In the middle of the Campeche jungle, at the base of the Yucatan Peninsula, lies the largest natural protected area in Mexico and one of the country’s most underrated attractions: the ancient Mayan city of Calakmul. Or, at least, what remains of it.
In this episode of Walk With T+L, Campeche tourism coordinator Erik Mendicuti Polanco guides viewers through this maze of stone and forest. Comprised of various stone pyramids and other structures, Calakmul emits the same sort of mystical energy found in other ancient Mayan sites throughout Mexico, such as Chichen Itza. Though Calakmul, Polanco points out, is about 1,000 years older than its more famous counterpart.
“How could this not be my favorite place in the Mayan world?” Polanco quips from the top of Calakmul’s largest structure, a pyramid referred to as Sacred Mountain. It’s here that Polanco regales viewers with a story of the time an American tourist climbed the pyramid with him and wept at the sprawling sight from the summit.
But incredible views aren’t Calakmul’s only draw. Google will tell you the city is an archaeological site, but Polanco rejects that as Calakmul’s only definition.
“Calakmul is much more than an archaeological site,” he explains. “There’s so much to see.”
Polanco suggests walking the trails that surround Calakmul to learn more about nature and the culture of the ancient Mayans. He also describes these trails as “paradise” for birdwatchers.
Still, the guide says Calakmul is an immensely important factor in helping archaeologists, historians, and travelers understand Mayan culture. The city is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and welcomes tourists from all over the world to walk the grounds and climb Sacred Mountain (which Polanco suggests doing from the side, no matter how tempting the front may be).
You can book your tour and travel to a nearby city here.
By Hillary Maglin for T+L
Hillary Maglin is a digital editor who splits most of her time between New York City and Pittsburgh. You can find her on Instagram @hillarymaglin, where her DMs are always open to discuss travel gear, wine bars, and Taylor Swift’s latest record.