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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.