13 Feb 2017
We have traveled the Ruta de Puuc (Puuc Route) many times and find more interesting things to see along what others call, the Mayan Highway. It is known for its Mayan Ruins, but there is so much more to see than this!
You can easily make this Yucatan tour a week long vacation, staying in little hotels in small pueblos as you meander through the area. Many love to do this tour as a day trip out of Meida, and take in the Mayan archaeological sites only.
Before you start planning your best option along the Puuc Route, review this list of things to do. You may just decide to make a longer trip out of it. Mayan Ruins are the main attraction, but for the curious traveler, you can dig into the local culture even deeper than other popular tourist areas. A combination of archeological sites with one or two other interests listed below is possible on a day trip. Take your pick and map it out. Bottom line is, you won’t be disappointed no matter what you see this special area of the Yucatan.
Where is the Puuc Route?
The Puuc Route is Hwy 261 which runs to the south of Merida in the State of the Yucatan. This second class highway is a two lane highway that winds through the countryside and takes you to four major Mayan archaeological sites. Unlike the flat plains of the Yucatan Peninsula, this highway has small hills, hence the Mayan name used to describe this area, Puuc, which means hilly. The highway can be taken as far south as Calakmul, and as far west as the Campeche City. It is a well traveled route by visitors who want to dig further into local history.
Mayan Archeological Sites on the Puuc Route
The main attraction is Uxmal Ruins, but there is something to be said for the archeological sites of Kabal, Sayil, and Labna, the suburbs of Uxmal. These secondary sites, secondary only because they are smaller than Uxmal, played a significant role in ancient Maya life, each have their own merits, and each worth visiting.
Caves and Caverns
The oldest and largest caves in the Yucatan are located on the Puuc Route, the Loltun Caves. This is a great walking tour that takes you into dry caves of the local area. Not only will you see artifacts left by the Maya, but you will experience nature’s incredible ability to create music and light. This tour can only be completed with a guide, who not only provides a great historical tour, but helps to preserve this site. The walk is 700 meters and you will be going up to 60 meters underground.
Churches and Town Squares
The small pueblos along the route have remnants of the Spanish influence that is such a large part of the local history. All churches are open to the public, with most closing for afternoon siesta between 2 and 4 pm. The churches are worth stepping into and the local religious folk art and alters worth a peek. Every church is located in the main town square where festivals, events and makeshift markets happen,
Chocolate Museum and Plantation
If you are interested in the local history of Cacao, and want to dig a bit deeper into Maya history, the Choco-Story Eco Chocolate Museum is well worth a visit. Give yourself 90 minutes to cruise through the interactive museum, 25 of these minutes consisting of a chocolate making and tasting kitchen. You will see the cacao plantation, how cacao has been an integral part of Maya history, and there is a great boutique at the end. We found this museum not only well worth the visit, but the history of the Maya is well done. It was worth the price and the time. We found the boutique a great place for presents and to replenish our personal chocolate stash.
Artisans, Farmers and Markets
In addition to village churches, small pueblos are known for either their Mennonite farmers, local artists, or in the case of Oxkutzcab the state’s largest citrus market. Ticul is known for its pottery, and other small villages have at least one artisan shop worth visiting. Meandering through the area is reminiscent of meandering through small villages up north, with small artisan shops, local produce and just super cool finds that you were not expecting. This drive is also safe, so meandering is fun!
If you are looking for a safe and easy adventure day that lets you peek into the past and present, the Puuc Route is a great addition to your holiday. Combine it into a long road trip that takes you around the Peninsula, or just make it a day trip out of Merida. The options are many, and you cannot go wrong with your choice.