Somethng to Declare: Across the Yucatan, by train

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The Independent Travel

When Mexico City's main railway terminus was abandoned three years ago, many travellers concluded that Mexico was giving up passenger trains for ever. But a 100-year-old railway line has been resurrected for passenger traffic across the Yucatan Peninsula, offering an alternative to the dreary road trip.

Destination of the week: across the Yucatan, by train

When Mexico City's main railway terminus was abandoned three years ago, many travellers concluded that Mexico was giving up passenger trains for ever. But a 100-year-old railway line has been resurrected for passenger traffic across the Yucatan Peninsula, offering an alternative to the dreary road trip.

The line runs from the handsome colonial city of Merida – easily accessible from Britain with a change of planes in Miami – to the Mayan site of Palenque in the south. Scenically, the terrain is mostly flat, with low scrub or thick jungle and arable farms or cattle ranches. It does not compare with the Copper Canyon Railway further west, but historically the journey is fascinating.

The single-track railway line was built a century ago, in the days when the only alternative was a mule track. The original purpose was to carry sisal and logs from the haciendas to the ports. The line passes through thriving rural communities and villages that grew up to house the haciendas' workers, though some now lie in ruins.

The journey takes a leisurely two days, with a couple of intermissions. One is to visit the classic Mayan site of Uxmal, which lies close to the line. Here, compressed into a few acres, you find a towering pyramid, a pre-Catholic "convent" and an archaic civic centre.

The train makes an overnight stop in the colonial port of Campeche on the Gulf of Mexico, which is a welcome pause roughly halfway along. The buildings in this walled city have been beautifully restored to their 19th-century glory; a son et lumière show is provided.

Both excursions are included in the price, as is accommodation in Campeche. This helps to explain prices high by Mexican standards: £452 in first – which includes all meals on the train – and £327 in coach (second) class. In addition, a single supplement is payable for the hotel by solo travellers. Trips are sold in the UK through Journey Latin America (020-8747 8315, www.journeylatinamerica.co.uk).

Warning of the week: Cairo in October

Mid-October is a fine time to visit the Egyptian capital – except this year, when it signals the annual get-together of the Association of British Travel Agents. A couple of thousand travel agents will be indulging their legendary capacity for talking and drinking between 18 and 21 October. Scheduled flights from Heathrow to Cairo on British Airways and Egyptair, going out 14-17 October and returning 22-24 October, are likely to be very busy.

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