By Theresa Russell
Having visited many of the archaeological sites in the Yucatan, it was time to discover those in the south of the state of Campeche. Calakmul offers a true jungle experience. No manicured areas like at Chichen Itza or Kohunlich; Calakmul, in the depths of the rainforest, remains a hidden gem.
Reaching the site is an adventure in itself. In the past, it took days to machete a path to reach the site. Now there is a narrow, windy road that may have obstructions like fallen trees across the way. Although only 60 km from the main road, it will take over an hour to reach the site itself. Be sure to get an early start to have a full day at the site.
Calakmul Biosphere Reserve
Calakmul is part of the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve, the largest in Mexico and also a World Heritage site. On the drive into the archaeological site, keep you eyes peeled to see some of the wildlife. There are over 250 species of birds, five of the six species of felines found in Mexico,ocellated turkeys, peccary, monkeys and other animals that call Calakmul home.
Tallest in the Yucatan
Calakmul compares in importance with better-known sites like Palenque, Copan, Tikal, Uxmal and Chichen Itza. Its architectural elements are similar to Peten sites; its grandeur is comparable to none. Stelae abound throughout the site, and a significant number of murals has also been found at the site. Unfortunately, we did not have access to them at the time of our visit.
Following the posted route, it’s a long walk to the highest of the pyramids, but the other structures on the way are worth investigating. If time is short, do the designated route in a reverse direction to quickly access the plaza with the tallest pyramids.
Another reason to start the exploration of Calakmul from the designated finish is that you have not exerted any energy or suffered the heat of the jungle as you would starting in the marked direction. Many of the pyramids of the Yucatan are closed to climbing, but it’s still possible to climb the tallest pyramids in Calakmul and from the tops your view might stretch all the way to El Mirador in Guatemala.
With December 21, 2012 much in the news lately, it’s time to explore the new beginning of the Maya calendar with a visit to one of the most impressive Maya sites in the Yucatan.
Getting there: A rental car is highly recommended as Calakmul is situated far from the highway. Although possible to hire a taxi, why not simply rent a car in Cancun or another convenient port and explore the many archaeaological sites in the southern part of the Yucatan?
Fees: There is a fee for road maintenance and entrance into the site itself. The first fee will be collected at the gate when you first enter the access road.
- Take plenty of water, sunscreen and anything else that you might need for the day.
- Get on the road early as it will take the entire day to see the site.
- Explore the site in the reverse order. Most people reach the tallest pyramid in the afternoon. If you did it in reverse order you would have the place to yourself. As it is, so few people explore this site that you won’t find more than a handful of people here.
- Check out some of the other sites along the way: Kohunlich, Becan, Xpuhil, Rio Bec. Some of the sites are accessible only by a 4-wheel drive vehicle.
Pet Peeve: Maya is the word used for the people, culture and anything but the language. Mayan is the language spoken by the Maya. Watch how you use the word.
About Theresa Russell
Claiming her lust for travel began on her first journey through the birth canal, Theresa is genetically programmed to travel and to have fun doing it. She especially enjoys adventure and experiential travel and always finds something at a destination to write home about.