A couple months ago, Chris and I decided we should try to take a vacation. So far we have been able to get away for at least two nights each year since Eleanor was born, but as this year was winding to a close, we realized we still didn't have any plans. Jane turned one in September so we knew it'd have to be after that but with Homecoming and the holidays, we had a very short window. We decided on Mexico after exploring where we could get to fairly inexpensively and that was that. After buying our plane tickets, we really didn't plan much until very last minute (one to two weeks before we left). We found an Airbnb to stay in and then planned a couple excursions.
The main reason we picked this location was that we wanted to see Chichen Itza, so after looking into renting cars, paying entrance fees, hiring a tour guide, etc, we settled on what I believe my grandparents refer to as a "hop on, hop off" bus tour. They promised Chichen Itza with a tour, as well as a few other stops along the way for much cheaper and less complicated than we could arrange on our own.
The first stop on our excursion was a little jungle-ish area with a market where you could buy Mayan paraphenalia. Not too exciting but picturesque!
We also realized we traveled to Mexico just in time for Dia de los Muertos, so there were altars set up for the dead everywhere we went and people had painted their faces.
Next stop was much more memorable, Ik-kil Cenote. The water was crystal clear, but so deep that it seemed almost black before you were in it. It had areas where you could jump off the rocks into the middle (which, of course, we did), and then we just swam around with fish. This area of Mexico is famous for its cenotes.
From there we had worked up quite an appetite swimming and headed to a restaurant for a traditional Mayan meal. While we were eating they had some entertainment set up...traditional Mayan dances and tribal customs, which were fairly interesting to watch.
The following stop was the reason we had booked the tour in the first place - Chichen Itza. Inside this temple is another almost identical temple, but smaller. Apparently the Mayans used to build on top of their original monuments every 52 years (a Mayan calendar round). El Castillo (pictured below) was built between the 9th and 12th century and the sheer genius of its construction was incredible. I won't go into too much detail, but the entire thing was built around the calendar and with features that would only show up on the equinox each year. Apparently tens of thousands of people gather at this site on the equinox to see these phenomenons.
Also at Chichen Itza was a ball court where the Mayan priests played a game that seemed to be a combination of soccer, volleyball, and basketball with a twist that whomever was able to pass the ball through the hoop below (games lasting between 2 weeks and 10 months due to the severity of the rules), was considered "chosen" by the gods and therefore beheaded.
Another area was built for the defense of Chichen Itza.
And finally Chris and I just took some "for fun" pictures :)
The last stop on our tour was Valladolid, a nearby city with a beautiful church. We explored inside a bit and then had some ice cream before heading back.
All in all it was a great, but very long, day. I felt like we got to see a lot and after reading terrible stories about renting cars in Mexico these days, it was definitely the way to go. We didn't have to drive, were able to sleep on the bus, and saw more than we likely would have known to visit on our own.