Temple of the Cormorants

An angled shot of Building 2 (Temple of the Cormorants) at the ancient Maya ruins of Dzibanché in Quintana Roo, México:

Building 2 and steps

Dzibanché is an amazing little site to visit — it doesn’t get the press of the bigger sites (so there are never crowds), but it still has lots of interesting structures to see.

The Temple of the Cormorants is the site’s tallest structure, but sadly you can’t climb it.  Still, plenty to see from ground level.  This structure contains three burial chambers, one stacked atop the next in its core.  In the bottom one, archaeologists found the tomb of a member of the city’s elite, with a wealth of grave goods — including a polychrome vessel decorated with cormorants (giving the structure its modern name).

This shot’s taken from the northwest of the building — even from here you can see some of the structure’s many layers of construction, and you can just make out the stucco carvings under the sheltering roofs along the steps on its side.

Building 1

At the (fairly small) Maya ruins of Dzibanché in Quintana Roo, Mexico:

Dzibanché's Building 1

This is a nicely restored little pyramid, and since the site of Dzibanché isn’t all that frequently visited, you can have it to yourself for a while. It’s a quick day-trip from either Costa Maya or Chetumal, too — an easy and affordable excursion should you find yourself in the area.

Dzibanché’s Eastern Complex

Well, OK — I have a confession to make. I don’t really know what this section of Dzibanché has actually been named. I do know that it’s way out on the eastern end of the site, and has recently been restored.

Eastern complex

Unfortunately, this part of Dzibanché has been restored so recently that it doesn’t yet have interpretive signs, or even show up on maps at the site itself. But it was fun to wander aimlessly through — lots of courtyards and buildings, some still preserving scraps of their original plaster. And few have heard of the place, so should you visit, you’ll likely have it to yourself.


Building 6 at the Maya ruins of Dzibanché, near Chetumal in Quintana Roo, México:


Dzibanché is a bit of an odd duck — great things to see, but it’s sufficiently off the “usual” track for tourists that it doesn’t get many visitors. It doesn’t help, either, that basically all the tour guide books describe the road to the site as being a rutted dirt track (it’s narrow and crooked, but has been paved for at least 10 years).

Of course, the good news for those that *do* drive out to Dzibanché is that you’ll most likely have the place to yourself. Oh, and you can climb most of the pyramids here (unlike many of the more-visited ruins).

Building 6, by the way, is the first pyramid you see on your walk into the site. It’s also known as the “Palace of the Lintels” after some carved wood beams that were discovered here (sadly, they’ve been removed and replaced by more modern wood).

12 November update — by the way, if you happen to be planning a trip to the Yucatan, I’m in the process of releasing a set of 12 guides to Maya ruins. Oriented toward photography in the ruins, they only cost a couple of dollars each via Amazon’s Kindle store — the one for Dzibanché and its neighbors is described here. I’ve released two guides so far, the rest of the dozen should be out before the end of the year — so stay tuned!

Life among the ruins

Seen among the Maya ruins of Dzibanché in Quintana Roo, México:

Life among the ruins

It was more than a bit odd to run across this flower in the depths of the Yucatan peninsula’s dry season this summer — so when I spotted it, I just had to grab this shot. Bright colors against muted tones, life among long-vacant ruins. Can’t beat the contrasts!