A day-trip to Calakmul: Mayan Ruins in the Jungle

Calakmul is a very old Maya site and UNESCO World Heritage in the State of Campeche in Mexico. Its first dated inscription is from as early as 431 AD. At the time, Calakmul was one of the most important sites in the region. Between 500 and 800 AD over 50.000 people lived here. Its particularity is its situation in the middle of the Jungle, 60 kilometers from the next highway and, thus, not that easily accessible. However, the place is definitely worth the detour.

Calakmul panorama

In order to arrive early in the morning, we had spent the night in a very simple but clean hotel in Xpujil, a little town next to the highway, 60 kilometers from the Calakmul Gate.

The night was short as our alarm clock rang at 5 am but we would not regret this early wake-up. After a 40 minutes drive, we arrived at the first gate in Conhuas where we entered the Calakmul National Park at 5 past 6 am, just 5 minutes after the opening of the gate. This is where a first entrance fee is charged. A second entrance fee is charged after some kilometers.

From there, we followed the small and only street which gets smaller and bumpier over time, but don’t worry, it was not too complicated to drive. On the almost two hours drive with a speed limit of 30 km/h, we only crossed some peacocks. When we arrived at the entrance gate, we were happy to see that only one car had arrived before us and one of our greatest visits in Mexico was about to begin.

Calakmul pyramid

After the entrance gate, we followed the path in the middle of the jungle until we arrived at the first pyramid. As we were the only tourists around, we hesitated a bit before climbing up the very steep steps. The only noise was a very loud animal sound coming from the jungle and we could not identify it at the time. We did not let the noise confuse us and continued to climb up the pyramid until arriving at the top. The view was just amazing and we felt like being the only ones in the world… besides some monkeys playing in the trees.

The next pyramid was the most impressing one. With its height of 45 meters, it is the highest Maya pyramid in Mexico and, different from the one in Chichen Itza, this one is open for visitors to climb up. The breathtaking view over the 60 kilometers of jungle around the site is worth the effort. And the animal noise, which was yet to identify, gave this experience quite an adventurous touch. After spending a while on the top of the pyramid, enjoying the view and taking lots of pictures, the most difficult part was actually to get down these steep and narrow steps again. It was quite challenging and you are better not afraid of heights.

Calakmul climbing

When we were back down on earth, the noise was getting louder and we were just about to discover the reason why. When looking up to the trees, we saw a whole family of monkeys not bigger than usual but much louder than we expected. Indeed, the loud noise of the Central American Howler Monkeys can travel three miles through dense rainforest.

Calakmul monkey

The visit of the Maya site took us about two hours, so we came back to the car at around 10 am. We noticed that in between the parking had filled up quite a bit. On our way back, after passing the Calakmul Gate, we visited some other sites of the area such as Balamku and Becan, both very inspiring places.

Good to know

As the site is in the middle of the Jungle, don’t forget your mosquito protection. We made the mistake of not taking our anti mousquito spray and had to regret it for a few days.

Furthermore, there are no shops or restaurants around. This is what makes the visit so charming but we would recommend to take enough food and drinks for the day.

We spent a second night in Xpujil but if you continue your road to Campeche, we would recommend to take a hotel on the road.


You want to see more? Have a look at our Mexico video on the time off around the world youtube channel!

Read more about our 2 weeks road trip in Mexico (Yucatan).

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