Tulum had been on my list for years, and it lived up to my expectations. This relaxed town is famous for Mayan ruins overlooking the sea and perfect sandy beaches.
Tulum’s archaeological site is the postcard view of the town. The site opens at 8am (tickets $75) and it’s good to arrive early to beat the crowds. The site is well-preserved and picturesque. It’s located a bit off the town centre, but easily reached by taxi (we paid $90) or colectivo buses.
Near the archaeological zone are some great beaches. We visited Pescadores which is supposed to be one of the most beautiful beaches in the world (and it looks it). The water is warm and there are plenty of boat tours available. It is the perfect image of a Mexican beach that you may have in your head.
Tulum town centre is full of nice cafés, souvenir shops and plenty of veggie restaurants. We visited a couple of nice places:
El Vegetariano: a laid-back vegetarian restaurant in the town centre serving a selection of vegan dishes. Dinner for two including drinks and tip for $380.
Co.con Amor: a vegetarian restaurant set in a beautiful garden in Tulum town. Large portions and delicious food. Lunch for two including drinks and tip for $410.
HOW TO DO IT:
Go: Tulum is well-connected by ADO bus to the main cities in the region.
Stay: we stayed at Biwa which was well-located in the town centre, had good service and excellent facilities. Alternatively there are plenty of other options close to the beach as well.
TRAVELLING AROUND YUCATAN – HOW TO DO IT:
We spent ten days travelling around Mexico, and it was a great experience. This is how we did it:
Itinerary planning: we travelled independently, but followed broadly this itinerary. The best way to get to Yucatán is to fly to Cancun (buses connect the airport with Cancun bus station and Playa del Carmen, where you can travel on to other destinations).
Travelling around: We used ADO bus to get around. Tickets can be booked online from 1 to 2 months before travelling, or directly at the station. The buses are comfortable, have air-con and are generally on time. For shorter routes colectivo minibuses are available and are pretty cheap. Speaking Spanish makes travelling easier as usually people only speak basic English.
Money: things are cheaper than in the UK. Many places accept credit cards, but for smaller purchases cash is ideal, and low denominations is preferred.
Food: Mexican food has plenty of veggie dishes, but these aren’t always clearly labelled. We had no problem asking for modifications to make dishes vegan, but speaking Spanish helps. Happy Cow has good options in most places. We ate very well, and particularly enjoyed the plentiful breakfasts, horchata and vegan tacos.
Valladolid was the first town we visited in Mexico, and it was a great starting point. The town centre is pretty, with lots of little shops painted in bright colours. During the day students hang around the town centre and in the evening people go to the main square for a walk.
There are plenty of shops selling local handicraft, busy restaurants and street food stalls.
Yerbabuena del Sisal: a vegetarian restaurant serving a varied selection of delicious local dishes. Lunch for two including drinks and tip for $335. This restaurant is located at the end of a pretty street which is definitely worth exploring.
Wabi Gelato: a small gelato shop selling amazing flavours. The guava was particularly great. A small cup for $40.
Las Campanas is a popular restaurant by the main square. Vegan options are limited but delicious. Dinner for two including drinks and tip for $450.
These famous ruins are the most popular attraction in Yucatán. The site is impressive: aside from the pyramid that is instantly recognisable, there are plenty of other great buildings to visit.
You can cover the whole site in about three hours, and you should arrive there early to beat the crowds and explore before it’s unbearably hot.
Valladolid is a good starting point if you want to get to Chichen Itza early. We got the first collectivo bus from Valladolid at 7am (tickets for the bus for $35), getting into the archaeological site just before doors open at 8am (tickets to the site for $480).
HOW TO DO IT:
Go: Getting to Valladolid right after a transatlantic flight is a long journey (that’s what we did). From the Cancun airport, you can take the ADO bus to Cancun bus station, then another ADO bus to Valladolid (the trip takes about 3h). Another option is to stay overnight at Playa del Carmen and then take a bus to Valladolid.
Stay: we stayed at Hotel Catedral which was well-located and staff was very friendly.
We visited Kosovo, Macedonia and Albania over eight days, meaning that we only had one or two days in each place. This was enough to see the highlights, but it also meant lots of travelling around.
It’s tricky to find information about buses online, but TripAdvisor forums had the best information.
Bus tickets can’t be booked in advance online, but we had no problem getting them on the day. Distances are short, but trips often take longer than expected because of the hilly terrain. Drivers can be mavericks – overtaking dangerously on a turn is commonplace.
Taxis are also available and not super expensive, although we didn’t use them.
Everything was significantly cheaper than in the UK – even in popular places you never pay more than 10€ for a meal including drinks.
Kosovo uses the Euro, Macedonia has the Denar and Albania uses the Lek. Lek and Denars can only be exchanged in the country, but we had no issues with that.
We did some research in advance, but it was easy enough to find veggie options and ask for vegan versions by removing some ingredients. Most people speak English enough to understand simple instructions like ‘no cheese’.
Yummy salads are available everywhere, as are pizzas. Portions are always generous. Fruit and veg are usually very fresh and delicious – as is the local wine.
Drinks aren’t always listed on the menu, but most places will serve the usual drinks (including plenty of coffee options).