We hopped in our rental car one cloudy but warm Thursday morning and drove 50 minutes from Merida to the Mayapan Archeological Site. The drive was super quick and direct so I was surprised when my Google maps lady said it was time to turn right et voila! The site was right there.
Mayapan is nestled into the jungle right off a main highway heading from Merida. I jokingly said to Zac that it was awfully nice of the Mayans to build the site so close to the highway. There's a small parking area at the front of the site and just the smallest of gates where you pay your entrance fee. If memory serves, the cost to enter Mayapan was $40pesos each.
One thing I liked about Mayapan straight away is there are no souvenir vendors or anyone trying to sell anything. In fact, the site was free from other tourists until we were nearly done exploring.
As we entered the site we were greeted with some of the most incredible ruins we've seen. Maybe it's their proximity to each other that makes the space feel so intimate. We quickly heard the buzzing sound of a lawnmower and looked around to find a man pushing his lawn mower around the various ruins. The grass was wet from an earlier rain and Zac and I both said we thought the grass was too wet for mowing right then. But then again, we aren't experts. With the faint buzz of the mower filling the air we moved from building to building.
Each building was in a different state of decay though most seemed quite well preserved and even "fixed". One of the best things about this site is that you get to climb almost every structure. Sure, there's a sign posted at the entrance stating "Climb at your own risk" but come on! These structures are just beckoning your feet to grace their stone steps. At least I was feeling the call.
According to Wikipedia, Mayapan was the cultural and political capital of the Mayan people in the Yucatan between 1220 - 1440. This definitely puts this site later on the timeline than some others we've seen, but they are still magnificent. Several buildings at the site show remnants of indiscernible murals; in fact, the only way we knew these were murals is because we read about them and because there were swathes of red color in several areas.
Also according to Wikipedia, the main temple at Mayapan is generally similar to the temple at Chichen Itza. They also say the construction overall at Mayapan was not the best as many of the roofs have collapsed whereas roofs at sites that are much older have remained in tact. While that may be the case, none of that takes away from the beauty of these buildings.
One of the most striking features at Mayapan is the round building near the center of the site. This seems to be very rare for Mayan buildings; at least based on the sites we've seen so far. I actually can't remember seeing another round structure at any of them.
We climbed up and down and all around these monuments and felt the power in their stones. There are some amazing carvings around the main temple and another one of the structures that just sort of call you toward them to explore and imagine what they mean. For example, on the main temple there are carvings of headless warriors. Clearly the heads were left off as openings in the wall replace where the carved head should have been. This had Zac and I guessing on the meaning and what, perhaps, was placed there instead.
We wandered and walked around the whole of this site and just kept saying how much we loved these buildings and how happy we were to be able to get up onto them and experience their power. The iguanas were also out exploring the buildings and sunning themselves while we were there. There were several times we were startled by an iguana's movements as we headed further up or into one of the ruins.
We absolutely loved our morning at the Mayapan Archeological site and would definitely recommend a visit. In fact, if there was a competition of Mayan ruins, this just might be at the top of our list.