Dzibilchaltun in Yucatan, Mexico is one of the earliest of the series of Maya settlements along the Puuc Route – a trail of the Maya sites in the Puuc region in Yucatan.
History of Dzibilchaltun
It also remains the city state in longest continuous use in the Mayan world: Dzibilchaltun was used as an administrative and ceremonial capital from roughly 1500BC until the 16th century Spanish conquest. At its height, it’s believed to have covered 15 square kilometres, and had over 8400 structures.
Dzibilchaltun – which is translated as “the site of stone writing” – is not as big as its counterpart, Uxmal, nor has it been excavated and renovated quite as extensively, but it does house several interesting buildings nonetheless. In fact, in its heyday, Dzibilchaltun may have been vast and have even rivalled Uxmal in terms of its size, although comparatively little is left now.
One of the main sites at Dzibilchaltun is the Temple of the Seven Dolls (Templo de las Siete Muñecas), which got its name from seven grotesque dolls that were uncovered during excavations. This holy building is also known as the Temple of the Sun, as it is perfectly located for viewing the Spring and Autumn equinox: the temple doors glow and eventually appear to light up as the sun rises behind them – this was almost certainly purposefully achieved by design and demonstrates the advanced nature of the Maya understanding of astronomy.
Smaller than many other sites on the Yucatan, don’t go expecting Chichen Itza style ruins. Dzibilchaltun remains an important Maya site and takes a couple of hours to explore fully.
There is also a small museum, Museo del Pueblo Maya on site, which contains pre-Hispanic and early colonial artefacts.
Backpacks are forbidden on site, so plan accordingly. Cenote Xlacah is in the grounds of the site and you’ll welcome a refreshing dip after the heat of exploring in the Yucatan, so bring swimwear. 44m deep, the pool was once used as a ceremonial site, and around 30,000 items were uncovered by divers here – many of these now reside in the museum.
Getting to Dzibilchaltun
Dzibilchaltun is about 20km north of Merida, and makes an easy day trip. Make your way there via colectivo or taxi.
Among Mexico's endless coastline, vibrant and modern cities, and tasty cuisine are a number of ancient historical cities. Here's our pick of 10 of the best the country has to offer.
Among Mexico's endless coastline, vibrant cities, fragrant cuisine, and stunning nature are a number of fascinating historical sites. Here's our pick of 10 of the best the country has to offer.