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All about Dzibilchaltún in Mexico

Updated: April 6, 2024

Main Category: Day Trips

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Author: Tobias

Dzibilchaltún is less known, but the oldest and largest Mayan archaelogical site. There is also a small museum. Dzibilchaltún is about 30km away from Mérida. The journey by car takes about 30min from the city center of Mérida and the place is most of the time tranquilly. The admission fee for foreign adults is about 230MXN. Different prices may apply for residents or children.

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Address:

Zona Arqueológica de Dzibilchaltún, Yucatán, Mexiko

Website:

Category:

Trip

Phone:

-

Distance:

30km from Mérida

Travel Time:

30min from Mérida

Admission:

Mex$ 230

Price Level:

Mid-range

Since:

9th century BC

Google Rating:

average rating is 4.1 out of 5, based on 25 votes, Ratings

Opening Hours:

• Monday: 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM
• Tuesday: 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM
• Wednesday: 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM
• Thursday: 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM
• Friday: 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM
• Saturday: 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM
• Sunday: 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM

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Dzibilchaltún

Dzibilchaltún was originally known as "Ch'iy Chan Ti'Ho" - the name means "place where writing is done on flat stones". It is the oldest and largest Mayan site.


The archaeological site includes also a small museum ("Museo de las Mayas"), which displays a collection of Mayan artifacts and Spanish colonial era items.


With an area of 16 square kilometers and about 8,000 documented buildings, the city is one of the largest archaeological sites in the northern part of the Yucatán Peninsula, although only a small part (about three square kilometers) of it has been excavated.


The nature surrounding the site, with rare plants, many species of birds, reptiles and mammals, has been designated as a natural park.


The first settlement of the site took place in the 9th century BC. At the end of the classical period, around 830 A.D., the settlement reached its peak with about 40,000 inhabitants. At the time of the conquest by the Spaniards, the place was still populated.


If you are in Mérida, a trip to Dzibilchaltún is a good opportunity, due to its proximity to Mérida. Compared to Uxmal, Chichén Itza or Tulum, the site has by far no such impressive buildings, but it is still extensive and worth a visit. If you want, you can climb most of the temples.


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
 

A few Tips


Entrance to the archaeological site is free for Mexican citizens and permanent residents on Sundays, as with all archaeological sites. This means it is busier than usual on Sundays. If you come early, it is the least busy and you can avoid the midday heat.


As with all archaeological sites, it is advisable to wear comfortable shoes and light clothing - the excavation site covers a large area. Due to the partially unpaved paths, the site is only partially accessible for wheelchairs and baby carriages.


Dzibilchaltún has a museum, a restaurant and a souvenir store. The on-site museum is generally open between Tuesday and Sunday from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm. You can also book a guide on site if you have not booked an organized tour.


Central Plaza


The Central Plaza (133 x 105m) has a platform base that rises up about 5 meters and is one of the longest Mayan buildings to be excavated so far anywhere in the Mayan world. And like many other sites, there is a ball court.


Temple of the Seven Dolls


The "Temple of the Seven Dolls" ("Templo de las siete muñecas") is the most important structure on the site. The temple is located at the end of a 425m long processional way ("Sacbé"). Seven small clay figurines were found in the temple and are now on display in the local museum, hence the name.


The temple was planned so that the rays of the rising sun at both the spring and autumn equinoxes fall directly through the ports of the temple, spreading a reddish glow (see abelow). Equinox was also used at Chichén Itzá to create an effect (a shadow is then cast on the great pyramid that looks like a snake).


Spanish influence


The complex also has extensions from the period of Spanish rule. The Spanish built an open chapel ("capilla abierta") in the 16th century for the conversion and religious instruction of the Indians.


It is a simple small building with an altar opened by an arch on the south side. Of the open chapels of the early Spanish colonial period, only a few remain today.


Dzibilchaltún during equinox

If you visit Dzibilchaltún during the equinox, it can be a special experience.


An equinox is an astronomical event that occurs twice a year, once in spring (on March 20 or 21) and once in fall (September 22 or 23). The Earth's axis is then tilted neither towards nor away from the sun and so day and night are almost the same length (12 hours).


The ruins of Dzibilchaltún are known for a special event at the Temple of the Seven Dolls, which attracts around 2,000 visitors. The building has a central hall surrounded by a corridor with four entrances facing each of the cardinal points.


At sunrise on the equinox, the light falls exactly through two opposite entrances. The sunrise at this time is at 6:00 am, so you should be there at around 5:30 am in order not to miss the event. Visiting hours are generally from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, but on this day, the ticket office will open at 4:30 am to give access.


Cenote Xlakah


An above-ground cenote ("Xlakah") is also part of the site, which used to serve as a water supply for the city. The cenote is about 45m deep, making it one of the deepest known cenotes in the Yucatán Peninsula. However, the cenote is closed due to environmental pollution.


Some interesting figures about cenotes:


 
Interesting figures about cenotes
Interesting figures about cenotes
 

For more background information and tips on cenotes, click here.


How do you get to Dzibilchaltún from Mérida?


The easiest way is by car. The excavation site is located on the Merida-Progresso highway (No. 261). Take the exit to Dzibilchaltún and continue for about 3 kilometers.


Unfortunately, there are no signs at the last turnoff to the ruins. This is just after the village of Dzibilchaltún on the right hand side and leads next to a short high stone wall through a gate. There is a parking lot at the end of this road.


There are also colectivos from Mérida to Progreso and they can drop you off at the highway near the entrance. But there is no guarantee that you will find a bus for the return journey.

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