A Travellerspoint blog

More Mexico

A Whirlwind Mayan Tour

sunny 34 °C

For the past few days we have been racing around some of the numerous Mayan ruins that are scattered throughout the Yucatan peninsula. First to Tulum – one of the most popular, expensive (and crowded) sites because of its proximity to the major beach resorts of Cancun, Cozumel and Playa del Carmen. Tulum’s main claim to fame is its location by the sea…
Onwards now, a 300kms drive to Chetumal, the capital of the state of Quintana Roo, to visit the Museum of Mayan Culture. The outside looked impressive - even the band was playing when we arrived…
– but the museum was closed!

Next stop; a three and a half hour run to the ruins of the city of Kohunlich which date from 100 – 900 AD…
The Temple of the Mascarones (masks) is a magnificent building which is guarded by four beautifully carved masks of the gods…
After a night’s stop in the tiny village of Xpujil, (don’t even try to pronounce it), we make a pre-dawn start to visit the cream of the crop. It’s still early morning when we arrive at the totally deserted ancient Mayan city of Calakmul near the Guatemalan border as a long walk through the steamy jungle awaits us. We have driven for three hours mainly on a twisted and rutted single lane track through the jungle and can easily imagine ourselves with Sylvanus Griswold Morley, the American archaeologist and Mayanist scholar, who cut a path to this once great city in 1932 on behalf of The Carnegie Institute in Washington.

In October 1932 Morley might have written:

Dear Mr. Carnegie
It is inconceivable to me that the ruins of such a great city as that at Calakmul should have been so hidden so deep in the jungle that none knew of its existence until now. Yet, it is apparent to me that no man has ascended the great pyramids nor walked these paths for some four or five centuries past.
The jungle hereabouts is as dense as any in my experience and is home to a great multitude of wildlife including all manner of vicious insects and flocks of flambouyant turkeys…
While above us in the canopy troupes of howler monkeys rent the air with their terrifying calls…
Only God knows what magnificence once lay here. My observations and measurements suggest it may have been home to fifty thousand Mayan souls for upwards of a thousand years. There are so many structures lying ’neath the forest floor and entangled in the roots of great trees that we may never know for certain…
The city was occupied in 600 BC and from the hieroglyphs on the many stellae it seems that it was once the regional capital rivalling the great city of Tikal which lies over the border in Guatemala. Much excavation will need to be undertaken to unearth this great city.

Yours Sincerely
Sylvanus Griswold Morley

It would be fifty years before any serious excavation was done at Calakmul and most of the estimated seven thousand structures are still covered by jungle. Very few tourists make it as far as Calakmul, (it is at least a five hour drive from any large town) so those that do so are rewarded by having the magnificent place to themselves. For once we didn’t have to dodge the touts, the trinket salesmen, the guides or the great gaggles of daytrippers, and we didn’t have to be sneaky to get some perfect photos...

Next stop - the regional capital, Campeche, where we will be taking a couple days off from clambering over thousand year old rock piles to explore an expansive colonial city and chill out by a pool at the seaside.

Posted by Hawkson 14:14 Archived in Mexico

Email this entryFacebookStumbleUpon

Table of contents


i have been to Mexico many times and never heard of these places but I never had the use of a car there. I have seen several places similar but none so beautiful..you certainly have the guts to go there all alone...you are "the travellers of the year.Jean

by Jean McLaren

Brats! I wanted you to come to Campeche with us in two weeks.

by catherine

Talk about off the beaten track. Intrepid modern day explorers you are, but what a magnificent reward.
Great photo of Sheila showing the perspective and the lone tree that appears to be growing out of the steps.

by R and B

Beautiful photos.

by The Vickerage

As always, you share with us places and experiences few will have seen...thank you for that. My own perspective is widened because of you.

by Sharron

Comments on this blog entry are now closed to non-Travellerspoint members. You can still leave a comment if you are a member of Travellerspoint.