Saturday, July 05, 2008

Yucatan summer redux: Mostly Mayan (part 3)

After the islands and going west across the peninsula, Dan and I made our way back east along the Ruta Puuc, the hilly region of the Yucatan. I saw several roadrunners scurry across the road! We stayed at a delightful B&B in Santa Elena, a small village with a big church.

Fountain in Santa Elena town square
Fountain in the village square

From there we visited Uxmal, probably my favorite of all the Mayan ruins we have seen. The first structure upon entering the site is the Pyramid of the Magician. It is massive, and one of the few known Mayan pyramids with a rounded base.

Dan and the Magician's Pyramid
Can you see Dan?

Uxmal features impressive feats of architecture. The Governor's Palace is big and long, considered one of the greatest of Mayan buildings.

The Governor's Palace at Uxmal
The Governor's Palace

The Dovecote is another interesting structure...perhaps used as a lookout?

View of the Dovecote from the Grand Pyramid at Uxmal
View of the Dovecote from the Grand Pyramid

There are many intricate carvings on all the structures throughout the site...

Sideways bird carvings at Uxmal
Parrot carvings atop the Grand Pyramid

Turtle carvings
The House of the Turtles

Serpent carving at Uxmal
Serpent carving at the Nunnery

We also saw lots of iguanas and birds, including mot-mots! Their turquoise color and long tail are quite spectacular, and we spotted the pretty birds at all of the Ruta Puuc sites. At Kabah we saw the Codz Poop, a structure composed of hundreds upon hundreds of masks of Chac, the rain god.

So many Chac masks
Obsessed with Chac

It was amazing and also a bit frightening. The ancient Maya definitely must have been very concerned about water in this region.

Big Chac close-up on Codz Poop
A Chac close-up, with broken nose

Next stop was Sayil, where the Palace features carvings of the inverted diving god, which we also saw at Tulum and Coba.

Carol and Dan at el Palacio
Carol and Dan at el Palacio

Diving God carving at Sayil
The diving god, flanked by serpents

We also spotted pretty big-leafed plants at Sayil. They look like they've been painted pink and white.

Big painted leaves
Dan's hand for size comparison

The Arch of Labna is very beautiful, with intricate carvings on both sides.

The Arch of Labna
Traditional palapa hut carvings on one side

At Labna we also walked along the sacbe, raised white road believed to connect all the way to Uxmal at one time. And we saw the impressive el Mirador, believed to be a lookout structure. It rises out above a high hill of stones.

El Mirador at Labna
High lookout

Hundreds of butterflies fluttered on the road from Sayil to Labna, so beautiful! We also visited the Loltun caves, believed to be the largest cave system in the Yucatan. It was amazing, but alas I did not bring the camera underground.

Along the way we stopped in many small villages, visiting the church of each village square. Probably the most famous is el Convento de San Miguel Arcangel in Mani, believed to be the site where Fray Diego de Landa burned the Mayan codices, their important written works. The church has an attached capilla abierta, open chapel where the Mayan worshipped, similar to the one we saw at Dzibichaltun.

Convento de San Miguel Arcangel
The church at Mani

There was so much to see and do in the Ruta Puuc region; Dan and I really enjoyed visiting the area. Next time, the conclusion of our summer Yucatan adventure!

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