Think of it as a Mexican Inka Trail or Camino de Santiago in Spain. The Camino del Mayab is a revolutionary hiking/biking trail in an overlooked area of Mexico, with a network of 130 kilometers of trails developed in conjunction with 13 Mayan communities. By bringing responsible travelers down this gorgeous path of cultural and natural wonders, it will bring sustainable dollars and resources to the calo communities. Visitors will be paying for local accommodation, food, buy gifts and souvenirs, pay for entrance to the stunning cenotes, and more. The unknown area has some of the most spectacular natural wonders and ruins of the Yucatan peninsula. This program also highlights the cultural and historical legacy of Yucatan, taking its visitors through fascinating towns, haciendas, and cenotes south of the city of Merida. However, the project is in its infancy with little infrastructure outside of the ancient trail system and natural wonders themselves. Our 1st group built a welcome center, a place for travelers to gather, buy entrance, and purchase handicrafts from locals. Along the adventurous path, there are many similar projects for us to complete to help revitalize this economically depressed network of communities.
This is the perfect program for the volunteer with a sense of adventure and a desire to connect with local community members.
The objective of the Camino del Mayab is to generate direct benefits for the people of the communities that make up the Camino del Mayab. The main objective is to grow tourism in the area, to give all community members opportunities for employment in guide services, food catering, lodging, transportation, and many more.
During the program, travelers will be able to live like locals, participating in daily life activities such as beekeeping, handicrafts, cornfield work, tending to livestock, and more.
There are three main problems that we work to eradicate: Social Inequality; Species Extinction; and Environmental Destruction. It is estimated that when this project is in its fifth year of operation, it will generate benefits direct to 360 indigenous people; of which 216 will be women and 72 young people. Most recently, Globe Aware completed the construction of a structure that will serve as a welcome building for volunteers at the start of the trail. Here, community members will be able to gather to sell goods, offer guide services, and host events that benefit both tourists and locals. The goal is that each village along the trail will have such a building for community members to offer services and gather.
The conservation of the environment of the Camino del Mayab is vital for the recharging of the aquifer that supplies the City of Merida. During the program, different activities will be carried out on rural construction, trail labeling and clearing, cenote restoration and infrastructure maintenance, agricultural work, rehabilitation of schools, and animal/environmental conservation. The specific project that you work on will depend on the needs of the community at the time the group travels, but rest of assured there is plenty of need and work to be done by our volunteers and community members.
Our Mexico program runs on a Sunday to Saturday itinerary. Days 1-4 will be spent in the communities of Camino del Mayab working on a variety of projects most mornings. Leisure and cultural activities are generally scheduled for late afternoons/evenings. The last day of the program (departure day) will be a free day of sorts, though our coordinator will be happy to recommend places for you to visit during the day and often tag along with you. Regardless of your choice of activities, they will be back around to transport you to the airport in time for your flight home.
While volunteers will have the opportunity to walk along the path to various sites, the predominant mode of transportation will be by vehicle from community to community.
Food and Lodging
Accommodations will vary depending on the community that you are volunteering in. Most meals will be eaten in lovely outdoor settings of the homes of the locals we are helping to serve, with authentic Yucatan food, from chicken pibil to enchiladas and more. The food here is always a special treat that volunteers and Instagram raves over. If you need special accommodations or have a larger group we can house you in very comfortable and historic haciendas for an additional cost. For the first four days of community work you will be housed in either camping areas and/or homes of locals of the communities. On the fifth day, volunteers will be transported to the City of Merida and stay in a mid-range hotel in the city center. Volunteers' activities will take place in nearby communities in the morning on this day and the evening will be spent exploring the city with our coordinators. All meals are provided for the duration of your program. Keep in mind that while in the communities outside of Merida, accommodations will be fairly rustic and simple. If camping, tents, sleeping bags, and often a mattress pad are provided. In the homestays, the bedding is simple and probably not as plush as you are accustomed to back home. Washing facilities will vary in amenities based on location.
Unlike most of our other program locations, Mexico offers two options for accommodations. For the more budget-conscious, rural “ecocabinas” that house anywhere from 4-8 people each, assuming two per bed are the base, included option. Traditional hammocks are also available if desired. There is no air conditioning with this option and less privacy, but there is power, bathrooms, hot running water, electric fans, a swimming pool within a 2-minute walk, 2 cenotes (Xbatun and Dzonombacal) within a 20 to 30 minute walk away or 10 minute by bicycle (provided by the program), a nearby nature reserve with deer, and a modest restaurant on the property as well.
Program with Basic Accommodations: $1,592.00
For an additional cost, the other more luxurious option, which comes with air-conditioned rooms, is housed in a historic hacienda. The property has several beautiful on-site swimming pools, a stunning cenote, and a small museum. The rooms are decorated in a traditional style, but with modern and comfortable upgrades. There is even a small private pool behind each of the Cabanas. The on-site cenote is tucked away underground with crystal clear water, and you will often find that you have the entire pool to yourself. Wifi is available throughout the grounds. The hacienda option is an additional $350 per person.
Program with Hacienda Accommodations: $1,942.00
Leisure and Activities
Mayan ruins, cenotes, haciendas and more! This program offers a truly immersive experience for the volunteer. Not only will you have the chance to spend quality time with our local coordinators and guides, but you will also take meals and participate and various duties and activities with community members in a homestay. There are various unique archeological sites, biodiversity zones, and spectacular nature walks along the trail. Visits to archeological sites are included in the price of the program. Coordinators will arrange a variety of team/community activities ranging from bonfires to cookouts to team games.
One of the favorite activities for volunteers on this program is the chance to swim in the crystal-clear waters of the various cenotes in the area. Cenotes are sunken, underground, bodies of water that have generally been created from ancient collapsed limestone. The result is a gorgeous natural wonder with aqua water and lush vegetation. While you may not be working directly on cenote infrastructure projects every day, there are plenty of opportunities to go for a refreshing swim while on the project site.
Arranging Your Airfare
Volunteers should plan to arrive at the Merida International Airport the day your program begins. You will be picked up directly from the airport and transported to your accommodations. On the last day of the program, you will be transported to the airport in accordance with your departure time.
Safety and Security
No vaccinations are required but you should always check with your personal doctor. There are nearby clinics and hospitals within an hour’s drive of the communities if needed. Additionally, there is a paramedic with the group that can tend to minor injuries or illnesses. Volunteers will travel as a team with Globe Aware personnel. Please contact our office for any needs or concerns regarding safety on the ground.