Visiting the Mayan ruins while in Mexico is something I feel like you HAVE to do if you have the opportunity, but it’s not something that actually interested me. Sadly, I am not a history buff and despite having visited two different sites near Cozumel, I couldn’t tell you anything about the structures or the people who created them (other than that they were wrong about the world ending in 2012).
What I can tell you is what a visit to these places is like. Perhaps we can all think of it this way — I’m not giving anything away if you take a tour of them yourselves. It will all be fresh information. So there! Wouldn’t want to ruin it for you. 😉
Tulum is about an hour bus ride away from the Cozumel cruise port. The ride isn’t all that interesting since most of it is highway. Once there, expect huge crowds. There are several lanes of stalls selling souvenirs. And you’re sure to see lots of iguanas scuttling around. I took as many pictures of them as I did the ruins themselves.
You can also walk down a long set of stairs to get to the turquoise water below. It’s a nice break from the heat, but you may not have have time if you have to catch your bus back before the ship leaves.
These ruins were discovered more recently and haven’t gained in popularity yet the way Tulum has. These ruins are on the island of Cozumel itself and are only about 20 minutes from port. We stopped here on our way from the eastern beaches of Cozumel. There are plenty of tour guides and unlike at Tulum, there’s shade! Take advantage of that.
The ruins themselves were on par with what you’ll see at Tulum. Iguana roam the grounds here, too, and the requisite tourist stalls can be found at the entrance though the prices here are ridiculously high compared to anything you’d pay near the cruise ports.
If I had to recommend one over the other, I guess I’d pick Tulum for true history buffs. But if you’re not all that interested in the ruins and just want to see what they’re all about without committing a full day to exploring them, a stop at San Gervasio will do just fine.
I’d love to hear from people who do enjoy visiting ruins. What is it about them that appeals to you?
I love iguanas and would be taking photos of them all the time too 🙂 When I was in Peru, we visited some pyramids. We were almost the only ones there except for our guide. I still remember the chill I got when the guide pointed out the slab of rock where they used to sacrifice the virgin girls.
Maybe that’s what is missing for me — more personal, relevant stories of what it all means. Usually I just hear accounts of what a building was used for (which is how the slab was described, too< I realize) but it doesn't give me an idea of who the people were.
Certainly to get a proper ‘feel’ for a historic structure I guess you’ve got to put it in its context. Recent social history fascinates me as you can easily visualise our forebears inhabiting and living in and around surroundings that they would still recognise. Old temples and such – well it’s a leap of the imagination that I too find difficult to manage.
You’ve hit the nail on the head: I can’t put it all into context. More recent history is much more interesting to me.
I’m with Roy on this one. I’ve never been to any ruins, because I haven’t made much of an effort. The times I’ve been to Mexico have been spent doing other things. I tend to prefer modern over ancient history.
Me, too. I always feel so guilty about that. It’s nice to read that I’m not alone. Visiting ruins feels like such an obligation when the truth is that I’d rather be doing almost anything else.
Juliann, what a novelty with the iguanas running about there. 🙂
What we’ve enjoyed about exploring lesser-visited ruins – especially in Croatia and in Laos – was allowing our imaginations to run wild. If we were strolling the sites independently, with no guide to tell us all the details, sometimes the purpose of a structure was perplexing. I enjoy having a balance of mystery and historical anecdotes, though sometimes it’s fun approaching a site with only one or the other.
You have such an eye for these things, Tricia. You know how to make it meaningful. I like seeing the ruins through your eyes more than my own.
That’s kind of you to say, Juliann. I suppose we all hone in on different details, and that’s why it’s enjoyable to read others’ accounts. 🙂
I love to imagine what life was like in other eras. We do enough reading ahead of time to put the ruins that we are looking at into context. There is something about walking where people walked centuries before, looking. I love open air museums, too, which make it easy to imagine life in the old days and ways.
That sounds like the smart way to approach it. I’ve never been able to grasp history that well. I can’t put it all into context. I definitely need a guide when I visit places like this.
It makes a difference to know what you are looking at. Everyone in our family has a passion for history, but we also love looking at current culture, tasting the food, enjoying the scenery and the people. And in Mexico, we too were fascinated by the iguanas, as commonplace as squirrels.