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Colima: Center of the ruins of La Campana

Ruins of La Campana with Volcan de Fuego and Nevado de Colima beyond.
Ruins of La Campana with Volcan de Fuego and Nevado de Colima beyond.
Leslee Haralson

Colima, aptly named City of Palms, is located about 60 miles inland from the port city of Manzanillo, Mexico. The city is surrounded by beautiful, lush vegetation including date and coconut palms and has stunning views of two volcanoes: the still active Volcan de Fuego and the other now extinct Nevado de Colima.

A main attraction of this off-the-beaten-track town is the ruins known as La Campana, or The Bell. The archeological site was given its name due to the shape of the mound where it was found. Ruins date from circa 600-900 AD and cover nearly 300 acres. It is a vast site with only a small portion actually uncovered. There is still much to be discovered and learned.

An interesting fact about La Campana is that it has the only open tomb available to visitors. Down a short flight of steep stairs is Tumba de Tiro which has inside handmade artifacts such as pots, a little "Colima" dog and instruments made of mud and obsidian. Human bones are also visible, partly buried in the earth.

Structures at La Campana are distinct from many of the ancient ruins of Mexico since they are made from similar size round stones found in the nearby rivers, then cemented together. This is in contrast to the use of large rectangular blocks usually found in sites in Mexico.

Unfortunately, during the 16 century Franciscan friars used materials from La Campana for other building projects, rendering many of the current structures incomplete. Interpretive signs are located throughout the site in Spanish, English and Nahuatl, an Aztec language spoken in central Mexico, explaining what archeologists conclude about each building and its use. Visitors are permitted to wander wherever they want on the site, including on the ruins themselves. TIP: There is very little shade and it can get quite hot and humid, so visiting early in the day is highly recommended.

Shore excursions are available from Manzanillo, however travelers can also hire taxis for their own private tours at a considerable savings. Downtown Colima is close to the ruins and has a lovely park, Jardin Libertad, with a free museum across the street that is worth a visit.

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