Every traveler must certainly remember their first trip abroad, and for me, that was Belize in Central America. The trip’s downside was catching my first case of dengue fever, but the upside was a visit to the ruins of the Maya city of Altun Ha.
The fever was a harsh introduction to international travel, but Altun Ha lit a fire of curiosity about ancient cultures and antiquities that still burns brightly today. And recently, Terri and I stoked the fire with our very own Ruta Maya through Yucatán and Chiapas of southern Mexico.
Southeastern Mexico is the ancestral home of the Maya, so its concentration of ruins provides travelers with lots of impressive options. As always, we prefer variety, so we cherry-picked three well-preserved sites that were different styles and easily accessed: Uxmal, Palenque, and Chichen Itza.
The Maya Culture is known for its towering architecture, intricate calendar, ahead-of-its-time mathematics and astronomy, as well as its complex hieroglyphic writing system. But despite what continuing archaeological research has shown, the question of exactly what happened to this sophisticated society largely remains a mystery.
We came to the Yucatán with our own set of questions about the Maya. At it’s peak, there were 40 widely-scattered cities. Why was every one abandoned? Why was human sacrifice and bloodletting one of the major tenets of their religion? Why was astronomy so important and what part did the movement of the planets play in their lives?
Finding answers, and to be honest, a colder-than-normal winter, inspired us to fly a few hours south to Merida and set out to find the Maya. In our next few posts we’ll let you know what we found.
James & Terri