Xel Ha, gets passed by too easily as people head to Tulum or are headed into the Xel Ha water park. A perfect place to do a quick spin around the ruins. Xel Ha is rich in maritime trade history due to is proximity to the lagoon. This site is an easy tour that can be conducted on your own yet found to a be wonderful addition to visitors increasing knowledge of Mayan history and historical events.
Xel-Ha, in the Maya language, stands for inlet and refers to its position on one of the largest coves on the East coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. The first dwellings in Xel-Ha date back to 100 BC through 400 AD and were not monumental, but consisted mostly of thatch wooden houses. Later, between 400-700 AD a more complex and organized society emerged, creating masonry buildings in the Petén style. These buildings were closed plazas and elite residential structures.
Between 700 and 1200 AD Xel-Ha had connections with other inner cities of central Yucatan. These ties are clearly seen in pottery and in a different style of architecture which covered the old buildings. From these periods until the arrival of the Spaniards in 1527, Xel-Ha became part of the province Ecab.
Unlike the Tulum ruins, Xel-Ha ruins are located on the coast but not overlooking the Caribbean Sea. The ancient Maya used Xel-Ha lagoon as a maritime port of call but trekked goods into the jungle. The Xel-Ha ruins has several small stone temples and two cenotes. The entire site can seen in approximately an hour and there is seldom anyone there.
Lothrop Groupo was constructed during the Late Post-Classic (1200-1550 AD). It consists of bases and platforms with stairways used for residences and shrines. At the side of these bases you can see, almost at ground level, a hewn-stone building with an elliptical shaped floor plan. It is the only example of this building style found in the area and unique to Xel-Ha.
Pintura Mural 1 is a series of red panels, completed during the Early Classic period (300 A.D. to 600 A.D.) where the glyph “Ahau” can be seen. This glyph represents the chief or lord of a settlement. The mural also has bird imagery included in its story. One group of birds belongs to a species of yellow parrots having short tails and yellow beaks. The second group of birds shows red birds with yellow wings, long tails and black beaks. The mural is colored in yellow and sienna red all on a white background. The mural was done during the Early Classic (300-600 AD)
Pintura Mural 2 is a symmetrical composition divided into four rectangles. The first rectangle makes up what looks like a checkerboard with red, gray and yellow squares. The main motif is a huge anthropomorphic figure shown from the chest up and painted sienna red, turquoise blue, white and yellow. The front view head dons a headdress which has a horizontal strip garnished with feathers and a spiral in the middle. The figure wears bracelets and necklaces. This composition shows stylistic influences from Teotihuacan and dates from the Early Classic (300-600 AD)
El Palacio encloses the plaza’s southeast side and was constructed in stages. The first stage includes a rectangular base with rounded corners and sloped walls. Two rooms entered from the east and west were built atop it. The west room has an entrance with two wide pilasters that form three door openings. The ceilings in both rooms were originally vaulted, but today nothing remains. Later, a series of stone overlays were added to the building. There are two interconnecting rooms on the north side. In the final construction, all rooms were encased with large stones, thus transforming the building into a large platform.
The “Jaguar Group”, the “A” and “B” groups and the “Pier” date to this period. The main architectural traits known as the “East Coast Style” are small temples with vaulted or flat roofs, inset lintels and slightly slanted walls on the outside. Also a profuse use of stucco was used to cover the imperfections of poor masonry. Some altars were built near the water line or inside caves and cenotes.
Xel-Ha Cenotes – Two cenote freshwater pools are located within the Xel-Ha archaeological site. The larger of the two cenotes is on the western edge of the ruins with interesting structures located right next to it. This area is easily accessible via paths in the site.
The Xel-Ha ruins are overshadowed by the more popular attraction of the Xel-Ha Eco-park located across the highway. We recommend combining both excursions into one, visiting the ruins in the early morning, and spending the rest of the day the eco park enjoying more history, flora and fauna and water activities in the historical Xel-Ha lagoon.