Yaxchilan ruins in Lacandon jungle
Once we explored Bonampak ruins, we continued 21 km to Yaxchilan, another Maya archaeological site in the jungle with the meaning of green stones in Maya. To get to Yaxchilan you take a boat (called lancha in Mexican Spanish) at the village Frontera Corozal for around 50 minutes. The river is called Usumacinta and separates Mexico from Guatemala. There are boats to get you to Guatemala as well if you want but you have to go to speak with the frontier officers first to check out your visa.
Anyway, the river gets smaller during the dry season, which was when I visited (but the photo is during the rainy season). It is quite clean, not transparent though. On the Mexican side of the river, we passed some cows; on the Guatemalan side children swimming and playing. I found myself thinking about the difference between Mexico and Guatemala, visible already here by different sides of the river. There are even some beaches with lovely white sand if you want to swim and get some tan then. But I saw them only at the Mexican side of the river.
Once we reached the steps to Yaxchilan, got out from the boat and all of a sudden I felt the horrible heat. Up the stairs, above the Usumacinta river the archeological site of Yaxchilan starts. It is in the pure tropical rain forest full of big ants, huge trees, lianas, lizards, birds and many other animals. Yes, Lacandon jungle is a real jungle! After couple of minutes of walking through the forest, ruins appeared in front of me. I mean just 2 buildings, so I was asking myself ‘that’s it?’
The building on the right has more entrances and it is completely dark inside, so batmen live there. Careful when you walk as they fly really low. If you are scared of dark, take a torch with you. With or without a torch, it is going to take you a while to get out of the building through one of the halls. No wonder the building has always been called a labyrinth. It was the first time I saw this kind of building in the ruins of native Indians and I really enjoyed it. It was fun!
You get out at the other side of the labyrinth and you stay shocked. Trust me! And I had visited another 10 archaeological sites in Mexico before and I was still amazed. You will be able to see a huge square with many ruins. Wow, I fell in love with the place after 2 seconds. So no, Yaxchilan ruins are not just 2 buildings like I first thought!
Yaxchilan ruins are very different from all the other ruins in Mexico. Its location inside the tropical rain forest with many trees at the square and around the ruins makes it unique. The ruins are literally settled in between the trees. Just one ruined building is quite tall. All the rest are pretty low, like normal houses which differentiate it from the high pyramids of Teotihuacan, the famous pyramids of Chichén Itzá or the largest pyramid of the world in Cholula.
Yaxchilan ruins are named structures and are designated by numbers, e.g. structure 33 (which is the most famous one). The archaeological site is famous for its excellent sculptures, stelae and limestone lintels, all of them with numbers, no names, too. Many of the lintels and stelae are now in the British Museum in London and National Museum of the Anthropology in Mexico City. Yaxchilan used to dominate Bonampak and fight against its rivals Palenque and Piedras Negras.
Suddenly you will go back in the past and feel the mystery. For some reason I love all the ancient buildings falling apart, ruins and all that stuff. Honestly, I stayed with my mouth open.
I imagined how the Mayas lived here, how they played ball game – juego de pelota here and played with the monkeys. At that moment, a horrible noise started to come from the trees.
I went where it was coming from, and saw many black animals on the trees. They were howler monkeys. Many people took pictures of them zooming, but once I stayed there alone, I came closer to the trees and the monkeys stopped howling and went more and more down until they were just 1 m from me. Still on the trees though. I did not know if to start running or stay still as there was no one else close and the noise the monkeys made before was seriously scary. I did not know what to expect from them as I heard there live two kinds of monkeys, one are calm but the other ones really messy, a bit dangerous and aggressive.
But my sixth sense was telling me to stay. So I waited for the reaction. Then slowly the monkeys got used to me and after half an hour some of them came very close, were kind of smiling at me, posing into my camera and touching my hand like babies do when you give them your fingers. It was a moment I will never forget.
Of course I had seen and touched monkeys before, but never in the real nature, never in the tropical rain forest and never just by myself. Not knowing what to expect from them was the amount of adrenaline I needed for the day. Then some people came and a guide gave me his bottle of water to give to the monkeys so I came closer again and two monkeys sank the fingers into the bottle and then drank the drops. After they were jumping all around the trees and the little ones playing. Such a happy moment for both them and me. I was almost crying from happiness. 2 in 1 – animals and ruins! Such a shame I lost all the videos I took there in Playa del Carmen with my laptop stolen 🙁
Then I climbed up one more ruins, took pictures of the stelae and all sweating in the extremely humid 35 degrees walked back to the river to get the boat. Then lunch in a restaurant and they drove us to the Lacandon jungle. This is where the story of the second day begins.
My trip to the Yaxchilan ruins in Lacandon jungle was a press trip organized by NICHIM TOURS. Check out their second website Chiapas tours y expediciones to experience the jungle and the ruins in Chiapas. Many thanks to them, I really enjoyed the unique experience. However, all the opinions in the post are honest and just mine.