Some 50km east of Campeche lie the impressive ruins of Edzná (daily 8am–5pm; M$41), one of the few sites in the area accessible by bus. Though this is where the so-called Chenes style of architecture (chen means “well” and is a fairly common suffix to place names hereabouts) dominated, Edzná is far from a pure example of it, also featuring elements of Río Bec, Classic Maya and Puuc design. At the height of its power, between 250 BC and 150 AD, it was a large city, on the main route between the Maya communities of the highlands and the coast. The ruins show evidence of a complex drainage and irrigation system that probably supported a large agricultural project and more than a thousand people.
The most important structure here is the great Templo de los Cinco Pisos (Temple of the Five Storeys), a stepped palace-pyramid more than thirty metres high. Unusually, each of the five storeys contains chambered “palace” rooms: while both solid temple pyramids and multistorey “apartment” complexes are relatively common, it is rare to see the two combined in one building. At the front, a steep monumental staircase leads to a three-room temple, topped by a roofcomb. It’s a hot climb, but the view takes in the dense greenery and the hills that mark this side of the peninsula. As you look out over two plazas, the further of which must have been capable of holding tens of thousands of people, it is easy to imagine the power that the high priest or king commanded. Beyond lie the unexcavated remains of other large pyramids, and behind them, the vast flat expanse of the Yucatán plain. Inside the west-facing temple, a stele of the god of maize was illuminated by the sun twice a year, on the dates for the planting and harvesting of the crop.
Lesser buildings surround the ceremonial precinct. The Nohochná (Casa Grande, or Big House), a palace on the northwest side, is some 55m long and contains a room used as a temazcal (traditional sauna), with stone benches and hearths over which water could be boiled. Over in the Pequeña Acrópolis, the Templo de los Mascarones contains two eerie masks representing the sun god, rising on the east (left-hand) side and setting on the west.
Buses leave from Campeche in front of the Sur terminal on República south of the market in the mornings; the last ride back to Campeche is at 3.45pm, but check with the driver on the way there. A sound-and-light show on Friday and Saturday (8pm; M$112) involves walking among the illuminated buildings. Alternatively, you could join an organized trip from Campeche.
Other Chenes sites
Other Chenes sites
Most of the ruins that exhibit undiluted Chenes style (marked by colonnaded facades and monster-mouth doorways, evolved from the Río Bec further south) are accessible only with a car or exceptional determination. One site, Dzibilnocac (daily 8am–5pm; free), is relatively accessible by bus, as it’s 1km east of the village of Iturbide (or Vicente Guerrero, according to many road signs), which gets regular second-class service from Hopelchén and Campeche; to be on the safe side, arrive early and check return times. The buildings here show the ultradecorative facades typical of the Chenes style – its restored western temple pyramid is quite pretty.
About 15km southwest of the village of Dzibalchén (follow signs to Chencoh), Hochob (daily 8am–5pm; M$31) has an amazing three-room temple (low and fairly small, as are most Chenes buildings), with a facade richly carved with stylized snakes and masks. The central chamber is surmounted by a crumbling roofcomb, and its decoration, with fangs, eyes and ears, creates the effect of a huge face, with the doorway as a gaping mouth.