The archaeological site of Calakmul covers an area bigger than many famous sites around Mexico, with pyramids taller than those in Chichen Itza. Being within a protected natural space, any possible damage and human influence is prevented, helping to preserve the site and the environment.
Moreover, being so remote and far from any mainstream tourist tracks, Calakmul does not receive as high number of tourists as one could think, making it still well-under explored and available for detailed and relaxed exploration by visitors. It is located three hours from Chetumal on the Caribbean coast and less than four hours from city of Campeche on coast of the Gulf of Mexico.
The Great Calakmul
The big attractiveness of Calakmul is that it was one of the most significant cities in Mayan civilisation. It was home to more than 50 000 people, the city’s area covered more than 70 square kilometers and had more than 6 000 buildings within it. The history of the city dates as back as 300 years BC with its peak in the Classical period, from 250 AD.
According to research, the city was the capital of the Kingdom of the Serpent or Kingdom of Kaan, and the main rival of another important Mayan city – Tikal. It was discovered in 1931 but it wasn’t until 1982 that detailed excavations and analysis started. Due to its importance and size UNESCO declared Calakmul as World Cultural Heritage site in 2002.
The community of Conhuás, at Calakmul’s doorstep
Close to the border with Guatemala is located the community of Conhuas, at the doorstep of the second biggest natural reserve in Mexico and breathtaking archaeological site – Calakmul. Visiting this community is to enjoy Mexico’s biggest tropical forest and the second biggest in the whole Latin America, after the great Amazon jungle.
Conhuas’ local residents are people from different Mexican States (Tabasco, Veracruz or Chiapas). “Cabins Calakmul” offer stay in rustic palm-leaf lodging and “Restaurant Balam” serves a variety of recipes from different Mexican regions.
Visit to the archaeological site from Conhuás is possible with a transport company called “Ciudad Maya”. This cooperative provides services for a visit to Calakmul and also to other archaeological sites in the area, such as Balamkú, Chicanná, Becán, Xpujil and El Hormiguero. They provide guiding services too, so it is possible to have full adventurous experience and visit various historical places.
Craft Workshops in Conhuás
The Foundation “Haciendas del Mundo Maya” is supports some aspects of the craft workshops in Conhuas. Thanks to their activities, a workshop called “Taller Jade” of cane knitting was established with local women in charge. This is the only workshop of this kind in the region of Calakmul aiming to preserve this ancestral technique of artisanal production in the southern Mexico. In a range of products they make bags, rugs and table covers are the most common ones.
Another workshop focuses on the art of stone carving at “La Casa del Jaguar”, led by Rogelio and his lovely family. Their artistic expression goes through typical Mayan motifs and designs to some classical spiritual symbols. Rogelio mainly uses obsidian, jade, quartz and petrified fossils for his work, but stucco and wood carving are used as well.
In both workshops visitors learn basic techniques and have chance to try it while creating their own craft to take home with them.
The Bat Volcano
Another privilege of being here is the chance to witness the so-called “Bat Volcano”, located only 15 minutes from the community. A cave which may look as any other at first glance but that it is home to one of the most spectacular sights in the world: every day at the same time more than three million bats leave this cavern in a spectacular spiral rising from the entrance into the sky.
It is estimated that these bats eat on average 2 tons of insects per night and with that maintain balance in tropical ecosystem of Calakmul. This scene is difficult to describe with words or capture with the camera, so it is better to visit it by yourselves and witness it directly together with your local guide!
We thank Echoes of the Journey for the article and their visit to the Conhuás community, where they helped with market access training.