Tag Archives: Mexico

Warm Up to Riviera Maya

January cold temperatures make a warm weather getaway sounds enticing. The Riviera Maya in Mexico becomes an ideal escape as flights to Cancun are plentiful and most resorts offer all-inclusive rates which help make budgeting or peso pinching easier.

Azul Sensatori Beach
Azul Sensatori Beach

I recently spent a few nights at Karisma’s Azul Sensatori, a hotel offering gourmet inclusive service. All meals including some fabulous Mexican fare, alcoholic drinks, room service and entertainment were included in the nightly rate. And let me say, I ate and drank well.

The  posh rooms were very spacious and airy and included an ensuite hot tub. I got to pick my choice of pillow and soap fragrance when I met with the concierge.  The landscaped grounds ran green and lush, like a botanical garden bordering a sandy beach and the ocean. Pools were plentiful and one  include a swim-up bar.  Playa del Carmen, a hot spot for travelers, is about 30 minutes away.

 

Tulum sits at the edge of the water.
Tulum sits at the edge of the water.

Sunshine and surf aren’t all the Riviera Maya has to offer. The fascinating cultural heritage of the Maya population should be explored with a visit to some of the archeological ruins. The Maya were advanced mathematicians and astronomers and their buildings demonstrate their knowledge. Tulum, the most sacred site of the region, is the only ruin on the coast of the Caribbean Sea and presents breathtaking lookout points and ocean views worth pondering. The walled city rose to prominence during 1000-1500 AD. You’ll see carvings and frescoes and stroll past temples and the central “castle.” For those less interested in history, wear a bathing suit and take a dip from the glorious beach at this picturesque location.

The Castle stairs at Tulum.
The Castle stairs at Tulum.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coba
Coba

 

Coba, an hour inland from Tulum, was once home to 50,000 inhabitants. Thick jungle encircles the crumbling ruins giving the place a mysterious feel.

The largest pyramid, Nohuc Mul, remains one of the few that can still be climbed. Make the effort, but go early before the heat of the day makes it unappealing.

 

Looking down from the top of Coba.
Looking down from the top of Coba.

A day trip to Chichen Itza (117 miles west of Cancun) provides the best picture of the past civilizations and their complex social, political and religious ceremonies. The UNESCO World Heritage site is best explored with a guide. Be sure to see the pok-ta-pok ball court where the Maya played for the honor of victory and then faced a sacrificial death. The Platform of the Skulls casts an eerie mood but the grand pyramid, Kukulcan, commands great respect. During equinoxes, an undulating shadow called the “serpent” slithers along the side of the building’s northern staircase. This is caused by the angle of the sun hitting the nine main terraces.

Presenting Chitchen Itza
Presenting Chitchen Itza

Too cool off, cenotes or underground lakes make popular swimming holes. Wading and swimming through  Rio Secreto is particularly appealing because of its striking cave formations including stalactites, stalagmites and columns. Xcaret, a Mexican version of a Disney park, offers historical recreations as well as a water park. The evening folklore show, starring hundreds in elaborate costumes, can’t be beat. I’d rank it and the Riviera Maya as must-see place for 2014.

Inside Rio Secreto
Inside Rio Secreto

Disclosure:  I was flown to Riviera Maya, Mexico for a media trip hosted by Interval International. All photos copyright Debi Lander except Rio Secreto.

New Beginnings on December 21, 2012

Today is December 21, 2012. So far, the world has not ended as some predicted. In reality,  the modern Maya didn’t think the world was going to end on this date either. Somehow that idea grew from misconceptions.

Maya Ceremony
Maya Priest performing a Ritual

 

I visited Riviera Maya, Mexico in May 2012,  and was repeatedly told, “We are entering into a new cycle. This is just a new beginning.” The Maya will now celebrate the beginning of the next 5,125-year cycle of the Long Count calendar.

While touring I observed a number of Maya rituals, some fairly basic and others very complex. The ceremonies always appeared to demonstrate the relationship between man and his environment. Landmarks such as mountains, wells and caves (cenotes) are valued by the Maya and they assign specific ancestors to them. Important parts of rituals take place in or near these landmarks, and as I discovered, often prior to entering them.

Ceremony to ward off Underworld demons.
Ceremony to ward off Underworld demons.

The Mayas worship the gods of nature as a part of their daily life. Some of their gods include the God of rain, the God of maize (corn), and of course, the God of sun. The Mayas believe that without the help of these important gods, there would be no crops and everyone would starve.

Maya Performers at Xcaret.
Maya Performers at Xcaret.

But, Maya religion is much more complicated than the simple worship of nature gods. The Maya believe the world has three layers: the Heavens, the Earth, and the Underworld. Their priests conduct ceremonies to keep the demons and bad gods in the Underworld.

I also learned they are hopeful the new era will bring higher consciousness, greater peace, and enhanced understanding among people. Sounds like ideals we should all strive to achieve.

Climbing Coba at Dawn
Climbing Coba at Dawn

I’d like to use this date to reflect on what I learned from the Maya and to think of this as a personal day of new beginnings. A time when I can reset my clock and perceptions.

Personally I’d like to become less judgmental and more loving. I’d like to let go of the past and move forward. I started working on this after my divorce, more specifically when I moved to St. Augustine a year ago. I believe I have made some progress but now, with another move (fortunately just upstairs in the same complex), I can symbolically start again. Perhaps if I combine both this day of new Maya calendar and upcoming New Year’s Day with specific goals, I can double my results. Let’s see where I go  in 2013.