The Center of the Maya World
The Center of the Maya World
The Maya civilization existed from around 1800BC to about 1700AD with the final defeat of the Maya by the Spanish. The peak of its power and influence was during the Classic period (250AD to 900AD).
The Maya excelled at agriculture, pottery, hieroglyph writing, calendar-making and mathematics, and left behind a huge amount of architecture and symbolic artwork.
Maya artifacts are everywhere in the Yucatan, with an estimation of over 1000 Maya sites, many of which have yet to be worked from an archeological perspective. It is just beautiful.
Just look around. You can see ruins even from the highways. Many of the mounds of rock, or small hills that you see, are actually the ruins of buildings.
In the post classic period (900AD to 1500AD), due to many influences, the Maya civilization was reduced in size, and many of the cities of the Classic period were abandoned.
The Maya continued to be an influence in the Yucatan region and in other parts of Central America.
The arrival of Spanish in the early 1500’s marked the end of the end of the city states and their great civilization.
Many of the people in Akumal and the rest of the Yucatan are the descendants of the Maya civilization.
One key question was how to read their language.
The Maya wrote in complex hieroglyphs, and produced many illustrated books, however, all but four were burned by the Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century.
One of the remaining four, called the Dresden Codex, was essential in helping to begin the decoding of the language in 1981.
Today about 90% of the hieroglyphs are understood. There continue to be discoveries as to this complex Central American civilization.
The corn god(left) and the rain god. Chac, drawing from the Madrid Codex (Codex Tro-Cortesianus), one of the Mayan sacred books; in the Museo de America, Madrid.
Dresden Codex, one of the few collections of pre-Columbian Maya hieroglyphic texts known to have survived the book burnings by the Spanish clergy during the 16th century.
The Maya had both complex counting systems, and a calendar.
What is significant was their advancement in both. In the mathematics, they had a symbol for zero as early as 350AD.
And in the Maya calendar, today called the Calendar Round, dates cycle once every 52 years, much like the cycle today that we follow in the Gregorian calendar.
There are many, many questions that still exist about the Maya, and their way of life. The more we learn about the Maya, the more they are becoming appreciated as an evolved civilization.
In our area, there are several significant ruins, all in varying states of restoration, varying states of access, and thus varying numbers of tourists.
Even if you are not a history buff, you should see at least one of these during your stay. Check out our map to see how close they are!
And if you are a history buff, we can help you plan some wonderful trip exploring the ruins and culture.
The Tulum ruins are beautiful.
The ruins are just off the highway, 307, just north Tulum city, and the Tulum beaches. Being the main port of the area for the Maya city of Coba, it was built overlooking the Caribbean. As it was one of the latest cities built by the Maya, it is well preserved.
We love Tulum; so does everyone now.
Being fairly compact makes it close and easy to visit. If you go to Tulum; go VERY early, do NOT expect to be able to climb the ruins, bring lots of water, wear lots of sunblock as it is in the full sun and hot, and be sure to bring your bathing suit, to enjoy the close by beaches of Tulum.
You don’t need a guide to enjoy Tulum.
Coba was a large agricultural city built between two lagoons, and consists of three main sites connected by elevated white stone walkways called ‘sacbe’.
Coba is north and west of Tulum into the Yucatan’s interior. With the recently developed highway, it is now very easy to get to.
Parts of Coba are well preserved, especially, its largest pyramid; we do recommend hiring a guide. The pyramid, is the largest that can still be climbed in the region.
The three ruins groups are well spread apart, are primarily in the shade. IF you don’t want to do all the walking, bicycles are available for rent, as well, as bicycle drivers.
What makes Ek Balam special is that it has archaeological features that you see nowhere else in the area, even statues of winged warriors! Some rooms still have colored paintings consisting of texts that can be seen.
We love Ek Balam because of the Indiana Jones feel you get while visiting.
As only part of the center has been restored, we do recommend hiring a guide to fully appreciate what you are seeing.
Ek Balam is about an hour drive further north from Coba and past the city of Valladolid. As it is a lesser visited site, it is easy to do as a day trip.
Muyil which is located just off highway 307, 14 kilometers south of Tulum city is one of the earliest and longest inhabited sites in the Yucatan.
Being situated close to the Sian Ka’an lagoon, it was part of the trade route from the Caribbean.
It has just recently been restored, and as not as visited as other sites, is a tranquil place where you can imagine life as a Maya a millennium ago.
The ruins are mixed in throughout jungle, so another interesting facet of this visit would be walking among the flora or the region. And while the pyramids are not as tall as other sites, several of them can be climbed and walked on.
Chichen Itza, one of the most famous and restored of the Yucatan ruins, is a very large site, and one of the most visited sites in Mexico.
It has many archeological wonders, and deserves a good amount of time to see and appreciate.
It is about a 2.5 hour one way drive from Akumal, so unless you leave VERY early, we recommend to arrive the night before, see the laser light show, and visit the ruins when they first open.
We do not recommend doing a bus tour, as you will be arriving about mid-day when everyone else does.