Dzibilchaltún (tzee-beel-chahl-TOON) meaning "writing on flat stones"

Dzibilchaltun Travel Blog

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Dzibilchaltún, "writing on flat stones"

Dzibilchaltún (tzee-beel-chahl-TOON) meaning "writing on flat stones" is a large Maya site, 10 miles north of Mérida on the west side of Highway 261 at Latitude: 21.1887 by Longitude: -89.6869. You might also see Dzibilchaltún spelled Tz'ibilchaltun, which is the Yucatecan form of Mayan.

The site is generally free of people, except on Sundays when entrance to the site is free and the locals come to swim.

Dzibilchaltún has been continuously occupied since 1500 BC. Maximum population may have exceeded 200,000. There are more than 8,400 structure present within a 10 square mile area. Dzibilchaltún reached its peak of importance during the Late Classic period from 600 AD to 900 AD. Some of its wealth was derived from salt, which was mined in the area and traded extensively throughout the Maya world and beyond.
Dzibilchaltún, "writing on flat stones"


Dzibilchaltún was occupied when the Spanish arrived in the early 1520's. It was a wealthy port and center of Mayan coastal trade and had a population of about 20,000 at one time. Its decline matched the rise of Chichen Itza, although occupation continued. The site is very large, covering around 30 square km. Restoration still continues here. The ruin pictured to the left, part of the South Plaza looks so clean and new because they had just finished restoring it when we took this picture.

The most famous structure is the Temple Of The Seven Dolls. The Temple was so named because of 7 figurines that were found inside.
Dzibilchaltún, "writing on flat stones"
The Dolls are displayed in the site museum. This temple was discovered under the ruins of a later temple pyramid by archaeologists in the 1950s.
This temple is notable because it is the only Mayan Temple with windows and a tower, instead of a roof comb. On the 20th of March and 22nd of September, the spring and fall equinox, the sun rises so that it shines directly through one window of the temple and out the other. It is not very large, but during the spring and autumn equinoxes, the sun lines up with the stone on the platform. On those days, the site is opened specially at 5:30 AM for visitors to see the sunrise. The temple is connected to the rest of the site by a long sacbé.

Standing in the middle of Dzibilchaltún is the remains of a Catholic chapel built for Franciscan missionaries around 1600.
Dzibilchaltún, "writing on flat stones"
The museum has quite a few Catholic relics from the church as well as a lot of information about the religious practices of the Mayans before and after their conversion to Catholicism.


Today only a few of the structures in the 16 square kilometer (about six square mile) site have been excavated, but you can see evidence of others in tumbled rocks and telltale, grass-covered mounds.

The flat, scrubby plain is unusually open. The Spanish dismantled many of the original structures, using the perfectly cut stones to construct buildings of their own. One example is the Franciscan church that now lies in ruins near glass-green Xalcah Cenote, or “Sinkhole of the Old Town.”

Dzibilchaltún has one of the most beautiful cenotes we have ever seen in Mexico.
Dzibilchaltún, "writing on flat stones"
Cenote Xlacah (ISH-lah-cah)provided the city with its water supply. Xlacah means 'Old Town' and this is frequently used as a name for the whole of Dzibilchaltún by local Maya.
There is a species of fish found only in this cenote. This cenote is open to the public until 4 PM. It tends to get a little busy on weekends. One end of the cenote is very shallow, while the other is over 140 feet deep and continues on into a tunnel. Divers have recovered over 30,000 artifacts in the cenote. Lily pads cover most of the cenote, but we were assured of the cleanliness of the water.

Here you will find the Museum of the Mayan People, one of the best and most comprehensive museums in the Yucatán. This museum includes a wide array of artifacts from the site as well as a general collection from the Mayan region, displays of indigenous clothing, crafts and even a replica of a traditional house, as well as exhibits on Colonial history.
Dzibilchaltún, "writing on flat stones"
The labels are in both Spanish and English.


A 1,148-foot ecological path links the museum to the ruins. Along the way, trees and plants are labeled and small palapa-roofed billboards have information on local flora and fauna.

There are interesting trails throughout the reserve which give you an idea of the fragile environment while identifying the different flora and fauna.

Hours: Daily from 8:00 to 5:00. Museum open Tuesday to Sunday from 8:00 to 4:00
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Dzibilchaltun
photo by: geokid