More Wanderings in the Yucatan

Day Trips from Progreso, Yucatan

If you have a rental car and if you’re lucky enough to have friends to share the driving and the cost, there are great places to visit within a few hours of Progreso.

Day Trips

Sisal, a beachside Puebla where we understood many changes were taking place, was one of our destinations. Easily combined with a trip to Celestun to see the flamingos, Sisal has been “discovered” and real estate is reputed to be flying off the shelf. Worth the drive as the beach is pretty, there’s good swimming and several beachside restaurants serving local seafood. The history of Sisal is interesting too and was the port from which the heinequin rope was shipped to all corners of the world.

Sisal Pier

Celestún, another town easily reached from Progreso has been a favorite of mine over the years. I’ve probably been about three times to take the launcha through the mangroves to see the flamingos and other birds. Boat tours leave from the beach in the center of town, or a shorter option is to take a boat from the lagoon as you enter the town. No need to book ahead or even try to find a boat, they will find you. If you are a bird watcher I’d say this day out is a must, I have never been disappointed and have seen a variety of bird life including pink herons and lots of pink flamingos.

Pink Herons
Pink from Camarones

Cenote San Ignacio is a cenote with an above ground pool, gardens, a restaurant and an underground cenote that is beautiful, clear and refreshing. One of my favourite cenotes, it offers change rooms, an above ground pool, a restaurant and of course the underground cenote. A quaint little Puebla, San Ignacio is a good place to see the old style maya homes with adobe covered rock walls and palapa roofs. 

San Ignacio Cenote

Xzamal My first visit to Xzamal and I have added this to my must do list for future visits to the Yucatan. Xzamal is notable for its profusion of yellow buildings. The Pope visited (1973) a particularly famous and sacred Franciscan Monastary here and in honour of his visit and as a sign of welcome the people painted everything yellow. The Padua Monastary is large and an interesting example of early colonial architecture built on top of the ancient Maya town that preceded the Spanish. Apparently it has the largest open atrium outside of the one at the Vatican and around the atrium are statues of Saints who are said to have performed miracles.

The madonna wears a crown, gift from the Pope.

From the walls of the Monastary you can look across the main square with it’s yellow arches to Kinish Kak Mo, a smaller and easily accessible Maya pyramid. The meaning of its name translates to “macaw of the solar fire face”. We were able to climb right to the top for a great view of the surrounding area. The Yucatán is as flat as the Canadian prairies so you can see quite a distance.

Main Square
Kinish Kak Mo
Entrance to the Pyramid
View of the Yucatan from the Pyramid

On the recommendation from a friend we dined at a fantastic restaurant called Kinish, where they serve traditional Maya cuisine including cochinita, a pork dish marinated with sour orange juice, wrapped in plantain leaves and cooked underground.

Progreso and Merida After my friends left for home I immersed myself in life in Progreso. A friend living in Chelem got me aquainted with the beaches there and in Chuburna, communities adjacent to Progreso. It was often windy but the water was warm and we all swam and enjoyed the beach in relative solitude, which of course in the time of COVID is advisable. Of course Merida is close and movies, bowling, restaurants and a jazz club rounded out my last days in Progreso. Next stop Puerto Escondido.

Chuburna Beach

A Month in Mexico…next stop South America

Mexico is beginning to feel like my second home. On the 29th of December I flew direct to Cancun and stayed overnight in my favourite little Mexican hotel, El Caribe. It is right across the street from the ADO bus station and after breakfast I took the ADO bus to Merida, changed for the bus to Progreso and by the late afternoon I was once again the proud tenant of Unit 3 in Casa Sol Mar. The hotel in Cancun and the buses to and from Cancun run frequently and are very affordable and break up the trip from Vancouver if you have the time.

Three weeks flew by and I occupied my time in Progreso with visiting friends, trips to Merida, a soccer game, volunteering in an English class and walks on the beach, a nice way to start a New Year. It’s interesting how Progreso changes every year and yet is always the same. Return visits to a hacienda, cenote and a Mayan Ruin never go amiss. while in the Yucatan, and this year I went to two new cenotes. One just outside of Progreso in the direction of Telchac named Sinache and the other in the direction of Campeche. The great thing about Sinache was the long paddle through the mangroves and the reward of swimming in the cenote with large carp. Had a return visit to a Hacienda (Sotuta de Peon) and yes the tour had changed to a degree but my favourite parts, the specialized equipment for making heinequein rope and the cenote were the same.

I rented a car and my neighbors and I drove to Campeche, stopping along the way at the “Chocolate Museum”. Campeche was as nice as ever and we stayed in a lovely hotel in El Centro and had dinner on a terrace overlooking the cathedral and the mainsquare. Night live in Campeche is vibrant and the outdoor bars and restaurants do a steady business with locals and tourists alike. It’s hard not to return to Campeche while I’m in Progreso because the Old City is so lovely. The malecón en Campeche is great and they had the remnants of a Christmas market just outside the walls of the city.

After a family wedding in Playa del Carmen I had four days in Mexico City where I was able to resume my love affair with the place and put some finishing touches on my trip to South America.

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