A Mexico Mayan Ruins Guide
Top 5 Mexico Mayan Ruins Near Cancun
The Mayans were one of the most sophisticated and advanced ancient civilizations in the Western Hemisphere, and the Mexico Mayan ruins they left behind are simply magnificent, steeped in fascinating and mystifying history.
The Mayans had incredible customs and beliefs regarding higher powers, the cosmos, astrology, and human life cycles.
Their civilization may be gone now, but their legacy and culture lives on in these beautifully preserved structures, many of the ruins are even UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
There are many ways to explore and enjoy the ruins; from guided tours to walking or cycling through them by yourself.
We do highly recommend a guided tour, as your guide will undoubtedly give you a greater insight into each ruin site, and you will therefore walk away with a greater understanding of this majestic ancient civilization.
We also suggest to arrive early in the day to beat the crowds and to enjoy the cooler morning sun (remember, these ruins are in the jungle afterall!).
While there are numerous Mayan ruins near Cancun to visit, we recommend these top five sites. All of them are absolutely breathtaking.
Only two hours from Cancun lies one of the most iconic Mexico Mayan Ruins.
Chichen Itza, which means “At the mouth of the well of Itza”, is one of the largest ancient cities from this civilization and dates back to AD 550 to AD 800.
Most people know Chichen Itza by it's signature El Castillo temple, but this site contains numerous ruins, like the caption photo above-- the Group of the One Thousand Columns.
Temple of Kukulkan
This ancient city is an absolute must see on your visit to Cancun, as it is home to one the new Seven Wonders of the World.
The 75 foot Temple of Kukulkan, otherwise known as El Castillo, was ranked a wonder of the world for its sheer magnificence.
The Mayans had mastered astrology and so they built the temple as a physical calendar, designed to perfectly align with the sun.
During Spring and Fall equinoxes, the late afternoon sun casts shadows that depict a serpent’s plumes as it slithers down the steps to link with a stone serpent head that is located at the bottom of the temple staircase.
It is a truly awe inspiring site to behold!
You can embark on a guided tour through this ancient Mayan city or enjoy the sights at your own leisurely pace. An interesting yet eerie attraction is the Wall of Skulls, located alongside the Great Ball Court. Here you will see gruesome carvings depicting human sacrifices, just another part of the old Mayan culture.
Chichen Itza is also home to El Caracol, one the largest observatories in the ancient world, along with the Great Temple of the Warriors.
You also may enjoy a cooling swim in the many cenotes and underground rivers when you descend into the deep caverns that dot the landscape everywhere on the Yucatan Peninsula.
Tulum is one of the best Mexico Mayan ruins to visit because it offers one of the most spectacular views you may ever see.
It is found in Quintana Roo and is situated at the top a magnificent rocky cliff overlooking the scenic Caribbean Sea.
It is the perfect location for a relaxing day trip because of the beautiful beach at the foot of the cliffs. Before heading down to the white sandy beaches, you will find this small city to be quite an interesting one to explore.
The ruins of Tulum tell fascinating stories of a time when this city was deemed powerful and very important as a seaport for the Mayan civilization. The port of Tulum was one of the best trading spots for turquoise and jade along the mesoamerican coast.
An interesting fact; Tulum was inhabited and thriving until the Spanish began their conquest of Mexico.
The city continued to operate as a popular trading port for around 70 years after the arrival of the Europeans. However, it appears that the arrival of the foreigners may have been too much for the locals' immune systems. It is believed that the city finally became uninhabited due to the widespread new diseases from the invaders.
Coba is the perfect day trip for the adventurous sort.
A full day is needed to explore these expansive Mexico Mayan ruins, as it is a perfect location for bike riding and long walks through the surrounding jungle .
The city is situated amidst lush greenery and surrounded by beautiful lakes and cenotes.
Coba is iconic because of its sheer number of sacbes, the white roadways that the ancient Mayans used to travel along.
The main pyramid in Coba is called Nohoch Mul. This is the tallest pyramid found on the Yucatan peninsula.
Standing at 137 feet high, you can choose to climb the 120 steps to the top to enjoy scenic views of its lush surroundings for miles.
Even it is not as well-known as many other Mexico Mayan ruins, it is nonetheless well worth a visit.
It offers you the chance to explore without the droves of tourists. The ancient ruins of Ek Balam, are nestled in a Yucatan state jungle and are only a couple of hours away from Cancun.
This archaeological site offers a number of large structures to explore along with one very tall pyramid, cal the Acrópolis, which open for visitors to climb to the top.
On a clear day one can catch glimpses of both the Coba and Chichen Itza temples on the horizon, Coba being 40 miles to the Southeast, and Chichen Itza being 34 miles to the West-Southwest.
The most notable feature of the ruins of Ek Balam is the very well preserved and beautiful carvings that the structures have.
These carvings are wonderfully preserves and truly offer you a look into Mayan culture.
At an extra cost, you can finish off your day of exploring with a swim in the local cenote.
It is not very well known to tourists, which is very surprising since this ruin is located smack in the middle of the Cancun Hotel Zone.
El Rey is a beautiful city made up of various structures that you can explore and climb. You can even catch glimpses of the various hotels and beaches in the surrounding area.
Guided tours offer you great insight into the El Rey ruins and Mayan customs but exploring this ancient city by yourself is another great option.
It is also across the road from Cancun’s best beaches, making it a great location to visit before, after, or during a visit to the beach!
A well-planned vacation to Cancun absolutely must include day trips to some these world famous, fascinating archelogical sites. The Mexico Mayan ruins near Cancun, offer you the chance to explore one of history’s most mystifying and intriguing civilizations.
Temples, pyramids, vaults, cenotes, and caverns showcase the sheer brilliance of the Mayan people who designed and built their cities to last.
As old as this civilization was, their culture is forever preserved in these beautiful structures that you simply must see on your vacation to Cancun.
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