Calakmul, Mexico

A complete guide to Calakmul, the most adventurous mayan site in Mexico

By Sergio Camalich

I’ve said it before and I say it again: Calakmul is by far one of the most incredible and definitely the most adventurous mayan site in Mexico.

Calakmul is a relatively unknown site in the southern area of the mexican state of Campeche, situated in the middle of the Calakmul natural reserve almost in the border with Guatemala—and pretty much isolated from any form of civilisation.

Its name comes from the two main pyramids. One of them—Structure II—is the second highest mayan pyramid in Mexico.


The site is also home to more than 6000 different structures, sacbés and roads that are supposed to connect Calakmul to other mayan cities like El Mirador and even Tikal.

Reaching it is hard, specially for backpackers without an easy way of transportation and a tight budget.

At least, I know it was hard for me and I definitely sweated and cursed a lot on the way there.


But as soon as I saw those awe-inspiring pyramids—covered by a dense jungle, while monkeys, foxes and wild turkeys ran around the area—I knew it was all worth it.

While investigating about the site, it was hard finding any information on the internet about how to reach Calakmul, and that’s why I decided to write this mini guide.

Backpackers, adventurers and Archaeology buffs—learn from my mistakes.

Getting near Calakmul

Take a good look at this map:

Did you notice? Calakmul is in the middle of nowhere!

So my first recommendation of this guide is that you should at least consider 3 days for this adventure.

One to get to your camping site/hotel, another one to get to the actual site and back and a last one to move to your next destination.

Backpackers, adventurers and Archaeology buffs—learn from my mistakes.

If you like to travel the way I travel, you’ll have to spend several hours traveling around in local colectivos before settling down and though there are different ways of getting to Calakmul, depending on where are you coming from, here’s how I did it:

Campeche – Escárcega
Rule #12 of the traveler: Always start early, specially if you’re moving to a new place.

From the beautiful fortified city of Campeche, it only takes one colectivo($6usd) and a couple of hours to get to the Escárcega, a small town that serves as a connection point to Tabasco, Chiapas and Quintana Roo.

I started this part of the trip way too late and that was a bad idea, depending on how you look at it. But more on that later.

Escárcega – Conhuas
Conhuas is the closest town to Calakmul and the place I recommend to stay the night before going to the actual site, though a lot of people prefer to stay at Xpujil—a more developed town just 30 minutes away from Conhuas.

If you planned well your timing, you should be able to find a colectivo from Escárcega to Conhuas, via Xpujil, for about $4usd. Otherwise, you’ll have to spend the night here or take a taxi and wait for it to be full before the ride starts($6usd).

DCIM105GOPROYay! I made it! NOT.

Conhuas – Camp Yaaxché
Conhuas is a preeeeeetty small town, with only one small budget hotel in town and several more expensive eco-friendly lodges on the entrance of the biosphere.

If you go further into the Calakmul biosphere, you’ll also find a handful of cabins and camping sites, incluiding the one I chose—Camp Yaaxché, a family-run camping site in the middle of the jungle($7usd for camping with your own gear).


Ideally, you’d arrive at Conhuas with enough time to get another transport from the main road to the camping site.

But this is not a perfect world and you might end up walking the 7km that separate Yaaxché from the rest of the world, just like at did. And believe me, it gets dark pretty quickly!

Actually getting to Calakmul

They say patience is a virtue; and you’ll need as much as possible the day you’re going to the site, since the only way of making the last leg to Calakmul is by hitchhiking one of the most isolated roads I’ve seen in my life.

Just to give you some perspective, I started at 6am and didn’t got a ride until well passed 10, with only one car passing by in-between.

DCIM105GOPROHaving fun with my latest friend—Sticky McStickerson

Once you get a ride, sit back and enjoy the amazing scenery and keep an eye open for all the animals you might see on the way.

It’s a long way to the ruins(around 60km) and the last stop before getting there is a tollbooth where you’ll have to pay $4usd for the entrance fee to Calakmul’s National Park.

After that, there’s absolutely nothing besides the site guards, so you better bring snacks and enough water.

Enjoy Calakmul!


As soon as you enter the site(another $4usd), you get the amazing feeling that you are the first person ever to be on this place—one of my favorite feelings ever.

Before you start seeing any structures, you have to walk through the dirt paths, passing by a small swamp and hopefully seeing more wild animals.

And then, right in front of you but shyly hiding behind the tall trees—like a young kid playing hide and seek—lays the ancient city of Calakmul, home to the Kingdom of the Snake and one of the most powerful cities of the Mayan world.

Pirámide Calakmul


Transport: $12usd
General fees: $10usd
Camping: $7usd per night, with your own gear.

More pictures of Calakmul

DCIM105GOPROLast ray of light, still nowhere near Camp Yaaxché

DSC_0164A falcon surrounding me at the top of Structure II

DSC_0160Detail of one of the many structures around the site

DSC_0169An ocean of trees is the only thing that surrounds Calakmul

DSC_0158Most of the structures are still hiding beneath the jungle

DCIM105GOPROOn the ride back to Conhuas

  • Mairon Giovani

    Awesome stuff. Congrats on having made it. Will try to make my way there, too. Cheers

    • That sounds awesome! You’re gonna have a great time, for sure. Let me know if you need any more info.

  • Sam

    Finally, someone who doesn’t suggest the 900 peso cab from xpujil! Been figuring this one out for a few days. I’m hoping to make it to the campsite from Campeche, via escarcega, jumping off at the turnoff and walking the 7ks.

  • Juliana Araújo

    Did u book the camping? I am trying to find a way to book it, but I couldn’t figure it out. Maybe I just need to show up, is it right? My main concern is that I am planning to go during Christmas time =P so they might not be open.

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