Tuesday we headed North out of Merida toward the fishing village of Progreso. Along the way we stopped at Dzibilchaltun, which is famous for the Temple of the Seven Dolls (an astronomical observatory), and a beautiful cenote where you can swim. However, there was no swimming to be had on the 20th of March, nor the 21st, as this is the time of the spring equinox, when the sun rises directly through the doorway of the Temple of the Seven Dolls. Thousands of tourists show up early in the morning on both days. As a result, the cenote and the buildings are blocked off, to prevent anyone from hurting themselves. We purchased the services of a guide named William, for M$250, and walked the grounds looking at, but not touching, anything.
What a bummer!
This is the Temple of the Seven Dolls. We didn't come back the next day for the rising of the sun, but the central doorway is where you would see it. You can see a small image of the sunrise on this Yucatan Today page about Dzibilchaltun. In the foreground, there's also a low platform with a stone set in it, which is oriented as a sundial. At the solar zenith, the stone casts no shadow, which is the first day of the Mayan calendar. Thus, the astronomers at Dzibilchaltun were able to accurately forecast seasons, and track time.
Here's a view of the cenote as well. It looks like a very inviting dip, doesn't it? Notice all the caution tape around the edges to dissuade you from swimming, however.
Right in the center of Dzibilchaltun stands the remains of a Catholic church, as well. After the conquest, portions of this site were dismantled to create a church, a home for the priest and a corral.
When you pay your admission to Dzibilchaltun, you have the option of visiting the museum for an extra M$20. It's worth the price. The museum houses a small collection of Mayan artifacts, as well as providing a good selection of post conquest Mayan displays. This is a spectacular incense burner housed in the Mayan part of the collection.
From Dzibilchaltun, we headed north into Progreso. Progreso is a busy port town, boasting the worlds longest pier extending 5 miles into the Gulf of Mexico. Here's a satellite photograph of the pier from Google Earth.
We ate dinner at Le Saint Bonnet right in front of the pier. Delicious seafood, plus a steady stream of interesting people walking buy, including this character selling masks. He asked M$250. After some patient negotiating we settled on M$130 — about C$14.
After dinner, we took a stroll down the beach, accompanied by a pack of five dogs who befriended us, and photographed the sunset before heading back to Merida.