Visiting the Mayan Ruins of Dzibilchaltun

Me atop a Myan structure at Dzibilchaltun in Mexico

A Mayan structure at Dzibilchaltun in Mexico

ABOUT DZIBILCHALTUN

Dzibilchaltun is a relatively small Mayan archeological site on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. It’s about 45 minutes from Progreso or Merida. Although the site is smaller than Chichan Itza or Uxmal, it was a bustling trade city during its peak between 600-900 AD. Dzibilchaltun was the longest continuously inhabited Mayan city, founded sometime around 500 BC. It was still inhabited when the Spanish arrived around 1540 AD. The Spanish took over the city and built a church in the center of it.

Tour guide showing us the Spanish church at Dzibilchaltun.

Our tour guide showing us the Spanish church at Dzibilchaltun.

Several Mayan structures as well as the Spanish church can be explored today. One of the most interesting and popular is the Temple of the Seven Dolls. The temple got its name when seven clay figures were found in the structure during excavation. The temple was built so that the sun shines through the doors and down the main road of the city on the spring and fall equinoxes. There are also times when the moon can be seen through both doors.

Cenotes

A popular and fun thing to do at Dzibilchaltun is to swim in the cenote, a sink hole that exposed water underneath. The cenote is filled with clear blue-green water full of fish and partly covered with lily pads. One end is shallow and the other is said to be 140 feet deep. Other cenotes were found in the area. Many of them were filled with human remains, probably put there after human sacrifices. Our tour guide assured us that the swimming cenote was not used for this purpose.

People swimming in a cenote at Dzibilchaltun in Mexico

A cenote at Dzibilchaltun in Mexico

OUR EXPERIENCE
Progreso

We arrived in Progreso, Mexico on a cruise ship. It’s possible to book an excursion through the cruise line, but we opted to go with a local tour from Progreso. It was about half the price at $32 each for the bus ride and tour of Dzibilchaltun. It saves money, but the down side is that the cruise line won’t wait for you in the event that something makes you late from a private tour like they would if it was purchased from them.

We took the free bus from the cruise dock into Progreso. The bus dropped us off at the market area. Here you can book tours to several places or just shop and people watch. There are lots of vendors in Progreso and everyone is aggressively trying hard to sell their wares, including bags, dresses, and jewelry.

Dzibilchaltun

Our bus ride from Progreso to Dzibilchaltun was about 40 minutes. The tour guide spoke English well and was very nice and well informed. He was actually of Mayan decent. I though that the Mayans were completely gone. It surprised me to learn that there are still Mayan villages and the Mayan language is still spoken.

An iguana at Dzibilchaltun

An iguana at Dzibilchaltun in Mexico

When we arrived at Dzibilchaltun we first had a guided tour of the site. After that we were given over an hour to swim in the cenote or explore on our own. We did a little of both. We went swimming, climbed to the top of one of the pyramid looking structures, and checked out the Temple of the Seven Dolls. Visitors to Dzibilchaltun are allowed to climb structures, something that’s prohibited at larger archeological sites.

While waiting for the bus, we had a beer and looked around the gift shop. After buying a few pictures and post cards, our time at Dzibilchaltun was up. If you’re into history and culture, a tour of Mayan ruins is a no brainer. It’s relatively easy, inexpensive, and short enough to check out during a cruise.

Have you been to Dzibilchaltun or other Mayan ruins?

Temple of the Seven Dolls at Dzibilchaltun, Mexico

Temple of the Seven Dolls at Dzibilchaltun, Mexico

Mayan ruins at Dzibilchaltun on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula

Mayan ruins at Dzibilchaltun on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula