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Interior/Western Yucatan Trip Ideas

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Hi all.

Will be traveling with friends to the Yucatan Peninsula for 2 weeks in May. First week will be along the east coast - Playa del Carmen, Cozumel, Tulum, Cancun. The second week (Tuesday through Monday) we plan to head to the interior/west and we've been having some trouble planning this part. We do know that we would like to be in Merida for Friday/Saturday night. Thinking about this..

Tu: Rent car, leave Playa -> ???
W: ???
Th: Puuc Route (Mayan Ruins - Uxmal / Loltun Caves / Labna / Sayil / Kabah??)
F: Puuc Route (Uxmal in the am?) -> Merida
Sa: Merida
Su: Merida (leave in the morning) -> Chichen Itza
M: Chichen Itza -> Playa/Cancun by late morning/early afternoon
Tu: Playa/Cancun, return car -> Airport

Regarding the Puuc route, which ruins are best to see? Should we get a hotel for a night along the route (and if so, any ideas where to stay or eat?), or should we just have a home base in Merida?
Would it be wise to see Chichen Itza Sunday late morning/afternoon? And are there good places to stay/eat nearby for Sunday night?
We'd also like to include some moderately adventurous things to do during this part of our trip. Any Ideas?
I never seem to read anything about the coast north/west of Merida.. anything worthwhile to see/do?
We're excited to try lots of food, so any recommendations of places to eat along the way are GREATLY appreciated!

I know I've go so many questions, but I thank you for all of your time and advice!

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    I've been to some of that area although I have not yet made it to Merida yet (heard Sunday is the best day to be there as they block off the main square and there are bands, dancing, food stands, etc. Sounds like a lot of fun.

    When my late husband and I visited Uxmal we stayed at the Hotel Hacienda Uxmal which was very nice, the only part I did not like was their restaurant, they only have one and it is buffet only and not much selection and overpriced. For dinner the second night we ate at their sister hotel, Lodge at Uxmal which was very nice, good food and service. We got to Uxmal when it opened at 8am and were the first ones there. There was a large group but they were getting organized with their guides, etc. Spent a couple of hours and left, then visited Kabah and Sayil (did not make it to the others). So certainly doable in one day.

    When we visited Chichen Itza we stayed at the Hotel Hacienda Chichen Itza, lovely place with beautiful grounds and great pool to cool off in after hiking around the ruins first thing in the morning. Nice restaurant as well, usually they have a trio of musicians playing.

    We also liked Valladolid, which you do not mention, about 20-25 miles from CI, and about the same distance to Ek Balam, a lovely ruin with beautiful carvings and you can climb there as well. We stayed at Hotel Meson de Marques which has really good Yucatan food in their restaurant - this is a lovely colonial town, maybe look into this for one night. Have a great trip.

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    We spent 2 weeks doing a Tulum > Valladolid > San Felipe (gulf coast - tarpon and flamingos) > Isla Mujeres loop, then returned later the same year and did day trips from Playa del Carmen. There are photo collections with blog and detailed travelogue links below - all my recommendations are included. Happy trails!
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/staceyholeman/collections/

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    > We do know that we would like to be in Merida for Friday/Saturday night.

    As Jamie mentioned, Sunday is wonderful in Merida - the core is closed to traffic and there are markets and street performers and dance exhibitions and lots of fun things. Friday and Saturday nights are also wonderful, with much of the same kind of thing occurring and with live bands and people dancing in the streets, especially on Sat. night. If I had to choose, I'd give up Friday evening for Sunday day - but we all differ!

    > Regarding the Puuc route, which ruins are best to see? Should we get a hotel for a night along the route (and if so, any ideas where to stay or eat?), or should we just have a home base in Merida?

    I visited Uxmal, the Loltun Caves. Labna, Sayil, and Kabah and I was glad to see all of them. Uxmal is magnificent and extensive - I think I spent 4 or 5 hours there and could have spent longer. Labna and Sayil are lovely and, at least when I was there in 2008, barely visited by others. As I recall, I saw 2 or 3 other people briefly at each and spent perhaps an hour at each. Kabah is fascinating, especially Codz Poop. You can see the main elements of Kabah in 30 or 45 minutes; an hour is nicer, particularly because Kabah does get bus-fulls of tourists.

    I would NOT recommend trying to base in Merida to see the Ruta Puuc - it's far enough to make it worth an overnight in the area. I stayed at the Flycatcher Inn in Santa Elena and loved it! Complete with it's own very well-marked nature trail, I found comfortable and welcoming:

    http://www.flycatcherinn.com/

    > Would it be wise to see Chichen Itza Sunday late morning/afternoon? And are there good places to stay/eat nearby for Sunday night?

    I would expect it to be busy! I visited Chichen Itza from Valladolid, and like jamie, stayed at the Hotel Meson de Marques, which does indeed serve very good Yucantan food in its lovely courtyard.

    http://www.mesondelmarques.com/index.html

    > I never seem to read anything about the coast north/west of Merida.. anything worthwhile to see/do?

    I visited Celestun for its flamingos, but the flamigos will almost certainly have relocated to Rio Lagartos by May.

    > W: ???

    In addition to Valladolid (a good base for Chichen Itza, Ek' Balam, and Cenotes de Dzitnup), you might consider spending at least a few hours in Izamal.


    BTW, I found Uxmal far more beautiful than Chichen Itza and was very glad that I saw Uxmal and the Ruta Puuc after CI.

    So an alternative itinerary might be to go from Playa to Valladolid for 1 or 2 nights (at least 1.5 days), on to Izamal for a night (or stay yet another night in Valladolid and visit Izamal on your way), head to the Ruta Puuc (with an overnight in Santa Elena) and on to Merida no later than Sat. afternoon, returning to Playa on Monday. Just a thought!

    > any recommendations of places to eat along the way are GREATLY appreciated!

    I visited years ago, so my comments might not reflect current conditions, but just in case:

    http://www.fodors.com/community/mexico-central-america/restaurant-notes-the-yucatan-peninsula-and-chiapas.cfm

    Hope that helps!

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