Located in the Costa Maya lake region, the Mayan ruins of Chacchoben sat in silence for almost a thousand years. Once the largest community in the region, then abandoned about 1000 AD and reclaimed by the jungle until 1942 when it was discovered by a family of Mayan farmers, who settled and built a ranch on the site. In 1972, archaeologists explored the site and reported their findings to the Mexican government. The government told the family they could remain on the site as long as they agreed to be the official caretakers of the ruins, a duty to which they agreed and still continue to this day. Today, much of Chacchoben secrets have been revealed and the city stands as evidence of the greatness of the Mayan civilization. Chacchoben “The place of red maize”, takes its name from the nearby pueblo. To date, the actual name of the ancient city is unknown, and archaeologists hope to find an inscription detailing the original name of this once very prestigious religious and commerce center.
The site is well marked and maps guide you along groomed pathways through ritual plazas, where elaborate religious ceremonies were held, as well as public centers, oratories, and pyramids overlooking the jungle canopy. You’ll also pass many unexcavated structures. Beneath the jungles growing on these mounds, more secrets are waiting to be uncovered by archaeologists. Walking through the natural surroundings of the jungle can be a magical experience. The jungle surrounding Chacchoben is dense and lush and the natural home to peccary, armadillos, deer as well as jaguar, howler and spider monkeys. Be advised, the monkeys like to throw things down out of the trees. Guides are available for a small fee, and the entire site is wheelchair-accessible in dry conditions.
At Chacchoben ruins, you’ll find a visitor center with clean restrooms, as well as a small concession area with snacks and drinks, and a gift shop where locals sell hand-crafted products including hammocks, wooden masks, exotic stone carvings, pottery and embroidered textiles. There is a small entry fee to view the ruins, hours are 8:00 am to 4:00 pm daily. Recommended items are loose clothes – remember, this is the jungle, and the humidity here can be sweltering at times. Comfortable footwear and insect repellent are also a must. Take along a bottle of water, which is also available for purchase in the visitor center. Walking the site ruins without a guide takes about an hour, and a guided tour can take 1.5-2 hours.
Chacchoben is located two hours south of Tulum and on MX293, just five miles off of highway 307, and is well marked by directional signage. It’s a great place to spend a couple of hours on your way to or from Mahahual or Xcalak. Although it’s possible to reach the site using collectivos, bus or taxi, the easiest option is to simply rent a car, where you can enjoy the journey at your own pace. You’ll no doubt want to check out any of the many food stands and gift shops along the way. Getting to Chacchoben is certainly worth the journey, and staying in the area is an adventure you won’t soon forget.
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