a snack or lunch. We enjoyed an ice-cold Cerveza after our swim.

Just 30 pesos entrance fee, this is considerably lower than a lot of cenote entry fees. And it’s a great way to spend an afternoon.

Cenote Suytun

Cenote Suytun is rumoured to be the most Instagrammed cenote in México.

Suytun, is a cave cenote, with large stramalitite formations. A platform has been constructed inside the cenote and at certain times of the day, you can see a beam of sunlight shining down on to the platform through a small hole in the roof of the cave. As the sun hits the platform, you could easily mistake it for a a spotlight on a stage.

Now that is ‘Insta’ worthy!

Knowing this was a popular cenote, we arrived early to avoid the crowds. And we were pleasantly surprised that it worked! There was less than ten of us in the cenote the morning we visited.

I think the other visitors were also there to avoid the hustle and bustle. Everyone in the cave kept their voices low and enjoyed the tranquility and unique experience of the cenote.

Suytun cenote is about 10 – 15 minute drive east of Valladolid on Highway 180. If you don’t have you own transport, I suggest you organise a taxi to drop you off. There were taxis in the car park to take you back into Valladolid or otherwise ask the staff if they could call you a taxi. (Puedes llamar un taxi, por favor?)

Zentik Project

This was great tip from the homeowners at our Playa del Carmen house and pet sit, thanks Cindy and Rusty. We would never have known about this little gem if it wasn’t for the tip.

Poolside at the Zentik Project

Whilst it is a boutique hotel, you can also visit the restaurant or arrange a day pass to use the facilities and spa services. We started our visit with a complimentary coffee laced with tequila (surprisingly good at 10am) 😁

The day before, we arranged a couples massages on arrival, one hour of bliss, which was followed by a lay around the pool. We were also able to order snacks and drinks by the poolside.

We wandered the grounds to look at the sculptures and artwork scattered throughout the gardens. The aesthetics of the place is extraordinary, you can’t help but unwind.

Then we ventured onto the main attraction, the cave cenote located under the restaurant. With a hot water fountain, mood lighting and waiter service right there in the cave, we happily enjoyed a few beers.

The day pass was 450 pesos per person.

The food and drinks prices were reasonable, considering the tranquil location.

We absolutely loved this day and would recommend a visit to the Zentik Project if you are in the area.

Cenote X’kekén and Samula,

In the Valladolid area, you are spoilt for choice when it comes to cenotes. Our final one for this post is Cenote X’Keken and Samula or commonly known as Cenote Dzitnup, due to the village close by. The cenotes are well known enclosed cenotes, close together on the western side of Valladolid, just 5 kms out on Highway 180.

A popular way to get there is to hire a pushbike, riding beside the highway on a bike path.

Samula is stunning, a feature of this cenote is the beam of light that comes into the cenote for a couple of hours during the day. When this happens, it lights up the clear blue waters as well as the tree roots dangling down to get to the water.

This can all be enjoyed with the complimentary sounds of swallows singing in the roof of the cave.

X’Keken, is fully enclosed with no sunlight, not quiet as spectacular of Samula. Here you will find a massive of stalactite formation, and darker blue waters to enjoy.

Be aware, this site is geared up for tourists. So, if you are considering a visit, try to arrive before 10am.

Entrance fee to each cenote is 80 pesos per adult. However, you can purchase a pass for both at 120 pesos.

Open Monday to Sunday 8am to 7pm.

Life jackets are available for hire.

Other than swimming in cenotes, Valladolid has a lot to offer in and around the town.

There is a pleasant walk from the zocalo to Parque Sisal area; this is where San Bernardino Convent is located. We took Calz. de Los Frailes, a lovely quiet but sophisticated street loaded with Colonial architecture, it was a real pleasure to wander down. Get your camera ready, there is a lot to be captured here.

The convent sits conveniently behind the Valladolid sign, or should I say the Valladolid sign has the convent as a perfect backdrop?!?!

Either way, grab your picture at the sign, then head-on into the convent. You can walk around the convent yourself or pay for a guided tour. The guided tour is only in Spanish, so we didn’t partake, our Spanish isn’t up to that level of understanding.

There is also a museum inside the convent, which explains the discovery of cenotes and some of the items left behind. Cenotes were used by the Mayan’s for human, animals and artifacts sacrifices.

We enjoyed walking the grounds and stopping to rest under the large cool trees.

If you don’t visit on a tour bus, then the iconic Chichén Itzá is close by from Valladolid to visit. Chichén Itzá is a Mayan Pyramid featured on a lot of tourist advertising for Mexico.

A lesser-known Mayan site close to Valladolid is of Ek Balam. The jungle still covers much of Ek Balam’s 45 structures. Ek Balam means, “the black jaguar”, the site is impressive and you are still able to climb the structures.

Whatever you decide to do in Valladolid, I am sure you will love this unique little town just like we did.

Happy travels.

Thanks goes out to our Editor, Jess Downes.

Leave us a comment to let us know what you enjoyed about Valladolid.

Puerto Morelos – A Quintessential “Sleepy Fishing Village”

Puerto Morelos Old Lighthouse

“Don’t listen to what they say, go see”

Recently our travels found us house & pet sitting in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. We were caring for two older Yorkies, Chili and Paco; we really loved getting to know their personalities and thoroughly enjoyed our time with them. We miss our fur babies, Missy & Charlie who are back home in Australia, so house and pet sitting gives us the best of both worlds, travel and puppy cuddles.

Luckily for us, while we were in Playa we had some great weather, so we headed North up Highway 307, about 30 minutes drive to Puerto Morelos.

Puerto Morelos is a small seaside town nestled on the Caribbean coastline between the busy, overcrowded, resort towns of Cancun and Playa del Carmen. Puerto Morelos has the characteristics and charm of a quaint old fishing village. It was so refreshing not to see large resorts consuming the coastline.

On the beachfront we saw people swimming and snorkelling, a family feeding seagulls and people just taking it easy. Slowing the pace down is so easy at Puerto Morelos. The beach here is protected, making it perfect for swimming or just lazing in the sun.

Two things I didn’t know until we visited Puerto Morelos, is that it is the home of the biggest sea port in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo and it has easy access to the second largest barrier reef in the world….what???

Our first visit to this cute little town was fairly short, we arrived early in the afternoon. We had a walk along the beach-side and out on the jetty, got a ‘Insta’ shot of the crooked lighthouse, took a photo at the town sign, had some fun with the street vendors – all jostling for our business, then went searching for a bite to eat.

Puerto Morelos Beach-side Sign

As we have travelled around México, one thing we have learnt is that the food around the town’s main square always seems to be busy, overpriced and often not that great.

We tend to walk a block or two off the main square when we are looking for lunch or dinner, and once again our tactic worked. Lunch was at El Moro on Av. Javier Rojo Gomez. Both of us couldn’t go past a burrito, one chicken and one arrachera. We cut in half so we got to taste both, a perfect solution to indecision! 🙂

The burritos were freshly made and tasted fantastic, especially with a smothering of hot Mexican salsa. The beer was cold and all the staff were super happy and friendly. It was so good, that I am happy to recommend a visit to El Moro when visiting Puerto Morelos.

https://www.facebook.com/RestauranteDelMoro/

Symbolic to this little town is a crooked lighthouse, the old lighthouse dates back to 1905. Hurricane Beulah did some damage to its foundations in 1967, resulting in a definite lean to the old girl! It is painted up blue and white, and is absolutely charming, standing ominously overlooking the main beach.

The crooked lighthouse has become a marketing symbol for the town and a great backdrop to many holiday snaps.

The ongoing problem of sargassum in the Carribean was only slightly evident the day we visited Puerto Morelos. Tyre tacks on the beach confirmed a daily clean up of the beachfront had been performed, for which we were very grateful. The water was a beautiful blue with just a few spots a shade of brown from the sargassum staining the water.

We enjoyed our afternoon in Puerto Morelos, slowing the pace down and taking in the sunshine and views. It was wonderful after having spent weeks in busy areas of Playa del Carmen and Cozumel.

Other things you can do if you are visiting Puerto Morelos are:

1. Visit the botanic gardens

2. Arrange to go horse back ridding.

3. Swim or snorkel in the calm blue waters straight off the main beach.

4. Arrange a fishing tour.

5. Take a tour to the reef to snorkel or scuba dive

6. Take a trip in a glass bottom boat, perfect for viewing the reef and the plethora of fish out in the waters.

7. Wander the streets to check out the street art.

This is one quaint little town we will definitely revisit one day and stay a while.

Happy travels.

Here is a taste of Puerto Morelos from our YouTube channel.

Isla Holbox – Some Call It Paradise…I Think They’re Right!

In the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, not far from busy Cancun you will find this little piece of paradise called Isla Holbox. Isla Holbox sits just off the coast, where the Gulf of Mexico meets the Caribbean Sea.

The first thing you notice as you step off the ferry at Isla Holbox is the mode of transport, 4×4 sand-buggy style taxis. These taxis are available to take you through the white sandy streets to your accommodation or to some of the more remote beaches for a secluded swim in the sea.

The white sandy streets, instantly have a relaxing affect on visitors, inviting you to take off your shoes and just enjoy the laid back lifestyle. You really can’t help but be gently rocked into vacation mode.

Beaches on the Island are plentiful, with white sands and aqua coloured waters, it truly is beautiful and definitely inviting.

There are plenty of hammocks hanging in the waters; a perfect setting for a photo op or two. Most of the hammocks in the water have signage close by or above them – yet another ‘Insta shot’ coming up.

Once you’ve got the perfect shot, choose a spot on the beach or a beachside restaurant to sip on a refreshment and laze away a few hours. The location is perfect for it!

If lazing on the beach isn’t enough activity, there is a great assortment of tours, available.

You can arrange a tour to see flamingos and other bird watching activities, this tour also includes some island hopping. Other tours include snorkelling with the whale sharks or fishing, most tours include breakfast and lunch.

You don’t need to book ahead, just book any of the tours once you are on the island.

All of these tours looked amazing! 😁😁

While we were on Isla Holbox we took in the street art; as we have travelled throughout México, we have photographed many pieces of street art. The street art on Isla Holbox is excellent, my favourite pieces were the one’s on beach right in the water. 😄

Luckily for us, our accommodation host gave us a map of the street art locations on the island and pointed out a few of his favourites too. We were not disappointed!

If you would like to see more street art, check out ‘Street Art in Playa del Carmen clip’ on our You Tube Channel, Aussie-Travellers.

PS. Don’t forget to subscribe!

We booked our apartment through Booking.com, it was conveniently located, just one block from the main square, three blocks from the ferry terminal, and super close to a supermarket, a coffee shop, a taco stand and a traditional Méxican cocina (kitchen)…where the locals eat.

Typically the cocinas have one or two dishes on offer for the day. Often it depends on what fresh ingredients are available at the markets. The meal normally comes with rice, beans and a spicy salsa, they are great value and always taste amazing! My mouth is watering at the thought 🙂.

When visiting Mexico, we suggest you get away from the traditional restaurants and eat where the locals eat, to get a true Mexican experience.

Recently we did just that while we were house and pet sitting. Take a look…

How do you get to Isla Holbox?

We grabbed a ferry to visit Isla Holbox. The ferry terminal is at a little town called Chiquila. When you arrive in Chiquila, you will need to leave your car; there is plenty of choices for secure parking whilst you are on the island. No need to book ahead. I suggest you drive past all the hawkers trying to stop you and check the parks close to the terminal first. Most will have space and you can then simply walk across to the terminal.

You can also arrange a transfer on a small mini bus from the Cancun Airport to the ferry terminal at Chiquila. Alternatively, a transfer is available from Playa del Carmen. Once you are in Chequila you catch the ferry across to Isla Holbox. The bus transfer also includes the cost of the ferry. 🙂

Unfortunately for us we only had an overnight stay on the island, we had another House and Pet Sit commencing in Playa del Carmen the following day, with our favourite Yorkies Paco and Chili, so our visit to Isla was short.

If you are visiting México, we recommend putting Isla Holbox on your list of places to visit. You won’t regret it!

Cenote Cristalino – A Cool Oasis In A Jungle Setting

As we travelled around México, we found ourselves house & pet sitting in Playa del Carmen. We were lucky enough to be caring for two super cute Yorkies on this particular sit, Paco and Chili.

While we’re house sitting, we get in lots of cuddles with fur babies and some tourist time. 🙂

A perfect balance, right?!

We woke up to an absolute cracker of a day. It was a beautiful temperature and not a cloud in the sky; a perfect day for a swim in a cenote!

Cenote pronounced (say-NO-tay) 😃 is a Mayan word dzonot, which means “well”.

So, what is a cenote?

A cenote, is a water filled sink-hole made of limestone. A cenote can be open like a lake, or a partial or full cave with a water supply from an underground river system, guaranteeing the water is super chilly.

The Mayans believed a cenote was the gateway to the underworld!  It’s also thought that the cenotes were used for human and material sacrifices, such as jewellery and ceramics.

We set off thinking we would visit three cenotes on the day; Cenote Azul, Cenote El Jardin Eden and Cenote Cristalino.

Well, that didn’t happen!

We got to Cenote Cristalino and stayed for hours, we loved it there.

Having visited our fair share of cenotes in México, we were surprised at the delight we felt arriving at this one!

As we wandered down the path that leads you to the oasis that is Cenote Cristalino, we could see glimpses of the sunlight hitting the clear blue water. Our jaws dropped, and a “wow” escaped our mouths.

We’ve seen many cenotes in our time in Mexico, but it never gets old!

Mother nature keeps surprising us with each one we visit. The natural beauty is extraordinary.

Cenote Cristalino was a jungle oasis, and we quickly forgot the rest of our plans for the day.

The water was transparent and fresh! Surrounded by lush, vegetated pathways leading to a choice of open-air and partial caves cenotes; all we needed to do was choose which one first.

There was also a small jumping platform for the adventurous looking for quick entry into the fresh waters of the cenote. Dean was one of those contenders!

We had read a few blogs on cenotes around Playa del Carmen, so armed with this knowledge we made sure to take our snorkel gear with us to Cenote Cristalino. This meant we could see the plethora of fish and plant life that’s taken up residence here.

An added benefit to the fish you will find in this cenote is that they will kindly nibble off dead skin from your feet if you leave them dangling in the water for too long. Who needs to visit a foot spa?!

Another added bonus, and perhaps the biggest bonus of Cenote Cristalino, is that it is not visited by the tour buses!! Making it a relaxed and uncrowded watering hole. Our kind of paradise!

On top of that, the pathways, gardens and change rooms are clean and rubbish free, which was nice. There is also a small cafe on the grounds if you’re looking for refreshments.

If you would like to see footage of beautiful Cenote Cristalino, we invite you to check out our YouTube Channel, we posted a VLOG recently.

Here’s a little of what you need to know about Cenote Cristalino:

· The entrance fee 150 pesos for adults.

· Your entrance fee includes the optional use of a life jacket.

· Snorkel gear is available to hire at an additional cost.

· It’s open Monday to Sunday from 9am to 5pm.

How to get there:

Hire a taxi to drop you off or ride in a colectivo. Look for the colectivo with ‘Tulum’ on the front, from Playa del Carmen. (Let the driver know you want to get off at Cenote Cristanlino).

We recommend not to miss visiting this cenote when you come to México!

A big shout out to our hard working Editor, Jess Downes – she can be contacted at HTTP:www.linkedin.com/in/jess-downes

Jess can help you with all your editing and marketing requirements at a reasonable cost. 🙂

Chetumal, México – The Gateway To Bacalar Lagoon

Chetumal, the capital city of the Mexican state of Quintana Roo. 

And our housesitting travels saw us arriving here in June, one of the hottest months of the year. Note to self – pick your locations wisely when travelling anywhere throughout México in the summer.

The heat hits hard in this country!

Chetumal is located on that México-Belize border, overlooking a vast but shallow body of water called the Bay of Chetumal, which is a sanctuary for manatee. If you’re standing on the malecon looking out over the water you have a view to Belize, it’s that close. 

While we were in Chetumal we thought it we be great to do a day trip to attractive San Pedro, in Belize.  Unfortunately, we couldn’t get the ferry times to work with our house-sitting commitments. We had two dogs and three cats to look after on this particular trip.

There are lots of benefits to house/pet sitting. Free accommodation, lots of cuddles with pets, visits to locations not necessarily on the tourist trail, living in locals homes instead of staying in a hotel room to name a few. 🙂

But it does come with responsibilities. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

Water Taxi direct from Chetumal to Belize daily.

So what could we do in Chetumal for a month?

To figure this out we did what any good tourist would do, researched the Top 10 things to do in the area. Unfortunately, we found it a struggle to build a list of exciting activities.

Harsh?!?! Maybe….🤫

But here’s a couple of things we would recommend –

1. Bacalar Lagoons – this is my number 1 favourite place to visit in Quintana Roo. We visited Bacalar five times while we were in the area, see our blog for this little piece of Blue Paradise. Check out out blog on Bacalar Lagoons.

2. The Museum of Mayan Culture- located on Av de Los Héroes in Centro Chetumal. The museum is insightful and informative display of the Mayan culture.  Open Tuesday to Sunday, and it’s a great starting point to get an understanding of the Mayan culture. https://www.mexicoescultura.com/recinto/49787/museo-de-la-cultura-maya.html

3. Just a block away is another museum, Chetumal City Museum.  This museum focuses on Chetumal’s modern history, including the many hurricanes that have tried to wipe this Mexican coastal city away. It is a small museum just six rooms, the exhibits feature many fantastic displays, taking us a step back in time.

4. Strolling down the malecon. I have to admit Chetumal is not the most exciting of places we have visited in México. However, when you walk along the malecon, we were instantly relieved of the heat from the bitumen roads and concrete buildings by the beautiful breezes that blows across the bay. The walkways stretch for miles, perfect for walking with a couple of high energy dogs, and once the sun sets of an evening the area comes to life. You will find a explosion of colour, food vendors, families and loud music. It is also a great spot to pick up dessert. We loved people watching here, and seeing families out enjoying themselves.

Pet Sitting, Joe Joe and Roscoe

5. Get your tourist shot at the city sign. When visiting a new place we always look for the ‘city sign’ and a photo opportunity. Chetumal has several signs to choose from; most of them featuring aqua coloured water in the background making for that perfect ‘Insta’ shot!

6. We must admit, travelling as empty nesters and being sooo hot we decided not to visit the zoo. I’m sure it is a great day out for families though. You don’t have to travel too far; it’s right in the city. Check our map for the location. 🙂

Before our homeowners left for a month in France, they recommended we visit a delightful bakery in downtown Chetumal called Panaderia la Tartaleta. The bakery was just a few blocks from where we were staying and had a French influence in its sweet treats, baguettes & croissants. Freshly made juices and coffee are also on the menu and very tasty. The staff were super friendly, and the fans were a welcome relief from the heat. We recommend a visit if you need a very affordable and yummy morning tea or lunch.

We’ve pinned the location of this delightful bakery on our map in this blog.

A visit to a new place, also often finds us out searching for tacos! And we managed to find ourselves a few great tasting ones here. One of our favourites was Banquetakos Chetumal on Blvd Bahiaa, these guys really know how to load up a tortilla and provide an excellent taco experience. They also provide fantastic customer service, and helped us understand some of the localised Spanish terminologies. We really enjoyed eating here!

Some other things see while you’re in the area –

Just 1 hour from Chetumal on Highway 186 (not on the tourist trail) is the archaeological ruins of Kohunlich, Dzibanche and Kinicha. Kohunlich ruins would be rated in my Top 3 of the Mayan ruins we have visited in México. Definitely worth a visit, see our blog Kohunlich, Dzibanhe & Kinichna – Mayan Ruins in Southern Quintana Roo, Mexico.

Kohunlinch Archaeological Zone

Just 10 minutes up the road from Chetumal is a sleepy little fishing village called Calderitas, this area is also known as the Mexican Caribbean because of its laid back lifestyle and links to rasta roots. If a fresh seafood lunch on the edge of the water is what you are after, go to Calderitas.

Like a lot of the state of Quintana Roo, we came across an archeological site for us to explore – Oxtankah. The ruins of Oxtankah are in the Calderitas area and not on the tourist hit list which we were happy about, we virtually had the place to ourselves.

https://www.inah.gob.mx/zonas/102-zona-arqueologica-oxtankah

Although it was hot, Oxtankah is set amongst some very old shady trees, made us feel comfortable enough to spend an hour or more exploring the ruins and thinking about how life would have been like in this Mayan village. The ruins aren’t large but the site is impressive and worthy of a visit.

Once we were done at the ruins it was back to Calderitas to find a cold beer and enjoy the brilliant colour of the water.

While we don’t feel the need to return, we don’t regret the time we spent in Chetumal.

Many thanks to our Editor – Jess Downes http://www.linkedin.com/in/jess-downes

Bacalar Lagoons, México – Seven shades of Blue

Just a hop skip and a jump away from Chetumal is a little piece of paradise called Bacalar. Also known as Lagoon of Seven Colours; that’s how many shades of blue you can see when the sun shines on it.

All we could say is….  WOW!

No filters required

We had picked up a one month House and Pet sit in Chetumal, so we used it as a base to visit Bacalar Lagoons five times! Chetumal turned out to be a great location to access the Bacalar lagoons as it was only a 40-minute drive.

On a visit to Bacalar you can arrange to go sailing, kayaking, take a small boat tour, swim in pristine waters, explore the fort, admire the street art, relax in a little coffee shop, or laze in a hammock gently rocking in the water to take it all in. 

On our first visit, we took a small boat tour, arranged at the jetties down the hill from centro. A 2-hour tour cost us 250 pesos per person and was definitely worth every peso!

Our tour included visiting various locations including cenotes around the lagoon, it was so good we had smiles on our faces the whole time. Bacalar Lagoons showcases mother-nature at her all time best. 🙂

Here are some of the cenotes in the area…

Cenote Negro; as the boat comes into Cenote Negro, the bottom of the lake dramitically drops-off from 2 metres to over a 100 metres making the water appear black in the middle. This is one deep cenote!

Many cenotes have an underground river system that connects them to a fresh water source and because of this there is the potential for a strong downward pulling current near the exiting flows. This is rarely an issue but, the guide did mention a fatality at this cenote only the month before. As a result we were not allowed to swim and nor did we want to!

Cenote Negro is one cenote to be respectful of. 😀

Cenote Esmeralda; with a bottom of white sand turned the water the most brilliant shades of emerald blue. The tour boat stopped here to give us the opportunity for a swim in the shallow waters and of course to shoot some amazing photos.

#nofilterrequired

This cenote was absolutely amazing and an experience to remember. It was hard to describe how beautiful it was.

Cenote Cocalitos; the water is so inviting, and here you will find stromatolites, very cool.

Stromatolites are mother-nature’s water filtration systems and take the title of being the earliest fossil evidence of life on Earth with fossil records dating back 3.5 billions years.

What tha!?!?

There are only a few places in the world where stromatolites continue to grow such as Bacalar Lagoons, and Aussie-Travellers are proud to say, Shark Bay – Western Australia.

After our boat tour, we jumped back in the car to revisit Cenote Cocalitos. A small entrance fee of 35 pesos per person gives you access to a restaurant, change rooms, banos (toilets) and a green grassy area, perfect for relaxing.

Our favourite part at Cenote Cocalitos was the swings and hammocks hanging in the water; along with close up access to the stromatolites. There is something enjoyable about reclining in a hammock with the water washing around you… bliss.

Of cause, the hammock feature attracts many visitors waiting to grab that ‘Insta’ shot and we got ours too!

Cenote Azul, this cenote is surrounded by vegetation, is 360 metres in length and 90 metres deep; a perfect cenote for scuba divers. We didn’t make it to this cenote, but we have been told it is 25 pesos entrance fee.

Hopefully we will get to Cenote Azul one day.

On one of our subsequent visits to Bacalar we visited Los Rapdios, in the lower lakes of Bacalar, just 10 minutes drive from centro.

This area is the “Los Rapidos”, a very narrow channel, where the water streams through at a great pace between the lower and upper lagoons.

Los Rapidos ignited the child in us all, floating and giggling our way down the fast-moving channel. Floating rapidly along and giving an occasional wave or big smile to the the people relaxing in deck chairs, hammocks or lunching in the restaurant.

The sides of the channel at Los Rapidos are covered in stromatolites and the center of the channel is meters deep at several points. A truly unique place, with delightful cold water taking the edge of the heat of the day.

It was a fun experience to float in the water and be taken away.

If you are bored with swimming or taking in the spectacular colours of the lagoon what else will you find in Bacalar?

San Felipe Fortress, the fortress was built in 1727, and sits in the heart of Bacalar. It was built to protect the area from repeated attacks by Caribbean or European smugglers and pirates, in the day.

Today you can walk around the grounds or visit the museum, covering 300 years of history of Spaniards and Pirates. The museum also has prehispanic and colonial artifacts. http://sic.gob.mx/index.php?table=museo

What else can you do?

View the street art; it is plentiful around Bacalar.

The artwork here is spread throughout the township and in the little town of Xul-Ha, which is south of Bacalar.

Just one block from the zocalo, we had a coffee and lunch at El Manati. El Manati has an art gallery and gift shop at the front, with a great menu of healthy fresh food at reasonable prices.

Make sure you wander out the back of the gift shop as there is a tranquil garden, swings to relax in and a really fun teepee!

On two separate occasions we visited Sujuy-Ha Xul-Ha a lovely secluded lagoon area, south-east of Bacalar. The area is located far away from the hustle and bustle of the more tourist oriented locations. On the way expect some rough roads and follow the dirt for about 20 minutes, you will not be disappointed.

Jetty no. 1 at Sujuy-Ha Xul-Ha

Sujuy-Ha Xul-Ha has a good selection of jetties to swim off and endless aqua coloured water to enjoy, this is a real oasis.

Entrance is 50 pesos, access to toilets, showers and deck chairs. Bring your own picnic or snacks, the restaurant wasn’t open the times we visited. Once you are done eating, the resident ducks will help clean up your bread or fruit leftovers for you.

We spent many hours at Sujuy-Ha Xul-Ha and thoroughly enjoyed it, what an absolutely stunning place and highly recommended!

As I write this blog, I blissfully think about Bacalar and want to return ASAP!

Bacalar Lagoons is a must-see if you come to Mexico. 😄 I would go as far as to say it is my Number 1 destination in Mexico, for incredible natural beauty.

A big shout out to our Editor working hard in Oz, who I am sure would of loved to have visited Bacalar when she was in Mexico – Jess Downes. 😃 http://www.linkedin.com/in/jess-downes

Kohunlich, Dzibanche & Kinichná – Mayan Ruins in Southern Quintana Roo, México

Just 65 km west of Chetumal you’ll find a collection of very impressive Mayan ruins – Kohunlich, Dzibanche and the smaller site of Kinichná.

We decided to make a day trip of this area while my sister and her husband were here visiting México. And we were not disappointed!

We headed early from Chetumal, it took us about an hours drive on Federal Highway 186 to arrive at the first of three sites for the day.

1. Kohunlich Ruins

Kohunlich (pronounced Koe-hoon-leech) is set on 21 acres and surrounded by jungle. Much of the research we did on this site told us that the ruins are often surrounded by the eery sounds of howler monkeys. But they must of been sleeping the day we visited, we didn’t hear a thing!

This Mayan site was settled in 200 BC, and most of the structures were built in the early classic period between 250-600 AD. A regional city in its day, it was thought to have been used as a stopover point for traders along the southern trade route.

There is a lot of impressive ruins to see here, the most memorable being The Temple of the Masks, built-in 500 AD. With a central staircase, which currently you can still climb, the Temple of the Masks is decorated by large and extraordinary stucco masks that stand at 2.5 metres tall. Initially, it is believed that the temple was home to 8 of these masks, but only 5 remain today.

Another impressive structure located furthest from the entrance, and worth the walk, is an area known as 27 Steps. Its has a large flat platform, and due to it’s elevation, its believed to have been a location for housing elite.

The view from the top of 27 Steps is terrific, furnishing an overview of the jungle to the south, onward to the Belize border! At this point, we stopped to take in the serenity of the place and give our feet a much-needed rest.

Along with the temples that have been discovered at Konhunlich, it’s estimated there is over 200 mounds of un-excavated ruins here as well.

2. Dzibanche

After taking the sights of Konhunlich, we wandered back through the site and onto our next location a 30-minute drive away; Dzibanche ruins.

Dzibanche was settled in 200 AD and believed to have been a major city, and was the early capital of the Kan dynasty. In the Mayan language Dzibanche means “writing on wood”.

The site has a collection of temples to explore; Temple of the Owl, Temple of the Commorants, Temple of the Captives to name a few. The Commorants pyramid is the largest pyramid on the site, and is decorated with friezes sculptured from stucco and painted red. It is believed to be the funerary pyramid of one of the Kan dynasty king, Sky Witness.

There are numerous very high temples you can climb here. But be warned the steps are not an average height, we often found ourselves using our hands and feet to climb up to the top. Hard work but well worth it.

A hot tip for visiting these ruins, make sure you bring water with you, it gets sweltering, and you’ll be grateful for the refreshment after climbing the temples.

3. Kinichná

Kinichná, is a smaller site and close to Dzibanche, and it was our final visit for the day!

Not a lot is excavated at this site, other than the main pyramid, “House of the Sun” which is absolutely enormous.

We were pretty tired by this stage, but my sister, Liz and I felt the urge to conquer the final pyramid of the day.

We took on the challenge while our ‘other halves’ waited at the foot of the pyramid…to hold the camera! Cough cough…🤔

The pleasant surprise here is the massive trees throughout the site, attempting to take the ruins back into the earth. The ceiba tree in the car park area has its roots exposed, the roots were taller than Dean! So, of course he had to climb right on into them.

I’m glad we left Kicichná as our final stop, it was an excellent way to end the day. 🙂

You can find a few details for visiting each of the ruins below:

Kohunlich – open 7 days a week, 8.00am to 5.00pm (last entry at 4.30 pm) we recommend you go early, it’s cooler and you will beat the tour buses. Entrance fee is 65 pesos per person.

Dzibanche, open 7 days a week, 8.00am to 5.00pm (last entry at 4.30pm). Entrance fee is 60 pesos per person.

Kinichná – open 7 days a week, 8.00am to 5.00pm (last entry 4.30pm). Entrance fee – no additional cost, included in the entrance fee for Dzibanche.

What to bring with you:

1. Take plenty of water

2. Sunscreen

3. Wide brimmed hat

4. Bug spray

5. Camera

6. Snacks/lunch in as cool bag (there is no cafes or restaurants at the ruins)

7. Your sense of adventure.

8. Energy! You’ll need it.

PS. There is no public transport to these sites, we recommend hiring a car (unless you have one), hire a taxi for the day – around 1200-1500 pesos, or book a tour.

Once again, thanks goes out to our Editor Jess Downes http://www.linkedin.com/in/jess-downes

Cañon Del Sumidero – Magnificent Mother Nature

Tuxla Gutiérrez (Tuxla) is the capital of the southern Mexican state of Chiapas.

A short drive from Tuxla is Chiapa de Corzo, a Pueblo Magico town and the starting point for a river cruise through Cañon del Sumidero! The canyon is a most impressive natural attraction, formed some 40 million years ago by a geological fault.

It’s located within the 50,000-acre national park, Parque Naćional Cañon del Sumidero. Whether you’re staying in Tuxla or the popular tourist town of San Cristóbal de Las Casas, there’s no shortage of organised tours you can do to see it.

For us, however, our travel style is if we can drive ourselves to a destination, saving us time and pesos, we do it! And it was just a simple 20-minute drive from Tuxla for us to arrive in Chiapa de Corzo.

Parking on a side street close to the centro area, we didn’t have to look hard to find the tour boats. Pueblo Magico Tourism employees are wandering around the streets everywhere, ready to point you in the right direction.

Taking ourselves to Chiapa de Corso saved us a lot of pesos. It was only 250 pesos for a 2-hour boat ride up the Grijalva River to observe the imposing cliffs of this natural wonder.

The only catch is, the boat needs to be full (around 15 people) before they set off. Fortunately for us, on the day we visited, it took just 5 minutes to get on a full boat.

Life jackets are provided and wearing one is non-negotiable, so I hope orange is your colour!

I also suggest bringing sun cream, as the boats do not offer covers for shade and rightly so. You will want your view of the highest point to be uninterrupted. At the deepest part of the gorge, the rock walls rise a staggering 1000 metres!

En route through the canyon, there are multiple stops to view and photograph crocodiles, spider monkeys, bird life and the natural formations of the canyon, such as the Christmas Tree (Arbol De Navidad).

The Christmas Tree waterfall is an extraordinary formation of moss-covered green rocks formed on the side of the cliff face, with the appearance of the branches of a tree.

In addition, the tour operator will pull into a cave alcove which has a shrine to the Virgin De Guadalupe. Virgin De Guadalupe is very much a part of Mexican culture and a powerful symbol of the country’s Christianisation.

The unpleasant side of this shrine is the amount of plastic rubbish that gathers in this quiet spot on the river.

Don’t let the plastic deter you, though. It truly is a magnificent and unforgettable experience.

Bucket-list worthy! 😃

Edited by Jess Downes – http://www.linkedin.com/in/jess-downes

Puerto Escondido Beaches – All You Need To Know

PUERTO ESCONDIDO BEACHES: ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW

In Spanish, Puerto Escondido means ‘hidden port’. Located on the Pacific Coast of southern Mexico, Puerto (as the locals call it) is exactly that. Its home to around 50,000 people and some of the best beaches in Mexico!

The tropical paradise has something for everyone, surfies, hippies, families and retirees. Everyone can enjoy its delights. And we were truly blessed to call this little piece of paradise home for the first eight months of our journey here.

The word is out on this Mexican jewel though, so you had better get in quick before the crowds arrive!

But before we get into telling you all about Puerto’s best asset – its beaches. Something to note is that the area explodes with Mexican tourists during Semana Santa (Easter) and Christmas, so if you want the tranquil version of Puerto, avoid these times.

When we put the wheels in motion for our dream lifestyle, we were looking for our little piece of paradise, our utopia, our happy place and we found it here in Puerto 😊😊

Puerto has an excellent selection of beaches; beaches for surfing, beaches for swimming and barren beaches perfect for long walks.

Often in Mexico, you need to pay to get to a beach, or there could be restricted access due to large resorts. I’m happy to tell you that this doesn’t happen in Puerto. All of the beaches here are easy to access and within a 10 minute cab ride of each other.

So, without further ado, here’s a list of what’s on offer…

Playa Carrizalillo

Playa Carrizalillo is the number 1 beach in Puerto, in our opinion. We hands-down love this beach! During our 5 month stay in the Rinconada area of Puerto we swam here a lot. It became part of our daily exercise routine and an integral part of our life. With 168 steps down and 168 steps up, this beach makes you work for it! But the photo opportunities from the top are worth it – it is truly ‘Insta’ worthy.

Once at Carrizalillo beach, you will find about ½ dozen restaurants to enjoy food, refreshments and hire a deck chair from (this usually costs around 200 pesos for the day). We visited almost every day and generally opted to sit on the sand, head in for a swim or two and relax in the sun.

The waves along the break here can look pretty big. However, they tend to roll in and not dump you, except if you’re right on the waters-edge. That’s where we often saw people standing in the shallows knocked down by the waves and rolled up on the sand like skittles. It was a joy to watch them having the best time and exploding in fits of laughter as it happened.

Don’t get intimidated by the break though, once past this small section of waves you can float in bliss with no currents or rips to worry about at all. Carrizalillo provides a very safe place to swim.

We also had some great snorkelling experiences to the right-hand side of the beach (right as you look out at the ocean). On several occasions we lugged our gear down the 168 steps to enjoy the excellent snorkelling to be had watching multiple varieties of fish and other sea life such as turtles (we wished we had a GoPro to capture the underwater wonders).

Carrizalillo is also an excellent location for wanna-be surfers. The break here is nice and calm, unlike Zicatela or La Punta beach. You can arrange lessons right on the beach and test your skills on the long, smooth waves. Alternatively, if you are in Rinconada on the “restaurant strip”, you can visit Oasis Surf School for great prices and people.

Playa Coral

Still in the area, and the next beach north of Carrizalillo, is Playa Coral. This beach is not well signed and it’s a bit of a hidden cove, so look for a dirt track at the end of Calle Dos Norte or ask the taxi driver to point it out (I’m not joking).

This beach may be hard to find but it’s well worth it!

Playa Coral has beautiful blue water and is a great spot for snorkelling. Don’t be surprised to arrive and find you have the beach to yourself or your one of just a handful of locals who know how to get down to it.

Once at the beach, you will find palm trees casting their shade on the sand, large trees to sit under and relax away from the sun and open areas to enjoy the sun’s rays.

There’s an option for all types of beach goers.

There is very little down there apart from a small café that we saw open rarely. The café is in the bottom of the abandoned resort that once sat on top of the hill. We heard stories that a section of the hotel slid down the hill to the sand many years ago after heavy rain.

The story and the isolation of this place makes it a must see.

Playa Bacocho

A beach made for a long morning walk or a romantic evening stroll hand in hand.

At the beginning of Playa Bacocho are two beach clubs; Club de Playa Cocos and Club de Playa Villa Sol (Villa Sol). Villa Sol is excellent and offers a day pass for 200 pesos. This allows you to use their facilities all day, and at the end of the day the 200 pesos comes off your food and drink cuenta (bill/check). Food and drinks are very reasonably priced here with a cerveca (beer) setting you back around 35 pesos.

In the high season, Villa Sol has free movies, screened in English, on the beach at 7pm every Wednesday night. There is something great about watching a movie on the beach as the sun sets and the ocean roars in the background, uniquely relaxing.

Also, at 5pm every day on Playa Bacocho there is a release of newly hatched turtles. For 100 pesos you receive a 20-minute educational talk and then you get the opportunity to name, photograph and release your own turtle.

The volunteers who take care of the hatchlings will let you know about the challenges faced by these cute little guys in their first moments of life. Even just hatching and making it to the water is monumental.

Unfortunately, turtle eggs are still seen as a delicacy by many locals and often freshly laid batches are dug up to sell or eat. Volunteers run regular campaigns to try to educate the community in a hope to change their ways, but it’s a long road.

Tortuga hatcheries are very common throughout the Mexican coastlines; many attract sponsorship from businesses to help protect the turtles. The hatcheries play a key role in ensuring eggs are protected until they are hatched. Once hatched, the baby turtles make it to the ocean. Only 1 in 1000 turtles survive from eggs to adult, and the hope is that by providing the protection they do, hatcheries increase the odds in favour of the turtles.

Playa Zicatela

This beach goes on forever, about 2.7 km we’ve been told. It’s a world-class surfing destination and is also known as the Mexpipe. Waves here reach staggering sizes with perfect tubes and a sandy bottom.

Playa Zicatela is home to two international surfing competitions; in July each year the Big Wave comp and Mexpipe Warrior comp a few months later. These competitions need to be seen to believed, they are jaw dropping!

Until we came here in 2018, I had never seen a surfer wearing crash helmets, inflatable vests and padded pants.

Once decked out, the rider needs to be towed out to the back of the break, just to catch the wave. These were some serious waves!

If you are into food, the northern end of Playa Zicatela provides a huge selection of restaurants on the beach.

We love visiting Playa Zicatela for a sunset drink. The Mexican sunset overlooking the Pacific Ocean is nothing short of spectacular and we never tire of it and neither will you I’m sure.

La Punta

La Punta is on the southern end of Playa Zicatela and is where dozens of surfies hang out ready to catch the perfect point break waves.

Life is a little bit more chilled and definitely ‘hippie-ish’ at this end of town – wearing shoes is optional.

You’ll also find a great range of reasonably priced alternative and Mexican restaurants at La Punta. Being Aussie Travellers, we often went to El Lugar, where Aussie Sue the Manager/Owner, regularly bakes amazing meat pies that provided us with a little taste of home!

Perched on top of the hill at La Punta there is a little lighthouse we liked to walk up to. This trek was only accessible at low tide. There is cave access through the rocks below the lighthouse which you need to navigate in order to get through to the next beach along. Once through the cave, you can climb the rocks to the lighthouse and look down along the whole of La Punta to Zicatela and beyond.

The same beach also has a turtle sanctuary about 20 minutes walk further south. This area feels very untouched, and you’ll regularly come across turtle nests and tracks on the sand from the night before. We loved the seclusion that this beach offered, most of the time we would be the only ones there. It felt like our own private beach to wander like new world explorers.

Similar to Playa Zicatela, care needs to be taken swimming at La Punta, watch for currents and large waves and don’t risk going out too far, or better still DO NOT SWIM HERE go to Carrizalillo instead.

Playa Manzanillo & Playa Angelito

We have grouped these two petite beaches together because they’re right next to each other and only separated by a short walk across the sand and some rocks.

Both are super popular with the locals and tourists. They offer safe swimming, great snorkelling and a selection of restaurants and deck chairs to hire.

The area is also a marina for many local fishing boats and tour boat operators. Go here if you’re keen for activities like dolphin watching or fishing tours. Just chat to one of the many hawkers on the beach.

Playa Manzanillo and Play Angelito are close to the centro of Puerto Escondido and a taxi ride down to these beaches is around 35 pesos.

They a well worth a visit.

Bahia Principal

Bahia (pronounced Ba-ia like bay) Principal is right in the heart of Puerto and one of the most popular beaches with local families. It’s a busy spot for swimming, eating, loud music and good old fashion fun.

There is no shortage of great Mexican restaurants, with tables and chairs right on the sand overlooking the water. Here you can kick off your shoes and feel the sand under your feet while sipping a cerveza and enjoying the view.

Bahia is another place to go to arrange tours for fishing and whale and dolphin watching. There are dozens of boats moored right offshore in the protected bay, tour operators walk the beach and will offer you prices and details on the spot.

Tours typically start at sunrise and run for around three hours to ensure you aren’t out in the heat of the day. On our trip, the skipper took us out searching for whales, and we were fortunate to find a mother and calf. After which, we spent a few minutes slowly gliding alongside them watching the two below the surface and enjoying a brief part of their journey north.

Next, we headed further offshore and found dozens of dolphins, along the way we stopped several times to enjoy swimming with the dolphins and turtles.
A great adventure and worth getting up early to enjoy.

Pineapple covered with chili, is amazingly good

Whichever beach you choose in Puerto, I’m sure you will be delighted.