A Virtual Tour of 9 Classic Mayan Sites Mayan ruins can be found all over the Yucatรกn Peninsula. The area stretches over the East of Mexico, Northern Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador and the North-West of Honduras.
The map above displays only a few sites. Mayan ruins can be found all over the place in this region, even on islands such as Cozumel in the Caribbean and Topoxte island in a Guatemalan lake. Notable is that the biggest (though mostly unexcavated) site of El Mirador is missing here too. The ancient Mayans started building in the south and headed Northwards in later times. This document will take you on a tour of great Mayan sites I have visited. From these most are in more isolated places where very few tourists venture due to the fact that it takes some time to get there. The peace and tranquillity felt when being (almost) alone with the ruins and the surrounding nature is something very special and will stay with me forever. This was one of the reasons for me to visit these places. Duende Mayan Jungle Tours is the tour company that had arranged these trips for me and made these amazing experiences a reality. Now, lets take you on a quick tour!
First off, take a look at the sites we will be visiting:
The only missing big excavated site is Chichen Itza, in the North of Yucatan. The reason for this is that Chichen is the most crowded of all Mayan ruins, with many people taking the highway from Cancun to go there and so it was not in my interest to visit it. All sites are from the classic period. We will start in Mexico, continue to Guatemala and end in Belize. These are the sites we will be visiting: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9.
Calakmul Chicanna Kohunlich Palenque Bonampak Uaxactun Tikal Topoxte Xunantunich
1 Calakmul Calacmul is located in the Mexican state of Campeche and is actually a reserve holding several Mayan sites including Balamku and Becan. It was one of the biggest Maya strongholds in the Classic period.
The nature and restored buildings there are beautiful. Jaguars wonder around too, but I had not seen, heard or smelled one myself. More Calakmul Pictures can be found here.
Moving towards the south we can find the city of Chicanna. The buildings have great relief and are well explained by signs. They are smaller than Calakmul's and the great thing here is that the original red paint can be seen in some places on the ruins. This serpent head where you can walk through (below) is probably my favorite building on the planet.
More Chicanna pictures.
3 Kohunlich Kohunlich in Quintana Roo Mexico probably has the most impressive and well preserved masks of all the excavated Mayan sites.
Just about any excavated site has these plazas, areas between the ruins and pyramids where all forest has been removed and grass grows. Without the shade of trees it gets incredibly hot there. The pyramids are made from cooling limestone and are not that hot itself, but on top the heat from the sun tries to burn away your skull. Headgear is advised!
More pictures of Kohunlich are here.
4 Palenque Some 350 km to the East of Kohunlich lies Palenque, which is one of the better known cities. The nature is stunning with it's waterfalls, wildlife and plenty of green to give you jungle fever. It lies near the Usumacinta River in the state of Chiapas, Mexico, and the Mayans build waterworks to supply the city with water. The excavated buildings have been restored nicely. It is a beautifully maintained, with lovely grass fields. The museum has great artefacts and is definitely a must.
More Palenque pictures.
Bonampak, just east of the Guatemalan border, is famous for it's murals. It has two main buildings, one of them holding the nicely preservers Mayan murals. These buildings also show the red paint the Mayans used to decorate their buildings and pyramids with. The depictions show, among other things of course, humans being sacrificed. These figures have been carved out of the ceiling of the entrance to the building with the murals.
More pictures of this city can be found here.
6 Uaxactun We are now in Guatemala, in one of the most Northern cities of the PetĂŠn region. Few buildings have been unearthed here. The city was the first city of the Maya where findings from an era before the classical period were discovered.
The building above is the observatory which the Mayans used to follow the stars and planets. Some more pics here.
7 Tikal Perhaps the most famous and documented site in this series. Tikal or Tik'al was one of the largest cities of the Maya during the Classic Period. The meaning of the word is something like ''places of the voices''. It boasts great Pyramids and the surrounding nature is booming with birds and mammals. The excavation and restoration has been done on a large scale here.
More Tikal pictures can be found here.
Topoxte could not be missing on this tour. It is a very special place. These ruins are located on an island in Lago Yaxha, and has small temples and pyramids. And when I say say I mean small, the steps are only 10 to 15 centimeters high. It is said that these temples are build to honer the Jungle spirits in the region. Some more pictures of Topoxte.
9 Xunantunich The final destination is Xunantunich, located in Belize just off the Guatemalan border. It has great pyramids that are a lot less steep than those in Tikal, but nonetheless also provide incredible views over the Mayan jungle.
More pictures of Xunantunich are here.
This brings us to the end of the tour. As you can see from these pictures, there are very few people that wonder around these great Mayan cities. Located in the rainforest they give the visitor a very special and unique experience that will last a lifetime. To my knowledge Duende Tours is the only tour company that provides tours to these places. Bringing you in direct contact with nature and the great Mayan civilization, they love to take you there.
More information: - Folow me on Twitter - My Travel Blog - Duende Tours homepage - The history of Palenque - The history of Tikal - Mayan Pyramids: ancient technology
Active Jungle Tours from Duende Tours: - Maya Jungle highlight tour - Tikal - Yaxha - Nakum Tour
A tour of great Mayan sites I have visited. From these most are in more isolated places where very few tourists venture due to the fact that...