4 Archeological Sites To Explore Near Merida
As well as being a fascinating city in its own right, rich in history and culture, Merida is also a great base from which to explore many surrounding Mayan archeological sites. There are so many to choose from but here are some of our favorites.
Rounded-edge pyramids and intricate facades, Uxmal (pronounced Oosh-mal) is high on our list of “must-see” archeological zones in the Yucatan Peninsula. The Pyramid of the Magician greets you upon arrival as if showcasing the architectural prowess of the Maya. This 15-foot-tall pyramid, mythically built in one night, has a small opening at the top that creates an echo when you clap. If the site doesn’t awe you with the echo, then the intricate mosaic facades of the so-called Nun’s Quadrangle will certainly woo you. Look closely to see the figure of a snake that undulates along the structure. If you want a birds-eye view, climb up the Great Pyramid and look across this ancient city peeking out above lush green fauna.
The closest Mayan archeological site to Merida is Dzibilchaltun, whose name is believed to mean “the place with the writing on the stones.” Just a ten-minute drive from Merida, it is a great option for an interesting morning or afternoon trip. The most impressive structure is the Temple of the Seven Dolls, so called due to the dolls that were found there. Anthropologists differ on the significance of these dolls, but you can take a look at them in the onsite museum and decide for yourself. The X’lacah cenote (sinkhole) found in Dzibilchaltun is one of the largest and deepest in the peninsula at over 130-feet deep.
The mighty Chichen Itza, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World is also within easy reach of Merida. Just one and a half hours away, you can visit as a day trip. Being the Mayan site that is best known internationally it is unsurprisingly popular, but it is worth braving the crowds to see some of the most impressively restored structures of the Mayan world. Allow yourself to be wowed by El Castillo, Chichen Itza’s iconic pyramid that is so perfectly aligned to the sun that every year at equinox the shadow of a snake descends its steps. As with most archeological sites it is worth going with a guide to really understand the significance of all the structures, inscriptions and stone carvings.
Traveling along the Puuc Route is a really great way to see a variety of archeological sites that all boast the particular architectural style known as Puuc. There are buses that travel along the whole route or you can hire a car and drive at your own pace. The route generally includes Uxmal, Kabah, Sayil, Xlapak and Labna. The sites are in various states of restoration and each site has a feature of particular interest. A standard feature of Puuc architecture in the region is the depiction of Chaac the rain god. By the end of your journey along the Puuc Route you will be an expert at spotting his distinguishable large bent nose.