Twelve miles northeast of Cancun, Isla Mujeres emerges from the Caribbean as a mysterious and beautiful island that has beckoned sailors and visitors for millennia. At the southern tip of the island is Punta Sur, home to the ruins of the Temple Ixchel honoring the Mayan goddess of the moon, fertility, and happiness. In fact, Isla Mujeres, or “Island of Women,” gets its name from the many carved statues of women that were found on the island and used in the worship of goddess Ixchel.
The ancient Temple Ixchel is surrounded by must-see sights you won’t want to miss. Here are five things to look for when you visit the temple.
1. Modern Art and Rock Sculptures
The same path that leads you to the temple will take you by an extensive collection of modern art sculptures as well as intricately balanced rock formations that serve as impromptu offerings to ancestors. Here you can take in an outdoor art exhibit surrounded by the crystal clear Caribbean Sea and lush green vegetation. The cliffside sculpture garden is decorated with creations from Mexican and international artists and merits a stroll.
2. Hidden Cliffside Beaches
While making your way to the temple, take a peek over the edge of the cliffs to get a birds-eye-view of the picturesque and secluded beaches below. The pristine stretches of coastline bordered by rocky cliffs are only accessible by the sea, but the views are straight out of a deserted island daydream. Be sure to have your camera ready to capture the perfect island scene, but watch your step.
3. Winding Path to the Caribbean
At the very tip of the island and park is a winding path with a wood railing that takes you down to sea level. The walk down the cliffside provides you with breath-taking views of the sparkling Caribbean Sea and Cancun. If you complete the easy walk to the beach below, you’ll have made it to Mexico’s easternmost point.
4. Ancient Iguanas
At the entrance to Punta Sur, you’ll see a large monument to the iguana, the icon of Isla Mujeres. You’re also likely to see many real-life iguanas sunning themselves on the cliffs. The iguanas are native to the island and you can easily snap photos of them lazing about, but don’t try to feed them!
5. Temple Ixchel
Don’t forget to explore the Temple Ixchel itself, which remains the focal point of the island. The ancient temple once served as a lighthouse for seafarers since it’s the highest point in the Yucatan Peninsula. The temple has suffered hurricane damage in the past and has been partially restored. It remains standing today as a modern testament to Mayan culture.
No trip to Isla Mujeres is complete without a visit to Punta Sur and the Temple Ixchel. The island is easily accessible from Cancun by ferry. You may also decide to spend a relaxing and laid-back stay on the island itself to enjoy all it has to offer.