Dzibilchaltún Mayan ruins near Merida

Dzibilchaltún (Ts’íibil Cháaltun) – (I borrowed that from Wikipedia), I still don’t know how to pronounce it properly.  Translated from the Mayan Dzibilchaltún is the “place where there is writing on the stones”, this place has been continuously inhabited for thousands of years and is located only 22 miles from the gulf coast, 15 minutes from Merida.

Dzibilchaltun a Cenote and Mayan Site in Merida Mexico

Archaeologists have studied nearly 35 sq km of the city, and the area that has been mapped includes over 8,000 structures, though most cannot be seen due to the growth of trees and vegetation.  It was once a wealthy port and centre of Mayan coastal trade and had a peak population of about 20,000, although it declined with the rise of Chichen Itza. Restoration still continues here.

There is a really interesting museum on the site of Dzibilchaltún called the El Museo del Pueblo Maya.  The museum has very close ties to the Mayan community who actively participate in celebrating the Day of the Dead (Hanal Pixan) and Christmas displays.  At the museum you can see around 700 archaeological items including the burial of Kalom Úk’uw Chan Chaak who was the last governor of Chíy Chan Ti’Ho (the pre-hispanic name of Merida), you will also see the offering to the dead of the seven dolls.

Dzibilchaltun a Cenote and Mayan Site in Merida Mexico
Dzibilchaltun a Cenote and Mayan Site in Merida Mexico
Dzibilchaltun a Cenote and Mayan Site in Merida Mexico

Equinox at Dzibilchaltún


Dzibilchaltún is the stage for an archaeoastronomical event involving the alignment of the rising Sun with the eastern gateway of the Temple of the Seven Dolls. In 1982 Victor Segovia Pinto discovered that the sun is precisely framed by the gateway for a few minutes when seen from the west side of the temple.

the temple at Dzibilchaltún

Watching the equinox at Mayan ruins is a way of taking part in this rich history. Built centuries ago, parts of these ruins were purpose-built to track the stars. There are two main places in Yucatan to witness this unique event and they are Chichen Itza and Dzibilchaltún.

The equinox celebrations at Dzibilchaltún take place in March the day is dependent on the year. On this day, the first day of spring, the sun appears through the central window of the House of the Seven Dolls, the main building within this ancient complex.

Dzibilchaltun a Cenote and Mayan Site in Merida Mexico

Visiting Dzibilchaltún

Uxmal is another Mayan Heritage site that some say is better than Chichen Itza

Dzibilchaltun a Cenote and Mayan Site in Merida Mexico

Franciscan Chapel

Dzibilchaltun was once the centre of Mayan trade and a wealthy town with an estimated population of around 200,000. As Chichen Itza rose in wealth and power Dizbilchaltun lost much of its wealth and the people moved to the Caribbean side. Once the Spanish arrived on the shores of the gulf they continued to build Merida into a wealthy Spanish city and even built a Franciscan Chapel in the heart of these Mayan ruins.

Dzibilchaltun a Cenote and Mayan Site in Merida Mexico

Restoration continues at Dzibilchaltunand around 8,000 structures have been identified but most are not excavated.

Temple of the Seven Dolls

The Temple of the Seven Dolls was named as a result of the discovery of seven pottery figurines in the central building.) The sun is framed in the doorway of the temple every year, on the 21st of March and 22nd of September – the spring and fall equinoxes.

Dzibilchaltun a Cenote and Mayan Site in Merida Mexico

Xlakah Cenote

There is also a beautiful cenote at Dzibilchaltún called Xlakah which is open to the public and you can swim in while little tiny black fish nibble your feet.  One end of the cenote is very shallow but the deep end runs over 140 feet down and continues onto a tunnel.

Dzibilchaltun a Cenote and Mayan Site in Merida Mexico

The Dzibilchaltún ruins are located between Merida and Progreso and tours are available from those two cities. A taxi ride costs about US$10, and the #3 bus from Merida will take you to the road that leads to the site. 

Take a look at the En-Yucatan site here for some fantastic tour opportunities in the Yucatan. Or go with my personal favourite and highly recommended Yucatan Cenote, Progreso Shore Excursions their website is fantastic and you can find it here or check out their Facebook Page here.  They will create tours specifically designed for you. Ruth and Chris will create a trip just for you from:
– Private Adventures for (Couples/Family/Group)
– Scuba Tours (Cenote)
– Geocaching Adventures
– A couple, Group, and young Family Adventures

1 thought on “Dzibilchaltun a Cenote and Mayan Site in Merida Mexico”

  1. Many years ago, I met Victor Segovia Pinto. He was a brilliant scientist. I was with a student group consisting of mostly obese, ignorant Americans. Victor was half Mayan, and I was fascinated with the Mayan civilization. We had assigned reading regarding Mayan ruins and civilization. Victor invited me to ride in his jeep while the fat Gringos were in a crowded bus, following behind. He had found some jade artifacts in the area. and agreed with me that there may have been some Chinese influence . The rest of the group asked my why Victor invited me to ride in his jeep. I replied “MAYBE BECAUSE I DID MY HOMEWORK. Victor had previously excavated the Cenote’ at Chichen Itza and found dozens of skeletons of children sacrificed to the Rain God, Chaq. First he had to remove tons of stones thrown in by tourists.
    When I was in my hotel, I asked the locals What is the worst curse in the local dialect. I was told that there is a word that describes 1. What your mother does for a living. 2. YOU are her best customer. The word was something like “PELLENA. Soon after, at the cenote’, there was Mexican tour group nearby. suddenly a large rock slammed into the cenote’ with a huge splash. Victor was furious that his sign “PLEASE DO NOT THROW ROCKS INTO THE CENOTE'” HAD BEEN IGNORED. He screamed out a torrent of apparent curses in a mixture of Spanish and Mayan, the last word, accompanied with a shaken fist was “PELLENA!” I broke out into peals of laughter.. Victor looked at me with a very shocked smile. I said “I Know what you just said” He said”You might as well tell the others what I said because you will tell them anyway. Of course I did just that. I am sorry the wonderful Victor Segovia Pinto is no longer with us.

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