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Mexico’s Calakmul Biosphere is a wild jungle area with ancient Mayan ruins. Camping in the forest at Yaax’Che is a fun experience.
Rumor was you could camp near the Mayan ruins of Calakmul inside the protected biosphere reserve. I learned the rumor was true after spending a few days there.
Once you pass the main gate of the reserve (where they charge a small fee to enter) you’ll find the Yaax’Che campground a few kilometers down the road on the right. Because I didn’t have a car, I hired a taxi to bring me to the campground from the town of Xpujil for $250 Pesos ($20 US).
The Yaax’Che campground is very cool. I used my own camping hammock, so it only cost $4 US a night to set it up under a shelter. You can also rent tents and cots from the campground if you don’t have your own with you though.
Yaax’Che has no running water or electricity, but it does have a restaurant! The caretakers have stone-fire ovens where they cook up a few different local Mayan dishes.
My favorite was the quesadillas with hand prepared tortillas plus rice and beans on the side.
There are a few composting toilets, and shower stalls with buckets of brownish sulfur-smelling water for you to dump on yourself. Fun! While the facilities are not fancy, the location is amazing.
The mosquitoes weren’t too bad during the day, and there are crazy cool butterflies all over the place. My favorite was a huge purple one, almost the size of your hand. But at night was when the real fun began…
Camping with Critters
The jungle comes alive at night. The first thing you hear around sunset is some kind of insect that makes noises that sound like alien spaceships are landing. No joke. They are REALLY loud, and they are everywhere.
Next, the local howler monkey family starts to scream right above you in the trees. Again, these are also VERY loud, and a bit freaky sounding.
It can be pretty startling to hear all this loud stuff happening around you in the dark, especially when you can’t see what is making the noises.
When walking to the bathroom at night with my headlamp, I saw all kinds of shining lights on the ground, like diamonds littering the jungle floor. Upon closer inspection, I found that these are the eyes of all the insects and bugs reflecting the light of my headlamp! Little spiders, giant spiders, beetles the size of your fist, and I even saw a few scorpions.
This jungle is also constantly raining, but it’s not water I’m talking about! Inchworms fall down on you from the trees above. You hear them smack down on the roof of your shelter all day and night, and they rain on your head as you walk around the camp. The worms hang down from the trees by threads of the web also, so you constantly run into them with your face… :)
Visit the Calakmul Ruins
Just a warning, if you don’t have a car, don’t try and rent a bike at the Yaax’che campground and use it to get to the Mayan ruins of Calakmul. The ruins are still about 57 kilometers away from the campground.
Even though the road through the jungle is paved, it has many hills and is not an easy ride.
I learned that the hard way!
The campground will shuttle you to the ruins for the day, but it’s a bit expensive at around $40 US. If there are a few people camping with you, splitting this cost is the best bet.
Or you could hitch a ride with someone staying at the campground who has a rental car with them. Unfortunately, when I wanted to visit the site, I was the only one using the campground that day (which was kinda nice).
You may also be able to hitchhike with other tourists driving up to the site for the day, or flag down a taxi and share the fare with whoever else is in it, but there aren’t too many people that visit these ruins, so hitching a ride isn’t a sure bet.
All in all, I highly recommend camping at Yaax’Che if you plan to visit the Calakmul ruins. It makes for an interesting jungle experience!
Location: Xpujil, Mexico
Official Website: Calakmul Biosphere Reserve
Total Cost: $18 USD (there are a few different fees)
Accommodation: Yaax’Che Campground
Useful Notes: It’s best to get a rental car, but taxis will also take you to the ruins from the town of Xpujil. Or you can try your luck hitchhiking.
Recommended Reading: Lonely Planet Mexico
READ NEXT: Visiting Calakmul Mayan Ruins in Campeche
Have any questions about Calakmul or Yaax’Che? Drop me a message in the comments below!