Hormiguero is a Mayan archaeological site located 30 kilometers away from the town of Xpujil in the Mexican state of Campeche. The site was supposedly named Hormiguero, which in Spanish means “anthill,” because of the great number of ruined structures that resemble massive ant colonies.
The ancient city was rediscovered in 1933 by a team of archaeologists sent by the Carnegie Institute in Washington DC. However, restoration of the site’s monuments did not begin until several decades after in 1979.
Archaeological evidence suggests that Hormiguero dates to the late classic period and that its largest temples were erected sometime during the 4th century CE. The site conforms to the architectural style known as Río Bec, though Peten style elements can also be observed.
There is something rather magical about Hormiguero. Though its architecture in many ways mirrors that of other impressive Mayan centers in the region, including Chicanná, Becán, and Hochob, it has a charm all its own. Part of its appeal likely has to do with the fact that it is rarely visited by tourists because of how poor the roads needed to access it are. Also contributing to this feeling is its impressive natural setting, which is teeming with all sorts of life.
Given the city’s chronology and geography, it is likely that Hormiguero’s construction was ordered by the lord of the great city of Calakmul to serve as a vassal kingdom in its struggle against other powerful city-states such as Tikal.
Once you arrive at Hormiguero you will be confronted with one of the most beautiful temples in the entire region, Structure II. The temple’s ample facade adorned with familiar Monster of the Earth motifs is enhanced by two large towers on either side, all of which sit atop a splendid artificial platform.
Structure II is Hormiguero’s largest structure and contains a total of 11 chambers. Access to the structure is permitted, so you will be free to climb its main staircase and enter through the maw of the Monster of the Earth.
Delving deeper into the site, you will come across an elegant three-level pyramidal structure, topped with another Monster of the Earth facade.
The temple known as Structure VI has only been partially restored but is among the largest temples in Hormiguero. It once had two towers, and likely resembled structures found at sites such as Becán or Dzibilnocac. Though this structure’s function is not known for sure, it is likely that it served dual ceremonial and administrative purposes.
Though archaeologists have documented 84 different structures at Hormiguero, only four of these have been restored to any degree.
If you go
As mentioned earlier, access to Hormiguero is not exactly easy. Though geographically it is not that far from the main highway (only 22 kilometers), the road is not much more than a path carved out of the jungle. Keep in mind that departing from Xpujil you will soon find yourself out of cell phone range, so make sure to let someone know where you are going before you head out.
Entrance to the archaeological site is free, and on the handful of occasions I have visited it personally, I have never seen any other travelers at the site — or INAH guardians for that matter. That being said, please act responsibly and respectfully. Be advised that damaging historical monuments in Mexico could land you in seriously hot water with federal authorities.