Very rarely will you come across a learned man or woman in the U.S. ignorant of anything to do with Mayan ruins. Perhaps “Chichen Itza”, “Tikal” or “Palenque” will come to mind, recalling “something” about one of the aforementioned Mayan Ruins. These names are the milestones of the Maya Civilization in terms of size and sophistication.
Towering stacks of half-ton stone comprise these architecturally advanced creations. Even without knowledge of the most popular names, the average person can still recall something about the ancient civilization; one that gave us the calendar, advanced mathematics, astronomy, hydraulics, and architecture beyond belief. The average person will know something about Mayan ruins.
The most popular Mayan ruins are popular for a reason: they are truly magnificent. As large and as elaborate as the Great Pyramids of Egypt or the Great Aztec Empire, the Mayan ruins in what is known today as the Mayan World- Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. They are frequented by thousands of tourists every season from all over the world. The commercialization of the “big three” archeological sites are perhaps the best known pyramids in Mexico and Central American, boasting both size and complexity.
But what about the rest?
Duende Mayan Jungle Tours has a different perspective of the “Big Three”. Importance is certainly not synonymous with importance. Given the geographical reach of the Mayan World, there are a plethora of Mayan ruins below the commercialization radar (at least for the moment) that, all though on a smaller scale, express and showcase parallel qualities of architecture and history. These are the Mayan ruins that Duende Tours so proudly presents tours that are “off the beaten path”. This isn’t to say that Duende Tours avoids tours to Mayan Ruins like Tikal, Palenque, or Chichen Itza, it’s just that the “Big Three” are not the first priority on the list. That list is prioritized and guided by a philosophy that leads the traveler away from the bus tours, hot dog stands and “I heart Chichen Itza” shirt stands; it is a list that turns one-hundred and eighty degrees in the direction of a lost, but not forgotten world. Throughout their travels, both Duende Tours co-founders realized how powerful the dense jungles were and how much potential had in terms of influencing the human body and mind.
After several years of living and traveling within the jungle community, the two co-founders, Ismael Martinez and Chantal Willigers decided to create a small eco tours company based on the idea of human ecology: the relationship of humans to the natural world. The goal was to embed the idea of preservation and conservation through an experience of horseback riding, tent camping, mountain biking to and from Mayan ruins. And these archeological sites- Yaxha, Nukum, Topoxte, Uxactum, Copan, El Mirador- are not in the least the type to be underestimated. These incredible sites each convey a specific styles and types of architecture and art that reflect a unique Maya subculture. Topoxte, for example, was created by the indigenous Maya of the region to pay homage to the Jungle spirits called, “Duendes”. The ruins of Copan were created for the “Rabbit King” and many of the almost “Oriental-like” carvings and structures revered his image. All of these sites have their own stories and elements that differentiate them from the “Big Three” in terms of size, but not grandeur. For Duende tours, the “real” experience is, in fact, experiencing the “real” thing, experiencing the jungle, the ruins, the sights, the sounds, the feeling of what was once the world’s greatest civilization.