When traveling, there is nothing more satisfactory, immersive and fascinating than an authentic cultural experience in the destination you are visiting. Going beyond the commodities and amenities in your bedroom, the cool temperature of the swimming pool and the beachfront cocktails can bring you rewards that are easily overlooked.
That’s why a new option to start an authentic journey into the heart of the culture, history and essence of the Mayan civilization is now being planned, and is expected to come into fruition by 2018. A new tourism circuit designed as part of a collaboration between the state governments of Yucatan and Quintana Roo, the project aims to connect these two states in a way that has never been taken seriously before; through its Mayan towns. Thus, the villages located to the west would be linked with the ones found in the southern part of Quintana Roo, taking mutual advantage of their features and charm.
The project was announced by the Yucatan State Minister of Tourism, Saul Ancona, in the Culture and Tourism Forum Kultur 2017, which was held in Estado de Mexico. The civil servant mentioned that his counterpart in Quintana Roo, Marisol Vanegas, also expressed interest in connecting new routes to boost the tourism activity in the two states, reaching zones that are not yet as famous as Playa del Carmen, Tulum and Cancun.
“She’s thinking about the Southern part of Quintana Roo, which is related to the towns in the western part of Yucatan state to create these routes, where the Mayan culture is still alive”, he commented.
Without further ado, Ancone mentioned that the alleged circuit would also include scenarios where the War of the Castes developed, mainly in Felipe Carrillo Puerto, and would extend to Peto in the north and to Bacalar in the south.
“This is what’s going to allow us to generate a fusion between Quintana Roo and the Yucatan. There are a lot of Quintana Roo citizens that not only go to Holbox, they go all the way to El Cuyo and Punta Laguna; we still need to lay out the planning of this tourism circuit,” Ancona added.
Felipe Carrillo Puerto, Ground Zero for the War of the Castes
In Quintana Roo, the historical and archaeological sites of utmost distinction are undoubtedly the ancient Mayan ruin cities, among which Tulum and Coba stand out prominently. After all, they are iconic remnants of a precolonial past that, contrary to what happened in the middle of the country, remained erected and safe because the Spanish conquistadores could never fully conquer the Yucatan Peninsula. In Yucatan state, for example, cities like Merida were built on top of existing Mayan settlements and cities that were successfully conquered, while cities like Chichen Itza, abandoned for years prior to the arrival of the Spanish, were kept hidden and forgotten in the jungle for centuries.
However mythical and fascinating the ancient ruin cities might be, there are other passages in more recent history that have remained obscured by the Mayan splendor. The War of the Castes is an ideal example, not only because it is a story about a chapter of our history that eludes the ears of many tourists, but also because it remains relatively unknown to many local people in the Yucatan Peninsula. The story really should be known, however, since it turned out to be the longest indigenous insurrection in the history of Mexico; one that became a true menace to the law and order of the time. The conflict left an important legacy in the cult of the Cruz Parlante – The Talking Cross – which created a new kind of church in a sanctuary of its own, complete with its own rituals, which survive and are still celebrated today, and that is headquartered in Felipe Carrillo Puerto.
This city, capital of a township of the same name, was also the center of the rebel territory held by the Mayans during the war, and was originally named Chan Santa Cruz… You guessed it – after the cult. In its historic center, you can learn more about the history of this crusade in different building sites, such as the Cultural Center, which was once the home of the Mayan General Venancio Puc, as well as the headquarters of the second government of the ancient NojKal Santa Cruz Balam Naj. Another important cultural site is the Chan Santa Cruz Balam Nah Museum, which hosts five exhibition rooms that bear the names of the war’s biggest heroes. There is also the Sink of the Scourge, which was used to punish foreigners who broke the Mayan laws.
Pirate Traces in Bacalar
Bacalar’s historic past is evident from the moment you set eyes on the San Felipe Fort from a distance, built next to a lagoon to defend the city from the pirates of the Caribbean. That’s it; real pirates that sailed Quintana Roo’s coasts looking for ports to plunder, women to kidnap and treasures to steal… Although they looked nothing like Johnny Depp... The fort was built in 1729 and still displays some of its original features. On the inside, it hosts the Piracy Museum, dedicated to the history of the region. In addition to the fort, another cultural landmark is the Temple of Saint Joaquin, which dates back to the XVIII century and still celebrates its patron saint with big parties every August. Of course, Bacalar is also home to a beautiful lagoon that bears the same name and is nicknamed “The Seven Colored Lagoon” for the various shades of turquoise that are a marvel to see upon its surface.
Peto and the Chicle Gum Legacy of the Region
The town of Peto owes its inception to the chicle gum community that worked here, exporting the resin from the chicozapote. Such was the importance of the resources generated that a railway was built all the way from Merida, which was used to transport the products to the capital of Yucatan state. When the gum industry faced a steep decline, Peto’s inhabitants focused instead on farming, and their produce achieved great popularity in Mexico and the United States. So great, in fact, that an airstrip was built to export the products swiftly, and the town was named “The Orchard of Yucatan.” Despite its achievements, the economic prosperity of the site faced another downfall, and nowadays its main tourist attractions are the Church of Nuestra Señora de la Asunción and some nearby cenotes.
Holbox and its Magnificent Landscapes
Holbox island, located in the northern part of Quintana Roo, would be a great addition to the circuit, as it offers a perfect blend between the beauty of a natural paradise, the laid-back lifestyle of a small town and the luxury of five-star hotels that have been built there. Whether you want to take a stroll through its sandy streets and roads, or take a tour in a golf cart, be sure to walk by its shores at sunset or sunrise, and don’t forget to delight your palate with Yucatecan delicacies that are served in its many restaurants. On Holbox, you can experience everything within only a few minutes, because everything on the island is nearby. If you are a nature photography enthusiast, we can’t stop recommending dawn and dusk in Holbox Island, as well as the flamingos, who have formed a habitat on the shores, as well as the jungles and – of course – the beautiful sea that surrounds the island.
El Cuyo, a Fishing Town with Unique Charm
This town is considered to be the “hidden treasure of the Emerald Coast in Yucatan” and in this place, the turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea blend with shallow waters from the Gulf of Mexico. It’s part of the "Rio Lagartos" eco-park, which is famous for being a sanctuary and natural reserve for the pink flamingo. If you love peace, tranquility and natural environments, this is a place you can’t miss. If you are more of an adventurer, you can always schedule a boat tour or practice sport fishing on the shore. And at night, there’s nothing like spending quiet hours around a bonfire at the beach.
Authentic Experiences Complemented by Authentic Lodging
These are only a few places that would see a major boost thanks to the new tourism circuit project, and given the fact that it’s still in development, there is a high possibility that other destinations in the states of Quintana Roo and Yucatan may also be included. Surely, by this time you must have gotten a clear idea of how new options for sites, destinations and places are opened up for the public to know and explore. Clearly, the Yucatan Peninsula still has countless natural, cultural, historical and social treasures that are yet to be discovered.
These treasures will be explored to exhaustion by travelers and tourists alike from all over the world, attracting explorers who are inspired and interested in getting a firsthand knowledge of the cultural riches of our towns and ancestors. This is for them, the travelers who are looking for something far beyond the typical lodgings that the vacation home sector has created.
And that’s where you can get involved in a marvelous opportunity that has been steadfastly growing since it was first introduced. Quintana Roo is ripe for investment and vacation homes are an excellent way to do so in an easy and safe manner, especially if you invest under the signature “No Worries No Hassles Ownership" program, which provides an innovative business model that ensures you never have to worry about maintenance, marketing, utilities, services or amenities. Now, the question is: What are you waiting for?