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Winner named in Yucatán travel-tip contest

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Guardian reader John Clayton submitted the winning Yucatan travel tip: Jump into the Siete Bocas cenote. He also offered this photo.

Uncrowded ruins, hidden cenotes and authentic places to eat were among the Yucatán travel secrets shared in a Guardian contest.

The British newspaper awarded the winner, chosen by Tom Hall of Lonely Planet, a £200 hotel voucher. 

The winning tip? Jump into one of the “seven mouths.”

“Get up early and be the first to arrive at Siete Bocas ($15pp), one of the many underground lakes or cenotes in Yucatán,” wrote John Clayton, who also submitted the above photo (full story here). “These are off the tour-group trail, leaving you alone in the jungle to plunge through the limestone holes into the clear freshwater pools and the chance to take a slightly daunting but amazing underground swim. The best way to get there is to cycle the flat 10 miles from Puerto Morelos, the first town south of Cancún. Bikes and scooters can be rented in Puerto Morelos or Cancún (intercity buses carry bikes for a small fee).”

Among other reader tips from off the beaten path:

L’hotelito in Tulum. Photo: Facebook

“I’d recommend renting a bicycle in Tulum as the local cenotes, the beach and the town itself are set apart from one other.” —John Kennedy

“For a less touristic Mayan experience, head to the Ek Balam complex an hour north of Valladolid.” —jbridge90

“As spectacular as Chichen Itza is, you can’t avoid the crowds. Unlike Coba hidden in the jungle two to three hours on the bus from Cancún. There were only a handful of visitors the morning we went – it felt like a hidden treasure.” —swinny00

“Bacalar is known as the lagoon of seven colors and is absolutely breathtaking.” —Sexico Disco

“Though well located for a trip to Chichen Itza, Valladolid is a fab place in its own right. Its grid of pastel-colored houses reminded me of cobbled streets in Trinidad, Cuba.” —Fabia Lewis

“The ecological and archaeology park at Xcaret … seems expensive (£72 a day adult) but you can swim through the network of underground rivers, and watch dolphins in the lagoon. —Doug Bishop

Isla Holbox. Photo: Getty

“For a Mexican island adventure, swap Isla Mujeres for the quieter Isla Holbox … (a) sun-strewn island with abundant wildlife. —skwilkinson

“Don’t miss out on the free light and sound show at Chichen Itza. It isn’t well-advertised – you have to apply through the website for tickets but it runs every night and is the most breathtaking show. Try to time it when there’s a full moon rising. Unmissable!” —H Sullivan

“… During the day head to the beach near the ruins (in Tulum): it’s actually less touristy than the big resorts closer to the main road.” —Sonia Carrera

“Instead of the more direct route from Mérida to Mayapán, we took the scenic route heading south towards Muna and turning east at Abala. … We came upon X-kan cha a kan, a small village with a lovely old church and a fine well-maintained hacienda. We lingered here a while enjoying the quiet cool beneath the ceiba trees enjoying the magnificent hacienda with its unique clock tower. Then on to the stunning Mayapán a short drive further, which we had to ourselves.” —peter roth

“Playa del Carmen … is a really touristy spot but La Perla restaurant has an extraordinary, authentic Pixan menu and an array of mezcals unlike anything we’d ever seen anywhere else.” —steviezim

“In Mexico it is very difficult for a bar to have its own beer menu independent of the big conglomerates … but the Club de la Cerveza in Playa Del Carmen is a notable exception. It has carved out a niche serving Mexican craft beers thanks to a brave self-funding initiative by the owner Miquel. So head up 5th Ave and celebrate his courage with a artisanal IPA or stout.” —CTombu

Nichte-Ha in Celestún is recommended for its ceviche. Photo: Facebook

“Nicte Ha – a restaurant on Calle 10 in (Celestún) … served the best ceviche we had on our trip.”
—Selene Pearson

“We stayed in Ek Balam pueblo at Genesis Eco Oasis, where the owner promotes mutually beneficial interaction with local people… We felt this experience helps prevent the devastating cultural and environmental impact of mass tourism.”  —Nanda Whiles

One reader preferred to keep his travel secrets secret: “Um, I have my own favorite Secret Places too. But you know what? I don’t tell people about them — that way they stay secret and I don’t keep running into bevies of rubbernecking goddam Guardian readers!”

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