Each year more than 2 million people from across the globe visit the amazing Chichen Itza, and anyone who has experienced the magic feeling of walking through this historical marvel understands its never-ending appeal.
And while Chichen Itza deserves its popularity, it may just need to be prepared to lose some of that popularity to an even more majestic piece of history.
Just 55 miles west of the booming destination of Bacalar is the ancient Mayan city of Chakanbakán. Up until now, this site has been largely ignored due to its distance from the tourism center of Cancun.
But, as tourism spreads out across the southeast of Mexico at hurricane speeds, the true splendor of the still strong Mayan culture, and its deep history, is waiting with open arms to show the world why they stand with the Ancient Egyptians and Ancient Greeks in the hall of great civilizations.
The Manhattan Of The Ancient World
In terms of scale, Chakanbakán is on another level from the likes of Chichen Itza. In fact, at over 18 miles long it dwarfs the borough of Manhatten in New York City, which stretches a comparatively short 13 miles at its longest measurement.
And it isn’t just its size that makes it impressive, like Chichen Itza it has many impressive pyramid structures and is believed to have been a seat of immense power at its height in the Mayan civilization.
What Manhatten is to New York in terms of government, power, and entertainment, it is believed by some that Chakanbakán once served a similar role in the Mayan Empire.
The Most Golden Of The Oldies
While Chichen Itza has an impressive birth date of around 400-500 AD, Chakanbakán as a settlement pre-dates it by up to 800 years!
In other words, when the stone masons of Chichen Itza were sharpening their chisels and dealing with the ancient Mayan equivalent of OSHA, Chakanbakán was already up to 3 times older than the U.S. Constitution is to us today!
Discoveries Waiting To Be Made
While the size and general scale of Chakanbakán are understood thanks to archaeological work done in the 1980s, only a fraction of the city has been uncovered and thoroughly documented.
This is set to change, with renovations on the site picking up a fast pace, all with two things in mind:
- The preservation and documentation of this hugely important piece of human history.
- The culturally and historically responsible opening of the site to tourism, as a means to fund its further renovation and guarantee its survival for centuries to come.
A super exciting aspect of the site is the traces of architecture that resembles a mix of the Olmec and Mayan cultures.
The Olmecs are the oldest known Mesoamerican culture, originally from the modern-day states of Veracruz and Tabasco in Mexico. They are remembered for the very distinctive Olmec heads still dotted throughout the jungles and historical sites of these states.
Although they were not believed to have survived into the age of the Mayan civilization, the city of Chakanbakán has already given some clues that they we may be wrong about their timeline, and that the city could be more than just a new tourist attraction, it could change what we know about the ancient people who once lived here.
No Coach Tours Yet
According to the Mexican government website, Chakanbakán isn’t open to public tours unless special permission is obtained.
Although this will undoubtedly change after the first phase of renovations and some basic infrastructure is put in place.
Furthermore, the ever-evolving tourism economy in Quintana Roo is expected to jump at the chance to run tours to this new site as soon as possible.
The construction of the Mayan train which will connect Cancun, Valladolid, and Merida (as well as many more areas) to Chichen Itza is expected to have a serious impact on tour companies’ sales.
And in the true spirit of capitalism, when a gold mine begins to dry up, it usually isn’t long before the miners find a new spot to dig!
*Due to the mostly undiscovered nature of much of Chakanbakán, all images are of other Mayan ruins nearby in the same style that Chakanbakán is believed to be.*
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