Sunday, November 18, 2018 | ePaper

Travel lovers, head to Mexico’s pyramid cities for a dose of history and archaeology

  • Print


Weekend Plus Desk
It was an archaeological adventure: a 12-day family trip to Mayan and Aztec pyramid cities, from Mexico City to the Yucatan jungle. Our timeline spanned from the ancient city of Teotihuacan, founded before the birth of Christ, to sites like Chichen Itza, Tulum and Templo Mayor, built in the centuries before the Spanish conquest of the early 1500s. Dozens of these sites dot Mexico. But we didn't want to go completely Indiana Jones. We looked for variety and ease of access. To get the most out of our visits, we hired English-speaking guides at every stop.
Templo Mayor and Teotihuacan
We started in Mexico City. Visiting Templo Mayor, just off the Zocalo or main square, we had the site almost entirely to ourselves on a weekday morning. It's the newest of the pyramids we saw, but in worst shape, having been destroyed and built over by the Spanish 500 years ago. Visually it's not even a pyramid, but a below street-level ruin of seven multi-layered pyramid foundations. Electricians working in a basement discovered it in 1978 when a floor collapsed, revealing a round stone depicting Aztec goddess Coyolxauhqui.
That piece and thousands more are displayed in a museum overlooking the ongoing excavation. The excavation site displays stone-carved snakes and a few other sculptures, their faded colours giving just an inkling of Aztec Technicolor grandeur. More impressive visually was Teotihuacan, an hour outside Mexico City. Teotihuacan, which predated the Aztecs, was established in the second century B.C. in the Mesoamerica era and lasted almost 1,000 years. Lurching skyward and seen for miles around, two giant pyramids anchor the once-thriving city where 100,000 to 200,000 people lived in more than 2,000 buildings.
The Pyramid of the Sun is 213 feet tall (65 meters) and is connected by the Avenue of the Dead to the smaller Pyramid of the Moon. The place is an archaeological bonanza, with digs and research ongoing. Unlike many other pyramids, you can climb to the top of both Teotihuacan behemoths. But it's not easy. The shorter ascent up the moon pyramid is steeper and more treacherous than the climb up the sun pyramid, which teems with tourists, but is easier to navigate. The payoff for both climbs: incredible vistas. Near one entrance inside a cavern is La Gruta restaurant.
Tulum
From Mexico City we flew to the Yucatan. Avoiding the tourist mecca of Cancun, we stayed in an Airbnb in Playacar, a gated community south of Playa Del Carmen, and rented a car. The roads we took were in great shape, including a new four-lane highway from Cancun to Merida (be warned, there are few offramps) on the route to Chichen Itza, and a new two-lane road from Chichen Itza to Tulum.
Area maps are full of pyramid sites but we kept it simple, stopping first to see the beautiful, breathtaking seaside ruins of Tulum in Quintana Roo. Situated on an expansive bluff overlooking the ocean, the old city was a fishing, trade and religious center. Several thousand Mayans lived here from the year 975 until the Spanish arrival.
Today giant iguanas sun themselves on the stone floors and the collapsed walls of decaying buildings that once housed priests, the wealthy and scientists. The main pyramid, El Castillo (the castle), occupies the best cliff in Tulum but is off limits to pedestrians. Tourist meander elsewhere. A crowded beach sits below the ruins.
Chichen Itza
From Tulum, we drove three hours across the Yucatan jungles to Chichen Itza, a Mayan city that thrived for centuries before the Spanish conquest, when it was abandoned. It virtually disappeared into the jungle, known to just a few locals, until the 19th century. Now it's the most developed of all the pyramid attractions, with 2 million visitors annually. There's ample parking so ignore the hand-waving vendors en route to the park. You'll know when you've arrived.
The pyramid shoots skyward from the jungle floor and is in wonderful condition. Adjacent to the main pyramid is a ball court where a sport was played, something like soccer meets basketball, complete with post-game sacrifice. Surrounding temples include Temple of the Warriors, El Caracol observatory and smaller buildings. Many are off limits to prevent vandalism and graffiti.
Several spots have amazing acoustics. Clap at the foot of Chichen Itza’s main pyramid, also called El Castillo, and the sound reverberates back. At the ball court, el Juego de Pelota, whispers and claps will echo all over. Hearing those noises bouncing off the wall was said to be part of the sport’s appeal. The stone carvings and statues are enthralling, despite their violent depictions of severed heads and spurting blood. n

More News For this Category

Humayun Mela 2018

Humayun Mela 2018

Sheikh Arif Bulbon :Private satellite channel, Channel i organized Humayun Mela on the channel’s premises in the capital’s Tejgaon area on November 13 to mark the 71st birthday of

From cutlets to brownies, try out these recipes

From cutlets to brownies, try out these recipes

Banana CutletIngredients100g - Boiled and mashed potatoesSalt to taste5g -Red crushed chili5g - Crushed black pepper30g - Peas boiled30g - Carrot diced, boiled30g - Beans diced, boiled250g - Raw

Novelist Shahed Ali

Novelist Shahed Ali

Mohammed Towfiqul Haider :Prof Shahed Ali (1925-2001) an activist of Language Movement, educationist, cultural activist and a reputed author was born at Mahmudpur village under Tahirpur Upazila of Sunamganj

Bram Stoker: The author of Dracula

Bram Stoker: The author of Dracula

Literature Desk :Irish writer Bram Stoker   (1847-1912 is best known for authoring the classic 19th century horror novel Dracula.Born in Ireland in 1847, Bram Stoker studied Mathematics at Dublin's

Order or disorder

    -M Anisur Rahman Mithu Who are the superpowers in the globe?Are all of them are great powersWho are the regional powers, are they great powersIs this the uni-polar world

Rasulullah (Sm)

-M Miranur Rahman1.Oh Rasulullah Sallallahu ‘Alaihi wa Sallam ! You are the most beneficial savior of mankind on earth. We are praising you and singing of your psalm For

Allah, the Lord of the universe

-Mohammad Mamun MiaThe name Allah is the sweetest of all things and beings Who can construct or destruct in the world everything. Wherever I keep my eyes, I only

Novelist Mir Mosharraf Hossain

Novelist Mir Mosharraf Hossain

Apu Barman :Mir Mosharraf Hossain (1847-1912) was a Bengali novelist, playwright and essayist in 19th century Bengal. He is principally known for his famous novel Bishad Sindhu. He is

Popular novelist, playwright Humayun Ahmed

Popular novelist, playwright Humayun Ahmed

Literature Desk :Humayun Ahmed, a popular writer of Bangladesh, wore many hats during his lifetime. These include filmmaker, screenwriter, playwright, author, teacher and dramatist. He was considered a cultural

Vitamin D and fish oil supplements  do not lower rates of cancer

Vitamin D and fish oil supplements do not lower rates of cancer

Weekend Plus Desk :The findings of a recent study have put an end to the myths surrounding the healing power of Vitamin D and fish oil supplements for cancer.