Wherever we go we love to hear other people’s tales. Sometimes they are tales from the recent past, and other times, like the tales of the Maya, they go back thousands of years. We visited three Mayan ruin sites in the state of Yucatan and one in Quinitana Roo. Each site represents a separate tribe, a unique city state. The word Mayan was originally used by the conquering Spanish and each tribe was known by their tribal name. The biggest site in the state Chichen Itza, was inhabited by the Itza’s and the name literally means “at the edge, or mouth, of the Itza’s well”. Referring to the huge cenotes in the area that provided water to a huge population.
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Chichen Itza is considered a wonder of the world and thus is an often visited and well protected site. Very commercialized and full of vendors who will sell you “original Mayan art almost free”, it’s worth seeing…BUT….goto Uxmal instead. Uxmal would have been the next largest city and its ruin is still one you can explore, climb a pyramid, and is just a short ride from Kabah, a much lesser known and very open ruin complete with an original city gate, once part of the Mayan super highway – walking trails from city to city.
We climbed the pyramid there and let me tell you, it’s not for the timid. The steps are nearly vertical. Each stair step is 16-18″ tall and only as wide as your foot sideways. Facing the step, or coming down facing forward, only half or less of your foot is supported and it’s hundreds of feet down. No railing. No ropes. No handholds. Going up is easy, although unnerving. Coming down – well let me say Jeanne walked down in a zig zag pattern – quite brave and facing forward to the 350′ descent. I, well….lets just say people watching from below had a great view of my butt as I came down with two hands on the steps above me as if I were on a ladder.
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Tulum was the only Mayan city built right on the sea and while you can’t climb stuff, you can spend a whole day there, picnic on an ancient alter with an iguana, swim on the beach at the foot of a temple, or rent a launch to see the whole city from the multi blue Caribbean Sea.