The Maya "Palace" Structure at San Gervasio

The Maya

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Cozumel Excursions: Mayan Ruins Cruise

Visit the ancient Mayan ruins of Tulum and experience the significance of the San Gervasio ruins when stopping at the port of Cozumel, a short getaway from Mexico's mainland.

Take a Mayan ruins cruise as part of a Cozumel excursion during your Princess Caribbean cruise. Your short getaway includes a visit to historic San Gervasio.

Surrounded by thick tropical foliage on the island of Cozumel lie ancient Mayan ruins. To the island's northeastern tip you'll find Castillo Real, a 1,200-year-old lookout tower. To the south lies El Cedral, the oldest Mayan structure on the island, and El Caracol, a well-preserved hurricane warning structure. And tucked away in the northern heart of the island is ancient San Gervasio &mdash the island's largest and most accessible archaeological site. To walk among these Mayan ruins on a short getaway cruise to Cozumel is to be transported back to 300 CE and revisit ancient Mayan culture.

San Gervasio and the Temple of Ixchel

San Gervasio's gray, mossy stones retain the shape of the Mayan community that once thrived there. Though Cozumel was economically important as a trading center &mdash its main exports, salt and honey, were considered more valuable than gold &mdash the greater significance of the San Gervasio site was religious. Mayan women, in particular prospective mothers, were expected to make at least one pilgrimage to San Gervasio to the temple of Ixchel, the goddess of fertility. Mayan women braved the dangerous waters to Cozumel, usually by canoe, to pay tribute.

There is mystery surrounding Ixchel. Different sources list her also as the goddess of the moon, as well as of rainbows, midwifery, childbirth, medicine, and weaving. Ancient images depicting the goddess differ as well: Some appear as that of an old woman with claws on her hands and feet, possibly tied to the Mayan name of the island, Ah-Cuzamil-Peten, which means "land of the swallows." In other images, Ixchel is a young woman with a rabbit, also a Mayan symbol of fertility and whose shape the Maya saw in the dark of the moon. Her complexity adds to the mystique of her temple at San Gervasio.

Cozumel After the Maya

The Mayan society in Cozumel flourished until the 1500s, when Spanish explorers discovered the island and warred with the Mayan people, distorting them with massacres and diseases. After that, the history of the island grew more diverse: It became a pirate hideout in the 17th and 18th centuries it boomed during the 20th-century gum craze (the result of the island's sapodilla trees, producers of chicle, a chewy substance) and, in the 1960s, a television documentary by Jacques Cousteau made the island prime for snorkelers and scuba divers.

You won't need a canoe to experience a Cozumel excursion. On a Western Caribbean getaway cruise, guides will take visitors into the heart of San Gervasio and the Mayan ruins. Step back in time and discover the mysteries of the Mayans &mdashyou're guaranteed to come back with new perspective.

The Maya Palace Structure at San Gervasio - History

temple of the heron/falcon steve mellard

​MUYIL Quintan Roo (Yucatan), Mexico

Muyil, also known as Chunyaxche, is a medium size site that was most active from the Early Classic (300-600 A.D.) through the Post Classic (900-1100 A.D.). It is located on the edge of a lagoon in the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Preserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, along the eastern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. It was a major maritime trading port with close ties to the large nearby site of Coba. It contains three main structural groups. Canals dug by the ancient Maya exist in the area and are available to tour with private tourist companies.

The site has few visitors which makes for a very peaceful visit. Many of the structures are unrestored or unexcavated. Those that have been excavated and consolidated are impressive with the main pyramid being over 50 feet/15 meters in height.

A straight walk through the site will lead to the edge of a picturesque lagoon. This trail through the sub-tropical rainforest also passes by a modern rickety observation tower that offers a nice view of the area. Unfortunately, what was once free and open, now has a ticket booth.

Muyil is located on coastal Highway 307 south from Cancun, below the town of Tulum. Though the site has recently been "upgraded", and has lost its charm, it is still worth a visit.

ENTRANCE FEE: U.S. $3.50/50 Pesos
SERVICES: Bathrooms
ACCOMMODATIONS: None, but Tulum is close by, and a daytrip from Cancun
GPS: 20d 04' 44" N, 87d 36' 48" W

The earliest settlement activity dates back to the Pre Classic (300 B.C.-200 A.D.) as attested to by recovered pottery shards. Permanent structures began to be erected during the Classic (200-900 A.D) and architecturally have similarities to those found farther to the south at Tikal. A further spurt of construction took place in the Post Classic (1100-1450 A.D).

The first archaeological surveys were not performed until the 1920’s. In the 1960’s a Frenchman, Michel Peissel explored the mostly uninhabited Yucatan coast and visited Muyil and other sites such as Xel Ha, Tancah and Tupak. His book, The Lost World of Quintana Roo, is a fascinating read.

There are many structures here that remain to be excavated. This is evident when seeing the complex known as the Entrance Group. One structure here, Structure 6 has been partially excavated and consolidated. It contains an outer portico with a number of columns. Inside a chamber are remains of a painted decoration.

The Castillo is a very impressive five tiered pyramid that is crowned by a small temple. It is the highest structure at the site at 59 feet/15 meters. The architectural style is reminiscent of Tikal in the Peten region of Guatemala. Beneath the final construction phase two structures have been revealed. One is the Temple of the Herons, so named for the stucco decoration adorning the walls. The other is known as The Temple of the Falcon. A sacbe (raised white stone road) leads from the Castillo to the lagoon.

To the northwest of the Castillo are two small complexes that contain a number of structures. The most notably of these is Temple 8, The Pink Palace. This is a four tiered structure with a stairway and a small platform located in front. At the top is a small 2 chamber temple with an altar in the rear chamber. This structure has two different construction phases superimposed over one another as was a common Maya building practice.

There is an area of Muyil known as Group B which is currently closed to visitors. A possible wall mural was recently identified in one of the structures.

There is another structure only accessible by boat located on a small island in the lagoon and named Xlapak (Old Stone Wall).​

The Maya Palace Structure at San Gervasio - History

​​​​ ​welcome to the mayan ruins website .

entry arch to ah dzib group steve mellard

ah dzib group steve mellard

palace of the devil steve mellard

structure ma1/main pyramid steve mellard

tzat tun tzat/labyrinth adamcastforth

structure ca-4 ah canul group dan himes

overview/site plan google earth

OXKINTOK-Yucatan, Mexico

Oxkintok, “Three Sun Stone”, is a seldom visited site located in the western region of the Yucatan at the edge of the Puuc Hills. Most of the standing structures date from the Classic Period (200-900 A.D.).The site core consists of four main complexes. There are numerous pyramids, palaces, temples, courtyards, and at least two entry arches. Numerous tombs have been unearthed here containing beautiful funerary objects.

While the core center of Oxkintok is easily visited, the site itself encompasses a few square miles. There are mounds scattered all along the dirt road that runs to the site. It is a very rough road and might be a bit of a challenge during the rainy season.

It is reached off Highway 180 south of Merida near the town of Maxcanu. It can also be accessed from Calcehtok, where the well known caves are located. On the road from Maxcanu look for the rusted sign that reads “Actun Usil”. This is a small cave of special interest off the south side of the road and up a small hill. It has rare painted glyphic writing on the ceiling. Well worth a look. Bring flashlights.

HOURS: $8 A.M.-5P.M
ENTRANCE FEE: $3.00/55 Pesos
GUIDES: Inquire at visitor kiosk, or in the town of Calcehtok at the first small grocery store on the left
SERVICES: Restrooms only. Pick up beverages at Maxcanu or Calcehtok
ACCOMMODATIONS: Small hotels found at Maxcanu, Calcehtok or Muna. Day trip from Merida
GPS: 20d 33' 31" N, 89d 57' 05" W

Early settlement patterns and ceramic shards have been identified that reach at least back to the Late Pre-Classic Period (100 B.C.-200 A.D.) and perhaps even earlier. The earliest carved date identified is from 475 A.D. The site spans different architectural styles indicating that is was continually enlarged over a long time frame. It reached its prominence during the Middle to Late Classic Period (650-900 A.D.). The site was abandoned by the end of the Late Terminal Classic (1200-1450 A.D.).

The first thorough report on the site was done by those intrepid explorers John Lloyd Stevens and Frederick Catherwood in the 1840’s. Excavations and restoration continues today.

There are four main groups that make up the core area of the site. One enters the site from the north. Directly to the east is a very pleasing and well preserved entry arch. This leads to a small complex of low structures.

Following the path to the southeast is the best known structure called the Labyrinth or Tzat Tun Tzat. It is a bit isolated. This structure was reported in Stephens book, Incidents of Travel in Yucatan, where it was first thought to have been a cave as it was completely covered with earth and vegetation. It is an unremarkable, yet pleasant structure. Inside are a number of passages that weave a maze through different levels, and was most likely used for ritual purposes. It is unfortunately now closed to the public and used as a storage area. This single structure makes up the Satunsat Group.

There is a small structure located close by that has lovely decorative stone work in a pure Puuc style. It is reported that this is the oldest building at the site.

To the southeast the path leads to the main pyramid that faces onto the South Plaza. A temple structure crowns the summit. In front is a very nice sculpture that contains a Kin sign (Sun in Yucatek Maya). From the top of the pyramid one can get a great perspective of the site.

On the northwest side of the South Plaza is the Dzib Group, which contains several structures including the ball court.

To the east, adjacent to the pyramid, is a long multi-roomed palace built atop a raised platform. A large temple faces the east side of the plaza. Recent excavations unearthed a buried cache in front of this temple. This area is known as the Ah Canul Group.

Behind the plaza farther to the east is another complex built around a courtyard. The most eastern building has some very unusual sculpted statues standing in front of a columned palace. On the north side of the plaza is a palace structure with a chultun (cistern) located in front of it.

Passing through this complex leads to a large enclosed plaza with a well preserved arch in the east wall. There is a palace structure along the north side of the plaza.

To the south of the South Plaza is the May Group. This consists of a “C” shaped courtyard with a central pyramidal structure bracketed by low platforms containing smaller structures. There are numerous other structures throughout the site in various stages of preservation.

This is a site that is slowly opening up with ongoing excavation and restoration work. It is hoped that the recent addition of restrooms will help bring more attention and increased visitor traffic.​


TripSavvy / Christopher Larson

This site, whose name means "Mayan Flag," was part of a triple alliance with Chichen Itza and Uxmal, but reached its peak after the fall of Chichen Itza, between 1250 and 1450. It is considered the last great Maya stronghold. The archaeological zone covers two and a half square miles and that area contains vestiges of nearly 4000 structures, mostly residential buildings. Several of the constructions contain mural paintings. Mayapan has a Castillo which is a replica of the one in Chichen Itza.
Location: 27 miles (43 km) south east of Merida

Kulubá: Dig uncovers large Mayan palace in Mexico

Remains of a building six metres (20ft) high, 55m long and 15m wide were found at a dig on the site of the ancient city of Kulubá in Yucatán state.

It is thought the structure was used over two periods of Mayan history as far back as AD 600.

The Mayan civilisation flourished before Spain conquered the region.

In their time, the Mayans ruled large stretches of territory in what is now southern Mexico, Guatemala, Belize and Honduras.

The palace was possibly in use during two periods of Mayan history, the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) said: the Late Classic (600-900 AD) and the Terminal Classic (850-1050 AD).

As well as the former palace, archaeologists are exploring four structures in Kulubá's central square: an altar, remnants of two residential buildings and a round structure thought to be an oven.

"This work is the beginning, we've barely began uncovering one of the most voluminous structures on the site," archaeologist Alfredo Barrera was quoted as saying by Reuters news agency.

Because of concerns about damage from wind and sun to the exposed site, near the popular Caribbean resort of Cancún, conservationists are considering reforesting parts of Kulubá.

Mayan Ruins Mexico

When travelers start researching Mayan ruins Mexico, they are often surprised by the large number of choices for archaeological sites. Ancient Mayan ruins extend far behind Chichen Itza, and for the adventurous traveler there are some off the beaten path options that will lead you deep into the Mexican jungle. Many of the Mayan ruins in the Yucatan were only discovered in the twentieth century, some by foot, while others were discovered by air. Towering mounds were discovered by archaeologists while flying over the jungle, and when they were explored, a wealth of artifacts was found. From art to architecture, these sites will display clues as to how the ancient Mayans lived.

One of the most popular Mayan ruins tours is at Tulum, located along the Caribbean Sea. This walled city is located at the top of sea cliffs and is one of the best-preserved coastal sites in Mexico. For travelers who want to experience some history during a beach vacation, but not go too far from their resort, Tulum is a great option. If you&rsquore feeling adventurous, another archaeological site is only 27 miles away, and connected by a modern road. Hop in your rental car and head for Coba, a Mayan site with an impressive pyramid. This expansive site wasn&rsquot explored until the 1920s, but since a road opened in the 1970s and 80s, the site has grown in popularity with tourists.

Tulum, Coba, and Chichen Itza are the three most popular Mayan ruins in Cancun. From this beach paradise, it is easy to explore any of these three sites. Organized tours are available, or independent travelers may choose to rent a car for the day to explore at their own pace. Another Mayan ruins Mexico in the area that is popular is San Gervasio, the Mayan ruins on the island of Cozumel. Whether you are staying on the island or making a day trip from the mainland, the religious site of San Gervasio is well worth visiting. The lush landscape and wildlife are enough of a reason to visit, and the ancient Mayan ruins are spectacular, too.

Mexico Map

Some travelers might be looking for self-guided Mayan ruins tours. Leave some of the more popular Mayan attractions behind for the sites that are deeper in the jungle and less frequented. The Yaxchilan ruins require a boat to reach, but when you walk up the ramp, through the jungle, and into the main plaza you are rewarded with spectacular views. Another ancient Mayan ruins site where you can avoid the crowds is Kohunlich. Known for the Temple of the Masks, this site has eight-foot stone carvings that impress even the seasoned traveler.

Another rarely visited Mayan ruins Mexico is Ek Balam. The further ruins are away from the sea, the less crowds they experience on a day to day basis. Ek Balam translates as &ldquoblack jaguar,&rdquo and this archaeological site contains an impressive tomb with a doorway that is the shape of a jaguar&rsquos mouth. Other Mayan ruins tours include the great pyramids of Comalcalco and Calakmul. The largest Mayan archeological site ever uncovered, Calakmul is deep in the jungles near the Guatemala border. A variety of murals and stone carvings make this archaeological site special. Whether you explore the spectacular site of Chichen Itza or venture off the beaten path for a tour of one of the lesser-known ruins deep in the jungle, the intelligence and artistry of this ancient culture is sure to impress.

Cozumel Island, Mexico

If you want to get to the island you have to choose between traveling either by air or by water. There is an international airport which receives direct flights from several cities in the United States of America and Mexico such as Chicago, Houston, Atlanta, Dallas, Denver, Halifax, Charlotte, Miami, Toronto, Minneapolis and Mexico City. You can also fly into Cancun then travel by road to Playa del Carmen and take the ferry across to Cozumel. Tourists traveling by water can take either a ferry from Mexico’s mainland or come by cruise ship as many cruise ships make a stopover at the island. There are many well furnished and high-quality service hotels, hostels, beach resorts lodges and villas on the island. Some of the most notable accommodation facilities you might consider paying a visit includes Hotel Las Anclas, Beach house Hostel Cozumel and El Cid La Ceiba Beach Hotel. Another notable tourist attraction on the island is the San Gervasio Mayan Ruins which once served as a religious center that was a shrine to the goddess Ixchel. The San Gervasio Mayan Ruins are located 11 miles from San Miguel de Cozumel. Visitors to the shrine can see fragments of the temple and sculptures on the ancient Mayan archaeological site, as well as the ruins of nine buildings connected by three roads. There is also a bookshop selling guide books, maps, and snacks to visitors. If you love to have fun on the water visit Punta Sur Ecological Park which offers boat trips through the lagoons and snorkeling excursions. You could also visit the Punta Sur Light House, a historic lighthouse open to the public. You could climb up to the top of the lighthouse to enjoy panoramic views of the beach, dunes and lagoons. Then take a tour through the maritime museum on-site to see artifacts and original photographs of the area. Another way of enhancing your holiday enjoyment on the Cozumel island is to explore the nature reserve at the Faro Celarain Eco Park. Nearby there is a museum worth visiting to learn more about the ecosystem of the island of Cozumel.

“Rituals we can only imagine”

The initial construction of the platform is believed to have began around 1,000 B.C. based on radiocarbon dating of charcoal inside the complex.

But the absence of any known earlier buildings at Aguada Fénix suggests that at least up until that period, the people living in the region—likely the precursors of the Classic Maya—moved between temporary camps to hunt and gather food. That has researchers speculating over how and why they suddenly decided to build such a massive, permanent structure.

Inomata estimates that the total volume of the platform and the buildings on top is at least 130 million cubic feet, meaning it is bigger even than the largest Egyptian pyramid. He also calculated that it would have taken 5,000 people more than six years of full-time work to build.

“We think this was a ceremonial center,” Inomata says. “[It’s] a place of gathering, possibly involving processions and other rituals we can only imagine.”

No residential buildings have been found on or around the structure, so it is unclear how many people may have lived nearby. But the large size of the platform leads Inomata to think that the builders of Aguada Fénix gradually were leaving their hunter-gatherer lifestyle behind, likely aided by the cultivation of corn—evidence of which also has been found at the site.

“The sheer size is astonishing,” says Jon Lohse, an archaeologist with Terracon Consultants Inc. who studies the early history of the area and was not involved in the report. He does not think, however, that the structure itself is evidence of a settled lifestyle. “Monumental constructions by pre-sedentary people are not uncommon globally.”

What it does unmistakably show, Lohse adds, is an advanced ability for people to collaborate, probably in the strongly egalitarian fashion that he believes was typical of early societies in the Maya region. Inomata agrees, and thinks the platform was built by a community without a strong social hierarchy.

As potential evidence, Inomata points to the even older ceremonial site of San Lorenzo, 240 miles to the west in a region that was settled at the time by the Olmec people. Built at least 400 years earlier than Aguada Fénix, San Lorenzo features an artificial terraced hill that may have had a similar function. But it also has colossal human statues that may indicate that some people held higher status in society than others.

It may seem likely that the people who built Aguada Fénix were inspired by San Lorenzo, but archaeologist Ann Cyphers of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, who has worked at San Lorenzo, considers the sites “quite distinct,” adding that the pottery found there is also very different from that found at Aguada Fénix.

From traditional Mayan dishes to mouth-watering Mexican snacks, there is no shortage of delicious restaurants in Valladolid. Although you can’t go wrong with a local restaurant in Valladolid, we have a few favorite places we recommend you try during your visit.

Hosteria del Marques

For the most mouth-watering Mexican dishes, head to Hosteria del Marques, located in the middle of the city. Every time we visit Valladolid this is where we eat lunch! Don’t miss the tableside guacamole! Although you can’t go wrong with your order, we recommend the guacamole. Ripe avocados are brought directly to your table and mixed with fresh herbs and seasoning to produce the best guacamole you’ll have during your trip.

El Manati Bacalar

The lush, outdoor setting of El Manati Bacalar is the ideal location for breakfast or lunch during your stay in the Yucatan. Located on Calle 22, El Manati Bacalar boasts a wide range of Mexican and international dishes. Not only is the menu extensive, but the ingredients are fresh and locally sourced.

If you come for breakfast, you must order the pancakes. We also recommend washing them down with El Manati Bacalar’s famous coffee. The lunch menu also includes a variety of fresh sandwiches, burgers, and salads. Just don’t forget to leave room for dessert!

El Sazon De Valladolid

For an affordable yet filling meal, head to El Sazon De Valladolid on Colonia Bacalar. Not far from the center of the city, this no-frills establishment serves some of the tastiest Mexican dishes in Valladolid. Start with the traditional Zupa de lima, then move on to the chicken fajitas, papadzules, or enchiladas suizas.

The meat is freshly grilled, and the guacamole is made to order. Best of all, you don’t have to break the bank in order to enjoy a world-class meal in Valladolid.

IX CAT IK Mayan Cuisine

If you’re interested in traditional Mayan cuisine, then IX CAT IK Mayan Cuisine is guaranteed to please your taste buds. With classic dishes like pork pipil, Xibalba shrimp, and banana-leaf fish, you’ll have the opportunity to taste cuisine from the surrounding region.

The fresh tortillas are made in plain sight, and the welcome drink and dips are an added bonus. However, we love that they also brew their own artisanal beer. The service is just as fantastic as the food, which adds to the warm and cozy atmosphere.

At IX CAT IK Mayan Cuisine, you can expect a unique dining experience that you won’t be able to find anywhere else on the planet.

Tucked away from the masses of crowds and tourists, Valladolid is a beautiful city that should be added to your Mexico itinerary. Between the charming city center and the diverse landscapes, you’ll see why Valladolid is a favorite destination for many visitors and travelers.

No matter what you’re interested in seeing, there are plenty of activities and attractions to keep you entertained during your visit. History buffs will love exploring the ancient ruins of pre-Columbian Mayan culture, which is prominent throughout the Yucatan Peninsula. And culture lovers will enjoy being immersed in traditional life, whether it’s shopping at a local market or dining on delicious cuisine.

For adventure enthusiasts, Valladolid is teeming with outdoor activities. Not to mention the annual temperature hovers around 85°, which makes Valladolid the ideal place to soak up the sun.

If you’re looking to experience an authentic side of Mexico, look no further than Valladolid. We know that once you visit once, you’ll be eager to return for years to come!

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