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We began and ended our five day journey through the Mexican State of Yucatan in the colonial city of Merida.

From Merida we headed south (in our VW Beetle rental car) to drink in the majestic Mayan ruins at Uxmal.  Using the Villas Arquelogicas at Uxmal as our base, we wandered on a day-long excursion through the nearby low-lying Puuc hills - exploring the ruins at Kabah, Sayil and Labna, only pausing long enough for a traditional Yucatan-style lunch in the town of Ticul.

The next day we set our sights on the gulf coast town of Celestun.  Flamingos, mangrove forests and shimmering white sand beaches beckoned.  After a morning boat tour of the flamingo-laden lagoon outside of Celestun, we drove a few miles north to the idyllic eco-resort (so aptly named "Eco Paraiso") for a well-earned rest.  But soon we were hurtling ourselves back into the urban hum of Merida and then, preparing ourselves for the following day's flight home.

This trip was too brief.  But it could serve anyone as a perfect introduction to Mexico for a visitor who wants to avoid the mega-resorts and experience the culture, history and beauty of this fascinating area.
Date(s): April 2001. Album by David Kohl. Photos by David Kohl & Ross Rosenberg. 1 - 18 of 43 Total. 3115 Visits.
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Enlarge photo 1
Pyramid of the Magician at Uxmal
The Mayan word Uxmal (oosh-MAHL) means "Thrice Built". It is one of the best restored and maintained ruins in the Yucatan.  Uxmal thrived from 600 to 900 A.D. Soon after, it was abandoned - for reasons unknown.

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Nunnery Quadrangle (Uxmal)
The Nunnery Quadrangle, named by the Spanish because it reminded them of a European nunnery, may have actually been a school for training healers, astrologers and priests.

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Wall detail
With its extensive patterned stone carving, the Nunnery Quadrangle has been hailed as one of the most beautiful complex of buildings in the New World.

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Restoration in process
A snapshot of the numbering system used to reconstruct the excavated ruins.

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Palace of the Governor
The "Puuc" style - named for the nearby Puuc Hills - is the prevailing archtitectural style at Uxmal.  Characterized by thick walls covered with numerous thin stones set like mosaics, Puuc archtitecture combines realistic decoration with geometric designs and forms.

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Grand Pyramid

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Uxmal detail
Carved serpent swallowing a human head.

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Distant view of the Pyramid of the Magician
The Pyramid is also sometimes referred to as the House of the Dwarf.

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Pyramid of the Magician
The Pyramid rises about 127 feet from the Yucatan plain.  Its oval shape and massive rounded walls are unusual in Mayan architecture.

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Map of the State of Yucatan

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Palace of the Masks at Kabah
The day-long trip through the Puuc Hills first takes you to the site of Kabah.  The most famous building here is the Palace of the Masks (the masks of the rain god Chac).

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This entire facade is covered with masks of the Mayan rain god Chac.  The masks, like the decorative work at Uxmal, are actually large scale mosaics:  each mask, of which there are 250, comprises 30 separate carved stone elements.

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Close up of a Chac (rain god) grouping.

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Sayil (which means "Place of the Ants") is another site along the Puuc route.  The site is home to this beautiful palace ruin that at one time contained 90 bedrooms.

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The Labna arch - often called La Puerta - is a typical example of a Mayan arch. Corbeled arches like this one were created by incrementally projecting stone blocks from each side of the arch until the arch came to a peak. Since the walls could not adequately support the weight of the arch, the Mayans would reinforce it with a beam at the top.

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Labna detail
This ghoulish sculpture of a serpent grabbing a human head between its jaws is one of several ornamenting the walls of the ruins of Labna.

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