By Andrew Appleyard, Exodus’ International Sales Manager
Palenque, Uxmal, Tikal and Chichen Itza are just some of the dramatic Mayan sites we visit on our trip The Ruta Maya. The highlight for me on this trip is the contrasting settings we visit; from the Caribbean Sea to rich tropical jungles.
Our trip starts in Antigua which is viewed as one of the most outstanding and best-preserved colonial towns in the Americas. The colonial architecture permeates every part of the town, with houses painted in a multitude of colours, derelict churches that have been destroyed by numerous earthquakes and a central square which acts as the communal meeting place.
We then head south to Lake Atilan, where a stunning backdrop of volcanoes awaits. We spend the day walking along the lake passing through small farm plots and visiting a number of cooperatives, including a coffee plantation.
Then onto Chichen Itza, which has been voted one of the new Seven Wonders of the World. With its central step pyramid it is an imposing site. The pyramid was originally used as a calendar: four stairways, each with 91 steps and a platform at the top, making a total of 365, the equivalent to the number of days in a calendar year. If you are fortunate enough to be there at the rising and setting of the sun during the spring or fall equinox, the corner of the structure casts a shadow in the shape of a plumed serpent along the side of the North staircase. On these two days, the shadows slither down the northern side of the pyramid with the sun’s movement.
Whilst Chichen Itza is seen as the most important site, to me Uxmal is a rival – rising out of the rainforest and dominated by the pyramid structure. This is also where the origins of football began, or some scholars believe basketball. Mayan ball was different to modern day football however; difficult, very fast paced, and ending in death of the victorious captain who was sacrificed to the gods as an honor!
If you are a budding Indiana Jones or have a penchant for archaeological sites, you will be rewarded by every site we visit on this trip.