Pursuing Remote Mayan Ruins

By Ted Nusbaum
  |  Gorp.com
Page 4 of 4   |  

The Puuc Route is an unnumbered highway that winds through the dry sierra of the western Yucatan State. Brown signs with a pyramid symbol and the phrase Zona Arqueologica Puuc dot the roadside every few miles to settle the recurrent anxiety, which inevitably flares, while traveling through Mexico. Signs are notoriously bad—if you don't see one for an abnormally long time, it means you're probably on the right track.

The best way to travel the Puuc Route is by rental car. As long as you're 25 years or older, and have a credit card, passport and driver's license, it's a snap. It'll cost you about $50 USD/day, but it beats a tour bus because you can go at your own pace and see what you want to see. If you prefer a bus, you can catch a Ruta Puuc excursion from the city of Merida. Buses depart the old Terminal de Autobuses at 8 a.m. for about $5 USD.

When exploring Mayan ruins, be prepared to walk—a lot. The most important tip I can offer is to bring more water than you thought you would ever need—at least one gallon (four liters) per person per day. It's hot, the sun barrels down, you're climbing and hiking all over the place. And of course, apply sunscreen liberally (don't worry, you'll still get tan).

Getting There

From Cancun, you must work your way west to Merida, a beautiful colonial city in western Yucatan. An inexpensive and easy way to travel is by bus, but be selective of which bus you take. For example, if you travel from Cancun to Merida, you will definitely want to spend a day at Chichen Itza, one of the most spectacular sites in all of the Yucatan.

When I took a second-class bus (Oriente) to Chichen Itza from Cancun, the two-hour ride took almost five as we stopped for anybody who raised an arm or made eye contact with the bus driver. At $3.50 USD, you get what you pay for—hence, if possible, take a first-class bus (Expresso or Super Expresso) for $11.00 USD with air-conditioning, clean seats, and sometimes a movie. But once you arrive in Merida, rental car is the way to go to explore the Puuc Route and its environs.


The Spanish assumed control over the "White City" in the 1500s and their influence remains today, lending a European feel and appearance. At one time, the entire city was painted white, but now there are tropical pinks, greens and shades of gold which increase the charm of this historically rich and much-less-traveled destination (Merida receives 1/10 of the visitors that Cancun does). The centrally located Plaza de la Independencia is a step back into the colonial past and is a lively center for people, music, and food. Merida serves as an excellent base for exploring the Yucatan and the entire Puuc region.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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