Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula is Mayan land. It is today and it has been since pre-Hispanic times. The Mayan, members of an American Indian people native to regions of Mesoamerica (Mexico & Central America), had a culture which reached its peak between 300 AD and 900 AD, the so-called classical period, a period characterized by outstanding architecture, pottery and advances in astronomy.
The Mayans worked & lived off the land, studied the stars, developed writing & counting systems, & built cities with ingenious irrigation systems which enabled them to survive in the arid & desolate landscape of this part of the world. Their mysterious & rapid decline around 900 AD brought about the abandonment of their cities, the majority of which were lost to the surrounding jungle.
Today Mayan ruins in varying states of preservation are dotted all over the Yucatán Peninsula & further south in northern regions of Central America, specifically Belize & Guatemala (but also parts of Honduras). I’ll be passing through the region in the coming weeks & it remains to be seen how many Mayan sites I’ll get to visit. But if today’s visit to my first Mayan site, Uxmal, is any indication then I’ll be trying to hit up as may of them as I can.
The UNESCO-listed Pre-Hispanic Town of Uxmal
Uxmal (pronounced ‘oosh-mahl‘), about an 80 kilometre, 1-hour+ bus ride from Merida, the capital of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, was settled in about 600 AD. It thrived thereafter & grew to have a population estimated to be about 25,000. However, and like all Mayan sites, it was mysteriously abandoned in about 900 AD. I found the ruins fascinating, their construction & history absorbing. This coupled with the scarcity of other visitors, the well-preserved, pink-hued limestone structures (because of the sites remoteness), & the site’s hilly setting, compactness & accessibility all conspired to ensure that my visit to Uxmal today was one hell of a memorable experience.