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Tag Archives: Mayan Ruins

Yaxha

We had originally wanted to visit Yaxha and La Blanca together as a full day tour, but as the low season was in full swing it was a struggle to get numbers together for a tour. Plus, it also turned out that the archeologists working on La Blanca weren’t due back until September. So a half day trip to Yaxha it was.

The site itself is located within the cultural triangle national park along with 2 other sites, Naranjo and Nakum. Entry fees to the park include access to all 3 sites, however they are not a stroll apart and you would have to camp inside the park if you wanted to see all of them on your trip.

The national park is located an hour and a half from Flores along a good paved road until you arrive at the park which has an unpaved entrance road.

Although this site was one of the smallest we visited, it still offered impressive views across the park from various temples.

Yaxha: Grupo Maler

You really have to observe your surroundings as you walk through Yaxha as a lot of the site has been left unexcavated or partially excavated on purpose. Once you start to identify all the hidden structures you get a feel for just how big a site it had once been.

Yaxha: Unearthed Structure

A nice thing about Yaxha is that it has a very laid back feel to it and you are able to climb nearly all the structures, allowing you to walk around without feeling you are held back from immersing yourself.

Yaxha: Acropolis Norte

We were especially lucky during our visit to be sharing the site with only 2 other tourists, leaving us to only come across the odd bored looking guard on our walk.

Yaxha: Calzada del lago

We decided to visit Yaxha in the afternoon, as the site only requires a few hours to view, but the real bonus is you can sit on temple 216 and watch the sunset over the lagoon.

Yaxha: Sunset from Temple 216

One thing we did realise during this visit was that for us, we had now seen enough Mayan sites for the time being and that it was time to see more of modern Mayan culture, so we decided to head towards Antigua.

 
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Posted by on May 4, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Tikal

Tikal is located about an hour and a half away from Flores and can be easily reached with a shuttle bus, tickets can be bought from any of the agencies or hotels and are around 60 quetzales for a return ticket.

The only thing to check is that you have a late return as there are 2 companies that run services and one has returns at lunchtime whereas the other allows you to come back at 5pm.

We took the 5am shuttle and arrived at 6.30am at the entrance to Tikal. There are several places to eat around the entrance but they are obviously more costly than outside the park. As you will need at least 8 hours to see the site it is wise to bring lunch. Drinks can be bought at several points within the park and are not too expensive.

View of the West Plaza:

Tikal: West Plaza

In terms of size, Tikal is the most impressive we have seen. Still set amongst the jungle you really have no idea of the sheer size of the place until you have spent the day walking it. As every group of structures is hidden from the next until you reach the end of the path it is hard to imagine what is around the next corner.

Temple 5:

Tikal: Temple 5

We had the added luck of being there during the low season which meant we saw very few people and were able to climb the temples without having to compete with tours.

View from the North Acropolis:

Tikal:Temple 2 from North Acropolis

Most of the site is accessible either directly or via wooden ladders attached to the sides of buildings, allowing tourists to experience the temples even when the steps have long since deteriorated.

View of the Gran Plaza:

Tikal: Gran Plaza

The most impressive temples for us were the Jaguar temple and temple 4 due to their views, with temple 4 offering a panoramic view of the whole site.

View of Tikal:

Tikal: View from Temple 4

As well as the ruins of Tikal the park itself is host to numerous jungle animals from wild turkeys to screeching monkeys jumping from branch to branch above your head.

Wild Turkey:

Tikal: Wild Turkey

Spider monkey:

Tikal: Spider Monkey

A pizote (like a brown raccoon):

Tikal: Pizote

Howler monkey:

Tikal: Howler Monkey

 
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Posted by on May 2, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Coba

Coba is a very large yet only partially excavated Mayan site found in Mexico. The area is made up of 4 groups of buildings; Coba, Macanxoc, Las Pinturas and Nohoch Mul. All of which are located within a kilometre or so from each other.

The Pyramid of Nohoch Mul:

Coba ruins - The pyramid of Nohoch Mul group

Each can easily be visited either on foot, by bicycle (hires available on site) or by taxi (a bicycle with passenger seats at the front). We opted on walking the site and it took us about 3 hours to do the whole area, including climbing the tallest pyramid in the northern Yucatan found in the Nohoch Mul group from which you can see the jungle all around – a truly impressive view and worth the climb!

Coba ruins - the view from the pyramid of Nohoch Mul Group

For us the main appeal of Coba is the seclusion of the site itself, you really have no idea of where the next set of buildings are until you turn a corner and come face to face with them.

Coba ruins - one of the buildings in Nohoch Mul Group

One of the things we found particularly nice about the site was due to its size you could walk around without having crowds of tourist around you. In fact most of the tours we came across on the day were hiring bicycles so they would just speed past now and again without really giving us that crowded site feeling.

Las Pinturas Group

Coba: Las Pinturas

Coba is about a half an hour’s drive from Tulum and as we found a good last minute deal, we hired a car for the day. This then gave us the freedom to be able to see the nearby cenotes, a group of 3 subterranean ones which luckily for us were not being visited by the tours as we found them virtually empty.

Cenote Multun Ha

Cenote Multun Ha

Coba was the last archaeological site we visited in Mexico before we moved onto Belize.

 
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Posted by on April 3, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Tulum

Tulum is both a busy resort feeling town a 5 mins drive from the beach and the Mayan-Toltec ruins set on the rocks above the beach.

The town of Tulum is not very big and consists of one main road where all hotels and restaurant can be found, interestingly though the town seems over run by Italians who decided to settle here about a decade ago, to the point where you can pretty much speak Italian to anyone. A great perk of this phenomenon is the array of restaurants offering great tasting home-made pasta and pizzas. Guess it could be worse!

Tulum town

Apart from the Tulum ruins other nearby attractions include Coba, a partially unearthed Mayan site in the jungle, numerous cenotes and the beach.

The Tulum ruins themselves can be easily reached by collectivo and are a 10 mins drive away from the town. Alternatively, you can hire a bicycle for the day from one of the many rental places along the road.

What makes Tulum so special is the equinox. The Mayans had designed Dzibilchaltun, Chichen-Itza and Tulum to align for the spring and autumn equinox, with Dzibilchaltun being the initial door and Tulum being the final alignment, causing in essence the ray of sunlight to pass through the 3 sites in a straight line.

The Tulum ruins are not as big as other sites we have visited but the setting is stunning, with wide open areas and palm trees.

Tulum Ruins

As you make your way through the ruins you are suddenly greeted by a view of the castillo on the edge of the cliffs above a stunning stretch of beach, which is breath-taking.

Tulum Ruins: El Castillo

Ensure you pack your swimming gear as access to the beach is included in the ticket. The beach is not very big so try to arrive early if you plan on spending some time there, also note there are no beach facilities so make sure you bring drinks etc.

Tulum Ruins Beach

Our visit coincided with Tom’s birthday so he got to spend the day at the site he most wanted to visit followed by swimming and relaxing on the beach, not his worse birthday I think.

 
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Posted by on March 31, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Chichen-Itza

The Mayan site of Chichen-Itza, now a UNESCO world heritage site, had always been one of those places I had seen on TV and wished I could one day see in person, so needless to say we were not going to miss this out whilst travelling through Mexico!

The delays we had in Mexico City and San Cristobal meant we had the luck of being at the ruins for the spring equinox, which is when the serpent body is formed by shadows of the edges of el castillo creating an illusion of the snake slithering down the side.

Chichen-Itza el castillo with the serpent

The serpent actually appears for 3 days, from the 20th – 22nd March and not just on the 21st, the official equinox. The actual effect appears when the sun rises and the sun sets and happens only twice a year, for the spring and autumn equinox. It is definitely a sight worth seeing if you have the chance.

Chichen-Itza site

As you can imagine the site tends to get very busy, but the tours seem to arrive later in the day so if you get there for 8am you will have a couple of hours of the site to yourself. Not even the vendors set up their stalls until 9.30am.

Chichen-Itza is very large and actually consists of 2 halves an old side, with the sacrificial cenote, and the newer side where el castillo is.

It took us a solid 3 hours to look around both areas, however we were very disappointment with the fact that almost all the structures were cordoned off to the public, which meant you could look but couldn’t climb.

Chichen-Itza: Temple of the warriors

Chichen-Itza: Temple of the warriors

We were told that this was because of a combination of several deaths from falling from the castillo and the fact people had graffitied areas in the site, both sad events in their own rights.

Chichen-Itza: The Observatory

Chichen-Itza: The observatory

Nevertheless the site is one of the largest we have visited and offers visitors a real feel for what mayan cities would have looked like and just how many people would have lived in them.

Chichen-Itza: The Church

Chichen-Itza: The church

 
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Posted by on March 28, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Dzibilchaltun

We had expected to visit Dzibilchaltun and be wowed by the site as this is the starting point for the spring equinox sunrise which then shines through to Chichen-Itza and Tulum to form an alignment of all 3 sites. Unfortunately we were left disappointed.

Firstly, the cost of entry was much higher than that of any other sites we had been to, in fact twice the price of previous entries, and came close to the price of Chichen-Itza, which we knew was going to be expensive due to its size and popularity.

Secondly, for some strange reason it seems to be the only site where you are unable to bring in a backpack in, and instead have to leave it at the entrance. No food in the site is also another policy we didn’t understand.

Thirdly, the site itself was not very big so we were even more disappointed when we discovered that the Temple of the Seven Dolls was blocked off and that the cenote was closed to the public, due to safety reasons as we were visiting in the week of the spring equinox.

Temple of the Seven Dolls:

Dzibilchaltun: Temple of the Seven Dolls

Cenote Xlaca:

Dzibilchaltun: Cenote Xlaca

We were also disappointed by the fact that there were no markets or vendors at the site, which usually bring some life to the sites. The only souvenirs/refreshments were provided by a small shop at the entrance.

View from the main plaza:

Dzibilchaltun: view of the plaza

A real shame as it had the potential to be a much better experience than it turned out to be, especially as there were no crowds for once!

 
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Posted by on March 23, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Palenque

A clear distinction is needed here: Palenque is both a town and the ruins. The town is a don’t-bother-unless-you-have-to sort of place. It is uninteresting, a little run down and apart from offering internet really does not have any real charm.

If you are arriving to Palenque before 10pm I would suggest to bypass it altogether and head straight out to El Panchan area, however if arriving any later than it’s easier to crash out in Palenque and head out in the morning. There are both taxis and collectivos running to and from.

If staying in Palenque I would avoid eating anything that is not pre-packaged, harsh but both myself and 2 others who ate in the town were struck with food poisoning, coincidence?

El Panchan is a nice little “jungle” area next to the ruins that was cultivated back in the 80’s. The place is now made up of various places to stay all literally next to each other, from a sling your hammock up to a private room accommodation. Note that if you head further in towards the ruins you will also find the likes of Mayabell and couple of other places to stay, so there really is plenty of choice.

El Panchan

We opted for El Panchan area and chose Margarita and Ed’s cabanas, which were simple but clean accommodation with their own bathrooms. The complex also has a couple of eating places with Don Muchos being the primary place, the menu is varied and all the food is fresh with prices that won’t make your eyes water.

However, one thing to note is that there are no shops in the complex, so make sure you bring anything you need with you or you will have to return to Palenque for provisions.

The ruins themselves are a short collectivos’ drive away and run every 10 minutes, you could walk it but for 10 pesos we opted for the ride up. Try and get to the ruins early in the morning as the tours start arriving from 10am.

Palenque Ruins Temple of Inscriptions

The most impressive part of the Palenque ruins has to be the palace with the sheer scale of it and the amount of hieroglyphs still found intact. You really do feel a little like Indiana Jones walking through the ruins with the jungle as your background whilst exploring the palace.

Palenque Ruins Palace

Whatever you do, don’t miss the museum, not only does it have an impressive array of near perfect ceramic masks and hieroglyphs but there is also a special chamber that houses the sarcophagus of Pakal the Great, discovered in the Temple of Inscriptions. Photos do not do it justice as the sheer size and condition of it are outstanding!

Pakal's Sarcophagus

Palenque/El Panchan are also a great jump off point for many other sites nearby. We opted for a day out to Misol Ha and Agua Azul waterfalls, again this can be accomplished by taking collectivos but we opted for a tour as they gave us plenty of time at each place.

Misol Ha is a beautiful waterfall which you can actually walk behind of, but make sure you wear proper sandals as the stones are quite slippery. You can also go for a swim at the bottom of the waterfall.

Miso Ha Waterfall

From behind the waterfall:

Miso Ha: Behind the Waterfall

Agua Azul on the other hand is a series of waterfalls with bathing areas at each level, in total the waterfalls run for around 7km but the lower level has the most impressive colours.

Agua Azul Waterfall

Agua Azul Waterfall

There are also plenty of places to either pick up a snack from empanadas to coconuts or have a meal at a number of restaurants. The water also varies in depth at each bathing level so there is an area for everyone, plus for safety there is also a lifeguard available at each pool too!

 
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Posted by on March 17, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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