If you’re like me then you’ll spend the weeks leading up to a holiday researching every possible excursion so you can make the most of your time there. Trips are expensive, especially if you book with a well-known travel company, but I’m always happy to pay a little bit more to experience something that you just can’t get anywhere else.
We booked our trip to Mexico with First Choice and so Thomson excursions seemed like the obvious option. There were hundreds of companies to choose from and to be honest most were cheaper, but as the Thomson rep explained at the welcome meeting, Thomson have a fair amount of dominance in the travel industry, which means you get a bit more of an ‘access all areas’ and queue-skipping approach. Thomson had endless trips to choose from, but one that really stuck out for us was their Chichén Wonders experience.
Our pick up was nice and early at 6.45am before setting off on our 2.5 hour journey. I’ll be honest, there isn’t a huge amount to see when you’re driving through the Yucatán Peninsular as it’s basically just straight roads surrounded by rain forest, but luckily we had the most amazing tour guide on board our coach who spent a good hour or more telling us about the history of Mexico.
Our first stop was Chichén Itzá, a world-famous complex of Mayan ruins which is one of the new Seven Wonders of the World. To give you an idea, Chichén Itzá was a Mayan capital between 600-1200AD and features a massive site of historic architecture – including the Temple of the Jaguars, the macabre Tzompantli bench where heads of sacrificial victims were displayed, and the main attraction, Kukulkan. The name ‘Kukulkan’ means serpent, because twice a year shadows create a serpentine shape down the north staircase of the gigantic 365-stepped pyramid. We probably spent two hours there and once again our tour guide did an amazing job in educating us about the site. It’s an incredible place, but extremely hot with little shade, so if you go make sure you take plenty of sun cream, water, a hat and wear appropriate clothing!
Next we headed off on another hour-long journey to Cenote Hubiku in Temozón. Hubikú in Maya means “the great lord” or “nest of iguanas”, and for those who don’t know a cenote is a natural pit or sinkhole which results from the collapse of limestone bedrock, exposing groundwater underneath. First we were greeted with a hot taco, can’t complain, and then we got the chance to go for a swim. I’m all up for swimming but the water depth is 27m and it has a diameter of approximately 50m, plus it’s freezing, which was pretty terrifying for someone who hates it when they can’t touch the bottom. This isn’t something I’ll necessarily see again though, so I went in with Darryl and swam right out to the waterfall in the center. The natural beauty of it was stunning and once you were in, it felt more like swimming in a tranquil lagoon. After that we had a traditional buffet lunch in the restaurant before heading on to stop number three.
Our third and final stop was to a place called Valladolid, which is a picturesque city situated in the southeastern part of the Mexican state of Yucatán. We didn’t spend long here, but we had half an hour or so to wander around the beautifully coloured buildings, take some photos, and have a look in some of the shops and markets. It might have been nicer to visit a traditional Mayan village as I know some of the other excursions do, but this was a nice enough place to stop and isn’t somewhere we could have seen on our own.
We had a long journey home which meant the entire day was around eleven hours, but I’m so glad we decided to go! It wasn’t cheap at just over £100 per person which nearly put us off initially, but ultimately it’s a full-day trip with all transport and food included – even snacks and drinks on the coach – so really you’re getting a lot for your money. If you go to Mexico and have the opportunity to see Chichén Itzá and go for a swim in a cenote, I highly recommend you do!