The Dzibilchaltun Mayan ruins are known for the Temple of the Seven Dolls that aligns with the sun during the vernal equinox on the 21st and 22nd of March every year. It’s onsite museum also offers a glimpse into ancient Mayan life on the Yucatan Peninsula.
These Pre-Colombian ruins are conveniently located just outside the Mexican city of Merida and are home to an open-air Cenote that you can swim in during your visit. Dzibilchaltun is also relatively quiet compared to sites like Tulum and Chichen Itza.
If you are planning a trip Merida, the Dzibilchaltun Mayan Ruins and Cenote Xlacah are worth a stop. In this guide we’ve provided a brief history of the area and an idea of what to expect during your tour of the ruins. We’ve also included a list of supplies you’ll want to bring along for your visit.
Quick Article Guide:
1. Why Visit the Dzibilchaltun Mayan Ruins and the Temple of Seven Dolls?
2. Driving from Merida to the Mayan Ruins at Dzibilchaltun
3. Can you Climb the Temple of the Seven Dolls at Dzibilchaltun?
4. Swimming in the Cenote Xlacah at Dzibilchaltun near Merida
5. The Museum of the Pueblo Maya at the Dzibilchaltun Ruins
6. Post-Colombian Spanish Cathedral Near the Dzibilchaltun Mayan Ruins
7. When is the Best Time of Year to Visit Dzibilchaltun and Merida?
8. What to Wear to the Dzibilchaltun Mayan Ruins and the Cenote Xlacah
9. What to Pack for Dzibilchaltun and the Temple of the Seven Dolls
The Dzibilchaltun Mayan ruins contain more than 8,400 structures and it were inhabited for roughly 2,000 years. Once a thriving city with as many as 40,000 inhabitants, this site served as a trading port for the ancient Maya until the city was eventually replaced by Chitzen Itza.
The site’s most well-known structure, The Temple of the Seven Dolls, gets its name from the seven effigies or sculptures that were found under the site in the 1950’s, and these ancient dolls are still located onsite in the recently remodeled Pueblo Maya museum.
Dzibilchaltun and the Temple of the Seven Dolls is roughly 30 minutes from downtown Merida, and in addition to the temple, the ancient site also offers a museum of historic Mayan artifacts, restrooms with running water, gift shops, and an open-air cenote that visitors can swim in.
The Dzibilchaltun Ruins are only 15 miles north of Merida. If you decide to rent a car during your visit, parking at the site is only 15 pesos (about $1.25 U.S.D.) but make sure you bring change because the entrance fee must be paid in pesos and finding change could be an issue.
You can also take a taxi for about $10 dollars depending on the time of day, and the part of the city you’re located in. Make sure to negotiate the fare with your taxi driver BEFORE you depart for your destination, and remember, taxi drivers do not expect gratuity, it’s included in the price.
You can also take bus 143 to the ruins at Dzibilchaltun from a variety of locations throughout Merida including a Starbucks, the Galerias, and the airport. We decided to book a tour guide to help us get the most from our visit because we only had a few days to enjoy the city.
Unfortunately, visitors are not allowed to climb the Temple of the Seven Dolls of the other buildings at Dzibilchaltun. There are signs and a small short wire fence in front of the temple that prevent guests from getting close enough to the structure to touch or climb it.
Don’t worry though, there are lots of opportunities to stretch your legs at this site. The walk from the main plaza to the Temple of the Seven Dolls will take about fifteen minutes, and you should expect to spend at least an hour inside the Pueblo Maya museum.
If you are feeling adventurous, we recommend taking a dip in the open-air cenote near the parking lot. You’ll need to bring your own towel, but the water is very clean and it remains around 70 degrees Fahrenheit year-round. The Mayans also believe they have healing powers.
Cenote Xlacah served as the primary water source for the inhabitants of ancient Mayan city of Dzibilchaltun. Today, the cenote serves as a swimming hole for locals and tourists. The water is very clear and our guide told us that the site is never crowded during the week.
The entire time we were at Cenote Xlacah, we never saw more than six people swimming, and we were in the water for more than an hour. Unlike other cenotes nearby, this one’s above ground, so it has some harmless lilies that help to keep the water clean.
You’ll also want to wear biodegradable sunscreen to avoid getting sunburned, especially if you’re skin is fair like mine. The local Mayan villages still rely on the cenotes as their water source, and contaminants that are found in traditional sunscreen can cause damage to the environment.
The museum at the Dzibilchaltun Ruins contains Mayan artifacts and other items to illustrate a timeline of the Yucatan Peninsula from roughly 500 BC until the arrival of the Spanish in the 1500’s. There is also a replica of a traditional Mayan home and a Post-Colombian textile machine.
We spent over an hour in the museum and we really enjoyed the layout of the peninsula’s history. Most of the signs and information in the museum are in Spanish, so having a tour guide to explain each item’s significance is helpful. Information about the structure was also limited.
Admission to the museum is included with your entrance to the site, and the recently remodeled building offers air-conditioning. As of November 2019, admission to the Dzibilchaltun Mayan ruins was $118 pesos (about $9 U.S. dollars). On Sundays, admission is free for Mexican residents so the site can get crowded.
The second-largest building at Dzibilchaltun is an open Spanish Chapel. This chapel was built in 1592 A.D. using stones from nearby Mayan structures and buildings. This practice was common for the invading Spanish who often rebuilt entire ancient cities modeled after their own culture.
The Spanish conquistadors usually demolished the structures they found, but this chapel was built in the center of the courtyard, and the surrounding Mayan buildings remain intact. Historians explain that Mayan culture remained strong in this area despite the Spanish influence.
The ancient Mayans were avid fighters and skilled warriors. Each city-state maintained it’s own powerful army and they constantly fought each other for natural resources. This allowed them to resist the Spanish initially, but the invading soldiers eventually took advantage of the existing rivalries.
From March until late October, the weather in Dzibilchaltun and Merida is usually ideal. Daytime temperatures range from 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit, and rain is minimal. In contrast to areas like Cancun, the hotel rates in Merida don’t change much during the peak of tourist season.
Traveling outside these months won’t save you money and you’re more likely to experience heavy rain. We also recommend paying attention to the hurricane alerts. We’ve traveled to Cancun during hurricane season many times and we’ve always been lucky enough to avoid any major storms.
However, with Merida, its not worth the gamble. Some the nicest hotels in the city are less than $100 a night, even on the weekends. A fraction of what you’ll have to spend at any all-inclusive resort in Cancun, Cozumel, Tulum, or anything on the west coast of the Yucatan peninsula.
We recommend wearing athletic clothing that is loose fitting and comfortable. You’ll also want to bring a pair of walking shoes that you don’t mind getting dirty. A pair of trail shoes are our preference, but at these ruins, any pair of comfortable walking shoes should do just fine.
The walk from the parking lot to the Temple of Seven dolls takes about 30 minutes round-trip, and on a hot day the temperatures can reach over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Jenn decided to wear a bikini under her gym clothes, and I changed into a pair of swimming trunks in the restroom.
We recommend bringing a few items for your trip to Dzibilchaltun. Most tours include bottled water, but in our experiences, the guides rarely bring enough for a hot day. You’ll also want to pack a light jacket regardless of when you visit because rain is fairly common all year.
A small backpack or fanny pack is ideal for most excursions. It will also allow you to keep your hands free to take lots of pictures and selfies.
These are the items we recommend packing for your excursion to the Dzibilchaltun Mayan Ruins:
– A Towel (For swimming in the Cenote)
– A Swimsuit (If you intend to swim in Cenote Xlacah)
– Mosquito Repellent (There are lots of mosquitoes here)
– Pesos (The entrance fee and parking fees must be paid in Pesos)
– Sunscreen (Most cenotes/parks require biodegradable)
– A wide-brimmed hat (This is a must! Protect your face from the sun)
– Hiking shoes or trail shoes (Any comfortable walking shoes will do)
– Bottled Water (Always bring extra water when you leave your hotel)
– Extra Money for Souvenirs (This site has a couple of nice gift shops that aren’t outrageous)
– Passports or ID (Some attractions and museums require them)
– A Camera (A smartphone will work too. We used an iPhone for our pictures)
– Sunglasses (The sun is very bright and the reflective buildings can cause light sensitivity)
– First-Aid Kit (You never known when you’ll need it)
– Selfie-Stick (Aside from March 21st and 22nd, these ruins are pretty quiet)
– Flip-Flops or Sandals (For walking around the cenote)
Items to Leave at Home or at Your Hotel:
– Pets (Do not bring your pets to the ruins)
– Music (Please be respectful to those around you)
– Drones (Drones are not allowed at the historical sites)
Would you like help planning your trip to Dzibilchaltun and the Temple of the Seven Dolls? Ask away! We’d also like to hear about your experience with the site, so please leave us a comment below!