Adorning the largest tropical biosphere reserve in the Mexico’s Campeche state, the Calakmul Mayan city is regarded as one of he strongest as well as largest ruins of the Mayan times in the lowlands of Mesoamerica. In the olden days, this city had played a vital role for some 1200 years and so today, one can spot a plethora of stunning structures that are still well preserved revealing a vivid life of those days. Initially named as Ox Te’ Tuun, the Calakmul ruins are scattered deep in the greater Petén Basin’s forest, which are at a distance of only 22 miles from the frontier of Guatemala. So, be ready to pull your hat from your cupboard, wear khaki attire, and go deep into the jungle as you protect yourself from the deadly boulders and cliches.
‘Calakmul’ itself refers to ‘two nearby pyramids’ that are seen here of which one being 45 meters is the largest religious podium of the Mayan Classic age. Talking about its layout, the city of Calakmul was constructed in a concentric way letting one divide it into sections from the middle. The inmost section is the home of monumental architectures that involve 975 mapped edifices out of which 33% are built from the arched stone masonry. More than 90 edifices are standing on big pyramids around the plazas as well as courtyards. A series of general dwellings are visible near the frontier of El Laberinto swamp that was once a horticultural land.
Moving around these Mayan ruins will make you see several artifacts such as arrowhead and pottery shards. Until now, over 600 edifices have been excavated on this 10-mile land of Calakmul. Besides edifices, an extensive series of reservoirs as well as canals are worth a look, out of which five of them are the prime ones. In fact, among these, there exists the largest of the Mayan Era, which is packed by water even today due to a seasonal river when clouds burst down. This one is known as Aguada 1. In total, 13 reservoirs can be seen that are so vast enough to support some one lakh people.
You will also come across many stelae that are 117 in total here. No other Mayan city until now has this number of stelae making Calakmul the largest area of those structures. Many of these carvings are paired and show off both the kings and wives. However, the sad fact is that these soft limestone sculptures have lost their appealing factor because of the erosion over time. Besides stelae, the Calakmul complex also holds several complex murals that surprisingly do not show the typical activities of the elite class that other murals of the Mayan times reveal. In fact, they reveal the market scenes wherein you can make out how items such as tobacco, tamales, and atole were prepared and used. Among these, the very famous is the Lady Nine Stone who is also visible in many such sculptures.
Next, you can also see some ceramic relics here, which have been a very important source of exploring more and more about the Mayan culture. The most common thing in these ceramics is its snake glyph that is even visible at other sites. Around the city, eight causeways (sacbes) are visible, which linked Calakmul to the other satellite regions along with the distant rivals such as the El Tintal and El Mirador cities. These elevated land bridges meet the swampy zones and hold very thicker foliage than the flanking forests.
Talking about the structures, they bear the markings from Structure 1 to 8 of which Structure 1 is in the east of the high pyramid, whereas II looking the north is the huge pyramid temple. For most of the tourists, it is fun to ascend this one so that they can have a few splendid vistas of entire Calakmul and its environment. A real palace is Structure 3 holding several rooms on the east of Central Plaza. This one is called Lundell Palace. Structure 4 is a label of three temples, while Structure 6 was used for identifying the days of equinoxes and solstices.
Calakmul is actually on the off the tourist route; so, you can expect less crowd as well as traffic. If you are at Xpuhil, drive west until 52 km and then for further 60 km. You can also think of camping at the complex, but you need to bring all facilities with you as there are none here. While you become close ad closer to the complex as you drive, notice the alterations in vegetation – the more nearer, the taller is the canopy of trees thronged by the jaguars and monkeys. You can greet them too, but with utmost care!