From a distance, Tonina seems to be one of highest Maya pyramids you have ever seen. The huge building rises up to a height of 71 m (233ft) above the place in front of it. Several remains of temple buildings are located on the seven levels that create it’s basic structure.
In fact, it is a mountain, that was covered by processed stones to build up this enormous structure. The town was inhabited between 400 AC and 900 AC and belongs to the classiacal period. Inscriptions that were found, talk about several wars Tonina was involved in. It seems that Tonina’s political standard behavior was aggressive.
During a war against the neighbouring Palenque, this town was conquered and their ruler K’inich K’an Joy Chitam II. was captured. This happened in 711 AC. But finally, their aggression didn’t help them to survive. Short after 900 AC Tonina was abandoned and it’s inhabitants disappeared.
Many stucco reliefes, wall paintings and sculptures have been found. They can be visited on site or in the small, but very interesting museum beside the entry. Interesting is, that in Tonina the last calendar inscription of the classical period was found. It dates back to the year 909 AD.
The name of Tonina means “house of stones” in the language of the local Maya who speak the dialect Tzeltal. The original name might have been “Popo”.
From Ocosingo, Tonina is about 30 minutes away by car. This town, half way between San Cristobal de las Casas and Palenque is inhabited mostly by indigenious people. From the bus station you can take a taxi to the central market. The market is very colorful and it makes sense to buy some food like tamales from one of the friendly market women. From the market there are collectivos going up the valley passing the site entrance of Tonina. Sometimes these cars are open pickups, what makes the drive very exotic.
Don’t forget to bring water with you. It took me one hour and 1.5 l water until I reached the top of the building. No shadow anywhere !
From the top you will have an amazing view down to the Ocosingo valley and to the surrounding highland of Chiapas.