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All about Acanceh in Mexico

Updated: April 6, 2024

Main Category: Day Trips

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Author: Tobias

Acanceh is a small town slightly south of Mérida and ancient Maya archaeological site (with stucco elements of gods). Acanceh is about 31km away from Mérida. The journey by car takes about 36min from the city center of Mérida and the place is most of the time tranquilly.

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Address:

Calle 18 379, 97380 Acanceh, Yuc., México

Website:

Category:

Trip

Phone:

-

Distance:

31km from Mérida

Travel Time:

36min from Mérida

Admission:

Mex$ 60

Price Level:

Inexpensive

Since:

300-500 AD

Google Rating:

average rating is 3.6 out of 5, based on 5 votes, Ratings

Opening Hours:

-

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Acanceh

Acanceh is a small town slightly south of Mérida and ancient Maya archaeological site. Acanceh is located only 20km outside of Mérida's outskirts, but it's not necessarily worth the trip if you have no other destination.


However, if you plan to visit Hacienda Sotuta de Peón, or Hacienda Mucuyche for example (which you should!), Acanceh is a perfect little stopover, because it is exactly on the route. Depending on your navigation system, you'll drive right along the archaeological maya site.


Today's Acanceh is located on the pre-Columbian site and was probably inhabited throughout. Acanceh (the original name may have been A'Kan'Keh) means "groan of the deer" in Mayan language. The population of about 11,000 is predominantly Maya.


Parroquia Nuestra Señora de la Natividad


Parroquia Nuestra Señora de la Natividad on Calle 18 s/n is the central building in Acanceh and - like most churches in Yucatán - dates back to the Spanish colonial era. Construction of the church began in 1561 and was completed in 1593.


The church has the typical fortified appearance, a beautiful baroque chapel and a carved wooden altarpiece. The church also houses the Diocesan Museum of Sacred Art. The museum houses a collection of religious art from the Spanish colonial period.


Parroquia Nuestra Señora de la Natividad
Parroquia Nuestra Señora de la Natividad

Pre-Columbian history


The history of Acanceh is not well known. It was founded between 300 and 500 AD during the Early Classic period - possibly by the Itzaes, who had also founded Chichen Itzá, Izamal, and T'Hó (present-day Mérida).


The ancient Maya city covered more than 4 square kilometers and had about 400 buildings. Its heyday ranged from the Late Preclassic to Late Classic periods (350 B.C. to A.D. 900), with Acanceh being one of the few sites in continuous use.


Three ancient Maya sites have been restored and are open to the public. Apart from the large Mayan pyramid right next to the market square, the so-called Acropolis is particularly noteworthy.


The Acropolis houses the remarkable Palace of the Stuccoes and is located not far from the pyramid within a residential neighborhood along Calle 18. We have more background information and travel tips on Mayan archaeological sites.


The world of archaeology


Some interesting figures about Mayan archaeological sites on the Yucatan Peninsula:


 
Figures about Mayan archaeological sites
Figures about Mayan archaeological sites
 

Maya pyramid at Acanceh


The three-tiered step Maya pyramid at Acanceh is located directly on the north side of the marketplace. Another site, the Acropolis, with the Palace of the Stuccoes, is located a few blocks south of the pyramid along Calle 18.


The step pyramid was first excavated and explored by Teobert Maler in 1908. The base measures about 100 feet/30 meters square, and the height is about 36 feet/11 meters.


Across the street from the pyramid is what is probably one of the smallest INAH field offices. The small house has about 2 square meters. If you want to visit the Pyramid (as well as the slightly smaller one behind it), you have to pay the entrance fee (Mex-$ 70) there.


On the backside of the great pyramid there is a metal staircase, so you can get to the top of the pyramid and walk around it on a covered platform. The highlight is the large sun god masks of K'inich Ahau.


Main pyramid from the street side
Main pyramid from the street side

On each side of the pyramid there are two large masks to the left and right of a staircase. These were originally painted red, but the color is almost invisible today.


On the east side of the substructure, a small staircase leads to an inner chamber. A burial was discovered there with the remains of a man and a woman, presumably of noble descent.


Masks of the main pyramid
Masks of the main pyramid

The smaller pyramid is located to the north-east behind the main pyramid. It is about 14 feet (4.5m) high and has centrally located stairs facing south and north.


Smaller pyramid to the north-east
Smaller pyramid to the north-east

There used to be a brick one on top of the pyramid, but this has not survived. Compared to the main pyramid, the smaller pyramid is less interesting to visit, but of course you should also have a look, as it is only a few meters away.

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