Progreso-area weekend provides a quick sample of Yucatan’s best

Sunrise along Progreso's malecon. (PHOTO: Robert Adams)

A recent weekend in Progreso revealed you don’t have to travel far from Merida to experience many of the diverse attractions Yucatan has to offer. Even with only a day or two for touring, using Progreso as a base, you can sample relaxing ocean beaches, inviting freshwater cenotes, exotic native wildlife and impressive Maya ruins nearby.

On Progreso’s outskirts is the El Corchito Ecological Reserve, reached by motorboat from a dock not far from the Merida-Progreso highway. Here you’ll find several well-tended cenotes that are delightful for wading and swimming on hot Yucatecan days. Helpful nature guides patiently point out to visitors the native plants found in the reserve, while wildlife includes giant termite nests suspended in tree branches and many cheeky raccoons that approach visitors for food handouts.

The coastal road that runs for about 70 kilometers east from Progreso to fishing village Dzilam Bravo is lined with waterfront homes on the Gulf of Mexico side. But on the inland side, you’ll catch glimpses of scores of rose-colored flamingos and other wading birds in the saltwater marshes and mangroves. Stop for photos to capture mementos of your visit, because Yucatan is a rare locale where flamingos are found outside of captivity.

Xcambo Archaelogical Site is located about 38 km east of Progreso on the coastal road. Here you’ll find a small group of Maya structures, including a stepped temple which is one of only a handful in Mexico where visitors can still climb to the top. Enjoy several hours of exploring without having to fight the crowds of more popular sites like Chichen Itza or Uxmal.

If you make the trip to Xcambo with a tour guide, ask him or her to stop at one of the salt ponds where the local salt industry formerly flourished. The guide will explain that some local residents continue to use these ponds with pinkish water to provide their families’ tables with supplies of salt.

After the trip, you’ll still be back in Progreso in time for a quick dip in the ocean before nightfall. Conclude your day with a delicious seafood meal at one of the restaurants along the malecon, and you’ll have experienced a quick introduction to some of the best Yucatan has to offer in one day.

By Robert Adams for TYT