Three sites you should visit and one you should avoid

7th of february 2021

Mexico is covered in a ton of archeological sites both big and small and while I obviously couldn't visit all of them here are some of my favourites to visit both big and small and one you should stay away from in my opinion.

I didn't place these in any particular order if you were wondering, they are listed in the order they popped into my head while writing this.

Uxmal & it's surroundings

Starting off with a big one; Uxmal. Uxmal surprised me in the best way possible since I didn't look up a lot about it before visiting and I had no idea how large and well preserved the site was. Walking in you are immediately greeted with the sight of the Pirámide del Adivino together with the Cuadrangulo de las Monjas behind it. You can't climb this pyramid but you can climb La Gran Piramide Uxmal on the other end of the site for some spectacular views. In between these pyramids you will also find Palacio del Gobernador. Overall we enjoyed our visit to Uxmal very much, also since there aren't that many big bus tours stopping here as some other places we have visited. It's still rather expensive to enter the site at $413.

Kabah, Sayil & Labná

Driving away from Uxmal we wanted to visit some smaller sites in the area. These are all fairly close to each other and a big thank you goes to our hotel receptionist for providing us with this information and a map. We had a quick bite in Santa Elena before driving up to these sites. The sites itself are all a lot smaller obviously which means the price to enter is also a lot lower. All the sites we visited had roughly two larger buildings with some smaller ones around it.

I'd highly recommend this route as it's offers some of the more highly detailed and well preserved temples and buildings. Do yourself a favour and bring enough sunscreen and water because you'll be in the open without shade for the majority of the day!

Palenque

The archeological site of Palenque is located just out of the city centre and is fairly easy to reach. Do mind there is not a lot of parking space available at the entrance so you might want to get there early. The site is much cheaper than Uxmal and is even bigger with 17 structures in total. When you enter you are immediately greeted with what are probably the highlights of the site; the Temple of the Inscriptions and El Palacio. All of the structures on the upper level seem to be very well preserved and are all set in the magnificent jungle setting. The ones on the lower level are much older but are worth a visit as well so don't miss out on them!

Calakmul

Calakmul is a hidden gem off the beaten path. If you want to drive here you're going to need some patience since from the gate at the main road all the way up to the entrance you will be driving for about one hour on a narrow road. The road itself isn't all too bad, we experienced some worse roads in Chiapas so don't be too scared if you are taking your own car.

Finding a source online telling you how to get there was pretty hard for us so let me explain it for you: You drive the 186 Chetumal - Villahermosa highway, in between Escárcega and Xpujil you will find the entrance called Entronque A Calakmul on google maps. This will be your starting point to take the one hour drive to the site and you will pay 3 seperate fees; one at the gate here by the main road, one halfway for nature preservation and one at the actual entrance. Mind this should all be done in cash!

Calakmul is an enormous site but it's a lot older than the ones I have discussed before. You can definitely see how these structures have faced the times and a lot of detail has been lost unfortunately. This doesn't take away Calakmul being a magnificent site with lots of structures and two tall pyramids you can climb for spectacular views of the surrounding jungle. This really was one of the highlights of our trip, when you stand on top of either of these pyramids there is jungle as far as the eye can reach.

Bécan

Just down the road of Calakmul (the main road) is Becán, a smaller but still noteworthy archeological site with a coupe large structures. If you are already visiting Calakmul I highly recommend making a stop here as well!

Chichén Itzá

This one might be controversial but since I already discussed three very good archeological sites this one is my least favourite. Chichén Itzá was one of our first stops and actually made me fear for the other sites on our trip. Don't get me wrong it's a beautiful site but it suffers a lot from being close to Cancún which makes it the perfect daytrip for people staying in one of the large resorts. And where loads of tourists are, you will find people trying to sell "crap" to these tourists.

I don't mind some people trying to sell me stuff and they can usually be found outside of the sites itself so they only "bother" you when you park your car but in Chichnén Itzá they are inside the site, not just a couple but I'd say a couple hundred and they are everywhere. I guess this is the main reason why this site is at the bottom.

Don't get me wrong, the site is beautiful with some larger structures and of course the insta-famous El Castillo. If you have the possibility to visit any of the other sites I have mentioned I would tell you to go to either one of those instead of Chichén Itzá.

Reflection

I know I might be somewhat spoiled to be able to visit all these places in one trip and a lot of you might not get the chance to do the same. But then again as a European citizen I wouldn't recommend going to Mexico for a week just to sit around in your resort. The most important thing to do when you are travelling half the world to go somewhere is to explore. So what I want you to take away from this is to explore beyond what's close to your hotel; get a car and drive. You will run into some amazing stuff.