Wednesday, April 27, 2016

MAYAN RUINS MAGIC: PALENQUE, UXMAL, AND TULUM





            
I have had an ongoing fascination with ancient cultures since my college days when I also had the romantic idea of being an adventurous and daring archaeologist discovering buried ruins of lost civilizations. With time my practical self took hold and I abandoned this dream. However, I have never lost the allure of the mysteries of lost peoples and their civilizations. I still have the curiosity of wanting to know who, why, what, and especially how of “disappeared peoples and their cultures.”

When my husband and I moved to Mexico eighteen years ago I found that not only did this enchanting country offer lovely Spanish colonial cities to explore, lovely beaches to enjoy, gorgeous scenery to appreciate, fascinating cultures to study, but the magic of pre-Columbian Mayan cultures to discover. I was in heaven! When I would announce that there was another ancient Mayan archaeological site to visit my husband would reply by asking “where is this place of the “old folks and their rocks”? But I like to think my husband has accepted my fascination with the “ancient ones.” The fact that the “old folks” built their cities in beautiful and often remote jungle settings is part of the magic and excitement of exploring these Mayan ruins and definitely a great plus!

This post will offer a small glimpse of three of my favorite Mayan archaeological sites in Mexico: PALENQUE, UXMAL, and TULUM. There are many, many other amazing sites of the ancient world in Mexico and also in Honduras and Guatemala. However, you will have to wait and look forward to visiting these other ruins in future postings. For now if you are ready with your sun protection, your comfy trekking shoes, your bug juice, your water, and your sense of wonder and curiosity, then let’s go!


                                    PALENQUE, CHIAPAS, MEXICO


                                
The Temple of Inscriptions at Palenque is stunning!

PALENQUE (Yucatec Maya: Bàak' was a Maya-city-state that flourished in the 7th century in what is now the state of Chiapas in southern Mexico. The Palenque ruins date back to 226 BC to approximately 799 AD. After its decline, it was absorbed into the surrounding dense jungle. Palenque is a medium-sized site, much smaller than the huge Mayan sites such as Tikal in Guatemala, Chichen Itza in Mexico, or Copan in Honduras, but it contains some of the finest architecture, sculpture, and carvings that the Maya ever created.




                         And the carvings at Palenque are incredible!

Everything about Palenque fascinates me! The jungle setting, the intricate construction and the intimate scale are truly mesmerizing. Palenque became a UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE in 1987 which UNESCO has described as follows: “A prime example of a Mayan sanctuary of the classical period, Palenque was at its height between AD 500 and 700, when its influence extended throughout the basin of the Usumacinta River. The archaeological site of Palenque in the state of Chiapas is one of the most outstanding Classic period sites of the Maya area, known for its exceptional and well conserved architectural and sculptural remains. The elegance and craftsmanship of the construction, as well as the lightness of the sculpted reliefs illustrating Mayan mythology, attest to the creative genius of this civilization.”



        The Mayan really knew how to build a pyramid even in the jungle.

Its numerous inscribed stone slabs, intricate bas-relief sculptures, inlaid masks and other remarkable adornments give Palenque an air of enchantment and sanctity. The 75-foot-high Temple of the Inscriptions contains one of the only crypts found inside a pyramid in Mexico. On excavation, the Tomb of Pakal, a Mayan ruler of the 7th century, revealed an array of jewels, masks, jade ornaments, wall carvings and other exquisite artifacts. Many of these treasures are found on the on-site Palenque Museum which should definitely be on your visit list!

                       Pretty scary looking gods!

Much of the history of Palenque has been reconstructed from reading the hieroglyphic inscriptions on the many monuments. Historians now have a long sequence of the ruling dynasty of Palenque in the 5th century and extensive knowledge of the city-state's rivalry with other states such as Calakmul and Tonina. The most famous ruler of Palenque was Pacal the Great whose tomb has been found and excavated in the Temple of the Inscriptions.



                     The Palace complex is where King Pacal called home. 

During the 8th century, Palenque came under increasing stress in concert with most other Classic Mayan city-states and there was no new construction in the ceremonial center after approximately 800 AD. An agricultural population continued to live here for a few generations and then the site was abandoned and was slowly absorbed by the forest. The area was very sparsely populated when the Spanish first arrived in the 1520's.



          Palenque with its spectacular setting and fabulous ruins is fantastico!

However, at its zenith, Palenque was a sprawling religious center that spanned nearly 25 square miles. Only approximately one square mile (2.5 km) has been excavated revealing what many consider to be the architectural apex of western Mayan civilization. It is estimated that less than 10% of the total area of the city has been explored leaving more than a thousand structures still covered by jungle. How astounding! The knowledge that there's so much yet to be excavated at Palenque is definitely part of the site's alluring charm and mystique to me!



                 Some of the Mayan leaders and gods to be found at Palenque.

                            
                                UXMAL, YUCATAN, MEXICO


                The Temple of the Magician rises out of the jungle in Uxmal.

Whereas PALENQUE is intimate, exotic, and intriguing to me, I find UXMAL to have a sense of strength, grandeur, and spaciousness which are inspiring. The contrast of their natural settings, with Palenque in the deep jungle and Uxmal in the rolling jungle-covered hills of the Puuc region of Yucatan, is wonderful. It makes me wonder how the Maya of the many diverse regions of this culture felt when visiting and paying homage at these grand centers of their civilization. Maybe they responded the same way I feel. I like to think so. So let’s get to know a bit about Uxmal.



                       The architectural detail at Uxmal is astounding!

The archaeological site of UXMAL (pronounced “oosh-MAHL) is located 62 kilometers (approximately 38 miles) south of Merida, the capital of Yucatan, in the center of the Puuc region which is located in the south-western part of this Mexican state. The name Puuc translates to hills in Yucatec Maya and the Uxmal ruins are situated on hilly terrain. A UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE since 1996, Uxmal was one of the most important Maya settlements in Yucatán and flourished during the late-Classical period.



                    It would appear the ancient Maya had no fear of heights!

Uxmal was founded about 700 AD and the layout of the buildings dates it until about 900 AD. It had some 25,000 inhabitants. This was not a small pueblo by any means! Its layout also reveals knowledge of astronomy. The term Puuc is also used to designate the architectural style of ancient Maya sites located within the Puuc hills. This style reached its zenith during the Terminal Classic Period which was between 800 and 900 AD.



                      The stone detail and carving at Uxmal.

The main ruins of Uxmal cover about 150 acres, with residential districts spreading further beyond that. Uxmal occupies a grassy region surrounded by forest and its buildings were adapted to the varied elevations of the hilly landscape. A majestic layout, spectacular jungle setting and pink-hued limestone pyramids and temples make Uxmal one of the most picturesque ancient cities in the Puuc region.



       More of the amazing stone detail as seen in the structures at Uxmal. 

In the Puuc architecture buildings were decorated with carefully cut veneer stones set into a concrete core. This was an improvement over the previous method of using stones piled on top of each other and held together with plaster for the core. This advanced construction method allowed for slightly larger and more stable interior rooms and may account for the excellent condition of many of the thousand-year-old buildings at Uxmal. Puuc architecture has several predominant features, most notably constructions with a plain lower section and a richly decorated upper section. Carvings most commonly found include serpents, lattice work and masks of Chaac, the rain god. Note: CHAAC (also spelled Chac) is the name of the Maya rain deity.



         The grandeur of the pyramids makes one feel quite insignificant! 

I hope I have conveyed my great appreciation of special and awe-inspiring UXMAL with this mini introduction! From here we are going to visit our third Mayan site which is located on the Caribbean coast of Mexico and which could not be more different in style or ambiance than both Palenque and Uxmal. Ready? Here we go!

                         TULUM, QUINTANA ROO, MEXICO



             Tulum's location on the Caribbean is without compare!  

Our last stop on this mini exploration of my favorite Mayan sites in Mexico is TULUM. Why Tulum, do you ask? Well, the short answer is because of its unique and spectacular location overlooking the stunning blue waters of the Caribbean Sea and the eastern coast of Mexico. I know of no other archaeological ruin of this nature (or actually any nature!) which commands the most amazing view of what is one of the most beautiful beaches in all of Latin America. So let’s visit TULUM!



Tulum (Yucatec: Tulu'um) translates from Spanish as "wall" or "palisade" which alludes to the wall that surrounds the complex. Tulum was known by the Pre-Colombian name of Zama meaning ¨place of the dawning sun.” How it got this name is obvious as this ancient Mayan city is situated on a cliff which faces east towards the rising sun and the beautiful turquoise waters of the Caribbean. This is without doubt one of the most scenically beautiful of all Mayan archaeological sites.

The ruins are situated on 12-meter (39 ft) tall cliffs along the east coast of the Yucatan Peninsula on the Caribbean Sea in the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico. Tulum was one of the last cities inhabited and built by the Maya. it was at its height between the 13th and 15th centuries and managed to survive about 70 years after the Spanish began occupying Mexico. Old World diseases brought by the Spanish appear to have been the cause of its demise.




         A visit to Tulum is a great way to appreciate the variety of Mayan sites!

Tulum was a city of importance with an estimated population of 1,000-1,600 inhabitants. At first glimpse one might mistake Tulum for an ancient country club with its beautiful grass grounds and sweeping views of the sea. If one delves deeper, however, this illusion is disturbed by the presence of a large wall that surrounds the site which speaks of the need for defense against invaders from both land and the sea. Tulum is also the Yucatan Mayan word for fence, wall, or trench, and the walls surrounding the site allowed the Tulum fort to be defended against invasions. Tulum had access to both land and sea trade routes which made it an important trade hub.



        What's not to like about exploring ruins under a Caribbean sky!

Both coastal and land routes converged at Tulum which is apparent by the number of artifacts found in or near the site that show contacts with areas all over Central Mexico and Central America. Copper artifacts from the Mexican highlands have been found near the site, as have flint artifacts, ceramics, incense burners, and gold objects from all over the Yucatan. Salt and textiles were among some of the goods brought to Tulum by sea that would then have been dispersed inland. Typical exported goods included feathers and copper objects that came from inland sources.



                My husband would say this is some serious "old folk stones"!

Jade and obsidian appear to be some of the more prestigious materials found at the Tulum site. Obsidian would have had to come from distant Ixtepeque in northern Guatemala which was nearly 700 kilometers (430 miles) away from Tulum. This huge distance, along with the amount of obsidian found at the site, illustrates that Tulum was a major center for the trade of precious goods. It also tells us that the Maya of Tulum were a seafaring culture with extensive knowledge of the Caribbean waters.



                   It's always fun to explore archaeological Mayan ruins!

There are three major structures of interest at the Tulum site: El Castillo, the Temple of the Frescoes, and the Temple of the Descending God. Among the more spectacular buildings is the Temple of the Frescoes which includes a lower gallery and a smaller second story gallery. The Temple of the Frescoes was used as an observatory for tracking the movements of the sun. Niched figurines of the Maya “diving and descending god” (aka the Venus deity) also decorate the facade of the temple.

This “diving god” is also depicted in the Temple of the Descending God in the central area of the site. Above the entrance in the western wall a stucco figure of the “diving god” is still preserved which gives the temple its name. 

El Castillo (the castle) was not an actual castle, but a place where the Maya chief/leader would make pronouncements and perform sacred rituals (often sacrificial!) in order to keep the Mayan gods happy. El Castillo also functioned as a lighted beacon to its seafaring canoes when they were returning from trading expeditions.



                                   A breezy day awaiting you at Tulum!

Perched atop cliffs overlooking the blue Caribbean, Tulum is a favorite among visitors to Cancun and the Riviera Maya. Iguanas bask lazily on rocks in the sun and gentle waves caress the shore. The pristine beach is so beautiful it is almost surreal. Tulum with its compact size is perfect for exploring in a few hours with the nearby beach and sea perfect for enjoying. Tulum is truly magical and a definite “must” when on the Maya Trail in Mexico!



                                      Sending love from Tulum!                                 


After this brief introduction to these three very special, but very different and unique Mayan archaeological sites, possibly you can understand their appeal to me. I hope you have enjoyed your visit to “the old folks and their stone remains” at PALENQUE, UXMAL, and TULUM. Until next time, please enjoy the following SLIDESHOW and PHOTO ALBUM.




From my computer to your device, here are a few links which I found informative, interesting, and useful:

UNESCO: PALENQUE: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/411
UNESCO: UXMAL: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/791
UNESCO LIST BY COUNTRY: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/
SACRED DESTINATIONS: http://www.sacred-destinations.com/







PLEASE NOTE: I have included photographs of beautiful AGUA AZUL (BLUE WATER) in my Web Album for this posting. Why, you ask? Because Agua Azul is one of the most beautiful natural areas in the state of Chiapas and a convenient excursion when visiting the Mayan ruins of Palenque. So there you are! Here's a link to check out: http://mexicolesstraveled.com/aguaazul.htm

I remember hearing many, many years ago that a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, I am a believer so following is the link to my WEB ALBUM which has additional photos for this posting. And if that is not enough, I have also included below the SLIDESHOW of the web album for your immediate enjoyment.


I always look forward to hearing from my visitors. Please do not hesitate to contact me with any comments, suggestions, or questions. Until next time, saludos and gracias, Laura

                                     Memories are just a click away!



Tuesday, April 26, 2016

BAJA CALIFORNIA PART TWO


       

    
WELCOME TO PART TWO OF BAJA CALIFORNIA 

(INCLUDING LA PAZ, CABO SAN LUCAS, TODOS SANTOS, AND SAN JOSE DEL CABO)  


In BAJA CALIFORNIA: A LOVE AFFAIR we visited some of our favorite places on the Baja California peninsula including ENSENADA, CATAVINA, SAN IGNACIO LAGOON, MULEGE, LORETO, CONCEPTION BAY (BAHIA CONCEPCION), and MAGDALENA BAY (BAHIA MAGDALENA). It was quite a ride and adventure revisiting these places, but it was also time to get off the road for a little rest. Now that we have had that rest, I think it is time to saddle up "Old Blue" to continue our journey down the rest of the Baja California peninsula.


"Old Blue" is ready to hit the road again in Baja - let's go!


In this posting, PART TWO OF BAJA CALIFORNIA we will be visiting the towns of LA PAZ, TODOS SANTOS, CABO SAN LUCAS, and SAN JOSE DEL CABO as we resume our exploration of this wonderful landscape and its special towns.




I was raised on the beach in Southern California and it was my natural environment. I learned to swim by jumping off a dock at the early age of four and have always loved the water. In contrast to our beach lifestyle, my family often visited the Southern California desert areas to enjoy the climate and quiet lifestyle. I loved the beauty and peace of the desert with it's hot days and starry nights. When we "discovered" Baja California Sur I felt I had found my perfect environment: the combination of desert at ocean's edge. It truly resonated with me and I believe this was a large contributing factor in my love affair with Baja California.  Enough of my reminiscing, it's time to resume our trip.


Once again it is time to refresh our memories of where we have been and where we are headed. As soon as we check our map we will be off on part two of this Baja journey. Ready? Vámonos, amigos!  


Map of the Baja California Peninsula showing the state of Baja California and the state of Baja California Sur, Mexico which we will be exploring in this Baja adventure.



 LA PAZ, BAJA CALIFORNIA SUR:
























 "Welcome Whale Tail" to La Paz, Baja California

It may be just a coincidence that La Paz means "peace" in Spanish, but it is certainly appropriate for those who have driven the 1,000 miles, mas o menos, from the Tijuana border to this peaceful city with its wonderful climate. Although La Paz is the region's commercial and political capital of the state of Baja California Sur it remains a tranquil and easy-to-enjoy port and city.

























 The Malecon (boardwalk) in La Paz is perfect for either daytime or nighttime strolls.

 La Paz languished until the Transpeninsular Highway was completed in 1973 and the city became the capital of the newly formed state of Baja California Sur in 1974. Until the early 1970's, Baja California Sur had a population density of less than three inhabitants per square mile! Even with the current population of approximately 200,000, things have not changed drastically in La Paz so we will find plenty of crowd-free spaces and isolated beaches.


 Sunset over La Paz on the Sea of Cortez in Baja California Sur. 



Although La Paz is located on a lovely long beach, the best beaches for swimming and sunbathing are found north of the city on the road to Tecolote. Playa Palmira, Playa el Coromuel, Playa el Caimancito, Playa del Tesoro, Playa Pichilingue, Playa Balandra, Playa el Tecolote and Playa el Coyote are havens for the beach lover. My husband and I found Playa Balandra to be our favorite. We spent many days there swimming, snorkeling, sunning, and enjoying picnics without another person in sight! For a Southern California girl that was truly unique and special. I am looking for a little beach chill time and I sense you might also.


 Desert landscape meets the sea on the Sea of Cortez!


Within easy reach of the city are deserted beaches, calm bays, and pristine offshore islands. Further inland lie deserts, oases, and the Sierra de La Laguna Mountains. Looking out from downtown La Paz you see the Mogote Peninsula with its many varieties of birds. Traveling north by water takes you to the wilderness islands of El Espiritu Santo, La Partida, and Los Islotes. These islands are great destinations for scuba divers, kayaks, fishermen, snorkelers, hikers and beach lovers.


Playa Balandra was our favorite beach escape while visiting La Paz




















































Getting close up to the sea life for a little friendly visit. 


Now that that we have rested from our visit to La Paz we will head south across the Baja peninsula to TODOS SANTOS on the Pacific Coast.  If your are ready, let's go check out Todos Santos!

                               
TODOS SANTOS:










 Todos Santos is a unique desert oasis on the Tropic of Cancer in the municipality of La Paz. The population was approximately 5,000 as of the census in 2010 and is the second-largest town in the municipality. The town was founded in 1733 with the establishment of the mission of Santa Rosa de Todos Santos. Todos Santos is located on a mesa to the west of the Sierra de La Laguna mountain range and equal distance between the resort cities of Cabo San Lucas to the south and La Paz to the northeast. It is nestled in ancient orchards of mango and palm with spectacular views overlooking its white sand beaches and the Pacific Ocean.  During its peak production years Todos Santos was the most fertile area of the Baja California Sur region and had many sugar mills. Got all that?












 Todos Santos is located in the Biosphere Reserve Sierra de La Laguna which is considered one of the most bio diverse regions of the peninsula of Baja California. Pine and oak forests alternating with other plant species and low forests are found in this area. The region is populated by a variety of animal species including predominantly reptiles, birds, and many small mammals. UNESCO has also designated the Sierra de la Laguna mountain area a global biosphere reserve.  















 During its 100-year bonanza, beautiful houses, buildings, and a magnificent theater were built. Eventually, however, overuse of water, drought, and plunging sugar prices caused the collapse of the economy in the 1950's and turned Todos Santos into a deserted village. The village languished for decades and only had a "rebirth" in the early eighties.  Since then Todos Santos has attracted artists, craftsman, surfers, travelers, and expatriates who are attracted to its natural beauty and lifestyle.

In recognition of these attributes and others, Todos Santos was named in 2006 the first of only two "Pueblos Magicos" in Baja California.  Quite an honor and bravo!  
    

Todos Santos became the surfing capital of Baja California when it was "discovered" by young Americans who came looking for waves in the 1960's. There are many beautiful beaches within a 15 minute drive of Todos Santos. Some of the area’s beaches, however, with rip tides, undertows, and fairly steep drop offs, are not considered safe for swimming. Playa Las Palmas and Playa Los Cerritos are great beaches for swimming and shell collecting. San Pedrito Point, Los Cerritos and other local surf breaks attract surfers from around the world.




 There is only one word to describe this and it's "YIKES."  



 The Hotel California is a favorite stop in Todos Santos because of the name association with the song made famous by the Eagles in 1976* even though the song does not specifically reference this particular hotel, nor any other existing hotel to my knowledge.  We spent a night at the Hotel California and had the place to ourselves. Times have changed since then, but the memories remain.

*Album:  Hotel California released 1976
 Awards:  Grammy Award for Record of the Year 1978


Some local pelicanos hanging out in Todos Santos with seagulls invading their territory! 

It's been a fun visit to Todos Santos, but my feet are getting that "let's hit the road" itch so let's go!! It's a short drive down highway Mexico I to our next stops so buckle up and hang on. I hope you are ready because we are heading to the towns of CABO SAN LUCAS and SAN JOSE DEL CABO at the tip of Baja California!     

CABO SAN LUCAS:




 Great photograph of "Land's End"by my husband. Gracias mucho for all of the incredible memories!



Our drive has been long and often challenging, but we are about to be rewarded by our arrival at the tip of the Baja California peninsula in the state of Baja California Sur. The so called "sister towns" of Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo could not be more different in personality and style, but each in their own way are delightful and both are worth our visit.



 From our first visit to the southernmost tip of the Baja Peninsula in the l980's we were taken with the stark beauty of this desert landscape at the edge of the sea.  It definitely felt like "Land's End" and we were entranced by the contrast of desert and sea. El Arco (the arch) of Cabo San Lucas is a distinctive rock formation which is itself the extreme southern end of Mexico's Baja California Peninsula. It is here that the Pacific Ocean becomes the Gulf of California.


 Looking from Land's End towards the town, marina, and development of Cabo San Lucas.

I often think of the title and quote from the Thomas Wolfe novel "You Can't Go Home Again" when reminiscing about places where my husband and I spent a lot of time, but which have since changed to a great degree with the passage of time.  Cabo San Lucas (Cape Saint Luke which is commonly referred to as "Cabo") and the Corridor between Cabo and San Jose del Cabo could not be more representative of this sentiment.  Even though the "Cabo" that we knew and loved no longer exists except in our memories, they are certainly wonderful and cherished memories. I have learned that often the most special and lovely areas follow this path and that is not always a bad thing.  


 Past the marina in Cabo San Lucas is Land's End promontory and the location of Playa del Amor (Lover's Beach) and El Arco (the natural archway in the sea cliff).  


What started as a sleepy fishing village Cabo San Lucas has transformed into the world-class travel destination.  Cabo has come a long way from its early days as an isolated fishing village and as an isolated pirate hangout. Cabo is now a popular and booming escape for many tourists from all parts of the world who are seeking the sun and the beach life.





Playa El Médano is Cabo’s main beach with outdoor restaurants and numerous bars.


Cabo is a relatively small town with only about 75,000 residents, but it hosts nearly a million tourists who visit each year! It is difficult to imagine when just a few hundred adventuresome souls inhabited the area.  With the completion of the trans peninsular highway, "our Mexico Federal Highway No. 1," the modern marina, golf courses, and the international airport in nearby San Jose del Cabo, Cabo San Lucas took off and became the popular resort destination it is today.  


The heart of Cabo San Lucas is the downtown tourist district which covers just a few city blocks surrounding the marina waterfront, but it is packed with activity. Cabo's nightlife and its festive atmosphere set it apart from other towns comparable in size. Shopping, restaurants, and nightlife keep downtown Cabo hopping day and night. Cabo is considered one of Mexico's top party towns and its nightclubs rock until the wee morning hours.  




 The traditional plaza in Cabo San Lucas is very sedate and calming, but don't be deceived. Within walking distance are the beaches, water-oriented activities, and the pulsing nightlife which is what draws the visitor to Cabo! 


As the winter tourist season winds down in Cabo the summer fishing season picks up. Cabo has a well-deserved reputation as a top sport fishing port including the title of the "Marlin Fishing Capital of the World." Cabo also has a wide range of other wildlife including rays, sharks, birds including eagles, and many different fish species including delicious dorada (mahi-mahi for our Hawaiian amigos).


  A floating "high rise hotel" seen leaving after a day visiting Cabo.

Since Cabo is also now on the itinerary of most of the cruise ships heading south down the coast it makes for even more visitors. Passengers are tendered into the marina from where they can walk and explore Cabo San Lucas during their visit.   Wow, that's a lot of Cabo action!



I don't know about you, but I am more than a little tired from our visit to action-packed Cabo San Lucas.  A visit to nearby SAN JOSE DEL CABO (Saint Joseph of the Cape) sounds perfect and just what we need to restore ourselves. And most importantly, this will be our last major stop on our amazing Baja California adventure.


In order to get to San Jose del Cabo we will be driving the lovely eighteen mile coastal highway which connects Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo.  This stretch of highway is known as the "Corridor."  I have in mind, however, stopping at two special beaches along the way, Playa Santa Maria and Playa Chileno, for sun, sand, swimming, and snorkeling.  I hope you have brought your beach gear including some serious sunblock and large beach hats.  We are definitely going to need them!

BAHIA SANTA MARIA  - SANTA MARIA BEACH - A Protected Marine Sanctuary:





 Bahia Santa Maria looks pretty perfect to me!  


   Taking a "snorking" break at Bahia Santa Maria!

Santa María Beach is located on Santa María Bay and is a protected marine sanctuary. This beautiful horseshoe-shaped aquamarine bay is flanked by craggy rock promontories. This is the place to go to visit a world of colorful tropical fish. Mornings, when it’s calm, are optimum for snorkeling and swimming when the underwater visibility is at its clearest. This is a great beach for families, but watch for occasional swells! Colorful "sea fans" line the rock walls and abundant colorful tropical reef fish inhabit the area. There are no facilities and little shade so be prepared and bring your beach umbrella, bottled water, snorkeling gear, and snacks. Whether you are interested in snorkeling or just relaxing Santa Maria Beach is a pleasure.




 My husband truly lives up to his Pisces horoscope sign!  



 Santa Maria Beach represents what Baja California is all about to me:  the coming together of the sea and the desert landscape - simply magical!

BAHIA CHILENO - CHILENO BEACH:



 Chileno Beach, located on Chileno Bay, is one of the most popular beaches in the Corridor. The beach is regularly ranked as one of the cleanest in all of Mexico. It also has amenities that are often not found in other locations including a paved parking lot, showers, bathrooms, and shaded palapas. Chileno beach is a wide, fairly flat beach which is perfect for walking and running. It also has calm waters which are excellent for snorkeling, diving, exploring tide pools, and kayaking.  Like Santa María Beach, Chileno receives snorkel tour groups around midday.  It's best then to head northeast toward the point for more privacy. Rocky reefs run parallel to the beach with tropical fish, sea turtles, moray eels, invertebrates, sea urchins, sea fans, sponges, and starfish. We loved our visits to Chileno Beach which were simply wonderful.   *see Final Notes at end of posting 



I recognize and know this "fish"!

SAN JOSE DEL CABO:  



       A spectacular sunset over the town of San Jose del Cabo


SAN JOSE DEL CABO is a great blend of old Mexico and the relaxed feeling of a Baja beach resort. Commonly referred to as "San Jose," the city is located very close to the tip of the Baja Peninsula on the shores of the Sea of Cortez. Approximately 17 miles east of the popular resort resort of Cabo San Lucas, San Jose is like the ‘tame’ sister of her ‘wild’ sibling Cabo San Lucas. San Jose offers quiet shopping and art galleries, an attractive plaza, a lovely church, and nearby beaches and nature reserves. If you are looking for crazy nightlife and rowdy beaches, stay in Cabo San Lucas - San Jose is not for you! 



San Jose with a population of close to 70,000 provides residents and visitors a comfortable, easygoing lifestyle with charming restaurants and art galleries.



Many of the old homes in San Jose have been converted into charming restaurants and shops in the downtown (Centro) area and the government has enlarged the main plaza. It seems that the historic center is like a magnet that draws everyone toward the refurbished town square. This area is generally busy with businessmen, tourists, and locals mingling together which I find delightful. The hustle and bustle of San Jose does not seem to interfere with the tranquil feeling that prevails here as is often the case in many other tourist destinations.


The lovely town plaza with its traditional gazebo for entertainment is "watched over" by the Mission San Jose del Cabo as seen in this photograph.


Today you often hear the words "quaint", "mellow," or "charming" to describe San Jose del Cabo. The old buildings of the historic center, the presence of the beautiful church, and the friendly family atmosphere that radiates around the town square seem to make each of these descriptions accurate. San Jose del Cabo instills a sense of tranquility into the desert landscape and the beautiful Sea of Cortez coastline that define this area of Baja.   How long San Jose can resist the encroachment of development and people remains to be seen.  I am hoping for the best!





The fun Mexican colors found in the Centro of San Jose del Cabo make me smile!



Mission San Jose del Cabo Añuití was the southernmost of the missions the Jesuits established during the colonial period in the territory which is now known as Baja California.
                                 
                                      
San Jose del Cabo is not all about charming restaurants, shops, and galleries, however. The beauty of the Sea Cortez and the lovely Estero San Jose (the San Jose Estuary) are a big contributing factor to the delights of San Jose.  The Estuary covers a large area in the southeast part of the city. The freshwater lagoon of the San Jose Estuary) has over three hundred and fifty species of wildlife and lush vegetation. Fed by underground aquifers, the river and lagoon are one of the few oases in the otherwise nearly totally dry lower Baja peninsula. For a little exploring in the area, horses, mountain bikes, and kayaks may be rented.  *See Final Notes at end of posting




A bird's eye view of the San Jose Estuary at San Jose del Cabo






 Although development is taking a toll upon the San Jose Estuary it is still one of the town's most peaceful spots and a good place for some bird watching. Hopefully the government will control future encroachment of the Estuary. !Buen suerte!






 San Jose Estuary is a protected wildlife sanctuary (at least in name) and is home to many bird species including frigate birds, sparrow hawks, white herons, and red-tailed hawks. What a lovely environment! 




 Making new friends on one of the quiet beaches just outside of the town of San Jose del Cabo.  What great memories!  


Thank you for joining me on this journey through the incredible peninsula of Baja California. We have covered a lot of territory in both BAJA CALIFORNIA: A LOVE AFFAIR and Part Two of this blog posting. I hope you enjoyed the trip as much as I have enjoyed sharing it with you and revisiting so many places and memories. Your company has been sincerely appreciated and hope to see you again soon.



As I mentioned in this blog, places change over a period of time as do people. Change is one of the constants of life and change is not inherently a bad thing. I have used photographs that were primarily taken by my husband and me during the many visits we made to Baja California. In doing research for this posting I discovered that some of our favorite places were no longer there or had changed so much that we would no longer recognize them. "Such is Life"or as said in Spanish: "Así es la Vida." That having been said, Baja California is still a wonderful and unique place.



 One of my favorite "iconic" photographs of the Baja California Sur Peninsula.


SOME FINAL NOTES:

In the course of updating myself during the writing of this posting on Baja California I found some information that I feel I would be remiss in not sharing. I discovered that two of my favorite places, Chileno Bay , and the San Jose Estuary area outside of San Jose del Cabo, Puerto Los Cabos are both being affected by the development of very large resort and residential facilities. As previously stated in the above paragraph, "Such is life" or "Así es la Vida." :>(

Fun viewing of Baja from a bird's perspective:  AERIAL VIDEOS OF BAJA 

The following link takes you to the official web site for the Pueblos Mágicos de México.  Check it out for inspiration!  





Sunset over Baja California - simply magic!  Until next time please enjoy my photograph album of more of the beauty of BAJA CALIFORNIA PART TWO at the following link:
BAJA CALIFORNIA: PART TWO







                                                Memories are only a click away!