2021 visit to Yucatán, Mexico

By Harry Conwell
This item appears on page 12 of the April 2021 issue.

Having traveled each winter for 45 years, I had limited options for foreign travel in winter 2020-2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Travel within Mexico was possible, so I decided to visit the Yucatán Peninsula.

From Houston, Texas, on Dec. 30 I flew to Mérida, capital and largest city in the state of Yucatán. In the airport, security checked my temperature and sanitized my hands and luggage (spraying it) before I left the terminal.

I took a taxi to Hotel del Peregrino (Calle 51 #488; phone +52 999 924 3007, hoteldelperegrino.com), from where I made further travel arrangements.

Taking infection rates into consideration, Mexico had categorized the travelability of each state. In Yucatán, face masks had to be worn, and, upon entering most buildings, visitors had to have their temperature taken and hand sanitizer applied. Social distancing was suggested (but frequently was not practiced).

Most stores, restaurants, taverns, casinos, etc., were open daily. Plazas, public parks and markets were open, but most museums were closed.

I hired David Salas, a guide with Fronteras de Ecoturismo (fronteras-de-ecoturismo.ueniweb.com [in Spanish only]) who specializes in bird-watching and archaeological tours, for 17 days. Four of those days were spent on day tours, each of which lasted eight hours. For his guide services, using his vehicle, David charged $1,700. At an additional cost of about $2,000, I paid for all the gasoline, tolls, our food and 13 nights’ accommodations for both of us.

Day trips were taken to the Maya archaeological sites of Uxmal and Chichén Itzá; highways to both locations were good. The bird-watching was exceptional near Sisal and Río Lagartos, along the Gulf of Mexico. David later drove us from the xeric northern lowlands to the lush tropical forest surrounding the Calakmul Maya ruins in the state of Campeche.

Initially bypassing Palenque’s archaeological ruins, we crossed the Sierra Madre de Chiapas, bivouacking in the colonial city of San Cristóbal de las Casas. Upon our leaving, we drove parallel to the Guatemalan border.

Southeast of San Cristóbal, in Parque Nacional Lagunas de Montebello, straddling the frontier border, we briefly crossed into Guatemala. There was no border security at that spot. We then headed northwest back to Palenque.

After visiting the ruins, David drove me back to Mérida on Jan. 22 and took his leave. Two days later, I returned to the US and self-quarantined. Upon my departing from or arriving in the US, neither Mexican nor US authorities required proof of negative COVID-19 test results from me or any passengers.*

During my 3½-week stay, the weather was often rainy. Surprisingly, the humidity in January was low.

I had a pleasant visit in Mexico and would consider returning there.

Topeka, KS

*An executive order signed by President Biden in late January 2021 requires that anyone returning to the US from abroad must present a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than 72 hours before arrival.