Oxkintok is one of the most important Mayan cities in northern Yucatan, an archeological site to surprise you on your way. The Mayan labyrinth is one of the treasures that Oxkintok keeps, a labyrinth?


Years ago I was watching a documentary series about Mayan cities and they talked about Oxkintok, which I didn't know about. What caught my attention the most was its labyrinth, a small building that the ancient Mayans used to practice initiation rituals, according to some experts.

I immediately felt like going out to see the place, so taking advantage of a few days of Easter we went on the road, and one stop was Oxkintok.

I arrived at Oxkintok with my heart filled with excitement. There was only a small palapa to provide shade for the INAH workers who collected the ticket, little else; It was the year 2010 or so. I think they instantly noticed my excited smile from afar, and as I greeted them I said something like "I was happy to be there and I really wanted to visit the labyrinth."

To my misfortune, the labyrinthor it is closed to the public, something I didn't know. I think they felt so sorry for my face like a girl who had a piece of candy taken out of her mouth that upon entering the premises they told me: we are going to open the maze for you. I was enlightened, they are one of those gifts that one will not appreciate enough, they are priceless.

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Building of the labyrinth or tza tun tzat

HOW TO GO TO THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL AREA OF OXKINTOK

  • HOW TO GET TO OXKINTOK BY CAR: Oxkintok is located 74 km south of Mérida. You arrive on the Federal Highway N.180 that leads from Mérida to Campeche. At km 57 take the road that goes to the town of Muna which is 32 km away; Following this road, 11 km away, is the town of Calcehtok. From here, take the road towards the Calcehtok caves, 1.5 kilometers later take the detour along the western branch of the road. 4 km later you reach the site of Oxkintok.

You can also take a shortcut that Google Maps does not know about, but I will explain it to you right now: once past Maxcanú, continue towards Campeche and on the first bridge of the federal highway there is a handwritten sign indicating a detour to Oxkintok. It's easy to see the sign, just pay attention. From here you have less than 10 minutes to the Ozkintok ruins.

  • HOW TO GET TO OXKINTOK BY PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION: It is complicated to go by public transportation. From Mérida you can get to Maxcanú by van, and from there to the archaeological zone.

Mexico state: Yucatan

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Click on the map to open Google maps

HISTORY OF OXKINTOK

  • WHAT DOES THE NAME OXKINTOK MEAN: Oxkintok is a Mayan word that means ox: three; kin: day or sun; Y capsule: flint; that is, “three days of flint” or “three sharp suns.” A possible meaning is also “the city of the three flint suns.” There is no glyph that tells us that the place was called that in ancient times, and the place is still under investigation.
  • OXKINTOK HEIGHT: to date it is known to be the settlement in this area of ​​northern Yucatán with the longest period of occupation, from 300 BC to 1200 AD. Unlike the rest of the Puuc cities in the area, it had its peak during the Early Classic (300-500 AD) when the most monumental buildings were built, such as the Mayan labyrinth.
  • ARCHITECTURAL STYLE: Oxkintok is of the Puuc architectural style, one of the most refined and detailed throughout the Mayan civilization.
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Oxkintok archaeological zone

OXKINTOK HIGHLIGHTS: The labyrinth (tza tun tzat) of Oxkintok

The Mayan labyrinth is known in Mayan as tza tun tzat: it is pronounced satunsat, and means laundry o place where it is easy to get lost. It is a building that you barely pay attention to if you don't know it: rectangular 10 meters by 20 meters and an elevation of 7 meters.

A small door on the west side of the building guides us to its dark interior, with the only reference being some small windows that help you with orientation and temporality thanks to the light that enters through them.

This building was used for initiation rites, tests that the chosen men who aspired to be priests, healers or another profession to which only a few had access had to overcome, thus closing and maintaining the circle of the powerful. The fact that it is a labyrinth with three levels gives rise to thinking about the three great cosmic levels of the Mayan world: celestial, terrestrial and underground.

These levels refer to both the outer universe and the human universe, they represent both. The three levels are linked together, they form a whole. The entrance to the enclosure by the west and the exit from the third level by east, indicates that it enters the underworld or the underground plane, to leave reborn to the celestial plane. 

This underworld is a place of both death and life. There are labyrinths of this type in the Mayan world in Toniná and Yaxchilán, I don't know if there is anywhere else.

Explore the best 5 Yucatan archeological zones

That visit was magical, a dream come true: I visited beautiful Oxkintok and was able to breathe history through the walls of the dark Mayan labyrinth of Oxkintok. A small door on the west face of the building guides us into the labyrinth, which we enter by bowing our heads as a sign of respect.

Inside, a series of corridors with vaults awaited us, entangled in 16 bedrooms, distributed on the first two levels, and a third level that defines the three floors of the building. To the third level you can go up a staircase on the east side.

Inside the place you realize how difficult it is to orient yourself: I really wanted to pass one of their initiation tests in the tza tun tzat.

In the labyrinth of Oxkintok a tomb of a governor was found, which leads one to think that it was a pyramid built for that purpose. A building so small and so important.

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Frame taken from the NatGeo documentary of Oxkintok's labyrinth levels
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The Oxkintok labyrinth
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Entrance west into the labyrinth, you must bow your head to enter

OXKINTOK MAP

The Oxkintok archaeological zone is quite large. There are many areas to see, many different buildings. You can have a lot of fun in Oxkintok.

The Oxkintok archaeological zone is divided into three large groups called Ah Dzib, Ah May and Ah Canul, which are connected to each other by cobblestone roads. It is very easy to walk around the area counterclockwise, so you don't miss any groups.

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Photo Map © INAH

VISIT OXKINTOK

Since that first visit in 2010, several months passed before returning to Oxkintok again. The small palapa has been replaced by a large entrance with visitor services. To be honest, the experience of tza tun tzat and some other details stayed with me from the first time, so on this occasion I enjoyed my visit to Oxkintok in a different way.

It was Sunday and I was alone in the facility for more than two hours, then a small group of 6 people arrived. Oxkintok gives us a wonderful visit through the different settings that we can see: sculptures, chultunes, arches, perfectly facing entrances, esplanades, cobbled paths, beautiful ornamentations and wonderful views of the Yucatecan countryside.

At the entrance to the facility there are authorized guides who offer to accompany you on your tour. They surely provide you with knowledge and understanding since our inexperienced eyes only see stones, but the guides make those stones speak to us. Most of the time the vestiges give us little information about what the ancient Mayan cities were like, something that is always lacking in the archaeological zones of Mexico.

Oxkintok was much larger than what we see now, something that happens in practically all of the archaeological zones that we can visit. I always really enjoy visits to Oxkintok, don't miss it.

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Oxkintok ruins
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Chultún, well made by the human to extract water
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Paved roads

PRACTICAL INFORMATION FOR VISITING OXKINTOK

1- Oxkintok archaeological zone schedule

From 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day


2-Services

There are toilets and parking.


3-Oxkintok archaeological zone price

75 pesos per person.

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

FREE ENTRY EVERY DAY FOR:
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.

Oxkintok ruins

TIPS FOR VISITING OXKINTOK

  • WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: It's a shame but remember that the labyrinth is not open. I remind you that from the outside it is difficult to understand and admire this place, but try to project what this small place is. In the Plaza del Arco, in the Ah Canul group, similar to that of Dzibilchaltún, you can observe the equinox.
  • WHAT TO BRING: Light, light clothing, hat, insect repellent, closed and comfortable shoes to climb structures and protect yourself from insect bites. Bring some water, it's always good. Smoking, bringing food and bringing pets are prohibited.
  • VISIT TIME: allow more or less 2 hours to calmly explore the place.
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Mario and his pretty peek '. A very strong hug 🙂

And for the end I leave one of Oxkintok's best treasures: it's Mario, the happy-go-lucky maintenance worker, neighbor of nearby Maxcanú. It is always a pleasure to greet and talk with people like him on the road, of those who leave their mark.

PLACES NEAR OXKINTOK TO VISIT

You can combine a visit to Oxkintok with one of the nearby grottoes, the most popular of which are the Calcehtok grottoes. I haven't visited them, so I can't tell you about them, but they do look very good.

You are in the Puuc area, one of the most beautiful architectural styles of the ancient Mayan, so enjoy it a lot.

I leave you some other recommendations and the map of the area to make it easier for you:

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Photo © Google Maps: click on the image to open the map of the Puuc area

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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.
I am at your disposal for whatever you need. Let's talk.

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