Category YUCATAN

[1] To call Mexico from the US, dial 011 for an international line, then 52 for the country code, then the 10-digit number.

We list the area code first, separated from the phone num­ber by a slash (/).

* To phone numbers in another area code within Mexico (such as to Cancun from Playa), dial 01, then the 10-digit number.

* TophonetheUSorCanadafrom Mexico, dial 001 andthen the area code and number.

* To call the US or Canada from Mexico collect or to charge to an ATT card, dial 090 for an international operator.

* To call anywhere else in the world, dial 00 plus the country code and number.

If you phone from your hotel, make sure the connection charges are not exor­bitant; otherwise use a phone company calling card or dial Telmex at з 01­800/728-4647...

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Nearby Attractions

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ne of two luxuriant attractions in the nearby countryside is Misol Ha, Ma­yan for “Waterfall,” about 20 km (12.5 miles) down on the road toward Ocosingo. Falls plunge steeply into a large sparkling pool, perfect for swim­ming. Underneath is a stream in a cave that young guides will lead you into. Remove your shoes or wear water sandals. This is a peaceful natural place to hang out. Attractive, almost Adirondack-like cabins staggered under the big pine trees on the hill above the river are available for rent. Cabins are fully equipped (з 934/345-1210, about $30).

Another 45 km (28 miles) on the Ocosingo road leads to a right turn for Agua Azul (Yax Ha, or “Blue Water”) National Park...

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Palenque (Chiapas)

They’ll like you because you’re a foreigner.

They love foreigners, it’s just strangers they hate.

~ Jonathan Raban, British scholar and author

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he ride into Tabasco and Chiapas from Escarcega is a long (216 km/135 miles) but straight foray past what’s left of the jungle, cleared for cattle ranching by slash-and-burn technique. As you come into Tabasco the vege­tation becomes more lush and verdant; it is still hot and humid here. The trou­bles of Chiapas, namely the Zapatista upheaval, have not affected the area around Palenque and the road from Escarcega is secure. The underlying problems, however, remain – abject poverty as well as a justifiable distrust of the military and judicial system – along with its associated tension...

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Ciudad del Carmen

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t the tip of a long sliver of sandbar island between the huge Laguna de Terminos and the Gulf of Mexico sits Ciudad del Carmen – or “Carmen,” as everyone calls it. The Maya fished from here for a thousand years and the tra­dition continues with the city’s large but rusted fishing and shrimping fleet.

History

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n the 17th and 18th centuries, seafaring pirates used the lagoon’s protected waters as their lair. From here they attacked merchant vessels taking cargo back to Spain. It was also from here that they sacked the city of Campeche numerous times. Legend has it that during this time the citizens of Carmen developed a curious defense against pirate abductions: only men went shop­ping in the mercado, reportedly dressed as women.

Spanish naval attempts to dislodge th...

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Coastal Campeche

God made the world round so we would never be able to see too far down the road.

~ Isak Dinesen

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hirty-three km (20 miles) south of Campeche city, along the road that hugs the shoreline, lies Seybaplaya, the coast’s first good swimming beach. The road offers great scenery and it’s fun to drive the hairpin turns, but it’s a real bugger if you get behind a smelly truck or bus. There is no passing. A new toll road direct between Campeche and Champoton bypasses the torturous and hilly coast road that used to be the only route south from Campeche. To follow the coast road, simply head south from the waterfront. To reach the toll road, drive east on Central Ave. from the Land Gate.

Seybaplaya’s fishing boats are picturesque...

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Road to Ruin

Ultimately, magic finds you – if you let it.

~ Tony Wheeler, Fast Company

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he ruins of southern Campeche are spectacular and worth all the effort it takes to reach them. The concentration of sites means you can make quick visits to the easily accessible ones along your route, or dig deep into Maya history and present ecology with off-road sites such as Rio Bec and Calakmul. We list the ruins from east to west.

♦ Xpujil

The tall towers of the Xpujil ruins, derived from the Mayan for “Place of Cat­tails,” are typical Rio Bec-style. Mask panels flank doorways to lower rooms. Although weather-worn, the small set of ruins is worth a good look. The tall, twin-towered ruins are located at the eastern edge of town. Very clean out – house-style bathrooms are outside the welcome center.

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Forest of Kings

A people without history is like the wind on the grass.

~ Sioux saying

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his section continues from the Road to Ruin section in the Quintana Roo chapter, page 172. We pick up at the western border of Campeche and presume you’re heading east from Chetumal. If you’re coming from Campeche or Palenque, you’ll have to read backwards. The ride between Chetumal and Escarcega is a long one, six hours or so. Consequently, even if you’re not into the ruin route, an overnight in Xpujil might be a good idea. That’s especially true if you’re driving straight from Chiapas to Chetumal. There are very few accommodations or sights to recommend in Escarcega, a dusty highway crossroads town...

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The Back Road

It is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows.

~ Epictetus

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he long way south follows Highway 261 from Uxmal for 264 km/165 miles, but is perhaps more visually interesting than the shorter route. This way is best known for its northern Maya sites across the state line in Yucatan, which include Uxmal, Kabah and other Puuc ruins.

A cement arch announces the border between Yucatan and Campeche. Sometimes an army checkpoint hassles travelers on the Yucatan side. The drive south is long and uneventful, with few signs of civilization until you ar­rive in the tiny village of Bolonchen (“Nine Wells”), where the Gruta de Xtacumbilxuna (“Cave of the Hidden Girl”) lies.

When John Lloyd Stephens visited the seven natural cenotes in the cavern between 1841 and 1842...

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Northern Campeche

When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

~ sage advice from Yogi Berra, baseball player and manager

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here are two routes south from the Yucatan into Campeche – we refer to them as the Royal Road and the Back Road. As you travel either the slow or fast way, you’ll pass numerous Maya villages where the inhabitants still earn their livelihood in agriculture. The fast route requires you to get off the highway in order to see these villages. For the reader, we are listing most things here from north to south, although it is just as common to travel the cir­cuit the other way.

The Royal Road

Haste maketh waste.

~ old English proverb

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he direct route between Merida and Campeche is the corta, or shortcut...

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Maya Ruins

The act of writing requires a constant plunging back into the shadow of the past where time hovers, ghost-like.

~ Ralph Ellison

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ampeche’s southern zones of enigmatic Maya cities center around Xpujil and the Calakmul Biosphere.

The north-central part of Campeche features several Maya city sites, the most notable, Edzna and Hochob, are detailed below. Another, Isla de Jaina, off the coast north of Campeche city, is a partly man-made island. It has little of interest to tourists, but archeologists were thrilled at the discovery of an elite Maya burial ground here, the largest known necropolis in the Americas...

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