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Isla Mujeres and The Temple of Ixchel

This beautiful island, with its small friendly town and wonderful beaches lies about 10 miles north east of Cancun. There are a number of cheap and regular ferries that go there so you combine the pleasure of a boat trip as well as a visit to a pretty place that is packed with history. Isla Mujeres was actually a tourist destination long before the emergence of the Cancun development. If you like a laid back and less frenetic holiday then maybe a stay on the island may well fit your idea of a great holiday

The island gained its name (English Translation: Island of Women) because the Spanish found a great many carved images of women on the island. These carvings were the product of the Mayan worship of the goddess Ixchel. The Mayans built a temple to the Goddess Ixchel at the South-eastern most tip of the island and within this temple they incorporated an observatory. Ixchel was the Mayan Goddess of the Moon and childbirth and was closely associated with the sophisicated Mayan astronomical readings taken here and elsewhere. The remnants of this temple are still there. It is at what is essentially the most eastern tip of Mexico.

Unfortunately the temple ruins were severely damaged by Hurricane Gilbert in 1988. It has been partially restored. Just before the temple is a field containing a number of modern art sculptures from many famous international artists. About a mile north of the Temple of Ixchel is a Turtle farm which is open to the public.

The small town (Isla Town) at the northern end of the island is a wonderful labyrinth of narrow streets. Many of the traders are silver merchants and the island has a reputation for good quality silver jewellery. Just beyond the town is North Beach (Playa Del Nort) a beautiful expanse of golden sand that fades into the port as you walk south.

On the island you can hire golf arts or scooters to get about though arguably the Taxis are cheaper. Cheapest of all is the ramshackle bus service that allows you to ride from one end of the Island to nearly the other for a few pennies. It is however somewhat irregular. Of course you can always walk.

The path to the Temple of Ixchel on the southern tip of the Isla Mujeres leads you through a field populated with many modern art exhibits. In fact the entrance fee to this area is used to maintain these exhibits rather than maintain the Temple of Ixchel.

There are about 11000 residents on the island. Many visitors come for the day by ferry from Cancun, but you can also stay there in a range of accomodation from the luxurious to the budget. A great place for at a least day out, or even a whole holiday.

This is the most easterly point in Mexico. this is one of the reasons it was so important to the Mayans. The temple was also used as a lighthouse, used to guide mayan seafarers through the darkness to the island or help them on their way to nearby ports like Tulum.

The island and the surrounding sea is full of wildlfe. There is a turtle farm close to the southern most bus stop which is about a mile from the Temple of Ixchel. Fishing boats ply their trade out of the small harbour close to the main town and everywhere you go you will come across gekko's and iguanas