Mexico-Belize Vacation: Laguna Bacular & Dzibanche Ruins
Don’t miss the beginning of the trip…read about the trip in order.
I’m not sure what happened, but over a month has gone by since we came back from this trip, and I never finished telling you about it. So here goes, the rest of the trip will be pumped out over the next few days.
Chetumal Day Trips:
With limited things to do in Chetumal, we decided to rent a car one day and visit Laguna Bacular and some nearby Mayan ruins. We considered having a taxi driver act as our personal driver and tour guide. The taxi driver we used when we went to the Free Zone offered to take us around for a half day for about the same money as a rental car.
If we had taken him up on his offer, the day would have gone a little smoother (we planned to start with the ruins before it got too hot and then hit Bacular for lunch, but missed a turnoff and ended up doing them in reverse order).
But I’m glad we decided to get a car and drive ourselves. Getting a little lost sometimes takes you places that become the highlight of the trip.
It is simply beautiful.
The town is based around a lake with a handful of restaurants, hotels and private property. If you are in the area, be sure to stop by Hotel Laguna. They didn’t seem to mind us walking around their grounds taking pictures even though we weren’t guests and weren’t there for a meal.
Built into the hillside, the hotel reminds me a bit of pictures I have seen of Greece. The rooms had their own private balconies and there is a dock where you can arrange water activities. The pool is small but pretty.
I’ve read online and in guidebooks that you should consider staying here instead of Chetumal if you are visiting the ruins. I tend to agree…especially if you are looking for a peaceful retreat or a romantic getaway. If you are looking for lots of stuff to do, this isn’t it.
There is also a historic fort that once was used to protect the city. For a few dollars you can explore the ruins of the fort. It’s well worth the price of admission just to get really good views of the lake.
Just outside of the fort is a town square which appeared to have wi-fi (based on the fact that there were a few people hanging out with their computers). We were there on a Sunday morning and there were a half dozen people sitting under the gazebo.
In all of my trips to Mexico, I’d never made it to any ruins. We had a few choices that were an easy day trip from Chetumal, but decided to visit Dzipanche because it is set in a wooded area and my brother had heard it was the prettiest of the nearby options.
Spread out over what felt like a huge state park, they have cut the jungle away from a dozen plus buildings. Only adventurous souls will climb the steep stairs on a few of the ancient buildings, but others can be explored easily by people like me who are totally afraid of heights.
My brother Mark climbed up to the top of one of the temples
While the ruins were great, I have to admit the highlight was discovering a family of about 10 howler monkeys in the trees above. We stood below them, watching them interact and care for a couple of babies, taking pictures for about 20 minutes before they headed off into the distance. We actually think they were watching us as much as we were watching them.
Lunch – An Unexpected Treat:
After leaving Bacular a little too early for lunch, we decided that we needed to stop wherever we could to grab some lunch before we got to the ruins. As we drove through a small town somewhere between our 2 scheduled excursions, we decided that we would stop at the first place that we saw tables. Not having much luck, we stopped when we saw a small market. These little markets are all over Mexico. They are about the size of an old fashioned U.S. gas station (not the modern convenience store versions we find nowadays). They sell an assortment of snacks, merchandise and always have a cooler of cold bottled sodas.
The woman behind the counter spoke a little English, and we asked her where we could find a restaurant to eat lunch. She told us to wait a moment, ran across the dirt road and came back moments later. She explained that the people just across the street had food & tables and we could leave our car in front of her store and eat there. As we walked toward the house she pointed to, we watched them quickly set up a plastic table and chairs for us, covering it with a tablecloth. Speaking no English and not having a menu, I used my limited Spanish to order the one thing I knew we would all eat and they would understand – tacos de pollo (chicken tacos).
The wife started making homemade corn tortillas in the outdoor kitchen, and the husband ran to the family refrigerator to pull out the chicken, tomatoes, onion, cabbage and lettuce. I didn’t know how to tell them that we wouldn’t eat the lettuce or cabbage for fear of getting sick, so we just watched him chop away. After about 10 minutes of constant motion in the kitchen and 2 children staring at us from a few feet away, we were presented with our taco meal.
- Wear bug repellant. I would have had more fun if I wasn’t being eaten by bugs at the ruins. If there are trees around, there will be bugs.
- Take a chance and eat a meal in an unlikely place. While it make not be the best food you’ve every had, the experience will make up for it.
- If you will be traveling in a country that isn’t English-speaking, make sure you add to your list of local words a simple food item you can order at any restaurant. It will come in handy when you end up off the beaten path.
Next Up – Belize