Yucatán on a dime

From an article by Joshua Kucera in the Miami Herald:

Could I spend a week in the Yucatán without busting my budget? That was what I asked myself a few weeks ago when I was making plans to go to a friend’s wedding on the beach in Tulum. It seemed silly to spend the money to fly all the way there and not see a little of the country beyond the beach. But times being what they are, I had to do it on the cheap if I was going to do it at all.

As I did a little research online, I found it’s cheap to travel in the Yucatán: Airline ticket prices are down (round trip tickets from Miami to Cancún are now starting around $250). The peso is almost 50 percent weaker to the dollar than it was just a year ago, simple hotels outside the resort areas can be had for $10 a person and rental cars are nearly being given away — as long as you’re willing to take the risk of staying away from the big-name companies.

And so I — and a couple of buddies — did it. I ended up spending only about $320 for a week of traveling around Yucatán, without once feeling like we were missing out on what the Yucatán had to offer.

Having never been to Mexico, I wanted to cover the highlights of the Yucatán while also getting a sense of the ”real” Mexico, away from the beach resorts. So we opted for a road trip.

We hit Mérida, with a population of one million the biggest city in the Yucatán, but with a small-town feel. Its central plaza, filled with families enjoying the hokey magic shows and shaved ice vendors, provided first-rate people watching.

Next was Campeche — off the tourist path, but an even more attractive colonial capital.

And Chichén Itzá was the archaeological highlight of the trip, a Mayan site with enough human-sacrifice imagery to capture the imagination of even those usually bored by ruins.

But along the way we stopped at enough lesser sites and off-the-map villages to get a little sense of Yucatán’s unique culture: Until the 1960s, there wasn’t even a road connecting the Yucatán to the rest of Mexico. Today, the peninsula still has a cuisine all its own and a large population of indigenous Mayans, descendants of those who built Chichén Itzá.

And doing it on the cheap wasn’t hard. Here was how we did it …

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