East from Campeche via Hopelchen to Merida
From Hopelchén anyone with an interest in archaeology should make a detour south into the region noted for sites emanating from the so-called Chenes culture (ad 550-830; the name derives from the recurring "-chén" ending meaning well).In the Late Classic period, Mayan building in the Yucatán peninsula developed into three differing though related styles - Puuc architecture in the north-west, Río Bec architecture in the south, and, north of Río Bec, the architecture of the Chenes. Although all three styles have much in common, Chenes architecture differs from Puuc in that the façades of the buildings are completely clad in stucco and rough-hewn stone. Entrances have the form of monster jaws and the corners of the buildings are decorated with masks of the prominent-nosed deity Chac. Examples of the Chenes style can be seen on archaeological sites at Dzenkabtún, El Tabasqueño and Dzibalchén (San Pedro), 20km/13mi south of Hopelchén.
Access to the Classic Chenes-style Mayan site of Hochob (Mayan: "place where the maize is picked"), 13km/8mi south-west of Dzibalchén, is by field track from Chenkoh, passable only in the dry season. The most notable of the various buildings set around the central plaza is a well-preserved triple-chambered temple on the north side, the remains of the middle section being capped by a towering roof-comb. The entrance is framed by the jaws of a huge mask while stylised serpent motifs embellish the remainder of the façade. A reconstruction can be seen in the National Anthropological Museum in Mexico City.
From Dzibalchén another track runs for almost 20km/13mi to Iturbide, near which lies the Dzibilnocac archaeological zone, one of the largest in the Chenes area. The main temple at Dzibilnocac (Mayan: "Painted buildings") has a similar façade to the principal temple at Hochob.
Follow the MEX 261 to Hopelchén then head north for 33km/21mi to Bolonchén (Mayan: "nine wells") de Rejón. From here a track leads to the nearby Grutas Xtacumbil-xunan (Mayan: "hidden woman"), a vast system of limestone caves the full extent of which is impossible to gauge. Stalactites, stalagmites and cenotes abound. According to legend a beautiful mestiza abandoned herself to life as a recluse in these dark caves following an unhappy love affair.Situated a short distance from Bolonchén are the ruined temples of Kichmool and Itzimté, two archaeological sites where the architecture is a mixture of the Chenes and Puuc styles.