¡Viva Mexico! This North American country is famous for its magnificent beaches and delicious tacos, but also for its enormous stone pyramids which are symbols of a bygone era.
The majority of these pre-Columbian ruins are found on the Yucatán peninsula. But it would be wrong to think that the ruins at Yucatán only consist of the popular Chichen Itza and the magical Tulum. Impressive and interesting though these may be, some may find them too curated and “touristy” for their tastes.
Calakmul: A Hidden City at the Heart of the Mexican Jungle
Calakmul, a hidden city found on the border with Guatemala, offers a unique experience. Located south of the Yucatán peninsula, less than three hours’ drive from Campeche, this enormous complex is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. These ancient ruins were only discovered by archeologists in 1931!
However, the jungle environment, mysterious atmosphere and isolated location of the ruins will make you feel like you’re the first to discover their secrets.
The Mayas created one of the most ancient civilizations in the Americas, and this is one of the most important sites of their era. The site was at its peak between 542 and 695 AD before being completely abandoned in the 16th century, when the centre of power shifted to the North of the peninsula. Spread out over 100 square kilometers in the depths of the Tierras Bajas tropical forest, the enormous site includes more than 6500 buildings! But today, only a few of these are accessible to tourists.
The pyramids and buildings are truly a part of the peaceful jungle environment. To get to the site, take a side route off the highway from Escarcega to Chetumal. Plan for an hour and a half of driving on a bumpy road going deep into the forest. This passageway, almost devoid of any human presence, belongs to the wild animals who inhabit the jungle. Don’t miss the opportunity to spot some on your way in!
It’s easy to get lost in the ruins, as the site is very large. Signs warn visitors of the risk of running into wild animals. Because very few people visit Calakmul, you can enjoy a peaceful moment of connection with these ancient ruins—a rare privilege in this day and age.
Mayan Ruins in a Semi-Undiscovered State
Even though the Calakmul site is open to the public, the ruins are still in a semi-undiscovered state. Trees are growing through the walls of the pyramids! Climb them, and you’ll be rewarded with a panoramic view of the wild jungle which surrounds you for kilometers on all sides.
The main pyramid is imposing. From its base, it is impossible to see the whole thing, and climbing to its summit is a real challenge. From the top, you will be able to take in the enormity of the site, and will surely think of the mysterious Seven Cities of Gold. You will feel like Indiana Jones discovering a lost treasure for the first time. A childhood dream come true!
Finally, for a successful visit, follow these two tips:
- Make sure to fill up on gas before leaving on the trip, as you will not pass any gas stations on the way
- Plan on eating before going to the site. There is no food available, and food is forbidden at the site
Enjoy your amazing adventure at Calakmul!
Reserve your flight to Cancun now with Air Transat. From there, you will be able to rent a car and begin your journey.
Cover photo credit: Rachel Latour