Hotels in Playa del Carmen
The ancient cities all along
Quintana Roo’s coast bear silent witness to the presence of the Mayan Culture
starting from as early as 200 AD and reaching the height of its splendor in the
Post Classic Period (900-1200 AD). In the Maya were great navigators and skilled
merchants and their coastal trading ports were strategically located to serve
the intense trade activity between civilization from the Gulf of Mexico to
Honduras and Panama.
The walled city of Tulum
faces the horizon atop a cliff in front of the waste turquoise sea. Known as
‘Zama’ or ‘sunrise’ in Maya, it was a major religious center and thriving
trading port that received vast numbers of canoes filled with merchandise: salt’
sacred feathers, jadeite, honey, dyes, and other goods to be distributed to the
interior of their territory.
South of Cancun, the Riviera Maya is set between pristine white beaches and jade
green jungle. Here in Playa del Carmen visitors can stop at the ruins of Xaman-Ha,
some elegant temples scattered amongst the modern day deluxe residential zone of
Four miles further south is Xcaret, the ancient city of Pole, at one time one of
the most important ports and ceremonial centers of the eastern cost of the
Pilgrims stopped to purify themselves in the sacred water of the city’s cenote
before leaving on their journey to the neighboring island of Cozumel. Although
the site is located inside the theme park of the same name, you don’t have to go
trough the park to visit the ancient city.
Xel-Ha, ‘where the water is born’ in Maya, was also a major port. Its ceremonial
center consist of five groups of building and palaces connected by sacbes
(‘white roads’). A few walls still preserve some wonderful paintings of regional
birds, handprints and the rain god, Chaac, amongst other motifs.
Today, the small bay in the shadow of the main structure (El Castillo), welcome
visitors to a refreshing swim after exploring the beautiful site. Both El
Castillo and the Temple of the Descending God are decorated with upside-down
stucco figures of Ab Muzen Cab, associated with the Bee god, a recurring theme
throughout the site. The temple of the Frescos is a good example of a Classic
Period Mayan architecture.
Its blue fresco paintings speak of the three worlds of Mayan cosmology – The
Underworld, The Earthly, and the Celestial Planes – and of their principle
Some 25 miles inland from Tulum is the very ancient Mayan city of Coba, which
rises up between five placid lakes hidden in the vibrant green tropical jungle.
At the height of its splendor, the city covered over 44 square miles territory
and was home to some 50,000 people. It rivaled Tikal (Guatemala) – with each
maintained close commercial ties – in importance. Coba exercised economic
control over the region through a complex networks of sacbes, one of which
connected to Yaxchuna, 60 miles away, the longest of these roads found to date
in Mundo Maya. The city is composed of several groups of buildings: Coba, Chumuc
Mul, Nohoch Mul, Las Pinturas, Macanxoc and Kukulcan are some of them. The site
is so extensive the staff park have provided bicycles and tricycles to enable
visitors to reach all the groups. The view extending into the horizon from the
top of Nohuch Mul – a 138 feet the tallest pyramid in the Northern Yucatan
Peninsula - is breathtaking.
In the shadow of tall Pich and Flame trees, the pyramids at Muyil welcome
visitors with the chirping of dozens of birds feeding in the surrounding
fruit-laden orange and guanabana trees. The ancient city’s main, ‘El Castillo’,
rises some 56 feet from the jungle floor. It is very similar in style to the
pyramids in Tikal (Guatemala)and has a curious hollow tower at the top. One of
the doorways found here still has its zapote hardwood lintel and above this are
some lovely stucco moldings of cranes. More than 260 jadeite and shell
ornamental pieces were found at Mujil, a major port of entry for goods destined
for inland communities during the Post Classic Period. Some sacbes lead directly
to a lagoon situated about ˝ miles away.