Visiting Chacmultun: The Last City on the Puuc Route

If you enjoy exploring Mayan ruins and you are interested in traveling to off-the-beaten-path places around the Yucatan, you will no doubt enjoy visiting Chacmultun, a lesser-known archeological site close to the city of Tekax, in the far south of the Yucatan state. 

Chacmultun, meaning “red stone mounds” in Yucatec Mayan takes its name from the reddish rock found in the area, though its original name has been lost in time. Like many Mayan cities, any knowledge of the history and the rulers of Chacmultun has been lost over time, though it is believed that the site dates back to around 300 BC and was eventually abandoned following the Spanish colonization of Mexico. 

Chacmultun is vast and unique, and after visiting over 30 Mayan ruins in the area, it is one of the few that stands out to me. I live here in the Yucatan state and in this post, we will cover everything that you need to know before visiting Chacmultun. 

Woman in black shorts and t-shirt approaching the Palacio Xcalalpak in Chacmultun
Approaching the Palacio Xcalalpak in Chacmultun

Visiting Chacmultun Yucatan 

The Chacmultun archaeological site sits 122km south of the Yucatan capital of Merida and 12km southeast of Tekax. It is essentially the final city on the Puuc route through Southern Mexico and can be visited after exploring the sites of Uxmal, Kabah, Labna, Sayil, and Xlapak although it is very tricky to get to Chacmultun without a car. 

If you do decide to visit both Chacmultun and the archeological sites of the Ruta Puuc, you should allow 2 (or ideally 3) days as it is too much to cram into a day. A major draw of Chacmultun is the vastness of the site and how few people take the time to stop by here. 

You have to sign in when you buy a ticket and when I glanced at the guest book during my visit, there were only four other names for that day. The site was pretty deserted during my exploration which gave it a pretty magical, mysterious feel that you simply don’t have at crowded sites like Chichen Itza. 

Centuries ago, Chacmultun was an important agricultural site for the Ancient Maya and it continues to be so today – important buildings are separated by large cornfields and require hikes through farmlands and along dirt trails. 

Since there are no signs or waymarkers, your only indication of where you need to go is seeing various palaces, structures, and shrines in the distance and following the path towards them.  

The Chacmultun site 

Upon entering Chacmultun, you can clamber up some worn stone steps to your right to explore the main building and a central plaza. You can climb up the pyramid to the upper level, although the worn, steep steps are a little dangerous and not for the faint of heart. 

Look out for the building with a metal door in front of it. Inside you will find faded frescoes depicting noble Mayans wearing regal headwear, comparable to some of the murals at Bonampak in Chiapas. 

When you descend back down to the main path, you will find a sprawling and pretty well-preserved pok-ta-pok ballcourt, and a route leading through the trees to the impressive Palacio Xcalalpak. 

The old sacbe (Mayan road) that continues from here takes you to a structure known as the “Xetpol” which can be seen perched on the hillside in the distance. The route to reach Xetpol is a highlight of exploring Chacmultun in itself as you pass through fields filled with farmers tending cattle and harvesting elotes, and winding paths that take you deeper into the jungle. 

The final stretch of the walk involves some element of clambering uphill but you are rewarded with the sight of Xetpol and the views over the Yucatan jungle from this lookout point. Most of the Yucatan state is flat as a pancake so seeing somewhere with rolling hills and nothing but miles and miles of lush, dense jungle in front of you is a real treat. 

You can easily dedicate 2-3 hours to exploring Chacmultun. If you are not visiting the site together with the Puuc archeological sites, you can tie in your visit with an exploration of nearby Tekax – a Yucatan pueblo magico known for its gorgeous murals and old churches. 

Getting to Chacmultun 

Unfortunately, Chacmultun, like many other Yucatan archeological sites, is hard to reach unless you rent a car in Merida and drive yourself. Since the ruins are fairly remote, few tour companies go here. 

If you are uncomfortable driving in Mexico for any reason, you can ask around in Merida expat Facebook groups, find a local driver, and agree on a price. There is currently no public transport that runs between Merida and Chacmultun although you can take the Oriente bus to Tekax, and then seek out a local driver. 

It took us just over 2 hours to drive from Merida to Chacmultun via the 180 Federal Highway. En route, you will pass through the Yucatan villages of Kancab and Canek which are charming due to the architecture of their houses, which boast intricately carved doorways and porticoes reminiscent of an Arabian Nights movie set or something you would expect to see in the Middle East.

The path through the jungle to the Xetpol structures at Chacmultun Yucatan
Following the path through the jungle to the Xetpol structures

Things to Know Before Visiting Chacmultun 

  • As of 2024, admission to Chacmultun is free for Mexicans and 75 pesos per person for foreigners. Admission to Mayan archeological sites seems to be revised/increased each year

  • Payment to enter the site is in cash only and it is better to bring smaller bills and change where possible as they may not be able to break up larger bills

  • There are no signs or information plaques around the site at all so it is difficult to obtain context to what you are seeing. You can hire a guide in Tekax for 200 pesos but you need to head into Tekax center first.

  • There is a free parking lot directly outside the ruins

  • Packs of stray dogs live in the parking lot and can follow you around which is a bit intimidating if, like me, you have a fear of dogs

  • There are no amenities at Chacmultun – no bathrooms, stores, etc and you cannot buy water here. Come prepared and make sure you at least stop at an Oxxo to buy water. During my visit, some structures were being constructed close to the entrance so it looks like a visitor’s center is being built in the hope of increased tourism here in the future. 

Final thoughts on visiting Chacmultun 

Do you have any additional questions about visiting Chacmultun? As I mentioned, the site has been one of my favorite ruins in the Yucatan (along with Oxkintok, Labna, and Kabah)  after visiting literally dozens of archeological sites in the area.

It is well worth the visit if you are interested in Mayan history. 

Unfortunately, the preservation of the site is quite poor – from the frescoes to some of the crumbling structures. As you meander around, you will also see various other mounds beneath the ground which will no doubt be more pyramids and structures, but for now they remain hidden until INAH gets the funding and manpower to excavate further. 

(As is the case with many Mayan ruins in the Yucatan peninsula). 

If you need anything further, please don’t hesitate to connect with me by leaving a comment below or reaching out via email/social media and I will do my best to get back to you as soon as I can. 

Safe travels and enjoy Mexico! Melissa xo 

Melissa Douglas

Melissa Douglas is a British Travel Writer based in Merida, Mexico and the Editor-in-Chief of Mexico Travel Secrets. She has over seven years worth of experience in working in travel media and has travelled to 57 countries, mostly solo. Throughout her career, Melissa has produced written content for several high-profile publications across the globe - including Forbes Travel Guide, the Huffington Post, Rough Guides, and Matador Network.

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