Mayapán Ruinas – sshhh!

Temple of Kukulcan

Although I have been to the Yucatan area of Mexico a few times, I have never visited the famous pyramids. I have visited Tulum, the youngest Maya site, as you can read in an older blog. As much as Chechen Itza fascinates me, my almost phobic fear of too many tourists, has made me avoid it. Before this rapidly organized trip to Merida, I researched travel blogs to see how easy it would be to hire a driver to reach some of the more remote archeological sites. Apparently it was as easy as negotiating with a taxi driver, especially since I only wanted to go for 4 hours at a time.

Plaza

After I arrived at my newly renovated hotel, I asked the receptionist about a driver. She told me that a driver had just handed in some cards. I said that websites had indicated that 800 pesos was reasonable for 4 hours. When she called him, he counter offered 1,100 pesos which is about $60. That seemed fair and he arrived very promptly in a very clean new red car. He was a charming young man, perhaps in his late 30s, rejoicing in the name Angel Ku. Ku is a native name meaning frypan. He had a little English and I had bad Spanish but we communicated perfectly well. I explained that I didn’t like crowds, so off we went to the Mayapán Zona Arqueológica, not to be confused with the town of Mayapán.

Carving detail

The archeological ruins were in excellent condition, it cost just a few pesos and there were about 20 other visitors in what was once a city of 17,000 people. Between the 1200s and 1400s it was the capital of the Maya, situated about 30 miles south east of Merida and 70 miles west of Chichen Itza. Mayapán had about 4000 structures within the city walls and many more outside, presumably for workers and farmers. One of the most attractive temples is the Temple of Kukulcan – it is the light version as the temple at Chichen Itza is more intricate and structurally sound. The limestone used at Mayapán is an inferior grade, perhaps all that was available in that location? It is believed that the founder of Mayapán was King Kukulcan (aka Quezalcoactl) after the fall of Chichen Itza.
There are some unique elements to the site with so many rounded buildings and no ball courts. This is the Temple Redondo –

Temple Redondo

View from Redondo to Pyramid

There were 26 cenotes (sinkholes providing water) around the city which perhaps explains the high population or vice versa. It has a central plaza which was surrounded by government buildings and houses of nobles. Other houses within the walled area encircled patios. Mayapán has a rather bloody history with shafts filled with sacrificial victims but at some point it was an important center of trade all across Central America. A wide range of foods were eaten and grown; there is some evidence of slaves which suggests wealth of the nobility. There is some evidence that there was a death cult. I mused if a large population and perhaps a catastrophic weather change might have contributed to the fighting with other tribes and the ultimate demise of Mayapán but that is pure supposition on my part. All great empires fall eventually, take note USA.

Inside the round tower

It was utterly magical to be in a pyramid city, almost alone with endless acreage of jungle right beside the site. If I had walked into the jungle, I might never have been found again. The photograph below shows how steep the pyramid climb was but it was so worth it! You really had to go up on hands and feet. On the way down I sat on my bottom and climbed down that way. If I had stood up, the steepness would have terrified me. It amused me that the teenagers just copied what I did (and they were a tad slower).

Vertigo!

It was blissfully quiet with no signs of any current habitations. If you visit, there are no facilities at the sight – no restrooms and you can only travel by car, bus or local bus. Please don’t tell too many people… La belleza estaba en la tranquilidad – the beauty was in the tranquility. There are no vendors, just some staff and it is still being excavated by archaeologists.

panorama of Mayapan

Kerry musing

40 thoughts on “Mayapán Ruinas – sshhh!

  1. Great photos! I was watching NatGeo last night, and they were talking about the great American civilizations prior to the Spanish arrival. It was amazing to see that much of the Amazon forest was missing, and a sophisticated civilization lived there. The Inca and Atzecs had already been involved in selective pollination for increasing corn size. It’s really amazing to learn exactly how intelligent these ancients were.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you! I don’t know where you are located but I am addicted to giant Peruvian corn (Trader Joe and some other places) – it is a crunchy, salty snack. I am so happy to have Mexican ancestors with even a little Maya DNA. I felt a kinship when I was at Mayapan.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Kerry, I saw this one on my phone at work but didn’t have time to do a proper response. I spent 3 summers as a kid literally living on Tulum Beach about two miles south of the ruins in a motorhome. We went to Tekal, Chichen Izta and all of those places. My parents boat was Tulum III that they circumnavigated and we had Tulum IV,,,,,soon Tulum 5. I loved your post and it brings back so many great memories. Glad you went and had fun,,,,,it was a happy sounding post. Thanks

    Liked by 3 people

  3. What a wonderful trip you had! I love visiting archaeological sites too (well, I studied it for a reason 😉). Your pics are awesome and I love that you also took some from above so we could get a sense of the steepness. And I’m often amazed how far one can get in the world with bad Spanish! Which reminds me that I should start practicing it again! 😂

    Liked by 2 people

  4. The pictures are amazingly beautiful. The only downside of this tourist attraction are the facilities for “emergency”. I only saw pictures of this civilization during my high school days. The place is really fantastic. And the way you climbed up and down the pyramids made me giggle a bit. I could picture how your knees and jaw touched each other only to feel the greatness of this early Mayan civilization. Bravo !!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. A great way to see places – independently and avoiding the crowds. Looks awesome. And you’re right about the demise of great civilisations – ancient Peru being another example. Lots of theories but little evidence.

    Liked by 2 people

    • It was a fantastic experience, Roy. I wonder if it is just the natural order of things – that we reach a peak of population/civilization and then collapse. Teddy would be able to do an elaborate thesis comparing geological ages and demise. He is always rabbiting on about ‘when Yellowstone blows we are all doomed’. LOL!
      More fun blogs to follow…

      Like

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