Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico - Christmas 2007

My family decided to escape to the Yucatan Peninsula for Christmas. Things got off to a rough start – our plane to Mexico City was delayed, causing us to miss our connecting flight to Mérida. This stranded us in Mexico City for one night, which resulted in a fairly terrifying taxi ride. Our driver claimed he was lost, which for some reason required us to drive on some of the sketchiest back alleys I've ever seen. He repeatedly explained to us this area was not safe for tourists and when we finally found our hotel, explained it was for "sex men." This was likely all part of some scam as the hotel was quite comfortable.

The next best flight we could get seats on was to Cancún. This altered our plans a little, mostly on the car rental side, but otherwise wasn't a huge inconvenience. We spent four nights in Cancún, using it mostly as a base for day trips. We went to Isla Majeres on Christmas day – although upon returning (it required a ferry ride) we discovered the parking staff had been using our car as a taxi all day. Merry Christmas! We also spent a day visiting Tulum and Coba, both spectacular in their own ways. On our way back we suffered two simultaneous flat tires.

Day five signaled our departure to Mérida, where we planned to spend two nights. On the way we stopped at Valladolid for a quick look around and some lunch. We also visited Chichen Itza, an impressive (although tourist-ridden) Mayan site. Mérida proved to be unexpectedly lively, with street music and festivities occurring all weekend long. We pealed off to visit Cuzama on one of the days (suffering yet another flat tire). This too was unexpectedly cool: horse-drawn narrow-gauge train cars ferried people to three impressive cenotes deep inside a henequen plantation. Stupidly, I lost my glasses in the last cenote. Although the water was crystal clear, diminishing sunlight and more than 30 feet of water depth prevented their recovery.

On our last full day, we headed south to Campeche. We visited Uxmal on route, my favorite Mayan site of the trip, and a smaller site called Kabah. Campeche, although designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, just wasn't as exciting as Mérida. However, it's pirate-era defenses and multicolored buildings were interesting. On our last day, we explored the city before heading back to Mérida to catch our plane home.

© Chris Harrison