Once Calakmul (Kalakmul) was one of the most important cities of Mesoamerica, which had more than 50,000 inhabitants during its height in the 6th century.
Its imposing remains still give an idea of the key role Calakmul played over 12 centuries of Mayan culture. The political and spiritual world of the Maya is still alive between the well-preserved temples and countless steles dedicated to former rulers, even if up to now only a fraction of the remains have been excavated or restored.
The main pyramid of the site, called Structure II, is the largest Maya building with a floor area of 140 x 140 meters and a height of 45 meters.
“The site of the neighboring pyramids,” according to the translation of the name, is one of the largest Maya cities ever discovered, with more than 6500 structures and a total area of more than 30km². The entire urban area occupies a space of 70km². Calakmul was the headquarter of the empire of Kaan, also called the Kingdom of the Serpent, which expanded the city during the classic period with Caracol as an ally against Tikal to the superpower of the Mundo Maya.
The ruins of Calakmul are located in the Biosphere Reserve of the same name, the largest tropical forest reserve in Mexico. Like many of the lowland Maya cities, Calakmul was also rediscovered with the help of chicleros in the early 20th century.
The feeling of a re-discoverer can still be experienced today – depending on the time of day and the season. Unlike other large Mayan cities, Calakmul’s huge buildings can still be climbed, and the number of visitors is often low.
Unfortunately, the Museo de la Naturaleza y Arqueología de Calakmul, which opened only a few years ago, seems to be permanently closed (probably as a result of the Covid pandemic) and already shows signs of disrepair. Interested visitors should therefore visit the two archaeological museums of the city of Campeche in advance.
It is worthwhile to spend several days in this region in the south of the state of Campeche, because on both sides of the road Mex 186 there are numerous important Mayan cities like pearls on a string.