Situated just west of Lake Bacalar not far from Mexico’s stunning Costa Maya region in southern Quintana Roo,Ichkabal is a newly discovered ancient Mayan site that is set to open up to travelers visiting the region and provide an added boost to tourism throughout the region. The site reportedly dates back to 300 B.C.E. and contains some of the tallest Mayan ruins discovered so far,as well as a man-made lagoon.
“Everything is yet to be discovered in Ichkabal,” stated INAH,Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History.
Compared to other ancient Mayan ruins in Mexico,the site contains structures that are taller than Chichen Itza,which is located about two hours from Tulum and Cancun,as well as older than the ruins of Calakmul in Campeche. Although Ichkabal was first visited by archaeologists in 1995,the first archaeological explorations didn’t begin until 2009,making it one of the more recent archaeological finds in Mexico. The newly discovered site is believed to be at least 30 square kilometers in size.
Experts believe the site was once a highly important political center in the region during the Preclassic Mayan Era. It is located 82 kilometers from Chetumal,which is the state capital in the Bacalar municipality,nestled in a region known for its ecological wealth and diversity. The area is also home to a massive forest reserve,giving Ichkabal the opportunity to evolve into a major environmental conservation project,with ample opportunities for outdoor activities such as hiking and birdwatching in the immediate vicinity.
More than 100,000 visitors already visit the region during the peak travel season each year,but tourism analysts are predicting this number will increase by at least 20 percent annually after Ichkabal is fully operational,which is expected to happen in 2017. To handle the influx of new visitors in the area,Mexico’s federal government has already allocated more than $560,000 USD (11 million pesos) to beef up tourism-related infrastructure in the Costa Maya region. This will reportedly include upgrades to the highway that leads to the site,ecotourism efforts,staffing and the integration of archaeological corridors.
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