HOLIDAY HOTSPOTS: Mayan. All Mine! SEE RUINS OF MEXICO'S AMAZING ANCIENT CIVILIZATION

The People (London, England), August 29, 2004 | Go to article overview
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HOLIDAY HOTSPOTS: Mayan. All Mine! SEE RUINS OF MEXICO'S AMAZING ANCIENT CIVILIZATION


Byline: KIRSTY BARCLAY

WHEN I get an invite to visit some old ruins it's normally a trip to see the parents.

But this time we were talking about ruins even more ancient than them - the Mayan sights of Mexico.

It's always been an ambition of mine to see these enormous pyramids and find out more about the long lost civilization which created them.

But first I had to get there. I flew to Cancun and travelled south to the Hotel Iberostar Paraiso Lindo, set on the beautiful Maya Riviera in the Yucatan Peninsula.

The hotel was breathtaking, set among bridges crossing waterfalls.

With a selection of pools, and a beach just metres away, together with a spa and evening entertainment, I was almost tempted to spend the rest of the holiday here.

But, the lure of Mexico's ancient past was calling. So I set off bright and early for a coach trip to the ruins of Tulum, an ancient town perched on top of limestone cliffs that spill down to the turquoise waters of the Caribbean.

This site, about 80 miles south of Cancun, is the largest Mayan construction built on the coast and the view is magnificent.

It's amazing to think this was built while Europe was still in the midst of the Dark Ages.

The Mayans were incredibly sophisticated people. They made astronomical charts and were masters of mathematics, even inventing an early form of the calendar. Without metal tools, beasts of burden or even the wheel they managed to construct vast cities across a huge jungle landscape.

To see more I headed inland to the ruined city of Chichen Itza. This is the most famous of Mexico's Mayan ruins - and with good reason. There's a full six square miles of them.

I climbed the 91 steps of the ancient Castillo, an imposing, pyramid-shaped temple.

The experience is not for the faint-hearted. It's very steep, but the view at the top is worth the effort.

The problem is that once you've scrambled up to the top, you have to get down. I opted for the safest, but least dignified option, and scraped along on my bum.

Next day I wanted to cool down, so we visited Xel-ha, an Eco park located in a natural cove in the jungle.

It's a swimmer's paradise, perfect for kids and first-time snorklers.

I spent hours in the River of Dreams, a long, meandering river.

There are few things more relaxing than floating on your back and watching the fish swim past. It's a brilliant cure for a tequila hangover!

I must have got attached to the water because the next day I made a beeline to the Puerto Aventuras Sealife Discovery programme.

Here I was able to feed and swim with manatees - a sort of sea cow.

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HOLIDAY HOTSPOTS: Mayan. All Mine! SEE RUINS OF MEXICO'S AMAZING ANCIENT CIVILIZATION
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