Instituto de Astronomia UNAM

Magnetic Fields in the Universe II: from Laboratory and Stars to the Primordial Universe

Cozumel, Mexico, January 28th to February 1st, 2008

Travel and tourist Information: Cozumel

 Cozumel, the largest Mexican island, located in the mexican caribbean sea off the eastern coast of  the state of Quintana Roo, in the Yucatán peninsula. It is a teardrop-shaped coral island ringed by crystalline waters 71 kilometres south of the popular tourist resort Cancún. Cozumel population is about 75 000, of which the mayority lives in the town of San Miguel.
The earliest (mayan) inhabitants called the island Ah-Cuzamil-Peten which means Island of Swallows. Thanks to Jacques Costeau, Cozumel has been a favourite destination for divers since 1961. In this year, Costeau made a television documentary on the island's glorious reefs. Today, no fewer than 100 world-class dive sites have been identified within 5km of Cozumel and no fewer than a dozen of these sites are shallow enough for snorkelers to enjoy.

Visa information

Please check the visa agreement between Mexico and your country of origin.
A list of countries that do not require a visa can be found here:
A list of countries that require a visa can be found here:
If you need a visa, please contact us as soon as possible and we will send you further instructions.


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Arriving To Cozumel

The simplest way to get there is to arrive directly to the International Airport of Cozumel (airport code CZM). However, prices are somewhat high since it is not a very demanding airport. A more economic option is to arrive at the International airport of Cancún (airport code CUN). From there, you will need to take ground transportation and a ferry. The whole ground plus sea trip from Cancún to Cozumel is about 2.30hrs.

If you land at Cozumel airport, you can take a taxi to the Park Royal Hotel, approximately $25. USD (number 14 on this map).
If you arrive in Cancun airport, you first need to get to Playa del Carmen and from there take a ferry to Cozumel.  There is a bus service that will take you to Playa del Carmen in about an hour for approximately $8. USD. Alternatively, you may take a private van (tickets sold inside theairport terminal) to get to Playa del Carmen. The prices for these are:~$62.USD for a party of 2-3 persons or ~$78.USD for aparty of 4-6 persons. Once you have reached the ferry dock at Playa del Carmen, take the ferry to Cozumel. The crossing takes about 45 minutes and the cost is approximately $12. USD. The ferries run daily on the hour, from 5am to 11pm. However, weather conditions might completely change the schedule without prior notice.
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 Mayan settlement here dates from 300 AD. During the postclassic period, Cozumel flourished as a trade centre and as a ceremonial site. Every Mayan woman on the Yucatán Peninsula and beyond was expected to make at least one pilgrimage to the island to pay tribute to Ixchel, the goddess of fertility and the moon, at the temple erected in her honour at what's now San Gervasio, in the northeast quadrant of the island.

At the time of the first Spanish contact with Cozumel (in 1518, by Juan de Grijalva and his men), there were at least 32 Mayan building sites on the island. Grijalva came and left in peace and a year later Cortés and his force of 11 ships and 500 men arrived. According to the respected Spanish chronicler Friar Diego de Landa, Cortés sacked one of the Mayan centres but left the others intact.

Describing Cortés, Landa wrote: "On the admiral's ship he set a banner of white and blue in honour of Our Lady, and whose image, together with the cross, he always placed wherever he destroyed idols." Through an interpreter, Cortés reportedly persuaded the Mayans on Cozumel "to adore the cross, that he placed in their temples with an image of Our Lady, and therewith public idolatry ceased", Landa wrote.

Soon after, Cortés left the island for the mainland, where he began his conquest of Mexico. The destruction of the Mayans on Cozumel began not with Cortés, but -according to Landa- with smallpox brought in 1520 by one African slave on a Spanish ship. The Maya, who had no immunity to the disease, fell like sheep. Within a year, half of the 8000 Maya on the island had died. Of the survivors, only about 200 survived genocidal attacks by conquistadors during the late 1540's.

While the island remained virtually deserted into the late 17th century, its coves provided sanctuary and headquarters for several notorious pirates, including Jean Lafitte and Henry Morgan. Pirate brutality led the remaining populace to move to the mainland. It wasn't until 1848 that Cozumel began to be resettled by Mexicans fleeing the War of the Castes.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the island's now mostly mestizo population grew, thanks to the craze for chewing gum. Cozumel was a port of call on the chicle export route and locals harvested chicle on the island. Although chicle was later replaced by synthetic gum, Cozumel's economy remained strong with the building of a US air base during WWII. When the US military departed, the island fell into an economic slump and many of its people moved away. All those who stayed fished for a livelihood until 1961, when Costeau introduced Cozumel's glorious sea life to the world in one of his great documentaries and tourist began arriving immediately.
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Travelling around: continental Mexico

 There is a big problem if you only visit Cozumel while visiting Mexico: "you don't really visit Mexico". It is definitely worth to spend some time in the Continent. At least, you should visit some of the places on the Riviera Maya. For $XXUSD return, get the Ferry from San Miguel de Cozumel city centre to Playa del Carmen. Playa is increasingly becoming a very important tourist resource. There is a wide range of hotel prices in Playa, from the most expensive to the really economic ones. The advantage of being in Playa is that it looks more like a real Mexican town, in contrast with Cozumel, that doesn't look like the rest of Mexico at all.

The Riviera Maya is a 200km North-South motorway in the east coast of Yucatán's Peninsula. It belongs to the state of Quintana Roo and around this way, you can certainly find some of the most beautiful tourist resources around the world. The advantage of staying in Playa del Carmen is that it is more or less at the middle of the Riviera Maya, so it is a very good place to move around. From there you can travel to Cancun (60km), Tulum (130km) -you should not miss the Mayan archaeological site Tulum while visiting the Peninsula de Yucatán! Tulum is a fascinating fortress Maya city. One of the walls of the city is actually the Caribbean sea. That makes the pyramids to merge with the landscape and the sea in a very unique way.

There are many, many places you can visit in the Riviera Maya, but if you feel that pyramids and big archaeological sites is what you are looking for, Yucatán has that for you. At a distance of about 300km west of Playa del Carmen, it lies one of the four biggest archaeological Mexican sites: Chichén-Itza. It is worth travelling to Chichén if you want to see the Caracol Observatory built by the Mayas and also to discover some of the astronomical alignments that the Kukulkan main pyramid on the site has. It is somewhat shocking to discover the great advancement in astronomy that the Mayas (and all Mesoamerican -middle American) had.
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Further information

If you would like to know more about Yucatán Peninsula, you should visit the some of the following tourist information sites:
Playa del Carmen and Riviera Maya Guide
Secretaría de Turismo (turism bureau), Yucatán
Secretaría de Turismo, Quintana Roo (Spanish version only)
Turismo Quintana Roo (Spanish version only)

We hope you enjoy your time while being in Mexico.
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