Mayapan: The Mayan Banner | An Archaeological site in Yucatan

The walled city of Mayapan is a Mayan archaeological site that was founded around the 750-800 AD and it covers more than 4 square kilometers, a huge space that luckily I was able to explore almost on my own, there were only a few other visitors other than us and since the place is so big, I practically never saw them until I went on top of the highest pyramid of the site and I had a full view of all the ruins.

I'm not sure we didn't run into anyone due to sheer luck or if the archaeological sites in Merida are always so deserted. I mean, you have Chichen Itza a couple of hours from this site, and since that one is the most famous one, it is deemed a world heritage and is actually one of the seven modern wonders, well, it's obvious that is shadows all the other Mayan ruins of this part of Mexico but still, I've been to many, many ruins and Mayapan easily competes with Chichen Itza, but I am not an expert so, who am I to judge. I just think that people should actually visit other ruins and not just the mainstream ones, but that's just me. There's so much to learn, discover and explore and people stick to just the Instagrammable ones.

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This pic doesn't really do justice to the site, but I realized I don't have a photo on top of the pyramid, but please stick with me, it gets better, I promise

Anyway, I did some research before visiting the place. Why? Cause I like to know what's up when I'm exploring a place, and if you focus on reading the flyers or the info points you miss on the actual experience. Turns out Mayapan contains more than four thousand structures - most of them are still buried and just look like little hills - and at its peak it had more than twelve thousand inhabitants.

Mayapan means Banner of the Mayans in Mayan, and it was actually the most important city of the Mayan civilization during the postclassic period which goes from 1200-1440 AD, which gives me another reason to get mad that these ruins were virtually empty when I visited them - Mayapan is highly underrated.

I mean I get it, we came to this place during the summer when I had to travel to Merida for work and we took the chance to explore the area and discover its secrets. The summer is not the high season in Merida because of the deafening, blinding heat but still, there should have been more people there, especially compared to how crowded Chichen Itza is, no matter the time of the year, the power of Covid, the high or low season, it is always crowded as hell.

And I'm not lying, check it out for yourself, we practically had the site for ourselves, there's no people around whatsoever.

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That's a panpic, so excuse the low quality of the frame

It's funny because despite the Mayan civilization being a huge, powerful and unified entity, there was still a lot of fighting between the main cities trying to see who's got the longest spear. During the postclassic period, Mayapan reached the peak of its splendor and is exercised dominion over the northeast and central northern provinces of the Yucatan Peninsula.

The Majesty of this site is evidenced by buildings such as "Kukulkan's Castle" (not to be confused with Kukulkan's pyramid in Chichen Itza):

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In the central plaza, buildings served civil, administrative and religious purposes, as well as providing residences for the site's governing class. These buildings were constructed over foundations with corridors and columns. They formed temples whose interiors had altars toward the back and benches to the sides. Smaller shrines and round-shaped buildings, known as observatories, are also representative of the site's architectures.

I have to admit that Chichen Itza is more majestic and imponent, but Mayapan holds certain magic to it that CI lacks, probably because of the silence, tranquility and calm the place irradiates whereas Chichen Itza comes off as a stressful, noisy temple - mostly because of the people and the vendors on every corner, but also because of the nature surrounding and within the city.

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The Temple of the Painted Niches

This structure is almost 8 meters tall and is composed of a foundation which underwent two constructive phases. Placed upon this foundation was a temple with access provided by a stairway on its northern side. The stairway also evidences two constructive phases. During the first phase, 15 steps were made of rough stone, while the second phase accounts for seven stone steps, resembling the Puuc style, with a sloping panel at each side.

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The temple is composed of seven rooms, two of which display niches in their interiors and one with evidence of mural paintings. This paintings include designs painted in blue, red and yellow and delineated with black border lines.

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The mural represents the facades of five temples in which niches, depicted by an alignment of blue and red spots, symbolize their entrances. The temples rest over the heads of open-mouthed serpents painted in green, black, yellow and red.

On the Northern wall of the temple, a stairway provides access to the tops, where there once existed a shrine.

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In general, I think this enters my top 10 favorite Mayan ruins - I've visited around 30 or so, so this is not a mild statement - and even though the archaeological site has yet a lot of structures to be uncovered (or discovered?), I still think this place is worth a visit if you ever come to Merida.

Don't just stick to Chichen Itza, please. Mayapan is worth your time, and the pics speak for themselves.

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The round Temple

This temple is located on the East side of the central plaza. It is composed by a rectangular foundation over which sits a vaulted circular construction: access to this place is achieved through a stairway facing westward and with sloping panels on each side.

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The foundation still shows an upper molding which measures 20 meters long. It is 18 meters wide and almost 4 meters tall. The temple has a diameter of more than 10 meters and it is over 7 meters tall and it has four entrances. With a wall thickness of over one meter, the central part of the temple is a round cylinder of over 4 meters in diameter and it holds four niches on the inside.

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This is the inside of the temple (remember it is a cylinder inside the round structure? Well, swallows (many) made their home inside.These are the stairs to get to the temple, and that's my girlfriend who just couldn't wait for me to take the pic with no one on the frame

This building has a ceremonial vibe and it was used for traditional ceremonies and it possesses another two minor structures, the first one is a small altar over the foundation and the other one is a sanctuary that is located in the northern side of the stairway.

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I mean, so far and from what you've seen, don't you think this place is definitely worth a visit if you come to the Southeast of Mexico?

If you're still not convinced let me spam you with more pics:

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The Temple of the Cenote Chen Mul

This is an altar located on the southern border of a Cenote inside the city, it has a stairway on the eastern side limited by rafters. It has a main door with three entrances. On the northern side of the building is located a platform that leads to the cenote, and it serves as a terrace of the cenote.

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If you are still trying to decide whether you should visit this place, I'll convince you.

If you though there is already a crapton of pictures on this post, brace yourself.

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