Just 65 km west of Chetumal you’ll find a collection of very impressive Mayan ruins – Kohunlich, Dzibanche and the smaller site of Kinichná.
We decided to make a day trip of this area while my sister and her husband were here visiting México. And we were not disappointed!
We headed early from Chetumal, it took us about an hours drive on Federal Highway 186 to arrive at the first of three sites for the day.
1. Kohunlich Ruins
Kohunlich (pronounced Koe-hoon-leech) is set on 21 acres and surrounded by jungle. Much of the research we did on this site told us that the ruins are often surrounded by the eery sounds of howler monkeys. But they must of been sleeping the day we visited, we didn’t hear a thing!
This Mayan site was settled in 200 BC, and most of the structures were built in the early classic period between 250-600 AD. A regional city in its day, it was thought to have been used as a stopover point for traders along the southern trade route.
There is a lot of impressive ruins to see here, the most memorable being The Temple of the Masks, built-in 500 AD. With a central staircase, which currently you can still climb, the Temple of the Masks is decorated by large and extraordinary stucco masks that stand at 2.5 metres tall. Initially, it is believed that the temple was home to 8 of these masks, but only 5 remain today.
Another impressive structure located furthest from the entrance, and worth the walk, is an area known as 27 Steps. Its has a large flat platform, and due to it’s elevation, its believed to have been a location for housing elite.
The view from the top of 27 Steps is terrific, furnishing an overview of the jungle to the south, onward to the Belize border! At this point, we stopped to take in the serenity of the place and give our feet a much-needed rest.
Along with the temples that have been discovered at Konhunlich, it’s estimated there is over 200 mounds of un-excavated ruins here as well.
After taking the sights of Konhunlich, we wandered back through the site and onto our next location a 30-minute drive away; Dzibanche ruins.
Dzibanche was settled in 200 AD and believed to have been a major city, and was the early capital of the Kan dynasty. In the Mayan language Dzibanche means “writing on wood”.
The site has a collection of temples to explore; Temple of the Owl, Temple of the Commorants, Temple of the Captives to name a few. The Commorants pyramid is the largest pyramid on the site, and is decorated with friezes sculptured from stucco and painted red. It is believed to be the funerary pyramid of one of the Kan dynasty king, Sky Witness.
There are numerous very high temples you can climb here. But be warned the steps are not an average height, we often found ourselves using our hands and feet to climb up to the top. Hard work but well worth it.
A hot tip for visiting these ruins, make sure you bring water with you, it gets sweltering, and you’ll be grateful for the refreshment after climbing the temples.
Kinichná, is a smaller site and close to Dzibanche, and it was our final visit for the day!
Not a lot is excavated at this site, other than the main pyramid, “House of the Sun” which is absolutely enormous.
We were pretty tired by this stage, but my sister, Liz and I felt the urge to conquer the final pyramid of the day.
We took on the challenge while our ‘other halves’ waited at the foot of the pyramid…to hold the camera! Cough cough…🤔
The pleasant surprise here is the massive trees throughout the site, attempting to take the ruins back into the earth. The ceiba tree in the car park area has its roots exposed, the roots were taller than Dean! So, of course he had to climb right on into them.
I’m glad we left Kicichná as our final stop, it was an excellent way to end the day. 🙂
You can find a few details for visiting each of the ruins below:
Kohunlich – open 7 days a week, 8.00am to 5.00pm (last entry at 4.30 pm) we recommend you go early, it’s cooler and you will beat the tour buses. Entrance fee is 65 pesos per person.
Dzibanche, open 7 days a week, 8.00am to 5.00pm (last entry at 4.30pm). Entrance fee is 60 pesos per person.
Kinichná – open 7 days a week, 8.00am to 5.00pm (last entry 4.30pm). Entrance fee – no additional cost, included in the entrance fee for Dzibanche.
What to bring with you:
1. Take plenty of water
3. Wide brimmed hat
4. Bug spray
6. Snacks/lunch in as cool bag (there is no cafes or restaurants at the ruins)
7. Your sense of adventure.
8. Energy! You’ll need it.
PS. There is no public transport to these sites, we recommend hiring a car (unless you have one), hire a taxi for the day – around 1200-1500 pesos, or book a tour.
Once again, thanks goes out to our Editor Jess Downes http://www.linkedin.com/in/jess-downes