The Acanceh archaeological zone is a candy in Yucatán. It is passing through delicious tourist destinations and barely attracts attention. It is worth stopping in Acanceh.

Acanceh is a busy Yucatecan town because it is on the way to several places of tourist interest, such as the archaeological zone of Mayapán, some haciendas and the famous cenotes of Cuzamá and Homún.

The archaeological zone of Acanceh, as soon as you pass through the town, attracts attention because it can be seen from the main square. It is a beautiful sight next to the Catholic temple. Two worlds found and confronted, and so they continue in one way or another.

The image of this contrast is curious, but the vestige is presented as an unattractive building: a mass of rock that does not invite you to stop. If you decide to visit it, you will be pleasantly surprised by the treasures it preserves.

This is what happened to me the first time, when I stopped out of curiosity, and discovered the beautiful Acanceh archaeological zone. Since that first time, every time I pass by I usually stop for the pleasure of admiring this little Mayan gem.

For connoisseurs of the Mayan civilization, it is a visit marked in capital letters on the map: Acanceh treasures the best preserved masks of Yucatán, as well as beautiful reliefs on a frieze that has unfortunately lost its original paint. They are a beauty, candy on the road.

Meet the best 5 Mayan archeological zones of Yucatán

Acanceh, Yucatan


The location of the Acanceh archaeological zone is perfect for visiting from Mérida. It is located on the way to Mayapán and the cenotes of Cuzamá and Homún, one of the best-known cenotes in the state of Yucatán.

Many tourists pass through Acanceh every day without barely looking back. The only explanation I can find for not visiting this Mayan architectural candy is that you don't know what good things await you.

  • HOW TO GO TO ACANCEH FROM MÉRIDA BY CAR: take the southeast exit of the city towards Valladolid, following Federal Highway 180 Mérida-Valladolid. After 8 kilometers you have to take the detour to the right that leads to Mayapán, along the Yucatán State Highway 18 where you continue for 14 kilometers until a detour to the left on Highway 34. Less than a kilometer away is the municipality of Acanceh. . In the center of the town is the archaeological zone of Acanceh. TOUR TIME: 30 km, about 35 minutes.
  • HOW TO GO TO ACANCEH BY PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION FROM MÉRIDA: bus leaves from the Noreste Terminal and LUS Buses in Mérida, street 67 x 52 and 50; times 7:45, 9:15, 10:45, 12:30 and 14:30; It costs about 35 pesos. Another option is to go by bus, they leave when they are full in front of the same terminal, on 67th Street and charge 35 pesos. The big bus takes between 1 hour and a little longer. Buses also arrive from Piste or Valladolid.
Discover the archaeological zone Acanceh and its masks 1
Open Google maps © to go Acanceh


It is estimated that Acanceh was founded in the Preclassic Mayan period (700-50 BC). This city maintained commercial relations with other large contemporary cities such as Dzibilchaltún, Oxkintok and Mayapán until the year 1000 AD, after which its slow decline began.

The ancient Mayan city of Acanceh occupied 3 km2, and 300 structures have been counted. Of all the structures there are two that stand out considerably: The Pyramid and the Palace of the Stuccos.

In 1908, the great explorer Teobert Maler recorded the two masks located on the south façade. In subsequent archaeological work, two masks were located on the west side, two on the north side and one on the east side. His discovery has been one of the most significant in recent years.

  • ACANCEH CHRONOLOGY: the chronology marks us from 700 BC. C. until 1000 AD
  • WHAT DOES THE NAME OF ACANCEH: its name means moan of deer in Yucatec Mayan language. From akan “moan” and keh “deer”
  • ARCHITECTONIC STYLE ACANCEH: combines several styles, including puuc.
Archaeological zone Acanceh, Yucatan.

The piramid from Acanceh

The Acanceh temple that can be seen from the square is called The Pyramid. Preserves the most beautiful masks of Yucatán. I would say that along with those from Kohunlich in Quintana Roo, they are part of the elite of Mayan figureheads.

THE MASCARONS OF ACANCEH: the 5 fantastic masks surround the pyramidal base measuring 30 meters on each side and 15 meters high. At the top of the structure we find the masks, 2 on each side of the cardinal points. The fact that all the figureheads are missing their noses gives rise to various theories as to why.

The Acanceh masks measure between 2.25 and 3.50 m high by 3.05 and 3.72 m wide. Each of the five figureheads are framed by two ear flaps. On their foreheads they wore a kind of headdress divided into three boxes with small scrolls inside.

The central element in the Acanceh masks is an anthropomorphic head decorated, modified and surrounded by symbolic elements that are related to the solar god (Kinich Ahau). The masks were found on masonry constructions and in a visible place to attract the attention of the entire community.

Discover the archaeological zone Acanceh and its masks 2
The masks desnarizados
Archaeological zone Acanceh, Yucatan.

From the grounds you can see the Mayan past, the colonial and the contemporary in a single space, our footprints leaving scars on the landscape and its inhabitants. The pyramid is a building that preserves much of its original stucco, allowing you to contemplate and imagine how the old buildings were covered.

I long for more information in the archaeological zones that can better locate and guide us in time.

What ancient Mayan cities were like

Archaeological zone Acanceh, Yucatan.
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Original stucco covering the stairs
Discover the archaeological zone Acanceh and its masks 4

Palace of the Stuccos from Acanceh

The other great vestige of Acanceh is the so-called Palacio de los Estucos, a large structure 50 meters wide and 6 meters high. It is located a few blocks from the main square, on 18th Street. You must ask to be accompanied to see the Palacio de los Estucos.

Mario, the kind INAH worker who collects the tickets, is the one who accompanies you to open both venues. He will surely tell you about the discoveries of the archaeologists with whom he was lucky enough to share and learn, as soon as he sees your interest, you will see how he gives you a good talk.

The beautiful Acanceh frieze is another unmissable treasure along the way. It consists of 2 rows with stepped motifs in the shape of battlements in relief on the plane of the frieze, painted in various colors and decorated with anthropomorphic motifs modeled in stucco.

The motifs on the frieze of the Palacio de los Estucos are birds of prey, squirrels and bats.

Unfortunately today we see it blurred and barely without color, but it gives rise to imagining how beautiful these cities were. Thanks to the documents that Mario provides, from old photos, press clippings and photocopies of the originals that he keeps in the booth, it is much easier to imagine the place as it was originally, and the visit is more enjoyable.

Discover the archaeological zone Acanceh and its masks 5
Acanceh, Yucatan
Mario, thank you very much 🙂
Discover the archaeological zone Acanceh and its masks 6


1- Archaeological zone schedule

Monday to Sunday from 8 a.m. to 17 p.m., every day of the year.


There are no services, only the small toll booth in the square.

3-Price Acanceh archaeological zone

75 pesos per person.

On Sundays, entry is free for Mexicans and foreigners with permanent residence.

Mexicans •Over 60 years of age (with official credentials) •Retirees and pensioners (with official institution credentials) •Teachers and students (with official credentials of the Mexican Educational System) •Children up to 12 years of age •Researchers and interns (with INAH permit credential )

Mexicans and foreigners • People with disabilities (with their proper credentials)

The use of video cameras and professional cameras is subject to payment of fees.

Discover the archaeological zone Acanceh and its masks 7


Among photos, anecdotes and old documentation, the visit to Acanceh is lived in a special way, close and authentic. Hopefully on your visit to Mayapán or to the cenotes of Homún or those of Cuzamá have the time and the desire to visit Acanceh. You are going to take a tasty caramel.

I leave you some recommendations:

Discover the archaeological zone Acanceh and its masks 8
Open photo © Google Maps to discover the area

Good way.

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Sandra Salvadó Training photographer, traveler by vocation and certified tourism guide by the Government of Mexico. We promote natural wonders and contemporary Mayan culture. Great fan of pre-Hispanic history. Author of the blog and co-founder of The Shortest Path Travel, agency that guides you through alternative paths in Mayan lands. Social and sustainable tourism in the Yucatan Peninsula and Chiapas.
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