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Calakmul, the largest Mayan archaeological site in Mexico

Although still little known, calakmulat the Mexico, is one of the most important and the largest Mayan archaeological sites in the country. In 2014 it was declared by the UNESCO as Mixed Heritage of Humanity (because of its cultural and natural importance).

The 70km² site was discovered in 1931 by an American botanist who explored the sap for the production of gum. Despite its importance, the fact that excavations only started in 1993 explains why the park is still not part of all itineraries for those who come to Mexico.


Calakmul is a municipality in the state of campeche, a biosphere reserve and an archaeological site. Three things with the same name. The ruins are in a place where a great Mayan citywith an estimated population of 500,000 people.

Just like the current metropolises, researchers realized that there was a kind of metropolitan region in Calakmul, with the temples being in the central area and the thousands of houses scattered around the surroundings and even in other cities in the surroundings.

Of the more than 600 ruins already excavated (estimated to be more than 5 thousand), the main ones for visitation are side by side, most around the central plaza. But to get there, from the park entrance, it is necessary to walk about 2km.

Calakmul Archaeological Site, Mexico (Photo: This World Is Ours)

Calakmul means “Two Mountains Together”, a reference to its two main temples (Temples 1 and 2), which have no names but are called by numbers.

Calakmul Archaeological Site, Mexico (Photo: This World Is Ours)

O temple 2 it is located in Plaza Central and is the most important and tallest temple in the Yucatan Peninsula, at 49m. Built in 550 BC, it took a thousand years to be ready and was up to 60m high.

Calakmul Archaeological Site, Mexico (Photo: This World Is Ours)

Calakmul Archaeological Site, Mexico (Photo: This World Is Ours)

Climbing these stairs is part of the visit. Face the heat of the region and go up, as the view of the entire forest and two other temples is worth it (Temples 5 and 1). If you’re going to choose just one to go up, go here.

Just behind, on the other mountain that gives Calakmul its name, is the temple 1the second tallest, at 47m and also imposing.

Calakmul Archaeological Site, Mexico (Photo via Shutterstock)

Photo via Shutterstock

The tour of Calakmul can be done in half a day, with or without a guide. In addition to the ruins, you will see animals such as monkeys and an endemic wild turkey species. Don’t forget your sunscreen, insect repellent and plenty of water, as there are no cafeterias or shops inside the archaeological site.

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Calakmul is about 140km from campeche, capital of the state of the same name. As we said above, the archaeological site belongs to the municipality that bears its name, Calakmul. From the entrance of the reserve to the parking lot of the park, it takes almost an hour by car.

You can visit on your own by car, but it takes 4 to 5 hours to travel from Campeche. O ideal is to sleep in the region so the trip doesn’t get so busy (see below). In the capital and neighboring cities you can also find the day tour to Calakmul in practically all tourist agencies.

near here is Balamkuanother important archaeological site and also open to visitors.

Hours: Daily from 8 am to 5 pm
Tickets: 70 pesos* (can be purchased on the spot)


A good option for those who want to stay near Calakmul and feel the energy of the jungle even before entering the protected area is the hotel La Puerta. The cabins are made of wood, fully integrated with nature in a very rustic style, despite the comfort, such as a swimming pool and a very good quality restaurant.

The experience was very interesting, like spending most of the time disconnected (since there was only Wi-Fi at the reception and the rooms didn’t have a TV). From there to the archaeological site it is 60km, it is the closest option for lodging. Look other hotel options in the region.

+ Discover the Mayan ruins of Balamkú
+ All tips from Campeche and region

*Prices checked as of May 2017
** The journalist visited the Campeche region at the invitation of the Mexico Tourist Board, but all opinions given here are personal and reflect his real experience.

Rafael Carvalho

A fan of chicken with okra and a good beer from Minas Gerais, he currently lives in São Paulo. He has a degree in Radio and TV, a postgraduate degree in Journalism and has been working with Digital Content for over 16 years. He has worked for companies such as SBT and Jovem Pan FM. Passionate about travel, he founded Esse Mundo É Nosso and travels around Brazil and the world all year round, always looking for tips to share.

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