For years, Tulum has stolen the highlight because the trendiest place to take an unforgettable trip within the Riviera Maya, as a consequence of its shut proximity to sandy seashores and iconic Mayan sights. However, having suffered from overcrowding and unsustainable tourism within the final decade, all eyes at the moment are on Bacalar, a trendier, much more quaint city simply two hours south.
There’s no denying the Mexican Caribbean is America’s favorite vacation spot. Being a brief two to four-hour flight from a number of U.S. cities, and relatively safer than different sunny retreats in different components of the nation, its reputation has saved rising despite the well being disaster and could possibly be reaching a new peak this winter.
The solely draw back to this exceptional success? In some locations, it hardly appears like Mexico anymore, which leads some to query:
Has Overtourism Ruined Tulum?
Overtourism has change into a severe concern the world over’s prime locations, pushing up rental costs amid an inflow of international funding and slowly erasing their id. Serving as a gateway to the Mayan World, Tulum is definitely no exception: as different senior Americans who’ve been touring to Mexico for many years will be capable of verify, it was as soon as an off-path village not that many vacationers have been even conscious existed.
In the 90’s, previous to being ‘discovered’, Tulum had a inhabitants of simply over 2,000 inhabitants. These have been principally native fishermen, artisans, and land employees who led a peaceable life, shielded from the hustle and bustle of close by Cancun and its overwhelming internationalization.
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By the yr 2000, they’d already jumped from a two thousand people-strong tight knit neighborhood to 12,000. An irreversible transformation had been set into point out, and within the years that adopted, amid the surge in high-caliber resort improvement and the fading demand for funds journeys, Tulum’s small, Mayan city magic was misplaced.
Others weren’t so ‘lucky’:
Is Bacalar The New Cool?
Located solely a two and a half hour drive south of Tulum, or alternatively, a shorter 23 miles northwest of Chetumal Airport, a Southern Mayan airport that hosted its first-ever direct flights from the U.S. this year, there’s a sleepy, largely neglected city that continues to be one in every of Mexico’s finest hidden secrets and techniques – no less than for now.
A Pueblo Mágico straddling the Lake of the Seven Colors, Bacalar dates again to the colonial interval of Mexico Featuring an 18th century army fort, an enthralling downtown space the place heritage buildings may be discovered, and most significantly, natives stay in to today, it’s the ‘quintessential Mexico’ we thought had been misplaced ceaselessly.
Visiting Bacalar, Kashlee Kucheran, who’s a journey professional primarily based in Mexico and CEO of Travel Off Path was quoted saying she felt ‘safer’ strolling in Bacalar, even at night time, than most cities in Quintana Roo. Moreover, she observed locals haven’t been ‘pushed out’ by the resorts, and the specter of crime, which led Cancun authorities to deploy more patrol units on seashores, is certainly ‘low’.
Mrs. Kucheran added that whereas Tulum has lots of ‘magic, charm and intrigue’ – it’s, in spite of everything, an Ancient Mayan port – it’s being ‘spoiled’ by consumerism. Bacalar, however, hasn’t been tarnished by the plenty: ‘Bacalar is a breath of contemporary air for people who find themselves nonetheless searching for nature, neighborhood, and all the wonder that the Yucatán Peninsula has to supply.‘
What Can You Expect Vacationing In Bacalar?
If you’re trying to splurge, occasion onerous, and stay your finest ‘Instafluencer’ life, Bacalar isn’t for you: it’s an emergent resort city recovering from a pure phenomenon that turned its well-known lake’s pristine waters brown for a couple of years, and also you definitely received’t discover your ultra-niche eating choices or a Plaza Las Americas right here.
Don’t get us fallacious: whether or not you’re into carne asada otherwise you’re a faithful vegan, you’re definitely spoiled for selection right here, however then once more, don’t anticipate finding the identical selection of high-end eating places and American type diners you’ll in Northern Quintana Roo. Lots of eating places and retailers within the central district are family-owned, and Spanish continues being a lingua franca on the streets, proving neighborhood comes first, and tourism second within the space.
The identical can’t be mentioned about an more and more internationalized Tulum. Here are some execs and cons of visiting Bacalar as an alternative:
- Bacalar is tidier than Tulum: the latter’s potholes and overflowing rubbish don’t exist right here, and the restricted variety of vacationers helps maintain it that approach;
- All yr, low or excessive season, there are fewer guests round and you may take pleasure in a higher sense of exclusivity and calmness;
- The locals are those residing and working companies on the lakefront, together with eateries and small pensiónes, in comparison with Tulum’s over-developed resort zone, filled with Americanisms and foreign-owned vacationer complexes;
- It is arguably safer and extra family-friendly, missing Tulum’s loopy occasion scene and rising crime rates;
- 30 miles lengthy, the warm-water, crystal-clear lagoon is ideal for swimming, training water sports activities, and boat excursions;
- A luxurious and wellness scene is growing and so they need to construct a repute and entice extra visitors, that means costs may be extra engaging.*
*The boutique Casa Hormiga Hotel, one in every of Bacalar’s five-star gives, has a jungle aesthetic and it’s a true nature oasis, with rooms ranging from solely $236.25 per night.
- It is not a seaside vacation spot;*
- It’s more durable to get to and nonstop flights to Chetumal, the closest airport, are at the moment solely out there from Mexico;**
- Bacalar’s nightlife is merely a fraction of Tulum’s, missing main nightclubs and the latter’s widespread seaside events.
*Nonetheless, it’s residence to a lagoon with the bluest of waters and it’s situated a one-hour drive from Mahahual Beach;
**Flights between the U.S. and Chetumal have been axed final summer season as a consequence of low demand
As you’ll be able to see above, except being ON the ocean is non-negotiable, you’re financially ready to pay a number of the highest taxi fares on this planet, and hallucinogen-ridden raves on the seaside are your vibe, Tulum doesn’t have a lot going for it.
What The Future Holds
Tulum could have change into a regional capital for luxurious tourism, however some would possibly argue it’s sacrificed its essence within the course of. Luckily, there are a variety of different settlements left across the Yucatán Peninsula which have managed to advertise tourism, all of the whereas retaining the authenticity that made them well-known within the first place. Bacalar is one in every of them.
When flying to Mexico, the overwhelming majority of worldwide guests have their hearts set on seaside getaways: 25 million of them would usually choose the Cancun-Tulum resort strip over wherever else, and we completely get it. There are tons of extra flights touchdown in Cancun, the coast – when it’s seaweed-free – is totally beautiful, and resort facilities keep getting better.
The drawback is, as soon as once more, mass tourism.
It has completely altered Tulum in character, turning it right into a soulless resort city stricken by taxi scams, potholes, and densely populated. We don’t know what the long run holds for Bacalar’s as soon as it’s formally ‘outed’, nevertheless it’s a reality it’s not fairly there but, and it nonetheless makes for a much more enjoyable, extra genuinely Mexican trip.
Tips For Visiting Bacalar
- Fly into Chetumal airport the place you’ll be able to take a 35-minute taxi to Bacalar for 300 pesos ($15 USD) as an alternative of the lengthy automobile experience from Cancun airport.
- Don’t put on sunscreen, bug spray, fragrance or make-up while you enter the lagoon, as the fragile pH steadiness must be preserved to take care of its attractive teal and blue colours.
- Stay in resorts which can be making efforts to minimize their ecological affect, particularly ones which have lagoon entry
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This article initially appeared on TravelOffPath.com