In the beautiful Yucatan Peninsula, it’s easy to kick back at an all-inclusive resort and let your life pass you by. However, you are absolutely doing a disservice to yourself if you DON’T go and explore the Yucatan Peninsula, local Mayan culture, and the authentic food scene by taking an amazing Tulum food tour.
We were lucky enough to experience the incredible Mayan culture at our own pace with the help of Viajes Con Ciencia. With authentic off-the-beaten-path experiences available, touring with Viajes Con Ciencia gave us the opportunity to explore without the large groups and beyond just the tourist sites.
Our guide for the day was Adrian – the Viajes Con Ciencia owner – and lucky for us, he lived with the Mayan people for many years and even understands the language! It was such a privilege to have someone who deeply understood the Mayan culture, history, and uniqueness beyond just a superficial level.
Mayan Food & Culture Small Group Tour
We experienced the Chichen Itza History & Food Tour during our Honeymoon in Mexico. This particular tour focused on Mayan culture, practices, and science in the northern parts of the Yucatan Peninsula.
Everything was included in our ticket price.
This tour included:
- Semi-private mini bus for no more than 10 people
- Ticket and tour of Chichen Itza
- Entrance fees to a secret cenote
- A homestay meal at a local Mayan family’s home
Enjoy the freedom that our small group tour of Chichen Itza offers. You will learn about the advanced sciences of the Mayan Civilization, as well as feel the vibrant and the rich culture found in the Yucatan Peninsula.
You will visit this ancient Mayan Ceremonial Center, considered a World Heritage Site of Unesco, as well as enjoy a mayan food tour in the historical center of the colonial city of Valladolid.
At the end of the day, you will discover one of the most beautiful and secluded cenotes in Yucatan, truly one the highlights of the day. All of this while being joined by our expert in Yucatecan History and Mayan Anthropology.
Our Experience with Viajes Con Ciencia Tulum Tours
We were picked up by Adrian at our hotel just after 7:30. There were 9 of us on the trip and we were meeting at central locations to beat the large tour buses that would inevitably chase us along the highway later on in the day.
The idea behind the early start to the day was the fact that it was going to take us 2 hours to drive to Chichen Itza and then we wanted to beat the large tour groups to have fewer crowds.
Our tour group was filled with predominantly French speakers, but that wasn’t an issue because Adrian can move between 3 languages effortlessly.
It was quite a fun experience to practice our French with our new friends and to share common experiences and travel stories.
There are multiple languages offered by Viajes Con Ciencia so there’s no problem with accommodating specific language requirements.
The Drive to Chichen Itza
Before heading out on the road, Adrian purchased coffees and snacks for the group (included) and then we piled into the mini-bus towards our first destination.
Along the way, we were guided through local Mayan towns with architecture that was older than America itself! We listened to different stories, myths, and historical explications about the Yucatan Peninsula and its inhabitants.
This was a great opportunity for me to ask if ‘the aliens took the Mayans back to space?’ ?(No).
As we were in a comfortable mini-bus, the ride was smooth and effortless. There was air conditioning and places to charge our phones!
On our tour, we had an older woman who had a bit of a mobility issue so Adrian made sure she always had the front seat and opportunities to sit along the way.
Most of the locations were accommodating to differently-abled guests, but the Cenote did have a few stairs.
Chichen Itza is the jewel of the Yucatan Peninsula and for good reason.
Everything is so perfectly preserved, you almost FEEL like you can picture the Mayans playing a ball game for glory under the blazing sun.
When we arrived, we were immediately confronted with vendors selling hats. There is A LOT of open space at Chichen Itza so you definitely want to buy a hat.
If you’re tempted by the vendors, I would spend no more than $200 pesos per hat (or $10 USD) and that is still very expensive!!
Our poor French friends paid $600 pesos for two hats before we could hurry them away from the vendors.
Fortunately for us, Adrian brought us all reusable water bottles and a big jug of water that he would refill with ice. It was the perfect icy treat in bewteen locations to look forward to.
Chichen Itza is a large space with scattered ruins all around. The main attraction is the Kukulcan Temple and this is in the dead center of the park.
This is where the majority of the tourist groups go first so be sure to get your Instagram shots in early! You will be there early enough to do so without too many people.
Over by the ‘Mil Columnas’ there will be loads of vendors that you can pick-up souvenirs from. They are actually very friendly so don’t be afraid to engage.
After a guided tour, we were able to explore on our own for a bit before returning back to the car for some snacks and ice-cold water.
Whilst we were in Tulum, we went to the Gran Cenote – which is just 5 minutes outside of the main city area. Even though we got there 10 minutes before opening time, we were STILL not the first ones there. Not even close.
It was a bit chaotic so the ‘secret cenote’ that Adrian took us to was such a MAGICAL experience in comparison since there was virtually no one there.
The ‘secret cenote’ was not-so-secret as it is a privately owned tourist location, but there’s a lot of controls around who can come in and how many people can come. You won’t find any large tourist buses here!
When we drove in, our entrance fee was covered already and we were able to change into our bathing suits in a private changing area that was beautiful and obviously recently built.
Then we walked down to a cave on a decently paved path (with stairs!) and we emerged into the most beautiful cave I’ve ever seen. The cave was obviously paved to be accessed easier, but the cenote itself was stunning and 100% natural.
There were stalactites coming down from the ceiling and the cenote was over 60 meters deep!! There were only small fish and some medium-sized catfish in the water so no worries there.
Before getting into the cenote water, you’re expected to shower and clean your body and hair of any unnatural oils and contents that could disturb the purity of the cenote water.
This is VERY important!! Please don’t prioritize your Instagram photos/make-up over the preservation of this amazing natural space! You’re also required to wear a life jacket whenever you’re in the cenote soooo there goes any sexy water shots ?
Homestay Mayan Meal
Last on our agenda, we had our homestay Mayan culture and food experience. We were able to join a traditional Mayan family in their home for a full meal.
In the past, this family had been cooks for the major resorts, but now they’ve decided to bring tourists into their own home to do traditional Mayan cooking experiences.
It was such an amazing experience to watch how this food is made and to learn more about what makes well-known meals (like Tacos!) different in this region. We were able to go outside as well to see their outdoor, underground fire pit where they would slow cook pork and other meat dishes.
Our meal included:
- Multiple fresh-made agua frescas (or fruit/tea waters)
- Multiple types of meat dishes
- Spicy vegetable options
- Fresh corn tortillas
- Dynamic salsas
- Small toppings
I chose to tip the wonderful family for their hospitality $200 pesos because money like this goes a long way.
Viajes Con Ciencia of course pays this family a respectable wage for their hospitality, but money like this often goes to household bills or special services for the children in the house instead of just running costs for the business.
I got to speak with the young girls in the house and I wanted to support their education and future directly.
Viajes Con Ciencia is the ideal way to support the local Mayan culture and community in the Yucatan Peninsula! By spending money in their communities versus paying a big travel company, you are directly impacting the area in a positive way.
Not only was the tour well-planned, organized and informative, I just LOVED Adrian’s ethos as well. We talked about traveling, our personal lives, and what we hoped to accomplish with our businesses on a really intimate level.
It was so refreshing just to get to know another person beyond just the formal operator-customer level. These are the types of personalized experiences that I’ve come to love and expect from Mexico.
It’s the place with ZERO bad food and amazing, friendly people.