Dzibilchaltún is the “place where there is writing on the stones,” referring to the many memorial stones found at the site. Dzibilchaltún is a great Mayan city that is only 15 km. from Mérida.
There were settlements here from 500 BC until the Spanish conquest, around 1540 AD. It covers an area of about 19 square kilometers, with somewhere around 8400 structures in the round enclave. It is believed there may have been a population of as many as 40,000 inhabitants, making it one of the largest cities of Mesoamerica.
To reach the archaeological site, walk the winding path past ancient Mayan stone sculptures. Enjoy the comprehensive and well-designed air-conditioned Museum of the Mayan People, tracing the steps of the Mayas from antiquity to the present. One of its highlights is a typical Mayan house. Then follow the ecological path flanked by trees from the region, identified with their names. This will take you to the Temple of the Seven Dolls.
The Temple of the Seven Dolls is also known as the Temple of the Sun, a square structure which was the focal point of the city. This second name may come from the phenomenon which takes place twice yearly, at the spring and fall equinoxes, when the rising sun is visible through one window and out the other, a tribute to the incredible mathematical knowledge of the Mayas. The temple is connected to the rest of the site by a sacbé, or “white road,” so called because they were originally coated with white limestone, built over stone and rubble fill.
The more well known name, Temple of the Seven Dolls, comes from the seven small coarsely made effigy dolls found in the interior of the temple. The one-story square building has a central chamber surrounded by a corridor. There are four entrances with windows alongside each one, facing east and west. It may have been used as an astronomical observatory. The roof was like a tower, which projected upwards from a vaulted ceiling. There are steps on all four sides of the building, which was built on a pyramid-shaped pedestal. There are eight stucco masks on the frieze of the temple, as well as serpents and glyphs, and beads, sea animals, and feathers, all made in carved stucco. It wasn’t until the 1950s that archaeologists discovered the temple buried under another building: for some reason around 800 AD, the temple was filled with rocks and then covered by another larger building. The remains of this second structure still partially cover it. Many other temples on the grounds have also been rebuilt and restored.
Dzibilchaltún is a great place to wander, enjoy the peaceful surroundings, climb the structures and imagine what life must have been like there hundreds of years ago. Dzibilchaltún is also a unique National Ecological Park with hundreds of species of fauna.
Last but not least, head for the Xlacah (which means “old village”) cenote for a refreshing swim. This cenote is open to the public until 4 PM. It tends to get a little busy on weekends. One end of the cenote is very shallow, while the other is over 140 feet deep and continues on into a tunnel. Many archaeological remains have been found in the cenote.
Note: INAH’s ecxellent Museo del Pueblo Maya has now re-opened after extensive renovations.
How to get there:
To get to Dzibilchaltún, take the Mérida-Progreso highway north. After 11 km. you will see the sign to turn right. Drive for about 3 more km. You will see signs directing you to turn right after you pass the village. If you don’t have a car, you can go by combi (collective taxi) on Calle 58 between 59 and 57, Centro. Open every day 8 am – 4.30 pm. The entrance fee is $134 pesos non-Mexicans, 103 pesos Mexican citizens. Entry fees include access to the museum. The site of Dzibilchaltún has various services to make the visitor comfortable: a restaurant, artisan objects in the gift shop, information booth, medical services, telephone, handicapped facilities, restrooms, and parking. We recommend hiring a guide at your arrival to explain the archaeological and astronomic wonders of this site. Hours: 8 am – 5 pm.
NOTE: THE ENTRY FEE IS SPLIT INTO 2 AMOUNTS (STATE “CULTUR” AND FEDERAL “INAH”) AND IS PAID AT 2 SEPARATE WINDOWS, AND YOU WILL NEED BOTH TICKETS TO ENTER THE SITE.