Muyil is an overlooked site about 30 minutes south of Tulum, quite lovely and very photogenic. Its name is Maya for “place of the rabbits” and is often referred to by the locals as Chunyaxché (Trunk of the Green Tree) also the name of a nearby village. The 1926 Mason-Spinden Expedition is credited with its discovery but Muyil was not excavated until 1987. 

Believed to be first settled in the Late Preclassic Period (300 BC – AD 250), Muyil came under the political rule of its larger neighbor, Cobá and became one of its ports, connected to the sea by a sacbé (white limestone road). The remains of this 15-foot wide road finished in the Late-Post Classic period (AD 1250 – 1500) extend from the city to the mangroves and become flooded during the rainy season. 

At its peak Muyil had more temples than Tulum, however only a handful have been cleared. The Entrance Plaza Group, located near the entrance to the site, consist of pyramids built around a plaza. Six of them are open to visitors. The remains of columns of a doorway are visible at Structure 6. The most notable site is the remains of the 56-ft temple-pyramid, El Castillo (the castle) located at the center of a large patio. During excavations of the Castillo, jade figurines representing the goddess Ixchel were found scattered around the base. This find has lead archaeologists to believe it may have been a site for worshipping the moon (Ixchel is associated with the moon and the Maya saw the rabbit in the moon rather than a man). The pyramid suffered damage from Hurricane Gilbert in 1988 and shouldn’t be climbed. 

If you follow the trail north to Structure 8, you will find one of the best-preserved buildings on the site. The base is a terraced pyramid, topped with a temple. Within this structure is another temple and below that, a natural cave. The trail east leads to small shrine and another cave that was used as a source of the limestone. At the beginning of the century, these stones were used to build a gum (chicle) plantation that was managed by one of the leaders of the 1847 War of the Castes. If you continue through the dense jungle who will come to a deep-blue lagoon where it is thought Maya traders ran a trade route between the Caribbean coast and the interior of the Yucatan. There is exceptional bird watching here but bring your bug spray. Open daily 8 AM to 5 PM. Admission: $1, free Sundays and holidays. Located on Highway 307, 27 kilometers (16 miles) south of Tulum, 2.5 hours from Cancun.

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