Top choice in Tabasco

Surrounded by jungle trees and little visited by tourists, the small but impressive Maya ruins of ancient Comalcalco are the most westerly known Maya ruins. Architecturally they're unique due to many of the buildings being constructed of bricks and/or mortar made from oyster shells. Comalcalco was at its peak between AD 600 and 1000, when it was ruled by the Chontals. It remained an important center of commerce for several more centuries, trading in a wealth of pre-Hispanic luxury goods.

At the entrance to the complex is a small museum with a fine array of sculptures and engravings of human heads, deities, glyphs and animals, such as crocodiles and pelicans.

Beyond the museum, the first building you encounter is the great brick tiered pyramid, Templo 1. At its base are the remains of large stucco sculptures, including the feet of a giant winged toad. Further temples line Plaza Norte, in front of Templo I. In the far (southeast) corner of the site rises the Gran Acrópolis, which has views from its summit over a canopy of palms to the Gulf of Mexico. The Acrópolis is fronted by Templo V, a burial pyramid that was once decorated on all sides with stucco sculptures of people, reptiles, birds and aquatic life. At Templo V’s western foot is Templo IX, which has a tomb lined by nine stucco sculptures showing a Comalcalco lord with his priests and courtiers. Above Templo V is the crumbling profile of El Palacio, with its parallel 80m-long, corbel-arched galleries, probably once Comalcalco’s royal residence. Information is in both Spanish and English.

If coming via public transport, there are several options. The easiest, but most expensive way is via taxi from the center of Comalco (around M$60). From Villahermosa, if you take Comalli or ADO buses to the center of Comalco, ask to be directed to the supermarket Chedraui. From here, take a combi (direction Paraiso) and ask to be let off at the ruins turn-off. From here it's a 20-minute walk along a pleasant house-lined street. Alternatively, from Villahermosa, ask the Comalli buses to drop you near the ruins turn off if they head that way; be aware that you are on a main highway.

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