On the roads of Maya
They say that there are cities to which we are returning and we like to visit whenever we can in a span of a lifetime ... For me, these are the mysterious cities of the civilizations of Mexico ... Some of them, such as Chichen Itza and Tulum I visited several times. Each time I visit one of these cities, I discover a new detail, new information, which to me brings mystery and respect.
We hit the road; my husband, his parents and I. With my initiative, we were to visit several other important cities of this mysterious civilization, beside the magical Chichen Itza.
The plan consisted of two days, that would give us plenty of time to see everything we were hoping for.
The first day was reserved exclusively for Chichen Itza and Ik kil cenote. To rest and lunch, we stopped by the nearby hotel and restaurant called Okaan.
This place was the real discovery. Situated in the jungle, far from the noise, surrounded by incredible nature, it was a real oasis for rest. The hotel is made up of several separate bungalows, buildings, swimming pools and restaurants. Since it is surrounded by a jungle and has a beautiful viewpoint, it is a perfect place to connect with nature.
After a break, we headed to the second most important Mayan city on Yucatan Peninsula - Uxmal. As we arrived late, we immediately moved to the Uxmal Hotel, located not far from the archaeological site.
My usual morning routine is waking up at 6am, since I like to start my day alone with a cup of coffee and in silence. However, this particular morning in the jungle was magical. Our room was overlooking the pyramids, the morning sun was throwing its first rays towards them until the fog just slowly discovered them, keeping me uncertain as long as possible. I covered myself with a blanket, grabbed my coffee and from the terrace, I observed the beauty of this unusual nature. After breakfast at the hotel, we headed to the ruins of Uxmal.
After the famous Chichen Itza, Uxmal is one of the most important Mayan cities. The architecture of this city is one of the most magnificent on the Yucatan peninsula. It's beauty is characterized by low and horizontal palaces, located around the yard. The palates are rich in decoration of very detailed sculptures made of thousands of fine stones perfectly adapted, forming a mosaic.
It is believed that this city was mostly built between 600 and 1000 years and consisted of approximately 20,000 inhabitants.
Politics and economy were led by a group of individuals, whom the community considered mediators between people and gods.
Gradually, this city became one of the leading cities in this region, until it gained the political power that gave it control over other smaller cities.
Since in the vicinity of this city there are no cenotes (which were the most important source of water), there were found about 160 rainwater collection tanks.
Within the city there are 15 groups of buildings, and the ones that stand out are: La piramida del Adivino, Plaza de los Pajaros, Cuadrangulo de los Monjas, El Juego de Pelota, El Palacio del Gobernador, La Gran Piramida. (Pyramid of the fortune teller, Bird Square, Nuncery Square, Ball Field, Governor's Palace, Great Pyramid).
La Piramide del Adivino (The pyramid of the fortune teller)
The legend says that this pyramid was built in one night by a dwarf, born of egg found by a witch near Uxmal. The child was born with a gift to see the future for what they called him a "pythoness".
One night the dwarf found a wooden musical instrument "tunkun" and began to play it. According to prophecy, when someone plays this instrument and its sound is heard throughout the region, that person would receive the throne of the city. When this music was heard by Lord of Uxmal, he interpreted this as the end of his rule. Ready to face his fate, the ruler invited the dwarf to subject him to difficult tests that the young man easily overcame. In the end, he managed to survive and the most dangerous: to break on his head, a kind of fruit known for its hardness, with the help of a stone hammer. The ruler underwent the same challenge, but he died on the spot after the first blow. Thus, the rule of the dwarf started in Uxmal.
This construction, known as the only pyramid with an oval base, is 35 m high and 53.5 m wide and consists of 5 different structures that originate from different periods and each of them has its own temple (each of which is closed by the following and is inaccessible). It was built so that the stairs are facing east. At the top of the pyramid there is a temple with elements of coat and crown.
The steps of the pyramid are narrow and steep, and almost always at an angle of 45 degrees. It is believed that this was done with the intention that a person climbing to the temple can not raise his head, nor can he turn his back when he descends. Otherwise, this is characteristic of many pyramids of the Mayan civilization.
It is believed that the building El Convento - Monastery (so named by the Spaniards) was used as a school for astrologers, priests and doctors.
El Palacio del Gobernador - The governor's Palace is a real masterpiece presented in a stone mosaic, which was probably built by hundreds of masons and sculptors. It is decorated with beautiful sculptures of rain god Chaak, snakes and other astrological symbols. The interior consists of 20 rooms. It is considered one of the most beautiful buildings of Mesoamerica because of the style and its impressive size.
La Casa de las Tortugas - The house of a turtle is an architectural gem that limits the decoration to the columns of the upper facade and the ribbon of real turtles well distributed.
El Cuadrangulo de las Monjas - The quadrant of the nuns - consists of a central courtyard with 4 elongated buildings distributed around it. Facades of each building represent a combination of design whose discourse refers to various deities representing cosmic concepts as well as a powerful fertility cult. The building located in the north seems to have been the most important since it is on a higher platform compared to the rest. The facade of the western building is decorated with mosaics with a feathered snake. The construction period of these buildings is between 900 and 1000 years.
Formal entry, hierarchical structure and absence of host characteristics indicate that this space corresponds to the royal palace with administrative and non-residential functions.
This magical city was abandoned about 1080 years. Her fall is believed to have been a result of the rebellion that ended the ruling elite.
Kabah - The Lord with a mighty hand
Kabah is one of the few cities that preserved its name from the time before the conquest of the Spain, as mentioned in Chillam Balam. It means: The lord with a mighty hand.
This city was connected with Uxmal via white road long 18km, that Mayans called "sacbe".
The buildings are composed of three architectural complexes, among which Codz Poop, which would be translated into Spanish as Palacio de los Mascarones (Palace of Masks), considered the most important building. The facade of this building is decorated with about 260 masks. These masks represent the god of rain - Chaak.
Another important building is the El Palacio (Palace). It consists of 12 different constructions including: stairs, platforms and altars. It is the largest building and it is thought to have more than 30 rooms. When accessing a second level, you can see the entrance to each of them.
The ruins are on both sides of the highway.
Sayil - The place of coming ants
This small town was flourishing between 800 and 1000. Sayil is along with Uxmal and Kobah, one of the major cities of Ruta Puuc.
Its maximum development reached 900 years when it spanned about 5 square kilometers, and its population was 17,000 people, half of whom lived in the area.
One of the most beautiful buildings is EL Palacio (Palace), which has three levels and multiple rooms that the Maya built over several years. The ruling family lived in this building, but its use was the concentration of administrative officials.
Another of the buildings that can be visited is El Mirador, a stepped temple crowned with an open ridge, in the vicinity of the city market. 2km south of this building is Palacio Sur and Juego de Pelota.
Here I was able to enter one of the rooms. Very small, dark and humid, it brings you back to a distant time. Standing speechless, the amplitudes of admiration grew, magnifying the great respect for this people.
Labna - Old house or Abandoned house
The peak times of this city are from 600 to 900 years. Labna is very small city, although it is estimated that the city had an extension of 2.2 square kilometers and around 3,000 inhabitants.
The recognizability of this city is in a beautiful stone building called El Arco.
El Palacio is a two-level structure, 120 meters in length and therefore represents one of the largest buildings in Ruta Puuc. On the first level there are 40 rooms and its walls are decorated with masks of God Chaac. The second level consists of three groups of buildings.
Grutas de Loltun - Flower of stone
Evidence has been found here about a settlement of people 400-700 years ago. The Mayans were getting clay from here and used this place in both religious purposes and the sight of sanctuaries. The painted hands in the negative, as well as drawings representing faces, animals, were also found here.
From the beginning of the tour visitors can enjoy stalactites and stalagmites that are baptized by names such as La catedral, La cabeza, El gran canon, La mazorca de maiz, Infante, Pinturas, Manos negras, El cuarto de las estalactitas and Tincheras (Cathedral, Head, Grand Canyon, Corn pie, Child, Paintings, Black Hands, Picture of stalactite, Trench).
Among the beauties found in the historic state of Yucatan, there are some natural elements that go beyond the conventional ones, such as the Loltun caves. This is a great place for adventurers.
Since these are underground caves, a certain physical activity, comfortable clothes and shoes are necessary.
Various archaeological objects, ceramics, stone artifacts, sea shells, petroglyphs, which correspond to Mayan culture and various stages of development, have been found in various parts at 60m depth. Remnants of extinct fauna such as bones of mammoths, bison and cats have been found.
This cave system is between 8 and 10 km long, but only 2 km are explored, which are open for tourists. Although in one part it reaches a depth of 60m, the climate is very warm since it has 9 holes.
This cave itself is an unusual beauty, however, its interior hides an important part of human history due to the age of the paintings.
Visiting hours: All locations you can visit from 8am till 5pm. In Loltun be aware that they have guided tours, so hours are by groups.
Cost of the entrance:
Uxmal: Here you will have to pay two tickets: The ticket for the archaeological city itself is 70 pesos, while the ticket paid to the federal state of Yucatan is 153 pesos.
If you are able to visit this city during the night, you will be able to attend the Light and Sound show that has an additional cost of 59 pesos.
Kabah: 55 pesos.
Sayil: 55 pesos
Labna: 42 pesos
Loltun: The price of the entrance is 55 paces plus 77 pesos, which are also paid here to the federal state of Yucatan. At this location you can find: a restaurant and a toilet.