The Ruta Puuc is a rough circuit of Mayan sites in the Puuc region. Puuc is the Mayan word for 'hills' and there are a couple minimal hills in the area. The next most important Puuc site after Uxmal, and the next most visited is Kabah. Kabah is deemed important by archeologists partially because of the sacbe that connected it to Uxmal. A sacbe is basically a road, elevated slightly and paved in stone. In this picture Melanie sits on the steps that climb from the road into Kabah. Roughly 20 miles (32 km) down this causeway is Uxmal.
Had you walked from Uxmal, the first bit of Kabah you would see is this arch which towers over the road at the entrance to Kabah. There is a similar arch at the entrance to Uxmal but it was not open to visitors when we went. Incidentally this arch is located down a trail which leads from the Kabah parking lot in the opposite direction of the main ruins. It's a bit of a walk but it's peaceful and shady for the most part.
Most people arriving at Kabah only visit the three main buildings. When we arrived we were the only people at the site. By the time we left there were more tour buses here than there were when we visited Chichen Itza. Apparently every tour bus that goes to Uxmal also stops for about 15 minutes at Kabah. Luckily they all congregate in the main plaza briefly and then move on so the outer regions of Kabah are unpopulated. This is the Kodz Poop which means, in Mayan, 'rolled-up matting'. Ignoring the confusing name, this is one of the most elaborately decorated buildings in Mayadom.
The west side of the temple is a series of masks with rather large noses depicting Chaac, the Mayan rain god. We saw quite a lot of Chaac masks at various buildings and various Mayan cities and the shape of the nose does not appear to be important so long as it is extremely large.
Away from the central area of Kabah, isolated buildings are connected by trails which run through the jungle. This is actually more common than not at Mayan ruins. Only the very largest and most visited have been well cleared. As one might expect, there tends to be more wildlife at the more remote sites, even if that just means lizards and birds.
Located behind the main Kabah site down a trail into the jungle is the temple of columns. The name comes from the column decorations on the frieze of the building. From here, bits and pieces of other buildings and ruins can be seen in the surrounding jungle. For the most part, any lump is not likely to be natural, and protruding bits of stone pretty much guarantee that it was some sort of building once. Overview maps of Kabah show that the excavated area is just a tiny percentage of the known site.
Just a few miles south of Kabah along the Ruta Puuc is the urban site of Sayil. Sayil does not have the ceremonial temples and public areas that Uxmal and Kabah have, primarily because it was a residential area. The only well-excavated building at Sayil is the very impressive great palace. Three stories high, it is off limits for the most part but one can get close enough to see many of the details. Along with Chaac, the great palace also contains bas-reliefs of the bee god, Kukulcan (the serpent god), and Ah Mucen Cab (the diving god who is affiliated with the planet Venus).
Sayil's other buildings require hikes of assorted distances. Some of the building groups are over a mile (1.5 km) down the remains of a Mayan causeway. The watchtower, shown here, is one of the more intact buildings. Watch towers like this one can also be found at Labna and Uaxactun.
Also scattered around the site are random Stelae, many of which have been placed under small palapas for protection. The leftmost path from the watchtower leads to this Stela of Yum Keep. If you look carefully, you probably won't be too surprised to discover that Yum Keep is a fertility god.
Labna is the next and final stop on the Ruta Puuc. Like many of the ruins, signs at Labna are not only in Spanish and English, but Mayan as well. As you can see, Mayan words are worth a lot of points in Scrabble. We're told by a highly multilingual friend that 'yeetel' might just be the best word for 'and' in any language.
We were suffering a bit of Mayan fatigue by the time we got to Labna, late in the afternoon. It has several interesting features though that made it well worth the stop. It's one of the better places around to see the fabled mot-mot bird (this is a turquoise-browed mot-mot bird). They congregate in doorways mostly and then follow you around to make sure you're aware of their displeasure with your presence.
Labna's great palace doesn't have the visual impact of Sayil's but it's an interesting labyrinth of buildings and it is open to visitors to wander around in. Labna was built between 700 and 1000 AD, so presumably the orange tree was not growing on the palace steps at the time.
Labna's palace features 67 rooms on two levels. This is one of the more impressive. The face above the doorway represents Itzamna, the Mayan creator god. Itzamna appears to have had a better dentist than the majority of Mayan deities.
Melanie's not only in the doorway, she's on the roof. A series of semi-hidden stairways leads to the upper level of the palace which, if nothing else, has a fine overview of the layout of Labna.
Labna has a fantastically well-preseverd sacbe (causeway) running from the great palace to the residential areas. All of these sites from Uxmal through Labna can be seen on a day trip from either Merida or Campeche although an early start is required. Regardless of daylight, the Mayan sites all seem to close at 5:00 PM. Signage on the Ruta Puuc is generally quite good. If you decide not to backtrack from Labna, signange is distinctly absent so a good map is imperative.