• INAH - CINAH Campeche / Archivo
    INAH - CINAH Campeche / Archivo
  • INAH - DMC / Alejandro Navarrete
    INAH - DMC / Alejandro Navarrete
  • INAH - DMC / Alejandro Navarrete
    INAH - DMC / Alejandro Navarrete
  • INAH - DMC / Alejandro Navarrete
    INAH - DMC / Alejandro Navarrete
  • INAH - DMC /  Julio Bronimann
    INAH - DMC / Julio Bronimann
Two adjacent hills
One of the largest cities in the Maya region, Calakmul is dotted by 120 stelae amid the monumental structures and pyramids. It is located in the second-largest natural reserve in the Americas, and was listed as a UNESCO Mixed World Heritage site in 2014.
World heritage since 2002

About the site

Inhabited since the very distant past, from around 2000 BC, Calakmul developed into the most important city of the Mayan lowlands between the years 250 BC and 700 AD. No other Maya city located in the territory of modern-day Mexico had such great significance. It challenged and defeated Tikal, the principal city of the vast region covering the southern Yucatan peninsula and northern Guatemala, before eventually being defeated by the same rival early in the eighth century AD. After a long period of decline, Calakmul was abandoned and the jungle engulfed its plazas and wrapped itself around the city’s palaces, altars and temples. The inhabitants dispersed and formed new towns, or joined other settlements.

The archeological site of Calakmul covers an area of 27 square miles and contains more than 6,000 structures. At its peak, it ruled over a territory measuring 5,000 square miles. In the early sixteenth century, a Spanish conquistador and explorer, Alonso de Ávila, discovered the ruins of Calakmul and other Maya sites of the Classic period in the area known today as Campeche: he found them abandoned and overrun by dense tropical vegetation. He also observed that the local indigenous people would occasionally visit some parts of the city for ritual purposes.

Five centuries later, the biologist Cyrus Lundell rediscovered the site in 1931 and passed on information the following year to the famous US researcher, Sylvanus G. Morley, who visited it with a particular interest in the glyphs on the stelae. Another 50 years would pass before a team of archeologists from the Autonomous University of Campeche and the INAH finally started excavations and began to reveal the site’s remarkable history.

In the sixth century AD, the territory of the ancient Maya consisted of some 60 provinces. A handful of these groups were eager to rule over a majority: Tikal achieved this control through the use of force; Calakmul also subjugated other communities, initially through diplomacy, trade, and dynastic alliances, and ultimately also through the use of weapons. Epic clashes took place between both of these powerful city-states: Calakmul was initially victorious—and became capital of Cuchcabal or the “Kingdom of the Serpent’s Head”—in 562 AD. Tikal later regrouped, formed new alliances, and defeated its enemy in 695. This led to Calakmul’s decline and ultimately its demise. The latest date found on a stela at the site gives the year 909. However, other Maya settlements of the Classic period did not survive either; some were eclipsed in the ninth century or disappeared over the course of the following century. This was the period when Maya civilization is understood to have collapsed.

The success in deciphering the Maya hieroglyphs, which owes so much to the groundbreaking work of the Russian scholar Yuri V. Knorosov (1922-1999), made it possible to reconstruct parts of this history. Calakmul is the Maya city with the largest number of stelae, with 120 in total; these recount the lives and deeds of kings, queens, princes and captains. Other allied or enemy cities confirm, or further specify, this information on their own stelae. The names and partial history of 18 kings of Calakmul have thus been revealed, such as the “Coiled Serpent” (Uneh Chan, 579-611 AD), “Yuknom the Great” (636-686 AD) and “Jaguar Claw” (Yich’ak K’aak’, 686-698 AD). We also now know that Calakmul had an emblem-glyph to indicate the extent of its territory (a serpent’s head) and two toponyms to refer to the center of the city: Ox Te Tun (“three stones”, in possible allusion to a mythical primordial fire), and Chiik Naab (“house of the water lily”).

The archeological site of Calakmul contains five large complexes linked to the Grand Central Plaza, and these are interconnected by ancient roads known as “sacbes." The monumental Structure II is located on the south side of the Plaza—this is the second-highest Maya pyramid (at 180 feet high), after the one in Toniná, Chiapas. On the north side is Structure VII, with Structures III, IV and VI to the east, each one impressive and built to last in the Petén style. Some of the stelae date from the early period (400 BC) and others correspond to the period when the city flourished. They are veritable jewels of Maya art and contain a diversity of texts and accounts of the society that created them.

The Calakmul Biosphere Reserve was established in 1989. In 1993, it was registered as part of the UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme. In 2002, Calakmul was listed as a World Heritage Site by the same organization, and this designation was broadened in 2014 to become a Mixed Natural and Cultural Heritage Site.

INAH-FN/Fondo Felipe Teixidor/N. Inv. 428418
250 a.C. - 1000

Preclásico Tardío a Posclásico Temprano
250 a.C-700

Clásico Tardío a Clásico Temprano

Did you know...
  • This ancient Maya city is located in the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve, the second largest in the Americas.
  • The Calakmul Natural History and Archeology Museum, located at km 20 along the road that traverses the jungle to the archeological site, gives a complete overview of the area’s prehistory, natural diversity and archeological finds.
An expert point of view
Flora and fauna were essential in the everyday life of the Maya of Calakmul.
Antonio Benavides Castillo
Antonio Benavides Castillo
Centro INAH Campeche
Archeological site
Practical information
Monday to Sunday from 06:00 to 11:30 hrs. Mandatory departure time from the archaeological site 13:00 hrs.

$95.00 pesos

Los horarios de acceso al camino son:

-En el kilómetro cero: 05:00 a 10:00 hr

-En el km 20 de las 05:30 a 10:30 hr

-CERRADO lunes 1, 8, 15 y 29 de julio de 2024.

  • Extra fee for video cameras
  • Extra fee for professional cameras
  • Sundays free for Mexican citizens
  • Free entrance for Mexicans under 13 years old
  • Free entrance for Mexican students and teachers
  • Free entry for seniors
  • pensioners and retirees with ID
Está enclavada en el Petén Campechano dentro de la Reserva de la Biosfera de Calakmul.

From the city of Chetumal, take Federal Highway 186 to Escárcega and Villahermosa, at km 95 passing the Conhuás ejido, turn south and after 60 km you will reach the site.

From the city of Campeche take Federal Highway 186 towards Escarcega-Chetumal and at the Colhuas ejido take the turn off to the site.

Approximate time to arrive at the archaeological zone from the road: 1 hour and a half

  • Centro de atención al visitante
  • Estacionamiento
  • Sanitarios
  • Tienda
  • Wifi
  • +52 (981) 816 8179
  • This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Encargada de Operación de Zonas Arqueológicas del Centro INAH Campeche
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
+52 (981) 816 9111, exts. 138016 y 138017
Calakmul, Campeche
INAH - CINAH Campeche / Archivo
Calakmul, Campeche
INAH - DMC / Alejandro Navarrete
Calakmul, Campeche
INAH - DMC / Alejandro Navarrete
Calakmul, Campeche
INAH - DMC / Alejandro Navarrete
Calakmul, Campeche
INAH - DMC / Julio Bronimann
Calakmul, Campeche
Calakmul, Campeche
Es una de las mayores ciudades del mundo maya; en ella se han encontrado más de 120 estelas diseminadas entre estructuras y pirámides de grandes dimensiones. Se levanta en la segunda reserva natural más grande de América, que fue inscrita por la UNESCO como Patrimonio Mixto de la Humanidad en 2014.
One of the largest cities in the Maya region, Calakmul is dotted by 120 stelae amid the monumental structures and pyramids. It is located in the second-largest natural reserve in the Americas, and was listed as a UNESCO Mixed World Heritage site in 2014.
Dos montículos adyacentes
Two adjacent hills


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