Southern Mexico: Days 7-9

When we left San Cristobal de las Casas, we entered some pretty deep jungle where internet was non-existent. Here is a brief recap of what we encountered as we set out to find the ancient Maya.

Day 7 – After a hike through the highlands of Chiapas, we reached Toniná, featuring one of the most well developed central temple complexes in Mayan civilization. The base of the temple has a real labyrinth that we were able to wander through in the dark.

Climbing Toniná

From Toniná, we continued on to a natural wonder, the Misol Ha waterfall. Falling more than 130 feet from top to bottom, Misol Ha was impressive even now at the end of the dry season. Our guide Roberto informed us that during the rainy season, the cascade of Misol Ha more than doubles in width and the force of the water is so great, visitors get sprayed with water even when standing high on the banks. Because the rainy season has not yet started, we were able to actually walk behind the waterfall and explore caves containing smaller rivers.

Walking behind the falls at Misol-Ha

Walking behind the falls at Misol-Ha

Day 8 – Today, we visited two of the most difficult to access and the most impressive sites in the Mayan world: Yaxchilán and Bonampak. Traveling through the jungle by boat, we arrived at Yaxchilán, which was home to a powerful group of Mayans that dominated the Usumacinta River area.

Hiking down from Yaxchilán

Bonampak was a smaller community of Mayans who were actually ruled by Yaxchilán. Their significance, however, is great because they left behind astonishingly vivid frescos inside their temples, accurately depicting battles, bizarre rituals of torture, and bloodletting. The frescoes found at Bonampak are unmatched throughout the Mayan world as we currently know it.

Paintings at Bonampak

Day 9 – Today we set out for the costal city of Campeche but not before an early morning visit to the magnificent archeological site of Palenque. Nestled deep in the jungle at the foot of the Sierra Madre del Sur, Palenque was an important and powerful group of ancient Mayans. Their city was created around 100 BC and although the site is massive and sheds a lot of light on the traditions, rituals, ceremonies, and spirituality of the ancient Maya, only a very small fraction of the actual site has been excavated.

Looking at the Temple of Inscriptions at Palenque

From Palenque, we traveled into the waterfront city of Campeche, a famous port city on the Gulf of Mexico. When the Spaniards overtook the city of Campeche, it became a booming port constantly bustling with trade. The sudden increase in trade traffic quickly attracted pirates who would often attack merchant ships heading back to Spain after loading up with gold and silver from Mexico. Here in Campeche, our groups splits up to stay at two of the Hacienda properties, Puerta Campeche and Uayamon, where we will no doubt redefine our definitions of luxury.

Town square in Campeche

Stay tuned for more!

Go to Days 10 & 11 >>

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