Category Archives: Mexico

Travelling on long distance buses in Mexico

I have travelled around Mexico a few times and always catching long distance buses. I find it easy, cheap and a good way to travel.

ADO, the largest bus company in Mexico, covers the whole country – some parts more than others – and you can even buy tickets online in advance. I used www.ado.com.mx/ado2 to check travel times and www.clickbus.com.mx to buy my tickets. In one occasion I decided to change my date of travel and changing ticket at the ADO station was a quick and smooth process.

Long distance ADO buses are very comfortable, with wide seats, lots of leg room, TV, a/c and toilets on board. They are also reasonably priced: a first class ticket from Cancun to Chetumal (6hrs) cost me less than MEX$400 (around £14)!

I caught ADO also from Cancun airport to the main bus terminal in town. The airport bus service runs every half hour and takes around 35min to town. For MEX$70 it’s a much better deal than any form of private transport (taxi or hotel shuttle).

When I was in Bacalar I then discovered another bus company, called Mayab. It is part of the ADO group, serving mainly the states of Yucatan and Quintana Roo, and provides cheaper service than the main ADO. The downside is that buses are not as good and travel times are longer due to the higher number of stops, yet they offer a valid and cheaper alternative to ADO. Tickets can be bought online using the ADO website or at bus stations themselves.

And how about the experience of travelling with lots of local people and discovering the country at a slower pace?!

Isla Mujeres – part 2

What can you do in Isla Mujeres once you are tired of lazing around at the beach and going shopping?

A popular attraction is the Tortugranja, a turtle farm run by the Government in partnership with private funding that can be easily reached by taxi or bicycle. The centre was established to protect the sea turtles and increase their population. Accessible to visitors, in addition to the indoor and outdoor turtle pools there is also a small section with other marine life like fish, crabs, seahorses.

Not far from Tortugranja there is a beautiful hidden cove that was indicated to us by a local lady. Most tourists go instead to the beach and restaurant area by the Playa Tiburon restaurant. It is still interesting to walk around there and watch local fishermen on their boats or preparing seashells for sale. And don’t forget to try the Tikinxik, a local traditional fish dish!

I also recommend anyone should hire a bicycle and go around and explore Isla Mujeres this way.
Cycle to the island’s southern point, where you will see the ruins of a tiny Mayan temple as well as an open air art exhibition. You may also come across a few iguanas enjoying the sun along the walking path.
Wander around the streets outside the main tourist area for a more authentic feel of the place. Have a fresh conocut from a stall by the side of the street. Enjoy riding in the sea breeze.

Then return to the main town for a drink and meal in the warm evening weather.

 

Isla Mujeres – part 1

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Statue of a woman in Isla Mujeres

The Island of Women. This is what the name “Isla Mujeres” means. Half hour by ferry from Cancun, this small island (7Km in length) has become in recent years a very popular tourist destination for those who are not so keen on the Cancun party scene and prefer a quieter environment.

mexicophotogallery_066Yet for me, arriving from quiet Bacalar and largely undeveloped Caye Caulker, it was like being in Las Vegas by the sea. I hated the crowds that packed the beaches during the day and the streets/restaurants/shops/bars in the evening. Too many tourists, not enough authenticity.

But there are reasons for the crowds: the island is beautiful.
Playa Norte (North Beach) – with its crystal clear waters and white sand – is amazing. I spent a lot of time in and out of the water, also to cool down from the heat.

The Malecon (esplanade) offers opportunities for leisurely walks. It was especially busy with families on Christmas day, everyone enjoyed the waves and the sea breeze. A section of the Malecon gets busier towards sunset, when fitness-addicts  appear for jogging and a varied range of outdoor gym-related activities. After dark you will also find people sitting for a relaxing end of the day in front of the sea.

The main town is certainly full of tourist shops but if you just wander away from the crowds and explore the streets further away from the main pedestrianised area, you will find interesting sights, including lots of beautiful murals painted on the house walls.

And if you want to buy souvenirs, avoid the overpriced shops along the main drag and head to the Artisan’s Market just off the town centre. Nothing is better than buying something that has just been sewn in front of you! And how about those old Singer sewing machines?!

More on Isla Mujeres in my next post…

Discovering Bacalar town

The name “Bacalar” most likely derives from the Mayan b’ak halal, which means “surrounded by reeds”. The town was named a “Pueblo Magico” in 2006 because of the magical experience it offers thanks to its natural beauty and historical relevance.

So when you are tired of trying outdoor activities, go for a walk around town! The highlights are the main square and the Fuerte de San Felipe Bacalar (the fort), which was completed in 1729 and is open to visitors. But don’t miss exploring the streets, with their shops, restaurants and food stalls. The town comes alive at night, when most of the eateries start serving food.

A 10-min walk from the centre is the municipal market. If you’ve been following me for some time you’ll know how much I love markets! I love the vibe, the colours, the people, the interactions that develop in what is often a loud and chaotic environment. The market and the little grocery stores in Bacalar were quieter than I expected. But the colours and the people didn’t disappoint.

La laguna de Bacalar

If you are planning to spend time in the eastern part of the Yucatan peninsula (Quintana Roo state) but are not keen on the tourist crowds of places like Cancun and Playa del Carmen, why not heading south towards Bacalar? The ‘laguna de Bacalar’ (Bacalar lake) is located about 5-6 hours from Cancun by bus (40 minutes from the nearby Chetumal), close to the border with Belize. Not as popular as the rest of the peninsula, it is an absolute jewel and deserves a few days’ visit.

When I quickly researched online info about the area before travelling, what really attracted me were the amazing colours of this “laguna des siete colores” (lake of the seven colours, because of its different shades of blue). And the opportunity for lots of outdoor activities.

Crystal-clear waters and white sands characterise the lake, which is about 42Km long and no more than 2Km wide. It looks amazing even on a dark sky day. You can imagine the feeling of watching great sunrises and then jumping in the lake for a very early morning swim!

You could spend the whole day just sitting by the shore and relaxing and going for a swim every now and then. But there is more to do around the Bacalar lake. Here is what I did:

Boat tour
I joined a catamaran tour arranged by my hostel and we sailed up and down the lake for three hours. One  of the stops was at the Canal de Los Piratas (Canal of the Pirates). 34Km-long, its mouth is characterised by sulfur mud that can be used as skin exfoliant. We did indeed have a bit of a body scrub there, hehe. The water was crystal clear and you’d think you were in the Caribbean sea, not in a freshwater lake. We also went to the Cenote de las Brujas, one of the many cenotes (sinkholes) in the area. Snorkelling at the edge of the cenote was a way to see some fish but don’t expect anything extraordinary. Yet the experience of floating in the water over a hole that is about 110m deep is not to be missed!

Kayaking
Whether you join an organised tour or just rent a kayak from your hostel or guesthouse (if they offer the service), I strongly recommend this activity. I rented kayaks with friends for 2 hours and we crossed the lake to reach the Canal de Los Piratas again. Great paddle in the late afternoon and it was so much fun!

Cycling
Thought about renting a bicycle? This is a great way to explore the area. I cycled to the Cenote Azul, the most popular in the area because of its diving opportunities and easy access from the road. The 6.5Km ride (each way) on up-and-down roads on a heavy and old fashioned bicycle was a bit of a struggle at times. But jumping into the cenote water at the end made it all worth it.

Tired of being active and just want to relax? Well, you can explore the town of Bacalar. Watch out for my next post for that!