Calakmul, one of the most important Maya site set deep in the tropical forest of the Tierras Bajas of southern Mexico, played a key role in the history of this region for more than twelve centuries. Its imposing structures and its characteristic overall layout are remarkably well preserved and give a vivid picture of life in an ancient Maya capital.
The best part of the Calakmul archaeological zone is that is has been kept in nature and you can still feel the total peace of the area. It has not been turned into a museum.
All the structures can and should be climbed, especially structure 1 and 2. The best is when you get to the top and see right over the tree line the other structures that have been built above the tree line and to where there is no public access. You can also easily see for kilometers and kilometers in all directions and all the way into Guatemala about 40 Kms (25 miles) south.
Criterion I: The many commemorative stelae at Calakmul are outstanding examples of Maya art, which throw much light on the political and spiritual development of the city.
Criterion II: With a single site Calakmul displays an exceptionally well preserved series of monuments and open spaces representative of Maya architectural, artistic, and urban development over a period of twelve centuries.
Criterion III: The political and spiritual way of life of the Maya cities of the Tierras Bajas region is admirably demonstrated by the impressive remains of Calakmul.
Criterion IV: Calakmul is an outstanding example of a significant phase in human settlement and the development of architecture.
Calakmul is located 20 kilometers from the border with Guatemala, in the zone of influence of the Petén. The name means "two taken off hills”, which were imposed in 1931 by their discoverer Cyrus Longworth Lundell; later the ruins were studied by architect Jonh Bolles. This zone comprises the Ecological Reserve of the Biosphere of Calakmul.
The archaeological zone has a total extension of 30 km and 6,252 structures have been located, including temples and portable altars, a ball court, constructed palaces and houses with worked stones. It is estimated that Calakmul could have about 60 000 inhabitants. A sacbé surrounded the city and another one ran towards the North.
The architectonic characteristics of the constructions correspond to the classic period; the main body includes a seat around which the first buildings rose; later structures upon these were constructed and new ones were added other, totalizing 972 now, of which 90% are unexplored. The main set are I and II, true hills and is why Lundell gave the city the name. Set II is greatest, of rectangular form, whose base has almost two hectares and 40 meters tall. In set VII a tomb with an affluent skeleton of a male personage was discovered in 1987, of about 35 years of age and 1.5 meters of stature, to which a large mask of pieces of jade, and adornments of the same material and several polychrome offerings of vases had been placed near him.
Calakmul appears to be the Mayan city where have been more stelae with 108 discovered, of which 68 are recorded and 40 are smooth, although it appears that thieves have cut the carvings off many of these. The stelae indicate dates that go from the year 514 AD to 990 AD; one of them, with date 731, shows one of the best examples of Mayan artistic carvings. Six meters in length with seven figures of captives were recorded, with the hands tied behind.
The archaeological area has a total extension of 70 km2. And in her 6 252 structures have been located, including temples and adoratorios, a ball game, palaces and house-room built with figured stones, what transforms it into the most extensive Mayan city, being considered that she could have about 60 000 inhabitants, has been 108 trails, of which 68 are recorded and 40 are flat, demonstrated that the depredadores cut the recorded surface of many of these.
Recommendation: It is important to bring with you at least water as there are neither drinks nor food available at the site. You will be at least 3 hours at the site and doing a lot of climbing on the structures; in the summer it can get very hot, especially at the top.
Seeing Calakmul is one of the most important Mayan sites, it is highly recommended to take a guided tour. Being in the biosphere, the guide will also explain about the fauna and flora of the area.
Duration: 5 hours. 1 hour drive each way and at least 3 hours at the site.