There’s variety—from the desolate emptiness of Baja to the magnificent scenery and beaches of the Pacific coast to the rugged terrain of central to the cultural color of Chiapos to the flat and boring Yucatan Peninsula that’s punctuated with great ruins and resorts. Here we list the biking highlights.
- Oaxaca to the Pacific coast.
- San Cristobal to Palenque
- South of La Paz in Baja
- Baja along the Gulf of California
Now we list the mundane:
- The Pacific coast from Puerto Vallarta to Acapulco
- Central Mexico south and east of Mexico City
- Around Merida and Chichen Itza
- The Baja Peninsula north of La Paz
In November 2004, we revisited Chiapas. We rode from the Guatemala border to San Cristobal then down to Palenque and then retraced our route back to Guatemala. There was much more traffic and more tourists but still great.
Mexico has its own way of life, culture, music, dance and art that’s valued and very much alive. For travelers, it’s easy to find the local action. Go to the central plaza. This is a big advantage in being involved as a tourist. Every time we go, we like it more.
How We Rate This Trip
Obviously, you avoid the main highways. It’s a big country with many roads and distinctly different regions. The main roads in Baja and along the west coast are the only through roads but are excellent roads for the most part. In Chiapas, you ride mostly on the main roads and they are excellent mountain roads. On the Yucatan Peninsula it’s flat, but the main roads are narrow so it’s best to seek out the secondary highways.
From the top, I’ll propose that Sunday afternoons are the most dangerous times to be on the roads. Inhibiting starts about noon, continues all day and doesn’t inhibit the use of the vehicles. Traffic is always busy around the cities and trucks and buses are an issue on the main highways. But generally, seven the main roads in Baja, along the west coast and around Southern Mexico are quiet. Yucatan has quiet secondary roads.
In winter, northern Mexico including a lot of Baja can be cold. Then southern Baja is perfect. Down further around Acapulco you have it hot and you’ll never see even a cloud during this dry season. In Southern Mexico in the highlands it can be cool at night. Oaxaca seems the perfect climate. San Cristobal is higher and colder. The Yucatan is mostly warm, but can be influenced by northerly cold fronts. There’s lots of different climates.
Mostly they are predictable. For tailwinds go south (east) in Baja and along the Pacific coast. In Southern Mexico, the winds are a little more variable but not as strong. Finally on the Yucatan Peninsula, the winds are Caribbean or easterly and steady.
Okay, parts of the Baja are numbingly boring, but ports are spectacular. The Pacific coast road to Acapulco is beautiful and again around Puerto Escondido. Central Mexico and the Oxaca are mountainous and scenic. The routes west of Tuxtla Gutierrez are dull. Around San Cristobal it’s beautiful. The Yucatan Peninsula is generally flat and unappealing.
Maps are generally good and readily available even the tourist offices and Pemex has descent maps (there are occasional inaccuracies). There is a specific biking guide for specific areas of Mexico by Ericka Weisbroth and Eric Ellman called “Biking Mexico.” The problem is it was published in 1990 by Hunter Publishing, Inc. We loved their descriptions even beyond biking. Very helpful and entertaining. Local information was often unreliable. Also the CTC (Cycle Touring Club of Britain) can get you more current information.
Road Safety: 4
Sunday afternoons are the times to take a break because the party people are on the roads. Other than that, the safety factor was higher than we anticipated. This was mainly due to low traffic levels. It’s always hairy around population centers, but there’s a lot of tranquil roads out there.
General Safety: 4
We did encounter armed bandits but they were empathetic and took nothing of our meager belongings. They were more interested in hearing about our trip. It’s true, the rural areas can sometimes be dangerous. Local information is king. That being said, in the six separate bike trips we’ve taken, we have had no other problem. We were, however, warned off of a highway on the Pacific coast south of Lazaro Cardenas.
Outside the usual tourist haunts which can be very pricey, the restaurants and hotels generally offer very good value. There have been times when the Peso has seriously dropped and offered especially good deals over the years.
You know the warnings about the water, but in Baja we generally drink the water with no ill effects. In the rest of the country, drink the bottled water. Cold sodas, cold beer is good, reasonably cheap and always available. In fact, the soda is better because it’s still made with the real cane sugar. (It’s sweet though.)
We love Mexican food but some of the small towns don’t exactly overwhelm you with the quality. It can vary greatly. Hygiene is sometimes in doubt, but you can eat ranging from cheap street-stands to full-blown restaurants. We have never really suffered from the Touristas (we never drink the water except in Baja) on six separate trips.
A friend asked me once because of all our traveling, “What’s the worst hotel you’ve ever stayed at?” Sally and I agreed “Miahuatlan in Mexico.” In fact we stayed there twice because of the great rides near there. Also, some of our favorite funky hotels are in Mexico. Cities will offer the full range, top to bottom so you have a choice. Like in Miahuatlan (near Oaxaca), the smaller towns’ offerings are often meager, dirty and basic.
Throughout northern Mexico, closer to the gringo border, there’s a distinct feeling of unfriendliness. In Southern Mexico, the Indians are very colorful but are shy or aloof. In the Yucatan, the people are friendly and open. In central Mexico, you get a mixed reception but keep in mind that as a biker you are treated better.
If you want a southern extension of California, ride in Baja. If you want the colorful indigenous Indian life and culture, head to Chiapas. Mexico has its own vibrant music, dance, and art. Also there are the myriad of Aztec and Mayan ruins.
The old colonial cities, Oaxaca, San Cristobal, Merida are in tact and offer many historical buildings especially the central magnificent cathedrals. Almost every city offers an historic church on the central square. There’s Mexico City. And there are the old Aztec and Mayan ruins sprinkled around central Mexico and the Yucatan Peninsula. There are well maintained and in places to which you can bike.
TOTAL SCORE 87
Route Descriptions and Maps
Day-by-Day Itinerary Mexico
San Diego, California to Tacate, Mexico
Some climbs, mostly climb to start through U.S. Light winds. Pretty much traffic, not a great ride. Over one pass with vistas then down last 5Ks to Tacate. Cross border just north of Tacate.
Tacate to Ensenada
A sinuous road through dry, deserted mountains. Climb out of Tacate. Light winds. Good scenery. A fair amount of trucks on otherwise quiet road. After Valle de Las Palmas, 28Ks, another climb, then stay up for 20Ks, then a gradual down hill and flat. Mostly downhill to El Sauzal and junction with Highway 1D. 10Ks along a busy flat road with a good shoulder.
Tijuana to Ensenada
Highway 1D, a toll road is closed to bicycles. Take Mex 1. It’s narrow and busy. Not recommended. After La Mission, there’s a tough 8K climb. Traffic lessens and better scenery. Junction with Highway 1D at El Sauzal. 10 busy Ks, flat in Ensenada. Better to start in Ensenada.
Ensenada to San Vicente
A flat 16Ks, four lanes, busy and poor ride to junction for La Bafadoro. Now two lanes, much less traffic. Tailwinds. Hilly and beautiful.
San Vicente to San Quintin
Now, long stretches without towns and stores. Tailwinds and easy riding, but the road is busy. Views of snow capped mountains on left. The usual tailwind, very gradual hills or flat forms glimpses of the Pacific in the distance. It was cold.
San Quintin to El Rosario
Again cold, still some traffic. A long climb and tough hills and finally a steep descent into Rosario. Still near the coast. Traffic drops off.
El Rosario to Catavina
8Ks out to bridge across Arroyo, then climb. Now into the Baja’s central desert and away from the coast. Rolling hills but generally climb. Huge sections of cactus forests. Desolate and beautiful. Few services. Then through boulder fields. Road narrow but quiet. A couple bigger climbs and last 3Ks are up. Nice ride.
Catavina to Junction for Bahia los Angeles
20Ks more of boulder fields. The road climbs to a 2700 foot high summit, mellows out, and reaches the junction for Bahia los Angeles. Strong winds from the north. There’s a store at the junction.
Junction to Bahia los Angeles
Rolling hills with a final descent to the bay from the Sierra affords an inspiring view of the bay.
Junction (to Bahia los Angeles) to Guerrero Negro
Slightly down through hills. The road transects the vast, windswept, bleak Vizcaino Desert. Rolling hills and a tailwind. It’s 55Ks to Rosarito where food and drink are available. After Rosarito, the terrain flattens. It’s boring and straight. Finally the monument, 140 feet high, welcomes you to Baja South. The drab town of Guerrero Negro is a little off the highway.
Guerrero Negro to San Ignacio
The desert spreads south for another 140Ks. The land is virtually featureless and flat, but there’s a tailwind. As you near San Ignacio, a few rolling hills, views of volcanoes, and some cacti. San Ignacio is a lush oasis town with palms, a lagoon, and even a tree-shaded plaza.
San Ignacio to Santa Rosalia
Still unseasonably cold. Hilly and beautiful. Cross and head winds through here. 10K gradual climb, then a slight down, then a gradual climb for 40Ks. Finally a steep 15K (in fact the steepest hill in the Baja ), descent before Santa Rosalia, then along the coast. At this time, hotels were fully booked.
Santa Rosalia to Mulege
Climb 2Ks out then a gradual descent. Tailwinds. Now warmer at last. Mostly flat, good scenery. A small mountain before Mulege. A little more traffic but okay.
Mulege to Loreto
After 20Ks of rolling hills, Bahia Concepcion comes into sight. Along here there are campsites, restaurants and beautiful views. Leaving the bay, the road twists sharply through rocky headlands. A 6K climb but good riding. The traffic is moderately heavy and there are some blind curves. The beautiful scenery is left behind. Tailwinds, then mostly flat and uninteresting and no services.
Loreto to Constitucion
Finally warm. Beautiful ride with great views along the sea. Rolling hills. After 35Ks, start inland. Climb then a second less steep climb. The mountains end and the Magdelena Plain begins. More boring riding. A gradual descent for 15Ks. 120Ks from Loreto is Insurgentes. The road bears left. Tailwinds. Straight flat and boring 27Ks to Constitucion. More traffic.
Constitucion to La Paz
There are no places to stay in between (we rode part and got a ride). You’d have to camp. It’s desolate. There are a few cafes along the way. Mostly flat. It’s 114Ks to El Cien which is 100Ks from La Paz. After El Cien, there are some eroded hills. 32Ks before La Paz, over a gradual pass, you see the sea and relief. But it’s narrow and busy (and dangerous).
La Paz to Todos Santos
On the west coast route, you benefit from the prevailing northwest winds going south. Heavy traffic out of La Paz but Highway 1 is a wide road, flat. It’s green with crops! 28Ks to San Pedro. Hot. 3Ks to junction. Right on Highway 19. It’s all inland and flat. Fast and easy. Hills toward Todos, but now beautiful.
Todos Santos to Cabo San Lucas
12Ks to El Pescadero (food and water), then virtually no services until Cabo. Beautiful views of the wild Pacific beaches. The road is near the coast. More of a crosswind here. Bigger hills toward Cabo with a tough 5K climb at the end.
Cabo San Lucas to San Jose del Cabo
On a new four lane which is busy. Very developed. Along the wild end of Peninsula. Hills and climbs along the sea bluffs. San Jose is on the lea side of Baja so winds are lighter.
San Jose del Cabo to Barriles
Heading inland, there are a number of 2K climbs all the way to Barriles. There are a couple of cafes on the way. 12Ks past the airport on a four lane road, then it’s two lanes. A little busy then better. Another 40Ks to Santiago. (It’s 3Ks off the highway). Some hills and a head wind. Back to the coast for last 5Ks into Barriles.
Barriles to La Paz
A steep climb as you head inland into the arid desert. Tough long rolling hills to El Triunfo, 40Ks. Good scenery typical of the Baja. After El Triunfo, it’s easier riding. The head northwest winds are gentler there because of the mountains. Better to go north on this route. Finally the junction with Highway 19, south, 25 Ks. Back to La Paz 27Ks on a straight road that gets very busy closer to La Paz. Alternative back to La Paz: To avoid busy roads, it’s possible to Los Planos, 20Ks, from San Antonio, about 4Ks before El Triunfo or 30Ks before the junction with Highway 19. It’s 40Ks to La Paz from Los Planos. It’s a big 15K climb. You can see most of climb straight up the mountain. Then down into La Paz. Scenery only okay. Not worth the effort.
Puerto Vallorta to El Tuito
Uphill out of town, good views along coast. Busy road. At Le Cliff, 15Ks from Puerto Vallorta, turn inland and climb up a beautiful river canyon. Less traffic. Continue to mostly climb steepest near the top, then just before El Tuito, slightly down. Two land road well engineered. Nice scenery.
El Tuito to Playa Cereyes
Up and down to 105K work (from Puerto Vallorta) or 61Ks from El Tuito. Stopped at gunpoint by bandits who eventually let us go and took nothing (see road stories). Continue bigger rolling hills. Quiet road. Okay scenery. Chamela has a supermarket. Ten more Ks of hills to Cereyes. (It’s only a resort, not a town.)
Puerto Vallorta to Morelos by bus (Dec. 95) Morelos to Barra de Navidad
Good road, not much traffic, hills. 18Ks to Chamela. In Careyes the hotel had been destroyed by an earthquake in October of 1995. (We rode this two months later.) 63Ks to junction for Guadalajara on Highway 15. 3Ks more to turn off for Barra and 2Ks into beach. There was an earth tremor while we were in Barra.
Playa Careyes (Chamela) to Barra de Navidad
Fairly easy terrain for 33 Ks. Light to moderate traffic. Good road. So-so scenery. Start a monster hill. Make sure to have enough fluids with you. Port is very steep for 4Ks. Then more hills, then finally to Melaque and Barra de Navidad, 3Ks further and a little off the highway. Roads are busy around here. Guadalajarans flock here.
Barra de Navidad to Manzanillo
14Ks to Cihuatlan, basic food and drinks. Now in Colima state and climbing although it looks flat. Down to Santiago (Las Hadas resort on the beach). A few ups and downs. Then 11 fast, flat Ks to Manzanillo. Busy.
Manzanillo to La Placita (small town with basic hotel)
Up a modest hill, then along a lagoon on east side. More trucks and buses. Better to take the coast side road through Cuyutlan. Two lanes and quiet to junction. Slightly farther. At junction with other road from Manzanillo 35Ks through Armeria and Tecoman (13Ks). Then flat and straight past Ortega 31Ks. Now in Michoacan state. Road less busy. Past San Juan de Lima to La Placita, the last place to get any sort of lodging for 154Ks. Hillier as you go.
La Placita to Caleta de Campos
In La Placita, we were warned not to ride here. The warning for this newly built road was dire: no towns, no police, high crime, and drugs in 1988. We took the bus but I describe the route. Up and down a mountain. The road carved out of the side of the mountain. Beautiful beaches and craggy cliffs. Beautiful trip. A lot of tough 3K climbs till Tizupan, then shorter climbs continue. More towns and services. Caleta is atop high cliffs, so it’s one last climb. Tough ride.
Caleta de Campos to Playa Azul
Flatter and easier. Quiet road. Less scenic. Playa Azul is a couple Ks off the highway. It was Sunday and the drunks were on the road and on the beach. Getting warmer.
Playa Azul to Zihuatanejo
Mostly flat all the way. Cool in early A.M. but heated up. Around Lazaro Cardenas (13Ks), there is lots of traffic to turn off for dam. Poor towns have food and drink. This is boring. First the Ixtapa turnoff, then 7Ks over a hill to Zihuatanejo.
Zihuatanejo to Papanoa
Rolling hills. Very dry. Plenty of food and drink stops. Mostly away from the ocean. Nothing special.
Papanoa to San Jeronimo
23Ks to San Luis San Pedro. Relatively boring scenery. Dry. On the coastal plan. Traffic is now moderate. Usual road. Mountain views on the left. 33Ks to Tecpan de Galeana, then 23Ks to San Jeronimo.
San Jeronimo to Acapulco
Still pretty flat. Busier and busier. You are on the only road. Dry mountains on left, beach on the right. Into Acapulco is busy. 62Ks to Pie de la Cuesta. Then through the coastal mountains. Beautiful cliffs and excellent views from the curvy road. Now the sprawl of the city. Back home until March, 1988, then back to Acapulco. Limited time and looking for the best riding. Acapulco to Puerto Escondido by bus.
Puerto Escondido to Puerto Angel
Left very late and arrived in the dark especially the 12Ks down from the highway into Puerto Angel. Very hot and dry. It’s 71 inerciting Ks to the turn for Puerto Angel. Most flat on a quiet road.
Puerto Angel to Miahuatlan
Back up to junction 12 Ks in Pochutla. This is a steady climb. A long climb. Beautiful and quiet on a well engineered road. 25Ks up to Candalaria. More climbing. The highest point is at San Jose de Pacifico, 103Ks from Pochutla (or 35Ks before Miahuatlan). Before San Jose, the terrain gives you long down hills and more long up hills, but more up than down. After San Jose, it’s mostly down hill to Miahuatlan. An excellent ride.
Miahuatlan to Oaxaca
Let’s get out of here! A grubby hotel in an equally grubby town. For 39Ks to Ejutla, some hills, then flat. As usual, the road is good and the traffic is light. After Ejutla, the terrain flattens out, but it’s more down hill! Only one modest hill all the way to Oaxaca. 45Ks from Miahuatlan, a junction with the rougher road that goes directly to Puerto Escondido. From this junction, it’s 16Ks mostly flat through the wide, arid, and pretty valley to Oaxaca. Wind at us to start, then at our backs at the end of this ride. A lot of traffic closer to Oaxaca. It’s a divided highway at the end. Bus to San Cristobal de las Cosas from Oaxaca, 12 hours. Dry and mountains through the plains to Tuxtla Gutierrez, then climb to San Cristobal.
Tuxtla to San Cristobal
I confess we rode this backwards (downhill) and bused back to San Cristobal. You climb (or drop) 4500 feet. 47Ks are climbing (or dropping). On the Pan American highway, the traffic is moderate till near the cities. In San Cristobal, you start at K marker 85. Flat on 4-lane road, then wide 2-lane and climb to K marker 76 then down. No shoulder, moderate to heavy traffic, some big trucks, some fast. Some strong local bikers. There’s also an Autopista but in November 2004 a bridge was out.
San Cristobal to Ocosingo (updated November 2004)
On the Highway 13Ks up to the turn off for Ocosingo on Highway 190, narrow and busy. Not good. Left on Highway 186. Markers at start K229. Pass the airport rolling hills then down to a river then a long climb to K marker 195, then down to the river at K175. Rolling or flat to K159. View point. At K152, down to Ocosingo. Steep descent off the highway at K147. Narrow, curvy road, moderate traffic which is slower because of the many speed bumps in the villages. Traffic has increased 10x but it is still a good ride.
Ocosingo to (updated November 2004)
Start at K147. Early fog in November but soon clear by 8:30AM. Warmer. Rolling then climb to K134. Great views, narrow road, light traffic in AM. Tropical and green. Again speed bumps. Mostly down to K119 then up to K115. Then gradual down to K105, then seriously down. Great views, cross river (no more road markers) at 50Ks from Ocosingo then climb for 8Ks then 2 Ks down to turn for Agua Azul (4 very steep Ks down to waterfall). From turn-off to Agua Azul decend 12Ks then mild rolling for 15Ks to junction then climb to K Marker 42 (Markers are back). Narrow road with high grass makes for blind corners so pull off for back traffic. Then mostly down to . Great ride. Last 5Ks flat into town.
Short Day trip to Ruins (Updated Nov. 04)
1K out to road to Ruins then 7Ks of gentle hills the 1K very very steep up. Narrow but quiet.
Palenque back to San Cristobal
By bus. November 2004.
San Cristobal de las cases (2140 meters) to Comitan (Updated Nov 04)
**Described in reverse** Start at K170. Go west toward to . Four-lanes, gradual climb to 2-lanes, mostly no paved shoulder and often a drop off to the grass or gravel shoulder (no escape). Moderate traffic but fast. So so scenery. Mostly flat (in November, cross or tailwinds). At Marker 145, a little more climbing for 6Ks then from Marker 134 it’s a gradual down to K121 in the valley. Teopisca, 1800 meters at K115. All services. Start gradual climb. Not steep but long. Good views, more traffic. Top about marker K100. At K96, the turn for Ocosingo. Now mostly down (some steep), the road narrows and there’s much more traffic into at K84.. Dangerous last 12 Ks.
Comitan to Guatemalan Border (Updated Nov 04)
Comitan at K170. On Highway 190, 4 lanes with shoulder, gradual down then gradual up. Moderate traffic. Then at K marker 189, 2 wide lanes. Light traffic, a couple of mild hills to K193. At the tower start down. Good grades to K210 then flat and straight. Some curves and rolling hills then again straight. Down to a river then more up than down to Mexican Immigration at K253. (Its 4Ks up to Guatemala Immigration.)
Mexico 90-91, December 25
Airport (Mexico City) to Mexico City (San Angel area)
Not recommended but on Christmas Day, it was possible to ride into Zocolo, then out toward Cuernavaca for hotel. Au de Insurgentes south. 6Ks into the Zocolo, the 14Ks out to San Angel.
San Angel to Cuernavaca
Must take Highway 95 Libre. Not allowed on Highway 95D (the toll road). Small roads over. The road winds up. No shoulder and big traffic, two lanes. Trucks hold up traffic so times of quiet. Then big packs so we would get off and let them pass. Mostly climb for about 20Ks. At top, sun is warm, but is’ 65ºF. Mostly a good road. The major highway is next to you. Beautiful. Pine trees, farmer fields, and snow capped mountains in distance. Steep into Cuernavaca. No views of city from road.
Cuernavaca to Izurcar de Matamoros
Climb 5Ks. Slow buses belch out block smoke. Left to Ocotepec. Traffic lighter. Excellent views (looks like Arizona). Dramatic outcroppings to Tepoztlan. It’s more of a traverse. One short steep up and down to Tepoztlan 24Ks. Then to Mautepec. All downhill, no traffic to speak of and nice views 13Ks. Then to Cuautla, good road, wide shoulder, more and more traffic 20Ks. Out of Cuernavaca, through hills and curves, good road, moderate traffic to Matamoros.
Izucar de Matamovos to Acatlan
47Ks to Tehuitzingo, then 12Ks to junction with Highway 92 on Highway 190. Not as dramatic good road, moderate traffic and more moderate hills. Another 28Ks to Acatlan. Views of the volcano Popo. Desert and cactus through a series of valleys. Along a dry river bed.
Acatlan to Tamazulapan
More up than down. Purple hills in he background with dry cactus covered hills nearer. Lots of long hills, mostly up, then a big, long descent into Huajuapan 62Ks. Then more long hills with great vistas. The cliff sides are pinkish purple, good riding. Little wind. Good temperature. 40Ks to Tamazulapan.
Tamazulapan to Nochixtlan
22Ks to junction Highway 125. Continue on Highway 190 to Nochixtlan 29Ks. In the mountains, good road, light traffic, some long climbs and finally down to Nochixtlan.
Nochixtlan to Oaxaca
After Nochixtlan, there were long ups and downs. Absolutely beautiful. Great views of valleys and farms from the pine covered hillsides. You can see the road snake along the hillsides before you. Down into the valley to Huitzo 69Ks. Now also on Highway 131 in the valley to Oaxaca 31Ks. After Huitzo, the traffic is heavier and gets even heavier toward Oaxaca.
Oaxaca to Monte Alban and back
14Ks round trip
7Ks up. As you gain altitude, the population thins out. There is tourist traffic but not much. Occasionally there are big buses. Nice views. Good road, great downhill back into Oaxaca.
Oaxaca to Miahuatlan
(The opposite direction as described earlier.) Traffic out of Oaxaca 16Ks, mostly flat to junction with road to Puerto Escondido. Then 17Ks to Ocotlan. Mostly flat, good road. Good scenery. Wide valley. Mostly down with a few small up hills. Headwind here. 28Ks to Ejutla. Wide open vistas through a wide valley. We rode on New Year’s Day and there were lots of drunks, some driving. 39Ks to Miahuatlan. (It’s still a grubby town.)
Miahuatlan to Puerto Angel
(The opposite direction as described earlier.) 36Ks to San Jose del Pacifico, which is the highest point on this route. Mostly climbing but some respites (descents). After San Jose, it’s 105Ks to Pochutla, the junction with the coastal Highway 200. The ride is spectacular along the mountain tops. Almost all down (a few ups though) on a well engineered road. 12Ks still down to coast to Puerto Angel. It gets warmer as you descend.
Puerto Angel to Huatulco
12Ks back up to Pochutla, then east on Highway 200, the coastal road. Mostly coastal plain with a few minor hills. Away from the ocean. 35Ks to turn off for the new resort town of Hwatulco. Then 3Ks down to Huatulco.
Huatulco to Salina Cruz
Hilly, long and boring. 65Ks to Santiago Astata on Highway 200. Strong winds, slightly from our front. 71Ks to Salina Cruz. Nothing special.
Salina to Tuxtla Gutierrez
No, we didn’t become marathoners. We rode a half day and decided life (and vacations) are too short for this boring stretch. In the beginning, it’s flat with more traffic between Salina and Juchitan. Very hot and dry. Only for those who must do it.
Tuxtla Gutierrez to San Cristobal
(See full description from previous trip updated Nov. 04) Serious climb. Beautiful and colorful. Through Indian villages. The Tuxtla zoo is interesting.
San Cristobal to Ocosingo
(Also previously described and updated Nov. 04) Weather an issue (January). Started with fog, some mist, then lifted but overcast. Cool. Less Population, vistas, and gorges. A little less friendly. Curious but shy kids.
Ocosingo to Palenque
(Also described before and updated Nov 04). Warned about bandits. This is new in 1991. Long but mostly down ride. Cool in A.M. Low clouds with some mist. Greener (just after the rainy season in January). The road had deteriorated and lots of construction. It’s another 8Ks to the ruins from town. More rain.
Palenque to Champoton
By bus—the road was at times rough. The trip is boring. But Highway 180 between the cities of Villahermosa and Campeche shows the Gulf of Mexico at its best, a shifting tableau of gentle surf, lowland thickets, and tropical ranchland. Opportunities to swim occur often. The seafood is marvelous. The route is the path of least resistance from central Mexico to the Yucatan Peninsula (according to “Bicycling Mexico” by Ericka Weisbroth and Eric Ellman).
Champoton to Campeche
Pretty along the gulf coast on Highway 180. Views with birds and boats on the water. Narrow road with a lot of big trucks. 14Ks to junction with Highway 261 (direct road to Edzna), then 51Ks to Campeche on Highway 180. Little rolling hills but a lot of bad surfaced roads.
Campeche to Hopelchen
The trucks were now taking a new route so the roads were tranquil. Also it was a very good road, so much better riding. The terrain is lightly hilly. It’s hot. 42Ks to junction for the ruins at Edzna. 19Ks to Edzna, 38Ks round trip. Rain in Janaury when we were there. Some low mountains but mostly easy riding. Light traffic. Dull scenery.
Hopelchen to Uxmal
North on Highway 261. 34Ks to Bolonchen, still a few hills but easy. Enter Yucatan. A few towns. Boring. 54Ks mostly flat into Uxmal. Some hills.
Uxmal to Merida
Hilly and prettier. 16Ks on a great road to junction Highway 184 at Muna. 64Ks flat and straight to junction Highway 180. Busy toward Merida on a four lane road, wide 18Ks through urban sprawl.
Cancun to Valladolid on Highway 180)
By bus. It’s just too heavy with traffic and not sufficiently interesting to warrant the trouble.
Cancun (airport) to Playa de Cormen
Out of airport on wide flat road to highway. The big billboards on this airport spur was the most interesting scenery of the day. 2Ks then south on Highway 307 (marker 341K). Double highway. Then after 5Ks, it’s two lanes and no shoulder. Vegetation up to the road. Mostly flat. Too much traffic for the narrow road. 24Ks to Puerto Morelos then 32 Ks to Playa which is just off the highway.
Playa de Cormen to Cozumel (by ferry)
Good circle trip south of Cozumel. About 40Ks along the beaches, quiet and easy. Paved.
Playa del Cormen to Tulum
The usual Yucatan/Quintana Roo ride. Flat and boring. Two lanes and narrow. 36Ks to Akumal, then 12Ks to Xel-Ha (we stopped and snorkeled.) Then 15Ks to Tulum. Busier later in the day toward Cormen and earlier toward Tulum. Lost of buses at and near Tulum (for the tourists from Cancun).
Tulum to Nuevo X-can
Great early morning riding. Boring but some great villages on the way. 42Ks to Coba (small ruin here, also a Club Med). The road to Chemax does not exist. 45Ks to Nuevo X-can. Boooooring. Very quiet road, straight.
Nuevo X-can to Valladolid
On Highway 180, there’s no shoulder and busy. Not at all good for riding. It’s 36Ks to Chemex and then 30 Ks to Merida. Be smart, take the bus.
Valladolid to Piste
Took the minor (quiet) road to Dzitas. 37Ks then cut down to Piste on a paved minor road for 18Ks. Piste is on Highway 18, the main road and treacherous.
Piste to Merida
Do not ride this on Highway 180. If going to Merida, take Highway 80, an older, less trafficked road. It’s more scenic and topographically diverse. It passes through for more interesting communities than the main highway. From Valladolid to Merida, it adds a mere 22Ks. This recommendation from “Bicycling Mexico” by Ericka Weisbroth and Eric Ellman.
This is our third time to ride from San Cristobal to Palenque (Mayan ruins in the jungle) but the 1st time since the Zapatista uprising in Chiapas. We saw this sign several times “You are in Zapatista Territory.” In effect, the rebels (Indians) won. Now the tourists are buying t-shirts emblazoned with the masked Zapatista leader. The big hang out in San Cristobal is the Revolution Bar (while there, Peter glimpsed himself in the mirror and was initially taken back by what he thought was a Republican) We always spend one night in Ocosingo (half-way point). This town in 91 was peaceful and sleepy. We were amazed to learn that in 1994 Ocosingo was the site of one of the bloodiest uprisings. The Indians now get lots of federal money. The area is like Mexico – it used to be Chiapas. There is far less indigenous life and culture. Huts are now homes of wood and cinderblock. Children wear school uniforms. However, every tiny settlement symbolically shows their power by placing speed bumps in the road to bring the normally manic Mexican traffic to a crawl and provide safety to their village and derivatively to bicyclers. The army endures these bumps daily while patrolling in their Humve Convoys. Even the express bus takes 5 hours to go 200Ks (125 miles). By the way, bikes can slip around these speed bumps. So it is power to the people, power to the Zapatistas and power to the bikers.