|LAND OF CONTRASTS: Toniná's rich ruins give way to Chiapas countryside (Liza Prado)|
Few travelers visit this great little ruin, despite its excellent museum and convenient location between Palenque and San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas.
Beginning in the ninth-century, the great Maya centers mysteriously collapsed, and hundreds of thousands of people died or dispersed into the wilderness. Toniná was one of the last cities to fall, in A.D. 909, and the site is full of images of death. Many of the stone statues found here were decapitated by Toniná's religious leaders in ceremonies that likely included real human sacrifices, all in a desperate but futile bid to appease the gods.
Toniná's main structure is one of the tallest in the Maya world, climbing 262 feet to a small windswept platform. Its builders cheated, however, using a hill and a series of terraces to create height, meaning it's not a true pyramid. The view is breathtaking all the same, extending over the site's intricate roof combs to the broad fertile valley beyond.
Inside Tip: This area is famous for its cheesefor lunch, try a bread roll and a hunk of queso doble crema (double cream cheese).
Practicalities: The Toniná ruins are located eight miles east of Ocosingo, a small town two hours by bus south of Palenque. Open daily 9 a.m.-4 p.m., museum closed Monday; admission US$2.50.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication