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Great Acropolis at Edzna

Edzná is a large archaeological site in the state of Campeche in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. The site dates from 400 BC and was once a major city-state of the Maya civilization. The site is known for developing irrigation systems and a terraced farming method that allowed it to grow faster and larger than neighboring city-states.


Building of Five Stories at Edzna

Mayan history


The oldest relics from Edzna date from 400 BC and are indicative of an agrarian society. The first Mayan in the area were farmers and the city appears to have grown slowly until 250 BC when it suddenly had a growth spurt, with numerous new buildings and the introduction of canals and raised terraced gardens that anthropologists call aguadas. The city grew rapidly until about 150 AD. This period also saw improvements and expansion of the irrigation systems with the construction of aqueducts and canals that would carry the water up to 12 kilometers.

With growth and success came the increased risk of attack by jealous rival cities, so Edzna built fortifications and a moat around the core city. They didn't end up needing them though since there is no record that any rival city ever attacked Edzna. Perhaps the fortifications were a prudent and effective deterrent.

Rounded corners on buildings are an element of both Puuc and Rio Bec architecture

After 150 AD, Edzna entered a stagnation period where the population appears to have decreased somewhat. Around the year 600 AD, things picked up again with a spurt of new construction. Most structures that you'll see at Edzna date from this later period of construction, between about 750 AD and 950 AD. Like other Mayan city-states, Edzna was largely abandoned by about 1000 AD and a small number of Maya continued to occupy the area, largely as subsistence farmers.

Modern history


The first record of Edzna's existence in the modern age was a report in 1906 of a large Mayan city deep in the jungle. Before anyone could check it out, the Mexican Revolution was under way and the government was otherwise occupied. It wouldn't be until the late 1920s that archaeological expeditions regained some attention. The first government archaeologist to enter the site was Nazario Quintana Bello, state archaeologist for Campeche. Soon after an expedition from the federal government examined the Building of Five Stories and excavated a number of stelae. Dr. Sylvanus Morley of the Carnegie Institution explored the site and discovered 17 stone sculptures. Several INAH expeditions excavated and restored structures in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. In 1968, Dr. George Andrews from the University of Oregon explored the aguadas and discovered that the irrigation system was far larger than anyone thought, covering many square kilometers around the city.

Further expeditions from the 1970s through 1990s have continued to provide new discoveries and insight into the history and culture of Edzna.

Get in


By car


Edzna is 52 km southeast of the state capital of Campeche. From the south side of Campeche's beltway (Periferico), exit south on the Carr. Campeche China-Hool and continue on the road for about 45 kilometers until you reach the intersection with federal highway MEX-188. Turn east on MEX-188 for about 6 kilometers then follow the signs into the archaeological site.

By train


Edzna is a full-service station on the new Tren Maya intercity rail line through the Yucatan Peninsula, connecting Maya sites with major cities and the beach resort areas of Cancun and Tulum.

  • 1 Tren Maya Estacion Edzna, MEX-188, Tixmucuy. Trains depart at least twice per day in either direction. The station has 2 platforms with three tracks and offers ticketing, baggage check, rest rooms, transportation to the archaeological zone, food services and tourist information. The station is located off highway MEX-188 west of the archaeological site, about 4 kilometers west of the town of Tixmucuy.

By combi


Combis depart from Campeche toward Edzna Ruinas every 20 minutes and cost M$55 for the 50-minute ride. Combis (look for the red and white vans) depart Campeche at the intersection of Calle Nicaragua and Calle Chihuahua.

Get around

Site map of Edzna

It's an archaeological site. You'll be walking and climbing, though Edzna is an easy site to navigate with well maintained trails, good signage, and cleared foliage. Comfortable shoes and socks would be in order.


Relief sculptures at Edzna
  • Great Acropolis is a large plaza area with several significant structures around it including the impressive Building of Five Stories, House of the Moon, and Puuc Patio. Check out the stairs as you ascend the Building of Five Stories...notice the glyphs carved into each stair. You could read them, if only you'd studied Mayan. Gringos think they say, "Please visit our gift shop before leaving." The Puuc Patio is a restored temple containing a number of stelae. The best is Stela 21 from the 8th century depicting a ruler in fancy dress.
  • Platform of the Knives is a set of structures on your left as you enter the archaeological site. It was a residential area that gets its name from the large number of obsidian knives found there. The obsidian apparently was brought from Peten cities like Tikal by traders.
  • Ballcourt is located near the South Temple. The ballcourt is partially restored and has one ring intact.
  • Temple of the Masks has a stairway with stucco masks on each side representing the sun god. These are old: probably dating to about 150 AD.
  • Little Acropolis is a 5-meter high platform surrounded by four temples.
  • Cerro de la Bruja (Cerro de la Hechicera) a few hundred meters walk from the main cluster of structures is a beautiful pyramid which is almost as big as the Building of Five Stories
  • Sacbeob were the main highways of the Maya, connecting major cities with elevated roads paved with crushed limestone. At Edzna, two sacbeob radiate out from the Great Acropolis.


  • Hire a guide at the site entrance gate. Site guides are usually native Mayas who understand the history and cultural heritage of the site far better than guidebooks written by foreign tourists. Hiring a guide is quite affordable, as little as M$500, which is a bargain if you find a knowledgable, loquacious guide who also speaks some English (not a given in this region where Spanish and Mayan are the two major languages).





Vending machines are located near the site admission gate but there are no restaurants on-site. The closest restaurants and stores are in the small village of Alfredo Bonfil, 7 km south of the archaeological site entrance. The Mexican government is building a large new hotel with a bar and restaurant about 1 km from the site entrance, it is expected to open in early 2024.

In Alfredo Bonfil

  • 1 La Palapa, Calle 1 (it's on the main road, you won't miss it). Highly rated local restaurant serving traditional Mexican cuisine in a large palapa style dining room. Locals recommend the pollo en adobo.
  • 2 Barbacoas Carrillo, Calle 1. Roadside taco stand selling slow pit barbecued pork. Cheap eats!





Most tourists visiting Edzna stay in Campeche and take a day trip to visit the site. The Mexican government is building a new 160-room resort hotel within 1 km of the archaelogical site entrance, but it is not expected to open until early 2024. In the meantime, the nearest hotel is a super-splurge luxury property in a historic colonial era hacienda.

  • 1 Hacienda Uayamon, Km 20 Carretera Uayamon-China-Edzna, +52 981 813 0530. Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 12:00. Historic property with stone walls, cobblestone walkways through the courtyard gardens, an outdoor swimming pool, and large rooms with modernized bathrooms. On-site restaurant serves traditional Mexican cuisine. M$8000.

Stay safe


Travel to the archaeological zone is very safe as far as crime risks go, but natural risks are what you should watch out for.

  • Sunblock is a necessity, along with a hat and sunglasses. The afternoon sun in the Yucatan is extremely bright and burns easily. The higher the SPF, the better.
  • Mosquito repellant is also a necessity. Edzna is a jungle environment and no matter how much the site management does to reduce the risk of mosquitos, they're still there and they may carry tropical diseases, from malaria to dengue. Some travelers recommend long pants and long-sleeve shirts to provide additional protection.
  • Animal risks beware of lifting or moving rocks because snakes and scorpions may be hiding there. Watch where you walk and what you touch. If you wander into the jungle, don't pet the jaguars and don't feed bananas to the howler monkeys.
  • Water bottles should always be carried at any archaeological site. The INAH staff usually sells bottles at the site admission booth, but the day you depend on it being there is the day the water delivery guy calls in sick. Bring at least 1 liter at a small site or 2 liters at a large site like Edzna, where you may be walking around for several hours.

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This city travel guide to Edzna is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.