Our Travels: Quintana Roo, Mexico

For most travel writers, when they’re not glued to a laptop, the wider world beckons with adventures. The World Words writers and editors are no different – they can’t resist their itchy feet any more than the tug to write about their exciting journeys once their travelling feet come to rest. That’s why we created the Our Travels blog series.

This series of blog posts follow our team around the world, as writers share highlights of their recent adventures. There’s an extensive back catalogue of Our Travels blogs to enjoy, with topics including everything from hiking in the Azores to soaking up the sunshine in the Cayman Islands. This month, it’s the turn of our writer Nicole to share her tale of traversing Mexico for the first time and falling head over heels in love with Quintana Roo (naturally, the whole trip happened a while before coronavirus lockdowns came into effect). Scroll on to give her story a read…

Nicole enjoying one of the many sandy cycling tracks on the idyllic (and car-free) Isla Holbox.

Why I went to Quintana Roo
A Mexican friend of mine – a digital nomad like me – was keen to take a three-month road trip around his home country, and asked if I wanted to tag along. Naturally, I jumped at the opportunity. Dreaming of atmospheric Mayan ruins, clear Caribbean seas, reef-fringed islands and mysterious cenotes, we allocated a few weeks to explore the southeastern state of Quintana Roo from bottom to top. While the star attractions like Playa del Carmen and Tulum lived up to their shiny reputations, it was the less-visited places we found along the way that truly stole my heart.

My highlight of the trip
Originally, Bacalar was marked as a quick overnight stop on the drive from Chiapas to the Yucatán Peninsula. But at first glimpse, the town’s extraordinary ‘Lake of Seven Colours’ had hooked my heart. Changing from bright aqua to emerald to a deep navy, the lake is a beautiful sight, and boating or swimming across it is a truly unforgettable experience – especially for water babies like me. Within the lake, I dived deep into the black depths of Cenote Negro and slathered myself in the mineral rich mud of Pirates Channel. Back on shore, life was equally enjoyable, our days filled by strolling or cycling through charming streets lined with fishermen’s cottages, chilling out with scrumptious tacos, and buying a dream catcher or two. In the end, we stayed at Lake Bacalar for almost a week.

What else I love about Quintana Roo
As far as road trips go, Quintana Roo delivers an itinerary that makes you greedy for more, the more you explore. Best of all, it is so quick and easy to drive up the highway and discover every highlight. From Bacalar, it’s a little over two hours to reach Tulum, where ritzy hotels, white sand beaches, yoga studios and vegan restaurants await.

Within a further two hours, you’ll arrive at the resort-filled, shopping and nightlife havens of Playa del Carmen and Cancún. It’s an easy trip over to Cozumel for diving in between. Wanting to escape the crowds though, we opted to keep driving north to the small fishing village of Chiquilá and hop on a boat over to the idyllic Isla Holbox. With no cars but plenty of sandy tracks for cycling, as well as wild mangroves and whale sharks gliding by from June to September, it’s a gorgeous, untouristy paradise. I expect it won’t stay that way for long so visit as soon as you can!

A kaleidoscope of colours at Lake Bacalar, which was Nicole’s surprise Quintana Roo highlight.

Why you should go
Aside from some of Mexico’s celebrated beach resorts, Quintana Roo brims with historical and natural wonders. There’s the coastal wetlands and roadside Mayan ruins of Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, along with the jungle-clad pyramid of Coba. Just off the coast of Cancún, sleepy Isla Mujeres is encircled in Caribbean blue, where you can dive within a museum of sculptures. And after swimming in incredible, crystalline water beneath stalactites at Cenote Dos Ojos, my next trip to Quintana Roo will be sure to include a whole lot more cenote-hopping!

How you can visit
Most travellers choose to fly directly into Cancún International Airport, which is served by most national carriers and major international airlines, or on a domestic flight from Mexico City. If you’re staying around Cancún and the Riviera Maya, you’ll find plenty of options for private transfers, taxis, shuttle buses, ADO buses and guided tours in order to explore. To branch out further in less touristic territory, it’s easiest to hire a car and set off into the sunset.

Are you looking for more great travel content on Mexico from writers like Nicole? You’ll find lots of examples of recent work on our projects page. To stay up to date with travel news, we’d love to see you over at Twitter.

– Article and photography by Nicole Leigh West.

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  1. Pingback: Our Travels: Samburu - World Words

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