Lucky for us, the Mayans were wrong in their prediction of the end of the world last year. However, they were extremely successful thousands of years ago in building amazing temples and other buildings that formed the basis for large cities throughout the Yucatan Peninsula. For those of you lucky enough to sail on a Western Caribbean Disney Cruise with a stop at Costa Maya, you can see for yourself just how amazing these cities were.
Most stops in Costa Maya last a short 4-5 hours, which is the perfect amount of time for an excursion to the Chacchoben Mayan City. The tour starts off with a 1 hour ride aboard an air conditioned coach bus from the port through the jungle and farmlands of the area. For many people, this is an eye opening bus ride through very poor and rural areas of Mexico. These villages and rural areas are much different from what we are used to seeing in the resort areas of Mexico. During the bus ride, your tour guide does an excellent job of providing background history on the historic site as well as pointing out unique animals and vegetation along the route.
The actual walking tour of Chacchoben lasts about 2 hours and takes you along winding paths throughout what used to be a village with thousands of Mayan residents. The excavations of the village began in the early 1970’s and still continue today. Along the paths, you will see 3 large temples that are still mostly intact. In addition, there are remnants of various other buildings including homes for the residents. An interesting fact, Mayans were much smaller than the average human today, and the alley ways between their homes provided plenty of space for walking 2000 years ago, today however, they are much more difficult to walk thru.
On the 2 largest pyramid structures, tourists are able to walk part-way up the staircase for photographs and closer viewing of the materials used to construct the temples. In another temple, there is a covered area that contains a hieroglyphic painting that was uncovered during the excavations 40 years ago. Most of the painting has been covered back up to protect it from the elements, but if you are lucky like we were, your tour guide will have a replica of the painting to share with you.
Throughout the tour, the guides do an excellent job of not only sharing the history of the area, but also giving you ample time to explore on your own and take lots of photographs. During your explorations you may even luck out and see a spider monkey swinging thru the trees or a lizard lounging on a rock in the sun!
After the tour, you have a little bit of time to shop in a small marketplace with handmade goods for sale by local residents as well as Chacchoben souvenirs. Then its time to board the bus back to the port, where you will arrive just in time to board your ship and set sail for your next destination.
If you ever have the chance to explore this amazing historical site, I highly recommend it- I have a 6 and 8 year old who will tell you it was one of the highlights of the cruise for them.
- Stacy L.