Tonina- Mayan Superpower

Tonina is an archaeological site located 8 miles east of the town of Ocosingo in the Mexican state of Chiapas. It is a Mayan site and gained significant power through the use of warfare. Tonina’s greatest rival was Palenque, some 40 miles to the north. It was Tonina that eventually toppled their great rival. The site is imposing, rising over 230 feet over a plaza and features several temple-pyramids over seven terraces.

model of Tonina

The cheapest way to get to Tonina from the town of Ocosingo is by catching a colectivo or combi from the market in town.  It will cost you less than a dollar each way and drops you off right at the entrance to the site after about a 15-20 minute ride.

At the entrance of the site is the museum and you should definitely take a look inside.  The museum contains several carvings from the site and a few models of what Tonina looked like at its peak.

sculpture in the museum

carving inside the museum

After the museum you walk down the road for about 1 km, past a few restaurants and across a stream and you arrive at the site in the central plaza.  To the left you will see the sunken ballcourt that was built to commemorate important victories over the rival Palenque. To your right you will see the imposing Acropolis of Tonina.  Off to the right on the first terrace you will see the Palace of the Underworld.  As you continue up the different terraces you come across many different structures and carvings.  The stairs and structures are very steep and require a fair amount of energy to climb.  Tonina is also between 2,600 – 3,000 feet above sea level so to get to the top you may need to take a few breaks in the shade along the way.

the ball court commemorating important victories over Palenque

the Acropolis of Tonina viewed from the main plaza

the several terraced Acropolis of Tonina. "it's along way to the top if you wanna rock 'n' roll."

entrances to The Palace Of The Underworld

Arch at the Palace Of The Underworld

stone design

the central stairway of the acropolis

a closer view of the central stairway

the view from the bottom of the stairs

the stone stairs

entrance to a tunnel

interior wall

interior ceiling stones

closeup of the wall stones

the top temple-pyrmaid

steep ascent to the top

view of temple to the side

view of the top from the back

view from the top of the Acropolis

the steep stairway from the top

You need to allow at least 3-4 hours of your day to adequately see the ruins. I would try to arrive as early in the morning as possible to avoid the heat of the middle of the day. Unlike a lot of other ruins in Mexico, Tonina is substantially less touristed. The day I viewed the ruins there were about 10 other people there during the 4 hours I walked around. Almost the entire site has unrestricted access as well. So, perhaps you can pretend you are Indiana Jones a little easier at Tonina than say at other sites like Tikal or Teotihuacan.

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