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Published: November 25th 2017
Top of Temple I
Temple III to the right and left edge is Temple II but mostly covered from this angle. Can just make out some people on Temple II.
Several years ago while puttering around Chiapas and Yucatán, I don't think I had ever even heard of Calakmul, a remote Mayan site still mostly buried in the thick jungle close to the Guatemalan border. No longer the case and with hordes of tourists ready to overrun the place, this trip was the perfect opportunity to visit these ruins. It was high on my list of objectives second only to the Patriots most triumphant victory, of course.
$US ≈ 19 Mexican pesos
Friendly, unassuming town close to Calakmul and other nearby ruins. Easy connections to just about anywhere in Mexico with 1st
class buses passing thru 24-7. Accommodation and food
Quickly found a serviceable single room with my own bathroom at Hotel Gran Garra del Jaguar close to the small, central bus station for $M250. Pretty basic but perfectly fine for 1 or 2 nights. Across the street are a couple of restaurants serving full meals for $M100 or so. For super early morning coffee before anything is open, head to the bus station for a $M12 cup of brew, has cinnamon in it which is apparently a thing here. Also has tacos for
Stela in NE Group
Seemingly minor group away from main temples.
breakfast before the long, 2 hour drive to Calakmul. For evening munchies, there's a good taco stand in front of the hotel, $M12 for one taco, same for a 500ml bottle of cold jamaica
Getting to Xpujil from Mexico City, I took ADO from TAPO for $M1051 departing at 16:30 and arriving al punto
at 11:30 the next day. Nice trip, even for 19 hours. Long stop in Villahermosa around 04:00, a.k.a., o'dark thirty.
Since we had the car for Calakmul, after the ruins my travel mates deposited me at the Balamku turnoff as I had just missed the 15:00 passing bus for Escárcega. Worked out better since there was a restaurant there, I was famished, and there's absolutely nada
at the Calakmul turnoff. Had a huge pollo a la plancha
with a stack of tortillas
and the ubiquitous horchata
for $M100. After engorging myself, I tried unsuccessfully to hitch to Escárcega before the 17:00 (and last) bus passed but as luck would have it a share taxi from Xpujil dropped off a passenger then took me to the Escárcega 2nd
class bus terminal for $M80, ~1¼ hour trip. Caught a colectivo
from there to
Near Gran Acrópolis
Campeche for another $M80 and 2 more hours of travel time, stopping just outside the city walls near the market from where I hoofed it to find a place to crash in the historic center. Calakmul
Absolutely not to be missed if in the area. Maybe my all time favorite site after Tikal which I visited in 1994 long before it was a popular stop on the Gringo Trail which is what Calakmul is like now. Can be done on a tour in a very long day from Campeche or Cancun but less torturous and much cheaper is to stay in Xpujil and hire a taxi for ~$M1000. It's an all day affair as it takes 2 hours to drive to the site from Xpujil and we spent almost 4 hours tooling around and clamboring over several temples in the scorching hot sun. Bring food and mucho agua
as there's nothing to buy there except drinks and small snacks at the museum far from the ruins.
I was fortunate to meet 2 Germans who were going to rent a car from the amiable Oscar who runs Hotel Chaac Calakmul & Pizzeria in the center and also some cabañas
set back off the main highway. The car was $M600 for the day, plus gas, and Calakmul's 3 separate entry fees totalled $M184, so cost me ~$US22 which was a bargain.
Beautifully restored city center and city walls owing to its history as a fortification on the gulf coast. Good place to relax after the torrid pace from Mexico City to Xpujil and the ruins. Accommodation and food
First stopped by Casa Balche next to the zócalo
but they were full. Went a few blocks to Viatger Inn that had plenty of space in the AC dorm for $M250 including DIY breakfast, cold drinking water, good WiFi, and, most importantly, satellite TV with Mexico's Fox Sports covering the NFL so I can watch the Patriots destroy the hapless Miami Dolphins this Sunday. The only drawback is the ever supremely lame Nescafe served with breakfast which was remedied by buying ~1lb of ground coffee in the supermarket. Nearby is the municipal market with many food stalls serving tasty, inexpensive and filling meals for less than $M100. Nighttime meals are limited to street tacos for ~$M12 each or a proper meal in a schwanky and presumably pricey restaurant. Can
Large Wall Near the Residence
Presumably to keep the riff raff out of the Gran Acrópolis ragers. Residence was probably that of the bouncer.
also cook in the hostel's kitchen. Transport
Buses to all corners of Mexico but my next stop is probably Mérida (direct $M226/115, 1st
class) via the ruins at Uxmal (~$M160, verify connections at the terminal). Local buses & colectivos
run $M7, took one coming back from Fuerte San Miguel
($M50 entry, 09:00-17:30 closed Mondays) as it was 4 kms back to town and pretty hot. Need a colectivo
or taxi from the market for the ADO terminal.
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