96.8 F
Friday, May 20, 2022

Journey into the wonderous Kohunlich and its exotic jungle

Archaeology Monday provides historical background, photos and practical information about these ancient marvels and how to get out and enjoy them for yourself. This week we journey into the south of Quintana Roo to explore the magnificent city of Kohunlich and its lush jungle.

Latest headlines

What is the Loop Current and how does it affect hurricanes on the Yucatán Peninsula?

A current of warm tropical water is looping unusually far into the Gulf of Mexico for this time of year, with the power to turn tropical storms into monster hurricanes.

Izamal revamps its infrastructure while seeking investment

A walking tour of Izamal includes Mayor Warnel May Escobar and Yucatán Gov. Mauricio Vila Dosal. Photo: Courtesy

Mexico looks to its southern neighbors for investment and international cooperation

Historically Mexico’s economic footprint regarding its neighbors to the south has been negligible at best, aside from a few large corporations such as Banco Azteca and Bimbo. 

Activists in Mérida observe International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia

Trans pride flag flies over the Monumento a la Patria on Paseo de Montejo. Photo: Courtesy Jornada Maya
Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Born in Mérida, Carlos Rosado van der Gracht is a Mexican/Canadian blogger, photographer and adventure expedition leader. He holds degrees in multimedia, philosophy and translation from universities in Mexico, Canada and Norway. Sign up for the Yucatán Roundup, a free newsletter, which delivers the week's top headlines every Monday.
The Temple of Masks in Kohunlich Quintana Roo. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Kohunlich is in Quintana Roo about 65 km west of the capital city of Chetumal. The city was first inhabited by the Maya in the 2nd century BC but saw most of its monumental construction erected between the 3rd to 4th centuries AD. 

Archaeological surveys of the site have found more than 200 large structures at Kohunlich and a great many smaller constructions such as ceremonial platforms and stone foundations for thatched homes. 

Ceremonial altar in Kohunlich. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht.

One of the first things one notices upon approaching the ancient city is the thick vegetation and abundance of exotic-looking Cohune Palms, which dominate much of the landscape. Oddly enough, the name Kohunlich is not Mayan or even Spanish, but rather a variation on the English name it was originally given by inhabitants of the area, which was “Cohun Ridge.” The original name of the city remains unknown.

Cohune Palms tower across the entirety of Kohunlich. Photo: Carlos Rosado vand er Gracht.

The area surrounding Kohulich is extremely lush with vegetation and full of interesting birds. If you hear howls coming from the nearby jungle, don’t be alarmed. The howler monkeys that inhabit the jungle are very peaceful with humans — just make sure to not feed them or else they may follow you. 

Howler monkeys are known in Mexico as Mono aullador or saraguato. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht.
A hawk perches on a branch in Kohunlich. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

One of the most enjoyable aspects of Kohunlich is its open layout that allows you to freely roam the site on a number of trails. You will find yourself strolling down a small jungle path, when boom, all of a sudden you are standing next to an enormous pyramid and wondering how something so large could have snuck up on you. 

Rio Bec structure with collapsed chamber. Is likely to have had two large towers darting up from each site. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht.

Given the lack of easily accessible fresh surface water, the urban design of Kohunlich features an efficient system of water collection and storage. Several cisterns are in place, a fairly common sight in the region’s large settlements. Some sections of these cisterns can still be seen overflowing during the rainy season.

Water lilies grow around the overflowing ancient water cisterns known as choltunes. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht.

When entering the site you will first see a large central plaza, known as the Acropolis, which is ringed by several large pyramids and ceremonial platforms.

A large acropolis complex in Kohunlich. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht.

Kohunlich is a good example of Rio Bec architecture, though some elements of the Chenes style are also observable.

In antiquity, ancient structures big and small would have been covered in stucco and adorned in red paint. Photo: Carlos rosado van de Gracht.

The city also has several smaller plazas, ceremonial centers, ballcourts and residential complexes.

A ballcourt or Pok ta Pok in Kohunlich. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

The most famous feature of the site is without a doubt the Temple of Masks dedicated to the sun god. The facade of this large structure once featured eight large sun god masks along its central staircase. Only five survive to this day. Fortunately, the remaining stucco masks depicting the solar deity Kʼinich Ajaw are in remarkably good condition with traces of original paint still being clearly visible.

Lord Kʼinich Ajaw looking majestic in Kohunlich. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

The entire top section of the Temple of Masks is covered by a thatched roof designed to protect the valuable artifacts which lay below it.

Archaeologists often cover delicate sections of structures with thatched roofs. They are inexpensive and have the added benefit of being lightweight, so they are unlikely to damage the structure if they were to collapse due to a storm. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht.

The temple itself is also quite impressive and worth walking around with a keen eye.

The imposing walls of Temple of Masks. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

If you go

As with all archaeological sites in Mexico, it is prohibited to bring in food or drink other than water. The entrance fee is 70 pesos Monday through Saturday. And on Sunday admittance is free for Mexican nationals and foreign residents (with ID).

Signage to the site is fairly good from both Chetumal in the east and Xpujil in the west. Many tour companies operating in Chetumal offer day trips at competitive prices. While some sites are closed because of the pandemic, Kohunlich is among those that are open.

The site’s facilities are surprisingly good given its remote location. The bathrooms are large and kept fairly clean, and the folks at the INAH ticket booth have water and soft drinks for sale. if you are lucky, they sometimes even have working public WiFi. 

- Advertisement -

Subscribe Now!

More articles

Mexico’s COVID-19 vaccine contracts to remain a state secret until 2025

The true cost of Mexico’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign will not be known until well after the next round of federal elections....

Drivers infuriated by dangers where train work clashes with Mérida-Cancún highway

Serious accidents on the Mérida-Cancún toll highway have become more common since the construction of Phase 4 of the Mayan Train...

Progreso to open new inflatable water park this summer

The new attraction made by Splash-n-Dash Aqua Park will arrive in Progreso in the coming weeks and should be ready by...

Gov. Vila travels to France to promote investment in Yucatán

Yucatán Gov. Vila heads a seminar aimed at investors in France titled “Yucatán, the right place to invest.” Photo: Courtesy

A Mérida restaurant makes a big move, to Phoenix

A Mérida restaurant has moved to Phoenix, where Arianna Pared Villegas still proudly displays her Cuban roots. Photo: Courtesy

Out-of-control fire rages through Valladolid garbage dump

Fires are common in Yucatán between March and May, and the problem only seems to be getting worse every year. Photo:...

Starbucks forces cafes in Mexico to remove frappuccinos from menus

A law firm representing Starbucks has sent cease and desist letters to cafes across Mexico.

Tour Yucatán: Join us for 5 exciting days full of natural beauty and archaeology

We have decided that the time is right to launch our very first Yucatán Magazine tour.

17 Young Sculpture Artists You Should Follow

The "Earth" without "Art" is just "Eh." Surrounding ourselves with beautiful things is very important for our general...

8 Ways To Keep Your Nutrition Clean

Clean eating helps you feel more energized, boost overall health, and be more environmentally cautious. It is good for people, and it...