The Mayan Ruins of Calakmul, Near Merida, are Perfect for a Day Trip

Calakmul is an ancient Mayan archaeological site located in the Mexican state of Campeche, deep in the jungles of the greater Petén Basin region, approximately 22 miles from the Guatemalan border. If you have exhausted the many things to do in Merida, and you are looking for an adventure unlike any other, be sure to visit Calakmul, arguably the greatest Mayan ruin site you’ve never heard of.

The property is located in the southern portion of the Yucatan Peninsula, the total area of which extends over 331,397 hectares. The property, while nowadays almost completely uninhabited and covered by tropical forest, is the heartland of the area in which the Mayan civilization reached its climax, and subsequently suffered its most dramatic downfall, resulting in an almost complete abandonment of formerly flourishing settlements.

Since the area has remained virtually unpopulated, it represents an exceptional testimony to a long-living civilization and a unique Mayan history, offering possibilities for archaeological and ecological research.

Possibly the largest inhabited Mayan city, Calakmul was ‘discovered’ in 1931 by American botanist Cyrus Lundell. The site bears similarities to Tikal, in both size and historical significance, and boasts the largest and tallest known pyramid in the Yucatan.

Excavations have revealed stucco friezes and mural paintings in some of the massive temple pyramids and palaces, as well as burials of kings and other members of nobility, containing a rich variety of body ornaments and other accompanying objects including elaborate jade masks, ear spools and polychrome pottery vessels.

Visiting the Mayan ruins of Calakmul is not only an historical experience, it’s also an ecological one. Lying at the heart of the vast, untrammeled Reserva de la Biosfera Calakmul, the ruins are surrounded by rainforest, with cedar, mahogany and rubber trees dotting a seemingly endless canopy of vegetation. While wandering around, you might glimpse turkeys, parrots and toucans among the over 350 bird species that reside there.

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