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Puuc Route

The Puuc Route is a captivating archaeological tour that has become an unforgettable experience. Meandering just 80 kilometers south of Mérida, the Puuc Route offers a glimpse into the rich historic heritage of the region.

The Puuc Route, renowned for its historical significance, got its name from the Mayan word “Puuc,” which means “low hill mountain range,” reflecting the distinctive and unique architectural style prevalent in the area.

This term aptly captures the essence of the landscape, characterized by gentle hills and fertile lands, extending from the municipality of Maxcanú to the southern reaches of Peto, and towards Campeche in the southwest.

While the Yucatán Peninsula is widely renowned for its expansive and predominantly flat terrain, the Puuc region stands out with its karstic hills, offering a picturesque backdrop for exploration.

These karst formations, sculpted over millennia by the dissolution of soluble rocks such as limestone, and dolomite, present a captivating tapestry of undulating topography that serves as a striking contrast to the surrounding plains.

These hills not only provide a picturesque backdrop for exploration but also harbor hidden treasures of archaeological significance, enticing adventurers to delve into their depths in search of ancient secrets and cultural riches.

The core of the Puuc Route lies in the ancient Maya sites among these hills.

From Uxmal to Kabah, these archaeological treasures showcase the intricate Puuc architecture, characterized by ornate facades, intricate stone mosaics, and geometric patterns that adorn the temples and palaces.

These architectural marvels stand as testaments to the ancient Mayans.

The Puuc Route also beckons with its artisanal heritage. Villages along the route invite visitors to discover the traditions of local artisans, from the intricate craftsmanship of pottery to the vibrant hues of traditional huipil dresses.

The Puuc Route

The most relevant Mayan cities that fall within this region are Uxmal, Kabáh, Nohpat, Sayil, and Labná. Between them, some roads connect them, called “sacbe” or “sacbeob” (“white way” or “white ways”).

The Puuc route can be covered in one day. You can use public transportation to take you to the complete tour of the archaeological sites with time allocated to each one. This bus is available from Merida’s bus station.

If you prefer to travel on your own, start the tour from the Loltún Caves. From Mérida, take the road to Campeche and follow the signs to Uxmal. In the town of Muna, take the detour to the Loltún Caves until you reach the place.

Continue the journey to Labná, Xpalak, Sayil, then Kaba, and finish in the archaeological zone of Uxmal.

Puuc architecture style

In Puuc architecture (such as in Uxmal) buildings were decorated with carefully cut veneer stones set into a concrete core.

The lower portion of the façades is blank with a flat surface of rectangular blocks punctuated by doorways, while the upper façade is richly decorated with intricate stone mosaics, often alternating repeated geometric elements with more elaborate figurative sculpture.

Long-nosed masks (commonly believed to be of the Maya rain god Chaac) are found on many Puuc buildings.

Beyond the impressive decorative elements of Puuc architecture, the use of a concrete core is also considered an architectural advance beyond the earlier Maya technique of using larger stones (set on top of one another in lime and mud mortar) for structural support.

The concrete core-veneer masonry allowed for slightly larger and more stable interior rooms. Many corbelled vaults in the Puuc style remain to stand, even when most of the veneer stones have fallen away.

The most famous of the Maya sites exhibiting the Puuc architectural style is Uxmal, other major Puuc-style sites in the region include Labna, Kabah, Sayil, and Xlapak.

This architectural style is also seen at Kiuic, Bolonchen, Chunhuhub, Xculoc, and many smaller ruins.

The transition from earlier Classic Period architecture to Puuc-style core-veneer masonry is well documented at the site of Oxkintok. To the south, the style can be found in Edzná; and to the east at Chichen Itza (outside of the Puuc Hills region).

Kaxil Kiuic reserve – Puuc Biocultural state reserve

Puuc Biocultural State Reserve, also known as Kaxil Kiuic Reserve was designated in 2011. It covers an area of 1358.93 km².

The reserve was created to protect the region’s archeological sites and its biodiverse flora and fauna. The reserve is home to 247 birds, 63 mammals, 52 reptiles, and 14 amphibian species. Five species of large felines, including jaguars, live in the reserve.

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