Dzibilchaltún, Yucatán, México
Dzibilchaltún covers an area of about 16 square kilometres, in which there are about 8400 structures. The central part of the site covers three square kilometres, which includes several temples and pyramids, as well as a cenote of unknown depth, one of the largest in the Yucatán. Many of the structures date back as far as 500 B.C.
From downtown Mérida, you can catch a colectivo that stops down the road from the temple. A 10 minute hike from there along a trail through the jungle gets you to the entrance to the site, where they charge 50 pesos per person ($7.50 CDN) to get in. The day we arrived, it was a scorching 40-something degrees, with 100% humidity, so the fact that the small museum on the site was air-conditionned was worth the price of admission in itself.
The site is divided into two parts, separated by a one kilometre long road. At one end is the Temple of the Seven Dolls, named after seven ceramic dolls found there as offerings to the gods. At the other end is a courtyard, a pyramid, a ball court and the cenote, as well as an open chapel that was constructed during the Colonial era, in the late 16th and early 17th century.
The cenote on the other side of the site is open for swimming, if you don’t mind thousands of little fish chasing you around the whole time. What’s curious, of course, is that there are any fish at all in the cenotes, since they’re fed by a series of deep, underwater channels of water that snake beneath the entire peninsula. There are no rivers or streams connecting them on the surface, so the fish have to descend to incredible depths (over 100m) to move between one cenote and the next. From what people have told us, the fish that live in the cenotes are blind, which is kind of cool.
We hiked back out to the road after a few hours of wandering around, the sat waiting for a colectivo to drive by and pick us up. For 30 minutes we sat around, the air totally still and boiling hot, with only the sound of the mosquitos and the cow in the field next to us. I’m not entirely sure what was wrong with it, but the way it hollered made it sound demented and insane. I honestly hope I never drink any milk from that one; no way that’s safe.