Calakmul is an ancient maya city from AD 250 and one of the most powerful ancient cities in mayan history. Located in Reserver de la Calakmul in Campeche Mexico, it is also 35km from the Guatemalan border.
Discovering Calakmul and my journey there was an intriguing experience for me. My husband read about Calakmul in the New York Times one morning and he thought it might be fun to drive there seeing as we were in Bacalar at the time, which was only 289km away from Calakmul.
The Journey to Calakmul
With google maps as our only guide, we set off on a road trip to Calakmul. We left Bacalar in the state of Quintana Roo as early as 7:00am headed for the mayan ruins in the middle of the jungle, on the same day we read about it on the news. Some people might call us crazy but what’s life without spontaneous adventures.
The drive to Campeche was 5 and a half hours and the view of Mexico was picturesque; with tropical rainforests and rugged mountains along the way. Although the media portrays Mexico as a scary place for road trips, I felt safe travelling between states within the country and thank God the roads were in great condition. We reached the state of Campeche and took a left turn off the 186 road which led us to the first toll gate leading to the archaeological site. We were starving and after we paid the first toll fee, we were lucky enough to find a small restaurant where we stopped for lunch. The restaurant was run by a man, his wife and their daughter. We had a dish of Frijoles con pollo y huevo, that’s Spanish for beans with chicken and eggs. It wasn’t the best looking dish in the world but it tasted divine. The host gave us free drinks on the house and the service was pretty good considering how isolated the restaurant was.
After our quick lunch, we continued our journey to see the ancient maya civilisation. Getting to the site was quite interesting as we had to drive for about an hour through thick green jungle on narrow potholed roads, with hundreds of small, light green butterflies leading the way. There were huge lizards along the road, the music of birds filled the air, and there were signs that warned us of jaguars. Never before have I been surrounded by so much nature and it was beautiful.
How much it cost to visit Calakmul
To get to the archaeological site, we had to pay a small fee at 3 toll gates. At toll gate 1 we paid MX$ 100 (4.38 USD), at toll gate 2 we paid MX$ 144 (6.21 USD) and at toll gate 3 we paid MX$150 (6.58 USD). In total we spent about $17.17 USD.
(P.S Before you visit Calakmul, you have to consider how you’re going to get there. If you choose to drive from Cancún then you have to factor the cost of a car rental and gas or consider public transportation.)
Once we arrived at the gate to the archaeological site, we were asked to register our names and the country we were from before going into the site. On entering the site, there were signs showing the trails leading to the ancient maya residents. There were also maps of the site that showed you the location of the ruins and also to show you where you’re at any given time, so you don’t get lost.
Visiting the maya structures wasn’t easy as you have to walk for at least 2 and a half hours to see all the maya structures and I was glad I wore the right shoes. The blistering 35℃ heat made the experience even more authentic as you had to sweat for the adventure and let’s not forget the monkeys and all kinds of animals lurking around the site. I must say, walking from one maya resident to the other and climbing the pyramids, got me thinking about the mayans who resided here thousands of years ago, how they lived and what their lives meant.
Visiting Calakmul was one of the more intense experiences of my life and I’m glad to have gone on this adventure. After my trip to Calakmul, I also visited Tulum archaeological site and even though it was more touristy, Calakmul had a more authentic experience to offer in comparison. Watch a video below.
Tips for visiting Calakmul
1 Take some water with you. With temperatures of up to 35℃, the heat could get really unbearable so to avoid dehydration, do well to take some water with you.
2 Wear the right shoes. To visit the mayan structures you’ll need to walk for at least 2 hours so it makes sense to wear hiking or running shoes.
3 Dress for the weather. Considering how hot it could get, wear lightweight clothing and cover as much skin as possible to avoid sunburn and bug bites
4 Go early. The earlier you get to Calakmul, the cooler the weather will be and the tour of the ruins will be less stressful for you. I got to Calakmul at noon time and the heat made it a bit stressful for me.
5 Take Sunscreen and Bug repellant. Sun screen is a must have and seeing as Calakmul is in the middle of the jungle, a bug spray is necessary.
Would you visit Calakmul if you visit Mexico? leave a comment below.
Video of Calakmul
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PS: The information provided on this page is based solely on my personal experiences and should not be considered as legal advice. Five foot nomad is not liable for any misrepresentation or misinterpretation of any and all posts on its website.