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Side Trips

October 3, 2001

For a very worthwhile side trip, spend an afternoon exploring the long freshwater channel that leads to a vast lagoon called Muyil. It sometimes holds tarpon, and it connects to a deep cenote that leads to the site of some decent ruins of the same name. From Campechen enroute to Muyil Lagoon you will pass Xlapak, a tiny Mayan temple, where the pez maya cluster. Norberto pointed out how these cichlids with cute spots seem especially abundant around this small cinnabar-frescoed ruina. Lily pads festoon this narrow sweet water canal, along with orchid plants the size of VW bugs.
Be prepared to walk about a mile through the jungle to the ruins. Fortunately, very few mosquitos bothered us. If the caretaker is around his small hut he will charge you 10 pesos each to wander through the site. That’s about a dollar apiece, and it goes to the Instituto Nacional de Antropologia & Historia. Shoot, even if the workers there did nothing more than buy themselves a Sol with it, they deserve it for their hard work reconstructing these buildings from a state of jungle-covered dilapidation.
These evocative stacks of blocks once served as an important inland trade center that reached its peak activity in the Post-Classic period of the Mayan civilization, from 900 A.D. until the Spanish conquest in 1521. Most of the temples were built during that era, although the site was occupied beginning around 300 B.C. The structure called El Castillo appears the most noteworthy, with features compared to those in the Peten region of Guatemala. Muyil can also be accessed by highway, just 20 minutes south of Tulum, but it won’t be as fun or as beautiful as the route we took. Look for trogons, parrots and toucans in the surrounding jungle.

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