Heartland of the Maya
Calakmul, Mexico’s only mixed UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a both a protected Biosphere Reserve and an important archeological ruin, the largest uncovered to date in the Maya Lowlands. Known as the seat of the Snake Kingdom and primary rival of Tikal, Calakmul is now believed to have been one of four regional centers of power during the Classic period.
Located deep within the jungle near the Guatemalan border, though only a 5-hour drive from our base in Xcalak*, Calakmul is too far from any large tourist centers to attract crowds. These extensive, well-preserved ruins extend across a 70-kilometer site marked by three large pyramids and numerous carved stone stelae, more than any other known Maya site. Although the trails inside the park are marked and well-kept, and there is a restroom at the entrance, very few people venture out here—certainly not in tour buses. It’s not uncommon for travelers to wander through the ruins all morning without meeting anyone else.
The absence of crowds gives Calakmul another advantage: The surrounding rainforest is also protected and untamed. Wild boar and Yucatán turkeys forage in the underbrush along the entrance road. Between the pyramids, the jungle canopy is alive with tropical butterflies and birds—including keel-billed toucans, lineated woodpeckers and Yucatán parrots, to name a few—and home to monkeys, jaguars and pumas.
Depending on your interests, a Calakmul trip could include Valladolid, Izamal and/or Coba, and it may be added on as a pre- or post-diving extension in Xcalak National Marine Park / Banco Chinchorro.
*Due to its remote location, this extension is only available from our base in Xcalak.
Maya or Mayan? Both terms are generally acceptable and understood. However, scholars of the ancient world use “Maya” when referring to the people and culture (whether singular or plural), and “Mayan” to denote the language.