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Revised plan - the Yucatan peninsula, Chiapas, and a dash of Tabasco

Revised plan - the Yucatan peninsula, Chiapas, and a dash of Tabasco

Jan 13th, 2008, 01:46 PM
  #1  
kja
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Join Date: Dec 2006
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Revised plan - the Yucatan peninsula, Chiapas, and a dash of Tabasco

Hello, again! Iím making progress with my plans, and am very excited about this journey. Thanks again to all of you who already responded so helpfully, and thanks in advance to any new commentators!

My new (still tentative) plan for an April trip is as follows:

Puerto Morelos: 1 night (snorkel, etc.)

Tulum: 2 nights on the beach (Sian Kaían, Tulumís Mayan ruins, either a Hidden Worlds cenote tour or Coba)

Valladolid: 1 night (Chichen Itza on the way; Ekí Balam, Cenotes Dzitnup and Samula)

Izamal: 1 night (hacienda stay)

Merida: 2 nights

Santa Elena: 1 night (Ruta Puuc on the way there; Uxmal that evening and the next day)

Celestun: 1 night (flamingos)

Campeche: 2 nights

Calakmul: 2 nights

Palenque: 3 nights (1 day for the ruins and 1 day for Misol Ha and Agua Azulóor should I try to fit these visits into a single day?)

San Cristobal de Las Casas: 2 nights (including a tour to San Juan Chamula and Zinacantan)

Tuxtla Gutierrez: 1 night (Canon del Sumidero, ZOOMAT)

Villahermosa: 2 nights

Any and all comments and suggestions are welcome!

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Jan 14th, 2008, 02:38 PM
  #2  
kja
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An addendum -

It seems that the only way to get from Calakmul (actually, Xpujil) to Palenque would be to spend part or all of the trip on an overnight bus - which I am loathe to do. As an alternative, I could go from Xpujil back to Campeche, and then go on to Palenque the next day. That would mean I would have only one full day in Palenque. Is that enough to see the ruins and the waterfalls?

Thanks again!
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Jan 16th, 2008, 01:33 PM
  #3  
 
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You can easily see Misol Ha and Agua Azul on the same day. While the route to these falls from Palenque and then on to San Cristobal is beautiful, it is also very curvy. Several of us on my bus were on the verge of being sick. You will not want to make this drive three times (which is what you will end up doing if you go to the falls from Palenque and then return to Palenque, only to then make the trip again when you go on to San Cristobal). The thing to do is to take one of the day tours from Palenque to the falls but not return after seeing Agua Azul. From Agua Azul, rely on public transportation. The travel agents in Palenque can tell you the best way to get to San Cristobal from Agua Azul.

Make sure you stay at El Panchan in Palenque. It's a settlement in the jungle between the town and the ruins. Ed and Marguerite's is a very good hotel at El Panchan. Also make sure you do the jungle tour with Paco. You will see amazing, off the beaten path things with him.

Merida is great on Sunday, when the whole town becomes a big party. Thursday night is good for a lower key folkloric festival in the Santa Lucia park.

Let me know if you have any questions.
Cimbrone is offline  
Jan 16th, 2008, 01:40 PM
  #4  
kja
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Thanks so much for the information, Cimbrone! I hadn't read about the road to the waterfalls, and hadn't even considered going straight from there to San Cristobal. (I love the things one learns on this board!) Do you think it would be possible (and safe) for me to leave my suitcase with the tour bus while admiring the falls? Or are luggage storage facilities available?

I'll also check into El Panchan - I seem to remember reading good things about Ed and Marguerite's.

BTW, I'm timing this trip to make sure that my one full day in Merida is on Sunday - sounds like a lot of fun!

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Jan 16th, 2008, 02:59 PM
  #5  
 
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Leaving things on the bus should be no problem. I don't think there are luggage storage facilities (should you want to stay longer than your bus does), but the vendors at Agua Azul (there are many) should be happy to watch your things as long as you buy something. (Which ones you can trust is another matter.) If you pack light, you can just lug your stuff around with you like lots of the backpackers do. Set it down and keep a careful eye on the stuff if you go in the water.

Now that I've gotten you excited about doing part of the trip to San Cristobal on your own, I should probably warn you that the road around the waterfalls is known for robberies. The robberies are of people in rental cars for the most part. They place ropes across the road. I haven't heard of people targeting tourists traveling by public bus. As a single female (do I have that right?) you may want to be cautious and ask at El Panchan if this is a safe way for you to travel.

There may actually be tour buses from Palenque that stop at the waterfalls and then go on to San Cristobal. I know that they do this in the opposite direction, but I seem to remember that they didn't go in the direction you need. And the tour that I took from San Cristobal to Palenque spent way too little time at the falls for my taste. I was told that the tours to the falls from Palenque spend more time at the falls before returning to Palenque. Did you follow all that?

Also, the Thorn Tree Forum has a lot more people on it who are familiar with this region. You might want to ask about the safety issue there.
Cimbrone is offline  
Jan 17th, 2008, 04:09 AM
  #6  
 
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Hey there,

I worked for a great deal of time in the southern region and my opinion is don't try and do misol ha and agua azul in one day. Misol ha won't take up much time at all (although it is breathtaking), but if you're going to spend 3 days there you should throw in agua clara too otherwise i think you'll have plenty of time left over.

San Cristobal de las Casas is beautiful but very small, I'd even think about trading in one day and adding it to Tuxtla Gutierrez since the Canon de Sumidero can take up to one full day, especially if you end up going to the park in the middle of the canon (kayaking there is cheap and no feeling will replicate kayaking in the middle of a 400 story canon!)

The rest of your trip sounds perfect....enjoy!
tanita12 is offline  
Jan 17th, 2008, 04:49 AM
  #7  
 
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Having read your original post again, kja, I realize that you're asking whether you can do the ruins and the falls all in one day. Definitely not. But I would keep my plans to have two full days in Palenque--one for the ruins and one for a jungle tour. (Both are best done early in the day). There's a nice waterfall in the national park where you can just hang out, but make sure you've paid admission to the park, because guards to come around to check for your armband. Also, the vibe in El Panchan is cool and there is music at night. I would want to have at least 2 full days there.

Personally, I would not want any less than two full days in San Cristobal, especially if you plan to do the tours you mention. I'm not a big nightlife type of person, but the bars in San Cristobal have great music (sort of a latin Reggae for the most part) and a great vibe. Also, there's a peerless crafts market around Santo Domingo church (puts the other Mexican crafts markets I've been to to shame) and good restaurants. In other words, I'm kind of disagreeing with tanita (respectfully ) and saying San Cristobal is the kind of place to just hang out and drink in the atmosphere. I'd say two days for sure, and maybe even three.
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Jan 17th, 2008, 12:33 PM
  #8  
kja
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Hi, Cimbrone and tanita12 -

Thank you both for your responses!

Since posting my "addendum" a few days ago, I have learned more about my options for getting from Xpujil to Palenque, and have now confirmed that I should be able to get there as originally planned. I'm really glad about that, because it means I can spend 2 full days in Palenque. As you have suggested, that's much better: I would have hated to shortchange my time at either the ruins or the falls!

Cimbrone, you are correct that I'm a single female - and I am a bit concerned about the reports of robberies and even "violent assaults" on tourists around Agua Azul. So I may do a tour and return to Palenque despite having to repeat the bus ride unnecessarily. I'm weighing those options. I will certainly check into tours from Palenque to the falls that end in San Cristobal - if such a thing exists, it could be perfect for me!
I've checked the Thorn Tree forum a bit on some of this stuff, and will definitely search it again. And thanks for mentioning the waterfall in the national park in Palenque - I do love waterfalls!

I was wondering whether I've left enough time for San Cristobal - it sounds delightful! The tour I was thinking of taking to neighboring villages is supposed to take from 10 until 2 or 3. That would leave some - but not much - time to explore the town. I should also have a little bit of time the evening before (should arrive there late afternoon) or next morning (should depart mid- to late morning). The biggest problem is that this trip is already a bit longer than I had expected, and I just can't think what else I would cut! Same problem with Tuxtla Guttierez - I know I won't have time for kayaking in the canon (how I hate to say things like that!), but don't know what else I could cut or trim to be able to spend more time there. I'm open to suggestions!

Again, thanks so much!



kja is offline  
Jan 17th, 2008, 12:57 PM
  #9  
 
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I definitely think you'll need more time than that to fully appreciate San Cristobal.

In my opinion, you are spending too little time in too many places.

I haven't been to either Celestun or Campeche, but I've never read about anyone being blown away by either. Are flamingos a passion of yours? If not, why spend the night in Celestun? And while some people enjoy the slow pace and colonial atmosphere of Campeche, I think you'll be getting that in other places you are going.

Also, Villahermosa doesn't get rave reviews. Some Olmec heads in a park, if I remember correctly. Not much else. Also, it was badly effected by flooding a few months ago. Make sure that everything is back to normal.

And do you really need time in Puerto Morelos AND Tulum?

I'd cut a thing (or two or three) from the list above and spend less time shlepping from place to place and more time settling into the really cool places you are most interested in.

My itinerary (which I thought was perfect) was: 3 days San Cristobal, 3 days Palenque (stopping at the falls en route), 2 days Merida, 2 days Isla Mujeres.
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Jan 17th, 2008, 02:52 PM
  #10  
kja
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Again, great input, Cimbrone! Cutting Villahermosa is well worth considering, particularly given that I can fly out of Tuxtla Gutierrez. That would give me one more day in San Cristobal, and probably one more in Tuxtla Gutierrez. I will also give thought to other possible cuts. I so appreciate your willingness to help me think through my plans!
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Jan 18th, 2008, 03:24 AM
  #11  
 
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You're welcome! I also just realized, Villahermosa is nowhere near San Cristobal. People usually fly out of there when they've just been to Palenque. If you were to go there, it makes no sense to fit it in after San Cristobal. I'm glad we caught that...it's huge.
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Jan 19th, 2008, 11:44 AM
  #12  
kja
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That truly was huge, Cimbrone! I will take Villahermosa off my itinerary and fly out of Tuxtla Guttierez instead. That will give me more time in San Cristobal - which I definitely want - and perhaps a bit more time in Tuxtla as well. I feel much better about this plan!
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May 6th, 2008, 01:32 PM
  #13  
kja
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Hi, all -

I'm back from a fabulous trip, and wanted to take a moment to thank those of you who helped make my trip so special!

My itinerary was basically what I had proposed at the start of this thread, except that - as recommended - I spent 2 nights in Tuxtla Gutierrez and skipped Villahermosa. I saw an amazing range and variety of things, and I came back exhilarated and refreshed (if a tad tired)!

I did end up visiting the falls (Misol Ha, Agua Clara, and Agua Azul) from Palenque and then, on a different day, traveling that same road on my way to San Cristobal de las Casas. I'm pleased to say that dramamine worked for me - I even enjoyed the scenery on each trip! And I was so glad to have one full day at the falls and a second full day at the ruins in Palenque - wow!

I ended up with a little over 2 full days in San Cristobal, and would have wanted no less time there. I really enjoyed that city (as well as my tour of Chamula and Zinacantan) and I loved its markets. Definitely among the best markets I visited! I was glad I only had another stop once loaded up with gifts for family, friends, and (of course) myself.

With one full day in Tuxtla Guitierrez (which is to say, 2 nights), I managed to see both Zoomat and the Canon del Sumidero - a great way to end my journey.

I'm not likely to write a trip report, but will answer any questions I can. Thanks again, Cimbrone and tanita12!
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May 6th, 2008, 03:15 PM
  #14  
 
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Glad you had a great time! Please tell us a bit more, even if it's just brief impressions of all the places you visit. I store all this in my memory bank for future trip-planning. Also, where'd you stay in Palenque?
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May 8th, 2008, 11:23 AM
  #15  
kja
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Oh, Cimbrone - I had way too many wonderful moments to even begin to capture them in a few quick impressions! I will, however, try to answer the various questions you raised while helping me plan my journey:

> where'd you stay in Palenque?

Despite your excellent advice, I chose to stay in La Canada rather than El Panchan - and my choice served my purposes quite well. I did, however, spend a lovely evening at Don Mucho in El Panchan, where I had a pleasant dinner and enjoyed the live music and firedancing. It was a lot of fun!


> why spend the night in Celestun?

Flamingos are not a passion of mine, but they are beautiful birds and I was very glad to see them - and many other lovely birds as well. (BTW, for future readers of this post, by mid-April most of the flamingos had already left Celestun for Rio Lagartos, so I saw "only" hundreds of them, not thousands.) It was also interesting to see the contrast between the east and west coasts of the Yucatan - the water really is a different color (green to the east, turquoise to the west). And Celestun's beach is great for shelling. I also found it pleasant to spend a night in a town where relatively few tourists stay - it made for a nice change of pace for me.


> while some people enjoy the slow pace and colonial atmosphere of Campeche, I think you'll be getting that in other places you are going.

Again, I'm very glad I stopped in Campeche! While it shares some things with the other colonial cities I visited, it has some unique elements that made for special memories. In addition, it has some truly outstanding Mayan artifacts in its museums and it is a good base for seeing Edzna, which has some unique Mayan ruins.

> do you really need time in Puerto Morelos AND Tulum?

I am so glad I did visit both! I though Puerto Morelos was a great place to snorkel for the first time! For one thing, life vests are required, eliminating my fear that I would dip down low enough that water would get in my snorkeling tube. For another thing, the reef is so near the surface of the water that one really can see an incredible range of corals and fish. It was beautiful! There were a few moments when a school of stunning blue-purple fish swam around and past me - magical! And tiny Puerto Morelos has some charm all its own. I hope it continues to reject the extensive development of other parts of that coastline! Tulum, in contrast, has a truly stunning beach that would not be particularly good for snorkeling. Of course, Tulum also has ruins and is a good base for tours of Sian Ka'an and for snorkeling underground cenotes. My experiences in these two places were quite different from one another, and I thought they complemented each other very nicely.

I'll post some comments on restaurants some time in the near future, and otherwise remain open to questions.
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May 8th, 2008, 12:48 PM
  #16  
kja
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Sorry, make that: the water really is a different color (green to the WEST, turquoise to the EAST).
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May 9th, 2008, 06:01 AM
  #17  
 
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Thanks for the additional info, kja. I'm glad you didn't take all of my advice!! Sounds like a great trip.
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