At first glance Xpujil is not the type of town that wows travellers. It’s a nondescript, ramshackle place that has the feel of a frontier town – which it is in some ways. It certainly won’t win any beauty contests. It’s main claim to fame is as the gateway to the vast array of natural and cultural treasures of the Calakmul biosphere reverse. However, despite the lack of beautiful colonial buildings the town has a certain rough charm of it’s own, and allows you to experience an authentic slice of local Mexican culture.
You might just end up liking this town despite first impressions, and it certainly makes a good base from which to explore a multitude of sights.
SIGHTS AND THINGS TO DO
What the town lacks in architectural treasures, it makes up for in access to stunning cultural and natural sights.
These small, peaceful ruins lie on the edge of the town. Although not as impressive as many sites, it’s still an interesting place to wonder around. The site is also often empty, so it’s a good place to come if you want some tranquillity. Sunsets are beautiful from the tower on the side of the main temple.
Admission: 30 pesos
These amazing ruins are just 6 miles from the town. They are in my opinion one of the best ruins in Mexico, and shouldn’t be missed. Check out my guide on Becan to get the most out your visit.
Admission: 50 pesos
Also known as the bat cave for reasons that will soon be apparent. Every day at dusk millions of bats swarm out of this cave and over the jungle; it looks like a hurricane of bats as they rush out into the evening air. It really is a sight to behold, and has to be seen to be fully appreciated.
The cave is about 20 miles from Xpujil, not far down the road that eventually ends at Calakmul.
Another secluded Mayan ruin in the jungle. This one is smaller than Becan but even quieter. One building here has a fantastic doorway shaped like a Jaguars open mouth.
Admission: 50 pesos
Calakmul Bisophere Reserve
The Calakmul Bisophere which surrounds the town is reason enough to come here. The UNESCO listed biosphere covers 1.5 million acres of rainforest, making it the largest tropical forest reserve in Mexico. The forest is home to a massive diversity of animals, including Jaguars and Tapirs. Make sure you spend some time in the forest while you’re here.
Location Of Xpujil
Xpujil lies 75 miles west of Chetumal in the heart of the massive Calakmul biosphere revere, along highway 96. As it’s the only town in the reserve and lies along the only major highway, most travellers in the region end up here for at least a short stay.
Getting There and Away: The small bus station is located next to the highway in the centre of town. Buses from Chetumal take around two hours and cost 150 pesos for first class.
Heading west Escarcega is the nearest city, and takes 2-2.5 hours to get there. There are two second class buses each day that leave at 13:50 and 15:50. It only costs 80 pesos for the journey, but be prepared for a cramped ride during the holidays.
From Escarcega you can take buses to numerous destinations, including Palenque.
Accommodation: There is a small but growing number of accommodation options in the town, ranging from wooden cabins to a couple of mid-range hotels. You will always be able to find a room on arrival in Xpujil, as the town is still off the beaten path.
Hotel Mirador Maya: The largest and most ‘upmarket’ of the hotels in town, this is the place to come if you want a bit more comfort. It’s located on the mani highway 500 metres from the bus stop.
Cabanas Don Deme: This rustic place has a selection of basic, en-suite cabins with double beds set around a garden. It’s possibly the cheapest place in town with cabins for 150 pesos. There is a small cafe and adjoining kitchen you can use, which is always a big bonus on long trips. It’s handily located opposite the Xpujil ruins at the edge of the town.
Cabanas Chaac Calakmul: Another place with a collection of wooden cabins set inside shady grounds. This place was recommended by several travellers. It’s located in the town not far from the market.
Hotel Chaac Calakmul: Located right in the centre of town next to the bus stop. This place has decent sized rooms and can organise tours and transportation.
I came to Xpujil mainly due to it being the closet town to the Calakmul ruins, and it being the only place I could find fellow travellers to share a taxi there with. Despite the general drabness of it’s appearance I found it an interesting place to stay, especially as it felt very local and authentic compared to most of the tourist saturated Mayan Riviera. There is so much to see and do in the area around the town I could have easily stayed here a week.
If you are heading to Palenque from Bacalar or elsewhere in Quiatana Roo, I highly recommend you stop in this ramshackle jungle town.
This guide is a good starting point, but there is plenty more to know about this area. If you have any tips or want to share your experiences, feel free to comment below.