About an hour south of Comitan de Dominguez in southern Chiapas is a very nice Maya ruin site called Chinkultic. Though not huge, the ruins of Chincultic are well worth visiting. The site is right off of the road to Lagos Montebello, a well marked turn-off not too far south of Comitan on Mexico 190.
None of the ruins are very large, but they sit beautifully in the landscape. The main temple is the Castillo located at the top of the natural hill it’s built on. From the edge of that temple there is a steep cliff dropping directly off into the cenote, a pool in the limestone, which has a very unique shade of blue. The Lagos Montebello also have some stunningly different shades of blue, but that’s a different post.
The cenote at Chincultic is not only dramatic and beautiful, but it has also been a boon to archaeologists. Some of the discoveries are on display at the Mayan Museum in Comitan. It’s a small and impressive museum with artifacts collected from Maya sites all around Chiapas. The museum is just off of the Parque Central at the Centro Cultural Rosario Castellanos.
The park was constructing what appeared to be a new visitor center and various services for tourists with paved parking. They were not open yet, and I was glad for this. I greatly prefer archaeological sites to be fairly rustic and not over developed. Once into the ruins it’s all very beautiful.
The site of Chinkultic has quite an assortment of local flowering trees and plants. Unfortunately I was unable to get the names of most of them. The tree with the bright pink blooms popping out of what looked like acorns on the tree limbs was by far my favorite. Reminds of the Muppet Beaker’s hair.
It was burning season, which is pretty much March through May, when we were there. The smoke was enough to smell in the background, but not too bad. From the top of the ruins we could see fields being burned and that had recently been burned. Slash and burn agriculture has been the way of doing things here for a very long time.
The local residents from towns directly next to the ruins have had some disputes with the way the government has gone about developing the site. They feel that they have been excluded from some important financial aspects of the development. The dispute boiled over a few years ago. I’m not sure how it has all worked out, but the ruins are quite safe and both the locals and park people are very welcoming.
One option you have to help the local community is to pull off just before the turn for the ruins and purchase a refreshment from one of the local roadside businesses, then you can be sure that your money has gone directly into the local community.