After spending a day walking around Merida, it was time to get back on the bikes and do a day trip to Dzibilchaltún, a Maya archeological site. This would be our introduction to Maya pyramids and ruins. Dzibilchaltún isn’t the biggest or most impressive set of ruins in the Yucatan, but it was a great place to start. Plus, at only 20km from downtown Merida (40km round trip), it’s an easy ride to do in one day.
For this trip, I used a cycling app – Komoot. I was curious to see if the routes were different from what Google gave me, and in some cases they were, though that wasn’t always a good thing (more on that later). I’ll detail our route in this blog (with pictures), but if you want to see this ride in Komoot, see below.
On the map above, you can zoom in and out right from our blog. Click on the preview photo in the bottom right corner to bring up pictures, and click on the pictures to be redirected to our Komoot page. From there, you can expand the map and see the photos pinned to it.
CYCLE ROUTE STATS (Mérida to Dzibilchaltún):
- Start Time: 10:00am
- Arrive at Gran Museo Del Mundo Maya: 11:00am
- Leave Gran Museo: 1:30pm
- Arrive at Dzibilchaltún Ruins: 2:30pm
- Leave Dzibilchaltún: 4pm – when it closed!
- Return to Mérida: 5:00pm
- Total Cycling Time: 2 hrs 13 mins
- Total Distance: 40km
- Average Speed: 18km/hr – an easy pace that allows for picture-taking
Cycling to the north end of Mérida to visit the Gran Museo
We were staying at Hotel del Peregrino (highly recommended!) and fuelled up on their delicious hot breakfast (included) before heading out. Komoot’s route had us head north on Calle 64 and Calle 6, then zigzag our way north of Circuito Colonias onto Calle 20. Here we stopped off at a grocery store to pick up snacks.
On Calle 20, we discovered a separated bike lane. Yippee!
Though maintenance on this bike lane is terrible.
Then Calle 20 becomes one way heading south, so we veered onto Calle 18 which is the parallel street going north. The street is much more residential here.
Then we got to the wide, 4-lane highway that is Calle 17, and crossed it into the mall parking lot. The roads are bigger and the traffic moves faster in the north end of Mérida, so cutting through a parking lot was a nicer ride. Plus, we got to see yet another Christmas tree. They were everywhere!
This parking lot was just two blocks south of the Gran Museo Del Mundo Maya. We’d arrived…
…and immediately a security guard came running. Uh-oh. Were they going to tell us we couldn’t be up here with our bikes? But no, he was just coming to inform us that there’s secure bike parking below!
None of the other bikes were locked up, but we weren’t taking that chance with our Bromptons. We secured them to a metal pipe and headed into the museum.
The Gran Museo Del Mundo Maya is a good introduction to Maya culture, which is why we wanted to stop here before going to the ruins. We spent a couple hours in the museum, then ate our grocery store snacks for lunch, and continued north.
The Route from Gran Museo to Dzibilchaltún
Just north of the museum is a massive highway intersection – Highway 261 (the road the museum is on that heads north to the coastal town of Progreso) crosses Manuel Berzunza (the highway that encircles Mérida). Komoot didn’t take us on the highway, it directed us to small side streets leading to Calle 34 that crosses the highway. On the Komoot app map, it looks like this:
That looks like the side street goes under the highway, right? And to be fair, the street does cross under the main highway, but the Collector-style streets running parallel to it carry fast-moving traffic too. Getting through that roundabout on bicycles was kind of perilous. I was too busy looking for speeding vehicles to take a photo, but here’s Google street view of Calle 34 and Manuel Berzunza:
Anyway, we made it, and were soon out of Mérida and on Carr Temozon-Chablekal – which had a bike path!
It was pretty good until it wasn’t…
This was the first time we’d encountered blatant obstacles in a bike path, painted so that cyclists will see them, but not removed. I mean, okay, moving the pole would be difficult, but maybe direct the bike lane around the pole instead of just forcing cyclists to dodge obstacles?
As we rode into the small town of Chablekal, the bike path abruptly ended at a sign:
In Chablekal, we got our first hint that Komoot didn’t know when certain roads or streets were gravel, because it told us to turn left onto this dirt path, claiming it was paved.
No thanks. We took the next left onto Calle 27, which was paved, then turned right onto Calle 26, and then left onto Calle 19 — the road to Dzibilchaltún! It also had a skinny bike path that looks quite neglected:
Finally, we turned onto the road to Zona Archaeological Dzibilchaltún!
There’s a parking lot before you get to the entrance, and a sign saying no bikes allowed inside the site, so we turned into the lot. The attendants directed us to a bike parking area and we paid a small fee. They were there to watch our bikes, but we locked them anyway. Evidently, locking one’s bike isn’t common practice in this area of the world, which is comforting, I suppose. At home in Toronto, we wouldn’t leave our Brompton outside even with two heavy duty locks, but we felt safe doing so in the Yucatan.
From the parking lot, it’s about a five minute walk to the entrance.
At last, Maya ruins! The first thing we did was climb the pyramid.
The site wasn’t too busy (as you can see there are not a lot of people down below). Most visitors seemed to be locals who were enjoying a swim in Cenote Xlacah!
TIP: We recommend looking at the maps by the entrance before wandering inside. There aren’t a ton of signs directing visitors where to go, so we ended up missing quite a bit – and getting lost in the woods on a path to nowhere!
Even without getting lost, we wouldn’t have had time to see everything. I thought the site was open until 5pm, but they closed at 4pm and were shutting things down starting at 3:30! So on the map below, we saw the right side (1, 2, 03) and inside the “square” that has 16 in the middle, and the cenote (11), but had no idea that 12, 10, 9 or 7 were even there! Even though we stood on what we think was Structure 8 and looked in that direction, we didn’t think we could go that way.
FYI, the “path to nowhere” was past #3. The ruins there are just stones in the ground, and we thought we were looking for something bigger and kept walking along the path. If you’re walking for more than a minute, turn back!
By this point we were starving. We cycled back into Chablekal. The town was pretty dead and nothing seemed open, but we found this convenience store and I bought something that I thought was bread but turned out to be cake shaped like bread and cut into slices.
Oh well! It filled our bellies and gave us fuel to make it back to Mérida. We took a more direct route on our return, eventually connecting with the grand boulevard of Paseo Montejo.
A lot of fast-moving cars on this road! But we came back to Paseo Montejo a couple days later for car-free Sunday and it was bliss!
After Mérida, our cycling adventure across The Yucatan begins in earnest! We encountered some lovely scenery, awesome isolated ruins, and the bumpiest roads we’ve ever biked on. Follow our blog to hear all about it!