Just 15 miles off the Mérida – Campeche highway, among the region’s rolling hills, lay the ancient Maya city, Xcalumkín.
Like several other sites in the region, Xcalumkín attracts few visitors, making it a perfect spot to explore and photograph ancient ruins at one’s own pace and without worrying about people swerving into your shots.
There is some debate regarding the meaning of the name Xcalumkín, as some specialists insist that it roughly translates as “the place of good soil that receives the sun,” while others’ translations are closer to “window/entrance of the sun.”
At the entrance to the Xcalumkín, you will find a small structure that houses several objects and stelae excavated at the site — presumably to protect them from the elements.
Once you have entered the site, the first structure you will notice is a good-sized temple atop a large pyramidal platform.
But upon further inspection, it becomes evident that this base is, in fact, a natural formation used by the Maya to construct temples on higher ground, much like in Chacmultún.
Another aspect of this structure built upon a natural hill that is not obvious when observed from ground level is that the hill was clearly flattened and landscaped to make room for an entire ceremonial complex — of which remains can be seen — not just a single structure.
Moving deeper into the site, you will notice a Puuc-style structure known as El Templo de Los Cilindros, or Temple of Cylinders.
As this temple has only been partially restored, only a few of its chambers are still accessible — though archaeological evidence suggests it was once much larger with up to 12 different rooms and niches.
Past El Templo de Los Cilindros, you will come upon what was likely the civic and ritual core of Xcalumkín, known today as La Serie Inicial.
This ceremonial complex, flanked by structures on all sides, features several elegant Puuc structures complete with large staircases, corbel vaulted ceilings, and stone columns adorned with facades.
The largest of these structures is a step-pyramid-like structure topped with a ceremonial structure containing several niches.
Though relatively small, the structure to the east of this complex is perhaps one of the best-preserved/reconstructed on the entire site.
The area surrounding the Grupo Inicial complex is full of other structures of considerable size, though the vast majority of them remain unrestored.
Xcalumkín is also home to several artificial wells, known as chultunes, as well as cenotes which provided the ancient city with the lion’s share of its water supply.
Past the cenote is a structure known as the Temple of the Lintels, but the carved stones that presumably once adorned this structure have long since been looted.
Though the foundries of the Xcalumkín archaeological site are far from small, ancient structures are easy to spot up to 10 kilometers away from the entrance.
Many of these structures lay outside the boundaries of the archaeological site and were built upon natural hills and likely served as strategic vantage points.
If you go
I am not aware of any tour companies offering guided visits to Xcalumkín, and public transit is not available, so if you intend to visit, you will have to do so by car.
Fortunately, getting to the site is fairly easy and only requires a 15-mile eastward detour through Hecelchakán.
Entrance to the sight is free and there are ample parking spaces and bathroom amenities.
For those not aware, the exit to Xcalumkín is also near the town of Pomuch, which is well known in the region for its particular take on pan dulce.