Couple months in Mexico. Looking for suggestions.

Discussion in 'Americas' started by Jamie Z, Sep 23, 2020.

  1. sasho

    sasho Dual Personality

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    Yucatan!!! Definitely!! I've enjoyed my brief time there, although in a car.

    Skip Tulum, or at least avoid the way overcrowded tourist area along the beach. Stay in town, if you decide to visit Tulum.

    I liked Valladolid very much. Skip Chichen Itza alltogether, and go to Ek Balam instead.
    I didn't make it to Merida, but heard is definitely worth a visit.
    #21
  2. Sjoerd Bakker

    Sjoerd Bakker Long timer

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    For this your very first ever ,never before visited , foray into the Yucatan peninsula I would not be inclined to recommend that you skip any place if your route happens to place you in some of the heavily touristed areas . You say you are going to be a month or three in Mexico so you will have the time to wander without panicked looks at the clock and calander .Tap on these Guia Roji pages for bigger , better detail .
    37.1 Campeche, CAMP,. Merida, YUC.jpg 37.2    Cancun , Valladolid  , YUC ,QR.jpg
    For the truly nitty-gritty fine detail like street names then refer to your smart phone and zoom into the scale of house number detail when you need that .
    I expect that you have a good paper map of Mexico and are not going to rely totally on maps.@me and googlemaps on a smart phone for the route ideas ;you need a BIG picture so you don't wind up passing by neat stuff without even an inkling that you were oh-so close . Don't avoid some places just because there might be a crowd of tourists there - they are there usually because that particular site has some unique feature . There will also be a zillion other places with equally unique reasons to visit them where there will be few other strangers and it will all average out on your crowd-stress monitor .
    There are thousands of km of narrow state roads ,mostly paved , on which you can wander through the country side scrubby jungle or pockets of farmable soil. Don’t fall into a dolt’s habit of sticking to Mex 180 and then reporting that there are no towns between Campeche and Merida- ; that is because the 180 has been rerouted around most of the interesting towns to carry all the trucks and intercity bus traffic .”

    You want variety , so here are some suggestions .
    - Campeche city , get a room in Hotel Campeche , at Calle 57 and the PLAZA and walk all over the old fortified-city center ,museums and all that stuff while the bike is standing in the hotel backroom . There is a big Spanish fortress on the coastal bluff at far south end of the city worth a walk around after you ride there.
    -Mayan ZA ( Zonas Arceologicas , in no particular order ) east of Campeche ,off Mex 261 ,the Edzna ZA is a biggie , south of Hopelchen the Dzitbalchen ZA gets fewer tourists . Along Mex 261 north to Merida are a pile of ZA and if you base in Muna ( motel or camping ) you can spend days visiting a bunch of them within a 60km radius : Uxmal is a famous one and there are smaller ones called Kabah, Sayil ,Labna ,Chacmultun etc and caverns and cenotes , plus some old haciendas converted to museum function and boutique hotels or a combination.
    Visit the Hacienda Sotuta Peon where tours are available of the working sisal plantation and the factory that demonstrates how those leaves were processed for their fiber for making twine and rope.

    Don'tbe shy about cities ,some of them have a pyramid right in town ,like Izamal , GEDC0438.JPG
    The small Mayan towns are all interesting with their typical palm rooved stone cabins. Have a walk around and take note of how the house gardens/ farmyards are arranged and note the plants that grow in the stone walls too.
    Dont forget to visit Chixculub, a small dusty village on the nearly desert plain north of Merida , it is the place where the big meteorite strike caused the extinction of the large dinosaurs, the extreme of climate change .It also fractured the limestone bedrock and gave rise to the arc of the Zona de Cenotes across the top end of the peninsula . Hundreds of cenotes dot the land and most villages were founded near or on top of a cenote . Some are like small crater lakes , others you might mistake for an old well at streetside with a stone ring and a bucket ; just west of Valladolid visit the two huge cavern cenotes at Dzitnup.
    There is ranching and farm land on the plain north of Valladolid, fishing villages on the coastal lagoons where flamingos are found in flocks , big sea water evaporation works for massive salt harvests , it is not all about Cancun .
    But there are inexpensive hotels IN the “ old” town Cancun along Mex 180 so no need to spend $120USD for a room .From there you can ride down the lagoon ring and admire or deplore the massive tourist hotel development zone $$$$$.

    At the south side of the Yucatan peninsula there are also a good array of Mayan ZA , even in Chetumal . Along Mex 186 at and near Xpujil there are a cluster worth a look .

    South into the jungle of the Peten plain there are some big important sites worth a visit .Each year it seems they add another ZA for public visit .
    Back in the 80’s I went to see the Kohunlich ZA which was then still only a few years open for public viewing .I was an only tourist and they assigned a body guard with shotgun to accompany me on the walk around because they said there might be a Jaguar among the ruins .

    Be sure to visit Bacalar and appreciate the view of its turquoise water.
    You may after all run out of time !
    ,
    #22
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  3. Jamie Z

    Jamie Z I'm serious. Supporter

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    Thanks Sjoerd; great suggestions!

    I do have a Guia Roji from 2006, and I've got a new fold-out map from ITMB. I plan to carry the fold-out map with me on the road. Plus, as you surmised, I've got maps downloaded on my phone, and I'll also be carrying a 10" tablet with offline maps loaded which is a good size to get a big picture overview of a region (though still not as good as a big paper map).

    I'm going to go through your recommendations and add them to my list. Thanks for speaking up because I really thought Yucatan was a flat, empty desert.
    #23
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  4. Tricepilot

    Tricepilot Bailando Con Las Estrellas Super Moderator Super Supporter

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    Sjoerd is our Chairman of the Board of Mexico Cognoscenti. :thumb
    #24
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  5. Cal

    Cal Long timer

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    Had to look up that word.. Cognoscenti:-)
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  6. Sjoerd Bakker

    Sjoerd Bakker Long timer

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    Flat and featureless the YUCATAN is most definitely NOT. Sorry that I spoiled the surprise for you of discovering this facet when you get there ,eventually , You have been reading too many travel stories by the " whiner types " who expect, almost demand, that every place they wish to ride is groomed to their preference before they deign to cast an eye there . You know , the type who take a window seat on a bus,train or airplane and promptly pull down the shade so that they can go to sleep or read or these days stick their face into a computer screen until they reach their "destination" and hit the bars. In the Yucatan you will not find mountains of course but there are plenty of changes in elevation in the form of rolling hills which offer plenty of good scenery , forests in its east with fair sized trees and pockets of good farmland where colonies are established . The north is fairly dry and has a very thin soil cover , sometimes just bare bedrock ,especially north of Merida and you will see some cactus varieties ,but nothing like Sonora .
    If you look at the map see the diagonal path of Mex 184 ; it is a highway which runs along the north foot of the Puuc Ridge where the soils washed down from the hills are rich and have forever been an important district of growing food . There are modern day towns and many ZA .
    The original forest cover has long been removed in most of the Yucatan ,actually the classic Mayans already did that and groomed particular trees . After their civilization collapsed that all reverted to semi wild growth and then it was plundered by the Spanish influx ,then by industrial interests and farming . What you see now is the fifth or fifteenth ?? regrowth . Left alone nature will recover remarkably in time .

    The road map will already hint at the population density in Yucatan by way of the fequent shown primary roads. The coastal fringe has less soil and fewer people .In Quintana Roo you notice fewer roads too but it has more forest, jungle , and lots of Guia-unmarked small narrow roads connecting tiny Maya villages . Use those forest roads and soon enough you can spot chicle trees with hash-mark scars from which chicleros collect the sap for making rubber and Chiclets .That was a dying trade but recent efforts have started a revival
    . DSCN1054.JPG roadside Mex 261 small ZA of Tohcok west of Hopelchen,Campeche.Yes that is a cactus growing on that tree.If here be sure to look inthe south side road verge where there is an ancient Mayan fabricated cistern hidden underground to store water for the dry season,no cenotes here.
    DSCN1039.JPG modern farm west of Hoplechen
    . DSCN0947.JPG Spanish fortress of Bacalar , It cotains a museum about the pirates of the Caribbean who sailed their shallow draft boats here for refuge and recreation and it has a display about the later Campeche wood harvesting to supply the tanning industry with chemicals from that tree .Stuff you rarely read about
    DSCN0973.JPG remnant of an old hacienda company store building with peon cottages still used
    DSCN1004.JPG traffic in a Mayan town along the Puuc Ridge.Notice the stereo sound system in the second taxi
    #26
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  7. holckster

    holckster dougholck Supporter

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    Stop by again for a few days in California so we can check out the spots you missed last visit.
    I've ridden Baja and Copper Canyon so can fill you in on my experience.

    Check out Mitas tires, they got much better mileage than Tourance on my Alaska trips.
    Purchase from Revzilla.

    Safe Travels
    #27
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  8. Jamie Z

    Jamie Z I'm serious. Supporter

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    PM Sent.
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  9. kantuckid

    kantuckid Long timer

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    Itza is worth the visit IMO and one of thops times I feel a gvmnt guide is worth a few pesos. Same for Tulum historic site and Palenque and a few others.
    The town ain't much either. Travel south past the brief hotel district into the reserve area and the beach gets less crowded as no commercial stuff down there. In that area at least one contractor will take you out into the freshwater areas-well worth a day there and camp on the beach as do the locals.
    It might be touristy but we always enjoy Akumal for both the historic Mayan ruins and the snorkling. What can be wrong with water fun then the biggest Mexican buffet I've ever seen? and margaritas and beer on tap as you wish. Get a discount ticket online. Soimetimes I/we join the crowd which isn't too bad there as a big place.
    We spent one Christmas in Merida (2 of our 3 sons were in the Middle east then) and it is a very historical place. In the Yucatan countryside many cenotes and haciendas now open for high dollar stays. Valladoid has a coffee processor and several other local points of interest. They have a tourista police group who speak English and the small town has tried to become a tourist spot. We like it and bought several really nice hammocks there at a holiday zocolo craft sale. The prison as you travel onward toward Chichen Itza has inmate made hammocks for sale on the front lawn area near highway. They are the most beautiful I've seen anywhere in Yucatan but also quite pricey compared to nice but plainer versions sold elsewhere. the real trick is to buy one with no middleman.
    FWIW, Mexican roads are dangerous, as are any roads, anywhere. We have never forgotten comin upon a head-on collision accident near that prison, both front van people were dead in that one!
    Fact is that down there your more likely to see poorly marked or not marked at all construction. Not uncommon to see pop btls with oily rags to mark serious road work. I just about bought the farm once outside Saltillo where an new asphalt ramp had a pavement height jump of say 12" where it connected with the hwy into town. The engineering's good, it's the construction practices that are off IMO.
    #29
  10. kantuckid

    kantuckid Long timer

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    Now, not later is the time to really see the Yucatan peninsula! Given the fact that it's turning into tourist place fast plus the jungles being cut down and shipped away fast. See it while you can.
    #30
  11. Sidney

    Sidney Been here awhile

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    I wouldn't skip Chichen Itza but I'd plan to be there first thing in the morning when they open and you'll have the place to yourself. After 10:00 a.m. or so the tour buses from Cancun/Playa show up and it's a typical over run tourist trap. (We stayed at the hotel next door and had a guide walk us through right at 8:00 a.m.)

    Ek Balam was great too and no one there. I'd hit all/as many of the Maya ruins as you can.

    Have fun,

    Sidney
    #31
  12. DoNR

    DoNR eyes open

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    Hey Jamie, I don't come around here much but very randomly stumbled across this post. Stoked for you, this trip sounds awesome!

    I live in San Diego about 20 minutes north of the border if you want somewhere to prep/re-supply before heading south. You're very welcome to stay here for a day or few if you'd like as well. All the tools, garage space, food, beer, etc you may need.

    I can add a few recommendations for Baja. Not sure if you've had to ride that bike through any sand, but that's probably going to be the limiting factor on where you can go.

    No recommendations for Yucatan but if you haven't been through Zacatecas, Guanajuato, Morelia I really enjoyed my time there and would suggest looking into them.
    #32
  13. Jamie Z

    Jamie Z I'm serious. Supporter

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    Bill!

    My tentative plan at the moment is to stay with a cousin in Phoenix, than angle down toward Baja, so your place would be right on the way. I'll be sure to contact you when I firm things up. I'm not sure yet when I plan to leave. It'll be mid January most likely, but I might decide to cut out early, sometime in December.

    Great to hear from you again.
    #33
  14. Glenn247

    Glenn247 Long timer Supporter

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    So I'm gathering the US-Mexican border is not as tightly closed as the US-Canadian border, despite both being "officially closed"; sound right?

    I'm hearing the border city of El Paso, TX is besieged by COVID-19 according to mainstream media reports...

    I'm just wondering what the real deal is out there as I'm not in the states this year...
    #34
  15. stormdog

    stormdog Long timer

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    I kind of scanned the whole thread real quick, but if you want some detailed Copper Canyon GPS tracks I can email you some fun routes including the ferry route between Choix and Urique
    #35
  16. Jamie Z

    Jamie Z I'm serious. Supporter

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    So far as I know, based on reports from other riders, it's no problem to enter Mexico.
    Depending on your definition of fun, I'll PM you my email to get those tracks.
    #36
  17. Gustavo

    Gustavo Motociclista Errante

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    COVID-19 cases are at all time high throughout most of Mexico. In the bigger cities (including Juarez and Chihuahua on the TX border) hospitals are running out of ICU capacity. If you go to the IMS thread, there is a more detailed discussion.

    Gustavo
    #37
  18. Gustavo

    Gustavo Motociclista Errante

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    Jamie, I looked at the map, but due to scale, I can only get a general idea of where you've been. But, that still doesn't tell me what do you like to see. Unlike, say, the US, Mexican cities are often interesting and different due to their history and location. So, while I would often advise people touring the US on a motorcycle to avoid most of the big cities, in Mexico, I'd say drive in, park the bike and walk around/take Ubers to different attractions to really get a sense of the city.

    Gustavo
    #38
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  19. Jamie Z

    Jamie Z I'm serious. Supporter

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    Thanks for this. On my last (only) trip through Mexico I did avoid cities. I'm generally not interested in going into large cities for various reasons, a big one is that I feel overwhelmed with no idea where to go. For the past few months I've been gathering POIs for Mexico (and other places) and I now have a few friends in Mexico (I think mostly in Guadalajara) so I will be able to go into a big city with some destinations in mind.

    This upcoming trip should see me spend more time in cities than I usually do.
    #39
  20. Cal

    Cal Long timer

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    I hear you with big cities, I try to avoid them and do mostly rural rides but that is not always possible. Most Mexican cities are okay if you have a destination in mind.....last winter I took 15 north through Guadalajara and I will not do that again! In eastern Europe the big cities have so much history I had to go into a few of them, not so bad with GPS
    #40