THE CALM AROUND CANCUN
Off the beaten track, yet around Cancun...
Oh I know what it sounds like… I know Cancun is anything but an unexplored area !
I know that, of course. But what if there were areas around Cancun that were entirely quiet and empty from mass tourism. That is what we hoped for.
Unarguably, the boom of mass tourism in the last decade has made it harder and harder to find places that remain off the beaten path and away from the picture queues.
In the last fifteen years, I have been to places like Indian Ladakh, Kazakhstan, Turkish Kurdistan, Indian Kashmir, or even Taiwan where tourism is scarce, and I was pretty much on my own at every sunset. But even this is slowly changing.
Nowadays, there are tourists almost everywhere and there's always an influencer to spoil a great landscape. There has never been so many of them cruising the Arctic Ocean or crossing the Namibian desert...
Our travels are driven by aesthetics and photography but we're not in a rush, we can search for the precious spots, and we don't even want to try to re-do that same picture we saw everywhere on social media...
My partner and I are looking for good times to spend, great people to meet, peace of traveling and contemplation, without mass tourism and "gram-queues".
But is it still possible to get away from the many "selfie-addicts" and "influencers & influenced" ?
It drove me crazy sometimes that we were not the only travelers up at sunrise anymore. I hated it when I couldn’t just go by myself to some places in India because tourism is supposed to be “organized” and "supervised". It upset me in Angkor Wat when I was kicked out of the archeological site while I was doing night photography. And I was saddened to learn from other tourists that it is now impossible to go see the Moaïs of Easter Island just anytime you want. I was there just seven years ago and I saw them three, four times, at sunrise, sunset and under the milky way. How could it not be possible anymore? How could they have implemented a single ticket for each site, and during day time only!?
Now after a year and a half of traveling and many disappointing situations, I have slowly found my marks. I get less and less upset, and I look for back doors when main doors won't open to me. Often times now, we also accept to go to touristic places, because this is where we can get some good and trendy food with a few cocktails, and then we drive away and discover where most tourists don’t go. And every time, it proves to be possible - and oh so rewarding!
So with all this in mind, we bought our tickets to Cancun. Pretty much the over-and-over-beaten-track, but we knew that. However I was sure there would be a number of great things to see in that area that are not everywhere on Instagram - yet. And honestly, I was not even expecting to be so far from the tourist crowds just outside of Cancun !
In Cancun and all along the southern coast all the way to Belize, nowadays, you’re easily finding yourself pretty much stuck between huge hotel buildings and toxic Sargassum seaweeds on the beach.
That’s a fact, Cancun is not what it used to be anymore. The city has been suffering for a few years from this catastrophe, most probably caused by the abuse of land fertilizers.
Sargassum are invading the entire coastline, they stink, they are itchy, the water is brown most of the year now, and they are toxic. Therefore tourists turn away from the beach, resorts close down, and a number of inland activities boom instead. Cenote swims, adrenaline activities, amusement parks, and Maya ruins are becoming more and more popular. However… there’s still plenty of options to fit the traveler who wishes to avoid the crowds.
We decided to explore Yucatan, Quintana Roo, and Campeche and spent a month exactly between our arrival and our departure from Cancun.
We managed to discover pretty untouched and white beaches with turquoise water, quiet cenotes, ruins without a single tourist, deliciously run down hotels, beautiful villages and we were the only westerners most of the time, really !
We asked locals, we asked expats, and we followed road signs and the satellite views of google maps... But mostly we didn't check what was popular on Instagram in the area !
The entire peninsula is full of birds of all colors, toucans, eagles, vultures, parrots, jaguars, tarantulas, deer, fox, and is populated by great Mexican people.
We woke up to the sound of birds, we climbed pyramids from which we had a three-sixty view on nothing but nature, we listened to Mexican bands in villages, and every day, we got thrilled by what this region has to offer.
In summer, though the weather is sweaty, there's almost nothing but blue sky, a few white clouds and from time to time, a beautiful storm with heavy rain. Every sunset offers some of the most poetic atmosphere we've seen, and the villages are all full of colors and music.
My love for Mexico and the warm-hearted Mexicans was born.
Note: In order to preserve these areas, I will not post names of places anymore. I believe this is for each of us to decide to explore or not.
A well-worn path, the usual route or method. The origin seems obvious, since a much-used route would indeed be flattened by the tramp of many feet. The phrase began to be used figuratively, in the sense of trite or unoriginal, in the seventeenth century or before, and off the beaten track, in the meaning of new or unusual, is just about as old. Samuel Johnson spelled it out in 1751 when he wrote, “The imitator treads a beaten walk.”.
* Off the beaten track / path :
An unusual route or destination, as in We found a great vacation spot, off the beaten track. This term alludes to a well-worn path trodden down by many feet and was first recorded in 1860, although the phrase beaten track was recorded in 1638 in reference to the usual, unoriginal way of doing something.