Cultural Places in Quintana Roo
Are you in the mood for a trip down south to the Yucatán Peninsula? If you are, why not try out Quintana Roo, a small state on the peninsula’s easternmost tip? The state is easily accessible from Yucatán, Campeche, Belize, and Guatemala. While there, you can spare some time to visit the newest wonder of the world, the Chichén-Itzá, or the Mayan archeological ruins at San Gervasio. The state borders the Gulf of Mexico on the East and to the north is the Caribbean Sea. You will definitely love spending your downtime on the long, fine beaches on the Caribbean coastline. If you are into diving and/or snorkeling, you will love Chankanaab Lagoon and Isla Mujeres, both of which are driving distances from Tulum.
You can also visit the Quintana Roo is also home to seven theaters and cultural centers, most of which are located in the archeological city of Tulum. You will definitely fall in love with the archeological artifacts displayed in each cultural center. There are many archeological museums, history libraries, and museums of popular arts for lovers of culture and history. And although locals speak native languages such as Yucatan, Oaxaca, and Chiapas as their first languages, most of them are quite conversant with Spanish. English isn’t very common here but you will be fine with a tour guide.
Transportation to and in Quintana Roo
For international visitors, the best airport to land on would be Cancún International Airport. There also are direct flights to and from Cozumel Airport as well as Chetumal International Airport. And because Quintana Roo has almost 4,000 miles of carpeted roads, the best way to move around the state is by rental car. You don’t need to risk using the not-so-touristy public transportation, especially during these COVID-19 times.
You will find many Cancún car rental companies offering reasonable rentals both at the airport and in rental offices in the CBD. Companies operating without airport offices have shuttles that pick tourists from the airport to their offices. You, however, might need to confirm if tourists from your home country are required to have an international driving permit before being allowed to rent/drive a car in Quintana Roo.
Is that being said, which are the best cultural places to visit in Quintana Roo?
- Zona Arqueológica de Cobá
This ancient Maya city is home to all authentic Maya villages and the main custodian of the Mesoamerican history and culture between 500 and 900AD. Before its destruction, the city was home to over 50,000 Mayans and boasted of the most sophisticated Maya system of roadways. You will see excavated remains of these roadways and climb the Nohoch Mul, a 120-step pyramid that is not only the tallest but also the steepest ancient pyramid on the Yucatan Peninsula. From the top of the pyramid, you will get panoramic views of both Coba and Chichen Itza. The lush Mexican jungle is also spectacularly visible from up here. And if you feel like exploring the jungle up close, you can rent a bike for about $15USD per day. All kinds of bikes are available, but it is advisable to rent motorized bikes especially if you are vacationing as a family and some of the members aren’t avid bikers. You don’t want to get too exhausted after just one activity in Quintana Roo, so you need the help of a motor to pedal through the jungle.
- La Isla Shopping Village, Cancun
Most cultured people love tequila. That is why you must visit La Isla Shopping Village, the home to Xtabentún liqueur and Tequila. Tequila here is made from the local blue agave plant and has about 35-55% alcohol content. Xtabentun, on the other hand, is an anise liqueur that you won’t find anywhere else on the planet other than the Yucatan region. Anise seed is mixed with rum and honey that’s fermented with the nectar of the xtabentun flower to make this drink. It is one of the oldest beverages made by the Mayans. You will enjoy the stories that come with these drinks just like you will love drinking them. Remember to bring home a bottle as memorabilia.
- Tulum Archaeological Site, Tulum
Tulum was a religious and trade hub for the Maya people from the 11th through the 16th century. This is a must-visit for people who love ancient walled cities. Tulum Archeological Site is particularly unique from other walled cities because it is perched on the edge of a cliff, giving visitors the most breathtaking, panoramic view of the Caribbean Ocean. You can actually sunbathe at the beaches right at the base of the Tulum cliffs. The city’s beautiful sunrises earned it the nickname “Zamá” which translates loosely as “place of the dawning sun.”
Remember to bring sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses, and a bottle of water when visiting the archeological site.
- Punta Sur, Isla Mujeres
Punta Sur is a protected park that is home to beautiful beaches, several lagoons, an ancient Mayan ruin, and a handful of low forests. You will love hiking in the park as you immerse yourself in the ancient Mayan culture.
If you knew Quintana Roo only for its Mayan ruins, you now have a better idea of how culturally rich the state is. Take your time to understand and interact with local distinct customs and beliefs.
Written by: Darla Ardolf, [email protected].