Thursday, 27 September 2012

Archaeological sites of the Yucatan

The town of Merida was the next stop in our Mexican adventure, as we based ourselves there for a few days to explore the archaeological sites dotted around. The city itself is well worth devoting some time to, with its beautiful central plaza, countless restaurants and buzzing market. As we wanted to determine our own itinerary and pace, we hired a car, and after navigating the one-way street system, were out on the open road.

Driving in that part of Mexico is extremely straightforward, with good quality roads and decent hire cars. It also gave us the opportunity to drive through small towns and villages, catching a glimpse of the country outside the major hubs. We took a wrong turning once or twice, but on the whole found everywhere easy to navigate.

Day one found us visiting three of the smaller (smaller being a relative term - they weren't exactly 'small'...!) sites in the area - Uxmal, Kabah and Oxkintok. Each had their own special features and were mostly empty of other people - Oxkintok in particular is far off the beaten track and only accessible by car, and we were its sole visitors all day. Although not as well preserved and reconstructed as nearby Chichen Itza or Tulum, they helped build a more detailed picture of the Mayan empire and different building styles, and I personally loved the soft lines of the temples and dramatic views at Uxmal. Here are a few pictures from the day:

Symmetry at Uxmal

Soft stone with a pinkish hue

Beautifully preserved carvings high up on a pyramid
A lone arch stands in a clearing
Low, angular shapes were common throughout the area

A temple peeps over the tops of trees
We also spent time at Loltun cave, a historically-rich cave system containing some of the earliest traces of human civilisation in the area and acting as a refuge for people in times of trouble until very recently. The soaring ceilings and dripping stalactites were incredible, and our two hour tour a much-needed break from the high temperatures outside.


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