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Mexico’s Yucatán & Chiapas

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MEXICO’S YUCATÁN &
CHIAPAS

lonelyplanet.com

Mexico’s Yucatán & Chiapas
HIGHLIGHTS
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Maya ruins Explore millennium-old ruins: Chichén Itzá (p44) is the best known, but
Palenque (p57), Yaxchilán (p62) or Toniná (p62) offer more intimate encounters with
hidden chambers (and monkeys)
Tulum Long stretches of white-sand beaches, and its own namesake ruins, but no longer
a quiet backpacker hub, it still has cheap sleeps and plenty of space (p53)
San Cristóbal de Las Casas Pull on a sweater and sip fresh espresso in the cool, mountainous
‘Zapatista capital,’ one of the Americas’ finest colonial-era towns (p62)
Mérida Put your best salsa foot forward during the more-than-lively, street-spilling weekend fair in this Spanish-colonial wonder near to Maya ruins and flamingos (p45)
Off the Beaten Track Untouched and out-of-the-way fishing village Punta Allen (p56) is
within a protected reserve and offers snorkel trips to dolphin hangouts
FAST FACTS
„ Area Quintana Roo (50,212 sq km);

Yucatán state (38,212 sq km); Chiapas
(74,211 sq km); 162,635 sq km in total
„ ATMs Plentiful, using Cirrus and Plus

systems
„ Budget US$40-50 per day
„ Capital Mexico City
„ Costs Budget room US$15-30, 3hr bus ride

US$14, set lunch US$4.50
„ Country Code

%52

CURRENT EVENTS
In 2005 two hurricanes slammed into Mexico’s south. Hurricane Wilma took its time
passing the Yucatán’s resort areas, bringing
150km/h gusts that bent trees, closed docks
and wrecked businesses. Hurricane Stan was
worse for Chiapas, where flimsy homes in
mountain villages washed away as rivers rose.
Since, much of the Yucatán has rebounded
100%, though Chiapas has had a harder time.
One resident told us, ‘All the funding went to
Cancún and the resorts. We got nothing.’
Meanwhile, with corn (much of which
comes from the USA) increasingly being used
to create ethanol, corn flour prices – thus the
all-important tortilla price – jumped by 400%
in early 2007, and tens of thousands took to
the streets in protest.

HISTORY

„ Famous for Maya ruins, white sand and tur-

The Maya set up many city-states across the
broad south of Mexico, though the population
and activity had declined before the Spanish
arrived. For more on Maya history, see p24. A
couple of Spaniards – Diego de Mazariegos in
present-day Chiapas, and Francisco de Montejo in the Yucatán – had the area under Spanish control by the mid 16th century. Mexico
won independence from Spain in 1821, and
pulled in Chiapas from the United Provinces
of Central...
MEXICO’S YUCATÁN &
CHIAPAS
MEXICO’S YUCATÁN &
CHIAPAS
lonelyplanet.com TRANSPORTATION •• Getting There & Away
CURRENT EVENTS
In 2005 two hurricanes slammed into Mexi-
co’s south. Hurricane Wilma took its time
passing the Yucatán’s resort areas, bringing
150km/h gusts that bent trees, closed docks
and wrecked businesses. Hurricane Stan was
worse for Chiapas, where flimsy homes in
mountain villages washed away as rivers rose.
Since, much of the Yucatán has rebounded
100%, though Chiapas has had a harder time.
One resident told us, ‘All the funding went to
Cancún and the resorts. We got nothing.’
Meanwhile, with corn (much of which
comes from the USA) increasingly being used
to create ethanol, corn flour prices – thus the
all-important tortilla price – jumped by 400%
in early 2007, and tens of thousands took to
the streets in protest.
HISTORY
The Maya set up many city-states across the
broad south of Mexico, though the population
and activity had declined before the Spanish
arrived. For more on Maya history, see p24 . A
couple of Spaniards – Diego de Mazariegos in
present-day Chiapas, and Francisco de Mon-
tejo in the Yucatán – had the area under Span-
ish control by the mid 16th century. Mexico
won independence from Spain in 1821, and
pulled in Chiapas from the United Provinces
of Central America in 1824.
Long oppressed by Spaniards and criol-
los (Latin Americans of Spanish lineage), the
Maya rose in the War of the Castes in 1847,
leading to destroyed churches and many
massacres. The brimming sense of inequal-
ity didn’t settle with peace in 1901. As Nafta
(the North American Free Trade Agreement)
kicked into effect in 1994, the mainly Maya
Zapatistas stormed San Cristóbal de Las
Casas; their struggle has quietened in recent
years, now that they run seven autonomous
zones (called caricoles, or snails) outside San
Cristóbal. But it’s not over.
TRANSPORTATION
GETTING THERE & AWAY
Air
Cancún’s international airport is the major
entry point to the region, with daily direct
flights to many US cities as well as US$300
round-trip flights (including visa) to Cuba.
Other than a direct flight to Flores (Guate-
mala), Cancún is less useful for flying into
Central or South America, with many south-
ward flights routed through Mexico City,
Miami or Dallas. See p41 for details of flights
and airlines in Cancún. Cozumel, Mérida and
Chetumal have international airports with less
frequent services.
Boat & Bus
Mexico borders Guatemala and Belize to the
south, and there are an array of border cross-
ings between them.
From the Yucatán, travelers can connect to
buses to Belize (or on to Flores, Guatemala)
via Chetumal ( p56 ), just north of Corozal,
Belize.
From Chiapas, there are three major border
crossings to Guatemala. Southeast of Palenque,
Mexico’s southeast is made up of very different neighbors: the Yucatán Peninsula is home to a
flat limestone shelf and beaches, Chiapas has mountains, forests and brisk temperatures. Both
have fabulous Maya ruins. It makes for great travel. Despite the Yucatán’s cruise-ship hubbub,
it’s more than tempting to work into your itinerary a few days of lazing on perfect beaches
away from the tourist scene. The reefs off Cozumel provide among the world’s finest dives,
and cheap beachside hostels or cabañas can be found in Tulum, Playa del Carmen and Isla
Mujeres. Inland, lively Mérida is the most Mexican town in the area, with scores of day-trip
potential (including Maya ruins and Gulf of Mexico beaches and flamingos).
West of the Yucatán, Chiapas is worth the effort to see ruins mingling with hills and jungle
and Maya communities living traditional lives in lofty places where you’ll need a sweater in
August. The ruins at Palenque are wonderful, but laid-back San Cristóbal de Las Casas is the
best place to take in Chiapas. The town is a colonial marvel with indie-house movie theaters,
fresh Chiapas coffee and four or five days’ worth of day trips.
Mexico’s Yucan & Chiapas
HIGHLIGHTS
Maya ruins Explore millennium-old ruins: Chichén Itzá ( p44 ) is the best known, but
Palenque ( p57 ), Yaxchilán ( p62 ) or Toniná ( p62 ) offer more intimate encounters with
hidden chambers (and monkeys)
Tulum Long stretches of white-sand beaches, and its own namesake ruins, but no longer
a quiet backpacker hub, it still has cheap sleeps and plenty of space ( p53 )
San Cristóbal de Las Casas Pull on a sweater and sip fresh espresso in the cool, mountainous
‘Zapatista capital,’ one of the Americas’ finest colonial-era towns ( p62 )
Mérida Put your best salsa foot forward during the more-than-lively, street-spilling week-
end fair in this Spanish-colonial wonder near to Maya ruins and flamingos ( p45 )
Off the Beaten Track Untouched and out-of-the-way fishing village Punta Allen ( p56 ) is
within a protected reserve and offers snorkel trips to dolphin hangouts
FAST FACTS
Area Quintana Roo (50,212 sq km);
Yucatán state (38,212 sq km); Chiapas
(74,211 sq km); 162,635 sq km in total
ATMs Plentiful, using Cirrus and Plus
systems
Budget US$40-50 per day
Capital Mexico City
Costs Budget room US$15-30, 3hr bus ride
US$14, set lunch US$4.50
Country Code
%
52
Electricity 110V AC, 60 Hz (same as the USA)
Famous for Maya ruins, white sand and tur-
quoise water, Zapatistas, tacos, hammocks
Head of State Presidente Felipe Calderón
Languages Spanish & two dozen Maya
languages
Money US$1 roughly = M$11 (pesos)
Phrases ¿Mande? (come again?),
chingadera (f***ed-up situation)
Population 6.9 million (Yucatán, Quintana
Roo & Chiapas states)
Time GMT plus 6 hours; GMT minus 5
hours during daylight saving time
Traveler’s Checks Cashed at banks & casas
de cambio (1-3% commission)
Visas Not required for residents of USA,
Canada, EU, Australia, New Zealand & some
other countries
TRAVEL HINTS
Second-class buses save you 20% over 1st-class buses. If you don’t like overnight buses, there’s
a lone day bus between Mérida and Palenque.
OVERLAND ROUTES
From Guatemala it’s easy to loop into Mexico – from Quetzaltenango to San Cristóbal de Las
Casas, then back to Tikal via Palenque, or into Belize from Chetumal, south of Tulum.
DEPARTURE TAX
A departure tax equivalent to about US$23
is levied on international flights from
Mexico. It’s usually included in the price of
your ticket, but if it isn’t, you must pay in
cash during airport check-in.
© Lonely Planet Publications
34 35
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