A day trip from Campeche to the Edzna Mayan ruins

I love a good Mayan ruin. If they’re of the lesser-visited variety like Edzná, so much the better. With a few days in the colourful Mexican city of Campeche on the western side of the Yucatán peninsula, a day trip to the Edzná ruins was too big a draw to resist.

Edzna Mayan ruins Campeche main plaza

Look up!

Getting from Campeche to Edzná

Being fans of independent travel and public transport, a tour wasn’t an option for us. However, our outdated Lonely Planet guidebook (note to self: buy the new one – details in the box below) sent us in the direction of a bus stop that clearly hadn’t seen a bus for quite some time. Plan B came into force …

[box type=”info”]Don’t make the mistake we did: Get the up-to-date Lonely Planet Guide to Mexico before you go. Help the site by buying the guide through this link, at no extra cost to you.[/box]

Undeterred, and with the knowledge that Mexico is a country that DOES public transport and that there would be SOME way of getting to Edzná from Campeche, we did the only sensible thing possible: followed the collectivos (combi vans). A short bout of out-of-breath-ness later, this led us to a collective of collectivos all painted in red and white, parked up on Calle Chihuahua near Campeche’s market.

Collectivos are a wonder of Mexican transport, and for me, one of my top tips for travelling in Mexico.

Collectivo drivers are pretty helpful, and a few words of Spanish to explain we were going to the Edzná ruins saw us directed to a Bonfil-bound collectivo for the 55km (approx. 1 hr) journey, departing at 11am.

The ruins are a few hundred metres from the main road, but our driver detoured to drop us right at the entrance once we’d conveyed that’s where we were heading. The journey cost 45 peso per person each way (less than £2).

The Mayan ruins of Edzná

Safely dropped off, we paid the 60 peso per person entrance fee (about £2.50) and began our explorations.

The Mayan city of Edzná was a big deal in its day, particularly between 400 and 1000 AD, when it was the powerful regional capital of the western Yucatán. It was eventually abandoned around 1450 AD.

Its buildings reflect its former grandeur, and we happily hauled ourselves up and down the steep steps to towering platforms for a view over what used to be the main plaza.

Edzná's main plaza, Campeche, Mexico

Edzná’s main plaza

The highest structure is out of bounds for climbing, but the rest were fair game, so we gave our hamstrings a good workout as we posed for photos.

main pyramid, Edzna, Campeche

posing in the foreground of the main pyramid

The early buildings at Edzná are typical of the Petén architectural style (Petén nowadays is a region of northern Guatemala), with later structures showing influences of the Tardíos, Chenes and Puuc. Back in the day, the main limestone structures were often painted dark red. Others had facades adorned with the faces of gods and the mythical animals of the Mayan world. You can read more here on Edzná’s history and architecture here.

The Old Sorceress at Edzná

After the main plaza, we ventured off to the Old Sorceress around a ten-minute walk along a grassy track. But not before having acquired impromptu new hairstyles from the surrounding flora!

Reaching the Old Sorceress was Andrew’s excuse to go full-on Indiana Jones, as he scrambled off up the steep and jungle-covered un-restored pyramid.

Overall, we spent about 2 hours at Edzná, although if you’re less photo-happy than us then an hour-and-a-half would be plenty. Although not completely untouristed, most visitors to Edzná were Mexican, and we spotted a grand total of zero tour groups 🙂

Getting from Edzná back to Campeche

For public transport back from Edzná to Campeche we headed to the main road, and hung out under this road junction sign to flag down a collectivo.

how to get from Edzna to Campeche

you can hang out under this road sign to catch transport back to Campeche

The road isn’t too busy and waiting here meant transport options coming from two directions. We had to wait about 15 minutes for a collectivo coming from Bonfil back to Campeche but you may get an offer of a lift whilst you wait.

[box type=”note”]In our case, a guy in a pick-up truck stopped and offered us a lift back from Edzná to Campeche before the collectivo arrived. From prior research, coupled with my previous experience in this part of Mexico, this didn’t seem out of the ordinary. However, I politely declined as I wanted to make sure the public transport option worked so I could write this article 🙂 On a previous trip to Mexico, after a public transport fail at Uxmal caused by my then sub-par Spanish skills, I gladly accepted the offer of a lift to Mérida, resulting in a very entertaining journey with some delightful Venezuelan puppeteers!

I’m not recommending hitching with strangers. On the rare occasions I have accepted a lift (typically due to a public transport fail!) my hitching safety factors include: travelling with someone, being confident that accepting lifts is fairly “normal” wherever I am, and having a “this is ok” vibe when a vehicle stops for me. Obviously the latter is subjective, but I have turned down lifts when it hasn’t felt right. This is entirely my personal take on hitching. You’ll have your own view as to what’s right for you. If you do take up a lift in this part of Mexico, it’s customary to offer to pay the equivalent of the public transport price.[/box]

Practicalities of visiting the Edzná Mayan ruins

column at Edzna, Campeche, Mexico

silly photo-taking optional 🙂

Location: Around 55km from Campeche

Transport to Edzná: 45 peso collectivo from Calle Chihuahua in Campeche, tour or drive

Entrance fee: 60 peso

Food and drink: There’s no food at Edzná, although there is a vending machine for soft drinks. You can pick up cheap eats at Campeche’s market before or after your journey – we had yummy pork rolls for the grand sum of 20 peso each.

Take with you: Water, sunscreen, insect repellant in the rainy season, change or small notes for the collectivo and entrance fee (avoid 500 notes if you can).

To learn more about Edzná: Check out the museum under the Baluarte de la Soledad and also at the Fuerte de San Miguel in Campeche. Both have archaeological exhibits.

Where to stay: We bedded down at the Hotel Socaire in Campeche, in a room so large you could’ve had a football game in there (we didn’t). It was a fabulous place to stay.

[box type=”info”]Prices, info and exchange rates researched in January 2018. Some links in this post are affiliate links, which means I get a small commission and a big smile if you use them to make a purchase. There’s no extra cost to you for doing so :)[/box]

If you’re in this part of the world, I’d highly recommend the Edzná Mayan ruins as a day trip from Campeche. Have you been, or are you going? Share your experiences below.

How San Juan Chamula moved me to tears

San Juan Chamula in Chiapas, Mexico, is somewhere I’ll never forget. My senses overpowered me and the tears flowed at this Tzotzil Maya village near San Cristóbal de las Casas. Here’s why.

The market of San Juan Chamula

The market of San Juan Chamula

The view of the main square itself was enough to get my senses reeling. A colourful swirl of vegetables and unrefrigerated meat for sale, providing an assault on the eyes and nostrils.

I made my way through the sellers and stepped inside San Juan Chamula’s church.

The scent of pine needles struck me. They looked to be an inch thick, all over the church floor. The effergies of the Catholic saints surrounded the dusky interior, but the offerings to them were where Mayan culture was visibly alive.

The shaman of San Juan Chamula

Small groups gathered on the floor of the dusky interior, each led by a spiritual leader, a shaman. Villagers in San Juan Chamula seek out a shaman to help them carry out a ritual to expel illnesses. Candle burning aids the process – physical and mental illnesses to be expelled are represented by different colour candles. White candles signifying a general ritual.

The candlelight flickered amidst the pine needles, and caught movements in the glum light. Prayers were chanted, eggs broken, animal bones rubbed, and – occasionally – there were the muted sound of a chicken being sacrificed. Fizzy drinks consumed – it’s believed the induced burping from helps to expel the illness. The holders of the Coca Cola and Pepsi franchises here are rich.

Emotion hit me like a wave. My brain couldn’t process what I was seeing – this fusing of beliefs displayed in one place – and my eyes welled up. I was glad for the dark to hide the glistening of my tears.

The ceremony concluded with the consumption of the local firewater, known as posh. In some cases it’s how shaman are paid for their services, and my guide told me alcoholism is an issue in the village.

Hats off to vote

The church and its sheer other-worldliness may have been the most emotional part of my visit to San Juan Chamula, but it certainly wasn’t the end of what I learnt about the village.

Traditional dress of the menfolk of San Juan Chamula

Traditional dress of the menfolk of San Juan Chamula

I was told that men have the right to more than one wife and the right to vote – which they do by raising the hat that forms part of their traditional dress. Women don’t wear these hats. No hat = no vote.

Photography in San Juan Chamula

The San Juan Chamula village government has its own police force, which deals with minor crimes through community service punishments. Major crimes are handed over to the federal police.

Taking close-up photographs of villagers is classed as a minor crime, and visitors will have their photos forcibly deleted if they try and break the rule. My view? Not having photos has made the whole overwhelming experience live longer in my memory.

If you’re looking to push your culture comfort zone, I’d highly recommend a guided tour to San Juan Chamula and other villages near San Cristóbal de las Casas.

Where have you been that’s moved you to tears? Share your experiences by leaving a comment below.