Calakmul Archaeological Zone
An UNESCO World Heritage Site, Calakmul ruins (8 a.m.–5 p.m. daily, US$3) may be the remains of the largest city-state in Maya history, home to as many as 60,000 people—and thousands more under its sphere of influence—and the seat of immense military, cultural, and economic power.
Calakmul boasts the largest Maya pyramid yet discovered, looming nearly 60 meters (200 feet) above the forest floor. A whopping 6,750 structures have been mapped and the thousands more remain covered in thick brush and forest.
Nine jade funeral masks and some 120 stelae have been found here, more than at any other Maya site. Another measure of Calakmul’s influence can be found in the stelae of other Maya cities, in which Calakmul appears more often than any other.
Calakmul is a solid two hours’ drive from Xpujil. From the turnoff on Highway 186, it’s 60 kilometers (37 miles) down a paved but narrow and winding road to the archaeological zone. Drive carefully and be ready to pull over for other cars, animals, or (most likely) pheasants in the road. There’s a US$4 per person toll to use this road.
© Gary Chandler & Liza Prado from Moon Yucatán Peninsula, 9th edition