Friday, November 18, 2011


If you are in Merida and are driving on the sole road that leads to Sisal or Celestun, or one or more of the pueblos in between, you will pass by a lonely roadside sign with a pyramid and an arrow pointing down a dusty, stone road. I had passed that sign many times and curiosity finally got the best of me and I decided I would  take the challenge and head for the ruin.

As soon as I turned off the paved road, I found myself wishing that my vehicle was four-wheel drive or that I had a pick-up truck! The road is pretty much unattended, full of pot holes and very difficult on your tires.

It seemed like a forever drive down that long, dusty road, in and out of pot holes, but finally I saw some people moving around, a few houses, some farm animals, and even a tiny pueblo (of sorts). There was a very old hacienda that offered its services for parties and social events. I wondered who in the world could find the place!

The road dead-ended here and there were no other indications of any Mayan ruin to be had, so I asked one of the locals who gladly told me to turn to the right. Following his directions, I continued my journey.  Ahh! Finally! I saw an archway with the name of the ruin, and I decided that I had hit pay dirt and found it.

I parked and quickly noticed that I was the sole motor vehicle in sight. As I approached what appeared to be the entry way, I saw that it was blocked off with a gate made of galvanized aluminum fencing. There wasn’t a soul to be found.  It looked eerily deserted.

I began yelling “bueno”, which is the local way and custom of saying hello, anyone home. (I should readily point out that the word “bueno” is used in several forms of communication here in the Yucatan, although in literal translation, it means "good".)

After several very loud “buenos” a small, elderly Mayan man peered through some bushes and proceeded to the gate to greet me. He had been cutting some of the over-grown shrubs and he proudly announced that he was the caretaker. I asked if the site were open and he said no, the owner wasn’t here.

Owner, I thought? No one actually owns an historical archeological site. They are all owned and operated by the Mexican Government, save for some cenotes that are on privately owned land. I questioned him further and learned that the only time the site is available is when the owner is on premises. It seems that there are some cabins or lodges or some such similar habitats back in the over growth, and the owner does not permit anyone to enter unless it is under his supervision. Weird, really weird I thought.

I offered the caretaker a tip, well actually it was a bribe, to see if he would permit me to enter and take a few pictures and he cordially and politely absolutely refused as he feared losing his job. I understood his dilemma, thanked him and gave him a tip just for his time. He was grateful and went about his chore of cutting back some of the abundant shrubbery that seemed to be taking over.

I did take one picture and it is the one at the top of this post. I have no idea what lurks behind those man made arches, down the winding and overgrown pathways and through the woods, but I don’t think I will ever find out as I am not inclined to go back there for a second try, at least not in the very near future.

So, if you are in the area and manage to visit the ruins of Sihunchen, let me know what, and how, they were.   Until then, I will remain forever curious!


  1. OT,

    Hi Mike,

    My son is moving with me to Merida. He's a vet with an honorable, medical discharge. I read some time ago that vets could transfer to the VA in Houston for medical benefits. They can then submit doctor's bills---in Merida for instance---and be reimbursed.

    Is this still the case? If so, do you know how he should sign up?

    Thank you,


  2. Hi Mike, what an adventure. Very strange rules. They should probably take the sign down in the town that lures us to those ruins. It's just a wild goose chase! That arch was probably it! And a replica at that. At least the Hunucma turnoff we took led us to an actual cenote. Not one of your impressive cenotes, a swimming hole for local kids. Wild goose chase tho, took lots of winding dusty roads to get there! Well, ya pays ya money ya takes ya chances....sometimes it works out you have found a gem and other times just a dead end.

  3. Hi there Mike,

    Sihunchen is an echo-archeological park, where activities related to birding and astronomy take place. There actually are real mayan ruins of an astronomical observatory within the grounds, and they have been catalogued by the INAH though no work has been done on them.
    The park has a small lodge with six rooms, and owner Alberto Mezquita (who was not there when you visited) is quite a character and very knowledgeable about everything related to the Yucatan Peninsula: archeology, history, geology, astronomy, and birds. He is also a longtime collaborator of the Toh Bird Festival, which takes place in Merida every year in November. A good way to visit Sihunchen is precisely to go during one of the bird observation field trips organized by the Toh Bird Festival. So it isn't a permanently open, pay-a-ticket-and-walk-in kind of site, but I assure you, it's 100% real. I posted a report of a visit to the place in my blog about bird photography, (it's a bilingual blog, but as I write this message I have yet to post the English-language version of that report... so it's still only available in Spanish). Sihunchen has a page on Facebook, search for them there to get more info or make contact.

    In any case, thanks for your interesting blog and happy traveling!


  4. Just to complement IVAN's commentary here is a link which has more information about this site:
    I think sihunchen's internet website no longer exists but in the link I posted you can find more information.
    I was there once with my daughter in order to birdwatch and we had a great time. This guy (Mr. Mézquita) is an enthusiastic and he has equipment for you to use and a vast knowledge of the subject. He even has a real sized replica of the Dzibitchaltún's seven dolls temple in the fields and when equinox time the phenomenom can be seen there because it is exactly oriented as the latter.
    I contacted him previousy via cell phone and made an appointment in order to be there before sunrise to get the more out of the visit. It was a really cool and nature connecting experience and we saw (and heard) a variety of beautiful birds I hadn't seen in a while, or had never seen before.