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This Mayan Ruin South Of Cancun Will Open To The Public For The First Time Ever

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Mayan ruins are a big part of the reason why Mexico is so popular as a tourist destination, particularly among History enthusiasts.

Belonging to the wider Mayan World, it is home to over 200 archaeological zones, where some of the most impressive structures of the ancient civilization, including the world-famous step pyramids and the ball courts, can still be seen.

Step Pyramid In Ichkabal, Mexican Caribbean, Yucatan Peninsula Of Mexico

While open-air museums like Chichen Itza and the Tulum ruins are well-known to the wider public, one of Mexico's priceless Mayan treasures had remained sealed off for decades as excavations and conservation efforts were underway, though that is changing soon.

A Mayan ruin with restricted access is opening for visitors for the first time, and if you're planning a trip to Cancun for 2024, you could be among the first to explore it:

The Legendary Ichkabal Is Opening To The Public For The First Time In History

Step Pyramid In Ichkabal, Mexican Caribbean, Yucatan Peninsula Of Mexico

After a decade since it was first announced as Mexico's next protected archaeological site, the unexplored Mayan city of Ichkabal will host its first foreign visitors.

As revealed by Diego Prieto, Director General of the country's National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), renovation works in the ruins will be finished soon, allowing it to welcome tourists as early as summer 2024.

In his own words, ‘the Federation's instruction is that the opening of the archaeological zone of Ichkabal be in August 2024, so they with the ejidatarios to reach an agreement‘.

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Bacalar, Lake Bacalar, Quintana Roo, Mexico

The ruins are only a two-and-a-half hour drive South of Cancun, towards the trendy resort town of Bacalar, and its opening coincides with the launch of the Mayan Train later this year.

From December 2023, travelers based in Cancun will be able to hop on an affordable scenic train to Bacalar, the major town nearest to the ruins in question, and the gateway to the seven-colored Lake Bacalar, a popular alternative to the Tulum coast this summer.

From the planned Maya Train station in Bacalar, the drive to Ichkabal will take less than 25 minutes.

Why Is Ichkabal Important?

Aerial View Of Ichkabal Pyramid In The Yucatan Peninsula Of Mexico

Ichkabal was once one of the most important urban centers in pre-Columbian America.

Settled by the Mayans as early as 400 B.C., it stood among an elite group of cities on the Mayan trade route, due to its privileged location, in close proximity to the Central American isthmus, offering easy links to all of the major Mayan hubs beyond the Yucatan Peninsula.

Although it was a secondary power and not as relevant a cultural center as the likes of Chichen Itza – currently one of Mexico's best preserved ancient cities – or Tikal, in Northern Guatemala, Ichkabal was able to flourish as a key trading hub in the pre-classic era.

Chichen Itza, Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico

Much like Chichen Itza, its more famous sister city-state, it consisted of several temples and sacrificial sites built as a means to bring the Mayans closer to their deities, wide avenues flanked by stone houses and public buildings, and ball courts and other entertainment areas.

It was inhabited until the early 16th century, when the natives were pushed out or exterminated following the Spanish Conquest, and the city fell into abandonment.

As the ‘Hispanicization' of Mexico took place, and the native Mexicans eventually assimilated into Hispanic culture, Ichkabal's existence was all but forgotten as the construction of post-colonial settlements advanced, and nature slowly reclaimed it.

mayan ruins

It wasn't until the 20th century that a renewed interest in Ichkabal was noted, particularly following the rise of tourism in the Mexican Caribbean, leading historians and archaeologists to intensify their efforts in restoring the lost city to its former glory.

What Are The Rules For Visiting Ichkabal?

At this point, we do not yet know how much it will cost to visit the ruins or whether there are additional rules visitors must familiarize themselves with not to be on the wrong side of the law.

mayan ruins

Recently, a number of tourists have been penalized, or issued fines, for climbing Mayan structures in Chichen Itza and other protected ancient reserves in Mexico.

Some of the pyramids in the Aztec city of Teotihuacan, close to Mexico City, are now also off-limits to climbers.

Regarding Ichkabal's state of preservation and whether its temples are accessible and safe to enter, we will only know more once the site is formally open and the visitation rules are available for consultation.

While Ichkabal is not open, you can still explore countless other Mayan ruins accessible to visitors within driving distance of Cancun. Learn more about them here.

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