We left Playa early to visit Ek Balam, a beautiful Mayan site in Yucatan, not far from Chichen Itzá, but less visited, with a more intimate atmosphere . After climbing the 105 stairs of the highest pyramid, part of the largest complex, the Acropolis, you have a wonderful view of Yucatan, 360 degrees of green, dense forest, and unbroken horizons, definitely worth climbing! The Acropolis is both a temple and a palace. About half way up, stop to admire some ornate carvings that decorate the exterior part of a king´s tomb. Large stone teeth create the impression of a massive jaguar’s mouth protecting the tomb. The site is surrounded by two walls which served to defend the site against attack, and had a meaning of military strength.
After Ek Balam, we decided to cool down in a cenote. The area is full of cenotes, so it´s hard to choose. We followed a local guy´s advice, who showed us the way to Zac Wa. After walking a long path in the forest, we reached the cenote. We climbed down a wooden staircase and landed on a small island surrounded by clear blue waters with lots of small catfish swimming around. Vines and trees strech down from the ground above. We got to talk to the local lifeguard who explained that this cenote is connected to another one only 100 meters away, but only accessible to divers. As he was going home for lunch when we left, he walked along with us and showed us different plants and explained their medicinal use. We even stopped at another huge cenote, not accessible to tourists (not yet!) for lack of a staircase to climb down.
By then, everybody was starving, so we drove to nearby Valladolid to have lunch and take a quick tour of this colonial city. Valladolid is now a stop on most tours to Chichen itzá, so the tourist related businesses are thriving. On weekends the main square is full of local vendors of handicrafts, hats, shoes, local embroidered blouses and all sorts of Mexican goodies, marquesitas, churros, ice creams! The church on the main plaza is only one of the many churches to admire in this beautiful city.