La Primera Excursión
One of the best things about the IFSA-Butler program is that they plan four excursions to other parts of the country (generally still in the Yucatán) for the group. And while it’s fun to choose where to go and figure out plans independently, it’s also very, very nice to have someone who is knowledgable organize and pay for everything for you.
Our first excursion was last Sunday and consisted of trips to Chichén Itzá, a cenote called Yokdzonot, and the colonial city Izamal.
Contrary to popular belief, Chichén Itzá is actually the name of the entire historical site and not just the largest and most famous pyramid there. It was one of the most thriving Maya civilizations between the 9th and 12th centuries and its ruins are now an incredibly popular tourist attraction. The name Chichén Itzá comes from the Maya words Ji – boca, Chen – well, and Itza – the name of the tribe that lived there. Together it means “at the mouth of the well of the Itza”.
At the mouth of the well of the Itza is beautiful and we managed to get there early enough to beat the crowd and explore the ruins at our own pace. The site is huge, with three main sites and many smaller ones branching off. Some of my favorites were the El Castillo (the big one) and the Juego de Pelota.
After about two hours, the group had seen plenty of Maya ruins and I had perfected my running-iguana impression (in case anyone wants to give it a try, it involves lifting your butt up and awkwardly moving your legs and arms at opposite times, whole body waggling – watch this starting at 1:32 for more pointers: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0W_8BySmVzU) so we got back into the bus and headed towards the cenote.
Yokdzonot is incredible. It is a huge cenote with cool water, a zipline overhead, and fish so tranquilos you can touch them.
We ate lunch at a little restaurant at Yokdzonot and then headed to Izamal, a small city that is known as “La Ciudad Amarilla” because all of its buildings are painted yellow.
There are several theories as to why it was painted yellow. The first and more widely agreed upon is that after Juan Pablo III visited their town, locals were proud and wanted to cover their entire village with their color. Another theory is that the buildings absorb the sunlight instead of reflecting it off and giving off more heat. A third theory has something to do with the yema de un huevo but the guide was talking very fast and I didn’t catch the whole story.