Exploring The Remote Calakmul Mayan Ruins

Calakmul Ruins
Maya Ruins of Calakmul
Campeche, Mexico

Calakmul is an ancient Mayan city located deep within the jungle on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. Not many people make it out this way due to it’s remote location.

After getting denied entry at a military roadblock the day before, I was finally able to visit this incredible ancient Maya city.

The previous day I’d rode about 40 km to the roadblock and back, but today my body was just too exhausted to continue over the hills through the biosphere reserve.

So I decided to hitchhike.

But that’s not as easy as it sounds. There aren’t many vehicles passing through the middle of nowhere.

Calakmul Stella
Stella with Red Pigment

Visiting Calakmul Mayan Ruins

Miraculously I was picked up by a friendly nature-guide and his two clients from South Carolina. My seat in the bed of their old truck provided a beautiful fresh-air drive through the jungle.

Arriving at Calakmul, I proceeded to spend about 4 hours exploring the site.

Among the many interesting structures found there are two gigantic pyramids — with the largest one reaching 55 meters high (165 feet).

This makes it the 2nd tallest of all the Mayan pyramids ever found, and you can climb it! I spent a good half hour at the top taking in the vast jungle accompanied by some strong wind.

Another traveler eventually joined me at the top, a Bulgarian who also happened to hitchhike to the ruins. He’s a permanent traveler who spends 8 months in each country he visits! Finding under-the-table work to support himself as he travels.

And I thought my year-long trip was a big deal…

Calakmul Ruins
Large Calakmul Pyramid
Calakmul Ruins
UNESCO World Heritage Site

Ancient Mayan City

Calakmul is thought to have been populated with about 50,000 people. The ruins themselves are located right next to the Guatemalan border in an area that is not frequently visited by travelers.

Many great stelae can be found at this site too — large slabs of stone that have been intricately carved with pictures and glyphs. Unbelievably some of them still have their original color pigments showing.

The steps of the massive pyramids are steep, and not very wide either — maybe just the length of your foot. Some are narrower than that!

Climbing them in the blazing sun after all the biking I did was a bit scary and quite a workout..

So after finding a ride back to my campsite, I called for a taxi to bring me back into the town of Xpujil in order to rest. It was sorely needed! ★

Travel Planning Resources for Xpujil, Mexico
Official Website: Calakmul Biosphere Reserve
Total Cost: $18 USD (there are a few different fees)
Accommodation: Yaax’Che Campground

Packing Guide

Check out my travel gear guide to help you start packing for your trip. Pick up a travel backpack, camera gear, and other useful travel accessories.

Book Your Flight

Book cheap flights on Skyscanner, my favorite airline search engine to find deals. Also read my tips for how I find the cheapest flights.

Rent A Car

Discover Cars is a great site for comparing car prices to find the best deal. They search both local & international rental companies.

Book Accommodation

Booking.com is my favorite hotel search engine. Or rent local apartments on Airbnb ($35 discount!). Read my post for tips on booking cheap hotels.

Protect Your Trip

Don’t forget travel insurance! I’m a big fan of World Nomads for short-term trips. Protect yourself from possible injury & theft abroad. Read more about why you should always carry travel insurance.

Recommended Reading: Lonely Planet Mexico


I hope you enjoyed my guide to exploring the remote Calakmul Mayan Ruins! Hopefully you found it useful. Here are a few more wanderlust-inducing articles that I recommend you read next:

Have any questions about Calakmul? What are your favorite Mayan ruins? Drop me a message in the comments below!


Hi, I’m Matthew Karsten — I’ve been traveling around the world for the last 10 years as a blogger, photographer, and digital nomad. Adventure travel & photography are my passions. Let me inspire you to travel with crazy stories, photography, and money-saving travel tips.
Matthew Karsten
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Comments (15)

  1. “After getting denied entry at a military roadblock the day before, I was finally able to visit this incredible ancient Maya city.”
    This is quite a discouraging comment at the very beginning of the story left without any explanation! Please elaborate!

    After seeing Chichen-Itza, Uxmal, and Kabah, together with Valladolid, Merida and Tulum earlier this year, I am thinking about Calakmul as a destination of my 2nd trip to Yucatan, so any relevant info is of importance.

  2. this is awesome to read, we are planning to visit this ruin in february by rental car. we are planning an extensive trip to see many sites. i am glad you all recommend it. it will remain on my route, we were slightly worried about the potential of being troubled as we will be bringing out school aged children.

  3. Great photos and blog all around! But do you think it is legitimate to consider yourself an “expert vagabond” if you have only been traveling for 3 years? I personally think that is ridiculous, an expert typically has 10 years of experience. Youve got a lot more traveling to do my friend!

  4. I dont want to be rude but tourist need to learn geography this Mayan Ruins are in Guatemala not in Mexico like this guy says in this blog.

  5. Wow, this place looks stunning. I have not managed to reach any of Mexico and South America yet but it’s certainly in my cross hairs. I lived in Egypt for a few years so would be cool to see some other pyramids to see how they compare.

    • It was Forest! I could have spent all day exploring. The pyramids at Calakmul are big, but definitely not as big as the ones in Egypt.

  6. Sounds like a great adventure. We explored the ruins of Coba on the Yucatan in Mexico. It was a very cool experience. It’s amazing how steep the pyramids are!

  7. We almost went there, but stuck to Tulum and Chichen Itza instead. I am really regretting that decision now. Sounds like my kind of experience.

    • Unlike those other two, there are virtually no people at Calakmul. It’s a very peaceful & magical place. Just takes some work to get out there. :)

  8. What a beautiful sight. I am in awe over all the things you see and do. Thanks for helping me to take the trip with you!!!