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I booked the Mago at a 26% discount: MXP764 / night (US$38). This included a Continental Breakfast. On arrival, I was ‘upgraded’ to a room at the Lodge.
It was time to head for Xpujil to see the ruins at Calakmul.
UXMAL TO XPUJIL:
On paper, it looked like it should be reasonably easy to do … down the Route 261 to connect to Route 269 … both major roads.
I asked the Reception at The Lodge about how to do this and they said that I could catch the bus to Hopelchen and, from there, a Colectivo to Xpujil.
At Hopelchen I enquired about the Colectivo to Xpujil. It seems that there is an Xpujil (‘schpoojhill’) and an Xpuhil (‘schpoohill’) … there were plenty of Colectivos going to the latter but no Colectivos going to the former … and no way to hop between towns on Colectivos to get to Xpujil either.
I had one choice: to wait for the bus from Campeche to Xpujil. It leaves Campeche at about 6:30pm and passes through Hopelchen at 8:15pm. There is only 1 bus each day from Campeche to Xpujil. This is not a main commuter route.
I had nearly 7 hours to ‘kill’ in Hopelchen. Trust me, there is very little to keep you occupied in Hopelchen … I sat in the main square and read a book. There was free internet in the square, so I was able to send my hotel an email to tell them that I would be arriving late. They acknowledge receipt of my email.
The bus to Xpujil arrived on time. The cost was MXP134 and we arrived in Xpujil at 11:30pm.
ABOUT XPUJIL & CALAKMUL:
Calakmul is considered to be one of the most important archaeological sites of Maya culture, along with:
- Palenque, Chichén, and Uxmal in Mexico;
- Caracol and Xunantunich in Belize; and
- Tikal in Guatemala.
Calakmul is deep in the jungles of the greater Petén Basin. It is 35 kilometres from the Guatemalan border. Calakmul was one of the largest and most powerful ancient cities ever uncovered in the Maya lowlands.
Calakmul was the seat of the Snake Kingdom. This Snake Kingdom reigned during most of the Classic period.
Calakmul, itself, is estimated to have had a population of 50,000 people. There are 6,750 ancient structures identified at Calakmul; the largest of which is the great pyramid which is one of the tallest of the Maya pyramids. Four tombs have been located within the pyramid.
Throughout the Classic Period, Calakmul maintained an intense rivalry with the major city of Tikal to the south (in Guatemala), and the political manoeuvrings of these two cities have been likened to a struggle between two Maya superpowers.
My hotel provided free internet.
My AT&T SIMcard had no signal. You need Telcel in Xpujil.
WHERE TO STAY:
This is what you find searching for 1 night at the end of November …
PLEASE NOTE: Hotel and Hostel search sites display prices EXCLUSIVE of TAXES. You, usually, have to add 19% to the displayed price to get the final price.
As you can see, there are very few accommodation options available to GRANDPAckers.
AirBnB offers more accommodation options in the small village 15 kms north of Xpujil on Route 296. I passed through this village as I came south from Uxmal … it is a bit ‘unkempt’. Try and get into Xpujil, itself, if you can. It will prove more convenient.
There are a few ‘unlisted’ hotels in Xpujil but I cannot vouch for their prices or quality. If you can get to Xpujil early in the day, you could gamble on accommodation and see what you can find when you get here.
The usual Hotel Search Engines tend to list the same hotels and tend to compete very little on price … but, now and again, one will ‘stick its head up’ and offer a ‘member only special deal’ … like the one that I got at the Maya Balam (below).
I booked 4 days before my arrival. When I booked my Uxmal hotel, I got a special discount booking through Venere’s Smartphone App. I took the opportunity to get the same special (26%) discount on my Xpujil hotel.
I booked 3 nights at the Maya Balam.
I got my room for MXP414 / night including fees and taxes. This was at least MXP100 / night cheaper than I could have booked it for elsewhere.
The bus from Hopelchen stops on the main road outside of the ADO Bus Terminal. From there, it was about an 800 meter walk to my hotel. The hotel is set back about 150 meters from the main road down a side street.
The room was average and came with a Double bed, a Single bed, a wardrobe, table, ceiling fan, aircon, hot water ensuite, 2 small complimentary bottles of water, good in-room wifi, and Cable TV (with many English speaking channels).
The aircon was a new, silent heatpump.
The in-room wifi was good and (most of the time) fast enough for video streaming.
Have a look yourself:
From Xpujil there are several Tour Operators offering Day Trips to the Calakmul ruins.
Return Taxi transport is offered at a standard price of MXP1,200. This is easily negotiated down to MXP1,000. This price is for the whole Taxi … the more people that you can get to share, the cheaper it becomes for each person.
I booked 3 nights in Xpujil because I expected to spend my first full day finding and negotiating a tour … and my second full day doing the tour.
However, as I was walking to my hotel at 11:30pm, I was approached by a man. He had a client who wanted to go to Calakmul Ruins the following morning but she could not afford the full price on her own. He asked if I wanted to go with her and share the price. At MXP500, I said yes. We agreed to meet at 8:00am the next morning at his Tour Office.
The Calakmul Ruins trip takes about 8 hours in total. The taxis usually leave as early as 6:00am (but this is negotiable). You can do the trip in the same day if you are based in Chetumal.
- Catch an early Colectivo to Xpujil (1.5 hours) so that you arrive in Xpujil before 9:00am
- Negotiate a price with a taxi / tour operator and do your trip out to Calakmul Ruins (budget 8 hours)
- Return to Xpujil before 5:00pm
- Catch a 5:30pm bus back to Chetumal or a Colectivo
The MXP1,000 price in Xpujil is only for transport to Calakmul. First you drive 50 kms down the highway towards Campeche. Then you turn off south towards the ruins down a paved (but potholed) jungle road.
About 1 hour into the journey you reach the 1st of 3 checkpoints. You pay MXP50 per person to enter the ‘greater national reserve’. This includes the taxi driver, so Sophie and I had to pay MXP75 each to cover the three of us.
After another 30 minutes you pass the second check point. Here you pay MXP62 just for the passengers to enter the ‘inner national reserve’.
You are deep in the jungle here … expect to see Howler Monkeys, Termites, Wild Turkeys (crossing the road), and strange insects … we even saw one Mexican Parrot Snake making a meal of a Mexican Tree Frog.
The ‘center piece’ of such visits is always to climb the largest pyramid. In Calakmul, you can still do that (for now) … and marvel at the view across the site and the jungle.
Walking the site was easy. How many structures you choose to climb determines how hard you, ultimately, make it. 🙂
WHEN TO GO:
July through October is hurricane season in this part of the world, and the weather becomes more changeable and less predictable during these months.
The rainy season is May through October.
PLEASE NOTE: These countries love their tiled floors and this, coupled with footpaths (and ruins) worn to a polish over many years, means that it can be slippery underfoot when dry and near dangerous when wet. Wear shoes with good grips.
The high season is December through May as these are the months with the most temperate and driest weather.
A good time to visit Calakmul is Shoulder Season: April / May or October / November. there are fewer mosquitoes around at this time too.
From here I will be heading to Belize via Chetumal.
I will tell you more about that in a future post.
Calamul (Xpujil) is off the beaten path. Not many people make the effort to come here.
The locals tell me that they see very few American Tourists … most of their visitors seem to come from Europe.
There is only 1 bus each day to Xpujil from the western coast (e.g. Merida / Campeche). It is the same from places like Bacalar.
The easiest way to get to Xpujil is from Chetumal … there are several and regular Colectivos (and buses) each day.
Calakmul is a contrast to Uxmal … and definitely worth the visit … and you can easily do it on a GRANDPAcking Budget.