One thing that makes Dzibilchaltun different from the other ruins is the presence of a cenote in the open air. Walking the long distance to the Seven dolls, under the strong sun, invites to dive in the clear waters, in the way back, and... you may.
We did it, as most visitors do.
There's a lot of history about these ruins (maybe more than in the other) and also some legends, generally concerning astronomic relationships.
There is, indeed, a planned alignment in the buildings that, at least, illustrates the elaborated explanations of the local guide that collects you at the entrance.
They say that this is one of the largest collections of ruins, still unearthed, but the visible part is poor in comparison with the know other areas.
The most famous building is the Temple Of The Seven Dolls, whose name was given because of seven small effigies found there.
They say that on the Spring equinox, the sun rises so that it shines directly through one window of the temple and out the other, similarly to Chichen-Itza.
The cenote at Dzibilchaltun may of once been a place of ritual but nowdays it is a swimming pool. At 40m deep you need to be a good swimmer!
In 1958 the US National Geographic Society sent divers down and they recovered 30,000 Mayan artefacts, the most interesting of which are now on display in the museum.
I was here in 1999 at which time the museum was small and located at the entrance to the site. However there were plans to build a larger museum embracing all of the peninsulas culture, rather than just Dzibilchaltun's - maybe this has happened?
The museum was small and located at the entrance of the site. The exhibits were largely artefacts recovered from a deep dive into the cenote and many of them are of ritual significance.
The museum was modern and air conditioned and whilst worth a mooch around before you r see the ruins I would say it's even better to have a mooch afterwards - you will be so thankful of that air conditioning after wandering around the site, with no shade to be had!
This is the highlight of the Dzibilichaltun site. A lot of the buildings Templo de las Siete Munecas - called thus because seven primitive & grotesqueclay figures were found inside (being called "dolls").
Radio Carbon tests have been done on The Temple of The Seven Dolls which dates it back to the 7th century (AD).
The temple is a 1km walk from the central plaza. From a distance you can see straight through the temples doors but as you get up close the view is lost. The temple is built with such precise astronomical orientation that the rising and setting sun of the equinoxes lights up the temples windows and doors making them blaze.
When we were at Dzibilchaltun we were the only people for the duration of our visit. It was really hot and as we walked towards this temple there was wild coriander growing on mass everywhere - we went into sensual overload and felt quite heady!!!
Dzibilchaltun is open every day but at the time we went (which was several years ago now) the museum was closed on a Monday. The entrance fee was very small and the fee for the car park was insignificant - literally pennies.
This museum is at the entrance to the ruins. This is an excellant museum with displays on Mayan life, boards describing the impacts of the conquistators, and many artifacts including the seven dolls that the main temple are named after (see photo). I was amazed at the size of the dolls - was expecting a foot or two high, but these dolls are perhaps 2 or 3 inches (~7cm) tall. (I got *** for taking this picture with a flash, so if you decide to do the same, take your picture and RUN!)
In 2005, half of the museum was still closed due to Hurricane Isadore in 2002, so visitors had to circle all the way around the building to enter at the back door.
The Dzibilchaltùn site was a 2000 year old major Mayan city covering 19 square km. The city - assumed to have over 40,000 inhabitants was used by the locals from 500 B.C. until the Spanish conquered them in 1540's.
This temple was given its name by seven dolls that were discovered during its excavation. You can check out these dolls inside the museum on site. They are only two or three inches high. It almost seems a misnomer - to name such a striking temple after seven tiny figurines they found when excavating.
The building is astrologically significant. The most striking effect is that during the spring and fall equinox, light is directed through doorways and windows of the temple visible for miles -- almost like a lighthouse. Our tour guide mentioned that this was only one of the astrological signs that were visible by the priests of the temple - others were visible inside the temple -- things like on the summer solstace sunlight strikes a certain marked spot. Visitors can climb the steps and check it out inside.
After visiting all of Dzibilchaltùn's temples and buildings, be sure to visit the Xlacah Cenote. This sinkhole is part of underground rivers that run through the Yucatan Peninsula. It is shallow at one end, and 40 metres deep at the other end, however, at that 40 m mark, the sinkhole did not end, it just got too narrow for the diver to attempt entry, so they have no idea how deep it actually is. In the 1950's, 30,000 Mayan artifacts were recovered by diving teams, some of these are on display in the museum.
Visitors are actually allowed to go swimming in this cenote. 2/3's of the area is very shallow (the section with the lily pads), and the remainder (the far end in the photo) is very deep. There are little fish in the shallow end, but they ignored us (I was slightly worried about them being related to piranhas).
Hint: wear your bathing suit under your clothes otherwise you have to change behind some rocks, or walk back to the Administration building for some privacy.
A short distance from either Mérida or Progreso is the Mayan city Dzibilchaltùn. This city was the longest continuously occupied city in the area existing for 2000 years until the Spanish conquered the area. It is a smaller site than Uxmal or Chichén Itzá. Besides the ruins, highlights include the museum Pueblo Maya, and the Xlacah Cenote - a sinkhole of unknown depth that is open for visiters to swim in.
Depending on what detail you wish to get into, visiters can spend from two to three hours at the site. We visited most of the restored buildings, went for a swim in the cenote, and visited the air conditioned museum before calling it quits.
In 2005 admission is 58 pesos (approx $6 US), plus if you arrive by car there is a 10 peso parking charge. Admission is cheaper on Sundays. English-speaking guides are available for a fee.
We chose to visit Dzibilchaltùn by rental car. There are other ways - by organized tour or local transportation. Local transport is a little complicated. There are Combi's (a local private bus) that runs directly from the stop in Mérida at Calle 69 between Calle 62 & 64 to the ruins, or you can use the Mérida to Progreso bus, but with it you have a 4 km walk off the highway. Of course there are always organized tours.
Dzibilchaltùn was different than Uxmal in that a fair amount of work had been done on a flora display. As you approach the entrance from the parking lot, you pass all sorts of labeled local plants. It looks like they were still being replanted, etc. after the hurricane in 2002.
Also walking from the Administration building to the museum involves walking through a nature trail/garden that includes many huge sculptures that were found on the site. My photo is of three of those sculptures (or at least what is left of them).
A bit past the plaza lies the Cenote Xlacah, which looks quite refreshing... assuming, of course, you don't get trapped in its many weeds :).
The Grand Plaza offers a nice change of pace. There are several larger buildings, including an old church build by the conquistadores.
The cornerstone building on this ruin is the Templo de las 7 Muñecas, which was named because they found 7 dolls within its walls.
Take your time viewing the very informative museum. At the very least, the A/C provides a much needed relief of the heat :).