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Yucatan 1995


We visited Cancun in1995 because we didn't get our act together in time to go to Malaysia for the solar eclipse. As it turned out, we had a terrific time visiting a bunch of Maya archaeological sites, climbing over ruins and taking photos. Sally had a good time bargaining for trinkets.


We stayed at the Royal Solaris Hotel - an "all inclusive" with plenty of free beer - life doesn't get much better than this.


Cancun is on the eastern coast of the Yucatan penninsula, which means it gets hit hard by hurricanes in the fall.



Chichen-Itza is probably one of the best known Maya cities in the Yucatan, and probably the most visited. We took a tour bus from Cancun to this site - a grueling 2 hour drive listenning to our guide, a Maya-nationalist, who picked up the microphone as we departed Cancun and didn't stop talking the entire trip.

Entry into Chichen-Itza is along a beaten path through the jungle. The trees obscure the view of the plaza effectively, so you don't see any of the structures until you are almost there. Near the end of the path you round a bend and have a stunning view of the Castillo - the largest pyramid in the complex called "the Castle" by the Spanish, but in actuality, it is the Temple of the Jaguar, built on top of an older pyramid.


The Temple of the Jaguar is really a temple within a temple. The internal temple is accessible through a hidden stone staircase that climbs inside, beneath the outer stairs you see here. It was intended as an entrance for the priests, one at a time. When we were there, there were dozens of people climbing up and down the passage at the same time, making it hot, humid, and claustrophobic. While we were able to climb it in 1995, and see the famous blue jade jaguar inside, today (2002), it is closed to the public.


At the top of the Temple of the Jaguar is a building with four rooms - each with a doorway out to the ledge around the top. Each doorway has wonderful carvings around the edges, some with paint that is still visible. This picture shows some of the carvings, and if you look closely you can see some orange and blue paint.


Here is an ariel view of the Temple of the Warrior, from the top of the Temple of the Jaguar. The views are really terrific from the top, and we had lots of time to appreciate them as we recovered from the arduous climb up the 99 steps.


Behind me is the Temple of the Warrior. It was roped off while we were there because of tourist-related damage. On the top platorm is the sacraficial alter where the Mayan priests would cut out the hearts of their victims - which explains this building's popularity.


This is called El Caracol - meaning The Snail, because of the spiral staircase inside. It may have been a Mayan's observatory - notice the resemblence to Griffith Park Observatory.



After sitting through a tedious time-share sales presentation, the best sales pitch the salesman gave us was to visit Coba, a largely un-excavated Mayan city, probably the largest city the Mayans built.

Of course NOW (2002) there is a Club Med next door, but when we were there we had to drive through the jungle for hours.


Coba is huge, but you'll see from the upcoming pictures that it is almost completely covered with jungle. Chichen-Itza is much smaller, but it is mostly cleared of trees. It must have looked like Coba before it was excavated.


This is Nohoc-Mul, one of the taller pyramids at Coba. Unlike Chichen-Itza, which has only one pyramic, Coba has many tall pyramids, most of which look like humps of greenery. Note the trees growing out of the sides and top.


This view is from the top of one of the pyramids. Note the pyramid (Nochoc-Mul) in the distance. It is only identifiable as a pyramid because one side of it has been excavated.


Here is Jim at the base of another pyramid - just to give the building scale. The archaeologists have cleared only one side of the pyramid.


Coba is also known for its many Stelae - carved stone pillars, usually depicting events in a specific king's reign - the glory of battle, the conquering of enemies, marraige, children, etc. They start carving when the owner is born, and they keep adding to it during the owner's life as news-worthy events occur



Tulum is one of the two Maya cities surrounded by walls, and is the only Maya city that overlooks the sea. It is one of the earlier excavated sites, and is in terrific shape, having been completely cleared and reconstructed. However, the buildings are roped off, which means inquisitive visiters can't climb over the ruins.
This building is called "The Castle" as well - I guess the Spanish weren't very imaginitive. If you think this building looks familiar, you are correct - Tulum is featured in most of the ads for Mexico.


Here's a closer view of the Castle, in the late afternoon light.


Tulum is actually built overlooking the ocean. This is a view of the backside of the Castle, with a bit of the beach in the foreground.


Revised: June 9, 2002

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