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Chichen Itza is considered the most important
archaeological zone of the Mayan World in the region. Located
149 miles from Cancun towards Merida, it extends approximately
2.5 miles from north to south, and arose at the end of the
Classic period in the year 900 AD until the start of the
Postclassic in 1200 AD. Rediscovered in 1842, it is not
until the twentieth century that its restoration begins
along with its resurgence as one of the most important and
valuable sites of Mayan culture and basically humanity.
Chichen Itza, which translates to "at
the edge of the well of the Itzaes" derives its name
from its sacred, large cenote (sinkhole). The Itzaes were
a group that settled within the area during the Classic
period (300 to 900 AD), in a preexisting city of Puc origin,
whose original name is unknown. Chichen Itza's first constructive
phases correspond to the Puc style that belongs to the group
of structures called The Nuns and The Temple of the Initial
Series located in what is known today as Old Chichen.
El Caracol or The Observatory, built at
the end of the Classic period, contained a room that permitted
the detailed observation of the vernal equinox. All of this
must have been in full use at the start of the twentieth
century before the arrival of the Itzaes, indicating the
existence of important astronomical knowledge.
A significant number of pilgrimages to
the city of Chichen Itza from the entire Mayan region including
Palenque, Cozumel and Izamal, were occurring in this era.
These people left a great number of offerings that have
been discovered in the Sacred Cenote.
Later, near the year 1000 AD, the Toltecs
arrive from central Mexico. They bring to the region the
god of the "feathered serpent" known as Quetzalcoatl
and referred to as Kukulcan by the Mayans. It is at this
moment that the first great mestization, or mixing of races
and cultures, between the Mayans and the Toltecs occurs,
creating a very important group that enriches enormously
the religion, art and culture of the region. Adopting the
Mayan language, this group becomes one of ancient Mexico's
most powerful settlements.
With their highly developed knowledge
of natural resources, astronomy, mathematics, painting,
sculpture, writing and other human activities, these Mayans
flourished into one of the most advanced civilizations of
It is during this time that the next constructive phase
corresponding to the blossoming of the Mayan-Toltec mestization
takes place, represented in the construction of the great
pyramid of Kukulcan, or "El Castillo" (The Castle),
and all of the most important buildings such as The Temple
of the Warriors, the Market, the Platform of the Jaguars
and Eagles and the Ball Game courts. This entire zone is
known as Chichen or the Toltec Chichen that also comprises
the ancient Sacred Cenote by means of a perfectly defined,
great Sacbe (trail).
El Castillo is a temple dedicated to the
Sun, of strong Toltec influence, that was constructed over
another minor temple in which was found a throne representing
a jaguar above which rested a solar disk made of turquoise
and obsidian. It is as if the temple of the Sun was only
resting over that of the Jaguar.
This important architectural relationship
signals a mix of deities that do not lose their importance
to the Mayan-Toltec people, coexisting in a type of colonization
that has never been attempted at any other time in the history
of mankind. Chichen Itza extends its power over all of the
Yucatan Peninsula until 1250 AD when, though there is not
a uniform theory, the great city was abandoned in order
to become a sanctuary for the worship of the god Kukulcan,
even long after the Spanish conquest.
In fact, today it continues to be a sacred
site for a great number of people in search of the influence
of the gods of nature that were supposed to live there.
One of the area's main attractions is the observation of
the equinoxes on March 21st and September 22nd. It is during
this time that a serpent descending from El Castillo can
Likewise, the light and sound show that
takes place every day starting at 8:00 p.m. is a must for
anyone visiting the area.The archeological zone is open
everyday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Admission is free on
Sundays and there are several tours that depart from the
larger cities such as Cancun, Merida , Playa del Carmen
and Chetumal or you may arrive directly in a rental car.
One of the oldest Mayan cities, Coba
was a grand settlement that developed in the jungle around
a group of lakes and cenotes (sinkholes) that, like Tulum,
belong to the Classic and Postclassic periods of Mayan culture.
The first traces are from 100 to 200 AD, although it flourished
during the period between the years 300 and 900 of our era.
Its political importance in the region lasted until 900
and 1200 AD.
Coba's importance in its time is linked
to the great cities of Tikal and Copan. It may have been
a center of crop production and the place from where goods
and services were distributed between the coast and the
interior of the Yucatan Peninsula--something like a commercial,
political and religious capital.
Indicative of this is the existence of
an enormous network of trails or sacbe that served to connect
distinct groups of importance in Coba with other places
in the region, reaching as far as the interior of the Peninsula.
There is a 62 mile-long Sacbe that extends nearly to Chichen
Itza. Together this network is over 125 miles long.
Coba is associated with the Mayan sun
god and, due to its architectural style and stages of construction,
three groups of important buildings can be found there:
Coba, Macanxoc and Nohoch Mul, home to the Yucatan Peninsula's
highest pyramid (139 ft) which offers a magnificent view
of the surrounding jungle. All of these sites have the famous
Mayan steles: important structures depicting relevant information
about ancient Mayan events and beliefs.
In order to reach Coba, located in the
central part of the state of Quintana Roo and deep within
the jungle, one must take the road from Tulum west for 25
miles and then turn to the road leading into the jungle
found before the next urban area.
Further information on how to get there may be provided
by your hotel's travel agency, including tours or renting
a car. Coba is only 40 minutes from Tulum. We do not recommend
taking a bus.
Bring very comfortable clothes and shoes since Coba covers
an extensive area within the jungle. Do not wander off the
main trails. There are no services of any kind found within
the zone so bring whatever you may need including drinking
water, sun block and insect repellent. Return to Tulum for
lunch or dinner.
Rey, El Meco and La Duna
Cancun's hotel zone is situated around
the Nichupte Lagoon, whose name signifies "full of
noses", in reference to a series of settlements dating
back to the Late Classic period (1250 to 1550 AD) whose
structures are strategically located over the coast and
in certain places lining the lagoon.
The largest and best preserved is El Rey,
a relatively small settlement, found in a natural land depression
in the middle of Cancun's hotel zone, facing Km. 18 of Boulevard
Kukulcan. Because of its location, it is practically isolated
from the rest of the area, protected from strong winds and
hurricanes, and generating a peaceful ambience amidst the
hectic activities of this tourist zone within Cancun.
The site developed in the Late Classic
period and contains characteristics very similar to those
of Tulum and Xel Ha. It is composed of 16 structures, two
plazas and two roadways and the remains of paintings have
also been conserved there.
It is assumed that El Rey formed part of
the commercial structure of the zone, receiving canoes that
entered the lagoon through the Nizuc channel. El Rey can
be reached by car or by taking any of the buses that circulate
through the hotel zone.
Since it is within the city, there are no organized tours.
Nevertheless, visiting this site is highly recommended and
takes only one hour.
El Meco, located in northern Cancun in
Mujeres Bay, played an important part in communication with
Isla Mujeres and belongs to the Postclassic period. It is
considered the departure point for the Mayas sailing to
the island and as an important reference for coastal navigation
even at night, including navigation through the lagoons.
The site has 14 structures with a main temple in good condition.
El Meco, located between Puerto Juarez from where the ferries
depart to Isla Mujeres and Punta Sam, was recently opened
to the public. There are no organized tours. Rent a car
or hire a taxi to reach El Meco. The visit will take no
more than an hour.
La Duna is another site that is located along the coast,
within the Sheraton Hotel's property. It has an outstanding
structure that may have aided in coastal navigation.
Possibly one of the most important
sites in the state of Quintana Roo. Kohunlich is located
within the jungle in an area that was populated for a long
time-from the Early to Late Classic periods (250 to 950
AD). As a result of this, Kohunlich had various periods
of construction, three of which have been identified due
to their buildings.
One of the most important structures is
the Temple of the Masks, whose staircase has eight stucco
masks on its sides. This building is also known as the Temple
of the Sun since its masks represent the sun god embraced
by celestial motifs reminiscent of the Jaguar god. It belongs
to the first phase of construction related to El Peten.
The second phase is related to the Rio Bec style represented
in the Acropolis, while the third phase of construction
is characterized by its low platforms above which must have
existed temporary constructions.
It is one of the most famous archaeological vestiges in the
world and one of the most beautiful cities of the Mayan culture.
Its construction atop off a cliff offers a unique and spectacular
view of the Caribbean Sea.
Built in the Classic period of Mayan culture,
around 465 BC, it reached its Golden Age between the years
1200 and 1500 AD in the Postclassic period. Originally named
"Zama" (dawn), its location in the higher parts
of one of the few cliffs found along the Mexican Caribbean
Zama was renamed Tulum, meaning "wall,"
at the beginning of the twentieth century, since it was
a walled city and considered an important commercial and
navigational port for the Mayas in addition to being a fortified
city-refuge, characteristic of eras of war. Various opinions
exist regarding the reason for these walls: some think that
they were built to protect from outside attacks, while others
believe that they were put in place to separate the nobility
and the ceremonial center from the rest of the city.
In recent years it has been discovered
that Tulum was a primary point for nighttime navigation
since lights were allocated in the windows of El Castillo,
its principal building, perfectly orienting sailors traveling
to the north and south and preventing them from hitting
the reefs that line the coast.
This zone contains important representations
of the gods Ixchel and Chac. In addition to El Castillo
and La Muralla, there are other structures in Tulum such
as the Temple of the Descending God, an important Mayan
deity that represented the bee, giver of honey. According
to the ancient Mayas, this deity also carried the sky, in
this case the Western Sun (Sol Poniente), that falls into
the horizon submerging itself into the underworld of the
night. This temple also preserves the remains of paintings.
There is also the Temple of the Initial Series, in which the
beginning of the Tulum's construction can be dated, The Temple
of the Frescos, The House of the Columns and the watchtowers
rising out of wall western corners.
After the Spanish
Conquest, this city remained populated for many decades,
many more than any other place on the coast. It was newly
occupied in 1890-1910 by a group of dissident Mayas.
You can reach Tulum easily from any place along the Riviera
Maya and Cancun, practically all hotels and travel agencies
offer tours to Tulum, or you may choose to rent a car or
take a bus.The archaeological site is open all week from
8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Entry is free on Sundays. Bring a
bathing suit, sunblock and comfortable clothes and shoes.
There is no first aid or food services at the site, but
there are small handicraft stores. We recommend dining in
the town of Tulum, only a few mile from the archeological
Uxmal is an archaeological zone located
49 miles south of the city of Merida, and is farther still
from Cancun and the Riviera Maya. If you are interested
in Mexican archaeology, we recommend staying in Merida for
a few days in order to visit Uxmal, one of the most gorgeous
cities of ancient Mexico.
This Mayan city reached its height in the Late Classic
period (600 to 900 AD) and was constructed in the purest
example of Puc style, apparent in its main structures: the
Pyramid of the Magician, the Nunnery Quadrangle and the
Palace of the Governor.
The particular style known as "Puc" or Puuc,
owes its name to the region of hills in which can be found
the constructions and the cultural manifestations of those
people who developed there.
Uxmal is located in the only mountainous
or hilly region within the Yucatan Peninsula. The enormous
artistic sense that characterizes the Puc style of this
great city is exemplified not only in its exquisitely decorated
buildings but also in one of its most important pieces:
The Mask of Chac, the god of rain, that appears often in
the facades of their constructions.
In addition, the existence of chultunes
or cisterns, to take advantage of rainwater are characteristic
of the site. Especially typical of the site is the construction
of the Palace, in a horizontal form, above an embankment
and covered in carefully polished adornments with fake columns
on its outer walls.
This entire region flourished together
with other important cities that were equally beautiful
though smaller in size and form what is known today as the
"ruta Puc" (Puc route):Kabah, Sayil and Labna.
The Puc zone, with all its constructions, reflects a very
high artistic and cultural level, of the greatest caliber
as compared to other ancient Mexican cities.
The area seems to have been abandoned, probably due to
the arrival of the Toltecs that occupied Chichen and ruled
the Yucatan Peninsula around 1000 AD.
In approximately 1200 AD, the Xius people arrived at Uxmal,
bringing the region to life and establishing their capital
in the city of Mani towards the start of the year 1500 AD.
Afterwards, during the Conquest, Uxmal and the entire Puc
zone remained forgotten until its rediscovery in the nineteenth
century. Work to rescue a great part of it lasted until
nearly the end of the twentieth century.