If you are planning a visit to Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula this season, you owe it to yourself and your traveling companions to get away from the tourist zones at least for a day and explore the complex and fascinating Mayan culture than dominated this area for more than 3,000 years, until around 700 A.D.
While there are Mayan ruins, such as Tulum, nearer to the resort areas, one of the most complete and interesting set of ruins is located at Chacchoben, about 100 miles south of Tulum and about an hour’s drive from the Costa Maya.About Chacchoben
Chacchoben is both an historic Mayan ruin and a village. The historic site, which was excavated in the 1940s, had been covered over by the jungle for more than 2,000 years. The site features three excavated and restored step pyramid temples as well as a number of paths and walls. You can even detect a little of the red paint that once covered the buildings. Work continues at the site. There are a number of covered mounds that likely contain additional Mayan era buildings. The area is also home to a number of interesting plant and wildlife, including spider monkeys, lemurs, gray foxes and deer. Deeper into the jungle are jaguars, pumas and tapirs, but this dangerous animals generally give the tourist area a wide berth.
Tourist facilities are limited at the site. However, there is a small craft shop where local artisans sell their wares.
Tours to Chacchoben depart regularly from the Mayan coast. A half-day tour includes transportation, the services of a English-speaking guide, the entrance fees and bottled water. This tour can also be combined with a traditional lunch and a visit to a local family in Chacchoben village for a full-day tour.
Learning about Mayan culture at Chacchoben
Mayan cuisine consisted of a variety of plants and vegetables, most notably peppers and corn (maize.) The Mayans are also the first civilization believed to have made use of the cacao bean for chocolate and mole sauces. They also used honey to brew a drink called, “xocolatl,” which could also be drunk by nobles. Game meats, such as deer, guinea pig, monkey, tapir and turtle, were added to the diets when they were available from hunters. A variety of this simple diet is still eaten by area residents today.Mayan art was colorful, highly-detailed and varied. Many examples of Mayan pottery have been found at Chacchoben and other Mayan historic sites. In addition, modern residents of the area continue the Mayan tradition by crafting colorful canvas and fabric art as well as clothing and masks. Themes are simple and often reflect day-to-day life in the region.
Periodically, you can view local crafts people and artists working on art projects at the craft show in Chacchoben.
While lying on the beach at Cancun or along the Mayan coast can be relaxing, the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico offers much, much more than just fun and sun. Be sure to take a day while you are in the area to explore Mexico’s Mayan heritage.
[su_button url=”http://www.vacation.com” target=”blank” background=”#4cd00e” size=”8″ center=”yes”]Find a travel agent near you to plan your Mexico vacation![/su_button]