Exploring the Wonders of the Maya Route

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Stretching from southern Mexico into Belize and Guatemala, the Maya Route is a region where you can scale jungle-entwined temples by day, then dress up for a sparkling night on the town in seaside resorts or charming cities. In this land once ruled by Mayan kings, you can follow the tropical trail through rainforests wher monkeys swing through the leafy canopy and orchids blossom near color-drenched birds and butterflies. Here you can even pursue the rainbow under the waves to some of the Carribean’s most vibrant coral reefs, just a splash offshore from Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and Belize’s abundant cays.

When you’re ready for a break from the Maya world’s natural and ancient attractions, you may relax and admire the turquoise sea as you bask on a white-sand beach. Or perhaps you’d prefer to listen to a wildlife serenade from your thatched-roof bungalow at the edge of the rainforest. Take time to enjoy the jungle waterfalls. The wide range of accommodations in the region makes it easy to combine adventure with amenities for relaxation or even romance. Hotels, resorts, private villas, and cozy cottages are perfectly situated for easy access to the ancient mysteries of the Maya.

So don your safari hats, sunscreen and walking shoes for an adventure among some of the world’s most enchanting architectural treasures, scenery and wildlife. Don’t forget your swimsuits: In addition to white sand as soft as baby powder, your Maya trail may lead you to tumbling cascades with pools just made for a dip, blue lagoons aswirl with glinting fish, or a freshwater cenote (pronounced “say-NO-tay”) in the forest — a natural swimming hole. In fact on the Maya Route, you’ll probably discover that the chilling out has never been quite so romantic, especially if you take a little Xtabentum along with your odyssey. Pronounced “shaBENToom, ” this local liqueur is said to be an aphrodisiac sent by the Maya gods!

Along the Caribbean shores of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, Cancun and the island of Cosumel are the favorite bases for touring Maya ruins. You may also stay along the coast south of Cancun and visit history-filled cities such as Merida, Campeche, Chetumal and Villahermosa. In Belize, you can mix a few days of Oceanside fun at Ambergris Caye or other offshore islands with a stay on the mainland for day trips to sites in the jungle. The ancient city of Tikal, in Guatemala, is usually visited on excursions from Cancun or Belize; you’ll find deluxe lodging near Tikal on the shores of Lake Peten Itza.

If you have a week or more, there are tours linking Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Honduras. On some, you might learn to read Maya glyphs, hike hours to murals deep in the jungle or canoe down rivers to haunting ceremonial centers.

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