Oxtankah, an ancient Mayan city near Chetumal

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Oxtankah ancient mayan

The ruins of Oxtankah, near Chetumal, tell the story of a powerful city. The site is home to one of the most fascinating displays of architectural crossover in Mexico, with Mayan and Catholic elements in the same landscape.

We tell you everything you need to know about this fascinating set of ruins that is a must when you travel around the area.


A kingdom in paradise

It’s not hard to imagine why the first settlers chose this spot to establish their city. With the Caribbean Sea a few feet away and the stunning lake of Bacalar just 13 miles to the west, the area is a real life paradise.

The first ones arrived around 600 B.C., but it was between the years 250 to 600 A.D. that the city reached its highest level of importance and influence, as it became somewhat of a kingdom, ruling over several nearby cities. Historians believe Oxtankah –not its real name– to be the legendary Chactemal that appears in several Mayan narrations.


Photo: grandcostamaya

The heathen temple that became a church

Oxtankah experienced a few centuries of progressive decadence, until it was finally abandoned for good in the 12th century. For many years, the city was forgotten as the jungle engulfed it, but at some point during the 16th century, a final addition was made to it.

In perfect harmony with the stone buildings of the ancient city, what seems like the ruins of a small Catholic church can be found. Some archaeologists believe that it was the work of Spanish conquistador Alonso de Avila in 1531, while others argue that these ruins are from much later. In any case, it really is a sight to behold!



How to get to Oxtankah

From Chetumal, drive through Calzada Centenario, heading towards Calderitas. Continue, all through the extension of Av. Yucatán, along the edge of the lake, until you see signs that point to the archaeological site. You can also just hire transportation or catch a bus.

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Oxtankah, an ancient Mayan city near Chetumal