Introducing Escárcega to Xpujil
This southern peninsular region – now bordering modern-day Guatemala – was the earliest established, longest inhabited and most densely populated region in the Maya world. Here you'll also find the most elaborate archaeological sites on the Yucatán peninsula.
Hwy 186 heads east across Campeche state, climbing gradually from the unappealing town of Escárcega to a broad, jungle plateau and then down to Chetumal, in Quintana Roo. The highway passes near several fascinating Maya sites including historically significant Calakmul and through the ecologically diverse Reserva de la Biosfera Calakmul. The largest settlement between Escárcega and Chetumal is the town of Xpujil, near where there are three gas stations.
Calakmul and most of the other sites in this area are best visited by private vehicle. If you're on public transport, plan on hiring taxis or taking tours from companies in either Xpujil or Campeche (reserve these ahead of time).
Among the region’s archaeological sites, the Río Bec architectural style predominates. It is actually a hybrid of styles fusing elements from the Chenes region to the north and Petén to the south. Río Bec structures are characterized by long, low buildings divided into three sections, with a huge ‘monster’ mouth glaring from a central doorway. The facades are decorated with smaller masks and geometric designs. At each end are tall, smoothly rounded towers with banded tiers supporting small false temples flanked by extremely steep, nonfunctional steps.