Through My Lens

Exploring the World Through Photography

Category: Mexico

Tulum: Mayan Ruins Right on the Beach of Mexico’s Caribbean Coast

The Carribean side of Mexico has so many great places to see and Mayan / Aztec ruins that it is hard to even comprehend. As far as sheer beauty though the…

The Carribean side of Mexico has so many great places to see and Mayan / Aztec ruins that it is hard to even comprehend. As far as sheer beauty though the coastal Mayan ruins in Tulum are one of the best. This was the last of the Mayan ruins I visited on my short time in the area, and it was an impressive way to finish my visit. The ruins have been well preserved and the beaches they look down on are some of the most beautiful in the entire country. If you want to visit them, which you should, here is all the information on how to best do that.

Details

  • Cost: 40 pesos and another 40 for a camera
  • Hours: 8 AM – 4 PM

When to Arrive in Tulum

The ruins at Tulum are visited by over 5000 people a day during the busy season, so if you want to have the best experience, then it is imperative to get there right when they open. We got up at 5 AM just to connect with a tour from Cancun that could get us as early as possible, and it paid off. Being here in the 8 AM – 9 AM hour allows you to have many of the best spots and viewpoints to yourself as well as making it possible to skip the hottest parts of the day. When we left at 11 AM, there was a ton of people all coming in as we were exiting.

Now that we got that out of the way, here are the fun things you can expect to see there.

The Ruins of Tulum

The ruins of Tulum are about 10-15 minutes walk from the parking lot. There is a shuttle you can take which is $2 each way if you don’t want to walk. This walk will take you past shops, restaurants, and vendors which are very touristy. I would recommend stopping at on the way back if you wanted something so that you get to the ruins before the crowds.

After arriving at the ticket booth, you will pay your fees and enter into the area by walking through the tunnel of stones.

The area itself is not that big, but it feels like you are on an adventure as you walk in and out of the jungle on your journey through the ruins.

The best spot to view the area from is the viewpoint on the backside of the second castle looking back at the first. This is the view you always see when you research Tulum online, and it certainly doesn’t disappoint. One of the benefits of being here early was having this spot all to myself for a good ten minutes.

There are iguanas everywhere in the trees and on the ruins, so you should see a couple while you are there.

Below the second castle is the main beach that you will want to visit while in the area. It is small but it is staggeringly beautiful.  You will access it via a series of steps heading down from the cliffs to the sand.

This beach is a great spot to relax at and even go for a swim if you brought your suit.

After leaving the beach, there is another viewpoint that lets you look down on it with some of the ruins in the back.

I would then just recommend exploring the ruins in the middle of the park for as long as you would like.

There is not a lot of information about them, so you can hire a guide to have them tell you more about it or you can just explore without one.

I really liked seeing the iguanas on the ruins as it added a fun addition for photos and made it seem wilder.

After finishing your time in Tulum, you will exit out the backside and have the half mile walk back to the shops. If you are hungry I recommend stopping in for a drink and some chips and salsa. They have 2 for 1 specials when I was there that I took advantage of.

As you can see Tulum is a spectacular spot. No visit to this part of Mexico would be complete without seeing it and I guarantee it is one of those places you will not soon forget. Let me know what you think in the comments.

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Ek Balam: Exploring the Mayan Ruins You Can Climb in Yucatan, Mexico

Located an hour and a half from Cancun, Ek Balam is one of the best Mayan Ruins you can visit in the area. The ruins here were opened to the…

Located an hour and a half from Cancun, Ek Balam is one of the best Mayan Ruins you can visit in the area. The ruins here were opened to the public 13 years ago, and because of that, they are much less busy than their many counterparts. Ek Balam is one of the few remaining ruins that you can fully interact with as well, meaning you can climb to the top of the pyramid, scale and explore the other ruins and walk into the buildings. It is one of the most fun historical experiences you can have in Cancun. Here is all the information.

Details

  • 197 peso to enter
  • 45 pesos to bring in a camera

Ek Balam Ruins

When you arrive, there is a large parking lot, and you will walk about 150 feet to the building that sells the tickets. This entire experience seems a lot less commercial then Chichen Itza which is nice.

After getting your tickets, you will walk about a quarter-mile past vendors and through a small forest before you make it to the start of the ruins.

The ruins of Ek Balam include pieces of the old wall, lookout towers, the main pyramid, ball court and a few smaller buildings that you can climb.

We headed into the area with all the smaller buildings first and traveled inside the buildings to see the interior of the ruins. Most of these rooms are not much more than an empty space with nothing left of value in them.

Continuing outside, you can climb the largest of the buildings in this section, and I recommend you do it as it gives you a great view of the area and the taller pyramid, you will eventually climb.

Traveling down from here, be sure to walk through the ball court. While this one is only a 20th of the size of the one in Chichen Itza and it doesn’t even have the rings for scoring, it is still a fun spot to see.

Again, you can even walk around on this part of the ruins as well if you wanted to see something closer up. From here you will walk through another small forest before arriving at the base of the building which is usually referred to as The Acropolis.

The Acropolis

You will then need to decide if you want to try tackling the 100 plus roughy hewn steps to make it to the top. I highly recommend this, but it is not for the faint of heart as the steps are very steep. Many people often even tackle them on all fours as they can be difficult to maneuver.

That being said, nearly everyone from my group that set out to the climb them (young and old) made it to the top.

Getting to the top provides you with a view that feels like something out of an Indiana Jones movie. You get to look out 360 degrees over the jungle and see no other touches of modern humans. You can’t even see the parking lot that you arrived at, making it a truly humbling experience.

I spent a good amount of time up here just taking it all in as it is not very often that you get to look out over something like this.

On the way back down, be sure to stop off on the platform halfway down on the right. This section has a marvelously preserved plaster entrance to the tomb of the King Ukit Kan Lek Tok. I was shocked by how amazing this was, as it appeared like a jaguar’s face with teeth in the front, which housed the door to this famous structure. You can’t go in, but it is worth seeing from the outside. Take your time going down the steps as they are steep, but you will no doubt be on an adrenaline high from all the cool stuff you got to see on this structure.

On the way back, consider heading to the right of the stairs (looking out from the base), and you can see a few more old rooms in the structure, then wind your way along the backside of the wall before arriving back at the start of the ruins.

Ek Balam is one of the most impressive experiences I had in the Cancun area, and while I recommend you see Chichen Itza if you can only see one, it is really great to juxtapose the two during a trip as it gives you a real appreciation for the area and its history. Let me know what you think in the comments.

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Cenote Ik Kil: A Beautiful Underground Pool in Yucatan, Mexico

No visit to Canun is complete without a swim in one of the areas famous cenotes. These underground lakes are one of those places that you need to see with…

No visit to Canun is complete without a swim in one of the areas famous cenotes. These underground lakes are one of those places that you need to see with your own eyes to believe. While I have not swam in very many, Cenote Ik Kil, which is near Chichen Itza is a perfect way to dive into the wonderful underground world of the cenote. Here is all the information.

Details

  • Usually visited on a tour
  • Must shower before getting in the water
  • About 100 steps to walk down and up

The Hotel

Cenote Ik Kil is actually located on the grounds of a hotel, which makes it a pretty amazing perk for anyone who stays there.

For the rest of us, you will probably visit on a tour after going to Chichen Itza from Cancun. It is one of the more popular swimming holes, and it can get pretty busy, but that doesn’t make it any less awesome.

The Cenote

After walking the 100 yards or so through shops and around the hotel rooms, you will make it to the overlook for the cenote. Just seeing it from this angle should be enough to get you excited about what you are about to do.

There is a changing area up there as well and after putting on your suit, you will have to shower off with the cold water to keep from contaminating the cenote.

From here it is about 100 steps down to the water, with ample opportunities to take a break and look down at it from different viewpoints.

When you get to the bottom, you will see the blue water which is mesmerizing with the small waterfalls going into it and the green moss hugging the sides.

There are three different height platforms that you can jump into the water from, and this really does complete the experience since the largest is about 25 feet off the water. It is a little daunting to be up there looking down at the water but it is a total rush that I really recommend you try.

The water is really deep and there is only one small type of catfish that lives in it. It is weird to see the small fish under the water but you will be so excited about the surroundings that it won’t matter.

I spent a good 30 minutes just jumping in and exploring the area over and over again, and it was one of the more fun adventures I did while in Cancun. Be sure to visit a cenote when in the Cancun area as I am sure you will have an amazing experience as well. Let me know which one you recommend in the comments.

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Mayan Museum in Cancun’s Hotel Zone: A Great Place for Mayan Ruins

The Mayan Museum in Cancun is located right in the heart of the city’s hotel zone. If you are staying in the area, then you must check it out. This…

The Mayan Museum in Cancun is located right in the heart of the city’s hotel zone. If you are staying in the area, then you must check it out. This museum has one full floor of exhibits as well as an extensive exterior area which spotlights Mayan ruins found in this very spot. It is a great way to spend an hour, and if you are not visiting some of the areas other ruins, then it may be your best way to explore Cancun’s history. Here is all the information so you can visit for yourself.

Details

  • 69 Pesos, free on Sunday
  • Hours: 9 AM – 5:30 PM, closed Mondays
  • Location: Blvd. Kukulkan km 16.5, Zona Hotelera, 77500 Cancún, Q.R., Mexico

The Museum

After getting to the museum, you will walk past the pillars outside and grab yourself a ticket to enter. I went on a Saturday, and there was surprisingly not a lot of people visiting it with me.

I started by walking through the first floor, which had a few colorful sculptures, lots of plant life and not a lot else. It was a beautiful, serene place in the museum though.

They had these large colorful sculptures that were fun to see on their own.

This area fed into the exterior portion, which was the highlight of the entire museum and was worth the price of admission itself.

The outer part of the museum is a selection of ruins that have all been well preserved.

I found it to be a fantastic place to explore as it exposes the way Cancun would have looked back in the day, with lush trees and iguanas instead of hotels.

As far as iguanas go, they are everywhere so if you want to see them on your vacation then look no further then this museum. I saw probably 15 while I was there and they are fast runners which surprised me.

Here are a few of the things you can see in this area.

Art

There is one section where there are a few paintings on the rocks that are colorful and old.

Ruins

This is one of the first things you will see when you enter the area. It was crawling with iguanas when I went, and it was awesome to see.

The Pyramid

This is the last section of the exterior part of the museum; it is a completely restored monument from ancient Mayan times. While it is small compared to others we saw at Ek Balam and Chichen Itza, it is still amazing to see it in such great condition.

This part was the highlight of my time in the museum for sure; I went back the next day, since it was free on Sundays, to see it again.

You will also see some remarkable trees all along the path that make for amazing photos.

The Exhibits

After getting back to the museum proper, I would recommend heading up to the second story to see the exhibits.

The exhibits were clean and well laid out, with lots of unique artifacts in the cases.

I will say that I went through this area pretty fast though since all of the text was in Spanish, and I do not speak it well. I still enjoyed myself as there were lots of fun things to look at.

After about an hour and a half, I exited the museum full of fun experiences and photos. This is a great spot to explore in Cancun and one that I highly recommend. Just the exterior portion is worth the price of admission. Be sure to check it out next time you are in the area and let me know what you think in the comments.

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Chichen Itza: Exploring Mayan Ruins & One of the Seven Wonders of the World

As one of the seven man-made wonders of the world, Chichen Itza is a true site to behold. I was not convinced I would be blown away when I looked…

As one of the seven man-made wonders of the world, Chichen Itza is a true site to behold. I was not convinced I would be blown away when I looked at pictures online, but I can easily say nothing was further from the truth. This huge temple is awe-inspiring from the moment you turn the corner and see it start to come through the trees. Add to that the rest of the ruins that have been painstakingly restored around the exterior of the park and you have a fascinating spot to explore. It is a must visit in the Yucatán area and here is all the information.

Details

  • 8 AM – 4 PM
  • 232 pesos

Getting There

If you are staying in one of the main cities (Cancun or Playa Del Carmen), there are buses that will take you to the ruins from the city. The drive is about 2-3 hours, so you want to take a bus or a private tour and not a taxi. I took a private tour with Mayan Explorers, and it was a great experience.

I would recommend you make plans to arrive right around 8 AM. Chichen Itza opens then and it is best to spend some time with it in the morning before all of the massive tour buses get there.

When you arrive, you will pass the vendors that are sitting outside and pay your fee to enter the park.

The Ruins

We were part of the first hundred people in, so it was pretty easy to get photos without a lot of people in them. When we left at around 10 AM, this was not the case.

The main attraction in this area is Kukulcan (the main temple) which name means descending snake. Based on certain times of the year, the shadows fall in a way that makes it look like a snake is coming down the side of the steps.

Chichen Itza the city was one of the largest in the entire region, housing over a million people during its heyday.

When the Aztecs took it over, they destroyed as much as they could, even covering up most of the city with dirt and rubble. What you see there today has been largely recreated by archeologists over the years based on what they have found around the area.

Today what stands before you is a beautiful example of the temple as it would have been when it was built, but comparing that to the ruins in Ek Balam which are original takes away a little from the experience.

You will want to plan on at least 2 hours to explore the area, more if you want to take your time. Here are some of the places you will see on the trip.

Ball Field

This is one of the main draws for the ruins here. This area used to house the massive tournaments that the Mayans had to solve conflicts between the tribes. The area is impressive to behold as it is huge and you can imagine how it would have been when people were cheering on the game taking place.

The best part about it is the circle that you tried to get the ball through on each side of the court.

Our guide even had an example of a ball that they used during the games that he let us see and I was surprised by how heavy it was.

The Cemetery

This area is small compared to the others, but it has a lot of elaborately chiseled pieces that run the gauntlet from skulls to stories about the people.

They also have lizard heads that mark the corners of the giant stone boxes.

The Columns

Back behind the pyramid are a bunch of stone columns that made up what was once the market. You can’t walk through them now, but it is impressive to see.

The Temple of the Warriors

This set of buildings, behind the main pyramid is also really well maintained and easy to explore. This is where we were told that people stayed during their time here.

There were more places to explore but unfortunately we did not have time to see it all. I will say that it was an amazing experience though and one that I will always remember. Be sure to add it to your list when you visit Cancun or the area and let me know what you think in the comments.

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Building Houses in Tijuana with Mexico Caravan Ministries

It’s often easy to forget how close a place like Tijuana, Mexico is to our easy California life. I find myself falling in this trap all of the time and…

It’s often easy to forget how close a place like Tijuana, Mexico is to our easy California life. I find myself falling in this trap all of the time and it keeps me from thinking about all of the people struggling to get by only hours from my house. Sure there are needs in America but there are also a lot of options that people in other countries don’t have. That is why, when I got the chance to visit and build a house I jumped at the opportunity and headed down to Mexico with my wife and a group from Sandals Church. Three hours later we were at Caravan Ministries, had grabbed some tacos and we’re getting ready to sleep for our busy day of building.

 Mexico Caravan Trip-2

Details 

  • $850 to build a house 
  • $20 a day to stay
  • Website

Mexico Caravan Trip-4

The crew at Caravan are great and all have a great desire to see people loved.  They were welcoming and patient as we got accustomed to the area and during the build process.  After a quick breakfast we set out to our build site. It was located up on a hill with an amazing view but with that view comes a long walk to the market for the woman who the house was for.

Mexico Caravan Trip-11

We were matched with a single mom who had two boys and had been waiting for this for over 8 months. The criteria is that they must pour the foundation themselves so it can often be a while for people to save up the money to do that. This also allows the people to have a certain investment in the house as well though. 

Mexico Caravan Trip-8

My team of 12 spent about 8 hours building and painting the entire house. It was an amazing experience, one that had a lot of top moments. The women we built the house for even made lunch for us, which was a traditional ceviche, I could not stop eating it.

Mexico Caravan Trip-12

After finishing we were able to turn the house over completed and it was an amazing feeling for those of us who made it and the woman who received it. I was blessed to be able to have this opportunity and to be able to create a lasting structure for someone in need. Our team of 60 people built 5 houses in one day and if  you have any desire be sure to check out Mexico Caravan Ministries and see how you can connect with a great Christian organization. 

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