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Hear ‘famous long-distance treks,’ and what do you think of? The Inca Trail, El Camino de Santiago, or maybe the Appalachian Way? There’s a new trek on the block, and it is Mexico’s first officially designated long-distance trail.
Dubbed the Maya Way, adventurous travelers will now be able to take on the five-day trek or three-day cycle through the heart of Mexico’s Mayan history. The trail centers around the Yucutan Peninsula, an area of the country dotted with mesmerizing Mayan historical sites.
The trail itself is 68 miles long and should only be attempted by those in good physical condition. For comparison, the Inca Trail is only 31 miles. While the terrain won’t be mountainous, it’ll still be a strenuous undertaking.
The trail begins in Dzoyaxché, a small historic town built around 15 miles from the popular city of Merida, before snaking its way in a great horse-shoe towards Mayapan, the final destination. Along the way, trekkers will be among a small group of tourists who have stepped off the well-worn path in Yucutan and Quintana Roo.
The vast majority of tourists in the region rarely leave the resort areas, while those traveling for a more cultural experience typically hit the big ticket items like Merida’s historic district, Chichen Itza, Tulum’s ruins, and some of the more popular cenotes. The trail changes all that, with trekkers passing through more than twenty archeological sites, haciendas, cenotes, and colonial towns. The trail unlocks the vast breadth of culture found in the region, which has, for decades, gone relatively unappreciated compared to its more lavish hotel offerings.
Much like the Inca Trail in Peru, the Maya Way currently requires all of its trekkers to use a pre-purchased package led by an official guide. Travelers can sign up for the five-day trek option, a shorter condensed two-day option, or the three-day cycling route. All of the packages currently include food, accommodations, and any guide costs, although tips will be anticipated at the end of the trail.
While this may be frustrating for experienced hikers comfortable enough to head out on their own, the packages allow the trail to be monitored for traffic, helping prevent over-tourism, which often leads to damage or the all-out destruction of parts of the trail or surrounding nature. There are plans to open the trail to independent travelers, but it will still be expected that they will need to at least register or pay a fee for access to the trail, although it will be cheaper than one of the package tours.
The tour guides will offer unrivaled insights into the region, however. According to reports, the guides will mainly be of Mayan descent, offering a glimpse into the centuries of mistreatment the ethnic group has experienced since the arrival of Spanish colonizers years ago. The Haciendas, the Mexican equivalent of a plantation, will be a particularly interesting aspect of the tour, as this period of Mexican history is often overlooked.
Prices for the trek vary depending on the choice of route. If opting for the full-five day trek, tourists can expect to pay around $555 USD. That price includes all food and equipment, including a tent and entrance to any historical or cultural sites on the way. There’s even a Mayan ceremony at the end of the trek as a goodbye. Groups will be no bigger than twelve people.
The cycling option will cost about $396 USD, including three full days of cycling and everything else mentioned in the first package. The two-day trekking option will cost around $285.
It’s an excellent addition to the region’s ever-growing tourist industry. It’s likely to draw a drastically different kind of tourist, and with the Maya Train Project expected to be finished in 2023, Quintana Roo and Yucatan are going to look like transformed tourist destinations very soon.
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