George’s Guide to Mexico: Campeche State

An abridged version of this guide to Campeche State will be included in Viva Travel Guide’s 2010 book about Mexico and also available on the web at vivatravelguides.com.

But, you get the first look!

The narrative is at the top of the article. Below it, you will find all the logistical information including location, how to get there, accommodations, restaurants, and contacts.


Campeche State, Mexico

The southeastern Mexican state of Campeche is not as famous as the other two states that share the Yucatán Peninsula: Yucatán, with its world-renowned Mayan archeological site of Chichén Itzá, and Quintana Roo, with its powdery Caribbean beaches that run from Cancún through Playa del Carmen and Tulum, all the way down the coast to Belize.

With Yucatán and Quintana Roo overrun with tourists, many travelers have discovered the state of Campeche. It has treasures that rival those of Yucatán and Quintana Roo: colonial towns and cities, tranquil Gulf beaches, pristine coastal wetlands, a trove of Mayan archeological sites, a distinct culinary tradition, adventure sports galore, and dense tropical forests teeming with life, beauty and mystery.

  • Edzná
  • Hopelchén
  • Mayan sites around Hopelchén
  • Ciudad del Carmen
  • Escárcega
  • Calakmul Biosphere Reserve
  • Xpuhil and Around

Edzná

Edzná, located 61 km south of the city of Campeche, is one of the state’s most spectacular archeological sites. Dating back to 600 BC, Edzná enjoyed possibly the longest period of occupation in the Mayan world, being abandoned completely only in 1450 AD, less than 75 years before the arrival of the Spanish. For almost 500 years only local residents knew of Edzná’s existence until archaeologist Nazario Quintana Bello “discovered” it for the rest of us in 1927.

Today, Edzná is an easy day trip from Campeche City and more than worth the journey. On weekend evenings be sure to stay for the impressive Sound and Light show, The Light of The Itzáes.

Edzná (or Itzná) means House of the Itzáes, after the Yucatán people who inhabited it (…think Chichén Itzá!). Edzná’s architecture reflects its location at the crossroads of Mayan cultures, combining influences from the Rio Bec cities of the south with their frightening Chenes stone masks, and the Classic Maya Puuc cities of the north, like Uxmal, with their more delicate geometric facades.

Edzná was first settled sometime between 600 and 400 BC by people from the Petén jungle, current day Guatemala, who where likely attracted to the rich soils of the Champoton River Valley. Over the next 500 years the small settlement grew to an immense city of tens of thousands of inhabitants. This growth was made possible by the ingenuity of the Maya who built a complex system of canals and reservoirs to capture rainwater. Most amazing was a 12-km long canal, which linked the city to the Champoton River.

Construction of the first major edifices took place between 250 BC and 150 AD, when Edzná was the greatest power in the southeastern Yucatán Peninsula. For reasons still unknown, but likely overpopulation, invasion or external conflict, Edzná fell into a period of dormancy, which lasted almost 500 years.

Edzná rose from near-dead in 600 AD, perhaps enlivened by the arrival of another group of outsiders. For the next 150 years, construction of enormous monuments, including the Small and Grand Acropolises, continued at a feverish pace. Edzná became the capital of the peninsula’s western region, an important trading partner to Mayan cities far and near.

After 900 AD, Edzná again began a slow decline, although some new, less spectacular, construction occurs as late as 1200 AD. Perhaps natural disasters or war weakened the city to the point that it was abandoned in 1450 AD. The reconstructed central core reminds us of the power and majesty that was Edzná.

What to see

Patio of the Ambassadors The first structure you encounter when entering Edzná’s archeological zone is the Patio of the Ambassadors, a rather late construction from 1000 to 1200 AD. No ambassadors gathered here before paying homage to Edzná’s leaders. Rather, the patio was named for the European ambassadors to Mexico who donated the funds for the renovation.

Platform of the Knives The Knives Platform was built in the same era as the Patio of the Ambassadors. Flint knives were found here giving the structure its modern name.

Main Plaza Lined with monumental stone buildings, Edzná’s Main Plaza would have been the city’s main gathering place, capable of holding thousands of people. Two sacbes – the Mayan “white roads” – define the north and south sides. Now covered with carefully mown grass, the plaza would have been paved with smooth, painted stucco, which must have gleamed in the bright Campechan sun.

Nohochná (Casa Grande or Big House) A palace 55 meters long dominates the northwest side of the Main Plaza. Sports fans will likely compare Nohochná to the grandstands in a football stadium, because the four terraces certainly look like bleacher seating.

South Temple The South Temple, at one end of the Grand Plaza, stands 11 meters high and is ascended by a sloped ramp, rather than the usual staircase, which makes one wonder: what was it purpose? This pyramid was built between 600 and 900 AD.

Ball Court Edzná’s Ball Court stands proudly next to the South Temple. One stone ring remains, the goal into which the players aimed a heavy rubber ball. On each side of the court, the structures likely contained images of the gods associated with the ritual ball game – an early day locker room and chapel.

Small Acropolis The Small Acropolis and its 70-meter wide and five-meter high platform contain some of the oldest elements found in Edzná. Ceramics found there date from 400-250 BC. Three carved stone stelae, the characteristic thick, vertical Mayan slabs protruding from the earth, commemorate important dates from 41 and 435 AD.

Temple of the Masks Within the Small Acropolis two images of the rising and setting sun god, Kinich Ahau, adorn the base of the Temple of the Masks, recognizable by their characteristic jaguar fangs. Both masks retain flecks of red paint and display what the Mayan considered beautiful: chiseled teeth, nose rings and elaborate headdresses.

Grand Acropolis The Grand Acropolis lies adjacent to the Main Plaza and features monumental buildings and a wide plaza. Over the broad western stairway Mayan mythological figures dating from 652 AD can be seen. The main patio, or platform, of the Grand Acropolis measures 160 meters on each side and is 8 meters tall. When you enter it from the Grand Plaza look for the ritual steam bath, called a chokó sintumbilhá in Maya or more commonly by its Nahuatl name, temezcal. Warriors and priest crawled through the low opening before purifying themselves in the sweat ritual, held before important ceremonies or battles.

House of the Moon Standing on the south side of the Grand Acropolis, the Hose of the Moon is made up of carved stones held together by one of two types of cement: the sap of the rubber tree, chicle, or stucco made from lime and sand. Thousands of trees were used in the fires that made lime, causing deforestation – one likely cause of the Mayan collapse.

House of Five Stories Edzná’s most famous structure is the House of the Five Stories – the imposing centerpiece of the Grand Acropolis and combination palace and temple. Five floors of roomsare surmounted by a three-room temple, topped by the remains of an elaborate Puuc-style “roof comb.” At the base of the impressive stairway is a hieroglyphic frieze dating the structure to 731 AD. When you stand at the top of the 35-meter tall building you have a marvelous view of the entire ceremonial plaza and the hills and valleys of the surrounding countryside.  At dusk the setting sun floods the temple’s topmost rooms with light.

North Temple The North Temple stands, as you might guess, on the north side of the Grand Acropolis. The temple is architecturally complex, with rooms connected by interior stairways, not so common in Mayan structures. A broad stairway outside leads to a sanctuary on top, which appears to have been altered about four times. In front of the temple is a platform that dates to the period of Edzná’s final epoch, 1200 to 1400 AD.

House of the Old Witch The House of the Old Witch is located about a 15-minute walk away from the Grand Plaza. The edifice looks like a huge dirt mound with only a partially restored base, but likely once had five stories. In the plaza in front of the Old Witch you can see some sacrificial altars, but what was sacrificed here remains unclear.

Hopelchén

Hopelchén is the largest town on Highway 261 and the halfway point on the old highway connecting the cities of Campeche and Mérida. Close to Hopelchén, or The Place of the Five Wells, are some small but very interesting Mayan sites, including Tohcok, Hochob, Tabasqueño, Dzibilnocac, and Santa Rosa Xtampak. Among Hopelchén’s many festivals is the Feast of the Dolorosa, a celebration to ensure abundant honey and corn, which takes place from April 30th to May 2.

Mayan sites near Hopelchén: Tohcok, Hochob, Tabasqueño, Dzibilnocac, and Santa Rosa Xtampak

The Mayan archeological zones northwest of Campeche City and near the village of Hopelchén are fascinating examples of the local fusion of Mayan architectural styles. Tohcok, Hochob, Tabasqueño, Dzibilnocac, and Santa Rosa Xtampak exhibit elements of the Puuc style of Uxmal to the north and the Chenes style of the Rio Bec region to the southeast. Plan on spending about an hour at each site, maybe two at Santa Rosa Xtampak. A daytrip through the Hopelchén area also provides a glimpse into the lives of contemporary Maya, who live in the many villages you will encounter as you pass from site to site.

Tohcok Highway 261 bisects Tohcok, which means Jaguar Wall in Maya. The site has been lovingly maintained by custodian José Rafael Acosta Baas for over 25 years. He will give you a private tour and show you his most recent discoveries. On the other side of the boundary fence, Jose Rafael will point out the private property that contains many more unexcavated buildings, unprotected from looters and grave robbers. There’s no charge to visit the site, but please leave a donation which will help preserve this small but interesting site.

Hochob In Maya, Hochob means Where the Corn is Harvested or Place of the Corncobs, depending on which hieroglyphic specialist you read. Hochob was settled in 1100 AD and its hilltop location would have been easy to defend against enemies. Even today it offers a panoramic view in all directions. The Main Palace (Structure II) is one of the best examples of the frightening, highly symbolic Chenes style of architecture. The palace is entered through the open jaw of a snake, the Earth Monster, which is surrounded by an enormous mask of the creator god Itzamná, seen here with crossed eyes and huge earrings.

Tabasqueño Part of the excitement of visiting Tabasqueño is the last 15 minutes of the trip: the road – really more of a dry, stony stream bed during the dry season – twists and turns as it heads up a steep hill. The name Tabasqueño is not Mayan – it refers to the owner of the land who came from the state of Tabasco! The ancient city reached its peak between 750 and 900 AD, and declined completely by 1250. Austrian archeologist Teobert Maler first explored Tabasqueño in 1895 and the plazas of this Chenes-style city remain densely overgrown. Decorating the corners of the palace are many impressive masks of the rain god Chac, with his characteristic hooked nose. Don’t confuse it for an elephant’s trunk, a common mistake.

Dzibilnocac Dzibilnocac means either Painted Vault or The Great Painted Turtle in Maya. The Temple-Palace, or Structure One, is 76 meters long and 30 meters wide and was built between 600 and 800 AD. One crumbling tower of the original three remains and crowns the east façade. This configuration, a Rio Bec innovation built of stone and covered with painted stucco, was designed to impress and intimidate but the front staircases were impossible to climb (the priests – smart guys that they were – used hidden interior stairways to appear “magically” at the top).

Santa Rosa Xtampak Xtampak means “Old Walls” in Maya, covers almost nine square km and is built over a natural elevation. Xtampak was the capital of the Chenes region, and was first occupied between 300 and 250 BC, reached its peak after 550 AD and fell by the year 1000. The palace stands in the center of the city’s connected plazas and patios and contains some 44 rooms. Reconstruction continues at Xtampak and you will see mounds of recently excavated painted ceramics lying on the ground, some as large as a dinner plate. Don’t be tempted to take a souvenir – any shard might contain important information about the history of Xtampak.

Ciudad del Carmen

If you find yourself in Ciudad del Carmen, in the far southeast corner of Campeche state, it is probably because you work for an oil company. In the mid-1970’s, Mexico’s national petroleum company, PEMEX, discovered vast oil reserves offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. From that moment on, life in the sleepy little fishing village was changed forever: Ciudad del Carmen now produces 80% of Mexico’s oil and 40% of its gas. Orange jump-suited refinery workers travel back and forth between the city and the oil platforms, which are one mile offshore.

But it wasn’t always so. In 1518, Antón de Alaminos, a boat pilot in the Spanish expedition led by Juan de Grijalva, spied a sandy island separating the Gulf of Mexico from a broad lagoon. At the time all of Yucatán was thought to be an island, so de Alaminos called the place Isla de Términos, or Terminal Island.

European pirates discovered secluded Isla de Términos forty years later and decided the lagoon behind it was the perfect place to hide out, repair their ships and plot attacks on the nearby wealthy port of Campeche. In 1663, Don Francisco Esquvel y de la Rosa, governor and general captain of the Yucatán began what would be a tortuous 50-year effort to expel the pirates. The Spanish forces were finally successful on July 16, 1717. That day happened to be the Feast of the Virgin of Carmen and, being good Catholics, they renamed the island in her honor: Ciudad del Carmen.

The city is connected to the mainland by two long bridges that lead to popular, sandy beaches fronting the Gulf of Mexico or lining the lagoon.

The Museo de Ciudad del Carmen, or City Museum, occupies the 19th century former Victoriano Nieves Céspedes Hospital (Calle 22 between 41 and 41B). Exhibitions are diverse, including sections devoted to pre-Columbian relics found locally, the region’s flora, fauna and marine life; pirate artifacts, paintings, photographs and sculpture, and a children’s area.

Every year residents put on a big party to celebrate the city’s holy patron at the Festival of the Virgin of Carmen, which takes place from July 14 to 31. This is the most fun time to visit: popular and folk dances attract all ages, fireworks explode overhead, artists and farmers display their wares, and fishermen compete for the biggest catch.


Escárcega

Escárcega is the transportation hub for the southern Yucatán Peninsula, the cross roads of travel in southeastern Mexico.

There’s not much to see or do in Escárcega, that’s for sure. Halfway between the two bus terminals is a Chac Mool statue. He welcomes travelers to Federal Highway 186, branded the Ruta Maya or Mayan Route, that runs between Escárcega and Chetumal and leads to many outstanding archeological sites, including Calakmul and Xpuhil

Popular local events in Escárcega include the Expo Féria, which takes place the first two weeks of May. Poets and writers present their work then at the Expo’ s Regional Flower Games.

Calakmul Biosphere Reserve

Calakmul Biosphere Reserve is absolutely spectacular – a natural and archeological wonderland. Located in southern Campeche state between Escárcega and Xpuhil, it encompasses 723,185 hectares (1,800,000 acres) stretching north from the Guatemala border. Forests, swamps, pastures and savannas create a diverse landscape, a protected habitat that stuns the senses.

More than 800 plant species yield such delights as the Mayan incense copal and chicle for chewing gum.  Birders can search for 250 different species, including the oscellated turkey and endangered hawk-eagle. Calakmul is also crawling with reptiles, insects, spiders and amphibians. Spider and howler monkeys make their noisy homes here, and stealthy jaguars, pumas, and ocelots roam the forests.

Calakmul’s reconstructed Mayan pyramids are its greatest attraction. In fact, seeing these ancient skyscrapers emerge from dense jungles is one of Mexico’s most powerful experiences.

Calakmul Archeological Site A powerful Mayan city, now known as Calakmul, ruled the Kan, or Kingdom of the Snake, dominating the region from 600 to 800 AD. More than 50,000 people lived in 6,250 structures spread over 70 square kilometers: they were a population used to warfare. Calakmul attacked or was attacked regularly by super-rivals Tikal and Palenque. Dating from 431 AD, Calakmul’s enigmatic Structure 2 soars 55 meters above the plaza’s stelae, the rectangular stone monuments covered in hieroglyphic writing. Spectacular jade burial masks, now in Campeche City museums, were found at Calakmul, which means City of Two Adjacent Towers, today a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


Balamkú An awe-inspiring Mayan sculpture is found at Balamkú, which means Jaguar Temple. Measuring 17 meters long and 4 meters high, the painted and molded stucco frieze was constructed between 550 and 650 AD, and was protected for centuries by a pyramid built over it. Four panels depict kings emerging from two toads and two crocodiles who themselves rise from the jaws of Earth Monsters. Fierce jaguars separate the panels, which bear traces of 1500 year-old red, yellow, and black paint. Even better: only half the frieze has even been excavated!


Xpuhil and Around

The small town of Xpuhil makes a fine base for exploring southeast Campeche and southwest Quintana Roo. Very near Xpuhil are the renowned Rio Bec and Chenes Mayan archeological sites, among them Xpuhil, Becán, and Chicanná. The Calakmul Biosphere Reserve lies two hrs to the west. In nearby Quintana Roo are the ruined cities of Kohunlich and Dzibanche.

The ancient town of Xpuhil was occupied continuously from 400 BC to 1200 AD. The site is famous for its Rio Bec-style Structure 1, which is crowned by three imposing towers. If you wonder how people climbed the sharply angled staircases, here’s the answer: they didn’t. The staircases are impossible to climb and were only built for show, to impress and intimidate. The high priests and kings used normally canted stairs on the backside, outside the view of the mob. Connecting it to a separate plaza is something you don’t find too often in Mayan architecture: a narrow, arched and very long tunnel.

Becán means Ravine Formed by Water, obviously named for its deep, protective moat, which surrounds the city center. Most Mayan cities didn’t have moats, so the one at Becan is a pretty good indication that the city had become threatened by enemies and needed to defend itself from attack.

Chicanná contains a ferocious Chenes-style building entrance: the gaping jaws of the creator god Itzamná in his guise as the Earth Monster. You will tremble just a bit when you step over those sharp fangs. The façade is a marvel of intricate masonry, precisely and carefully pieced together. To the left of the doorway look for a simply carved mask of a face: for some strange reason I call him Caspar the Friendly Ghost!

Logistical Information for Campeche State

Edzná

  • Location: 61 km (38 mi), a one-hour drive from Campeche City
  • How to Get There:
  • By Tour: Take a four-hour package tour organized by Viajes Edzná or Monkey Hostel, or ask about other options at the Tourist Information office on Campeche’s Main Square. You will have about two hours at the site.
  • By Car: Drive south from Campeche City on Highway 180 and turn onto Highway 261 at Km 45, which leads to the site.
  • By Bus: Autobuses Ejidales departs from Avenida Republica south of the public market and across from the Puerta de Tierra (60-90 minutes. MX$20/US$2). The last bus departs Edzná between 3:30 and 4:00 pm, which means you can’t stay for the Sound and Light Show.
  • By Shared Van (Colectivo or Combi): Take an Edzná colectivo from Avenida Gobernadores north of the public market for about MX$20/US$2. Ask the driver to stop at the entrance to the ruins. For the return trip, you will have to walk about ¼ km to the highway and flag down a passing colectivo.
  • Hours of Operation: Open Daily, 8:00 am to 5:00 pm
  • Admission: MX$41/US$4.10
  • Tel: +52 (981) 816-8179
  • Fax: +52 (981) 816-2460
  • Email: museos.camp@inah.gob.mx
  • Website: Official INAH site – Spanish only http://dti.inah.gob.mx/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=3859&Itemid=329
  • Parking: Free
  • Services: Publications and small reproductions of ceramic figures, soft drinks, restrooms, security guards.
  • Additional information: Sound and Light show, Friday and Saturday. Winter, 7:00 pm. Summer, 8:00 pm. Purchase tickets at site or select a package tour that includes the show. Restaurant and telephone: Nayaxché. Medical services: Bonfil

Hopelchén

  • Location: Hopelchén is located 86 km (53 mi) northeast of Campeche City.
  • How to Get There:
  • By Car: Highway 261, 1.25 hrs
  • By Bus: ADS, 6:00 and 9:15 am; 12:00, 2:30 and 5:00 pm, 1 hour, MX$50/US$5
  • Website: ayuntamientohopelchen.org.mx
  • Services: Hotel, restaurants, bus station, public market, small food stores, gasoline

Mayan sites near Hopelchén: Tohcok, Hochob, Tabasqueño, Dzibilnocac, and Santa Rosa Xtampak

How to Get There: Renting a car or joining a package tour is the most efficient ways to visit Tohcok, Tabasqueño, Hochob, Dzibilnocac and Santa Rosa Xtampak. You could also take an early morning ADS bus that goes from Campeche to Merida via Highway 261, get off at Hopelchén and hire a taxi. (ADS, 6:00 and 9:15 am; 12:00, 2:30 and 5:00 pm, MX$50/US$5). Buses and shared vans on Highway 269 going from Hopelchén to Xpuhil pass near Hochob, Tabasqueño, and Dzibilnocac, but plan on long walks from the highway to the sites and infrequent departures.

Tohcok

  • Location: 50 km (31 mi) east of Campeche City
  • How to Get There: Drive from Campeche City on Highway 261 toward Hopelchén, and pass the village of Crucero de San Luis. Tohcok is located 10 km before Hopelchén and near Campo Menonita Chun Cruz. By bus, ask the driver to stop at Tohcok.
  • Hours of Operation: Daily, 8:00 am to 5:00 pm
  • Admission: Free, but leave a donation and tip for the custodian/guide
  • Tel: None
  • Email: None
  • Website: None
  • Parking: Free
  • Services: Tour guide

Tabasqueño

  • Location: 125 km (78 m) east of Campeche City
  • How to Get There: Drive east 61 km on Highway 261 to Hopelchén, turn right onto Highway 269 and drive southeast toward Dzibalchén. Turn right onto a dirt road at the sign for Tabasqueño, about Kilometer 35. The site is located four km uphill. By bus from Hopelchén, ask the driver to stop at Tabasqueño.
  • Hours of Operation: Daily, 8:00 am to 5:00 pm
  • Admission: Free
  • Tel: None
  • Email: None
  • Website: Official INAH site – Spanish only http://dti.inah.gob.mx/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=3858&Itemid=329
  • Parking: Free
  • Services: Restrooms, custodian

Hochob

  • Location: 117 km (73 m) east of Campeche City
  • How to Get There: Drive east 61 km on Highway 261 to Hopelchén, turn right onto Highway 269 and drive southeast 41 km to Dzibalchén. Turn right in Dzibalchén on the road to Pich. The site is 14 km from Dzibalchén, near Chencoh.
  • Hours of Operation: Daily, 8:00 am to 5:00 pm
  • Admission: MX$31/US$3.10
  • Tel: +52 (555) 150-2086
  • Email: None
  • Website: Official INAH site – Spanish only http://dti.inah.gob.mx/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=3857&Itemid=329
  • Parking: Free
  • Services: Sales of publications and reproduction ceramic figures, restrooms, satellite phone, custodian

Dzbilnocac

  • Location: 122 km (76 m) east of Campeche
  • How to Get There: Drive east 61 km on Highway 261 to Hopelchén, turn right onto Highway 269 and drive southeast 41 km to Dzibalchén.  Turn left and drive 20 km to Iturbide, which is 200 meters from the site.
  • Hours of Operation: Daily, 8:00 am to 5:00 pm
  • Admission: Free
  • Tel: None
  • Email: None
  • Website: Official INAH site – Spanish only http://dti.inah.gob.mx/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=3863&Itemid=329
  • Parking: free
  • Services: Restrooms, satellite phone, custodian

Santa Rosa Xtampak

  • Location: 137 km (85 mi) from Campeche City
  • How to Get There: Drive east 61 km on Highway 261 to Hopelchén and continue north toward Uxmal and Merida. Turn right at Km 87 near the village of La Parcela and drive 32 km to the site.
  • Hours of Operation: Daily, 8:00 am to 5:00 pm
  • Admission: MX$31/US$3.10
  • Tel: 01 (555) 150-2089
  • Email: None
  • Website: Official INAH site – Spanish only http://dti.inah.gob.mx/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=3862&Itemid=329
  • Parking: Free
  • Services: Sales of publications and reproduction ceramic figures, restrooms, satellite phone, custodian

Additional information:

  • Hopelchén: Restaurants, accommodations, gas station, telephone, soft drinks and snacks, medical services
  • Dzibalchén: Telephone, medical services, soft drinks and snacks
  • Chencoh: Telephone, medical services, soft drinks and snacks

Ciudad del Carmen

  • Tel Code:            938
  • Altitude:            Sea Level
  • Population:            199, 198
  • Economy:             Petroleum production, fishing
  • Tourism Office: Calle 22 No. 31, Colonia Centro. Tel: +52 (938) 384-2413. Email: turismocarmen@hotmail.com. Website: http://www.carmen.gob.mx

Accommodations:  Fiesta Inn (Av. Periferica Nte. at Av. Concordia, Col. Petrolera. Tel: +52 (938) 381-0200. MX$1360/US$136, 131 rooms) and Hotel del Parque (Calle 33 between 20 and 22. Tel: +52 (938) 382-3046. Email:hotelparque@prodigy.net.mx. MX$460/US$46. 27 rooms)

Restaurants: Inexpensive restaurants surround the Main Plaza and serve typical Mexican fare and seafood, including El Kiosko (Calle 33 between 20 and 22. +52 (938) 382-3046), and Portal Regis (Calle 26 No. 17A. +52 (938) 382-0085).

Getting to and away (regional transportation)

Airport: Ciudad del Carmen International Airport (CME). Aeromexico, Mexicana, Interjet, Continental (service to Houston)

By Car:

  • Campeche: Campeche City: Highway 180. 213 km (132 mi) 2.5 hours; Escárcega: Highways 180, 186. 158 km (98 mi), 2 hours
  • Yucatán: Mérida: Highway 180. 372 km (231 mi) 4.75 hours)
  • Quintana Roo: Chetumal: Highways 180, 186, 307. 431 km (268 mi) 5.5 hours
  • Tabasco: Villahermosa: Highway 180. 169 km (105 mi) 2 hours
  • Chiapas: Palenque: Highways 180, 186, 199. 314 km (195 mi) 3.75 hours

By Bus: The bus terminal is located at the corner of Av. Luis Donaldo Colosio and Francisco Villa. +52 (938) 382-0251

  • Campeche: Campeche City: many, 3 hrs, MX$139-196/US$13.90-19.60
  • Escárcega: 6:00, 7:45, 10:30 am and 12:00, 2:45, 3:45, 7:15 pm, 2.5 hrs, MX$118/US$12.
  • Yucatán: Mérida: many, 5 hrs, MX$304-354/US$30-35
  • Quintana Roo: Chetumal: 2 direct daily, 7:00 and 10:00 pm, 7-8 hrs, MX$284-230/US$23-28
  • Tabasco: Villahermosa: many, 3 hrs, MX$136-204/US$14-20
  • Chiapas: Palenque: connect through Villahermosa or Escárcega
  • By Shared Van (Colectivos or combis): near the bus station

Escárcega

  • Tel Code:            982
  • Altitude:            85 m (279 ft)
  • Population:            27,214 (2005)
  • History:            Named after Francisco Escárcega, a veteran of the Mexican Revolution
  • Economy:            Transportation services

Accommodations: Hotel Maria Isabel is 3 blocks north of the 2nd class bus station (Av. Justo Sierra No. 127. Tel: +52 (982) 824-0045. Price: MX$310/US$31, 33 rooms). Also, Hotel Escárcega, (Av. Justo Sierra No. 86. Tel: +52 (982) 824-0187. Price: MX$350/US$35, 66 rooms).

Restaurants: Most restaurant options are located across the street from the 2nd class bus station, casual places offering inexpensive Mexican-Campechan food.

Getting to and away (regional transportation)

By Car:

  • Campeche: Campeche City: Highways 261, 180. 150 km (93 mi) 2 hrs. Calakmul: Highway 186, 157 km (98 mi) 2.25 hrs.  Xpuhil: Highway 186, 154 km (96 mi), 2 hrs
  • Yucatán: Mérida: Highways 261, 180. 307 km (191 mi), 4 hrs
  • Quintana Roo: Chetumal: Highways 186, 307. 273 km (170 mi), 3.5 hrs
  • Tabasco: Villahermosa: Highway 186, 301 km (187 mi), 3.5 hrs
  • Chiapas: Palenque: Highways 186, 199. 212 km (132 mi), 2.5 hrs

By Bus:

First Class Station

  • Address: Intersection of Highways 261 and 186 (Av. Justo Sierra)
  • Bus Lines: Autobuses de Oriente (ADO)
  • Campeche: Campeche City: 9 daily, 2 hrs, MX$112/US$11.20. Xpuhil: 2:20 pm, 2.5 hrs, MX$108/US$10.80
  • Yucatán: Mérida: 6 daily, 4.5 hrs, MX$242/US$24.20
  • Quintana Roo: Chetumal: 8 daily, 4 hrs, MX$188/US$18.80
  • Tabasco: Villahermosa: 6 daily, 4 hrs, MX$208/US$20.80
  • Chiapas: Palenque: 3 daily, 3.5 hrs, MX$150/US$15
  • National: Mexico City: 3 daily, 15-17 hrs, MX$894-906/US$84.90-90.60
  • Services: Restrooms, ticket window, soft drinks and snacks, luggage storage, ATM
  • Additional Information: Don’t take an ADO first class bus to Chetumal if you want to get off at Calakmul or Balamkú; it is express only and won’t stop there.

Second Class Station:

  • Address: Highway 186 (Av. Justo Sierra) and Calle 31 (1500 m east of the 1st class ADO terminal)
  • Lines: Autobuses del Sur (ADS), OCC, TCC, TRC
  • Campeche: Campeche City: many, 2-3 hrs, MX$74-89/US$7.40-8.90). Xpuhil: six daily, 2.5 hrs, MX$78/US$7.80
  • Yucatán: Mérida: many through Campeche City, 4-6 hrs, MX$146-242/US$14.40-24.20
  • Quintana Roo: Chetumal: 4 daily, 4 hrs, MX$154/US$15.40
  • Tabasco: Villahermosa: 3 daily, 5 hrs, MX$174/US$17.40)
  • Chiapas: Palenque: 3 daily, 2.5 to 3.5 hrs, MX$150/US$15
  • Services. Restrooms, ticket window, soft drinks and snacks. No luggage storage
  • Additional Information: To visit Calakmul or Balamkú, take a 2nd class ADS bus going to Xpuhil and ask the driver to stop at the sites.

Shared Vans (Colectivos or combis): Colectivos wait in front the 2nd class station.

Calakmul Biosphere Reserve

  • Tel Code: 983
  • Altitude: 50 – 380 m (165 – 1,247 ft)
  • Population: 0 (23,814 in 27 communities in the municipality)

The only two options for overnight accommodations are Hotel Puerta Calakmul (www.puertacalakmul.com.mx) and a campsite. Other than the hotel’s restaurant, there’s no place to eat.

Getting to and away (regional transportation) Calakmul is not simple to get to and is most easily visited by car or package tour from Campeche City or Xpuhil. The road to the site is located at KM 98 on Highway 186. From the highway, the archeological site lies 64 km down a single-lane road.

By Car:

  • Campeche City: Highways 186, 261, 180. 318 km, 198 mi, 4 hrs
  • Escárcega: Highway 186, 157 km, 98 mi, 2.25 hrs.
  • Xpuhil: Highway 186, 116 km, 72 mi, 2 hrs

By Bus: It is possible to take a 2nd class bus from Escárcega or Xpuhil and ask the driver to stop at the beginning of the road to Calakmul. First class buses will not stop. But, there is no transportation from the highway to the site, and 64 km is a long way to walk.

Calakmul Archeological Zone

Balamkú

  • Location: Highway 186, Km 95. The site is reached by a 3 km paved path.
  • Hrs of Operation: Daily, 8:00 am to 5:00 pm
  • Admission: MX$31/US$3.10
  • Payment: Cash
  • Tel: +52 (555) 150-2073 or +52 (555) 150-2081.
  • Fax: None
  • Email: None
  • Website: Official INAH site – Spanish only http://dti.inah.gob.mx/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=3852&Itemid=329
  • Parking: Free
  • Services: Restrooms, parking, security guards, sale of publications and reproductions, satellite phone

Xpuhil and Around

  • Tel Code: 983
  • Altitude: 255 m (837 ft)
  • Population: 3,222
  • Services: accommodations, restaurants, bus connections, telephone service, internet, stores, medical service, gasoline

Accommodations: Among the accommodations are the ecolodge Rio Bec Dreams (riobecdreams.com) outside town and Hotel Victoria (+52 (983) 871-6027, yamina_marti@hotmail.com) above the bus station.

Restaurants: Restaurants include Mirador Maya (+52 (983) 871-6005) and Chicanná Ecovillage (Chicannáecovillageresort.com).

Tours: Taxi driver Ezequiel Lopez Jimenez takes groups of up to 4 people on two different day trips: to the ruins of Xpuhil, Becán, Chicanná, Calakmul, and Balamkú (MX$1,500/US$150), and to Calakmul only (MX$900/US$90). +52 (983) 102-3474, aventuracalakmul5090@hotmail.com

Getting to and away (regional transportation): Xpuhil is located on Highway 186 at Km 146.

By Car:

  • Campeche City: Highways 186, 261, 180. 302 km (187 mi), 4 hrs
  • Escárcega: Highway 186, 154 km (97 mi), 2 hrs
  • Calakmul: Highway 186, 116 km (72 mi), 2 hrs
  • Chetumal: Highways 186, 307. 120 km (76 mi), 1.5 hrs

By Bus: Campeche City: Direct, 1:50 pm, 4.5 hrs, MX$208/US$21. Escárcega, 8 daily, 2 hrs, MX$78-108/US$7.80-13. Chetumal: 6 daily, MX$66-88/US$6.60-8.80

By Shared Van (Colectivo or combi): Escárcega, MX$70/US$7. Chetumal, MX$70/US$7

Xpuhil Archeological Site

Becán

  • Location: Highway 186, Km 145
  • Hrs of Operation: Daily, 8:00 am to 5:00 pm
  • Admission: MX$41/US$4.10
  • Payment: Cash
  • Tel: +52 (555) 150-2069
  • Fax: None
  • Email: None
  • Website: Official INAH site – Spanish only  http://dti.inah.gob.mx/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=3856&Itemid=329
  • Parking: Free
  • Services: Sale of publications and reproductions, restrooms, parking, security guards, satellite phone

Chicanná


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